Author: Gene McPeak

Justified by Faith

Today is my last day at the pulpit in Mimbres and I am sad that I am going and that I am going so far away that it will be impossible for me to get back even occasionally. I think that they do it that way to prevent congregations from marginalizing the new pastor’s when they come in. Whatever the reason when they move us, they tend to make it far away from our previous appointment rather than right around the corner. This usually causes some anxiety in the church as they get ready for a new pastor and the passing of the baton. More so here because the cabinet has been unable to find a replacement for Mimbres. I know that some of you are worried about this and others are just going to go to Silver City. If that is your decision, then I have great news for you. Jared is a fantastic pastor, he’s young with a family and I don’t believe that you will be disappointed. For those of you who decide to stay the course here, Eddie is awaiting a response from a potential candidate. Regardless Rev. Dr. Brad Reeves will continue to provide CLM’s and lay speaker’s so that Mimbres can remain open. However, before you decide either way please pray about it. Mimbres is an awesome church and you are a great community and I would hate to see the church dissolved. I did not just pick this week’s scripture at random. It does follow the lectionary, but I could not have picked a more relevant passage.  Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore, the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. As we are justified by faith in Christ. I want you to put this in context with what’s happening today in the church, here in Mimbres as well as the rest of North America.

For the last 400 years the church has had a formula for evangelizing and discipleship making that worked very well indeed. In the beginning it was just about mandatory that your family went to church. It did not really require a whole lot of work from the average pastor and there was some truth to the old saw about preachers only working one day a week. As times changed the roles and expectations of the pastors and their congregations evolved. Ministry became more than a Sunday sermon. Still throughout that time the method of delivery was essentially the same and the goals of both the congregation and the church were in harmony. That gradually changed as society’s values changed over the last century and church became a social club providing an approved means of socialization for the youth and a form of networking for adults. Until the 60’s and then the new family dynamics did not put as much stock in God as their parents did and with the coming of the information age and the internet the church was soon struggling for relevance in a new age. You’re probably going great, thanks for the history lesson but we know all that so what does it mean today, right now, for this church and what does Galatians have to do with it. I’m glad you asked. Historically during this period Israel was under Mosaic law some 600 plus laws for everything under the sun and the Pharisee and Sadducee were constantly arguing about which laws were relevant and which ones could be followed some of the times and which laws were unbreakable and so on. So many laws that it was impossible for anyone to actually keep them all. Hence the arguing. Each Rabboni or “teacher” had their own ranking of which laws could and could not safely be ignored. That stands as true today as it did yesterday. However, we forget that one of the greatest things that Jesus did for us was to sacrifice himself for us. He paid the price (under the law) that we could never pay while we were still under the law. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. And, still we just don’t get it. You see we have decided that only parts of our church are relevant today instead of all of it. We choose what to obey and when. Even though we are no longer under the law because it has been fulfilled the laws are still relevant. Jesus told us he was not here to change the law. Instead He enhanced them and called us to be transformed through our faith in Him as the Messiah. It is through our faith in Jesus that we are empowered. It is our faith that transforms us, and it is that faith that makes us children in God. It is not who we are or who we think others should be. These things do not mean anything to God. It is our faith that makes us who we are, it is our faith in Christ that defines us. Not our position, race, sex, age or nationality.

As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. I cannot stress this enough or repeat it enough times. You are the heirs to the universe. This life is just a screening process if you will. It prepares us for greater things to come. We are transformed for service through our faith in Jesus. When we clothe ourselves in Christ, we are putting on the mind of Christ and through that transformation we become a child of God. I’m preaching this today because it is relevant to you here at Mimbres. You are not defined by your pastor. I am not the person that makes this church what it is. The DS does not make Mimbres a church. It is you the people that make this a church. As Christ explained to His disciples, wherever two or three are gathered in my name then their will I be found. Everyone wants to get bigger and have more of the things that we see in other churches, more youth ministry and more young adults. We want more money and a bigger building so we can get more people. We want a big praise band and a smooth-talking preacher. We want the things of this world and we forget everything that Jesus taught us. This is a war of the spirits and powers of the dark. Mimbres don’t forget that the church was started with just twelve guys and not the brightest twelve guys either. These guys were in constant competition for status within the group and the whole time they were asking Jesus individually if they would be higher than their brethren and they were at odds with Jesus about His ministry because they kept their mind focused on the here and now. They were focused on this life and the physical things that they could accomplish with Jesus leading them. This congregation is focused here and now on what the conference can do for you, what the pastor can do for you. You are not looking up and around because you want what everyone else wants. You are relying on the things of this world to make your ministry successful and it won’t be unless you put your faith in Jesus Christ. We all want the same things that the disciples wanted, to be successful and to have a successful ministry in this life and I cannot fault you for that any more than I can fault myself for wanting the same thing and not being able to provide it for you. That is truly the one and only regret that I have as I leave here. I feel that I have not done enough to grow this ministry. That there was something that I missed. I suppose every pastor feels that way when they leave. Because we are never content at least not until every knee has bent and every head bowed, and every tongue proclaimed His glory and until that time the church will have to evolve again.

We will have to decide who we as children of God are going to put our faith in. The princes of this earth or the King of all Kings. Amen! The decision is yours. It’s not one that I can make for you and neither can the conference. You will need to determine where your best interests lie as a congregation. Your attendance is up and so is tithing. You are getting new blood into the church and you have the opportunity to continue to grow using the gifts that the Holy Spirit has provided for each of you as well as the generosity of First Deming in supply the pulpit for free. You have an opportunity to consolidate and grow your congregation. Not many churches can provide a different point of view on the scripture every week. They usually have to outwait the pastor to get fresh material. Like I said it’s up to you. This can be an opportunity to put your faith in Christ or it can be an excuse to give up and let the enemy claim another temporary victory. I leave you with this scripture as my final words to you from:

[2 Corinthians 13:11 (NIV)] I say to you Mimbres: Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. Amen!

Passion

Today is Palm Sunday an under normal circumstances I would probably go with Luke’s account of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. That is likely what most pastors are going to be doing today.  As you have no doubt figured out by now, I don’t think like most other pastors. You may have noticed that I have made a slight change in today’s order in that I had George read Isaiah instead of the gospel. The reason for this is that the gospel is my sermon today. I mean I generally follow the lectionary so every one of my sermons is the from the gospel or the Bible in some way. I preach exegesis and not my own opinion. I could take the feel-good gospel and follow the traditional steps, but Luke is such a direct and to the point writer, that I felt the need to go straight to the heart. But first I want you to think. I want you to ask yourself questions. I want you to ask questions of me because I’m not perfect and I can get this wrong. This is my own opinion. Jesus rode into Jerusalem was hailed king of the Jews by the masses and the disciples were on top of the world and very likely thinking, “now this is what I’m talking about” everyone was feeling 10 foot tall and bulletproof. Do you think that Jesus did not know what he was riding into? Three times in his ministry he tried to explain to the disciples that he was going to have to be tortured and murdered before he could ascend to his rightful Kingdom and that it was not of this earth. But I cannot fault them as I am fond of saying the disciples were men and women just like us. They had their faults, they had their idols, they had their wants, they were not perfect. They were not Saints they were still sinners; everyone was. Everyone would remain so until Jesus was accepted as the lamb. Yes, He will be the lion of Judah when He comes again. But for now, He is god’s sacrifice for us, for now He is the Lamb. So often, I wonder how He could just keep going knowing full well what it was that He was riding into. Riding into Jerusalem, laughing, loving, praying, forgiving and ultimately dying for us. We forget the passion defined His gift to us, the pain that paid for the entire world’s sins. Why do we call it the passion anyways should it not be more like the torture? In fact, that’s exactly what the passion means in Latin it come from the word passionem, and I am positive that I am not pronouncing that right but still, its meaning is suffering or enduring. So, when we say Christ’s passion what we mean is Christ suffering. We mean that which He endured for us. I had George begin with Isaiah because I want you to realize that Jesus was not an accident. The Passion is the fulfillment of millennia of prophesy and the final gift of Gods mercy on us. I want you to not just believe but to know in your marrow that God planned this long before He created us. 1 Peter 1:19-20 – “He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose Him for this purpose long before the world began, but now in these final days, He was sent to the earth for all to see. And He did this for you.” Hear me, when I say this because in the Old Testament alone there are over 300 prophesies that Jesus fulfilled. Just so you know how impossible that is, I looked it up online and found this at CBN. Just one person fulfilling eight prophecies is 1 in 10^16 power or a 1 followed by 17 zeros. I don’t even know how much that is. The odds on one person fulfilling 48 prophecies is 10 to the 157th power or a 1 followed by 158 zeros. The number is meaningless. Can you guess what the chances are of someone fulfilling over 300? Exactly. Jesus. This is the man that the Sanhedrin brought before Pilate in order that He be disgraced and murdered. Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate. They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.” Then Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He answered, “You say so.” Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no basis for an accusation against this man.” But they were insistent and said, “He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.” Pilate does not want to do this and Jesus says only three words and refutes all of the Sanhedrin’s accusations simply reversing the question back at pilot “you say so” in other words only Pilate is making the claim that Jesus is the king of Jews, not Jesus, there is no crime. Still the Sanhedrin tried to tie Jesus to the rebels in Galilee and that got Pilates attention. When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign. He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him and sent him back to Pilate. That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies. Pilate sent Jesus to Herod both as a means to avoid making an obviously ridiculous decision or what he would consider a ridiculous decision, because none of the things that the Sanhedrin considered dangerous were even understood by Rome except the sedition, which he found absurd. They had no similar cultural context to base it on. So, also as a way to flatter Herod he gave him the honor of dispensing justice in his house so to speak. Also, if you notice Herod was only interested in Jesus for the miracles he could perform. He no doubt thought of Jesus as a performer or healer and was very disappointed when Jesus refused to even speak to him. As such Herod dismissed Him as a fake and harmless.

He could find nothing wrong with him either and mocked him and sent him back to Pilate who was not displeased. This is why they became friends. Politics make for strange bedfellows they say. Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. I will therefore have him flogged and release him.” The way that pilot does this is meant to appease the priests and to show Rome’s mercy and still give they accused something to think about so that they wouldn’t find themselves back in front of the court. Pilot thought this was more than adequate as people had died from flogging, although it doesn’t seem that pilot actually meant it to go that far in this case. Pilate was walking a fine line between appeasing the priests and keeping his own sense of right and wrong. However, the people were not happy. Then they all shouted out together, “Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!” (This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.) Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.” But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. So, Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished. While Pilate did his best to let Jesus go, as both he and Herod found him innocent. Still the people asked for crucifixion now they were no longer content with blood they wanted death. Remember not too long ago he had ridden into the city being hailed king of the Jews. Don’t get me wrong there are still many people in the city who love and revere Jesus, you are talking about at least 1,000,000 people packed into Jerusalem during Passover. And where this trial is taking place there’s maybe 2 or 300 people that can get into this courtyard and of course the 2 or 300 people that are there are friends of Barabbas and the priests and others who were accused very few would have been admitted or even known that Jesus was on trial. As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus. A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” In other words, if they would do this to Him who is innocent what more will they do to you. Better that you were never born than that you suffer what is to come. Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” And so, he rides into Jerusalem hailed as a King one day then then they hang Him on a cross and mock him as the king of the Jews the next. Still Jesus did not condemn us instead He forgave us. One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” I like to think of this guy as the last disciple of the Old Testament. Jesus’ final conversion under the old covenant. He is also proof the even on our death beds we can be saved by Christ and only by Christ that not even those few last seconds are a barrier to the love of Christ. It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.” And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things. Tell me, where do you stand? At a distance. How far are you from Christ?

GIGO

We are fast approaching resurrection day, and this is my favorite time of year. It is also a time that causes me a bit of grief. I love the fact that Jesus conquered death and rose on the third day to ascend to the Father. This is the foundation of Christianity. The problem I have is the days preceding that day. The betrayals, the torture, and the degradation that Jesus endured for us. This causes me pain to know that some of those stripes that Jesus endured were because of me personally. That hurts me, every time that I think about it. It’s not some distant far removed feeling that I imagine. It is immediate and personal. I am not going to stand here and pretend that I know what it feels like to be scourged with a cat-o-nine tails, for those of you who don’t know what that is it’s a whip with nine leather thongs and attached to them are small pieces of sharp metal. Basically, a flexible barb wire whip. Nasty. The reason that I say immediate and personal is not because I know what torture feels like but because that’s the relationship that I have with Jesus. It is intimate and personal, not distant and impersonal. It is spiritual and not of the flesh, yet it is real and not imagined. I can feel the presence of the Holy Spirit and know that I am connected to Jesus and through Him to God. Although the feeling is not in the flesh it’s in the Spirit and that’s where we lack confidence. Paul understood this when he admonished the church at Philippi. If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. Paul was well off in the flesh indeed. Paul had no physical needs whatever.

Paul had it made. He was born and raised to strict obedience of the law and studied at the foot of one of the most renowned Rabbis of his day. This is not a guy who sought a relationship with the Lord in fact it was the other way around as it always is. We never seek the Lord on our own. He must first come to us and lift our eyes up to Him. It is at that point that we must decide. Do we want to have a relationship with Jesus? Even Paul had that choice to make. It may not seem that way when you read about his conversion in Acts 9:1-19. Jesus chose him as His instrument, and I am positive that I could no more say no to the Risen King than Paul could. Still, the choice is there. Even as Paul regained his sight, he could have rejected the Lord. But instead He was baptized straight away, had lunch, went to work and never counted the cost from that day forward. And there was a price. Jesus said to Ananias as he went to heal Paul, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” And suffer Paul did. My point is this when Paul spoke at Philippi, he knew what he was to endure and still he forged ahead, still he put the Lord before him. All these things he did because he had a direct and personal relationship with Jesus. Nothing else mattered to him. Yet whatever gains I had; these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. The value of knowing Christ. There is an old saying among computer programmers. It is GIGO or “Garbage in Garbage Out” I am sure that in this day and age everyone is familiar with this term. Simply put it means you get out of any system whatever you put into it. We think that we invented this term and that may be true of this saying, but the meaning has been around forever as in: Nemo Potest Dare Quod Non Habet “No one can give what he doesn’t have.” — Anonymous. Throughout the age’s humanity has come to realize that we get out of this world what we put into it and that goes for our spiritual life as well. What we put into our relationship with Jesus determines the quality of that relationship. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-8)

If we spend time in prayer and in the word, then we will benefit from the knowledge that is promised us. So, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24) Give to the Lord your best and He will repay you with the best that life has to offer. …Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you. (Luke 6:38) Luke is not just measuring your relationship with others but with all things. How do you measure your relationship with Christ? Is it full? Are you overfilled with the Spirit? Is your heart and mind open to God’s will for your life? Are you right with the Lord? “Then the righteous will answer him, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?” And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:37-40) The work that is expected is not tedious or tiresome. Jesus tells us His expectations, Gods expectations for us and He offers us so much more in return for so little effort. Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger to your home. Clothe the naked among us and comfort those who are sick and those who are imprisoned. Jesus asks us simply to love one another, He asks that we offer our love so that others may receive the same love that we were first offered. You see, God offers us the most precious gift, His love and an eternity to know Him and walk with Him in grace. In verse 10 Paul says: I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow, I may attain the resurrection from the dead.  Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. We are made new in Christ. It is this surety that we can offer all regardless of their past. Jesus has redeemed us with His blood. We have but to ask for it. Simple. Ridiculously simple and still people reject the Lord because they do not want to admit their need. Our pride often works against us in the here and now, because the goal is not achieved just by saying a few words and repenting for 40 days. We have to work at it constantly. Salvation and redemption are eternal goals, unattainable until we are granted them by God. They are not magically bestowed because you gave some televangelist $50 dollars.

Be aware “for many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for but may win a full reward.” (2 John 1:7-8) Be aware of the garbage that is out there and pass it by, no matter how tempting it may look, because not all garbage looks or sounds like garbage. The enemy is slick as a snake oil dealer. I’ve been caught many a time and it takes a considerable will to put it behind you, but Jesus has given us even that ability so that we can continue on without succumbing to the nature of the beast. We must endure the race and “for this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18) The key is perseverance and faith in Jesus. Because it does not matter how much garbage we have to put up with, everything is garbage beside the glory of Christ. Go for the goal, do not settle for the garbage of this world, for the cast off remains of the prideful. Seek Christ in all that you do. Make Him your goal Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. Amen!

Reconciled

Today is the 4th Sunday in lent we are exactly 21 days from Easter and today is also known as Laetare Sunday which comes from the Latin and means to rejoice. We are exactly in the middle of lent and by now we need some joy. Too much fire and brimstone will burn anyone out. Besides, while the Lord wants us to repent, he wants us to turn away from sin and turn towards him. God is love, and love is supposed to be about happiness and when we are happy, we rejoice in the fact that we are happy. We don’t go around with their heads hung low and guilt ridden over the things that we did the day before. There is a time and a place for everything. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King said: “Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a constant attitude. Reconciliation is defined as “the restoration of friendly relations.” It is not possible to be reconciled with an inanimate. You cannot be reconciled with your car. Neither can you be reconciled with something impersonal or someone who is impersonal. As an example, you cannot be reconciled with your dog or your cow because they do not have the capacity to forgive you. They do not possess the necessary framework or desire for a friendly relationship with you, specifically. Yes, I know it may seem otherwise, but I guarantee you that your chihuahua will love me just as much as he does you if I feed him enough. Not so God. God will never love you less than He does at this moment. God wanted to restore friendly relations with us so much that He came here as one of us and let us kill Him. Just so that He, could be reconciled to us. Today I want us to be reconciled with our father and the only way we can be reconciled with God is to be a part of Christ. Not apart from Christ. That is why God desires to be reconciled with us. For us to be reconciled with God it was necessary for him to send his only son to us so that we could nail Him to a tree.

Jesus Christ paid that price for our sins so that we could reside within Him and He within us. So that we may know the love of God as children of God. In order to do this, we have to be in Christ today and every day. From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. Look to Christ today. Looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. [Hebrews 12:2] Many Christians look to others for comfort, solace, and understanding. We look to doctors for healing, lawyers for justice, ministers for forgiveness, and friends for comfort. We look to these others more than we look to Christ and what do these people find when they look everywhere else; they find disappointment. Do not get me wrong on this, understand that help from others should be appreciated. I am not saying we should deny our friends or families love. That their help is not desired or important. What I am saying is that by relying solely on this world for your needs, will most often be short lived and result in disappointment, because real and lasting help can come only from the Lord. [Micah 7:7] But as for me, I will look to the Lord, I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Can I get an Amen! So, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! Learn from Christ today. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. [Colossians 3:16] Sometimes Christians neglect the Word of Christ. It takes time to read your Bible. Time that we often don’t have. I understand believe me, none better. I am working 14 hours a day 5 days a week going to seminary part time, college full time and I’m Pastoring this church. Sometimes we get so involved with our personal pursuits that we forget to pursue God. I am so caught up in my personal life that if it wasn’t for the fact, that I have given my life to the Lord. I would probably never have read the bible. Gone to church, yes, communion, yes. I would have checked all the right boxes, but I would not have been right. It’s important that if we are to live for Christ today, we must read and meditate on his Word, because it teaches us how to live a victorious life, a life in Christ, victorious over sin, self, and Satan.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. [Romans 15:4] All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. Lean on Christ today. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. [Proverbs 3:5] As Christians we fail when we lean on own power, when we trust in our position, and take pride in our possessions. When we as Christians in our pride set ourselves apart from God, when we step away from the Lord, when we fail to be reconciled in Christ, we fail not just ourselves but the world. Because we have been entrusted with God’s message to the world Jesus has reconciled us with God and through Him, we are to be reconciled to the world. We must trust in Christ today. Because it is, He that enables us to accomplish our tasks and bear our responsibilities. The Lord helps them and rescues them; he rescues them from the wicked, and saves them, because they take refuge in him. [Psalm 37:40] So, we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. Lift with Christ today. As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. [2 Corinthians 6:1] What exactly does that mean not to accept the grace of God in vain. We’re not talking about vanity here. God’s not talking about how good we look or how high an opinion we have of ourselves. Rather He is talking about vain efforts, as in producing no result, being useless. We have been given the greatest gift in the universe. Do not squander it come do not accept the grace of God and do nothing with it. It is not useless it is not a thing that produces no results. It is the living and Holy Spirit of God. When it comes to doing God’s work, many Christians falter because of a lack of cooperation from others. We think we are alone. We think we are powerless and by thinking these things, we rob ourselves of the power that is Grace. When we ignore Jesus, we ignore God, we ignore the Holy Spirit. We are not alone. Christ is with us, beside us, and within us. He will enable us to assist the less fortunate, comfort the sick and lonely, and witness to the unsaved about Christ. We are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. [John 1:1] In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. We have the Holy Spirit within us. Jesus is with us. God is with us. [Philippians 4:13] I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Amen!

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Love as Christ today and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. [Ephesians 5:2] Christ loved us so much he died on the cross, taking our place. Stop and think about how much you would have to love someone just one person to die for them. I don’t know about you but to be honest with you I cannot think of any person in this world that I love enough that I would die for them. Particularly not as Jesus did, nailed to a tree, beaten nearly to death, ridiculed and degraded. Remember he died for us as we were yet sinners as we are still sinners. Jesus didn’t give his life for Saints. He gave his life for drunks and prostitutes, for murderers and thieves, for our enemies, for unbelievers and those who believe in other gods, he gave his life for the world not just for us.  Therefor we must love God and all of those others as well. Enemies and friends, saints and sinners, not just our neighbors. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. [1 John 4:11] To live for Christ today we should look to Him, learn from Him, lean on Him, lift with Him, and love as He loves, and we will be reconciled with Him.

The Forgotten Invitation

It is the season of lent and this is the third Sunday in Lent and I apologize that I did not start a Lenten series this year. For those who are interested I will be starting one next year. Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lencten, which means “spring.” The forty days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry. Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection. In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism. Today, Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves for others. Sundays in Lent are not counted in the forty days because each Sunday represents a “mini-Easter” and the reverent spirit of Lent is tempered with joyful anticipation of the Resurrection. Now you can find all of this that I have just told you word for word at the United Methodist Church website umc.org/what we believe. It’s a great resource and I encourage you all to use it if you have questions about the church. Many of you might be going, I already know this pastor so why the recap. Well not everyone does know what Lent really is. Most think it’s just a symbolic time to observe the temptations that we all endure and that only Christ overcame completely. Lent is when we count the cost of grace. Yes, I know what grace means. It is the free and unmerited forgiveness of our sins by God. Does anyone here know what “TANSTAAFL! Means?

There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Free Lunch”. Our redemption comes at a price and it’s not one that we paid. Redemption means to redeem, to release, liberate, free, emancipate, deliver, rescue, save. So, grace is not free, it is freely offered but it is not free. That is the problem with “Christianity” today. Because we preach that grace is free, people believe it must not be worth anything. After all, if it is free then it is worth what we pay for it right. It would be worth nothing. We know better. The shed blood of our Lord and Savior is in fact the most precious gift in this or any other world. The blood of Christ and the grace that He purchased for us on the cross is priceless. Why? Let’s look to Isaiah for the answer. Jesus is the new covenant, but the new covenant is built on the foundations of the old. This is something that most postmodern Christians have completely forgotten. Many churches do not even use the old testament anymore. Except for buffet preachers, who pick out a verse here and a verse there and use them out of context in order to make a point that God never made. You see Jesus was before everything and will be after everything as John tells us in the very first chapter of his gospel. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. That includes the original covenant with God the Father. This book comes from the prophet Isaiah during their captivity by the Babylonian empire. I picked this message because I feel that the church is much like those ancient Judeans. You see at that time the people had spent about 90 years in exile and Isaiah was explaining Gods plan for them as a nation, but they would not listen, they would have nothing to do with it. They have lost faith in their God and He is telling them that they must trust in Him.  Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! God is calling us to His table regardless of our ability to pay. We are welcome in the house of the Lord. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. The Lord is offering us not just water and bread, not just the basics. Instead God offers us a Holy banquet that we might feast with Him. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Why do we chase after the things of the flesh and deny the spirit? We are constantly feeding our pride and ambition, but we have no time to spend with God. Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. The Lord is offering us freedom from the flesh. He is offering us the richness of the spirit if we only listen carefully to His plan for us and our lives. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. Listen to the word of God for the people of God.

And this is the covenant the Lord made with David. “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. We are talking about Solomon now. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.” And God set up the foundation for the new covenant right there. Nine hundred years before the birth of simple carpenter to a virgin bride. Jesus was prophesied by Isaiah three hundred years later. It was almost exactly one thousand years after God established the first covenant that Jesus established the new covenant. And here we are three thousand years after the first covenant and we still do not seem to be any better at getting our stuff together than David did. See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you. God has promised us a place in His kingdom. Not only that He has honored us as His children. As we glorify the Lord, we are in turn glorified. We are servants of the one true God and we are recognized as servants of God because we constantly seek Him. Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. If we truly seek the Lord if we truly turn to him then we will have no choice but to turn away from sin. The wicked and the unrighteous will no longer have a hold on us. And the best thing about God and his covenant with us is that regardless of what we’ve done before no matter what has come between us in the Lord if we forsake that path if we turn our thoughts from unrighteousness the Lord will have mercy on us and he will pardon us if we ask.

Listen to Psalm 51: Remove my sin, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear the sounds of joy and gladness; and though you have crushed me and broken me, I will be happy once again. Close your eyes to my sins and wipe out all my evil. Create a pure heart in me, O God, and put a new and loyal spirit in me. Do not banish me from your presence; do not take your holy spirit away from me. Give me again the joy that comes from your salvation and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach sinners your commands, and they will turn back to you. Spare my life, O God, and save me, and I will gladly proclaim your righteousness. Help me to speak, Lord, and I will praise you. This is the season of Lent and it is our repentance that the Lord desires. Not giving up chocolate Bon Bon’s because they make you fat. The original covenant is still there. It has been fulfilled in Jesus. It was never replaced or done away with. God is unchanging and His word, His very nature is unchangeable. Therefore, the original covenant is still in force today. It is embodied in the Messiah. Jesus is both the fulfillment of the old covenant and the promise of the new covenant. In the coming days we will be reminded of the price that was paid for all of this and when we wonder how God could sacrifice His only child for us. How Jesus could give His life for us as we were yet sinners. We only have to remember that we are not God and He tells us, for, my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Amen!

Imitating Christ

Father great is thy faithfulness and great is the love and mercy that you have given to us, your children though faith in Christ. Father forgive us when we fail to act as a child of God should when we fail to love our neighbors or even you Father. Forgive us for not practicing what we preach. Father we give thanks for your love and the glory that is your Son and the light that you have brought to a wicked world. We ask only this Father, use us, use this congregation and everyone in it to glorify you Father and the kingdom that is and the King that is to come. For it is in His name that we pray. Amen!

I think I’ve said this before, but I am just a little bit fond of Paul’s evangelism of Christ. It’s not just the words that Paul uses to describe Christianity in the beginning or the fact that his faith was so powerful. What I found most provocative, the one thing that constantly brings me back to Paul is the way he lived. He lived for Christ. Everything that he did was for Christ. His selfless service to our Lord was not just lip service. Paul lived as an example of Christ’s teachings. He not only preached it, when he told Timothy “Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young but be an example for the believers in your speech, your conduct, your love, faith, and purity”. He imitated Christ in all things and that is something that we as children of God through our faith in Jesus should also do.

Brothers and sisters join in imitating me and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. As Christians we really should try to live as Paul lived as an example to others. The hard part is living like Paul the hard part is surrendering your life to the Lord. If we go back to Acts Chapter 9 verse 6 Paul/Saul was blind, and Jesus tells him to rise and enter the city and you’ll be told what you are to do. What does Paul do, he gets up and has some lead him into the city and he waits for Jesus to tell him what to do. Paul has surrendered himself to The Lord without question or complaint and he never turned back from that day until his last, were in service to Christ. He gave up everything for Jesus. In his own words Paul says, “I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith”. Philippians chapter 3 verses 8 & 9. Trash, that’s what Paul thinks about his former life. Everything that Paul had accumulated, and Paul was very successful. Paul was a Pharisee. That meant that he was basically the equivalent of a scriptural lawyer. The Pharisee interpreted the laws and their religious significance and were usually quite wealthy. Paul gave it all up and considered it garbage compared to his faith in Christ. He transformation was so complete that he went straight from persecution and “at once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God”. Acts chapter 9 verse 20. He never stopped glorifying the Lord. Why? Because he knew that evil would never stop. Paul said, “for many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things”. For Paul it was different, he said “and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”. Can we say the same? Too, often I see Christians that live a life apart from God except on Sunday.

Sunday their right there front and center, praising the Lord and witnessing to the waitress at lunch. The rest of the week it’s beer and porn. We don’t really think of this as evil. we don’t consider it a sin and we see nothing wrong with it. In fact, if you even suggested to any Christian that they hate the cross or that they were enemies of Christ. You would instantly have a fight on your hands. You would be offended and highly upset. Still it’s a fact that the majority of people spend their time and money on everything but the Lord. The things that they spend their money and time on are the things that they worship. There’s a name for that. It is called idolatry. It does not matter if it is beer and porn or biscuits and gravy. There is no difference between them. Their desires have become their God and too many are especially proud of their shame, so prideful that they glorify themselves above God. When we place earthly things above the Lord we are asking for death and destruction. But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. We are expecting our savior we are looking for the second coming that is what we as Christians have been looking for since the first century. Since the day that Jesus ascended, we’ve been wanting him back. For 2000 years we’ve been wanting to go home, we’ve wanted to cast our crowns at the feet of our Lord and accept our transformation as we leave these clay vessels and accept our spiritual forms. He is coming, 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 verses 13-17 “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so, we will be with the Lord forever”. Now when Jesus comes, we have a right to expect all the things that have been promised to us IF we are faithful. Not just in the big things but in the small things as well. Because we are children of the Lord our faith in Jesus as our savior guarantees us this and His love for us ensures us our place at our fathers table. Where we will finally see Him and be one with Him. John tells it like this: “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is”. 1 John chapter 3 verse 2. Because we are Christians it is up to us live as an example of our faith. Because people will watch us, and they will question everything that we do good and bad. Remember you may be the only example of Christ that they will ever see. Please think about these 5 questions: (1) Suppose every Christian lived as I lived? (2) Suppose every Christian gave to the church as I do? (3) Suppose everyone read the Bible as I do? (4) Suppose everyone prayed as I pray? (5) Suppose every person witnessed the way I do? What kind of church would we have? I will leave you with Paul’s encouragement to the church at Philippi.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved. Amen!

Have You Heard

Have you heard the good news?  I mean have you really heard the word? I was listening to JD Walt who runs the Seedbed daily text. JD Walt is a Doctor of Theology and vice president of Seedbed at Asbury Theological. He has an excellent grasp of the Bible of the nuts and bolts so to speak of what it is that we believe. I don’t mean we as in pick a denomination. I mean we as the Ekklesia, a fancy Greek word whose literal translation is: convocation, but it also means: assembly, council, congregation and for us it means both this body of faithful people and the whole body of the faithful. In other words, all of Christianity is the Ekklesia and just us, here, right now, are the Ekklesia. Jesus said, “for where two or three are gathered I am there among them.” [Matthew 18:20 NRSV] Jesus is among us and wherever we go even if there is no building, the church goes with us because we are the church. Now you’re probably wondering what all this has to do with today’s sermon. I have a question for you. The Bible says and this is my third favorite passage in the Bible: But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? In other words, how in the world can I believe in Jesus Christ if no one tells me about him. If no one witnesses to me about what Christ did for me, when he died on the cross for me, when he took my sins away from me for me. He died for you too. So, how can I believe in something that I don’t know exists? I mean it’s fairly obvious to me that you have no reason to believe in God if you’ve never known him. Is it enough that we expect people to take this on faith? Look at it from the secular POV we are asking for their faith for their trust. It’s the same as when Jesus appeared to Thomas. We’re all on the inside. We were there. We saw Jesus and we believe, we have faith. You’re probably thinking maybe the pastor needs a vacation if he thinks he’s seen Jesus. And you would be right I do need a vacation but that not what I mean. If you had not seen the power of the Holy Spirit you would never have come to church in the first place.

We know. Not so much your average guy, your average guy is just like Thomas: unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe. Jesus had to go to him and say to Thomas: put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe. I want you to focus on one thing though, Jesus could have come to Thomas in his sleep and made Thomas believe, He could have given him a vision, a sign. Hundreds of different ways that Jesus could have made Thomas a believer. Instead he came to Thomas physically, He got into Thomas’ face and spoke directly to him so that Thomas could hear him. Sometimes it’s just not enough to know. Sometimes we have to hear it, see it, feel it. But like Jesus said because you have seen me you have believed blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. You see I firmly believe that a person needs to hear the word of God actually spoken… proclaimed and affirmed. And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? That’s not just my job, it’s yours as well. We are the Ekklesia, the congregation, the called out. We are the 70 that Jesus sent out and we are the ones that Paul speaks of in Acts when he says and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” We are those people that Jesus speaks of everywhere in the Bible. We are the ones to come, that’s us. Me and you. We are the ones that Jesus is speaking to, not just those long-ago members of another church but to us right here, right now, today…his words are speaking to us. And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? Jesus sent the first 70. The rest of the disciples followed and their disciples and so on and, on the cycle, repeated itself over the millennia. As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Everyone loves good news, you cannot go wrong preaching the word of God, it is the good news and you will be received. That doesn’t mean that just because you’re speaking that people won’t listen God tells us that there’s many people who not only won’t listen, they won’t obey. But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” In other words, we have spoken the gospel and they have heard it and they refuse to believe it. That’s on them you have spoken the good news you have done your job good and faithful servant. Now it’s all up to God. It’s up to God to have that person seek after him. No matter how hard you try you and I, we can’t make someone love God, only God can do that. And the only way that they will know that God loves them is if they here it and have faith in Christ.

So, faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ. Again, it’s all about what is spoken to us what we here if we don’t hear the word spoken to us if all we do is read it, we aren’t getting the full benefit. We are not getting what God promised us. We need to speak it and hear it spoken among ourselves. That is one of the great things about the church, it’s a cornerstone of our faith, our shared belief and the power of the Gospel as we share it with one another and the world. Because the world needs to hear the word of God from us, “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); What do we proclaim, we proclaim the mystery that is Christ. That Christ died for us, was buried and on the third day He arose and ascended into the heavens and sits at the right hand of God the Father. Because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Again, we hear that is the sound of our words that has meaning. God wants to hear us. Don’t get me wrong just because you’re praying silently to the Lord and the bible says not to boast or to make a big deal out what it is that you do in private to worship God. But we are also expected to proclaim his glory and his word, that’s not pride in ourselves. That’s pride in God and we’re allowed to have that kind of pride. We are expected to have that kind of pride, that devotion, that willingness to put the Lord first in all that we do. That is the sign of a Christian. Once you get us talking about God you can’t shut us up, well you’re not supposed to be able to, we are not only called to pray all the time we’re called to redeem ourselves by glorifying God at all times and to exemplify Christ’s life at all times by giving thanks for his sacrifice, for His redemption of us. All of the time, not just when it’s convenient for us. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. It’s good that we have an internal faith and that we open our hearts to God so that he can write therein. But it is with our mouths that we are saved, it is our speech that paves the way for our salvation. It is only by our repentance, our turning away from sin, that we are made righteous in God and that is what He wants from us. He already knows the things that we have done he just wants us to admit it, to say it so that the world can hear it because it is through that process that we glorify God. We show the world that we can’t do this on our own it is only through the Providence of the Lord that we were able to conquer sin and death, only, because he has already conquered it for us.

The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. There are no Jew or Greek, no rich or poor, no black or white, no gay or straight, it doesn’t matter. There is only one Lord and he is generous to all who call on him. Who is he generous too? All, who call on him. Jesus has never segregated sinners. Jesus never stereotyped us. Jesus never hated anyone, in fact his entire mission was love and he came to proclaim the good news that the Kingdom of God was near. Why? Because he wanted everyone to be there, to be a part of the Kingdom to have a chance at redemption then that chance was extended to everyone for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Here it is again all who call on the Lord shall be saved. who will be saved? All. How are we to be saved? By calling on the Lord. It is the spoken word that brings us closer into relationship with God. It is His word spoken that frees us from bondage for joyful obedience. So, with that in mind let’s go to the Lord in prayer.

When we confess our sin,

God is faithful and just to forgive us our sin

and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

And when God lifts the burden of our sin from us,

we are changed.

We are at peace with God through Jesus Christ.

Go forth and share the peace of Christ with one another,

Share your witness and gifts

with the church and the world.

So that God may be glorified. In Jesus Name we pray. Amen!