Lenten Blog – 2/22/2018

 

As I was watching the news this morning I heard the news that Billy Graham had died.  Some of you may know I do have a Greek and Hebrew degree from Wheaton College, where he also went to school.  This is part of the email Wheaton sent out this morning.   

 

Billy Graham preached the gospel to 215 million people in live audiences in 185 countries and territories at more than 400 crusades, missions, and evangelistic rallies. His influence for the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ is beyond human measure. He provided spiritual counsel to every president from Harry S. Truman to Barack Obama and was sought out by countless other political and religious leaders around the world spanning several generations. Renowned for his humility, transparency, simplicity and integrity, Billy Graham proved faithful to the end as a “prophet with honor.”

I met him twice: once in a meet and greet; and another time I was invited to sit up on the platform behind him during a crusade he was doing in Buffalo in 1988.  His messages were never too complicated.  He always said we are all sinners but God has made a way to get right with Him by the blood and the grace of Jesus, so you can know the peace that only Jesus can bring.   His contact with all of the presidents brought him fame.  The episode that he was a part of in “The Crown” series on Netflix was outstanding in dealing with the challenges of forgiveness.  He made a major impact with Queen Elizabeth.  Even more, he spoke to 215 million people.

For Confirmation instruction this week we are talking about Paul, the Billy Graham of the early church.  More miles, more people, more countries than anyone else of his day. Yet it is always the same Jesus who forgives in Rome in 59, in Buffalo in 1988, and in Tampa in 2018.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1:7)

In Christ’s Service, 

Pastor Dave

Lenten Blog – 2/21/2018

We continue on with John chapter 15 that has many insights into the love of Jesus.  Yesterday Jesus talked about remaining in the love of Jesus and obeying Him. The next verse talks about the result of that action, joy.

  

 

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. (John 15: 11-12)

 

 

When you think of Jesus do you think of joy?  Too often I talk with people who have a dour-faced view of God and of Jesus.  He is always frowning when looking at them and their lives.  I have always loved the picture of Jesus that the kid from the book “Heaven is for Real” picked out when he saw Jesus in heaven.  Jesus looks into your soul and you have this sense of Him knowing everything about you and looking at you with love.  That brings joy because Jesus is full of joy when we look Him in the eye and know the love that He has for us.  His love and His joy are meant to overflow in our thoughts and lives.   

 

In Christ’s Service, 

Pastor Dave

Pastor Dave’s Lenten Blog – 2/20/2018

When we think about the love of Jesus, John chapter 15 has many insights into the love of Jesus.  The next few blogs will look at how Jesus describes love in this chapter.

 

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.    (John 15: 9-10)

 

Real love happens in a relationship.  Jesus was loved by God the Father.  Then, in turn, Jesus has loved us.  “We love Jesus because he has first loved us” (1 John 4:19).  This is a part of that relationship that happens in love.  This kind of love is specific and powerful.  In weddings the vows sometimes contain “I promise, forsaking all others, to love you and you only as long as we both shall live.”   This kind of love places the spouse above everyone else.
 

How do we understand obeying the commands of Jesus as part of this love?   Every single thing that Jesus did was part of that love relationship with God the Father.  He always sought His will to be done.  Jesus life and actions were all a statement of that relationship.  To do this in a marriage will change the way you look your actions.  The great blessing here is that this attitude can make some of the mundane actions of life a true statement of love. 

 

In Christ’s Service, 

Pastor Dave    

Pastor Dave’s Lenten Blog – 2/19/2018

Happy Presidents Day!  This is a newer holiday.  Growing up we always had both Washington’s Birthday and Lincoln’s Birthday as holidays.  Since they added MLK day they combined these two into one.  I don’t really know as much about George Washington, but Abraham Lincoln has been a great favorite.  When thinking about the Presidents, this passage from Romans speaks to the honor given these Presidents.

 

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. (Romans 13:6-7)

 

 

My favorite spot in Washington, D.C. is the Lincoln Memorial.  I have gone through it many times on runs around the Capital (my favorite place to go on a lengthy run).  The steps remind me a little of the Rocky steps and the perspective you get looking bask toward the Washington Monument. What is really powerful are the two speeches written inside the Memorial; the Gettysburg Address, and the Second Inaugural Address.  Both of these speeches are short and to the point. The one that always hit me with power was the second Inaugural because it sought to make peace in peoples hearts as the Civil war was about to end.  A great deal of the peacemaking needed to be done was by those in the victorious northern states.  Lasting peace needs to come about in the heart and that is just what that speech tries to accomplish.  I know Lincoln got that kind of insight into forgiveness from Jesus.  For Jesus is the one who brings a peace that lasts forever, and that cannot ever be taken away.

In Christ’s Service, 

Pastor Dave    

Pastor Dave’s Lenten Blog – 2/18/2018

Last week on Sunday I mentioned I had a Pastor’s hat trick.  (A Baptism, a Wedding, and celebrating Holy Communion)  This thought was from my talk with some at the Hockey game about Gordie Howe and what he celebrated as a hat trick, a goal, an assist, and a fight.  The usual hat trick in hockey is three goals.  I am not blessed with all those three today but I am blessed in a way you may think unusual.  Today I get a chance to say goodbye to an old friend, John.

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.   “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” (John 11:33-36)

This afternoon I get to speak at a service for one of our longer-term shut-in’s John Kirkland.  His wife just died a few months ago and this may be a case of where the other spouse dies shortly thereafter without any great medical cause.  Funerals are times when people say what they have felt for years, but never had the courage to say.  They are moments of great love.  People saw that love in Jesus at the funeral of Lazarus.  Jesus is the best person to bring to a funeral.  He changes things.  He brings light to darkness.  He brings life to the dead.  He brings His love wherever He goes.  Because of Jesus, we can say with confidence. 

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” (Psalm 116:15)   

When Jesus spoke at the grave of Lazarus he said come out, so he could see Jesus. Today I want John’s family to know what Jesus says to John, “Come Home to see Jesus face to face.”

In Christ’s Service, 

Pastor Dave

Pastor Dave’s Lenten Blog 2/17/2018

Biblical literacy is not always the best.  As I was reading in this chapter of 1 John yesterday this passage stuck in my mind and I remembered this story.  A couple was getting married and asked their bakery to put this passage from 1 John 4:18 on their cake.

 

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  We love because he first loved us. ”            (1 John 4:18-19)

 

They just put 1 John 4:18 but their baker looked up John 4:18 and did not know any better so he put this on their cake.  John 4:18 reads,

The truth is you have had five husbands and the man you are living with now is not your husband.” 

Not the best wedding sentiments for one’s wedding day!

Jesus is the one who has perfect love.  That is because He is perfect.  His perfect love led Him to the cross.  His love for us makes our forgiveness absolute and so we have nothing to fear.  That is a promise that goes beyond life and into eternity.  As vows are made in weddings they are made until death do we part.  Jesus makes a vow to love us and be by our side forever.

In Christ’s Service 

Pastor Dave    

Pastor Dave’s Lenten Blog – 2/15/2018

In chapel yesterday for Ash Wednesday I read this Bible passage.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.                   (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

 

 

 

This passage describes four ways that scripture works in each of us.  The most common way is used in teaching.  That happens in sermons and in Bible studies and in general reading of scripture.  We learn about who God is and who we are. 

A second way scripture is described here is sometimes we are rebuked for our sin.  At times this brought about lamenting in sackcloth and ashes like King David after his sin with Bathsheba.  This happens when we realize we are way off of God’s will and our actions are reprehensible. 

The third use of scripture is when correction happens.  This is a milder term than rebuking but it reminds us to examine our actions and work to get them in line with God and His will.  Every day we can say with Paul, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)   We need this type of correction every single day.

The fourth way that scripture is described here is to train us for righteousness.  On Tuesday pitchers and catchers reported to spring training for the Rays.  They have almost the exact same time in Spring Training as days in Lent to get ready for the regular season.  The regular season for the Rays begins on Maundy Thursday of Holy Week.  Lent is meant to be a season and time to improve for life.  Think of how you can use this season of Lent to bring about righteousness in your life?

 

In Christ’s service, 

Pastor Dave

Pastor Dave’s Lenten Blog – Ash Wednesday

Today begins the 40 days before Easter that marks the season of Lent (this includes all of the days except for the Sundays). You may think it unusual or not fitting that today is also Valentines Day. It last happened in 1956. It will happen again in only eleven years in 2029. Today is a day of hearts and love. This is one of the greatest days of the year for the sales of flowers and sentimental cards. Yet the message of Jesus in the cross is the greatest of all love stories. That is just what I take away when I consider the total message of Jesus in all that he said and even more in what he did for us. Paul states this truth in a powerful way in Romans.
 
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”     (Romans 5:8)
 
I remember hearing something similar to this verse in an unusual way. ‘True love is being willing to die for someone you want to kill.” Jesus loved people. He did not limit his love to those who followed him. He did not only love those who agreed with him. His love is the ingredient that brings change to angry hearts. He loved broken people, sinners and you and me. He even loved those who nailed him to the cross.  
 
During this Lenten season we are going to prayerfully thank God for the kind of love we have been given in Jesus. This love is eternal in comparison to the flowers given today. It is also lived out in action and not only in words.
 
 
 

In Christ’s Service,  

Pastor Dave

Praying With Jesus: God’s Timing

Can you keep a secret? Can you keep a secret from God? Absolutely not. Jesus knew of this plan and took steps to make sure it did not disrupt his plans.

Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present. (Luke 22:1-6)

One of the most unusual actions of Jesus, that follows this in the Gospels, is when the disciples on the next day ask where they are going to celebrate the Passover? Jesus tells Peter and John to go into town and they will see a man carrying a water jar, follow him and that will show you where we are going to meet. Prepare everything there. Is there more than one person carrying a jar of water in Jerusalem? Of course, but Jesus does not want to tell the group where they are going to be eating this evening because that would be the perfect place for Judas to tell the guards to come and arrest Jesus. Jesus wants to make sure he has time to wash the disciple’s feet, teach them some last few things, and then most importantly, Institute the Lord’s Supper. That Passover celebration had to happen without interruption, so Judas would later lead the guards to Jesus when they stopped to pray on the Mount of Olives.

Jesus knows the timing of all things. Judas was looking for the first opportunity without the crowds around Jesus and this meal would have been perfect. Some things have to happen in a certain order for God’s will to be done. We always need to remember that when we pray. In life I have had so many prayers answered but not on my timetable. When I have to wait I sometimes wonder and question God. But this passage reminds me that God always has in mind what is needed and important. His knowledge of the future is better than my knowledge of the past. We are often told to live by faith. Today I also want to remind you to pray with faith. Knowing that today, tomorrow and all eternity is in God’s gracious hands.

Thank you Lord, for knowing the timing of all things. Help me to understand your plans for me so that I may grow in faith and trust. Amen.

Pastor Dave

Praying With Jesus: Turn Me To You

We have started Holy Week and one of the things Jesus did this week caused quite a commotion in the Temple.

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it `a den of robbers.” The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. (Mark 11:15-18)

Have you ever been challenged on something you are doing? The chief priests were taken aback by the boldness and the words of Jesus. Was it a den of robbers? Jesus found that the Temple had lost it’s way and became an institution and not a house of prayer. We always have to take these words to heart and be reminded that the church is here to be a house of prayer. That is connecting people to God in the various newer methods of today and the tried and true ways that have worked in all of history. Lent is in fact one of the oldest seasons of the church year and goes back way before people celebrated Christmas. This week reminds us that faith is never business as usual. Sometimes church and our lives walking with God can get stuck in a routine. Maybe there is a table in your life that needs to be flipped. It looks to be messy but it can open up new ways of seeing Jesus in faith and how he impacts your daily life.

Jesus, you turned many things upside down. Turn me so that my life is filled with your presence and help make my life a life filled with prayer.

Pastor Dave

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