Mimbres First United Methodist Church

“I believed, and so I spoke”

“I believed, and so I spoke” Paul is talking about Faith. He is quoting Psalm 116 and he does not fear that anyone will mistake his message because his message is simple and powerful. He is quoting David who says, “I believed when I spoke, “I am afflicted greatly.” David is in distress, he is most upset. No one can pin a date to this Psalm or rather I should say there isn’t agreement on a date, but most likely he is in exile and being chased by Saul and David is most upset because he believes yet those whom he is surrounded by are less zealous and he speaks these words… I said in my haste, “Everyone is a liar.” [Psalm 116:10-11] meaning all of humankind are liars. They claim their faith but do not embrace it. They call on God but do not repent. They ask for payment but do not give service. Worst of all they ask for personal or material things and not to increase the Glory of the Father. Dr. James Boice quotes Rev. Roy Clements a well-known British evangelical who explains it like this “In my moment of crisis, I discovered I was a believer, a real believer, not just a nominal churchgoer and that faith I discovered enabled me to verbalize my distraught emotions, not just to myself, but to God. I told him exactly how I felt.… In that situation, there was only one thing I could be with God, and that is honest, brutally honest. Maybe that’s why he listened, for listen he did. I tell you that I never realized it was possible to feel so much devotion to God until the day I realized he paid attention to me, deliberately turning his ear to my prayer. I love the Lord for he heard my voice.”[1]

Too often I think we ask and we feel ignored, because we don’t get that job or hit the lottery, but what are we basing our faith on? Materialism or Jesus? Paul hits the nail square on the head, just as Clements did, we feel betrayed when we realize that our faith in God is not the same as others, when we realize that we have bared our souls and bent our knees to serve the Lord and received His grace only to find ourselves coming back to a depressing and dreary world full of misery and pain. Where then is our faith? The answer should be in Jesus. “But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture— “I believed, and so I spoke”—we also believe, and so we speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will bring us with you into his presence. It is our faith in God that upholds us, like David and Paul, we are sustained by our faith in God and in his promises to us. Throughout history God has fulfilled those promises to those who’s faith is in Him and not themselves. Remember how Joshua defeated the Amorites, who had gathered five armies together, they were attacking his allies who were trapped inside their city and unable to help. Joshua spoke to the Lord; and he said in the sight of Israel, “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and Moon, in the valley of Aijalon.” And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. God stopped time for Joshua. For David he gave the power to stop a giant. 1 Samuel 17:45-46 David told Goliath “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand Notice David said the Lord will deliver you into my hands, not I will deliver you. In Daniel 3 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are delivered from the furnace by God. But what were their words to Nebuchadnezzar? 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to present a defense to you in this matter. 17 If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.” In all these examples there are four things that are common to all {1.} Their faith is in God. {2.} Their deliverance is through God. {3.} They are asking for Gods help to accomplish God’s will and to Glorify the Father, not for personal gain. {4.} They are all in situations that are beyond their ability to cope with, they are in great personal danger and facing death, but they are not worried about themselves, no they are concerned that God is Glorified. Unfortunately, we live in the 21st century and in a fast food society, we are taught commercialism from day one, right out the gate. Todays, modern Christian is too often concerned with self rather than Gods Glory. Today’s Christian wants to know what’s in it for me? Well, Paul has an answer for this as well, 15 Yes, everything is for your sake, surprised? Well listen to the rest of verse 15, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 16 So we do not lose heart. Because it’s for God’s glory not ours that He has extended that grace to us in the form of Jesus and the Holy spirit. Because He has extended that grace to us “even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. Daily we are being worn down by sin and corruption, by our very nature we are condemned, as Paul so heartbreakingly cries out to God 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. That sin is constantly wearing at us, trying to get a foothold and making us doubt ourselves and worse making us doubt God. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. Now, I always picture the cartoon with little angel and the devil on your shoulder trying to get you to listen to them. You know, it’s kind of a funny picture, but it’s also very true. Think about it for a minute. God is whispering in one ear while the enemy is screaming in your other one. 22 For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Through Christ alone will God extend His mercy to us. Amen.

So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin. [Romans 7:19-25] It is this constant assault on our faith that Paul is speaking of and even though the enemy is piling it on with everything he has, Paul tells us it is nothing. Just a brief pain, compare to the Glory that God has prepared for us. Not just for a fleeting moment but for all of eternity. 17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18 because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. We are being prepared for glory beyond measure, but we need to keep our focus on the big picture, our eyes on the prize so to speak. We need to keep our faith in God, in the eternal, in the things that cannot be measured or bought. Because all else is just a momentary affliction, all else is just our minds making us captive to the law of sin. Captive to our earthly bodies which are nothing, momentary vessels to be discarded “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. [2 Corinthians 4:13 – 5:1] We are made to glorify the Father, to place our faith in Him no matter what the consequences are. The daily barrage that the enemy throws at us is nothing but a momentary affliction, all our accomplishments in this life are temporary, it is our faith in God that glorifies God. It is our faith that proclaims to the world that there is only one God and it is my faith, your faith, that allow us to say with conviction and authority “I believe this, and so I speak the words of God to you, so that you may believe this as well.” Amen.

[1] Boice, J. M. (2005). Psalms 107–150: An Expositional Commentary (p. 944). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

The Sabbath

What if I told you that you personally could gain another 7 years of life and all you had to do was… nothing, nothing what so ever, zip, nada, big fat zero. What would you do? Would you do it? What is today? Sunday, right… what is Sunday? It’s the Sabbath. I mean what does today mean to you? I ask this question because I want to get a better understanding of what we consider the Sabbath to be. Truly in Jesus time the Sabbath was from sundown Friday evening to sundown Saturday. This is the origin of the Millerites movement who are more commonly known as the seventh day Adventists who were established in the 1860’s. They believe very strongly about the Sabbath and keeping it Holy and they are not the only ones, just the most well know or ridiculed, I guess. Now, I’m not picking on them, because this is something that I struggled with myself. We as a church, and I don’t mean just Methodist’s, we have become 9 commandment people. By that I mean that we keep only 9 of the 10 commandments faithfully. Now this is going to make a lot of people angry. The truth usually does. However, you would never condone murder, or adultery on occasion, would you? You would never say well I was tired today and, in a hurry, I didn’t want to miss my favorite TV show and this guy was driving too slowly so I ran them off the road and killed them. No, or at least I hope not. I do sympathize with you though when we have the Gila bike run, I’ve felt like running them over, but still we would never break one of the other Big 10. So why do we not keep the Sabbath, why do we find it OK to sweep this one commandment under the rug, to ignore it. Most importantly as it’s one of the ones that even God felt the need to partake of.

The Sabbath is not an imposition as so many people think it is these days. The Sabbath is a gift from God. It’s something that God made for us.

Listen… [Mark 2:23-28] 23 One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? 26 He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” 27 Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; 28 so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.” The Sabbath was made for us. We need the Sabbath. Did you know that depending on which study you choose, the average life expectancy is increased by 7 to 10 years for those who practice the Sabbath? That’s an extra decade, if you throw in the vegetarian diet. Which I’m not recommending, as I have tried it and found it tasteless, although that could just be because I’m a terrible cook. Regardless, an extra 7 years is nothing to sneeze at. Yet we constantly find an excuse not to decompress, not to relax, not to be in relationship with God. This is not much of a problem in most other countries and not at all in most agrarian cultures.  Most other countries truly find our preoccupation with time, our rush, rush, rush, culture mildly offensive. As an American and someone who has lived and breathed corporate America for almost 30 years, I find it offensive that others find my productivity offensive. Who are you to tell me what to do with my time. And that’s because of the culture that we are raised in today. This culture frowns on taking personal time. It’s not forbidden, it’s just looked down on. If you take a day and you do nothing, then you’re not being productive, you’re wasting time. Mustn’t do that. Many a Sabbath I’ve worked and thought nothing of it. No longer is Sunday a sacred day. As a child of God though, I ask myself, why? Why do we as a culture find the idea of a day of rest, offensive.

We avoid it like the plague either we spend our time in escapism scenarios, like Netflix binges, video games, and movies, or we go on pointless vacations that leave us more tired and stressed than when we left. The Sabbath is God’s gift to us, no other creation started out with a day of rest. Listen… [Genesis 1:26-31] 26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” 27So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” 29 God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. And the very next day, after he created humanity He gifted us with a day of rest. [Genesis 2:2-3] Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. Of all creation we started out with a day of rest, God didn’t say to us on the  first day, get to work, no, He told us to relax, take a break, He took a break, we are supposed to be in relationship with God on that day, we are not made to work on the Sabbath, rather we are made to give thanks for our creation, to honor God’s labor in our creation and the trust that He has placed in us as stewards of that creation and all that it contains. So, on this day remember the Sabbath.

[Exodus 20:8-11] Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore, the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it. He is so serious about it that, stranger’s, people from other cultures are extended the same gift. That’s how important it is to God. That all his creation is given the opportunity to rest, those that praise Him and those that do not. So, even if you don’t want to do it for yourself, at least do it for your family, I am sure that they would like to have you around for another 7 years and I am sure that you would like to be around for those extra years. More importantly though God commands us to rest and that should be more than sufficient reason to obey. [Leviticus 23:3] Six days shall work be done; but the seventh day is a sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation; you shall do no work: it is a sabbath to the Lord throughout your settlements.

Two-Parts Love One-Part Creation

Good morning. This is Memorial Day weekend and; liturgically speaking it’s Trinity Sunday. The lectionary for today lists John 3:1-17 which includes that very famous quote “for He so love the world that He sent His only begotten Son so that who so ever believed in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” There’s a very good reason why this particular chapter is used, but it really tells us only one third of the story about the trinity. The Nicene creed on the other hand does. Above all though and before I get into it, we need to have common ground, understanding. With that in mind I want to tell you a little story about The Pope and the Rabbi Several centuries ago, the Pope decreed that all the Jews had to convert to Catholicism or leave Italy. There was a huge outcry from the Jewish community, so the Pope offered a deal: he’d have a religious debate with the leader of the Jewish community. If the Jews won, they could stay in Italy; if the Pope won, they’d have to convert or leave. The Jewish people met and picked an aged and wise rabbi to represent them in the debate. However, as the rabbi spoke no Italian, and the Pope spoke no Yiddish, they agreed that it would be a ‘silent’ debate. On the chosen day the Pope and rabbi sat opposite each other. The Pope raised his hand and showed three fingers. The rabbi looked back and raised one finger. Next, the Pope waved his finger around his head. The rabbi pointed to the ground where he sat. The Pope brought out a communion wafer and a chalice of wine. The rabbi pulled out an apple. With that, the Pope stood up and declared himself beaten and said that the rabbi was too clever. The Jews could stay in Italy. Later the cardinals met with the Pope and asked him what had happened. The Pope said, ‘First I held up three fingers to represent the Trinity. He responded by holding up a single finger to remind me there is still only one God common to both our beliefs. Then, I waved my finger around my head to show him that God was all around us. The rabbi responded by pointing to the ground to show that God was also right here with us. I pulled out the wine and wafer to show that God absolves us of all our sins, and the rabbi pulled out an apple to remind me of the original sin. He bested me at every move and I could not continue. Meanwhile, the Jewish community gathered to ask the rabbi how he’d won. ‘I haven’t a clue,’ said the rabbi. ‘First, he told me that we had three days to get out of Italy, so I gave him the finger. Then he tells me that the whole country would be cleared of Jews and I told him that we were staying right here.’ And then what?’ asked a woman. ‘Who knows?’ said the rabbi. ‘He took out his lunch, so I took out mine.’[1] Believe it or not many times that’s exactly how we approach the Trinity. A lot of hand waving and finger pointing with both side believing they understand the other, while the average person is just plain confused. You might wonder why anyone doesn’t want to preach the trinity. Well, it took the apostolic fathers almost 400 years to agree on precisely what trinitarianism is in the first place. For those of you who do not know what the $64 word means, it simply means that we believe that God exists as three beings, while each is a separate being all three have an identical nature. One God, one nature, three aspects. The three aspects being, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, the nature indivisible and whole is God. We express that belief in what we commonly refer to as the Nicene Creed. It’s more accurately the Constantinople-Nicene creed because the first creed was written in Nicaea in 325 and then amended in Constantinople in 381, still it’s the only explanation of Trinitarianism, that almost every church has agreed upon, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglican, and the major Protestant denominations all profess their belief in the Nicene Creed. As we go over the words, I want you to read the words with your heart, not your mind, feel them, don’t just think about what they say, don’t just read them as wrote, like the Lord’s prayer, we say this so much that it’s lost its meaning. It’s become something we just do every Sunday. Why? These words sum up our personal belief in God, in the universe. As Christians there is no other litany or expression of our existence that is more meaningful than these words. It’s who we are as the Church, as children of God, as followers of Christ, with the Holy Spirit indwelling. The creed is our declaration to the world that God exists, Christ is our Saviour and the Holy Spirit binds us one to the other. Listen, please to the Nicene Creed“We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all that is unseen. One God, only one God, One God created the universe and everything in it. [Deuteronomy 6:4] “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. Our sovereign Lord and master Jesus Christ, the only Son of God begotten not made, one in being, one in nature with the Father. [John3:16] “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. He is one with the Father, not separated from Him but one with Him, begotten of Him. [John 1:3] All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. And all things were made through Him, the all mighty maker of heaven and earth, the Father and the Son. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit was it possible for God to be born, to be created, to become man. [Luke 1:35] “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.” And He did this for our sake, he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered, died, and was buried. On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. (and yet still a part of the Father) He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. (it will be eternal, everlasting, without end) We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son, he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, meaning that it is one and the same, it is an integral part of the Father, just as the Son, so also with the Holy Spirit. [Romans 8:9-11] “But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.” Three in one. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. One church, one God, one eternity. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. Once saved, always saved. Grace is freely given, having been bought and paid for by Jesus. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.[2] Our inheritance as children of God is assured through faith in Christ and that inheritance is life eternal Amen. These are the things that we say we believe. Like I said though we tend to just recite these words without thinking about what we are saying. We get caught up in dogma and political correctness, the world is clamoring for our attention so loudly so incessantly that we just don’t hear the meaning behind the words any longer. We forget that Jesus came first and foremost to preach the good news. [Luke 4:43] But he said to them, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.” and [Matthew 6:33] “But seek first his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Jesus came to preach the good news, “repent for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:7 Yes! He also came to redeem us and pay for our sins, but primarily His goal was to glorify the Father, to bring us back into relationship with the Father. And that’s something that we often forget when we recite the creed, we are acknowledging that relationship, we are pledging ourselves to that relationship every time we say the creed, every time we participate in the Holy Sacraments, we are telling the world that we believe in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Amen. So next time we say the creed or partake of communion, remember, they’re not just words. They are a solemn and binding oath between you and God, and I don’t think I need to remind you just how important that is, how sacred those words are when they are spoken by us and reinforced by the Holy Spirit in God’s house as we abide in Christ. There is nothing on this earth more powerful than our righteous faith as Christians in unity with God. And finally, I want to leave you with a simple example of the Trinity. Think of it like you would water, water may exist in three separate aspects, a liquid, a solid (ice), and vapor (steam), and still it remains water, H2O. Two-part Hydrogen and one-part Oxygen. Think of God as the liquid water, like liquid flows over everything, it’s irresistible. Think of Jesus as the ice, the solid immovable aspect, and the Holy Spirit is the steam, the vapor that covers everything, infuses everything. Two-parts love and one-part creation. Amen. That concludes Christian science 101.

[1] http://www.swapmeetdave.com/Humor/Religious.htm

[2] Cairns, A. (2002). In Dictionary of Theological Terms (p. 309). Belfast; Greenville, SC: Ambassador Emerald International.

How Do We Live?

Happy Birthday Mimbres. Happy Birthday to us one and all in the body of Christ and the church universal. This is the day the Lord has made, and we will rejoice and be glad in it. Amen. Today is Pentecost, that what’s up with all the red balloons. They’re supposed to be tongues of flame over your heads. This is the day that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to us and birthed His church on earth, but I want to go back a little bit in time and see why God sent the Holy Spirit to us in the first place. To do this we need to look at the Prophet Ezekiel, the Babylonian Empire and to scripture of course, specifically I want to open your hearts and minds to Ezekiel 30:10 now verse 10 is God speaking to Ezekiel after King Nebuchadnezzar has enslaved the Hebrew people. You might remember Daniel and the lion’s den or ShadrachMeshach and Abednego, and the fiery furnace. Same time, same place. The nation is divided into two lands, Israel and Judah. The southern kingdom holds the tribes of Judah and Benjamin and Jerusalem is its capital, while the north consisted of the remaining tribes and its capital is Samaria. While God used Daniel and his friends to change the heart of the king, He used Ezekiel and Israel’s captivity to change the hearts of His people and unite them. Under normal circumstances had Ezekiel been home in Jerusalem with King Jehoiachin instead being exiled to Babylon, in his thirtieth year he would have been ordained a priest and lived his life accordingly. But God had other plans for Ezekiel and instead he was commissioned by God as a prophet for God. Doesn’t this sound familiar? Really, I know most of us aren’t off to the priesthood or likely to be commissioned as a prophet for God but think about it for a second. You have plans, right…everyone has plans for their lives. If I do A, B, C and life is good, everything will go exactly as I want it. My expectations will be fulfilled if I can just get X, Y, and Z, I’ll be happy, and my life will be complete. Amen. Then before you know it King Nebuchadnezzar kicks down your door and your whole life is completely upset or more realistically speaking maybe, you have financial difficulties, health issues, legal issues, or maybe family life is just not as simple as it used to be. Whatever the cause, life is no longer going according to your plans. Then God comes along and goes hey why don’t you do this instead, I got this little job I need you to take care of.

Hey Zeke, I need you to be my voice and talk to my people. Straighten them out before it’s too late. In our case maybe Gods sending you to another Job or asking you to get out of your comfort zone, do something that you don’t want to do, not for yourself but for God, because He has plans for you, because He wants you to go and make disciples for his glory. Now, I sympathize with Ezekiel, I really do and if you don’t, if you’ve never had this happen to you and don’t know what I’m talking about, then praise God, I am happy that you don’t know…I am happy that God has blessed you with the peace that is only possible through Him… so, don’t worry about it. For those of us who do know the unexpected “Joys” of life as a Christian, I tell you in all truth…don’t worry about it either. Because we aren’t really talking about our expectations or how we live with the unexpected or with disappointment. How do we make lemonade out of lemon’s? The short answer. We don’t. It’s not about us. It’s about God. God makes our lives as He sees fit, as He plans it. We are nothing alone, we do nothing by ourselves, no matter how much you think you got this, you don’t. God does. God used Ezekiel to prove this to Israel then and to us now. That creation and life are through God’s will and not ours, not only that but they are separate and distinct from one another. God tells Ezekiel in verse 10 Now you, mortal, say to the house of Israel, thus you have said: “Our transgressions and our sins weigh upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?” …How do we live? Seriously this isn’t a rhetorical question. I want you to ask yourself how is it that you live? What makes you alive? What makes you…you. Electricity firing your synapses through bundles of neurons, chemical receptors, hormones, DNA, some random cosmic accident? How can we live? Creation is no accident. In chapter 37 Ezekiel has a vision, “the hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” [37:1-4] That a tough question for us as well. Science tells us it’s impossible, that anything dead so long could not possibly live again.

Society tells us the same thing about ourselves. Oh! No! “So & So” won’t change, leopards never change their spots. What’s done is done and cannot be undone. Do you truly believe that the creator of the universe is unable to recreate it again? Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.” So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. If He can create new bodies from dry dusty bones, don’t you think He can do the same for you, for anyone, for everyone? Yes or No? Still even though God has made his new creations they lack life, they have substance, but no direction. Think about your life before you came to God, before you gave yourself to Christ. Where were you going, did you have a direction like Ezekiel. Was your life all planned out and perfect, or were you just trying to make your way through life. Dead to the world around you, maybe you were happy, but you felt that something was missing, didn’t know what it was and couldn’t figure it out. Because society was telling you that you had it all, you were going in the right direction. You just weren’t “good” enough, “smart” enough, “pretty” enough, or strong enough, whatever excuse life gave you. You were just dry bones without direction or life. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. You see it’s not enough that we are new creations, because it takes the breath of God, the Holy Spirit to give that creation life.

 

We are only alive if we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us, the Breath of God, without the Spirit we are dry bones inside rotting carcasses with no direction and no purpose. Only God can make us anew and Breathe into us the Holy Spirit. Only God can give us purpose and direction. Only God can raise us from our sins and deliver us from our transgressions. Only God can renew us. 11 Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14 I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act,” says the Lord. So, welcome back from the dead, Happy Birthday. For today you are new creations through Christ, you are alive because you have the breath of God within you, the Holy Spirit fills you and you are fearfully and wonderfully created for Gods purpose for His plans  11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. [Jeremiah 29:11] And that hope is our faith in Jesus, the gift of the Holy Spirit and eternal life. Amen.

Honor Thy Mother

Happy Mother’s Day. This is Mother’s Day, so I tossed the lectionary and went with the flow. Here’s a little back story to today. Mother’s Day came about through the efforts of one woman, Anna Jarvis. Now Anna was very sad because her mother had recently gotten promoted to heaven and she wanted to do something to honor her. So, in 1907 she began a campaign to honor mother’s, and eventually in 1914 the United States recognized the second Sunday of May as Mother’s Day. Unfortunately, as with most good things society commercialized it and Anna Jarvis spent the rest of her life boycotting the holiday she had created. So be careful what you ask for in this life, you just might get it. Regardless, today, Mother’s Day is celebrated around the world, although not always on the same day, it remains hugely popular and it should. After all we are honor the women who gave us birth and cared for us all our lives and still care for us to this day, as well as the Mothers of our children and no matter where they are or what we have done, our mother’s will always love us. So how does a modern-day holiday, relate to biblical life and vice versa. As you can imagine they didn’t have a holiday for mother’s back then. Joseph and little Jesus didn’t run down to the local Hallmarks and get a Happy Mother’s Day papyrus and give it to Mary. But, that’s because they didn’t need to have a holiday to respect their Mother’s. There is much conjecture concerning women in biblical society and the fact that they had no rights and were essentially chattel…property. However, that’s not entirely true. Women were respected, women ran their husbands’ households in a business-like fashion, often as a business. Women ensured that their families were clothed and fed. The bible tells us what a good woman should be and I am going to read the gospel according to Gene, if you’re interested and want to read the original it’s Proverbs 31. I have changed the wording slightly, so that it’s more relevant to us. Gospel According to Gene… A Good Wife Is? “Who can find a capable wife these days? She is far more precious than jewels. The husband who places his heart and trust in her hands will never lack for anything. She takes care of him all the days of his life. She works willingly for her family. She is thrifty with her money and provides good food for her family. She gets up early in the morning and makes breakfast for her family, even before they get up.

She is smart in her business dealings and invests money wisely. She is strong willed and has a firm hand. She knows her worth and does not lose it as time wears on. She works hard and is a good example to all. She is compassionate and helps those in need. She does not fear the cold of winter because she has provided a warm hearth and fine clothing for her family. She makes herself beautiful and dresses in fine clothes as well. So well has she provided that Her husband is well known and respected in the community because of her. She makes a profit on all that she does and cheerfully gives back to her community. She surrounds herself in strength and dignity and has a ready sense of humor. When she speaks it’s with wisdom and kindness. She never spends an idle moment. Her family has nothing but praise for her. Now the next two verses I didn’t change because they are timeless, “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. And finally give her credit and let her be praised by one and all.” So regardless of how you celebrate Mother’s Day today, whether you buy her a card, take her to dinner, or just tell her you love her. Everyday should be Mother’s Day, everyday mothers have a right to expect certain things from their families. The Bible tells us what they are. Not only do Mothers have a right to expect these things but they also deserve these things every day.  Obedience…Ephesians 6:1-3 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—this is the first commandment with a promise: “so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” Colossians 3:20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is your acceptable duty in the Lord. The wisest man in the Bible tells his multitude of children in Proverbs 1:8 Hear, my child, your father’s instruction, and do not reject your mother’s teaching; and in Luke 2:51 when Jesus is twelve and, in the temple, after telling Mary “where else would I be but in my Father’s house.” Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. Even Jesus was obedient to his mother. Are we? Do we obey?

RespectEphesians 6:2 “Honor your father and mother”—this is the first commandment with a promise: and what does that promise include? That you will live long, and all will be well. Exodus 20:12 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. And for those that fail, there are consequences to disrespecting your Mother, just as there is for disobeying God. Proverbs 20:20 If you curse father or mother, your lamp will go out in utter darkness. Do you respect your Mother? Affection…1 Kings 19:20 He left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” Then Elijah said to him, “Go back again; for what have I done to you? In other words, Elijah is telling Elisha, who am I to keep you from loving your parents from showing that love? Do we show that affection to our Mother’s. How do you show your love for her? After all she has given you all her love and affection, all your life and will continue to all her life. Wisdom…This is a tough one. This requires us to be wise, not necessarily a common trait these days or then for that matter. Proverbs 10:1 A wise child makes a glad father, but a foolish child is a mother’s grief. And Proverbs 17:25 Foolish children are a grief to their father and bitterness to her who bore them. Your Mother worries over you constantly, since you were born, and she has tried all your life to impart her hard-earned wisdom to you, so don’t give her any more grief than she already has. Grow in wisdom as Jesus did, Luke 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor. Do you give your Mother wisdom or grief? RighteousnessYou know there is nothing a Mother desires more than that her child is righteous, God too desires this of us. Proverbs 23:24-25 my child, if your heart is wise, my heart too will be glad. My soul will rejoice when your lips speak what is right. When we do what is right and speak what is right we make our Mother happy and when we follow Jesus, Roman 3:21-22 But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

We make God happy, when we make God happy through our faith in Christ we are called righteous, and a righteous child is a Mother’s delight. Are you righteous before God, before your Mother? Finally, there is CareThis I think is the most important, care for our Mother’s. They deserve our care. Single Mother’s, Widowed Mother’s, any Mother deserves the care of her children, if she has no children anymore then it’s everyone’s responsibility to care for her. We are called to provide this care and not to lay this responsibility onto another for convenience sake. 1 Timothy 5:4 If a widow has children or grandchildren, they should first learn their religious duty to their own family and make some repayment to their parents; for this is pleasing in God’s sight. [8] And whoever does not provide for relatives, and especially for family members, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. Not only do our Mother’s deserve our care simply because they are our Mother’s, but God demands it, God says that we deny the faith when we deny care for our Mother’s. Worse than unbelievers. James 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. Do you care for your Mother; are you unstained by the world? So, remember. No matter how you celebrate this day, this made up holiday. No matter if you have it all planned out and it’s going to be a perfect day, this one day. No matter how much you honor your wife or your Mother this day. Remember that Mother’s Day is every day, not just the second Sunday of May. Your Mother, your wife, deserves…your Obedience, your Respect, your Affection, your Wisdom, your Righteousness, and your Care, every day. Amen.

 

 

 

 

The Fruit of the Vine

Grace and Peace to you from God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. You gotta love Paul and the epistles he has such a way with greetings. Now it took me some time to determine what I would talk about today. If I was in my pulpit in Mimbres I would be continuing with John 15 and summarizing how we abide in the love of Christ and produce fruit for the glorification of God, how we follow Jesus as His disciples. But I thought I’m preaching to the choir here. Everyone here is in some way already serving God.  So, what do you preach to a bunch of preachers. It occurred to me that not only did John Wesley rarely have a pulpit to preach out of, Jesus never had one, so it’s safe to say that I don’t need one either. And following that logic it also occurred to me that John 15 is still perfect because Jesus was preaching to the choir as well. And if you think about it Jesus spent a great deal of His time preaching to the choir, either the Pharisee or the Disciples both wanted the Kingdom of God. Neither believed that Jesus was the physical manifestation of the spiritual kingdom to come. But no matter, listen for just a minute to the word of God. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another. [John 15:9-17] This is part of what’s known as the upper room discourse and this is Jesus speaking to His disciples before he goes to the Garden and then the cross. He is teaching them and He’s teaching us what it means to be disciples, to follow Jesus.

This is also where He gives that most important command that is to be fulfilled under the new covenant. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. [12] It’s not the greatest commandment. To love God with all your heart mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself, that’s under the old covenant. Rather He tells us to abide in His love, as He has abided in the Fathers love. That if we keep His commandments as He kept His Fathers, now what commandment did Jesus follow, He came to us and died for us as God commanded Him to do, No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. [13] Jesus isn’t asking us to die for Him He asks us to abide in His love and we will have complete Joy, not only that but we will be friends and not servants. Because slave’s do as they are commanded because they have no knowledge of the master’s plans. If you don’t know what’s going on you can’t make decisions period. But Jesus has told us the plan, not just part of the plan but all the plan. Not His plan but God the Fathers plan. That we are chosen by Him to bear fruit to Glorify the Father. That as we abide in the love of Christ we can ask in His name and receive whatever we ask from the Father. But most importantly He commands us to love one another as He has loved us. To bear fruit and to love one another as He loves us so that we may abide in His love. Amen. And that is what we the choir have been doing these past weeks. I have learned so much from all of you. I truly want to thank each of you for the grace and love that you have shown me and each other. I have seen us abiding in the love of Jesus. I have seen the fruit that’s been produced by everyone here. The perseverance of the spirit, as we found our balance, the strength to carry on, and the wisdom to know that all things are related, the ability to look at things from a new perspective, the wonder that keeps us looking for God in the smallest things, the willingness to jump in there a try something new, and the enthusiasm to make it succeed, the drive to maintain that success, and the experience to keep ourselves focused, the practicality that keeps that success from turning to pride, and the patience that forgives our mistakes. All these things I see as fruit, not just fruit for a day but fruit that will last an eternity.

For we are promised not just a season to bear fruit, but all of eternity. As we abide in the love of the Son we know the love of the Father. Amen.

The True Vine

Happy Eastertide…this is the fifth Sunday in Eastertide. Resurrection Day is the beginning, of the rest of the story as Paul Harvey would say. There are 50 days in the Easter season. It begins at sunset on the eve of Easter and ends on Pentecost. The resurrection of Christ is not the finale it is literally the beginning of the new covenant, the beginning of Christianity. As Pentecost is the beginning of the church Jesus is the beginning for us. Jesus said “I am” seven times. He said that “1. I am the bread of life 2. I am the light of the world 3. I am the door of the sheep 4. I am the good shepherd 5. I am the resurrection and the life 6. I am the way, the truth, and the life” and the last is in John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. Today I want to look at that last, I am, “I am the true vine.” Growing grapes is a time honored and often necessary vocation, especially in biblical times. Water was often unsafe, and wine was fermented and beyond the safety factor, wine had the added benefit that if you drank enough of it, it made you feel much better than water and it still retains those properties even today, or so I’ve heard, being a Methodist I don’t indulge. I also don’t judge. Never the less, even today we can grasp the concepts that Jesus used on that day. Vineyards were an everyday sight, even today it’s not uncommon to drive by a vineyard, grapes and the wine produced from them has been a staple crop all over the world and as popular then, as it is now. Anyone who has seen a grape vine might wonder why Jesus picked this analogy, little skinny vines, well, that’s because usually all you can see are the leaves and the branches. The “true vine” is really thick, almost like a small tree, with lots of smaller branches producing thick leaves and heavy clusters of grapes, they usually follow a guide wire and grow in a very specific way and that’s made possible by using a trellis or an arbor. Without an arbor  which provides support and a framework for the branches and the vines, they tend to run along on the ground and do not produce as much fruit neither do they grow strong, because each area is throwing down these little sucker roots for nourishment and support, so the main vine is just a feeder root and never gets very large instead you just have a very large mess and very little fruit is produced. So, when Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower.” [15:1] He is telling us that He is the one true vine, that He is the chosen one of God.

There is no other vine, no thing or person or idol that can fulfill His purpose. He is the messiah and God has chosen Jesus to bring the kingdom of God to His people. God has established the framework, “The Word” and Jesus provides the growth, and we are the branches that bear fruit. And sometimes this can get very messy, have you ever wondered why me? The really big why me’s, I’m not talking about small irritations. I mean why does my best friend not talk to me anymore, why do I have cancer, why did I lose my job, why am I having such a hard time, why? Why do some people leave the church? No explanation, no reason. One day there gone. Maybe you see them at the store and they blow you off. Why are some people and thing removed from our lives? Why are there others that come into our lives, who are strong in their faith that nothing can shake them? People who just have that something extra, they are so full of fruits of the Holy Spirit, you think they could give away fruit baskets and never run out. And you wonder how they can be like that after losing a loved one. How someone with a terminal illness, bed ridden, on deaths door can smile and still pray for you, that you might come to know Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. “He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.” [15:2] Those people and those things that aren’t in your life now. They aren’t there for a good reason. If something isn’t bearing fruit God will remove it from your life. God has no use for branches that do not bear fruit and you have you room in your life for distractions and things that do not bear fruit. Sometimes God has to do some pruning, when he does have you ever considered that the branch might not like the pruning process? That it may be painful, certainly stressful. Yet it allows us to produce more fruit. It is necessary if we are to produce more, we must be cut back in order to focus on the true vine, to gather more sustenance from the true vine we have to be nearer to it. If we stretch out in all direction, we have no purpose, no structure. We will not bear fruit, we will become scattered, devoid of substance, scrambling for a place to put down roots in shallow ground to keep from getting blown away. Because, alone we aren’t strong enough to support ourselves and without the strength of the true vine, we seek nourishment from any source and if you get to far out there you may get cut off completely. Jesus tells us this plainly, “You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.” [15:3-4] We cannot bear fruit by ourselves. We cannot bear witness or possess the fruit of the Holy Spirit except through Jesus.

It is not possible to be detached from the vine and live, it’s not about the branch, it’s about the vine. Without the vine there is nothing to support the branches and they will wither and die, certainly they will never produce fruit. But those who abide in me… to abide in…I love this word it means so many different things. It means to accept, to stand for, those who receive, who consent, to believe, to acknowledge, to endure in Christ, AMEN. If we abide in Jesus we bear much fruit, not a little or some but much fruit we will be abundant, ample, plentiful. Because we are meant to have abundant life and we are meant to produce fruit abundantly for the glory of the kingdom of God. Jesus says “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Apart from me you can do nothing. The Holy Spirit abides within us as we abide in Jesus. He is our purpose. We are lost without Jesus, without God we have no purpose except to be thrown on the fire. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. Now I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty harsh isn’t it. I mean bad enough that we are rejected. That we lose our inheritance as children of God. That we will never produce fruit or know the love of Christ but to be thrown on the fire and know certain destruction. No Thank You…but it cannot be any other way. This is why Jesus tell us this. If you leave dead wood lying around, it will attract pests and other things can infest the healthy vine. Dead wood can cause disease and pestilence in an otherwise healthy orchard. To prevent this the deadwood is burnt. For us it leads to death in sin, to being dead to God and to the world. If we fail to keep ourselves firmly attached to the vine we can find ourselves in the fire fairly quickly, and very easily. You know that darned road to destruction keeps getting wider and better paved every day. The enemy keeps putting up nice hotels and casinos with fancy restaurants. I mean, who wants to take that narrow dirt path with no fancy restaurants, camping out with no TV? Why go to all that trouble? Because “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. [15:7-8] Vines don’t grow in concrete, you can’t see the stars or feel the wind on your cheek if you’re inside a hotel. You cannot abide in the Lord if you don’t abide in the word. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.  [John 1:1-3] This has to be one of my absolute favorite verses.

This isn’t rocket science folks, it’s far more complex than that. I can prove rocket science on a piece of paper. I can show you the calculations for thrust and velocity, I can demonstrate wind resistance and shear. But the only way that I can prove that Jesus is the true vine, that God is the vinegrower, is faith. Faith in the Gardener and His assurance that Jesus is the true vine. Only Jesus can open your heart and your mind, only the Word can show you your place in the garden and only the Gardener can make it bloom. If we ask, if we abide in Him we will receive what is promised to us for God cannot be false. The one true vine cannot perish because it has been redeemed by God and through His redemption we are assured of our own. Yet because it is He that redeems us, without Him we are nothing. By abiding in him we are assured that we will produce much fruit to the Glory of God and we will become His disciples. For Jesus is “the bread of life, the light of the world, the door of the sheep, the good shepherd, the resurrection and the life, the way, the truth, and the life, the true vine”