What Impact Will You Make If You Are In Agreement With Others?

What Impact Will You Make If You Are In Agreement With Others?

 

Good Evening Friends,

 

Like the Saturday and Sunday paper we had delivered this morning I am giving you a double helping of devotionals as this will likely be my last post for a while. We are expecting hurricane winds and surge and rain. The various spaghetti plot models of the Irma’s path have reached an accord and now point to us being in the eye wall of one of the strongest hurricanes of all time. One of my friends suggested I write a devotional on the theme overflowing but that must wait for another day. Instead I am sticking to the lectionary and from that picked tomorrow’s question for today. It is about things being better and stronger when we are in harmony with others. It is a warning in a way and an edict of sorts. What Impact Will You Make If You Are In Agreement With Others?

 

Scripture: So you, mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, “O wicked ones, you shall surely die,” and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, and they do not turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but you will have saved your life.

 

Ezekiel 33:7-9 (NRSV)

 

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

 

Romans 13:8-10 (NRSV)

 

“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

 

Matthew 18:15-20 (NRSV)

 

Message: We are better together and stronger together too. But during times of stress, such as a hurricane, conflicts can occur. When we walk in harmony with our brothers and sisters we have a stronger impact for the Kingdom of God. We have peace and purpose. We have love. So, what is needed is a prayer of agreement, for it will produce power and in that power, help us to survive that which would be our demise otherwise. Friends, winning is best found in agreement with others. There is a process and it begins with prayer. Hunker down. Get on your knees. The storm is coming.

 

Pray we honestly acknowledge the conflicts we face. Pray we call on the name of Jesus. Pray we humble ourselves and seek a unity with God’s love. Pray we own the task of seeking reconciliation responsibly. Pray we listen. Pray we take the first step in righting what is wrong. Pray we halt if we are angry or too tired but not wait long to seek a fair resolution to our problems with others. Pray we go directly to the other person with whom we are experiencing conflict and seek a timely reconciliation only engaging others to help mediate if necessary. Pray we use sensitivity. Pray we describe what disturbs us and how it makes us feel and the consequences that have occurred and what we would rather have happened. Pray we fight for the community of God. Pray we be safe.

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson

How Can A Perfectly Holy And Just God Accept Sinners?

How Can A Perfectly Holy And Just God Accept Sinners?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

The approach of Hurricane Irma’s first feeder bands over our home this morning reminds me that we need forgiveness, for time is running out and we are still sinners even though we persist in preparation of sanctification the best we can. Regardless of what we would like to control the waves come like labor pains before a birth of a new creation. They come, slow at first and then increase in frequency and intensity. The reality is that the immense size and power of this storm is of epic portions over which we have absolutely no control.
Of course, God is even more epic and can make the rules over nature and will as our nurture, but perhaps you wonder, as I, how God can be so sacred and still be so forgiving. How Can A Perfectly Holy And Just God Accept Sinners?

 

Scripture: And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him— provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.

 

Colossians 1:21-23 (NRSV)

 

One sabbath while Jesus was going through the grain fields, his disciples plucked some heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands, and ate them. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and gave some to his companions?” Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.”

 

Luke 6:1-5 (NRSV)

 

But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

 

Romans 5:8 (NRSV)

 

Your eyes are too pure to behold evil, and you cannot look on wrongdoing; why do you look on the treacherous, and are silent when the wicked swallow those more righteous than they?

 

Habakkuk 1:13 (NRSV)

 

Message: Friends, sin separates us and just as you, I am blind to much of my sin. The reality is that I am not nearly good enough. So, it concerns me that scripture says that God is too pure to look on evil and cannot allow any sin in his presence. The Bible clearly teaches that God is morally and perfectly holy and hates sin. But, I do not think this is not the whole story.  In the Bible Satan and other demons are said to be in God’s presence. They know Jesus.  In addition, the prophet Isaiah, himself a sinful man, was in the presence of God. But we also know that God is omnipresent and if God is present everywhere then it seems that the divine would also be in the presence of sinful creatures. So, what are we to make of all this? Maybe, for now, it is not so much about a physical presence, at least until God eventually quarantines evil from good and creates a New Heaven and Earth. Someday those who love God will no longer be in the presence of sin, but until then God tolerates sin to accomplish what needs to be done to save mankind. If God truly could not be in the presence of sin, none of us would be here experiencing God. Thankfully there is the reconciling love of Jesus. Now reconciliation is the act of God to remove the chasm caused by our sins to restore a right relationship with us and others. Those are the most hopeful words to a believer. We harsh reality is that we deserve wrath because of our sinful estrangement. We are totally undeserving of forgiveness. But instead of destroying us, God exercises merciful reconciling love to us.  God looks upon us with loving, compassionate mercy, withholding the judgement and fury that we justly deserve and He provides the payment…the atonement. The purpose and the result of God’s perfect sacrifice, in the body of His flesh through death, was to allow Jesus to present us holy, and blameless, and above reproach in the Father’s sight. Friends, Jesus is our Creator, our Redeemer, and our Sustainer. Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ sacrifice and righteousness. So, persevere in the face of life’s storms. Have faith in the work of God in our Savior Jesus Christ. A new day will dawn but it may take three days before we see the light.

 

Pray we repent. Pray we continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel. Pray we realize that divine preservation presupposes human perseverance. Pray we accept Christ’s reconciling love. Pray we live in the hope that God owns us and has bought us and therefor will claim us before the Father as holy. Pray as a communion with God in the bread of Presence and wine of Salvation. Pray we believe that Jesus is Lord not just of the Sabbath but of all creation. Pray we avoid the wrath of God.

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson

Do You Trust God’s Timing?

Do You Trust God’s Timing?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

In today’s lectionary, we explore how the unrelenting love of God conforms us to the image of Christ in the context of the prophetic hope for a Messiah. We contemplate the history of Christ’s lineage, birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension and return. We contemplate the waiting we are doing, under rather strained circumstances, as we in South Florida face the coming of the historic, longest, strongest hurricane of the Atlantic Ocean. It has been named Irma and its path, as it concerns South Florida, is becoming more certain but will be known in the next 48 hours. It may well hit Immokalee, Florida dead on. And as I contemplate its coming, and Christ’s coming, I am considering the possibility that the only way for us to have true peace is to act like we want to live as Christians. So, I am trimming some branches but also hoping for less anxiety. And friends, I have concluded that after doing all we can to prepare physically we need to prepare spiritually. The only way to reduce the apprehension is to welcome the Prince of Peace into our lives with open arms despite the concern of the times. You see we are to prepare for the coming of Christ much like we prepare for a hurricane. This is serious business. There is no escaping the storms of life. So too there is no place to hide from God’s presence. But perhaps the greatest challenge is the waiting. Still we hope it is God’s election, judgement and grace that will make the difference. Do You Trust God’s Timing?

 

Scripture: Now you are walled around with a wall; siege is laid against us; with a rod they strike the ruler of Israel upon the cheek. But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth;

 

Micah 5:1-4a (NRSV)

 

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

 

Romans 8:28-30 (NRSV)

 

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”

 

Matthew 1: 18-23 (NRSV)

 

Message: If our minds feel worn out we are probably not trusting God nearly enough. You see sometimes knowing everything can be uncomfortable and can even hurt us. It is difficult to exercise discernment if we are always trying to figure everything out. But when one is willing to trust God even when one cannot figure it all out, we have the opportunity for a peace that sets us free. There is a revelation of peace that comforts us despite not knowing if we do indeed trust God. You see, trusting God, often if not always, requires not knowing how God is going to accomplish what needs to be done and not knowing when it will be done. We often say God is never late, but generally God is not early either. Why? Because God uses times of waiting to stretch our faith and to bring about change and growth in our lives. Micah understood this well. Like John the Baptist, Micah prepared people for the coming of the Messiah. He gave a warning of impending disaster. He did so through his prophetic words. His prophecy was and is a vision for a life lived in the divine presence, and it is this vision that we need to keep in our thoughts as we prepare for life’s storms. The relevance of the scripture today is that it speaks of hope that comes from disasters, strife and suffering. In these troubled times when many of us do not feel safe, Micah reminds us that God has promised security and peace, and that security and peace comes from the Prince of Peace himself.

 

Pray we wait with patience. Pray we really want to be Christians. Pray we trust in God. Pray we realize that God’s timing is perfect. Pray we realize that God values what the world does not value. Pray we take what the world sees as worthless and pour love into it. Pray we value the gift of Jesus and the love we are to give back by loving others as God loves us. Pray we treat others in the same fair way that we want them to treat us and in the same fair way God treats us. Pray we have compassion for others just as God has compassion for us.

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson

Are We Spiritually Mature?

Are We Spiritually Mature?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

Today as I consider the four rescue parrots on our porch and two conches from the Keys who evacuated in advance of Hurricane Irma to our home, I have chosen to write about the lectionary text and it is about growing up in Christ and embracing a new identity that is not only reformed but transformed. So today we look at the connection of being a disciple of Christ and following the wise ways of growing in our faith of God in purposeful relationships with others. We look at our own lives and ask, Are We Spiritually Mature?

 

Scripture: For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

 

Colossians 1:9-14 (NRSV)

 

Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

 

Luke 5:1-11 (NRSV)

 

Message: We should examine our lives to see if we are exhibiting the characteristics of a people pleasing God. This is the goal of the Christian life. But moreover, it is the goal to see if our spiritual labors are producing God-pleasing characteristics in the lives of others. That is what Paul is praying for in the lives of the Colossians. Perhaps the first thing we are to realize is that we will be known by our fruit of the Spirit and by this, I mean love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. This is very important when having house guests. But its relevance extends beyond acts of hospitality. You see, true disciples of Christ bear fruit that glorifies God. And this means picking up our crosses, abiding in Christ and the Word and as a priority living for Jesus sharing the love we have received. So, evaluate your life. Are you growing in the unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and becoming mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ? Are you being strengthened in a way that improves the lives of others. Discipleship is more than teaching truths about the Bible. It is being involved in people’s lives. The Lord gives us this blueprint, in the form of nudges to help us to grow, and to help others grow in spiritual maturity. He commands us to make disciples, repeating the process that he first began in the lives of his own disciples. Friends, the plan for our salvation and growth is found in the example of Jesus.

 

Pray we open our homes and lives to others. Pray we discover a ministry that produces spiritual growth not just in ourselves but overflows in the lives of others. Pray we only boast of the power of Christ in us. Pray we give thanks to God in a way that produces a harvest of thankfulness. Pray we develop the type of spiritual maturity that occurs only by discerning God’s will for us to act in good faith and good will with a goal of a purpose that glorifies God. Pray we apply the truths that we learn into acts of obedience in our lives. Pray we share in the inheritance of the saints. Pray we receive the blessing of a changed life. Pray we grow mature spiritually as we follow the way of Jesus.

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson

Are You Bearing Fruit?

Are You Bearing Fruit?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

Today’s lectionary selection includes the introduction to Paul’s letter to the Colossians and what is interesting about it is its very positive attitude of thanksgiving. That was the convention of the day on how to write letters. Give the good news first before the bad. The real issue that Paul had on his mind though was that traditions and conventions and magic superstitions are not the essential ingredients to be Christian. And so, this morning as people are being asked to evacuate South Florida and people contemplate whether to go or to stay, I may well be writing one of the last devotions for a while as we out of compassion have opened our home to people vacating the Keys and those in mobile homes. So, the message is about the test of growth in the Gospel of Christ made know to us out of our love and life in the Spirit. It is about the importance of compassion in being significant for the Kingdom of God. Are You Bearing Fruit?

 

Scripture: Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God. This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

 

Colossians 1:1-8 (NRSV)

 

After leaving the synagogue he entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked him about her. Then he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. Immediately she got up and began to serve them. As the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various kinds of diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on each of them and cured them. Demons also came out of many, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Messiah. At daybreak he departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowds were looking for him; and when they reached him, they wanted to prevent him from leaving them. 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.” So he continued proclaiming the message in the synagogues of Judea.

 

Luke 4:38-44 (NRSV)

 

Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

 

Galatians 6:2 (NRSV)

 

Message: Jesus began ministry out of his calling as ‘beloved son’, explaining he must be about ‘his Father’s business’; Paul gave up all titles to call himself a servant and slave. He did not add a new set of tasks to life as much as he realized that his life was filled with meaning in an identity focused on Jesus. This is the best way to bear fruit. Trying to be important and valuable oddly enslaves us to an earthly cause or even enslaves by a false sense of what we think is good religion. We are not so much to be those things we do, but to do and love who Christ is in us, for out of that springs the behavior that brings true life. So, in order to be fruitful it is better to stop trying to do good Christian things and start having a life centered on Jesus. The ultimate mission we are to have in life is to flow out of our love of Jesus not a set of requirements and superstitions. Indeed, God so love the world that he gave his son. It is not about guilt or obligation but a Good News that flows from God’s love. And that is how it is to flow from us as well. Jesus heard from the Father what to do. So too we are to hear from the Spirit what to do. It is a matter of seeing and hearing and responding out of love. We see this in the healings in today’s scripture from Luke. There is a work that is naturally supernatural. It is not an empty obligation or some prideful endeavor. It is the actions sprouted out of realizing that the Kingdom of God is here right now, rooted in the Father’s love and bearing fruit connected to the work of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. Many try to find meaning in good causes and things which are valuable…but cannot provide ultimate meaning when they are not connected to the larger source and storyline. Jesus moved among the people healing them one-by-one. He healed them in a wonderful way, by touching them. He bore their sickness and disease in a sympathetic way. He did not heal these people always based on their faith, though they may have had faith. Sometimes Jesus healed from a heart of compassion, which moved Him, on their behalf. We are to have such a heart today.

 

Pray we have a vocation and story that is based not so much the things we do to live but more the things we live to do. Pray we realize that our ultimate mission is to flow out of our compassion. Pray we see the bigger story. Pray we realize that our lives are to be part of a Christ’s story and the redemption of all of creation. Pray we think less about success and more about significance. Pray our compassion heals others. Pray we realize why we were born. Pray we have a heart to heal and a heart to hear. Pray we love others for God has loved us.

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson

Are You Building Up or Tearing Down?

Are You Building Up or Tearing Down?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

I have a confession. You know those people who call on the phone to sell you something you really do not need nor want. Honestly, I have had some bad thoughts about how eternity should take care of their behavior. But then a friend pointed out another approach and once I had read today’s lectionary scripture and how even demons know Jesus and that we are to be children of light in the darkness, I have rethought my approach. You see, those unexpected and often annoying calls might be a great way to engage people who need to know more about Jesus. And if they are as dark as I might expect then Jesus will deal with them. Now the problem is that so many of the calls these days are robots and computers, but if you get a real person, and maybe even if you don’t, we need to be encouraging in the way of Christ if by example and nothing more. You see there is a little bit of good in the worst of us and a little bit of bad in the best of us. So, Are You Building Up or Tearing Down?

 

Scripture: Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

 

1 Thessalonians 5:1-6, 9-11 (NRSV)

 

He went down to Capernaum, a city in Galilee, and was teaching them on the sabbath. They were astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority. In the synagogue, there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, “Let us alone! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” When the demon had thrown him down before them, he came out of him without having done him any harm. They were all amazed and kept saying to one another, “What kind of utterance is this? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and out they come!” And a report about him began to reach every place in the region.

 

Luke 4:31-37 (NRSV)

 

He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

 

Psalms 121:4 (NRSV)

 

The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy, and like a strong man runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and nothing is hid from its heat.

 

Psalm 19:1-6 (NRSV)

 

Message: Well, I would like to think we are in a season of joy but for some of us we are in the hurricane season. And with that thought in mind I would say that today’s question is not just about whether we are building up or tearing down but whether we are doing it in the right places. Hurricane Harvey flooding has gotten people to rethink if they should rebuild in flood zones. And so too with evangelism, for sometimes we should dust off our shoes and move on and sometimes we need to persevere in a place long enough to make an impact before Jesus returns to finish what we could not. Last night, we were tracking Hurricane Irma and it seems to have taken a turn for Florida. To heighten the concern the Governor has declared a state of Emergency for all of Florida. We have very few things to do in preparation if indeed it comes our way. But I will tell you there is peace in knowing that we are as ready for the coming of a storm as we can be and so too for the coming of Jesus. For there is a peace knowing that Jesus can still drive the demons out of our life. But unlike the demons in today’s text we have nothing to fear if we are prepared. And perhaps we do not need to fear the storms of life if we prepare for them putting on the full armor of God. Oh, we should be a little bit anxious with keen awareness as to our situations, but we should also be encouraging one another. You see, Jesus has control over those things in the spiritual world and yes, the physical world too. Therefore, we should continue to build up the Kingdom of God and prepare for life’s storms even while we look for the coming of Jesus with excitement and expectancy. Instead of fear and dread, we need will be awake to see Jesus. There is great comfort in knowing that we will be saved but it is not the kind of comfort that puts one to sleep. So, friends, acknowledge that it is all too easy to be focused on things of this world. It is all too easy to not make time for worship. It is all too easy to never pick up a Bible and read it. It is all too easy to get so wrapped up in worldly things that we do not realize we have become intoxicated by the dark side. Friends, we are to care about spiritual things as well as physical things. We are to be ready and watching for the return of Jesus much like we do for a hurricane. So, will you be ready and watching? Will you be building up or tearing down?

 

 

Pray we be prepared for the storms of life with the solid foundation of the Gospel of peace. Pray we be strong in the mighty power of God. Pray we take a stand against the devil’s schemes with truth, righteousness and readiness. Pray we have faith and the Spirit and the Word of God assuring our salvation. Pray in the Spirit on all occasions. Pray we not get so wrapped up in the worldly things that we turn to the dark side. Pray we be ready and watching for Jesus. Pray we encourage one another in the faith and in preparation for the return of the King.

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson

Where Do You Live And How Are You Listening?

Where Do You Live And How Are You Listening?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

Undoubtedly you are aware of the past, present and potential future of the places where you grew up. Maybe like Jesus you have lived in multiple places. Jesus lived in both Capernaum and Nazareth but really had no place to call home except for the love he found at Bethany. Perhaps you associate with Nazareth and are resistant to Jesus or the town of Capernaum and are more responsive to Jesus. Undoubtedly you have a home town and find in it an identity both good and bad. But the earthly place you come from is no guarantee of failure or success. You see, today’s scripture is symbolically about our identity in relationship to the place we breath spiritually. Jesus announces his ministry in Nazareth and the result was initially not so great. However, in Capernaum the response was much better but still ultimately failed. Figuratively we each typically reside in one of these two places in a spiritual sense. But then Jesus gives us a third alternative. And when Jesus returns publicly and personally for us, it will most certainly make a difference if we have a sense of it. Where Do You Live and How Are You Listening?

 

Scripture: But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

 

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NRSV)

 

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.'” And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

 

Luke 4:16-30 (NRSV)

 

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.

 

John 14:1-3 (NRSV)

 

Message: Maybe you have lived in the same house and worshipped in the same church for the last 40 years. But there is a problem with getting complacent in the sameness of life. We begin to think we know something, but things change. We forget to listen to Jesus with an open heart. We might hear the words but we are not always processing God’s love and truth and authority. Sometimes we are listening with a closed heart that ignores Jesus. Sometimes we are listening with a resentful heart hating him. But there is a lot of difference between listening and hearing. When we listen to Jesus we are to hear his love, we are to hear his truth… we are to hear his authority. In today’s text, it is clear what the Nazarene community thought of Jesus. He was just a man and they rejected his message of change. Regardless, Jesus, in the reading of Isaiah, had indeed received an anointing to bring good news to the poor and proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. That meant change that the people of Nazareth were not prepared to face. That is why they hated Jesus. That is why they treated him with spite and vengeance. That is why they became violent and sought to kill him. And all this is a chilling foreshadowing of the Cross. But what is most amazing is that Jesus’ words were still true and filled with love and authority. Because, for the poor, the cross became the promise of eternal riches. For the imprisoned and oppressed the cross became the promise of eternal freedom. For those blinded by their own sin, traditions, and pasts, the cross became the promise of eternal light. The cross was the marker of our hatred for and rejection of Jesus but also the marker of our salvation. Friends, how we view our origins, how we view Jesus and view the cross and our own life and death is important in the scope of eternity. For death is often seen as a separation, but it is really a going home. For the Christian, it will be a place of responsive love…peace. For the unbeliever, it will be a place of rejection. In today’s text men sought to kill Jesus, but could not. At the cross Jesus died, three days later he lived. Know that Jesus had authority to teach, love, and to live on. So, how will you listen? So, where will you live?

 

Pray we are receptive to the teaching of Jesus. Pray that when we hear the truth we want to hear it. Pray we realize that wherever Jesus resides is the place worthy of living. Pray we not get so familiar with Jesus that we take Him for granted or worse yet ignore Him. Pray we have a strong faith. Pray we understand that Jesus did not just come and live on earth but is going to return. Pray we comfort one another in the reality that Jesus is coming back. Pray we have faith, hope and love. Pray we experience a miracle. Pray we have the sure hope that we will be reunited at the return of the Lord with those we love. Pray that until Jesus returns we actively engage in Kingdom work for the glory of God. Pray we believe that Jesus has prepared a place for us in this life and the next.

 

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson

Is Your Mind Set On Those Things Of Heaven Or Of Hell?

Is Your Mind Set On Those Things Of Heaven Or Of Hell?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

Ok, Jesus’ comments to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!” must have really burned. Jesus had enticed Peter to follow, but not yet to lead. The stakes were getting higher and Peter needed to know that the conquering King of Creation’s rule was not to be born out of a violent revolution. Sure, Peter had answered correctly when Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?” but Peter did not yet grasp the full meaning of the Messiah Jesus just yet. Peter’s path, in the context of today’s lectionary text, would have gained the world and lost souls, it would have been as Jeremiah wrote about. But there was another path, not expected, and it was to change the whole dynamic of our faith. It is about living sacrifices that transform us in the will of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. It is about the hard work of facing hatred and anger with love. So, we too need to renew our thinking. We need to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. We need to consider what we would sacrifice to have peace and then realize that Jesus has already provided the way of peace. Is Your Mind Set On Those Things Of Heaven Or Of Hell?

 

Scripture: From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

 

Matthew 16: 21-28 (NRSV)

 

O Lord, you have enticed me, and I was enticed; you have overpowered me, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me. For whenever I speak, I must cry out, I must shout, “Violence and destruction!” For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.

 

Jeremiah 20:7-9 (NRSV)

 

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

 

Romans 12:1-2 (NRSV)

 

Message: Today’s scripture reminds me of the story of Faust and this debate on the human condition and people gaining the world and losing their souls. It is about our choices and what we are willing to give up for what we want, but it moreover about wanting the right things achieved in the right ways. It is so very relevant for the times in which we live. You see, sacrifice can be a foreign and strange thing to us. When looking at sacrifice, it is helpful to keep in mind that there is purpose and truth in the richness of its imagery.Top of FormBottom of Form Sacrifices were important and instrumental to the worship life of believers in the Old Testament. At the time of the patriarchs, the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, people offered sacrifices to thank God for blessings or to participate in a fellowship meal with God and a covenant people. Sacrifices also focused on atonement and were offered to cover up for the sins of the people. Animals would have to die, and their blood would need to be shed. Imagine having to kill and sacrifice an animal for something that you did against God’s Commandments. That would certainly make you look at things differently, and even your actions, and their consequences. Sacrifices were often done at the tabernacle and later were done in the temple. Picture the combination of a church, slaughterhouse, and open air kitchen all put together, and that is what it would have been like. Picture the sight and smell of animals in God’s house, the bleating of animals, the smell of bread and cooking meat, and the commotion of people coming in and going out, buying and selling. Picture the sight of blood, and lots of blood. Furthermore, the sacrifices that were given to God were supposed to be animals that were pure and without blemish. They had to be healthy and strong, not the runts of the liter or the ones that would die from poor health. God wanted the best and deserved the best. Sacrifices were to be offered to God alone, and the Israelites got into deep trouble when they offered them to other gods besides the Lord. Now Paul uses the term living sacrifice, in today’s text from Romans, which seems to be an oxymoron, but in fact is really about grace and mercy and love. You see, Jesus died to cover and atone for our sin though an act of love. It is because of the mercies of God, which stem from Jesus’ once and for all sacrifice for us, that we are to present ourselves as living sacrifices. It is through this lens we are to love. This is not done for God’s mercy but rather in response to God’s mercy. So, it is not about how much we will sacrifice but how much we will love that is the real issue. It is not so much about our leadership but more so our willingness to surrender to God and to be of service to the King walking in Jesus’ footsteps.

 

Pray we always allow the Spirit of Jesus to lead us. Pray we admit that we are sinners in need of forgiveness. Pray we have accepted the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as payment for our own personal sins. Pray we have received forgiveness too. Pray we realize that for that to happen requires some sacrifices on our part too. Pray we guard our thoughts and think on things that honor God. Pray we give up the idea that our way is the best way. Pray we give up control of our life and follow God’s plan not our own. Pray we are living examples of a sacrifice for sin. Pray we realize that Jesus sacrificed everything for us in order that we might have life. Pray that we are willing to sacrifice for Him in order that others might accept that sacrifice as well and experience a peace that passes understanding. Pray we get a glimpse of the celestial light of Christ and believe. Pray we be servants of goodness and glory. Pray we love in a way that pleases God.

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson

Are You Leveraging Results With Your Talents?

Are You Leveraging Results With Your Talents?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

Serving the Lord is a lifelong mission, although the nature of the work may change. God only holds us responsible for what we can do. Yet, if we pay attention, he will provide an opportunity to serve every day in some way. Here unproductive dread never glorifies God. That is not to say that bad things do not happen. We all know that they do. But the point is that we need to be about the business of doing those things that can make an impact. We need to be about loving others and spreading joy not perpetuating fear. Still we need to be accountable. Are You Leveraging Results With Your Talents?

 

Scripture: Now concerning love of the brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anyone write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do love all the brothers and sisters throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, beloved, to do so more and more, to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we directed you,

 

1 Thessalonians 4:9-11 (NRSV)

 

“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

 

Matthew 25:14-30 (NRSV)

 

Message: The word “talent” in the Bible refers to a small gold coin valued at the equivalent of fifteen years’ national minimum wage. But it has passed into the English language, with some etymological link to this parable, to mean an aptitude, a gift, or giftedness. We speak of a talented musician, a talented speaker, a talented athlete. We all have talents of one sort or another. But perhaps the greatest of these is using our resources, our time and our money and gifts in a way that increases good outcomes for the glory of God, and the advancement of His kingdom. We learn from the Parable of the Talents three facts of life to embrace, three points of reference for navigating our journey in this world. First, life seems unfair. The resources entrusted to one person are never the same and never equal to the resources entrusted to another. Rather than getting caught up in comparisons, we need to focus on investing that which God has entrusted to us. Second, life is just. Each servant is only required to give account for his life investment whether it be five talents, two or one. In the end, God will deal with each of us evenhandedly. Finally, life is an opportunity for increase. As we invest our lives in others and live in obedience to God we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord. We become prepared to enjoy the eternity God has prepared for us. So, friends, staying busy for the Lord is a lifelong mission, and although the nature of the work changes as we age and our physical and mental abilities change, know that if we pay attention, God will give each of us an opportunity to serve in some way every day. Perhaps it is a smile, an encouraging word offered to spread God’s hope, peace and love in a world that desperately needs a Savior. Perhaps it some other kind of labor of love, but know this, God will provide you opportunities.

 

Pray we have an engaging attitude for God that does not waste opportunities. Pray we be mindful with what God has entrusted us. Pray we realize that God only holds us responsible for what we can do. Pray we plant seeds of faith and love and grace and joy that glorify God. Pray we be good servants and good stewards. Pray God make us perfect in every good work with a divine will that multiplies though Jesus in us. Pray the results of how we spend our time, talent and treasure is well-pleasing to God. Pray we never tire of doing that which is good. Pray we pass on to others the value of hard work that honors God.

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson

Are You Still Improving?

Are You Still Improving?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

There is a trajectory to today’s lectionary text that is about faithfulness and holiness and continuous improvement in relationships and love and marriage and how God can be part of it all. And as it happens the text falls on the 38th anniversary of my wedding to Amy. So I, for one, am awake and attentive as to how marriage and sanctification are intertwined. Are You Still Improving?

 

Scripture: Finally, brothers and sisters, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus that, as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God (as, in fact, you are doing), you should do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from fornication; that each one of you know how to control your own body in holiness and honor, not with lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one wrong or exploit a brother or sister in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, just as we have already told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness. Therefore whoever rejects this rejects not human authority but God, who also gives his Holy Spirit to you.

 

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 (NRSV)

 

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

 

Matthew 25:1-13 (NRSV)

 

Message: Each of us is represented in this parable of the bridesmaids. We either have oil in our lamp or not. We either have joy in our relationships or we do not. We either have God as a partner in our relationships or we reject the Holy Spirit. Friends, when people get married they often take a vow to love, honor, cherish and obey each other. It is a promise that is part of our culture but it is also a sacrament that is part of our faith. And we all want to have a faith that makes a difference in our lives. Now some things get in the way of that and other things lead us to holiness. Some things bolster the work of the Holy Spirit…things like forgiveness instead of blame and transformation instead of information. To help us, today’s scripture from Thessalonians sets out four qualities of obedience in the first three verses and then gives examples of what this holiness looks like and does not look like in our relationships with others. We learn that obedience is about our call to walk in a way that pleases God and aligns with the work of the Holy Spirit. Obedience is to progress over time to transform us and energize us. And so, obedience is about listening for the voice of Jesus. Obedience is about our desire to satisfy God’s will… to become sanctified. Friends, God has called us to purity and sanctification and this comes through love. And this is true in marriage and it is true in the church, and it is true in the image of a relationship between God and Israel. It is even true in our expression of our sexuality but not in the way you might think. We are not all meant to be celibates. Jesus was not a prude about sexuality. The thing is that our sexuality is just part of the story. Marriage is much more. Love is so much more. Don’t settle for less than the best. Allow God to redeem all things in your life. Keep improving.

 

Pray we have a love that looks forward. Pray we know the love of God and all the joys of being human. Pray we glorify God in our individual bodies and collective bodies. Pray we obey God’s call to sanctification in our relationships. Pray we honor the sacrament of marriage. Pray we watch our thoughts, for they become words. Pray we watch our words, for they become actions. Pray we watch our actions, for they become habits. Pray we watch our habits, for they become our character. Pray we watch our character, for it becomes our destiny.

 

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson