Sunday, February 24, 2013
Sunday, December 30, 2012
Sunday, May 27, 2012
“Don't let me miss all the glory around me, waiting for heaven someday to come. Open my eyes to miraculous Monday and make my feet march to eternity's drum.”
“Don't let me wait for some far off forever, to say what I feel to the ones I hold dear. Risking the pain and the joy of loving, keep me awake and alive while I'm here.”
Thursday, November 24, 2011
The Psalms are among the most popular scriptures in the Bible. I think that is true in part because the Psalmist (most of them attributed to King David) wrote about his personal relationship with God amidst the challenges of life. Many of the insightful passages are ones of praise and thanksgiving that suggest how we are to respond to God’s gracious acts towards us. In addition to the verses I read from the Psalms, you may recall some of these:
“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.” (9:1)
“It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High. (92:1)
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” (100:4)
“Oh, give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!” (105:1-2)
Our relationship with God and an awareness of God’s gracious acts and blessings in our lives cause us to respond by giving thanks.
One of the most meaningful faith lessons I have learned was from an elderly member of Monumental United Methodist Church. During a visit with her, I asked her how she began her day. She replied, “I begin each day in prayer by thanking God. I say, “Good morning, Lord. This is Sally. Thanks for the gift of another day.” The lesson is a simple but profound one. Beginning the day by thanking God sets the tone for how the day will go. As people of faith, we do not face life alone, but with God’s Presence and guidance, we find strength for living each day as a gift from our gracious God.
The Apostle Paul offered many insights about the importance of giving thanks to God. To the Christians in Thessalonica he wrote: "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (I Thess. 5:18)
To the Christians in Philippi, he wrote: "Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." (4:6)
And to the church in Ephesus he offered this imperative: "Be filled with the spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." (5:19b-20)
To give thanks is one way we can praise God and become a blessing to God. But too often instead of wanting to praise God or offer thanksgiving, we forget the doxology we sing -- “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.” There are times, especially when things aren’t going well, when we feel sorry for ourselves, and fail to turn to God by giving thanks in all circumstances. But to do so even in difficult times, connects us with God who will see us though each and every day no matter what it may bring.
The instructions for faithful living as disciples were clear. Giving thanks was the norm of the first century disciples and has been a spiritual discipline practiced by Christians of every century. Giving thanks in all circumstances, giving thanks for everything, giving thanks at all times, making thanksgiving a way of life. These are the expressions of faithful Christians who recognize God’s blessings in their lives.
When our grandson, Jacob, began to talk, he was taught to say, “Thank you.” But he had his own way of saying it. His response to someone doing something for him or giving him something was “Thank you very much!” It is a good thing to teach our children to say “thank you” but it is even a greater thing to teach them thanksgiving as a way of life.
Thanksgiving is usually a time for family gatherings. I have many fond memories of times when my parents and I gathered with family members to enjoy a great feast on Thanksgiving Day. It was a part of our family tradition. There was always more than enough food, which as a child I took for granted. Our Thanksgiving gathering was often held at one of my aunts’ whose house was twice the size of mine and could accommodate the large gathering of aunts, uncles, and cousins. The day’s events included a typical Thanksgiving Day meal: Turkey with all the trimmings- an assortment of vegetables, home- made pies, and my Aunt Mattie’s famous pound cake, all topped off with watching football on TV! Almost everyone ate too much, and no one ever talked about the homeless and hungry, lonely, and the less fortunate. As I grew into adulthood, I began to ask some serious questions about how Thanksgiving should be observed. Certainly it is to be a spiritual time of acknowledging God’s blessings, but it also is about how we might become a blessing to others.
Thanksgiving should cause each of us to contemplate such questions as: “Do I count my blessings regularly?” “Do I have a faith that is thankful in everything?” But perhaps the most important question we need to consider is: “In acknowledging God as the Giver of every good and perfect gift, how can I also respond in “thanks living?” Thanksgiving not only causes us to count our blessings, but to go beyond. While I’m sure God is pleased with our praise and thanks, I believe God is more pleased when we turn thanksgiving into acts of thanks living! Thanks living is expressed in simple ways all of us can do. It may take the form of contributing to charities that help feed and clothe the poor, a visit with someone who is experiencing grief, or a note or a phone call to someone who is lonely. Acts of thanks living are whatever acts of kindness address the needs of others. Thanks living is a lifestyle of compassion that fulfills Jesus’ commandment to his disciples to “love one another as I have loved you.”
For several years, my daughter has hosted our Thanksgiving family gathering. If her next door neighbor, a widower, is home alone, she invites him for the meal. When someone at her work place has no family nearby, or place to go, she extends an invitation to join us. That’s what it means to turn thanksgiving into thanks living – addressing the needs of others and responding with gracious acts of kindness.
There is power in giving thanks that renews our attitudes and spirits which leads us to respond in acts of thanks living. Giving thanks with a grateful heart blesses the person who is thanked and transforms the one who gives thanks. God wants us to be blessed, to acknowledge our blessings, and to be a blessing!
The psalmist declared: "It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to his name." And so it is today. This song expresses it this way: “Give thanks with a grateful heart. Give thanks to the Holy One. Give thanks, for he’s given Jesus Christ, his Son. And now let the weak say I am strong; let the poor say I am rich because of what the Lord for has done for us. Give thanks… Give thanks!” Indeed! To discover the true meaning of Thanksgiving, give thanks, then practice thanks living be a blessing to others! Amen!
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Society marks time by the four seasons: summer, fall, winter, spring. For us here in
Christianity also marks time by seasons. The Christian calendar begins with Advent, followed by Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter and Pentecost. While the dates for the seasonal observances change, each season is a time to celebrate a specific activity that is part of the story of Christianity. Each story represents what God has done on our behalf.
On June 5 of this year, we observed Pentecost Sunday, 50 days following Easter, a time marked by the coming of the Holy Spirit into the lives of believers. That fascinating story is described in the 2nd chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. Amazing things happened; lives were transformed… Pentecost power became real. This occasion resulted in the birth of the church and the empowerment of believers to continue what Jesus had begun.
But Pentecost is more than an historical event of long ago or an observance of a Sunday in the Christian calendar. It holds a message for all seasons. Pentecost was indeed a transforming event that changed lives and enabled the story of God’s love through Christ to continue to be told and lived. Pentecost faith shaped the life of the church from the beginning and is still a vital part of our faith experience today. It was then and is now a transforming moment in the lives of believers. As a vital part of God’s story through Christ, it is a reminder that we have been given a gift through the Holy Spirit.
Following that Pentecost experience described in the New Testament Acts of the Apostles, many of those present asked a profound question that we need to address today. In Acts 2, verse 12 we read: “All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’”
From the story recorded in Acts we envision Pentecost symbolized by wind and fire. But for us today, Pentecost is not about experiencing exactly what the first century believers experienced. Pentecost is about whenever and wherever one experiences the presence of God and receives strength for living. It is about receiving the gift of God’s Spirit -- God’s gift to us for life’s journey of faith.
To experience Pentecost, we must be open to receiving the gift. Sometimes we have to ask for the gift. In other times it is offered when we need it, but we ignore it. I have discovered the older I get, the more I need to accept and rely on God’s gift of Pentecost. For without it, life is more difficult—life’s potential is incomplete.
Can you recall a time in your faith journey when you had a Pentecost experience? I can…many times-- Just last Saturday while conducting a memorial service for a 53 year-old who committed suicide; a time when I stood by the bedside with the family of a dying friend as life support was disconnected; and a time when I made a life-changing decision about my future and sought guidance and the path was revealed. In all these times God’s Spirit was present offering what was needed for the moment: guidance, comfort, strength, and peace. That’s how God continues to work in our lives today through the gift of the Holy Spirit. That is what the Pentecost faith is about. Pentecost is about “God’s deeds of power!” (vs.11) revealed through the Holy Spirit.
I like the way The Holy Spirit has been defined in one of the historic creeds: “God’s presence with us providing comfort and strength in time of need.” A youngster in a confirmation class I once led defined the Holy Spirit this way: “The Holy Spirit is what God gives us to help us do what we can’t do by ourselves.”
So what is Pentecost faith? Pentecost faith is an ongoing miracle in the lives of believers. The promise of “power from on high” is available to us. Pentecost faith is about claiming the promise and receiving the gift of the abiding presence that defines us and equips us to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. As the creed affirms, “God is with us, providing strength for the journey.” So let us be open to receiving the gift of Pentecost that leads to faithful living.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
I read a devotional recently that reminded me of an important truth. The author wrote: “We have more power than we realize. We have power because we can choose.” Of course every day requires choices; some are simple; some life-changing, but the power of choice is a gift we often take for granted.
Many of life’s choices require more than simply saying yes or no. They involve a lot of study and thought. The choices we make actually define who we are. Choices establish our core values that shape our faith and our actions, and determine how we live. As we are given the gift of each new day, we choose how we will use it. The question What will I do today? is ours to consider as each new day begins. Addressing the question will determine not only where we start but how we finish the day. Perhaps another question we need to ask as we address the choice of how to use each day is this: What do I want to accomplish? Choosing to set goals, regardless of how small, motivates us to stay active and productive, no matter what age we may be.
So all this got me to thinking about the choices we make to be a people of faith. The first choice we make as a people of faith is to choose a personal relationship with God. The key to meaningful faith is not just knowing about God, but knowing God in a personal way. The concept of choice is found throughout the Bible. Many of the stories are about choices people made and the consequences. The story of Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis is about being tempted to disobey God and choosing to be disobedient. That choice damaged their relationship with God and there were negative consequences because of their disobedience. That story is repeated in scriptures through the lives of many others. The stories are of humanity’s disobedience, and God’s efforts to restore broken relationships. In the Old Testament Joshua offered clear advice to those who had turned their backs on God: "But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve... But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." (Joshua 24:15)
Of course the ultimate scriptural story is of God’s reconciling love in Jesus Christ. So the second choice we make as people of faith is to follow Jesus. The call to discipleship first offered by Jesus was to a group of fishermen. It was expressed in an invitation that changed their lives forever: “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of people.” It was an invitation to learn – to learn more about God and God’s desires for their lives. It was an invitation to develop a deeper relationship with God and to learn about grace, the depth of God’s love and forgiveness. It was an invitation to receive transforming power to become more than they were to the glory of God. It was an invitation, as the apostle Paul said in one of his letters, to become “new creatures.” The response was to choose commitment, obedience, sacrificial giving and living. Little did the first disciples know that when they responded to the invitation to follow Jesus that the road would lead to a cross. Nor did they know that doing so would result in a moment in history that would transform the world for all time. In every century since then, persons who have responded to the invitation to discipleship have done so based on a commitment expressed in the words of an old gospel song, I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.”
The third choice we make as a people of faith is to live and love like Jesus. He said to those who would be his followers, “Come, take up your cross and follow me.” That is the invitation to a lifestyle of living that reflects Christ at work through us. It is a life of caring and compassion towards others. We can choose to ignore and hurt others, or choose to befriend and help others. We can choose to be indifferent toward others, or choose to love others, in response to Jesus’ new commandment to love one another as he has loved. We can choose our own self-centered desires, or we can choose God’s way as revealed in Jesus Christ.
My mother-in-law is almost 97 years old. She has many limitations because of health issues, but she can still get around because of an electric scooter. She lives in an assisted living facility in
The following verses were reported to have been written on the wall of Mother Teresa's home for children in Calcutta, India. “People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway. If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway. What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway. Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway. In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.” These inspiring words remind us that we have choices to make about how we can live with meaning and purpose.
A woman celebrating her 100 birthday was asked if she had any advice to offer. She replied, “Live by faith and take one day at a time, one step at a time. It’s all about choices we make. It’s up to us to make life as good as possible not only for ourselves but others as well.”
Life is about choices and the choices we make define who we are. “Choose this day whom you will serve.” Choose to live and love like Jesus. Choose today to live life as fully as possible. May God help us to choose wisely in all things as disciples of Jesus Christ.
Sunday, May 1, 2011
The Sunday after Easter, is sometimes referred to as “low Sunday” in the life of the church. Why? Because attendance is down, the crowds are gone, the events of Holy Week are over, the excitement of the “Hallelujah Chorus” has faded, and things have returned to a more normal and subdued pace. Following Easter, we must once again face day-to-day living in a Good Friday world often filled with challenging times and unexpected experiences. So how might the message of Jesus Christ's resurrection help us face everyday living?
Following Jesus’ crucifixion, even his chosen disciples asked, “What do we do now?” Some went back to their old ways of life. Earlier when Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say I am?” it was Peter who boldly replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” but, in the days following the crucifixion, even he returned to his trade as a fisherman.
Following the resurrection, it took a while for Jesus’ chosen disciples to become empowered to proclaim the Easter message and continue what he had begun. The central message of the Christian gospel was expressed in three words: “He has risen!” Once the disciples experienced Jesus’ resurrection and claimed that message and its meaning for their lives, they were renewed and transformed. They became empowered by Jesus’ words of promise and bore witness to what they had seen and heard. And in so doing they transformed the world with the message of the gospel! It was up to those early disciples to interpret the meaning of the resurrection through words and deeds.
That was then, some two thousand years ago. But this is now, the 21st century. What is supposed to happen after Easter? What does it take for us to move beyond despair to claim the hope of the Easter faith?
If Easter is to become more than a day to observe, its message must transform our lives too. Today it’s up to us as Christ’s 21st century disciples to interpret the meaning of the resurrection – to offer a message that transforms all despair into hope. We are called to claim the resurrection faith and become transformed to live as Easter people. But how do we live as Easter people in a Good Friday world?
Living as Easter people primarily involves two things: First, it’s about what we believe. Easter people claim Christ’s promises for faithful living.
Some of Jesus’ promises that he shared with his disciples that all can claim as his followers are these:
“Because I live, you shall live also.” “ I will be with you always…” “You shall receive power…”
Consider the implications of these promises for our lives. Because of Christ’s promises we can begin each new day in the secure knowledge that we will never again face life's obstacles alone! Our risen Lord gives us hope for the future, what ever it may bring.
Second, it’s about how we choose to live: Easter people live and love like Jesus.Again we look to Jesus to define the lifestyle we are to follow: Praying for guidance … Living a lifestyle of compassion and servant-hood… Sacrificial giving/living. We need to ask, "How are these expressions of discipleship being expressed in our lives?
As Easter people we need to remember Christ’s promises and in so doing, we will find strength to live and love like him! Being Easter people involves living in such a way that others might see Christ in us!
Although Easter Day 2011 has passed, the message is one for every day. Easter proclaims a message for a life-time. The message of Easter moves us from despair to hope regardless of life’s circumstances. Our hope rests in what God has done on our behalf through Jesus Christ on a cross and an empty tomb. The hope required to keep going comes from knowing that God is with us and will never forsake us. Christ has shown us the way!
The Apostle Paul said it this way: “We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt; but never despair; there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:-8-9) That is the promise that transforms despair into hope and enables believers to become Easter people!
A contemporary poet has expressed it this way: “Every morning is Easter morning from now on! Every day is resurrection day, the battle o’er death has been won. I need not fear from the rising to the setting sun; For I am one of the Easter people -- my new life has begun.”
Thanks be to God!