Jesus is Alive!

Yesterday, we celebrated and rejoiced in the truth the Jesus Christ has been resurrected from the dead and still lives. This is a key teaching and cornerstone to the Christian Faith. It was a great time in worship. How do you celebrate the Risen Lord? What brought you to a place of belief?
When we read about the resurrection in the Gospel of John (John 20:1-18), we first see Mary Magdeline go to the empty tomb, then the disciples John and Peter. What I find interesting is each one of them had a different reaction when approaching the empty tomb:

  • Mary made a snap judgement someone stole the body of Jesus just by seeing the stone had been rolled away
  • John knelt down and glanced in, noticing the grave cloths and finally entered and believed
  • Peter pushed his way in and began investigatin the scene

None of these reactions are wrong, they are just different. But these also show us how we react to people and news today. It is easier to make a quick judgement and decision without ever trying to figure out the entire story. Adults teach this to children; yet we, as adults, still make snap/quick judgements on people, news, circumstances, etc. without ever trying to figure out the whole truth of what happened, what was said. There are others who get quick snippets of the situation and come to their own conclusions, whether or not it is the whole truth. Then, there are those who take time to investigate and try to understand wholeheartedly.

I believe it is important to have all of these traits and reactions. We should quickly look to see what happened. Then we should glance in to get more information. Finally, we should investigate and examine what is presented to get to the core of the truth.

One of my favorite stories about Mother Teresa is when she teaches someone searching for her about trust versus clarity.

 “John Kavanaugh, the noted and famous ethicist, went to Calcutta, he was seeking Mother Teresa … and more. He went for three months to work at “the house of the dying” to find out how best he could spend the rest of his life.

When he met Mother Teresa, he asked her to pray for him. “What do you want me to pray for?” she replied. He then uttered the request he had carried thousands of miles: “Clarity. Pray that I have clarity.”
“No,” Mother Teresa answered, “I will not do that.” When he asked her why, she said, “Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.” When Kavanaugh said that she always seemed to have clarity, the very kind of clarity he was looking for, Mother Teresa laughed and said: “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.”

Jesus asks us to follow and trust Him through our life journey. Because He is risen and alive, He is with us (Matthew 28:20). The question asked of the congregation yesterday was, “Do you believe this?”

I hope and pray you do. Jesus is alive! Alleluia!

Sermon “Do You Believe” (Easter Sunday 2016) http://youtu.be/uUNE5o3gvWM

God’s Invading

Last week, a New York newspaper ran a headline that said, “God is not fixing this,” in response to the shootings that happened in San Bernardino, CA. The article was saying that something has to be done and people can’t “hide” behind meaningless phrases – more specifically, “my thoughts and prayers with with…”

When we read the story of Christ’s birth, we also look at the ministry of John the Baptist. He showed the people, and us today, what God is up to.

Click here to read this week’s scripture passage.

“God is not fixing the problem; God is invading it!” I love this thought, this truth. As I was preparing to preach, I read an article from the pastor of a church that made that statement. There is a lot of truth, and hope in this concept.

I hear people all the time asking why God isn’t fixing the situation. Why didn’t God stop that terrible thing to happen? Why didn’t God intervene in the sickness? There are many other questions we ask.

An answer came almost 2,000 years ago. John the Baptist pointed to the answer when he was baptizing in the wilderness, calling people to repent. He was pointing people to the person of Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God with us.

The situation in John’s time was dangerous and people were waiting on God to fix the problem. This is not what God had planned. His plan was to come down in the form of a person (Jesus Christ) to walk around with His creations, show them the Kingdom of Heaven, then die and be resurrected so we could be forgiven and be reconciled to God and receive new life.

God’s answer was, and is, to “invade.” I believe this is His answer today as well. I believe that we can allow God into our lives so we can be changed from the inside out. This is where real change happens – from our heart. If we all Christ to change our hearts, our lives will change and we’ll have more compassion and more God-given direction to make a change in this world by bringing people to faith in Jesus Christ.

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

Urgency

Today, we again look at the passage in Luke 21 of Jesus speaking about the end and the glorious return of the Son of Man. This time, I invite us to look at verses 34-36.

“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

You can read the entire scripture for this week here.

Jesus says to “be on guard,” “be alert at all times.” Other places in the Gospels, Jesus says that we will not know the time when all this will happen. This event is referred to come like a thief in the night. There is urgency to make sure we are ready for the return of Jesus Christ.

Many people become skeptical about the “end times” or the “end of the world,” thinking that this is too much for us to try and understand or it is still in the future. The truth of the matter is the end of the world comes for some people everyday.

Isn’t it heartbreaking when people live in fear and without hope. People around the world, especially in our communities and own homes, need to hear about the Gospel of Jesus Christ that brings good news to all people. We should not think we have plenty of time because we do not know when that person will pass on.

For me, these passages do not really cause me to be worried about the future; but they do help me realize how important it is to share our faith every opportunity we have (in actions and in words).

I invite you today to pray for someone who needs to hear about Jesus Christ and then trust that God is with you as you share your faith. If you find it challenging, there are people who can help: pastors, church, friends, Bible study groups, etc.

Are you ready to give the gift of Christ to another person this Christmas?

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

Don’t Turn Back

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Galatians 4:8-11 At the time, when you didn’t know God, you were enslaved by things that aren’t gods by nature. But now, after knowing God (or rather, being known by God), how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless world system? Do you want to be slaves to it again? 10 You observe religious days and months and seasons and years. 11 I’m afraid for you! Perhaps my hard work for you has been for nothing. 

Paul is saying something here that I think we can’t overlook. After we have faith in Christ, it is easy to forget about the faith and go on living our old way of life.

One of my favorite sayings goes something like this, “Christ meets us where we are but doesn’t leave us as we are.” I think this is a telling reminder of how the presence of Jesus Christ in our lives really can and does make all the difference. We are different people after an encounter with Jesus the Christ. Or something else can happen. We can be so zealous of the faith that we begin to follow a prescription for how to live for God and we can actually create a set of rules that make it difficult to be a Christian unless they are followed. Or the person is not worshipping Christ “correctly.”

To order our lives around a set of “rules and regulations” can enslave us again. Jesus Christ calls us and invites us to live in freedom. Here we do not focus on what we cannot do (or what we are against). We instead focus on what we can do (or what we are for). For us to be enslaved to the “world’s system” means that we will care more about what other people think or are doing than we think about God’s desires. It is easy to go with the crowd, but w should be careful not to have the crowd bind us into something we cannot be or know is not true.

We should also take time to pray for and encourage our leaders. They may not always get everything right, we are all human after all; but they have worked to bring us to a place in our faith that it would break their hearts to know we have fallen away. This is the tone in Paul’s voice and attitude toward the people of Galatia. He is heartbroken they are more easily swayed by the winds of something new and exciting, than to be firm in their faith and live in freedom.

Paul is asking the people to remember who they follow, Jesus Christ, and asking them to re-examine their lives and faith. I believe we should do this as well. It is important for us to stand firm in our faith in Jesus Christ, because his message is the only one that keeps us free.

Remember, we are FREE from trying to be like everyone else. We are FREE to be like Jesus Christ in all we say and in all we do.

#LiveFreeInChrist