Only One!

Day Two:  June 2, 2019

Ephesians 4:4-6:  “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”

My mom always used to say, “Wouldn’t it be so boring if we all liked to do the same thing and have the same interests?”  It’s true, right!  If we were all made the same, the same gifts and abilities, the same interests, there really would be no desire to be who we are – because everyone else would already being doing it! 

I believe that God made us all different for a very good reason!  It takes every one of us to do the work we are called to do through our Lord.  The church is the place where we come together to use our gifts, talents, and money for the good of the community and the world!  But, to make it even more difficult, Jesus calls us to be One with Him!  How in the world do we do that?

In Ephesians 4:4-6, St. Paul states, “…just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism…”  If you are wondering how in the world can we be ONE – not only with each other, but also with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit (who are also only ONE!) then this is your answer in Ephesians 4:4-6! 

I believe that it is our baptism that brings us together!  Our baptism – with water and the Word of God seals the deal!  Our baptism puts us in a whole different category from the rest of the world!  Read the book of Acts.  Thousands were baptized every single day as they became One with the Lord and with each other!  It’s amazing how the Holy Spirit brings us together in such profound and exciting ways! 

Therefore, our prayer today is to pray for those who have been baptized and for those whose hearts are being pulled towards baptism.  We should also always pray for those who will be baptized! 

Let us pray.  Dear Lord Jesus Christ, through our baptism of the Water and The Word – in the name of God the Father, Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, we are UNIFIED!  With each other so closely knit together, show us how to be bold in proclaiming YOU – the Christ Crucified, died, and risen for the sake of the World!  Open our hearts and minds to Your Will – Bring it on!  Show us the Way!  Amen

Courageous in Faith

40-Days of Prayer: Day 17:  June 17, 2019

Matthew 4: “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

One of the best Christmas gifts I ever received from my husband was a membership to the YMCA.  At the time, we had two little boys and I was a “stay-at-home” mom.  Having this membership to the YMCA gave me freedom!  They had a nursery that my boys loved going and playing with the other kids and I loved to attend the aerobics classes that were offered.  For that one hour or so, I got to be with other adults, exercise, and release my stress of being a mom of two little boys.  As it ended up, I loved the aerobics so much that I went to train to become an aerobics instructor.

I remember being petrified as I thought about how in the world was, I going to stand up there in front of others, jump around, and tell them the next steps! 

And so, as I think about Jesus in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights – no food, no water, and no direction – how in the world was, he going to be able to survive and withstand the temptation of food, power, and the ability to save himself that the devil so graciously offered him?  But, notice how Jesus fights the temptations.  He knows His Father and He knows Scripture – God’s Word!  I wonder if each of us, when faced with temptations in our life, would have the relationship with our God and knowledge of God’s Word to pull us through the worst of our tempters? 

As I remember how scared I was to get up in front of others to teach aerobics, the fear subsided when I knew who I was going to be teaching and I had the knowledge and ability to do my job.  Once I had been through training, I had the confidence to teach other’s aerobics! 

Jesus’ trial in the desert are the trials that you and I face every single day!  However, if we do not know God, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Word of God, then we cannot successfully get through our day with the success that God calls us to!  I believe that the only way to be courageous in our faith is to have a deep and loving relationship with our Lord and know the Word of God inside and out!  If you want to know what Jesus would do, then know God and God’s Word!  That is how, as Christians, that you and I can stand courageously against the foes and temptations of this world! 

Let us pray…Gracious God, we pray that the revelation of knowing how to be courageous in faith is through knowing you – and knowing the Word of God through Bible Studies, worship on Sunday mornings, and Sunday School classes.  We pray that by deepening our relationship with you, we can have the ability to stand against any temptations that come into lives.  We pray this in your name.  Amen.

On a Jet Plane!

If you don’t know your destination, how can you know your itinerary?

40-Days of Prayer: Day One

Day One:  June 1, 2019

ON A JET PLANE!

John 14:4-5:  And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

A dear friend of my husband, called Bob one day and told him that he had terminal cancer.  His days were numbered.  While he was only in his 50’s, he felt safe and secure in his future with Christ.  He told Bob, “I think it will be like getting on a Jet plane, sitting in first class, with Jesus as the pilot and taking me to the most glorious place I could ever possibly imagine!

Just the other day, I had someone come to me and say, “Thank you for not being so hard on “Doubting Thomas!”  He went on to say that he felt like he was the doubting Thomas!  Well, I give thanks for Thomas also because without him, all of us would be wishing someone was bold enough to ask Jesus the hard questions!

Thomas tells Jesus, “How in the world can we possibly know where you are going?  And, how can we possibly know the way?”  And, Jesus responds, “stick with me!  Hang onto my presence while I am still with you (physically), to my Word, and to my community.  Jesus is committed to giving His disciples – you and me – directions to the most important of all destinations!  I believe it is not just about where we are going, but that who will be there!

My husband’s friend passed away about 6 months ago.  While he knew it would be hard for those he left behind, he was excited about his destination.  God planned out the whole itinerary of his destination.  Indeed, he flew first class!  And, so will we!

Let us pray:  Dear Jesus, you know our every thought, every worry, and every fear.  Help us to be confident in our future.  Help us to know where we are going – to be with You!  With our security and growing faith in you, we can know your call for us here in our church, the community and the world!  Lead us and guide us into your will.  Amen.

Will You Be His Witness?

Bible Study: Acts 1

As a child, I was raised in the church and have fond memories of Sunday School, worship, and Vacation Bible School.  In Seminary, I feel like my eyes and heart were opened to the Holy Spirit.  In our Apostle’s Creed growing up, we called the ‘Holy Spirit,’ the ‘Holy Ghost.’  Therefore, I don’t remember the Spirit being talked about or even mentioned all that much.  So, for me to think about the Holy Spirit and what the Spirit means to me in my life is relatively new.

In Acts 1, the Apostle Luke is continuing his story of Jesus Christ.  Jesus has been crucified, died, and resurrected. I believe that Luke was there and witnessed all these things!  However, there really is no proof of this.  In either case, the writing is for Jesus’ disciples and what we are called to do as Christians. 

It is the festival of Pentecost (also known as the ‘Feast of Weeks’) – now 50 days after Jesus was resurrected and 50 days after the Passover.  Jesus had been presenting Himself alive to the disciples throughout this time.  Now Jesus stands before them in a cloud ready to ascend into heaven.  However, before He does, Jesus gives them very explicit directions about what they are supposed to do from that point forward.  He tells them, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (v.8).   Jesus’ disciples are named “witnesses” – people who bear testimony to the truthfulness of what has been said or done.  And then, Jesus ascends into heaven.

The disciples have their walking papers.  But first, they have some business to take care of – to fulfill the missing disciple.  They have two names in which, they prayed continually about in discernment.  Casting lots, just to make sure it was not their will but the will of Jesus Christ, Matthias was added to the eleven disciples.  Now, they are waiting on the Holy Spirit.

At first, this may not seem like such a tall order to proclaim and witness to Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth.  However, these places Jesus wanted them to go to proclaim Christ would be difficult.  For example, Samaria hated the Jews and they did not like each other.  What might they have to go through, change differently, pray for courage, in order to do what Jesus was calling and asking them to do?  Therefore, what about us?  What communities, countries, or groups of people who think, believe, and live differently than us are we being called to, in order to witness for Jesus Christ, the truthfulness of all He has said and done? 

The journey is just beginning.  Come with us as we learn from the Apostles of Jesus Christ, how we too can begin to witness in His name.  It just may surprise you what the requirements are for doing the work of the Lord!  The Good News is that Jesus has promised the Holy Spirit.  We will not be alone!  This Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus Christ!

Respect and Reverence

Day 294: Job 2:1-10

I know our country is in a mess.  For the life of me, I wish I could understand it.  There are people of power that I do not like.  There are people in our government that I do not care for.  There are those that I pray for because of their evil doing.  I also know that is very difficult to love everyone because of our differences. 

In Job 2:1-10, Satan does not like Job because he is a righteous and God-fearing man.  Satan wants to prove to God that if everything is taken away from him – first his livestock and now his health, Job will turn against God.  God again tells Job, “Go for it; but you cannot take his life.”  And so, Satan gives Job sores all over his body.  I can only imagine how miserable Job must have felt.  His wife is fed up with the way Job continues to love God.  Job tells her, “We can’t just love and praise God in the good times, but that we also must be grateful for all He has given us, even when the bad days come.”  (v.10).  And now, even though Job has lost his livelihood and now his health, he does not curse God. 

I wonder if so, much that is wrong with our country is the lack of respect for authority and the reverence for our God.  I feel like we have lost our way – not just as a country, but also as a church.  While there are politicians I disagree with, people in power that I feel are wrong, and government officials that treat others with hate, I still respect the office they hold.

Job never underestimated the God that created him and had given him everything he had.  He knew that nothing really belonged to him anyway.  It belonged to God!  Yes, God had been so good to him, but Satan does walk the earth and stumps all over it – “walking up and down on it” (v.4).  God gives us life here on earth and life in paradise!  I can’t help but to wonder how the world might change if all people gave respect to the office of authorities, but especially reverence to our God – no matter what their circumstance or situation?

No doubt, it’s something to think about.

When Bad Things Happen

Day 293: Job 1:1-22

I once had a parishioner in one of my congregations who just couldn’t seem to catch a break.  No doubt, my heart went out to him.  He had received the news that he had terminal cancer.  He was so angry at God that he quit coming to church.  However, to make matters even worse, his wife was diagnosed with a brain tumor and passes away.  She leaves him with terminal cancer and two children still living at home.

In Job 1:1-22, Job is a good man.  Not only that, but he has it all!  He has a beautiful family with seven sons and three daughters.  His livestock contains thousands of sheep, camels, oxen, donkeys, and many servants.  He worships the Lord and repents the sins of all he oversees in his household. 

Satan comes to God in the heavens and challenges God to test Job.  Satan tells God, “Stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.”  (v.11).  God tells Satan, “Go for it!  All that he has in your power, but you cannot lay hands on Job himself. (v.12).  And, so Satan goes after all of Job’s livestock – taking everything that he has away.

However, while Satan believed that Job would curse God for taking everything away, he does just the opposite.  Job rips his clothes off and tells God, “I came to the world with nothing and I will leave here and return to the Lord with nothing.”  And, at that moment, Job worshipped the Lord.

I think when bad things happen in our lives, we forget that Satan lives here in the world.  Evil exists here and bad things do happen.  God doesn’t make bad things happen to us!  But what I do believe is how we respond and react to the bad things that happen to us, make the difference.  God wants us to turn toward Him in our bad times and rely on His grace, mercy, and love to carry us through. 

God loves us so much and will never leave us or forsake us!  God sent His only Son to die for our sins just so we can have a relationship with Him and spend our whole life with our Savior – both now and forever in paradise!  If you think about it, why would we not glorify God through our praise and worship, even when we can’t catch a break?

Blessed Believers!

Day 291: John 20:19-29

When I was about 4-5 years old, we lived in Salisbury, North Carolina in a neighborhood where the homes had large wooden front porches.  These porches had to be painted periodically.  I had a friend whose name is “Thing.”  In those days, we roamed the neighborhood and ‘stay-at-home’ moms kept an eye out for all the children.

On this particular day, Thing and I were outside playing and noticed the wet paint on one of our neighbor’s porches.  For the life of me, I cannot tell you why in the world we thought it would be fun to have our little bare feet and toes on that wet paint – but we did.  In fact, it must have been so much fun that I can still remember it today.

On the first day of the week, Jesus Christ has risen! 

In John’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene is the first to get to the tomb on that third day after Jesus’ crucifixion and death.  When she gets there, the stone has been rolled away and the tomb is empty.  After speaking with whom she first thinks is the gardener, Jesus calls her by name and tells her to go and tell the disciples I am alive and that He will be ascending to the Father – Your Father and Your God!   Mary finds the disciples and tells them everything she has seen and heard from Jesus.

But they are afraid.  They are afraid that the radical Jews who crucified Jesus will come for them and crucify them.  And so, that evening, they go into the house and lock all the doors.  In all honesty, I cannot fathom what must have been going through their minds and hearts. 

But I do know for me, that when horrific events happen in my life – I tend to replay them over and over in my head.  I think about the things I said.  I think about the things I wished I had said or had not said.  I think about what I had done, should have done, or not done.  I think about that if only “Hindsight were 20/20” that I could go back in time and make it right.  And so…I wonder if some of their conversations sounded like this:

“What were we thinking?”  We let Jesus go all by himself to the cross!  And Peter:  I denied Him after He told that I would.  But I love him so much – Why did I do that!  I told him I was willing to die for him! 

We have lost our brother, Judas!  His guilt was more than he could bare.  If Jesus really is resurrected and alive.  What are we going to say?  What will we do?   And, in the midst of their fear, guilt, and confusion, Jesus appears before them!  He comes through the locked doors and stands among them!

Think about that! 

Not only do they now have an opportunity to tell Jesus how much they love Him – but they also have the opportunity to ask for forgiveness.  It’s like when we have a loved one or a dear friend that we have wronged and before they leave this earth – we are grateful for the opportunity to clear the air – to forgive each other!  And here Jesus is – standing before them in the flesh and blood! 

But here is the thing.  Jesus already knows…He already knows their guilt and shame.  He already knows how much they truly love Him.  He already knows what is in their hearts.  He breathes on them and says to them: 

Peace be with you.  Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they will be forgiven.  If you do not forgive the sins of any – they will not be forgiven. 

He gives them the keys to the KINGDOM…The Keys to their SALVATION.  He tells the REASON for the death and resurrection of their LORD – our LORD!  Jesus knew that if we have sin – we cannot know God.  And so, he entered into Hell – to face the devil on our behalf!  Jesus changed our FUTURE!  Jesus made us into EASTER PEOPLE!   He made His disciples into Easter people! 

Jesus breathes on them – Freely gives them the Holy Spirit!

Just as I was sent into the world – Now I send you! 

Jesus gave his disciples the power to forgive the sins of others!  YOU NOW HAVE THE POWER TO FORGIVE!

You now have the power to even forgive yourself.  Because…Jesus says…I forgive you for denying me, Peter. I forgive you for not walking to the cross with me.  I forgive you for not standing up for me.I forgive you!  His breath – infuses our bodies with grace upon grace – overflowing and bubbling up inside each one of us!   This peace I give you is a peace that is deeper than a wish or words that can even be spoken. And now, because of Jesus’ resurrection – Nothing else even matters.  Nothing we have done – it’s all forgotten about.  Today – Right NOW – the NEW CREATION has BEGUN!

Our NEW LIFE BEGINS!

I remember being home that evening when there was a knock at the door.  A man was standing there, and I specifically remember standing behind my mom listening to the man.  He told my mom that two children had walked all over his newly painted porch and left little foot prints all over it.  My mom stood up for me.  She said, “Well, I don’t think my daughter would do that.”  The man then says, “Well whoever did it, will have red paint on the bottom of their feet.”  I’ll never forget the shame and guilt I felt at that moment.  I honestly do not remember too much what happened at that point except that I was proven guilty because I had the red paint on the bottom of my feet.  

Walking on someone’s newly painted porch as a child is a small offense – but the guilt and the shame are the same.  But, here is the Good NEWS!  The dead Jesus is alive, and He stands in the midst of our guilt, shame, and fear.  – and even all of our hopes and dreams.  Jesus’ peace – is a gift of sheer grace!

That day as Jesus stands in the midst of His disciples with all their fear, guilt, shame, and confusion – He brings them a peace that passes all of their understanding.  He brings us a peace that passes all of our understanding! 

It’s all OK.  I forgive you. 

You are my disciples!

You are the Salt of the Earth.

You are the Light of the World.

You are a Child of God.

Just as I have been sent into the world, I now send you! 

My Lord and my God! 

Amen.