Monday, March 23, 2015

March 22, 2015-What is Family?

Last weekend I was in Chicago for a conference and I was away from my family. The fortunate thing was that I was kept busy most of the three days I was away because I missed Bev and the kids pretty much all the rest of the time. If you've never been there, Chicago has a lot to offer for someone out of town. What I found though was that the little bit of sightseeing I did do, dinners and a trip to The Field Museum, I was wishing one or more of my family members was there to share it with me.

Family is important to me and most other people. My Dad's current status and the one year anniversary of my Mom's passing next month, along with several other things recently have brought the importance of family to the forefront of my thought.

What is a family?
-When it is traced back, there is no known beginning of our exact linneage other than what is taught in the Old Testament. Even science offers no precise answers!
-When extended family is considered there is no foreseable end. Family has, for the most part, always been and will always be.

Family then, for most of us in our time here on Earth, has its foundation somewhere in our tree as a husband and a wife joined in marriage to become one flesh as described in Genesis 2:24, (This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. (‭Genesis‬ ‭2‬:‭24‬ NLT))

But defining family is not that simple, today we see families of many different types and children as beloved members of families that are not biologically theirs. Jesus offered us some insight to this question throughout the New Testament. But in Matthew 12:46-50 He defines our "heavenly family."

(As Jesus was speaking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. Someone told Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, and they want to speak to you.” Jesus asked, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!” (‭Matthew‬ ‭12‬:‭46-50‬ NLT))

Our heavenly bond as a family of believers is again described and confirmed in John 1:12-13, (But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. (‭John‬ ‭1‬:‭12-13‬ NLT))

This is the family that we came from and the family that we will return to. This is the family that has always existed and always will exist. This is the family that describes our relationship as a "church family" and the many other close relationships we build in this life. Everyone then is a potential family member.

Did this make my time in Chicago a more pleasurable "Family Time?" No, but it does make me feel better to know that my heavenly Father is always present and that I am always near my heavenly family when I share time with other believers.

As we break bread and share this Holy Communion, let us remember Jesus' words as he spoke to his Disciples in the upper room. They did not understand the meaning of Jesus' words, as many of us do not fully understand God's message to us today. (As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.” (‭Matthew‬ ‭26‬:‭26‬ NLT))

For anyone who is not familiar with our ceremony, we will partake of the bread as it is passed then hold the cup for a prayer.

May we bow our heads for a prayer for the loaf?

January 25, 2015-Do You Feel Unconquerable?

Do you feel unconquerable today?

Right now the members of the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots are both preparing themselves to be just that next week. In athletics the goal is to be unconquerable, and apparently for New England even if that means bending the rules!

But I doubt that many of us often feel unconquerable, today or any day.

I have discovered many conquerable aspects to my life, especially the past few weeks, and as I grow older the list grows.

Derrick Coleman of the Seahawks has had to be more unconquerable than most of his peers since he has had to also overcome deafness since the age of three. He is the first deaf offensive player in the NFL at a specialty position. Coleman is a Christian and has spoken about his faith, saying, "I always say that God blessed me this morning and I can do what I do." But even Mr. Coleman has been conquered this year and was placed on the injured reserved list in October. So unfortunately he won't get to play in the big game this year.

We all have little things that enter our minds and our lives that usually make us feel exactly the opposite. But, Is this how we should feel?

Does God want us to feel unconquerable?

I believe He does. He wants us to accept Jesus as our savior and through him conquer even death.

By ourselves we are usually defeated and any victories we may have come to an end, at death if not before.

Scriptures remind us of the power that God gives us, from the conquering of enemies in the Old Testament to what Jesus said in Matthew 19:26 "With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

And as Paul wrote:
From Romans 8:31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

And from Romans 8:37-39 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So, do you feel unconquerable today? I say you are if you have accepted Jesus into your life!

Let us remember the power given to us by Jesus when he went to the cross for our sins when we partake of this loaf. Jesus told his disciples in the upper room on the night before his death of the events that would soon unfold. And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me."

November 30, 2014-Burdens

I got to spend some time with my Dad yesterday when we sprung him from the nursing home for awhile.

The process of getting him into and out of the car and house as well as the general experience made him comment that he was not going to come out for a family Christmas gathering.

It made me realize that at 94 years of age the burdens he has now are very different now than at any other time of his long life.

Physical challenges were rarely difficult for him but now he had trouble even lifting his legs and body into a car. I began to think about the fact that we all carry with us different life burdens and we often hide them very well from others.

I woke up with this poem in my head:

A Giving Season

Remember the burdens that others bear,
Know that they are not always easily seen.
What to us may seem small or temporary,
To them may be far too tortuous to share.
A simple offer of peace and comfort provision,
Could be the only blessings they are asking for.

For graces seem few and bare,
Their stocks left empty through unknown chance.
In their case a gracious gift may provide the hope,
Which was faithfully brought to the Father in prayer.
Our blessings come through the process of giving,
Receiving in turn a reaction of love to warm our inner core.

Daily personal affliction for which fellow souls must care,
Might be an unseen wound that seems to never heal.
We may serve as an unexpected deliverer of relief,
To help heal pain another is quietly unwilling to share.
It is certain we do not see some trials that others carry,
Since they are hidden by broken bodies or more.

Giving seasons always carry the heavenly burden to share,
Our own blessings conferred to witness to His sacrifice.
God is seen by looking upon our fellow man with needs,
His graciousness wrapped in an opportunity right there.
All we need to do is be willing to look with a giving heart,
Allowing Him to turn us toward others to even the score.

Burdens come in all shapes and sizes but we all have them. God does not intend on us carrying them alone and He reminds of this many times in His word. Represented by the following verse from Galatians 6:2 in Pauls letter to the churches of Galatia,

Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. (‭Galatians‬ ‭6‬:‭2‬ NLT)

So as we welcome in the Christmas season over the next three weeks, let us remember the burden of our sins carried for us by Jesus Christ. Let us remember the real meaning of Christmas and what giving truly means.

October 12, 2014-Worldly vs. Heavenly

Today I would like for you to reference one of Bev and my favorite hymns. Turn in your hymnal to #204 please. The chorus of this song summarizes my message beautifully.

We are all making our way through this world searching for truth and praying that God will lead us through our worldly trials. Every day we deal with worldly things.

Have you ever realized that you were receiving a mixed message?
Something you were unsure of because there were two different messages?
Often we get one message from the world and another from God. I am reminded of this as I read through the bible.

There are so many discrepencies between the world and the scripture, and as you read through them it becomes very clear that God's kingdom is not of this world. What He is and what he wants us to become is very different from what we coninuously see and hear from the world around us.

These are just a few of the examples I have found, but there are so many more!

The world tells us to "suck-it-up, be tough and endure."
While scripture encourages us to turn to God for help.
"As for me, I look to the LORD for help. I wait confidently for God to save me, and my God will certainly hear me." (‭Micah‬ ‭7‬:‭7‬ NLT)

The world tells us "He who dies with the most toys, wins."
Scripture repeatedly tells us that our worldly possessions will not follow us to heaven but in fact, may make it more difficult to get there.
From Mark 10:21-25 As Jesus was speaking to the rich man.
Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!” This amazed them. But Jesus said again, “Dear children, it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God. In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”

I have tried to break myself of the word "worry" but the world is full of worry.
The bible tells us repeatedly not to worry, one good verse that reminds us of this is Phillipians 4:6 "Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done."

Have you ever heard someone say, "I am not looking forward to today." or "It is an awful day."
God reminds us with scripture in Psalms 118:24 "This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it."

As Jesus was having His last supper with the disciples in the upper room, he spoke to them of His body and His blood. They did not understand because they too were wrapped up in the worldy things of life. As we partake of these emblems let us remember the sacrifice made for us so that we may escape the bonds of this world and enter into the kingdom of heaven.

On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.” In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this to remember me as often as you drink it.” For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again. (‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭11‬:‭23-26‬ NLT)

May we bow our heads in a word for the loaf?

September 14, 2014-Maintaining Faith

Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested. (‭Hebrews‬ ‭2‬:‭18‬ NLT)

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. (‭Hebrews‬ ‭4‬:‭15‬ NLT)

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. (‭Hebrews‬ ‭11‬:‭1‬ NLT)

When I went back to school the first time this summer I noticed many people doing maintenance on our new building and it got me to thinking how essential maintenance is to even a new structure.

Maintenance is something that is necessary to keep things at a high level or to get them to a higher level. All man-made things must be maintained or they begin to break down, or become more random. Science refers to this degree of randomness in a system as entropy.

There was a show on television called "Life After People" that hypothesizes how the entropy in our world would increase and things would break down if people were suddenly gone. It was surprising how fast things we consider strong and everlasting were reduced to rubble!

We are constantly painting, oiling, replacing parts, working out, dieting, and changing everything around us. Why is it then that some people see faith differently? Why is faith seen as simply a place we seek or a place we have reached?

 It is neither, in fact faith requires maintenance just like all other things in our lives. When something breaks down in our faith we work extra hard to bring it back up so that we can endure the challenge that caused this momentary lapse. As we have heard the past few weeks, we grow through our experiences.

Becoming faithful is simply the beginning and we must continue to build our relationship with God. We do these things through reading and meditating on his word. Regularly praying and giving thanks for His love, most importantly understanding that no matter how long we live, that this structure we are building with God will never be completed while we are alive. It requires maintenance.

I know I often get busy and preoccupied and forget to maintain my own faith as I should. When I do I feel a gap grow in my relationship with God. After providing the maintenance through things like prayer and meditating on scripture though that gap is narrowed. We can see others in their walk with God at a place that we may have already passed ourselves at one point or another. Maintenance helped us move from that point forward.

My question to you this morning is are you seeking to make your faith better through your maintenance of your relationship with God? It is something we can all make better.

June 22, 2014-Trust that God is There

I have just spent the week portraying Moses and helping myself and others better understand the plight of the Isrealites as they fled Egypt. The saying that the children and I kept repeating in one form or another as we studied all of the Isrealite's challenges was "God is with us God."

Teaching this to a group of young ones did at times pose a pretty sizeable task even for Moses! Apparently, my disguise wasn't good enough to hide my real identity and a some of them only saw my long white beard and then, of course, began calling me "Santa."

But the messages seemed to stick with them in the end, especially the message that "God IS with us and we should trust in Him as we face our own challenges.

I began to realize how often I forget that He is with me through all things and I am sure many of you do from time to time as well. It is amazing how often we forget the promises of God just like the Isrealites did repeatedly in their exodus from Egypt.

Trusting God helps us realize that the blessings we enjoy, the "coincidences" we experience, or the burdens we bear are His way of reminding us, as He did repeatedly with the Isrealites, that we are not on our journey alone.

We may never see God's power in the form of a parting of the Red Sea, the gift of manna and quail, or hopefully never in some sort of plague but it is real and it surrounds us right here, right now.

We don't have to suffer our burdens alone because God is with us on our journey just as He was with Moses and the Isrealites as they fled Pharoah. We must simply open our eyes and hearts to His presence just as the disciples did after Jesus died and was ressurrected.

As you read the endings to each of the gospels it is written that even the disciples had their doubts and were blind to Jesus' presence at first. But they had their eyes opened, were reassured of His love and charged with even more responsibility.

From Matthew 28:16-20:
The Great Commission
Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted! Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20 NLT)

From Luke 24:13-16
That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. But God kept them from recognizing him. (Luke 24:13-16 NLT)

And from Luke 24:28-31
By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on, but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So He went home with them. As they sat down to eat, He took the bread and blessed it. Then He broke it and gave it to them. Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him...(Luke 24:28-31 NLT)

As we break bread this morning, let our eyes and hearts also be opened to His presence, His sacrifice, and His word.

January 19, 2014-Life Changes

I have had a half school year in our new school and I can say thus far it is bitter sweet. I do not want to complain about the change because it is a wonderful facility and the opportunities far outweigh the changes. There are times though when i already miss teaching in our old, worn out, building because it was familiar and comfortable. This has been a struggle for me both outwardly and inwardly.
- What it has led me to is the realization that it is the change that I fear...Getting out of tried and true routines and habits...Finding new direction and opportunities.

Change here on earth is inevitable. If nothing else, the people change in any earthly event or place. Our lives are full of change and we adapt, sometimes well and sometimes poorly to these changes.

Faith and fellowship in church has the same trials when we face change.
-We will have a fairly decent sized make-over beginning after this week and we will all face that change as our sanctuary evolves into its new decor.

But there is something behind change that I know I often fail to see at first, and that is God's hand in guiding me through it if I allow him to. God uses changes in our lives and habits to help us grow and change, to bring us closer to him.
- Changes can be scary but we should always remember that through prayer and meditation with God, He will guide us to where we need to be.

Change may come to you as an opportunity for service or through worship. As elders we have prayed over and discussed possible ways to change worship at Macedonia to better serve all who faithfully attend now and those who will attend as our church family changes.
- Several changes have been implemented already and we believe they have, for the most part, been positive changes that have led many closer to God in their walk in life.

In your own walk, have you explored change?
Have you opened yourself up to God's guiding hand?
Have you prayed and meditated over changes you wish to see happen or have experienced?
Jesus Christ came to this world to relieve us from the burden of sin. Have you changed in any way to either accept Him as Savior or live your life through Him?

There are many examples of change throughout the bible and how people have responded to it. One of the greatest examples of this is the change of Saul into the Apostle Paul after meeting and accepting Jesus. In Phillipians 3:7-11 Paul speaks about his former life compared to his life after knowing and gaining faith in Christ...

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! (Philippians 3:7-11 NLT)

As we see change occurring in our lives, let's turn to God. As we see changes that others experience, let's turn to God. As we see changes around us at Macedonia, let's turn to God.

October 13, 2013-Coming Home

This weekend has been homecoming for many, and the homecoming atmosphere fills this part of Fall. Ross and several other schools celebrated their homecoming last night.
My family has our annual homecoming celebration around this time each year and it is celebrated in, of all places, a cemetary that my great-great grandfather started in 1889 when he asked to be buried under a large tree on the land his family settled on in Kentucky.
It is a word that I have heard in reference to celebration my whole life.

"Homecoming" and "home" can mean different things. It can be a place we live in that has been in our family for many years or be new to us.
It can be a shared home like this church which has been home to many generations of people. It can be personal, it can be spiritual, it can be poetic.
The thing that it usually always has in common is that it is a place of rest. Let me read a poem about home.

Seeking Home Comfort

It may be a distance great or a distance small,
But there's something that always brings us home.
We long for that simple rush feeling like no other,
When we enter that haven place akin to us all.

It is home we seek when our hearts are lost,
That is where it has been said by some to be.
Finding ourselves again in a cold lonely world,
Is the reason we seek this element at all cost.

Firm ground to set our feet and recenter a life,
This place of common bond gives us peace.
Built by many and passed on through years,
Its walls have endured many joys, trials, and strife.

What magic lies in this ancestral land patch abode?
It is not black but instead the brilliant white light of love.
No matter what wrongs have happened, or what loss,
Rest awaits there to all who carry heavy burden and load.

No questions are ever asked, it is surely our home,
Answers for life ails can be found there among the we.
Warmth and freedom harmony lie within its gates,
A place we know and cherish when ending our roam.

Life has built us, but has often been destructive and numbing,
Giving back to us far less than experience cost has taken.
Comfort and acceptance holds a spiritual healing action,
In our mortal selves through this well needed home coming.

Bruce Lanham (2013)

The bible has many references of home and either leaving it or coming back to it, especially in the book of Job. But I believe 2nd Chronicles, chapter 5, verses 1-10 represents home the best because it shows how home is always with God if we choose and always something we seek in the end.

"For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit. So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. For we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him. For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body."(2 Corinthians 5:1-10 NLT)