Who is your favorite

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Most of us have favorites. Be they in the world of movies, sports or music, we have certain personalities, teams and songs that we count as personal favorites.

I have a question for you today that I hope begins a conversation: Who is your favorite bible personality and why. I have found that depending on the season of life I am in or in what portion of the Scriptures I’m reading, my fave personality can change. That is ok, for God’s Word tells us that it is ‘living and active’ (Hebrews 4:12). With that being true, it stands to reason that this living document with reveal different things at different times to us.

With that being said, I was re-reading about one of my personal favorites just the other day, Philip. Philip is a prime example of a person with a servants heart who remains humble in the service to others, regardless of the fact that he gains a fair amount of notoriety as he does so.

We are first introduced to Philip in Chapter 6 in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. The number of converts to Christianity has been expanding rapidly; so fast that some of the basic needs of these folks were not being met. The original Apostles wisely discern that they need more help, particularly in the distribution of food to widows and orphans. They select 7 people with the qualifications of being ‘known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.’ (Acts 6:3) Philip is one of the 7 that are selected to help in this regard.

Soon after this, persecution breaks out against the growing movement of Christ followers. Many are scattered to other regions, including Philip. He ends up in Samaria where he preaches the Good News of salvation through Christ. With the power of the Holy Spirit, Philip performs miracles that display God’s power. He is very popular among the people and many come to faith there.

With this background, allow me now to share 4 reasons Philip is a favorite of mine.

First: He was obedient to God. As I said, Philip was experiencing great success for the Kingdom of God in Samaria. Yet in Chapter 8 he has an encounter with an angel who gives him instructions to leave that ministry and go down a road toward Jerusalem. No other clarification is given. Philip simply listens and obeys. He did not allow his ego to cloud his judgment. This, in my opinion, is a wonderful example of obedience and trust.

Second: Philip is prepared. Like I said, he didn’t know what was ahead, but we soon find out that he was prepared to meet any challenge that might come. On the road, the bible tells us that Philip meets an official from Ethiopia who is stopped in his chariot, reading from the Scriptures. Feeling the prompting of the Spirit, Philip (in another act of obedience), goes to meet this man and then asks him if he understood what he had been reading.

The official answers that he cannot unless someone explains it to him. Philip starts with the passage the official had been reading (from Isaiah), and explains how this is the message of salvation found in the resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. It is obvious to me that Philip had himself spent time studying, reading and applying the Scriptures. When the question of explaining something came up, Philip was prepared to give the answer.

Now, we do not have to be biblical scholars to be prepared like Philip. But we do need to be familiar with what the bible teaches so that we too can express the truth found in it.

Third: Philip was willing to adapt to the situation as it developed. The Ethiopian official, after having the Scripture explained to him, wanted to express his joy in coming to this knowledge of Jesus by being baptized. There was water nearby and Philip honored the man’s request by baptizing him right then and there.

Again, we might not be called to such a radical act, but then again you never now. May our trust in God be evidenced by our willingness to perform whatever task the Spirit lays out for us.

Fourth: Philip was consistent. Acts Chapter 8 tells us that after he baptized the Ethiopian official, Philip was suddenly and supernaturally taken from that place and placed in another town. Philip, not resting on his laurels, begins to preach the Good News there and everywhere has he traveled to Caesarea. Philip knew the call God had put on his heart, and he consistently walked it out wherever he was.

There you have my favorite, at least for today, from God’s Word. How about you, Most Precious Reader? Would you share with us one or more of your favorites that you have in the bible and why their story has impressed you? Thanks.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

Rejection

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I have been at this ministry thing for quite some time now. It has been a challenging time in many ways; challenges that without God’s constant help and support I never could have withstood. It has also been a time of countless blessings. These have come in every shape and type imaginable. The joy and peace God has bestowed on our efforts in His name fill my heart with gratitude.

Suffice to say, I have experienced a large range of emotion in doing Kingdom work. Please note that I did not say the full range of emotion, because I experienced a new one to me yesterday.

Allow me to give you some background first. As many of you are aware, Lakeside Christian Ministries primary purpose is to meet people where they are, sharing the Good News of God’s love for them. Jesus met folks this way and we see no need to improve on or change His method.

As I have mentioned in the past, we have had a long-standing relationship with a group of people who live in one of the low-income housing projects here in Fulton. We gather on Sunday evenings for fellowship, a bible lesson and prayer. This time has been one of the biggest blessings God has given me. The warmth of love and the desire to know more about God there has been wonderful. We are humbled to be placed where God is moving hearts.

You may also remember that this part of our ministry was birthed from a Hospice patient who had wanted pastoral care. God formed a connection from our very first meeting (more than three years ago!) that grew into various other family members, neighbors and the occasional stranger coming to their apartment to be prayed with or merely talked to about Jesus. Many interesting questions came from these encounters that led to mini-sermons that weekend.

Sadly for us, this dear Saint was called home to the Lord a month ago. We rejoice that she now is living in the fullness of joy with the Savior, but we miss her here.

The concern Betsy and I had about providing continuity at her passing was seemingly assuaged when one of the neighbors who would join us from time to time on a Sunday, invited us into her apartment. Wonderful, we thought.

However, prior to what would have been the second week gathering at her place, she left me a voice mail saying she had other things going on and would not be available. I returned her call, assuring her that we understood and looked forward to seeing her again the next Sunday.

Yesterday (Thursday), I received another voice mail. This one was quite different in tone. She told me that we could no longer gather in her apartment and that she was simply not interested in spending any more time with us.

Wow, I thought as I played the recording. This is a new one. A feeling of rejection came over me. Selfishly, I thought of myself first. Hadn’t I given of my time to be with her? Didn’t I make every effort to listen kindly to all questions and concerns? I felt rejected, there is no other way to put it.

Praying about this last evening and again before bed, I sensed God ministering to my heart. The Lord certainly knows a thing or two about rejection, even telling His disciples that they would be rejected because of Him. In His gentle way, God was leading me out of any self-pity I had so that I could refocus on Him. I prayed for this dear lady and drifted off to sleep.

This morning I awoke to a new sense of hope that only could have come from the Lord. I am assured to the depth of my heart that God’s plan is going forward in Fulton and that He would have us be a part of it. I repented of my self-centeredness and asked Him to show the way!

And though it has not yet been confirmed, I believe we will have a new place to minister this Sunday. One of the long-time attendees has recently moved from those apartments to a senior high-rise here in town. Something tells me we are heading there next!

Please stay tuned. I will let you know what God is up to here!

Thanks for reading. Please pray for our ministry that we honor God in all we do.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

When Obedience Hurts

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I have written, taught and preached many times that Jesus Christ is the perfect role model for all who follow Him. Although we know going in we will never perfectly emulate the Lord, we can and should be learning from His example on a daily basis.

The Scriptures, of course, are the primary place for us to gain insight into the Lord’s behavior. In the 11th Chapter of John’s Gospel, we find a narrative where much of Jesus character is revealed for all. In it, Jesus receives word that his dear friend Lazarus is sick and near death. The bible tells us that Jesus was not only close to Lazarus, but to his sisters Martha and Mary as well.

We learn that Jesus does not go to them immediately, but waits 2 days. When He and his disciples do arrive at the village where Lazarus and his sisters lived, they find Lazarus already dead.

The sisters each go to Jesus and in their grief question the Lord as to why He did not come sooner. They both believe Jesus would have healed their brother.

As I considered this account again, I wondered for a moment why Jesus didn’t simply say the word of healing when He first got word of Lazarus condition. There are other examples in the gospels that tell Jesus healed at a distance (He sent 10 lepers away who were healed on their way to the priest and the royal officials son, who Jesus sent back home with the assurance that the child was healed. This official found out upon arriving home that his son was healed at the very same time he had spoken to Jesus the day before. These are just two examples of this kind of healing received from Jesus).

Obviously, Jesus was following the direction of the Father, whose desire was/is to make the Kingdom of God known to all. God’s plan was to open the eyes of people to His unmatched power; power even over death. This was also a portent of what was to come with the resurrection of Jesus.

Jesus knew the importance of following the Father’s will, even though in the moment He was going to share the pain of Mary and Martha’s suffering. He was also experiencing a sense of disappointment as well; not that He had failed, but the powerful sense of the lostness of many of the people there.

The gospel writer sums it up in verse 35 of Chapter 11, Jesus wept. As I prepared to write this blog entry, I re-read of my favorite commentators on the Bible, Warren Wiersbe. What he wrote about this entire account is profound, so much so in fact that I want to share it with you all, for there is no way I could improve upon it.

 “Jesus wept” is the shortest and yet the deepest verse in Scripture. His was a silent weeping (the Greek word is used nowhere else in the New Testament) and not the loud lamentation of the mourners. But why did He weep at all? After all, He knew that He would raise Lazarus from the dead.

Our Lord’s weeping reveals the humanity of the Savior. He has entered into all of our experiences and knows how we feel. In fact, being the perfect God-man, Jesus experienced these things in a deeper way than we do. His tears also assure us of His sympathy; He is indeed “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” Today, He is our merciful and faithful High Priest, and we may come to the throne of grace and find all the gracious help that we need.

We see in His tears the tragedy of sin but also the glory of heaven. Perhaps Jesus was weeping for Lazarus, as well as with the sisters, because He knew He was calling His friend from heaven and back into a wicked world where he would one day have to die again. Jesus had come down from heaven; He knew what Lazarus was leaving behind.

The spectators saw in His tears an evidence of His love. But some of them said, “If Jesus loved Lazarus so much, why did He not prevent his death?” Perhaps they were thinking, “Jesus is weeping because He was unable to do anything. They are tears of deep regret.” In other words, nobody present really expected a miracle! For this reason, nobody could accuse Jesus of “plotting” this event and being in collusion with the two sisters and their friends. Even the disciples did not believe that Jesus would raise Lazarus from the dead!  (Warren Wiersbe BE Bible Study Series.)

Sometimes, you and I are called to obedience that will cause us pain or discomfort. This is not a place I look forward to being in, as predictability and comfort are my normal default settings. But I must keep the greater picture in mind by remembering that my purpose today is to further God’s Kingdom in all that I say and do. Jesus has also said that His followers are the pickup their own cross and follow Him. I believe this is what He was referring to when He said that.

There will be times when hurt will accompany the being in the Father’s will. The Son of God has indeed modeled this for us. I find great comfort in knowing that our Savior has experienced all the emotions that go along with being a human being. May we call on His loving care and mercy to see us through when those tasks fall to us.

Thanks for reading.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

He Got Out of the Boat

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As we walked Violet, our Goldendoodle, early this morning, my wife Betsy asked what I had planned for my day. I listed several chores I was going to do around the house and added that I hoped to publish a blog, if only inspiration would come. I explained that the well had been dry the last few days, but I was remaining committed to share what I believe God puts on my heart.

Things still appeared a bit dry, even as I began to research John 11, the raising of Lazarus, as a possible blog. It was at this time that my phone let me know I had a new text message from our dear friend Cheryl. (I highly recommend checking out her blog, Care for Parkinson’s, found here on WordPress, to get to know her as we have. She is a blessing!)

Anyway, Cheryl shared a devotion for today that had spoken to her in such a way that she wanted Betsy and I to have access to it as well. Having now read this, I feel the prompting of Holy Spirit to share some thoughts on this passage of Scripture. Thank you Cheryl for the nudge I needed today!!

Chapter 14 of Matthew’s gospel contains the familiar account of Jesus walking on the turbulent sea toward the boat the disciples were struggling against the wind in. Verse 26 tells us what they felt as this unexpected sight: When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. (NIV)

Jesus then attempts to assure them that it is indeed Him, and they need not fear. At this point Peter speaks up, “Lord, if it is you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” (Matthew 14:28 NIV)

You probably know the rest of the story: Jesus tells Peter to come to Him on the water. Peter jumps out of the boat and does start to walk on the water, only to start sinking when he took his focus off Jesus and put it on the waves all around him.

Lessons abound on this point, as much has been written and said about Peter’s apparent lack of faith. Even Jesus points this out to the Twelve when He and Peter get into the boat with them as He chastises them for having doubt instead of faith.

To be honest, I sometimes want to get a little judgmental toward the disciples. I mean, they had seen Jesus do so much. He had healed many and produced food for thousands out of basically nothing. His teachings and overt actions of love toward so many had been witnessed by this select group.

But I am not in judging mode today. Today instead of pointing a figurative finger at the disciples, I am instead marveling that Peter got out of the boat at all. I do not have much experience being aboard boats, save a few canoe trips (on a calm pond) and sight-seeing cruises around The 1000s Islands here in Northern NY.

This makes me appreciate all the more what Peter did. At least he got out of the boat at the invitation of Jesus. We can safely assume he was as startled/scared as any of them at the sight of someone walking toward them on the water; water that the 12 had been struggling to cross for some hours in the dark of night.

Yet, Peter got out of the boat. I believe I understand a few things better now as I re-read this narrative. First, Peter asked Jesus a specific question (If it is you, tell me to come to you on the water. V. 28) to which Jesus simply said, “Come.”

Despite what he was feeling, Peter heard from Jesus, and got out of the boat. He could have stayed aboard with the others, waiting to see how this played out. Sure, it was windy and wavy, but he was an experienced mariner and probably knew he would survive this squall as he had many others before. Lesson received, Peter: Don’t stay paralyzed in a circumstance. Rather, seek Jesus. Ask Him what to do and then act in faith on His response.

This took a fair amount of courage on Peter’s part. Talk about literally stepping into the unknown! He trusted in Jesus, and got out of the boat! And for a few wondrous moments, he too was walking on the water. Next lesson from Peter: There may well be great wonder when you step out in faith. To get the fuller extent of this wonder, we need to keep our focus on Jesus. It is my intention to do so, but I/we all know that the world around us is often in upheaval, revealing things that often vie for our attention. Thanks to Peter’s example, I am going to make a better effort to stay focused on Jesus.

Yes, I plan on getting out of the boat more often because the One who calls me to is ever faithful. He will not allow me to fall by the way, so long as I realize I need Him for every step I take (be it on dry ground or not!?).

How about you? Any ‘getting out the boat’ experiences you would like to share?

 I would love to hear them.

As always, thanks for reading. I appreciate your time.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

A Day is Like a Thousand Years

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According to the most recent statistics from hospicenews.com, the average length of time a person was under hospice care in the United States was 77.9 days during 2018. That is just a tick over 2 and a half months. I have always had an affinity for numbers, as I find they help me in my expectations and plans.

This is well and good for most of the mundane activities and sports that I enjoy. However, I have found that God pays little attention to the conclusions that we draw from our statistical findings.

Never up to this point in ministry have the words of St. Peter rung more true to me: But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. (2 Peter 3:8 NIV)

This tells me that it is God who created time for us. He is outside of its restrictions and constrictions. But we, like all living things, need the passing of minutes, days, weeks, etc. to help us mark time for the things of this life. In His infinite wisdom God set time in motion the way He has for our benefit. He works to a far different schedule than us, hence the helpful description of time passing by Peter as mentioned above.

I mention all this as a little background as I now tell you about Mrs. M. She was one of the first patients I had as a Pastoral Care Provider for our local hospice organization. When we first met, she had been given the prediction from her doctor that she had 2 to 4 months to live, well within the established length of time for most hospice patients.

The thing is, this was going to be an great example of God not heeding our statistical knowledge. I was invited into Mrs. M’s home in March of 2018! I just received word late last evening that she had been called home to her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Her expected 2.5 months of hospice care turned into just over 3 more years of life!

And please understand, she was not merely checking the days off as they went by. In those early months after I first met her, she was still mobile and enjoying many of the things in life. She spent time with her large and extended family members, went shopping and got out to play her beloved bingo as well.

But most importantly, Mrs. M. spent much of that time deepening her relationship with Jesus Christ. It was an honor for me to be a part of this.

To be clear, in my role as Pastor in hospice, my primary focus is to provide spiritual care for the patient and any family member that chooses to join. I am not to be overtly Christian in my approach, but rather simply listen with care and provide support in ways that are appropriate to each situation.

That is not to say I cannot share faith, but that I cannot lead with it. However, there are not restrictions placed on me should the patient have questions, thoughts or concerns about Christianity.

Mrs. M. made this abundantly simple for me. At our first meeting, after introductions around, she asked me, “What happens to me when I die?” Talk about an open door to expressing and sharing the love of Christ! As I began to explain what the Bible teaches us of our need for a Savior, I learned that she had trusted Jesus for her salvation by accepting His forgiveness for her sins some years ago. Like many folks, however, her knowledge of the possibilities of what that relationship with Jesus could mean to her in the here and now was limited.

From that point on, our once or twice meetings per week were mostly spent on exploring the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in the Scriptures. What I was so honored and humbled to see was how Mrs. M. lived out these truths. As her many visitors stopped into chat when I was there, she never missed the opportunity to invite them to join us in discussion and prayer. The love, compassion and care she lavished on these folks, regardless of how she was feeling on any given day, continues to inspire me to be my best for God when I am given the chance to.

Watching God bless Mrs. M. in so many ways is one of the greatest gifts He has ever given me. As a matter of fact, after 12 months, the hospice agency re-evaluated her condition and released her from their care. She remains the only graduate of hospice this side of eternity I have ever known!

This ending with hospice did not cut our relationship short, thankfully. By this time, my wife Betsy and I were in there home on Sunday evenings leading bible studies and worship. As time went on, more and more family and neighbors were invited to join Sunday Night Church, as she lovingly called it. Again, the abundance of God’s blessing is incredible.

I have learned so much from her over these past 3 years with the single most important one being to follow the instruction of God: to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself.

I conclude these thoughts today by asking for your help in carrying the love of God forward as my dear Mrs. M. did without reservation. Please take the time today to let someone know how much you care for them. It does not need to be anything special, maybe just a call or a walk across to street to check in on a neighbor. Or perhaps there is a family member you are in tension with. With the love of God in your heart and mind, be the one to set the those issues aside long enough to simply let them know that you care about them.

Thank you and may you be inspired by Mrs. M. as I have been.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

Thank You, Jesus

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There are so many thoughts running through my mind this Resurrection Sunday as I consider again just what the Lord Jesus has accomplished for the world. The joy, awe and wonder are as fresh this morning as they were the many years ago when the Savior revealed to me His plan for saving my life, eternally. And yet, there is a sadness in me as well as I consider those near and dear to me who have rejected the love of Christ. Amidst the abundant joy in my heart there are sections that are broken for these people. In many of these cases I have attempted in my limited way to share what God has done for me with them in hopes they would grasp the availability of that same love for themselves.

But this is not a day for discouragement! Today my sole focus is on the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. With this in mind, I would like to share a list (by no means in total) of the things I am grateful for because of the saving power of God as it has been revealed through Christ’s ultimate victory over death. As you read, I ask you to do two things. First, reflect in your own way the ramifications of Jesus’ resurrection on your life. And secondly, be intentional about living out a life of thanksgiving for the incredible gift He has given you, so that others may be attracted to God’s light through you.

Where do I start such a list of things I am thankful for because Jesus rose from the dead to forgive us? The totality of His mercy shown to sinners like me (us) is mind-boggling. So in no particular order, here goes:

  • Thank you, Jesus, for taking my place on that cross. You bore my sin in your body out of obedience to the Father and your love for me. Because of Your resurrection, You have defeated death and offered eternal life to all. You knew that there was no earthly way I/we could earn or deserve the Father’s mercy. So instead you demonstrated grace saturated in love to bring us to God.
  • Thank you, Jesus, for the hope you bring to us because of the above. You have not only supplied, at great cost to Yourself, the way out of our eternal predicament, but because You have, I can be filled with hope in the here and now. I do not have to wait until physical death to be with You. Instead, because of Your love, I can be in a nurturing relationship with You now! This developing relationship carries with it the security of Your ever-present care and protection, for You have promised to never leave nor forsake those who follow You.
  • Thank you, Jesus, of your on-going obedience to the Father, even after Your resurrection. By appearing to over 500 people, You made it known beyond doubt that You had come back to life.
  • Thank you, Jesus, for fulfilling the promise of sending the Holy Spirit after You ascended to heaven. And thank you, Holy Spirit, for Your on-going fulfillment of the Father’s work here on earth. You make the Scriptures come to life and You encourage the Church to fulfill its part in God’s plan as well as You move individual members to walk in obedience to Him.
  • Thank you, Jesus, for the many, many people You have placed in my path that have helped me to see You with greater clarity. These Saints are far to great in number to list individually here, but if you are/were a part of my life in Christ, I praise and thank God for you.
  • Thank you, Jesus, for the opportunities to serve You and make Your name known in the world today. Please help me to always remember that obedience to You is a matter of great joy to You, as it should be for me as well!
  • And thank you, Jesus, for the Scriptures. They truly are alive and active, filled with the very essence of the Father. May I/we in our gratitude for them continue to learn from them.

As I said, this is by no means a completed list, but I do believe it gets to the heart of the matter: I/we owe a debt to our Savior that we cannot repay. Yet out of His ever-loving heart, He has paid it for us. May we, in the lingo of today, take this love and ‘pay it forward’ in humility, love and gratitude.

May the blessings of the Resurrection of Jesus be deeply known to you today,

Pastor Chuck

An Angry Jesus?

Jesus Cleanses the Temple
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No April Fool’s joke here, the Scriptures that describe the events leading to the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus give us two examples of an angry Jesus.

When last we spoke, adoring crowds welcomed Jesus as He entered Jerusalem. The building excitement of His ministry seemed destined to conclude with Him being crowned King of the Jews. The events in the narrative of the following days do little to disprove the people’s belief that their earthly king was about to take his crown.

Picking up the story in Mark’s Gospel at Chapter 11, verses 12-19, we find evidence of an angry Jesus. It is now the following morning, and Jesus and His disciples are walking back to Jerusalem. Along the way, the author tells us Jesus was hungry and walked toward a fig tree, hoping to find something to eat. As He reached it, the Lord saw that it had only leaves and no fruit. Seemingly angry, Jesus then says to the fig tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” (Mark 11:14 NIV)

We see another example of an angry Jesus later that same day as He entered the temple in Jerusalem. If you will recall, these were the days leading up to the important celebration of Passover. Many Jewish pilgrims would have been in Jerusalem for this event, fulfilling their vows in the temple. Those travelers who did not have the appropriate animals with them for the sacrificial rituals would have to buy them from opportunistic sellers in the courtyard of the temple. Also, because these people came from some great distances, the currency they used in their home village would not be usable at the temple. Therefore, money-changers were also doing a brisk business there.

Jesus comes upon this scene and angerly disperses these merchants, saying, “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.’” (Mark 11:17 NIV) It is not difficult to close your eyes and picture the scene: mass confusion as small animals, various coins and bewildered worshipers are scattered about.

I don’t know about you, my Most Appreciated Readers, but I rarely spend much time contemplating an angry Jesus. I would much rather picture Him smiling at small children, teaching in the countryside or performing one of His many documented miracles. Yet, there is no denying that the Jesus told of here in Mark Chapter 11 is an angry one. And as I was taught early on, “if it is in the bible, it is important.”

What, then, is up with an angry Jesus? One view might be that He simply was under considerable pressure. His earthly time of ministry was coming to a close with a horrible, painful death on the horizon. I know that when I am feeling mounting expectations, I often can act more rashly by lashing out at things and people.

This is understandable with me, a foible human. But what about Jesus, the Son of God. Why not quietly point out to the temple vendors the issues He had with them and for that matter, how about miraculously make figs appear on that leafy tree?

The Withered Fig Tree - St. George's Church Burlington
(Image courtesy of stgeorgesonline.com)

Allow me to share an opinion or two on these occurrences. With the fig tree, I believe it would have been self-serving of the Lord to feed Himself in this way. Jesus had the power of heaven at His command, and He had used it wisely throughout His time on earth as a means to point people toward God the Father. It simply would not have been appropriate to manufacture a ‘to go’ meal with this power.

Also, as we read on, we find that Jesus and His disciples walk the same path to Jerusalem the next day. On it they see the fig tree in question, and it is withered. Jesus uses this to point out that those who were merely doing ‘religious things’ for their own profit were like this tree; lifeless in spirit and producing mothing of worth.

By clearing the temple in the manner in which He did, I believe Jesus was sending a strong and clear message about how we are to worship God. As He expelled the merchants and bankers, Jesus left no doubt as to what the priority is to be for those who claim to worship God: He alone is worth our undivided devotion. The temple was not to be a market, but rather a place where the world is set aside in order that focus could be placed solely and properly on the Father.

These emotional outbursts, if you will, serve another important point as well. Earlier I mentioned how it is I normally picture Jesus. These thoughts and images are of a loving Savior, who willingly sets aside everything in order that He reach the hearts of people. While this is a true picture of the Lord, it is not a complete one.

Along with being all-loving, the Savior is also perfect and holy. His justice is perfect always. His character cannot be impugned, nor should anyone doubt the complete honesty and consistency of His actions in dealing with creation.

I believe it to be essential in our spiritual growth to maintain this more complete picture of who and what God is, for it is in His perfection that we can completely place our trust. As we consider more of His character, we become able to better understand His love for us.

Yes, He is all-loving. But it is in the completeness of His nature that this total love can best be seen. He is holy. There is no part of Him that can abide with sin in any form. Yet, He loves us infinitely.

This is a love we cannot hope to earn, and blessedly, we do not have to. God, in His total wisdom, knows full well that you and I can never perform enough pious acts to win our way into His grace. Therefore, because His loves knows no bounds, He simply loves us because we are His creation.

This universal love was/is on display clearly upon the cross of Jesus’ crucifixion. The fullness of deity is found in Jesus (Colossian 2:9-10). He was both fully God and fully human as He walked the earth. This fullness includes everything we have considered here today, and so very much more.

Please take a few moments this week as you prepare to celebrate the Resurrection to consider more deeply the full nature of the God who saves.

Blessings,

Pastor Chuck

Fickle Followers

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Today, March 28th, 2021, Christians around the world celebrate Palm Sunday. On this day we remember what is known as the ‘Triumphal Entry,’ as Jesus enters the city of Jerusalem, welcomed as the long-awaited Messiah. You can find the depiction of this event in Mark 11:1-11.

The gospel writer makes full use of the symbolism at hand. First, Jesus instructs his disciples to bring Him a colt to ride on. The Lord mentions that this animal is one that has never been ridden, thus making it an appropriate mount for a king.

It is also important to keep in mind that at this climactic time in Jesus’ ministry, He is wildly popular among the ‘every day’ folks He has been ministering to and teaching. These people had been living under the oppressive rule of Rome and had been waiting many generations for the promised messiah to lead them to freedom. By seeing the miracles and the healings, many had concluded that this Jesus was the one who would lead them to freedom.

The culmination of these events happens as the annual Passover Celebration is nearing. This feast commemorated God leading the Jewish people out from the bondage of Egypt. It is no great leap then to see how this remembrance would enhance the expectation of what Jesus was going to do for them, that is break them out from the dominion of Rome.

Mark’s account of this first Palm Sunday tells of the great excitement and expectation of the crowd that has gathered along the road leading into Jerusalem. I can picture it like a modern day parade, with folks jammed in shoulder to shoulder, craning their necks for a better view of what is happening. The crowd cheered for Jesus. They shouted praises, throwing their cloaks on the road in front of Him to pave the way for this heavenly royalty. The air was electric as the promised King who was going to make all their troubles go away passed by.

We, living on this side of the events of biblical history, know how quickly the great expectations of the masses turned to anger, despair and disillusionment. A mere four days later this soon-to-be king was arrested, tried and sentenced to death. The crowd that had so enthusiastically cheered His coming now raised their voices to have Him crucified.

Those now pleading for the death of Jesus were no doubt some who had been awed by the sights they had seen: Thousands fed from almost nothing, diseases healed, demons cast out and even the dead brought back to life. The glitter of these events was very bright, but when they stopped happening, what was left? For many, I suppose they felt empty and a bit sad that they had been ‘taken in’ by what they had seen. But now the showmen was arrested and about to die, this certainly was no messiah. The anger and disappointment boiled over into a mob calling for this charlatan’s death.

Well, that would never have been me, I comfort myself with. Surely I would have stayed to the bitter end. Not so fast Charles.

If I am to be honest, there are times in my life even now where doubt seems stronger than faith. When the earnest prayers of the faithful seemingly go unanswered, a part of my heart wonders why. As the world falls deeper into darkness and hopelessness, I cry out to God to make Himself known to many. Yet, the many do not seem interested.

As I contemplate these things, it occurs to me that I must be vigilant when it comes to faith. I can do this in a number of ways. First, I must recall that any faith that I have is a gift from God and that I do not generate it on my own. (Romans 12:3b). Because this faith is a gift from God, it is meant to be lived out in trust in Him. In Him means who God is, not necessarily what He is doing.

This was the flaw of many of the original audience on that first Palm Sunday. They had put their belief in the tremendous things they had seen, not in the One who provided the power to make them happen. Once the ‘show’ seemed to end, so did their own belief.

You and I must be vigilant here as well. As wonderful as it is to see firsthand the power of God at work, this should only enhance our faith, not be the basis for it.

We are so incredibly blessed to be living after these biblical events happened. We are privy to how the story played out. We can understand that the miracles of Jesus were to draw people’s attention to God; but it was God and not the miracles they were to place their trust in.

Let us all who recognize what the gift of faith truly is raise our voices today (and everyday) to proclaim the greatness of God. May we live our lives as examples of His saving power that is still at work in the world. And with the help of the Holy Spirit, may we all be faithful, not fickle, followers of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

Giving Life to a Dead Battery

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(image courtesy of amazon.com)

Our pastor preached on John 3:14-21 this morning. Included in this passage is the familiar verse John 3:16:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (NIV)

Pausing at these words, she then likened a life without Jesus to a car with a dead battery. This car, without a life-giving boost of electrical energy, will sit. It simply cannot function. Pastor Diane then went on to say that we can picture the forgiveness that Jesus offers us as jumper cables. They provide the connection between the power necessary to bring life to the lifeless vehicle. I love this analogy!

Throughout my early adult years and through my 30’s I drove a series of what we call here in Upstate New York winter rats. Generally speaking, these vehicles have seen better days. Road salt usually has eaten through a fair part of the body, while years of hard driving and neglectful maintenance have rendered them less than reliable modes of transportation. Their one positive is that they are inexpensive to purchase.

Because these cars I drove during these times were not consistently dependable, and after a few times of having to call someone to come jump my dead battery, I purchased a booster pack.

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(image courtesy of verizon.com)

This neat invention allows a person to jump start their own car without the help of another vehicle. The booster pack has its own set of pos/neg cables, so as long as you keep it charged up, it is available at a moments notice to transfer the life giving power within it to the dead battery.

As often happens with me when I get to thinking on these things, I carry the picture of jump-starting a car to my own life. It becomes easy to see that my life before Jesus was as dead as they come. Oh, I had all the working parts, but they existed without purpose or meaning. My spirit was without life. I was, without question, destined for the scrap heap as yet another vehicle that would no longer run.

God, by His wondrous grace, did for me what I could not: He attached His ‘cables’ of life to my dead terminals. He used the precious blood of the Savior Jesus Christ to bring life, true life, to me. Now I know that despite the various dents and faded paint on my ‘car,’ it is going to run forever because God has poured His eternal life into it.

As if that were not enough, I can picture God’s jumper-cables as more than a one and done connection. His power is absolute. It is unending and always available. All I need to do is recognize when my ‘battery’ starts to run low on power. I can then simply ask the Lord to plug that energy into me again. He has provided several options as to how I can do this.

I can get re-charged by reading the bible. The word of God has come from His very essence, therefore it contains all the power of the Almighty. I can also make this connection with God through prayer. He is available 24/7. All I need do is to come humbly to Him, speaking what is on my heart and listening for He has to reveal to me. Spending time in worship is another way I get a fresh influx of God’s power into my life. Praising Him simply for who He is and what He has done/is doing helps to align my spirit with His.

How about you? Do you have ways that help you connect to God’s infinite power. I would love to hear about them!

Thanks for reading. Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

Prayer: Monologue or Dialogue? — Hidden Arrows

Dr. Eastman was one of my seminary professors. He has continued to be a blessing to me in the years since. His love for our Lord and depth of knowledge of the Word have long inspired me to emulate his life. Please take a moment to read his compelling thoughts on prayer.

Thanks

Talk about honesty! One of my seminary students admitted,  “My past practice of prayer…has been mostly a monologue.” He then made a simple yet powerful case for centering or contemplative prayer: “I am attracted to it because it will help me grow in my commitment to listen more to God…” Can you identify with that? […]

Prayer: Monologue or Dialogue? — Hidden Arrows