Desperate Times

See the source image
(image courtesy of racoletacket.com)

Ah, Google, how did I ever learn things before you showed up on my computer. I was mulling over the idea for today’s blog while shoveling snow from the driveway earlier, attempting as I do to find application for today from the timeless truth found in the Scriptures.  Actually this blog has been rattling around between my ears for about a week, ever since I re-read the encounter a father of a sick /possessed child had with Jesus. (please check in out in Mark 9:14-27)

If you just read this or are familiar with the event contained there, and if you have a beating heart in your chest, you can sense the desperation in the dad. Back to Google for a moment: I knew there existed a famous quote about desperate times and measures, and thanks to the search engine, there it was: The Greek physician and philosopher Hippocrates said it first and said it best: “For extreme diseases, extreme methods of cure, as to restriction, are most suitable.” In other words, drastic times call for drastic measures.

You can get a sense of the drastic times calling for drastic measures the father felt as he spoke to Jesus, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”

Whether this was demon possession of a terrible affliction of seizures is not the point. What is important for us to focus on is the strong desire of the boy’s father to help his son. Word of Jesus and His healing power was well known by this point in His earthly ministry, as evidenced by the large crowds following the Lord everywhere He went. No matter if folks were merely looking for a show or if they were also desperate to have a need met, they sought out Jesus in droves.

In this case the father, in searching for Jesus he instead came across His disciples, who also by this time had a growing reputation of being healers. In this case, however, they were unsuccessful in healing the boy. Again, the sense of desperation is palpable in the dad as captured in his response to Jesus when asked by the Lord how long the child had been in this condition: “From childhood,” he answered. “It often throws him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” (Mark 9:21-22 NIV).

Did you catch the “if you can?” Jesus sure did! “‘If you can?’” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” As was Jesus usual approach, He wanted people to see the necessity of placing their faith in God for all things as opposed to simply seeking intervention for their problem. (V.23)

The desperate dad then exclaims what I believe to be the heart of this message, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (V.24)

Those of us who have been blessed with having and loving children probably identify with the depth of feeling this father had. After all, his long-suffering son seemed to be in the right place and at the right time for something miraculous to happen, but it had not. I can relate to his plea. “Tell me what else to do” in order that my child be helped. Any devoted parent would make any sacrifice in that moment for the welfare of their child. As you read the rest if this account, you see where the mercy, love and power of Jesus Christ does restore the lad to health.

What I am left pondering, and invite you to do the same, Most Precious Reader, is how desperate am I for Jesus in non-crisis times. Those times when life is cruising along pretty much as I want it. I am comfortable in my surroundings and not worrying about anything substantial.

Where is Jesus in these times of life? Am I merely keeping Him on retainer for when something comes along to knock my life off course? Sadly and honestly, there are times when I simply do take things for granted. Oh, I can do the things I do and say all the right things that go along with my calling, but is this where Jesus wants my heart?

The obvious answer is no. The Lord is zealous for the relationship He has forged with those who know Him through faith. And I believe He wants me/us desperate for more of Him, not merely content with what I have, for as my desire for more of Him grows within me, much of what I selfishly cling to falls away.

Realizing this, I join my prayer with the boys father, and ask Jesus to help me overcome my unbelief.

How about you? Do you struggle with areas of unbelief or maybe a lackadaisical type of faith? I would love to hear how you overcome that.

Thanks for reading, be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

Two Weeks Later

See the source image
(Image courtesy of pinterest)

I write this two weeks after getting the first of two Moderna vaccinations against Covid 19 and am glad to report that none of my God-given appendages have fallen off nor have I sprouted a third eye (or anything else, for that matter).

Let me be clear at the outset, I am aware and understand that some people have heath issues that make getting vaccinated a risk to them. As always, I encourage folks to follow closely the instruction and direction of their medical care providers.

I write this today to those who may have a more general misgiving about this particular vaccination. As I stated in an earlier blog, I did some research and more importantly spent some time praying about this. My prayer was specific in that I asked God to reveal to me any reason I should hesitate to receive the shot. I have been blessed to be a person of prayer for some time now and have come to have a deep trust in the God I pray to. So when nothing negative was revealed to me, I gladly rolled up my sleeve.

Trusting in God was not only key in my decision to get vaccinated, but it is also my default setting whenever there are decisions to be made in my life. “That’s great for you, your a pastor guy,” you might be thinking. Believe me, my calling has no special bearing in getting heard from above. Really, the trust is built as it is in any relationship: Getting to know the other person in a deeper way.

I know of only one way in which to do this; that is to take the time needed to nurture it. With other people, it usually involves asking questions, listening to the responses and watching to see if what is said matches up with how they live their life. If I see inconsistencies, I will withhold the appropriate amount of trust.

But if their sincerity is matched with integrity, the door is wide open to walk through. I have applied this same approach with my relationship with God. I have found that He is who He says He is and His working in my life and the lives of countless others has backed up what He has promised.

I started writing this earlier in the day solely to encourage you to be thoughtful about getting vaccinated against Covid 19 when it becomes available to you. I firmly believe it is the next right thing to do, not only for yourself, but also those with whom you share life.

But as I wrote, I seem to have moved into another recommendation: to seek out the God of heaven. And not just to seek His guidance about getting the shot, but also to encourage you to step out in faith and develop your end of the relationship He offers you. He is there and patiently waiting, even if I should develop something untoward like an eyestalk.

Be blessed and be a blessing (get the shot!)

Pastor Chuck

Happy New Day!

See the source image
(image courtesy of pinterest)

Allow me to add my voice (blog) to the many who have extended blessings to you as we venture into the year 2021. I pray for all of you, Most Appreciated Readers, that God blesses you with His peace as He draws you into deeper relationship with Him in the coming days, weeks and months.

As I have written over the span of 2020, my heart goes out to all who experienced loss during the Covid-19 pandemic. Be those losses personal, financial or relational, I do indeed hope that the new year brings some measure of relief to you.

But it is to those who thought that somehow by turning the page of the calendar things were going to suddenly improve that I write to today. Much the same as someone trying the ‘geographic cure’ we talk about in the 12 Step programs, little relief is truly found just because it becomes January of a new year.

One of the things that is stressed in those recovery rooms is the importance of staying in today. To do this, one must not allow the burdens of the past to become backbreaking. Likewise, the expectations of the future, both good and bad, must be kept in perspective as well. Think of it like this: The past is a cancelled check, and the future is a promissory note that never comes to maturity because it is always Today.

Simply put, we learn from the past without dwelling on its mistakes and we plan for the future, without casting our anticipated results in stone.

There is a passage in Psalm 119 I would like to share with you that continues to be godly counsel to me as I attempt to live out these things I have mentioned above.

The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; 23the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 119:22-24 NIV)

These verses tell me several things that are of great encouragement. The rejected stone is a prophecy of Jesus. The Lord fulfills this as He becomes the capstone (or final) building block of Father God’s salvation plan for all of humanity. Meditating on the wonder that Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection stirs all types of thoughts and emotions in me. I will boil them down to this: Complete awe that God would do this for undeserving sinners like me, and unspeakable joy that He has made life eternal possible because of His taking my place on that cross.

With my heart and head again re-directed toward God’s love and care for me, I can endeavor to carry out what verse 24 says as I realize that this day (which references both the day of salvation and this very day in which we live), has been created by God Himself. With this understanding then comes the attempt to be obedient to rejoice and be glad in it.

A quick check of the original Hebrew is helpful. The word translated rejoice carries with it the meaning of having a joyful attitude and being excited about the prospect  of the day. To be glad is to take delight in; not just in what may come, but in the very existence of this day.

It occurs to me that each of us as individuals will have to determine how we rejoice and are glad. I believe the common denominator though will be our own willingness to do so.

This will require more than a glass half full/empty mentality. I/we have to make the determination to rejoice and be glad in this day, simply because it was created for us. If we can do this, the circumstances of any particular day will have less power to sway our feelings and reactions. Basically, as in all things of faith, we must anchor ourselves to the Lord in complete trust. The more we are able to this (with His help, btw), the better our focus remains on Him, who is the true reason for our rejoicing and gladness.

So rejoice and be glad in the immeasurable and awesome love of God this day. He desires only good for us. Make this (and every) day the happy day is has been created for. Will it be all sunshine, unicorns and rainbows? My experience tells me no. But that same experience is teaching me that the true reason for rejoicing and gladness never changes, and I find great comfort in that as things swirl crazily around in the world.

Thanks for reading. Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

From the Manger to the Cross: God’s Audacious Salvation Plan

See the source image
(image courtesy of blogspot)

I know, Faithful Readers, that many of you share in the belief in Jesus Christ as Savior. I rejoice with you! Though differences may exist in how we dot our I’s or cross our t’s, we firmly agree in the fact that salvation only comes through faith in Jesus Christ.

I am also aware that some of you do not hold what I believe to be true. I am none the less grateful that you read what I offer here. My belief teaches me to be respectful of all so that I can gladly call you friend even if we hold diametrically opposed opinions.

That having been said, I am unashamedly bold in my proclamation about our loving God. I totally agree with what the Apostle Paul said: I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Romans 1:16a). I attempt, though often poorly, to live out my life in ways that honor my Lord Jesus. To share the hope He has given me is the focal point of each of my days.

It is in this season we call Christmas that I quite often get to share what I know to be true about the birth of the Christ. I do so today under the title I have given this entry: From the Manger to the Cross, God’s Audacious Salvation Plan.

Audacious. It is the best word my limited vocabulary can come up with to describe what God set in motion when Jesus came to the world: as an infant! The same God who caused our world to be created. This same God that is simultaneously and always everywhere. The Creator of absolutely everything, and yet He desires that we enter into a loving and thriving relationship with Him.

With those and countless other accolades to describe this indescribable Deity, the ways in which to implement His salvation plan had to be equally diverse. Yet, with unlimited power and resources, He chose to come to our eternal rescue as a helpless human infant.

I recall from theology classes the necessity that He be both fully God and fully human in order to serve as the only acceptable sacrifice for sinful mankind. But still, with all the power of His own universe at His disposal, why not at least come as an adult, thereby avoiding all the things that can plague us humans as we grow. He could have still been all God/all man, but without acne, if you will.

But no. As a human baby He came. And as I consider these things again, how fitting. With unlimited power and possibilities, I must think there were more flashy ways to get this plan underway.

But as a human baby it was. As always with God, so perfect. The humility of an infant born with the royal bloodline of the Creator. How like our God to present His plan to save people swaddled in cloths and lying in an animal food trough.

From the earliest hours to the final ones as He hung on the cross, Jesus lived as the perfect example of love to all. To any who would doubt the depth of that love, please consider the horror of that crucifixion He suffered so that this audacious plan would come full circle.

Yes, it might have been splashier to do a huge intro, but the depth of His reveal has resonated through the world for over 2000 years now. I for one trust that His salvation plan is proceeding just as it should and am forever grateful that His love is so vast that it included an invitation to lowly ones such as myself.

A blessed celebration of the Savior’s birth to you all. I appreciate the time you spend with me and trust that our relationship will only grow deeper and better as we continue on together.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

Dream On!

See the source image
(Image courtesy of spokeo.com)

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 Just Never Know

I spent the majority of my 40 plus hour work weeks as a painter. The last twelve years of time-clock life I was the Facilities Painter at Le Moyne College, a Jesuit school in Syracuse New York. This last gig was by far the best. I was hired to start the department and it was basically left to me to organize and complete all the paint work on campus. It was a perfect fit for my personality. God has wired me to be an organized self-starter, and this played very well in this job.

Of all the fond memories I have of being a Dolphin (Le Moyne’s nickname), working with the summer crew of students was the very best. Those twelve summers allowed me to meet and interact with some fine young women and men. We shared lots of laughs as we completed the re-paint of all the dorm rooms on campus each year.

I am blessed to still be in touch with a number of “my kids,” as I fondly called them. Many have assumed prominent and interesting positions since graduating from Le Moyne. There are many schoolteachers in this group, as well an occupational therapist, several nurses and even a Funeral Director, to mention just a few.

The summer paint crew consisted of between 8 to 12 students each summer; so it is safe to say I worked with at least one hundred different students during my time there. Most had never held a paint brush when they started with me, making the first several days with them a challenge, to say the least!

It was always my intention to give my charges more than simply painting lessons, however. Working side by side with them for three months gave us the opportunity to get to know one another. The pastors heart within me cherished the times when our discussions went beyond assignments and into the realm of the eternal. Though I attempted not to be overt in my style, when questions pertaining to Jesus and/or Christianity came up, I did my best to answer in meaningful ways.

As in most cases in life, and maybe especially in ministry, we seldom get to see much if any fruit from our labors. I am ok with this, for ministry to me is all about God and His love for all people. If He should choose to use my words or actions to reach another person with His message of hope, may He get all the glory!

That is not to say that I do not wonder about the impact I may have had on my summer kids.

The other day, as I was looking at the gift they gave me as it hangs in my office, God gave me a blessing. You see, the picture I shared with this entry is what my crew of students gave me on their last day of the summer of 2016, just shortly before I left Le Moyne College to go into ministry fulltime.

If you would look at the picture again, you will see that each of them signed it (some with the nicknames I assigned them!) and attached a paint brush they had dipped in gold paint. The caption they wrote touched my heart with God’s affirming message about my efforts with them: Your brush has touched our lives.

What a blessing! These young folks, with grades, loans and many other things to occupy their minds, took the time to let me know what they thought of the time they had spent with me. As I looked at what they had given me, I felt a renewed sense of encouragement to carry on with what God has given me to do.

I share this with you today, Faithful Reader, so that you too may experience some encouragement. Yes, the days can seem long and this particular year can appear to be unending, but please hang in there, you just never know when what you say or do is reaching someone in a positive way.

Be Blessed and be a Blessing,

Pastor Chuck

Giving Thanks in a Socially Distanced World

See the source image
(image courtesy of liturgytools.net)

Thanksgiving in the United States is considered the traditional kick-off of the holiday season. How much of a season of good cheer it turns out to be is yet to be seen, however.

2020 has certainly been a year like no other. In this country we have seen civil unrest, Mother Nature at her worst, political upheaval and of course, the Covid-19 pandemic.

Amidst all the pain, suffering and uncertainty of the future, some might find it hard to be thankful at this time in history. I would not be one of them, however. My heart certainly goes out to those who have lost so much to wildfires and hurricanes. It breaks for those who have lost loved ones to sickness.

I whole-heartedly believe that true thanksgiving must spring from our hearts regardless of current circumstance. I can best accomplish this when I stay focused on the One who always deserves my humble gratitude, the Lord Jesus Christ.

I will be preaching a Thanksgiving sermon from Luke 17:11-19. I have given this message the title: Giving Thanks in a Socially Distanced World. This passage of Scriptures relates the account of Jesus healing 10 who were afflicted with leprosy. I hope that as you consider these verses, you too will be able to give proper thanks and praise more readily to our Lord.

I admit I had never used, thought of or even considered the term ‘social distancing’ before March of this year. Social distancing is now the norm. Keeping a minimum of 6 feet or more from others is considered the best way to slow the spread of Covid-19 down. It is not a new idea, however. Those 10 lepers seeking healing from Jesus used it as well: They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” (Luke 17:12b-13 NIV)

Like us, you could say that the ten lepers were not having a good year either. Their condition was not only debilitating physically, but it made them outcasts from all people, family and friends included.

The lepers were living/existing away from their families. The family unit was very tight back then. Their absence would have been keenly felt, affecting the lives of the rest of that group. These 10 had an incurable disease and depending on its severity, a death sentence. Those family members would have had little to no hope of seeing their loved one again.

            This certainly helps explain the joy they must have felt when they were cured. The desire to let their loved ones know they we healed and back with them would have been very strong; strong enough to prevent them from even thinking about going back to thank the One who had healed them.

However, in our currently socially distanced condition, we can learn the most about giving thanks from the one who came back to Jesus. Gratitude, in my opinion, is an action word. Merely saying I’m grateful without a heart and /or actions to back it up is a bit shallow. The man who went back to Jesus modeled the action of gratitude. He changed direction, putting the giving of thanks above anything else he may have initially wanted to do. He thanked the Lord before going off on his new lease on life.

Practically speaking, how might you and I display the action of gratitude in a socially distanced world? Here is one suggestion: Take the time today to call someone you know that is alone. Let them know you are thinking of them. Ask if there is anything they need and express a willingness to fulfill that need if you are able.

As I think of it, truly giving thanks in a socially distanced world depends little on our current circumstances. Rather, the driving force of daily thanksgiving is God Himself. Merely scanning the Scriptures reveals many things to be grateful on a daily basis because of who God is and what He does.

Think of it as a fill-in-the-blank exercise: God I thank you for: ______________

Here are a few examples:

God I thank you for: saving me through your Son Jesus Christ

God I thank you for: your faithful love

God I thank you for: the fact I can pray to you.

Please notice that this list includes not one item having to do with things or possessions. Rather it is all about who God is and what He has done, is doing and will do. I firmly believe that the more we keep the eyes of our hearts open to see what God is doing in and around us, the more grateful for Him we become.

This is not to say we shouldn’t be grateful for the material blessings in our lives. We should be grateful to God for the gifts He bestows on us. I merely remind you to not lose sight that the material things, as wonderful as they may be, will one day be gone. Only God is constant. He is forever loving us, leading us, calling us to Him. Let nothing separate you/me from giving thanks to Him!

The 10 lepers kept their distance, yet still called out to the Lord. You and I have no restrictions to God’s availability. The only barriers to us knowing Him more intimately are put there by ourselves.

God does not demand that we thank Him. We can assume the other 9 lepers remained healed even though they did not come back to say thanks to Jesus. But the one who did return received an even greater blessing. He got to look into the eyes of Jesus. The Lord then blessed him abundantly by revealing what faith in Him can do. I believe this man’s healing went beyond his surface condition and reached his heart with the peace that only God can give.

 So run to His embrace. Know the depth of His love for you. As you do, you will find freedom to live a thanksgiving life every day that no social distance can keep you from.

Blessings and thanks for reading,

Pastor Chuck

Jesus Restores Lazarus to Life

See the source image
(Image courtesy of art.com)

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

Two for One!!!

See the source image
(image courtesy of amazon.com/books)

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

See the source image
(image courtesy of rainbowtoken.com)

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