It was (and still is) personal!

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I am not sure if this applies to everyone when it comes to reading the Bible, but it sure does to me! There are certain events that seem to jump off the page to me. Now, realizing I am reading a living document from God Himself, this probably should not come as a huge surprise. Yet, it continues to happen to me. Each year as I read the gospel accounts of the birth of the Savior, I am drawn to those shepherds out in the hills that night.

Much has been written about these guys, so I will not take your time with a long dissertation about them except to say, “You go God! Bringing the news of the birth of your Son first to the lowliest folks on the social scale is so much in keeping with the ministry He would live out.”

Having already written about angelic visitations this season (to Mary and Zechariah and Daniel), noticing again the first human response to an angels sudden appearance comes as no surprise. Luke records it this way: An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” (Luke 2:9 NIV) I have no idea what it meant to have the glory of the Lord shine around them, but whatever it was, coupled with the angels appearing, had those poor shepherds shaking in their footwear!

As the biblical accounts all show, the angel first has to allay their fears before delivering the message it was sent to deliver. In this case, it is the awesomely spectacular announcement that: Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you (emphasis added): he is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11 NIV).

Those two little words are what jumped at me today. To you. God has put into physical motion His salvation plan for the world and He chooses to reveal its kickoff to some nameless shepherds keeping watch over sheep in the middle of the night. Not only was this  a below-the-radar choice of initial recipients, but it was given to them personally (as well as to the rest of the world)!

Then just in case the shepherds were still unsure of what was going on (I would have been!), the angel gives them another personal touch: “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Emphasis added, Luke 2:12 NIV)

Those two little words again: to you! Now the shocked shepherds have not only been told what has happened, they have been given a personal invitation to see it for themselves! The proof awaits them in a dark and dank cave, the very Son of God!

As amazing as the personal invitation that was given to those shepherds was, they were not to be the sole recipients of it. God’s grace is available to all. It may not have been pronounced to you in the presence of the heavenly host, but that does not make it any less true.

To make this a little clearer, and certainly more personal, try reading vv. 10-12 this way:

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you, (insert your name here), good news of great joy that will be for all people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you (put jour name here again): he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you, (your name). You (you again, one last time) will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

I love reading that with my name in those places. For me, it makes God’s loving care even more tangible. Also, we are blessed to be living in a time when we know how God plays out His salvation: The death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. As wondrous as the birth we celebrate this time each year is, the awesomeness of what God did (and continues to do) is mind boggling, to say the least. And all of this, the prophecy coming to be in His birth, the sinless life and substitution for sinners on the cross and His glorious resurrection, are all done with this same personal invitation to believe and partake.

It is my hope, Faithful and Appreciated Reader, that these thoughts in some small way help you to find the joy in your personal invitation. Won’t you join with me and praise Him for His unending love and care. And like our shepherd friends we started with today, once you accept the invitation and find for yourself the reality of what God has done for you, do as they did: The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were jus t as they were told. (Luke 2:20).

Blessings to you and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

Hi, My Name is …

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Hi, my name is Chuck and I am a pastor. Those of you familiar with 12 Step meetings may recognize this opening line. In truth, I am many things, included in which is the fact that I am an alcoholic, sober now for nearly 30 years by the grace of God.

I am also, as stated above, a pastor. My wife Betsy and I run a ministry out of our home. You can find out what we are doing for the Kingdom of God by going to www.lakesidechristianministries.org if you would like.

I am also a fledgling blogger. This is one of those activities that was not on my radar of things to do. It was the suggestion of my wife that I start jotting down some of the thoughts that rattle around inside my bald head. I am so happy I took her up on it, because blogging as become one of the highlights of the things I get to do with my time. WordPress has exposed me to some wonderful people. Though we are of varying backgrounds and beliefs, I have found this venue to be open-minded and fair. I cherish the friends I have made around the globe here.

As I said, being a writer was not on my to do list. In the past, writing has been an exhausting exercise for me. I think back now of the numerous papers that needed to be written for seminary and I wonder how I did it! Again, the encouragement of fellow bloggers has helped me to overcome much (not all) of the self-doubts I had. Thoughts like, ‘who wants to read anything I write’ no longer get much attention in my consciousness.

These same blogger friends encouraged me not to look at the numbers of ‘likes’ or followers and just keep writing what is on your heart. I must admit though, I do look at the numbers from time to time. As I glanced at them yesterday, I saw that the numbers of followers had jumped up noticeably. I am awed and humbled by this.

So, to those who have been with me so far on this journey, thanks so much! Your input and encouragement truly mean the world to me. For those who have recently signed up, here are a few pertinent facts about me that might spare you having to go back through all my blogs for context:

Betsy and I have been married for 37 years. She is simply the most wonderful human being I have ever known. I am blessed to walk through life with her. We live in a small town, Fulton New York. It is most famous for its lake-effect snow, as we get an average of 250 inches per winter (that’s over 20 feet!)

We have two adult children: Our oldest is Kenny. He is married to a sweetheart of a girl named Ashley. They live only 30 minutes away so we get to see them often. Kenny took over my old job as Facilities Painter at Le Moyne college when I stepped away from full-time employment to oversee our ministry as my primary focus. He learned the trade from me over the seven summers he worked with the summer paint crew there. These past 4 summers I have gone back to work with him from mid-May to the end of August (good thing I was a good boss to him now that our roles are reversed!)

Our youngest son Auger lives about 3 hours from us. He lives with his partner Mic. They make a great team, and we love them dearly. Over the past 18 months Auger has taken up the pursuit of his undergraduate degree in English, with an emphasis on creative writing. At no surprise to me, he is excelling at this. He has been gifted with the ability to write in ways that are so compelling on many levels. We are excited for what the future holds.

Betsy and I share our home with Violet, a standard-sized (70 pounds) Goldendoodle. You would not have to go back far in my posts to see one about her. She is, in my humble opinion, the best dog ever. The joy she brings to our home is immeasurable.

Our home ministry is quite active in the community. One rewarding activity is the bringing of bible studies on the road, going to peoples homes. This is especially helpful to folks who have had trouble in church settings in the past. Our ministry goal is simple: To be the hands and feet of Jesus and to meet people right where they are, just as the Lord did.

Betsy and I have a unique hobby, if you will: We sing our National Anthem at sporting events around the central New York area. We also sing O Canada when teams from north of the border to play here. We really enjoy doing this. It allows us to honor our country that we love, and we have met some really cool people in our travels.

There you have it, for now, newest followers. Again, thanks so very much for taking the time to read my stuff and to comment when so moved. I appreciate you all!

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

Dream On!

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When last we met here on the blog-o-sphere, we considered Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel as he told her the incredible news that she was to conceive and bear the Son of God, all while remaining a virgin! I remarked how steadfast was her faith as after considering this possibility, she simply said to the angel, “May it be to me as you said.” (Luke 1:38b NIV).

Today I would like to give equal time to Joseph, her husband to be at the time Mary’s encounter happened. As we do, we will find that his response to what he was told is just as faith packed as his fiancé’s was. I am basing what I write today on Matthew 1:18-25. (though I am honored that you are reading what I have to say, it is always good advice to read the scriptures for yourself. After all, God will give you much more insight that I will!!)

Before considering what the nameless angel said to him, let us take a minute to consider the social ramifications of what Joseph was about to be told to do. Getting engaged in those days was quite different to what we know as marriage engagement today. To become someone’s intended then was much like a legal contract. It would in most cases be drawn up by the father of the bride and the groom. It usually contained a financial piece, such as the father giving the young man money or property in exchange for marrying his daughter. Most marriages were arranged in that time, and it is quite likely that Joseph and Mary hardly knew each other.

The understanding was that the father was giving his daughter away, and that she would be a virgin. This was highly significant to the people of Jesus’ time. The honor of the entire family of the bride hinged on her being found a virgin when the actual marriage took place.

Knowing this cultural background shines a brighter light on the decision that Joseph has to make. Not long after Mary’s encounter with the Holy Spirit, her body began to give the telltale signs of pregnancy. Joseph knew that he had not be intimate with her, so his logical mind told him that she had been unfaithful.

Joseph had the option of simply calling things off. He was, by the laws of that time, entitled to keep whatever dowry Mary’s dad had given him. He was within his rights to divorce Mary and to get on his life. This would cause Mary and her family great shame.

Blessedly for them, the bible tells us that Joseph was a good guy, and that he did not want to cause any more harm to Mary than was necessary, so he settled in his mind to get a quiet divorce, thus keeping much of this out of the public eye.

As far as I can tell, Joseph has his dream the very night he makes this decision to divorce Mary. As he slept, God’s messenger tells him the same incredible thing Mary had been told: Yes your bride in pregnant yet she is still a virgin! The Holy Spirit has descended upon her and she now carries the very Son of God in her womb.

What a dream! I don’t usually remember my dreams unless they are real doosies. Joseph’s dream would certainly qualify as one of those. But his faith-filled response to all this is found in verse 24: When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.

Talk about taking a 180! He goes to sleep convinced that he must divorce Mary and wakes up the next day to take her to his home as his wife. I can only conclude that Joseph’s faith had already been strong up to this point in his life. Because the bible says he was righteous, we can know that he was living his faith out in a genuine way. Knowing this, we can see how Joseph was able to receive, process and act on the message he had received from the angel in his dream.

I wonder if or how many times my weak or distracted faith has caused me to miss a message from God. Though I cannot go back to do or undo anything, I can take the lesson from Joseph to heart today and going forward.

I do not believe for a minute that Joseph was just a random dude God selected to be stepdad to His Son. It was because of his evident faith that God gave him this awesome place in history.

You and I are not random elements in God’s plans either. Won’t you join with me by allowing the faith example of Joseph lead us to deeper places of belief? I for one do not want to miss out on anything God is doing. I want to faithfully do whatever He tells me to do. God saw Mary and Joseph through the trials of their time on earth to reveal His salvation plan to all, I am positive that He will provide what you or I might need to carry out our part as well!

Be blessed and a blessing today,

Pastor Chuck

You got the job!

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Can you remember your very first job interview? If so, do you recall the feelings that it inspired? I would be willing to wager some of the common ones were: Nervousness, outright fear, and uncertainty, to name just a few.

Then when it was finally over, came the wait, which produced more questions than answers. Did I get it, when will they let me know? If the wait dragged on, then came the inevitable doubt about how you presented yourself or your qualifications.

Thanks for taking this quick stroll down memory lane with me. Now that I have got those feelings stirred up, forget them. As followers of Christ we automatically get the job! The difficult part is not in getting the assignment, rather it is in the carrying it out.

I am speaking about the task(s) God would have us undertake once we have accepted His Son Jesus Christ as Savior. If you would, please read Matthew 25:14-30 for the basis of what I propose today.

The verses mentioned above contain Jesus telling the parable of the talents (a talent was a measure of monetary value). This parable is one in a series the Lord was telling in answer to the question of when He will return to establish the Kingdom of God here on earth.

Jesus has already made it known that no one on earth can know the day or hour of His return. Instead of wasting time worrying or wondering when this will be, Jesus teaches that we should be about our God-given task so that no matter when He returns, He will find us ready for Him.

In the parable of the talents, Jesus explains that God gives us responsibility in this work according to the abilities He gives us. The first two servants are given 5 and 2 of these talents respectfully. Each man then goes to work at multiplying what has been entrusted to them. After a long time the Master returns. He is overjoyed that these two servants have done so well with what he has tasked them with.

It is the person who received only one talent that I can best relate to. In the parable he concocts some lame excuses for avoiding what he has been requested to do by simply burying the talent in the ground. When he is approached by the Master, he is rebuked for his poor attitude and unwillingness to use what had been given him to further the master’s business.

I was headed in a similar direction. From very early on in my Christian life I had been encouraged by my many folks to consider using what God had given me and enter full-time ministry. I heard things like, ‘You have a pastor’s heart,’ and, ‘I find you very easy to talk to.’

My response at the time to these obviously mis-guided people was ‘thanks but no thanks. I have too much on my plate at this time.’ I would then list the many things that I had to see to. This would quiet those well-meaning voices for a time, but none of my excuses could ever completely still the One that kept tugging on my heart.

These days, I am ever so grateful that God shows abundant patience with me. When I finally gave up rationalizing my disobedience away and embraced the talent God had given me, my life has been put on the path that I now know was the one God had planned for me.

Like the two who took what the Master gave them and went to work for him, I too have been invited into my Master’s joy. And yes, like in the parable where the obedient servants were then given more responsibility, I have more these days as well. As I remember who it is that tasks me in this way, and that He makes available to me all I need to accomplish it, the joy is on-going.

My last bit of advice on this topic is that you embrace what God gives you to do immediately. Don’t put it off. There are blessings to be had, both by you and those you will encounter. And even if you were not to realize a single blessing as you undertake your Kingdom call, you will have the deep satisfaction in your soul that you are simple being obedient to God’s greater plan.

Lastly, there will be no better place to be than at your God-given assignment should He come back to settle accounts today. I realize that some folks work best under a looming deadline and in the workday world that might be ok. Not so in the all-important call that God gives you. Grab and run with it today! As you do, may you find the indescribable joy that comes from knowing you are right in the middle of God’s will for you!

Be blessed and be a blessing today,

Pastor Chuck.

Jesus Restores Lazarus to Life

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On our journey through the Gospel of John we have seen Jesus perform many miracles. He changed water into wine, healed an official’s son over a great distance, put a man crippled 38 years back on his feet, fed more than 5,000 by multiplying 5 loaves of bread and 2 small fish, walked on water and gave sight to a man born blind. As impressive as these were, the greatest one was about to happen: Raising Lazarus from the dead.

Lazarus was the brother of Mary and Martha. The Scriptures tell us that Jesus was close to this family as evidenced in the message the sisters sent to Jesus informing Him of their brother’s plight: “Lord, the one you love is sick.” (John 11:3 NIV)

If you are familiar with this account (and if not, I urge you to read John Chapter 11 in its entirety), you know that upon receiving the news of Lazarus’ condition Jesus delayed going to him for two days, though Bethany was only a short (less than 2 miles away) distance away.

When Jesus and His disciples do finally go to where these friends of Jesus lived, they find that Lazarus is already dead. John tells us this was the Lord’s plan all along as he explained to His confused disciples: So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe (John 11:14 NIV).

Upon arriving at Bethany, Jesus is met by Martha and then Mary, both grief-stricken not only at the loss of their brother, but also at Jesus late arrival.

As with the other recorded miracles of Jesus, there are a multitude of lessons we can glean from the giving of life back to Lazarus. Let’s look briefly at just three of them.

First, God’s timeline does not always match up with ours. Mary and Martha knew Jesus well. They had no doubt seen or heard what He had already done and were positive He could help their brother. I mentioned that Jesus delayed going to see them. As you read the rest of this account, you find that Lazarus had already been laid in the tomb for 4 days when Jesus does arrive. It is important to note that this was the amount of time required in those days to officially pronounce someone dead. By waiting, Jesus left no doubt that Lazarus had passed away, making the restoring of his life evidence of God’s power alone.

Secondly, the humanity of Jesus is in full view here. Mary, a distraught sister lay at the Lord’s feet weeping. Many of those who had been with the family also came out to see Jesus. The bible tells us that they were all weeping as well. As Jesus took this all in with great empathy, John simply tells us, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35 NIV). Despite all the fullness of deity within Him, Jesus is moved to deep sorrow by the pain He sees the sisters and the crowd suffering. Please consider this fact if at any time you might feel that Jesus does not feel the depth of your pain.

Lastly, the raising of Lazarus back to life is a snapshot of what God does for all those who put their faith in Jesus Christ. The picture cannot be any clearer: Without Jesus we are dead. When we hear His call to accept salvation, we too step out of the grave and into life with Him.

All the miracles Jesus performed are signs that were to point everyone to God. By restoring life to Lazarus as He neared the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus makes plain what He had ultimately come to do. He would soon give up His life for the salvation of many. The Lord takes our place, bearing the punishment for our sins that we might be saved. If you have not yet, please do not miss His heart for you when He calls you to life with Him.

Thanks for reading,

Pastor Chuck

The Man They Call Jesus

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When last we left our study of the miracles of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel of John, we considered the ‘two for one’ miracles of Jesus walking on water and then simultaneously having the disciples be with Him on the far shore of the Sea of Galilee.

Between these occurrences and the next miracle, Chapters 7 and 8 contain many important teachings from the Lord. I would most certainly like to delve into them in-depth, and perhaps in another blog series we shall. I highly recommend reading those chapters in preparation for the topic today, the healing of a man born blind. If you do, you will find that Jesus makes a clear declaration of His divinity. I believe the timing of this next miracle was done to coincide with the Lord’s statement found in John 8:58.

We meet the blind man at the beginning of Chapter 9 as the narrative tells us Jesus and His entourage were walking along the road. It is helpful to know that in that culture many believed that physical ailments and deformities were believed to have occurred because either the person suffering with it or their parents had sinned, thus causing a judgment of God that would manifest in these ways.

Jesus quickly dispels this false notion. He then spits on the ground, making some mud of the dirt and then puts it on the blind man’s eyes. Given the directions to go to a certain pool to wash it off, the man does so and discovers that the gift of sight has been given to him.

As with the majority of the miracles He has performed, Jesus is not present at the time of the healing. Jesus wanted people to come to know who the Father was and His plan for the salvation all mankind. He did not want to get this message diluted by people simply seeking the next amazing (or entertaining) thing.

What I would like us to consider today is the formerly blind man’s response to his friends and neighbors as they quizzed him about how he received is sight. After convincing those asking that he was in fact the blind man they had known, these folks asked, “How then were your eyes opened,”  (John 9:10 NIV)

The response the man gave is what has grabbed my heart and mind today: “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I washed, and then I could see.” (John 9:11 NIV)

To you, Dear Reader, I put the question: Who is this man they call Jesus? I certainly hope you are not grilled for an answer as our newly sighted man was by the religious leaders of that time. They crossed examined this fellow; many maintaining that he was not blind in the first place! The leaders even brought in his parents trying to mine information from them about their son and what he was claiming had happened.

At one point you can all but hear the exasperation in the man’s voice as the persistent questioning about Jesus continued: He replied, “Whether he (Jesus) is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I know. I was blind but now I see!” (John 9:25 NIV)

Though the once blind man was not entirely sure who Jesus was, the miracle itself had convinced him that He was someone from God. As you and I ponder this question, I ask us all to consider the events in our lives that gives evidence as to who Jesus is.

Perhaps you have been a witness to a great healing. Maybe you are familiar with the Scriptures and what they teach about the Son of God. Or perchance you are someone who has heard some of these stories but do not have a true sense of who Christ is.

Whatever and wherever you fit into the above context, one thing is true: They (whoever they may be) have talked about this man called Jesus. You have heard this name many times, be in it faith settings or as a coarse word of cursing.

Ultimately, it is not what the theys are saying about Jesus, but rather who do you say He is. If you are reading this and know the Lord as your Savior, I rejoice with you. I only ask that as you ponder the wonders He performed while physically on earth, you allow your heart to grow in love and awe of Him.

But if you are where so many find themselves, not knowing or having given much thought to these things, I ask that you take some time to consider them. The eternal ramifications of your decision regarding Jesus cannot be overstated. I encourage you to read and study these Scriptures for yourself. When you come to the things you don’t understand, seek out a trusted advisor who can give you guidance. For we all must have an answer when the time comes and we are asked: Who is this man they call Jesus.

Blessings to you all and thanks for reading,

Pastor Chuck

Two for One!!!

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Two for One! Retailers of all sizes have been using this sales pitch for as long as I can remember. Reading those ads or hearing it on TV sounds so appealing: Simply pay the asking price for one item and receive a second one free (with the disclaimer: of equal or lesser value).

Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and before mega malls squashed small family businesses, I managed a retail shoe store. We sold men’s, women’s and kids shoes. Twice a year we would run a 2 for 1 sale to move remaining inventory to make room for new. The sales gimmick would work to an extent, but folks with average size feet usually found the selection pretty well pick over.

But enough about shoes, let’s turn our attention to the next of the miracles of Jesus found in John’s gospel. As we do, we will actually find two miracles in Chapter 6, verses 16-21. A supernatural 2 for 1, if you will!

These events occur on the evening of the miracle of the loaves and fishes we looked at last time. After Jesus had miraculously fed 15,000 folks by multiplying five loaves of bread and two small fish, the Lord escaped from the crowd to the hills beyond. He did this because He knew that after seeing this miracle, the large crowd wanted to proclaim Him their king. Jesus, knowing this it was not yet time, went off by Himself.

Picking up the narrative at this point, we find the disciples have gotten into a boat without Jesus and were rowing to the other side of the lake, approximately five miles from where they left from.

The bible says that they had rowed for some time against a strong wind and were barely halfway across. The disciples are then frightened when they see someone walking toward them on the turbulent waters. I find no fault with the fear the twelve felt, for I am sure that had I been in that vessel with them, my fright meter would have been pegged as well.

Miracle number one then is Jesus walking on the water toward the boat His disciples were struggling in. Just hours before Jesus had fed 15,000 from a pitifully small basket of food, demonstrating His power over matter. Walking on water is evidence of the Lord’s mastery over nature as well.

The second miracle occurs after Jesus gets into the boat with the disciples. Jesus first assures them who He is. Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading. (John 6:21 NIV). The second half of the journey across the Sea of Galilee ends in less than a wink of an eye as the boat is now safely ashore at their destination.

As I mentioned above, I find it quite easy to relate to the disciples. Even though they had now first-had experience with the power Jesus displayed, their circumstances in life still somehow diverted their attention from God to their immediate trouble. I do not have time or room to mention the countless times I have done the same.

Praise God He is patient with us all! Jesus doesn’t reprimand them for a lack of faith, He just joins them in the struggle and safely brings them to the other side.

The lesson I glean from this today to share with you, Most Precious Reader, is this: Do not get into the boat without having invited Jesus to go with you! Though I do not have any boating plans today, I will be going about many of my usual activities. Granted, most of these are fairly routine. But experience tells me that if I go off without acknowledging my need to have Jesus with me even during the mundane, surprises can upset my apple cart. Also, If I charge off on my own, I am less likely to see the ‘God moments’ that happen around me. What I might shake off as random encounters may well have been opportunities to share in some way the goodness of God. Simply taking the time to ask the Lord to be with me in my daily journey helps my spirit to stay better in tune with His. Perhaps the greatest blessing from this comes in those times when I am consciously aware of the presence of Jesus, the storms of my life do not seem to seriously rock the boat I am in.

This 2 for 1 with Jesus will never have you missing out on your size and more importantly, you will find that the bill you owe has already and eternally been paid by Him.

Thanks for reading,

Pastor Chuck

The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes

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Every summer my parents hosted a family picnic on the 4th of July and Labor Day. My aunts, uncles and cousins would all show up around noon. Each group would bring something for the feast that was about to occur. There would be ample amounts of salads, all the cookout meats you could imagine and on Labor Day, a big bag of clams to be steamed. As yummy as all these things were, there is one item than stands far above them all: Aunt Lucy and Aunt Mary’s Stuffed Macaroni.

If any of you, Faithful Reader, have ever enjoyed ‘everything made from scratch’ Italian food, you have some idea as to how delicious this was. Not only was it a treat to the tastebuds, but also in sheer volume. At each of these family parties my two little aunts brought their specality, smothered in sauce, in a black porcelain casserole dish that looked, to my young eyes, to be about half a city block long.

Best of all, as I think back on this, was that no matter how many aunts, uncles and cousins were there at the picnic, there was always a huge amount of this fantastic stuff left over; and Aunt Lucy and Mary always insisted on leaving it with us to finish up.

The running joke between my brother and me after the 4th of July version of the twice-a-summer gatherings was that the leftovers should just about make it to Labor Day, when we will be able to re-stock for the winter!

Alas, the stuffed macaroni never lasted quite as long as we hoped. But in these days thinking about them brings to mind a meal that never ran out and had much left over: The miracle of Jesus feeding the 5000 found in John 6:1-13.

Of all the recorded miracles performed by the Lord, this is the only one that is mentioned in all four gospels. Apparently, God wanted to make sure we all have the opportunity to read and consider it!

As with the other miracles we have already looked at, Jesus here draws no undue attention to Himself. Despite how He has been quietly doing the miraculous, throngs of people were hearing about Him. Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee, and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick. (John 6:1-2 NIV).

 The author John tells us 5000 people were fed, though the actual number provided for that day was probably closer to 12 to 15 thousand when you include women and children in the total.

These numbers only add to the power of God displayed for as you read this account, the only food mentioned to share with everyone is 5 small loaves of bread and two fish.

As with all the words and actions of Jesus, John chapter 6 provides us with a variety of things we could consider and learn from. For the sake of brevity, let’s consider just two for today.

First, as awesome as the miracle of the loaves and fishes is, Jesus was using this as a teaching moment for His disciples. Faced with thousands of people, the Lord asks one of them, Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for all these people to eat?” (John 6:5 NIV). Philip, thinking practically, answers that even 8 months wages wouldn’t buy more than a mouthful for them all.

Then Andrew, who was Peter’s brother, steps up with a small boy who has 5 loaves of barley bread and two fish in his basket. Again, thinking inside the box, Andrew states, “but how far will they go among so many? (John 6:9 NIV)

Philip, Andrew and I dare say most of us lean toward thinking too small when we come asking of God. We are tied tightly to what we see and experience through our five senses. Because of this, our tendency is to expect God to respond within the limits of our understanding and experience.

Philip considered the financials and Andrew the practicality of miniscule resources to meet a huge demand. Remember, the disciples have up to this point seen water changed into wine, an official’s son healed over a great distance by the spoken word of Jesus and a man lame for 38 years restored to full vitality. Yet, in the face of another crisis, they thought and sought to act within a limited scope.

I am not sure about you, Most Appreciated Reader, but I know that I often fall into the same restricted view and expectation of God. What we all should do when bringing any request to God is recall what the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesian Church, Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20a NIV).

God is capable of infinitely more than we can possibly think of. We need to set our pre-determined limitations aside and pray for God to answer our prayers in His awesome and creative ways.

The other learning point for me in the miracle of the loaves and fishes is about be thankful. Before Jesus does what He does to multiply the food, He took the loaves, gave thanks and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted (John 6:11 NIV).

Jesus modeled for us the mindset (and heart-set) we all need: be grateful for what you have. With upwards of 15000 people waiting to be fed, Jesus gave thanks for 5 loaves of bread and two fish. What a tremendous reminder for us all to thank God for what He has provided for us. For it is not in relation to the amount of need presented, but rather it is the unlimited resources of our Creator that deserves our praise and thanksgiving.

Jesus served much more than abundant bread and fish that day. He once again brought His disciples (and us too) to a deeper understanding of who He is, and in so doing taught a valuable lessons on gratitude and how we need to raise our expectations of what God is capable of.

Thanks for reading.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

“Do you want to get well?”

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(image courtesy of blog.godisrevealed.com)

The third recorded miracle recorded in John’s Gospel is yet another encounter between the Son of God and an individual. You can (and should) read all about in John 5:1-13. As a matter of fact, please read it after you are done looking at this blog, for it is a particularly good practice to check for yourself the scriptures someone is teaching/writing about. This helps you verify what is being considered and more importantly, opens your heart to what Holy Spirit may be wanting to reveal to you.

For the all-important context, an undisclosed amount of time has passed since the end of Chapter 4 where Jesus had spoken a word of healing over the royal official’s son.

In Chapter 5, Jesus is now back in Jerusalem for one of the Jewish feasts. The Lord walks to one of the gates of the city where many sick and invalid folks are. There is a pool of water in that place that many believe has healing powers, if only they can be the first to get in when the water is stirred up.

The Bible describes this collection of folks at this pool like this: Here a great number of disabled people used to lie – the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. (John 5:3 NIV).

I must admit that I have wondered from time to time why Jesus didn’t just speak the words of healing over that entire gathering. Certainly, He has the power and compassion to do so, yet the Lord sought out only one person at that time. Though I cannot pretend to know why, my guess is that Jesus wanted this interaction to be personal; showing us that He can/will be personal with each one of us as well. More about that in a bit.

The author tells us that the man Jesus spoke to had been an invalid for 38 years and undoubtedly had been brought to this supposed pool of healing many times. Jesus addresses this fellow with what seems to be the most obvious of questions: “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6 NIV)

Whether the man thought the answer was implied because he was there we don’t know. What we can be certain of is that the lame man went directly into his litany of how he has no one there to help him get into the water when it is stirred, thus preventing him from partaking of the possibility of healing.

What a human-nature laden response that is! How many times, Most Cherished Reader, have you and I gone into a blow by blow account of our ailments when asked how we are. It seems that at times we simply want the whole world to know every ache, pain and problem we have. Maybe I’m looking for strength in numbers through your sympathy when I engage in this activity. But no matter my reasoning, I am not helping my condition in any way by merely re-hashing what the issues are.

In the case of our invalid friend at the pool, Jesus does not bite on the invitation to commiserate. Instead, the Lord simply tells the man to get up, pick up his mat and walk. The healing is immediate as John tells us this man who had been waiting for so long for help does just that!

Jesus then slips quietly away, once again allowing for the glory of God to be revealed rather than any flashy spotlight to be shone on Him.

Reading on, we find that neither the Jews he encountered or the newly healed man himself had any clue as to how or why this miracle has occurred. The people, instead of rejoicing that this crippled man was now somehow walking among them, pointed out he was breaking a Sabbath rule by now carrying his mat around as he walked on rejuvenated legs!

The former lame man was clueless as well: The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there (John 5:13 NIV).

So why did Jesus select this one individual for healing at that time? Until we see the Lord face to face to ask Him, we won’t know. If I may be so bold, however, allow me to propose two possible explanations as to why this played out the way it did.

First, as I mentioned above, Jesus had to get through the wall of defense the crippled man had built up. His pain and misfortune had become familiar daily partners; so much so that they were what he mentioned to Jesus when asked directly if he wanted to be healed. Don’t you and I do something similar from time to time? It is as if we are more comfortable talking/lamenting/complaining about our problems than we are in doing what we can to lessen or remove them.

Though this first possible reason puts an unfavorable light on how we sometimes deal with adversities, the second reason I propose is teeming with grace and mercy from the Lord. From the many, many people who were desperately waiting for healing, Jesus personally presented Himself to just one at that time. I point this out not as a lament for those still waiting, but rather as evidence of Jesus’ level or personal care that He makes available.

Did/does He have the power to heal them/us all with one spoken word? Absolutely! But here, as in other cases, Jesus is stressing the eternal value of entering relationship with Him as opposed to merely supplying a band-aid to the issue at hand. I know that my tendency after recovering or feeling better is to forget about what was wrong and how I got over it. Jesus desires to help us all on a much deeper level than just alleviating our pain.

As wonderful as the physical healing is or would be, the eternal significance of the personal relationship Jesus offers cannot be overstated. That is why, in my opinion, Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle John to record this particular healing event, for it highlights the personal way Jesus reaches out to all of us, one at a time!

I pray that you and I come to that place that allows us to know the personal invitation of Jesus Christ. If that entails healing from sickness or infirmity, may it be to His praise and glory! But most importantly, may we, after this type of encounter with the Lord, walk from it with the comfort and assurance of God’s personal love for each and every one.

Thanks for reading. Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

Forgiven and forgotten: A lesson learned from a 20 yard dumpster

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(Image courtesy of landmine-design.com)

Last week my wife Betsy and I rented a 20 yard roll off dumpster. Though we are no hoarders by any stretch of the imagination, two decades of living in the same, relatively small house does manage to collect and store lots of stuff. Most of it was deemed essential at one point (or thought it would be in the future), hence the slow increase of clutter in our garage and the storage space above it.

Betsy took some time off from her job so that we could work together on this project. On Wednesday, the empty container was left in our driveway.

That first afternoon we moved the heavy and cumbersome things from the garage into the container. We got a later start that planned on Thursday and by that days end we had completed just the downstairs area, leaving the more difficult upstairs work for Friday.

Friday morning we cheerfully and carefully started getting things down the ladder and out to the dumpster and several short hours later, the job was done!

As encouraging as I hope this is to you if you are faced with de-junking your home, especially if you were born during the Kennedy administration, the pastor/preacher in me feels compelled to share the two points God has laid on my heart about this task we undertook. I say from God because on my own I do not think I would have equated filling a dumpster with old things with God’s forgiveness of our sins!

Let me start with the Scripture that came to mind as I pondered all this:

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:11-12 NIV).

Much as I watched the company truck haul our old stuff away, God forgives our sins (when we come to him humbly asking Him to do so). The drivers job was to take the dumpster away, not fill it for us. So too we must come before our merciful God seeking His forgiveness. The Apostle John describes it this way:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9 NIV).

Like the things, some new, some old, that were cluttering up our living spaces, unrepented sin in our hearts keeps us separated from the closeness God wants us to know in Him. By cleaning out the garage and upstairs storage area, we can now walk safely through them. No longer is the thought running through my head that someday I must get rid of all this. It is gone because we hauled it to the light of day and then had it all taken away.

There is so much learn about God’s forgiveness! I hope, Precious Reader, you can glean some of the joy and excitement I am experiencing through this expression of how God continues to work in all who are willing to do their part. Betsy and I decided it was time to jettison the old, space-filling things, and then watched as they were taken away.

As I think about this, what a blessing forgiveness from God truly is. Psalm 103:12 tells us that He removes our sins from us as far as the east is from the west. Just how far is that? Picture a globe and start moving east. You are always moving in that direction. Moving east never becomes starting to move west. God is telling us that He removes our transgressions to a point beyond measurement!

And one more thing. Much as I do not have to worry that the full dumpster will someday re-appear in my driveway, once God forgives things they are forgotten, (on His part). Our human frailties seem to want to examine that old useless and potentially harmless stuff. Not God! He spoke this truth through the Prophet Jeremiah as He described what the New Covenant of His forgiveness would be like:

“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34b NIV).

God has promised to take away our sins. As proof look only to the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ that was shed for the remission of sin. We experienced a great reminder of this eternal truth as we watched the dumpster of unwanted things taken from our presence.

Having a clean and spacious garage is cool; remembering again the depth of God’s mercy and grace as evidenced by His willingness to forgive, however, is beyond compare.

Thanks for reading.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck