Fringe Benefits

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Fringe benefits. We’ve all heard the term and know basically what they are: things above and beyond basic compensation from an employer. It can be an extensive list that includes paid time off, health insurance, profit sharing and retirement plans, to name just a few.

Where’s this heading, you may be wondering. I’m glad you asked!

I was reading from the Gospel of Mark earlier, and came upon this passage describing Jesus in his travels: And wherever he went, into villages, or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed. (Mark 6:56 NRSV)

There you have it! The benefit of touching the fringe of Jesus’ garment. People had heard the stories of miraculous healings being done by this Jesus and in their desperation were hoping to just touch what he was wearing that they might experience a miracle too. And the gospel accounts tells us of many such folks who received healing from Jesus. He sometimes laid a hand on the sick or at other times and over a distance simply spoke a word and healing happened.

As wonderful as these accounts are, they truly represent only the fringe of Jesus’ ministry and purpose. He healed because of his compassion toward the hurting. Yet the driving force behind any of the miracles attributed to Jesus was to point people toward God. Physical healings are great, but to the best of my knowledge everyone restored by Jesus still eventually died a natural death.

None of what I’ve said is meant to minimize the wonder of Jesus’ actions, both then and now. My point is this: supernatural healing is a fringe benefit; of having faith.

If you have faith, you have already received the greatest healing you can ever get: You know the love of God! And the news gets even better: Faith is not something you and I have to develop, it is the gift of God! We are not given faith as a result of our good efforts or stiving for perfection. Rather, God knows we need it and that we are incapable of truly developing it on our own.

Enter Jesus, the Great(est) Physician! No matter how far modern medicine progresses, it will never attain the ability to cure us on an eternal level. And that’s ok, because Jesus has already seen to that for everyone. In so doing, our Savior has provided the vehicle of faith for us to grab on to. And we don’t have to reach for the edge of the Savior’s garment because through the blessing and activity of the Holy Spirit we have 24/7 access to the Lord.

So don’t be satisfied with touching just the fringe, but wrap yourself up from head to toe in the love of God; a love that is for all, always, forever and ever! Amen.

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing,

Pastor Chuck

The Baby King

Luke 2:1-18

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Do you remember playing musical chairs as a youngster? That supposedly fun game that had you march around a circle of chairs only to try to sit down in one when the music stopped. The object, of course, was to sit before everyone else because there were less chairs than people. The number of chairs would then be reduced and the music started again. The process continued until there were two kids and one chair with the winner being the last one to sit. It was plenty of fun for the winner, but I can recall feeling pretty lousy at not making it to the end.

I can also remember that sinking feeling of being the last one chosen to play baseball and off to right field I would go. There was also the pain in the pit of the stomach sensation when I had been excluded from a gathering of the other kids in the neighborhood.

It’s not my purpose to dredge up old feelings of being left out this Christmas, actually quite the opposite. Instead I would point your attention to the miraculous fact that the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, came to the world as the infant whose birth we celebrate today. An infant, it turns out, that wants all people everywhere to feel included by the love of God.

The King as an infant! What a radical way to set a salvation plan into motion! As a father of two children, I can recall the total and complete dependence of my kids when we first brought them home. There was nothing (well maybe one thing) they could do without adult help. Nothing. Zero. Zip. Nada.

Yet, the bible tells as that the Son of God spent his early hours wrapped in rags and lying in a barn or cave inside a feeding trough! Hardly an A-list reception.

Pondering this momentous occasion again, I can see the love and logic in the divine plan. Jesus, so the theologians tell us, had to be both fully divine and fully human in order to perfectly carry out the plan of salvation for all humankind. Though I’d be lying if I said I fully understand this, I take it on faith because God has proved totally faithful in all things.

The great comfort that comes to me today is the fact that Jesus, growing up from that baby to pre-teen to teen and finally adult, experienced all the feelings and emotions that I did and do. All those left out feelings I mentioned, the Lord felt them too! And what is even more wonderful than simply knowing that Jesus can relate is the fact that if I bring my pain and hurts to Him, He will minister to my heart in a way tailor made for me and all the while assuring me/us of the love of God that will care for us now and forevermore!

So take please take a moment as you unwrap those beautifully done up gifts today, to consider the absolutely most awesome gift ever given once again, Jesus Christ; the life giving present that did not come to us in a perfectly prepared package, but instead was wrapped in old rags, lying in a manger. And as you do, allow the love of God to minister to all the old hurts you might have so that you can more fully rejoice this day (and always) in the love that was given to us all in Jesus Christ.

May the blessings of this season be upon you,

Pastor Chuck

What if the person at the well had been a member of the LBGTQ community?

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The encounter known as Jesus and the Woman at the Well, found in Chapter 4 of John’s gospel has long been a motivator for me in ministry. If you are at all familiar with the meaningful interaction between Jesus and this woman, you know that she was ostracized from society because she was currently living with a man outside of marriage.

Jesus, caring little for social niceties, breaks a rule by engaging in conversation with this woman as he sat at the well outside of her village. Remember, in those days men and women who weren’t family would not have had this casual conversation. In fact, a male would never have asked a question of a female as Jesus had in public.

Jesus’ example or throwing social constraints aside is very encouraging to me. He met that woman right where she was, not only physically, but also spiritually. He carried no pre-set conditions or barriers to insulate himself. The Lord merely, and simply, starting talking with her.

At Lakeside Christian Ministries, we have attempted to take this same approach in all that we do. After all, if it was right and proper for Jesus, we must be on the right track!

Our ability to minister in some of the more difficult places in our community, be they racked with deep poverty, substance abuse or any of the other common maladies folks deal with in these times, has been blessed on many occasions. The simple, heartfelt approach of meeting people as and where they are has opened many doors and hearts to us.

Seeking and meeting people in this way has become our normal mode of operation and because of this, we are becoming better equipped as to how to respond to verbal and other clues. Experience is teaching us, and we are becoming more attuned to the folks we get the privilege to minister to. I feel we are following the example Jesus set by his meeting with the woman found in John Chapter 4.

We are certainly not alone in our efforts. Many people, be they of faith or not, are successfully reaching into communities as they supply many types of practical help and moral support. I thank God for every agency, ministry and individual that takes their concern for people and puts it into positive action.

But (you had to know by now, Dear Reader, that a but was coming!), I had pause to wonder how well I/we are doing with this example of Jesus when the need of someone is a little less obvious than that of the woman at the well. What I mean to say is that we may be good at seeing the need in poverty and springing into action with no judgment, but what about at other times and places.

For example, what if the person at the well is transgender? I am confident that this would not have made the slightest difference in Jesus’ approach. He simply met, interacted and always loved. The Lord would have engaged in conversation with this person for the simple reason that they were loved by him. No judgment, no condemnation, simply love.

Can you and I make this same claim when we are face to face with someone of the LBGTQ community? Do we look with compassion to see if there is a need we might help with? Or are our first thoughts more confused or worse yet judgmentally accusatory.

I for one have never found a response from Jesus described as these. Sure, he was appropriately stern or pointed when dealing with the hypocritical of his day, never mincing words when he was attempting to get their attention.

Yet on the other hand, Jesus always led with love, no matter what the issues in front of him might be. Consider those afflicted with leprosy back then. They could not be where other, ‘clean,’ folks were and if they were in their vicinity, they had to announce their own presence by yelling out, “Unclean, unclean, stay away!” The gospel records several instances where Jesus, paying no attention to any of that, actually laid his hands on some lepers to heal them!

We all need to pay closer attention to the wonderful example Jesus has left us. We are to follow his command to “Love one another.” Period. No questions as to who might deserve our love and certainly no judging someone that we feel doesn’t. We are to simply love. We can do this as Jesus modeled. We can listen. We can be willing to have open and honest dialogue with someone who is experiencing life in way that we might not be familiar with.

I encourage us all, in whatever way this little article may have touched you, to simply love one another (that’s everyone, btw) a little more deeply; a little more considerately, a little bit more honestly, etc.

Let love rule your heart, not judgment. Let the example of Jesus lead you, for he will never lead you in a way that is contrary to his love.

Thanks for reading.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

 Pastor Chuck

You’re Included TOO!

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Inclusion. Certainly a word we hear frequently of late (and that is a very good thing!) For a person professing to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, being inclusive ought to be second nature. Sadly, what ought and what is are many times not the same

There is no place where it is proper to exclude anyone simply because of skin color, gender identity or any of the other social, religious, economic, etc. labels that get thrown around. What many consider as ‘being different’ is often someone living in a way that we are not accustomed to. Being inclusive means to drop the idea that different equals bad.

The Lord Jesus taught frequently about being inclusive, which tells me that this struggle is not a new one. Whether we want to admit it or not, most of us are most comfortable when around others who look, act and believe as we do.

What blessings we miss out when we throw up those types of walls. We waste our precious time and energy if we spend it trying to protect what we have from ‘outsiders.’ Likewise, we cut ourselves off from the opportunity to share life with various groups of people who might very well have invaluable lessons and experiences to share with us. From the personal perspective of a parent of a child who is a member of the LBGTQ community, I can tell you God has poured forth abundant blessings on the relationships my wife and I have made here. That’s not to say we have done anything special, except maybe to be non-judgmentally inclusive.

Jesus’ instructions for life are quite clear: Love your neighbor. Period. There is no place for judging or trying to change someone. To love means to listen and to always advocate for justice. It is to seek means of communication, not for disparaging thoughts or words.

While are thoughts are turned toward inclusion today, please remember that you are included too! We need to set aside our tendency to see things in an us v. them mentality. Being inclusive is to put those types of thoughts away, for good.

What helps me in this regard is taking to heart the words of inclusion Jesus spoke for everyone. In other words, from Jesus’ perspective we, that means all of us, simply are included. The Lord spoke in broad terms that were applicable to individuals.

For example, in Matthew’s gospel Jesus is quoted as saying, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NIV). You need not be a bible scholar to understand what “all you” means: Everyone! Jesus invites us, all of us, individually, to come to Him and receive His blessing of rest and relief when the weight of the world gets too heavy. I love this. No prerequisites, no condition, no being a certain this or that, but rather come to Jesus, the One who loves you because you are you.

Yet the inclusion of God can take us even further. If we take the Lord up on His offer for peace and rest, He then as an assignment for us. An inclusive assignment. We are to take this awesome gift of His love and share with the world around us. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19a NIV).

Here is another case where all means all. I realize most of us are not going to be called to another nation to carry the message of God’s love, but that does not release us from our responsibility to doing so in our own context. We are to share God’s love with everyone with no excuse acceptable for exclusion. What that looks like and how we do this will vary from one person to the next, but the common bottom line is this: God’s love, His forgiveness and care are not to be restricted or withheld by us for any reason because God includes all!

God includes all. Period. Let’s include that in our personal lives as well!

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

Signs

Hello Blog-o-sphere! It is good to be here again! I think I made mention at the beginning of August that I had a busy month coming up. I truly had no idea how busy it would become.

I’ll spare you the details, except to say that as always, God showed His faithfulness to me in so many ways that the things that occupied my time this past month were not burdens, but blessings!!

I would like to share a snippet from my sermon of Sunday, 8-29. (Should you want to hear the whole thing, please go to our website: www.lakesidechristianministries.org)

I was talking about the hard-heartedness of the Pharisees in Jesus day as found in the 7th Chapter of the Gospel of Mark. They see the Lord’s disciples “eating with defiled hands,” meaning they were not washing them ceremonially as their rules decreed.

Jesus rebukes them telling them their hearts are not seeking God, but rather looking for praise, power and control over people as keepers of their burdensome list of rules and regulations.

All this made me think about my life; how I live it. What impressions do I give people in my everyday interactions with the world. I imagined my life as a house with various signs placed in the front yard. As I considered this, I wondered just what kinds of signs people might see.

I ask my listeners to join me in considering this. I asked: “Would the signs in front of the ‘house’ of your life say :“Keep Off!” Or “Go Away, you are not wanted here!” Maybe, “This is a place of judgment, and I am the judge.”

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You get the idea. I went on to ask myself and everyone to take a good look at what our lives look like. I asked us all further questions: “We wouldn’t withhold kindness because we perceive someone as living a different lifestyle than us, or we wouldn’t withhold friendship because someone has a different political opinion than we do, would we?”

Obviously, these types of ‘signs’ do not promote fellowship or encourage anyone. They serve only to protect us and our personal bubble we try to maintain.

In contrast to this, I asked if we might all put different placards in the front yard of our life. Signs that say: “All are welcome. Let’s talk about that. I’m not perfect so I will not expect you to be.”

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Or perhaps this: “I am a sinner saved by grace. Come, let’s share the experience of life as friends, getting to know each other along the way.”

How about you, Most Appreciated Reader: What do the signs outside the house of your life say?

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

Jesus, So Much More than Just Another Meal

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Some thoughts on John 6:35, 41-51:

Just a quick scan of the Bible reveals that God has quite the record of providing real food on a miraculous scale to sustain the body. In the beginning of Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel you can read about one of those times as Jesus fed over 5,000 people from just 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread with leftovers that filled 12 baskets!

Jesus had worked this mighty miracle as a setting for a plain talk on His true mission in the world. “I am the bread of life.” By saying it that way, ‘I am,” Jesus was identifying himself with God.

While it is true that Jesus spent much time ministering to people’s physical needs, the real purpose of His coming into the world was to save people’s souls.

Hearing this, the people began to lose interest. As long as there is free food, great; keep it coming. Be our King and feed us every day like the Israelites in the desert under Moses. Jesus’ first audience were thinking only of their own physical wants and needs. How many of us still do this too?

More than just another meal

Jesus addresses those grumbling as He points out that the manna, (in verses listed at the top) miracle that it was, did not provide the eternal ‘food’ that we all need. After all, their ancestors ate it and still died in the desert. Jesus is so much more than just another meal.

The first of the I am statements in John’s Gospel

Jesus, “I am the Bread of Life.” What does that say to you? The original audience had trouble processing that claim. What do you do with it?

Maybe before we examine that, a more basic question needs to be addressed first: Who is Jesus to you?

            Is He: a cosmic talisman you call on when you are in trouble?

Some far-off or aloof deity/someone you choose to keep at arm’s length?

Is He your Savior (the A answer!). Yet the text today seems to be telling us that the Lord can be something in addition to Savior. Please remember that Jesus is salvation, plus or minus nothing.

Jesus: “I am the bread of life.” (twice) “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.”

            Is He the Bread of Life to you?

When Jesus says you will never hunger or thirst again, obviously He does not mean physically. Rather, Jesus is telling us all that believing in Him brings with it a satisfaction that cannot be removed or replaced. It has been said that we are all born with a God-shaped hole in our hearts that can only be filled perfectly by Jesus. That hole is what gets filled when you take the Bread of Life. Jesus brings to you the wholeness that only He can.

Remember, Jesus is not just another meal

 Jesus does not want only to help us sustain life. No, rather He is offering all humanity eternal life! You, me and the whole world. This is God’s grace as it is poured out to us each day. John 10:10b records Jesus saying, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, I have come that they may have live; and have it to the full.” Jesus has come to save and to have the life He offers to the full.

We then must use each day’s grace for the purpose God gives it; that it nourishes us spiritually. All we have to do is merely acknowledge our need and accept what the Lord is offering daily. God knows your needs. Do you trust Him to supply that which you need, even if you do not understand it or can explain it?

Thanks for reading.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

The Wonder of the Cross of Christ

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Christianity 101 tells us that the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is central to its theology. Jesus, the very Son of God, came to earth and lived a sin-free life as He taught and demonstrated of the nearness of the Kingdom of God.

He ultimately revealed the depth of His love for all mankind when He willing went to an awful death by crucifixion. As He did, He supernaturally bore the weight of the entirety of the world’s sin on His person in order that ordinary folks like you and me could be saved for all eternity.

The Apostle Paul sums this all up for us in his letter to the Roman church: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9 NIV)

I would gladly welcome conversation on any of the above at any time, including questions, concerns and uncertainties. But let’s do that during another post. For today I want to focus on the physical cross itself that Jesus was crucified on. I believe that God is still calling us to Himself and that much of the invitation still lies in and around that wooden implement of death that God has wondrously turned into an invitation to life.

I have been giving some thought to the physical cross. I know that much of Christian art has depicted Jesus carrying an entire cross up Calvary’s hill. However, research seems to have shown that the Lord carried only the cross piece as the longer vertical pole would have been left in place for re-use.

Joseph Zias, an anthropologist with the Israel Department of Antiquities, and Eliezer Sekeles of Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem state that, “One can reasonably assume that the scarcity of wood may have been expressed in the economics of crucifixion in that the crossbar as well as the upright would be used repeatedly.”

If they are correct, and I have no reason to doubt them on this, that means that the crossbar that Jesus carried and died on was used again, possibly many times.

I think it unlikely than any of those being put to death by crucifixion by the Romans of that time for treason, speaking against the government, rebellion or murder (the crimes most often punished by this means) knew of the previous carriers of their cross-piece. Word of who Jesus was and what He had done was still confined to a relatively few people at the outset. How sad to think that the very piece of wood that had held the Savior’s body was unknown to them.

Conversely, how wonderful is it that we live on the other side of the event of the Cross of Jesus! Because He took the place of all sinners (that’s you and me again!) and willingly paid the price for all of our transgressions, we can know that our forever home has been secured with Him.

Yet as we celebrate this greatest news ever presented to human beings, let us not forget how it came to be. In other words, let us not lose sight of the significance of that cross-piece that Jesus carried. We have the opportunity to know why His Passion had to play out as it did.

As you contemplate that awesome truth again today, I ask that you also remember those who have no knowledge of what Jesus did (and is doing). Many are trudging through life carrying a burden that can only be relieved by the One who cares for us all. Please, if given the opportunity today, won’t you share the incredible story of God’s love for all as it is represented in the Cross?

Thanks for reading.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

Let’s Stop Devaluing Life

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April 16th, 2021

Much has been written and said about the de-sensitizing of our society towards violence. It seems that rarely a day goes by where we hear of and see the videos of a mass shooting and other acts of violence and destruction. It is as if we are becoming increasingly numb to killing. How do we process this, we ask ourselves. Perhaps as part of our survival instinct we do not allow these actions to effect us on a personal level. Sure, we feel the emotions that these reports bring: sadness for the families who have lost someone, anger at the perpetrator and frustration about what can be done. But we often times do our best to keep them from going any farther.

I must confess that in my comfy little spot in Central New York, much of the terror of this violence seems far off. From my easy chair I watch the news and empathize with the hurting, but what can I do about these events that seem to be overwhelming and unmanageable, and so far away?

My little bubble burst a few nights ago as an eleven month old baby was shot and killed a few short miles from me in Syracuse. You read that right, an eleven month old child. One car passed another and opened fire, striking the kids in the backseat, mortally wounding the one.

Eleven months old. I still cannot get my heart and mind fully wrapped around that. The innocence and trust of a little one blown away in a hail of bullets.

I must admit, I am not de-sensitized to this terrible act. Having raised two kids and been part of many other families as they raise theirs, the thought of having that little life snuffed out breaks the heart.

As I watched the report on this tragedy, one official was interviewed who said something that has resonated with me since. He was asked, “What can we do to stop this senseless killing?” His reply, “Until we stop de-valuing human life, nothing can be done.”

There it is. I believe this person has it exactly right. Until we can simply look at another person and understand that they are of great value, no community action program or gun amnesty proposal will lessen the violence in our streets and across the country.

I know it will not be easy or quick, but this must not stop us! We as a society have been on this downward trend for some time now. It is time for each of us, all of us, to stand up to this darkness with the only true weapon we have: Love.

May we all see our neighbors, both near and far, as the precious human beings that they are. This value is intrinsic to all God’s creation. Let us be intentional in seeing it in others.

I realize this sounds a bit like I have my head in the clouds and that the prevalent problems of today are just going to go away by simply being nice to one another.

But on the other hand, why not start there. Why not become part of a grass-roots movement that places equal love, care and concern for all people, simply because they are people.

We must, as a society, re-educate and re-orient ourselves. You and I can make a difference in our little parts of the world. Let us lead by example, recognizing and celebrating the value of all others as we together traverse this life.

The following is from the Twenty-Four Hours a Day book published by Hazelden. Appropriately, it is the Meditation for the Day, April 16th. I believe it clearly makes the point I have tried to above.

I must try to love all humanity. Love comes from thinking of every man or woman as your brother or sister, because they are children of God. This way of thinking makes me care enough about them to really want to help them. I must put this kind of love into action by serving others. Love means no severe judging, no resentments, no malicious gossip, and no destructive criticism. It means patience, understanding, compassion and helpfulness.

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

“That tears it!”

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“That tears it!” I am certain most if not all of us have used this expression at a frustration in life. For me, I find myself uttering this toward the end of a game I am watching when a score by the other team effectively removes any chance of my group winning. By and large, ‘that tears it’ is most commonly spoken during a straw that broke the camel’s back occurrence. And rarely, if ever, have I heard this idiom used as an exclamation of something good happening.

But as sometimes happens within the quirky workings of my mind, I read something that caused me to put a different spin on a saying like we are considering. Today this has happened twice as I was reading through the Gospel of Mark. What I discovered in these two places is the most positive take on something being torn I have ever encountered.

Actually, ‘that tears it’ in the context of what I am about to share is the exact opposite of a negative connotation, for the following Scriptures reveal that God has taken away any barriers to Him. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the invitation to absolutely anyone who would put their faith in His saving power.

Sin, as I have stated here on numerous occasions, is that which causes separation between us and God. The imperfect (that’s us) cannot exist in the same place as the Perfect (that is, God). Blessedly, the actual playing out of God’s heavenly hope for poor sinners can be seen beginning at the baptism of Jesus.

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:9-11 NIV)

The image of what Jesus saw is beautiful in that it reveals that heaven, the eternal home for the faithful, has been opened. And Mark chose to describe this as heaven being torn open. This is not some neat cut along a dotted line, but rather a ripping open. This tells me that heaven was opened to stay that way. It was not left in such a way as to be neatly stitched back up. Picture that! When God ‘tears it,’ it will not be closed again.

As the events happening around the baptism of Jesus give us the joyful glimpse of a heavenly home being opened to us, it is at His crucifixion and subsequent resurrection that the actual invitation to life eternal in paradise is offered.

In Chapter 15 of Marks’ gospel we find his account of the gruesome crucifixion of the Lord. At the very moment of the physical death of Jesus, God once again ‘tears it.’

With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. 38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:37-39 NIV)

The meaning of that curtain being torn in two is far too important to miss. In the days of temple worship, this curtain stood as a physical barrier between what was called the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. Only a priest, and he only once a year, could go behind that curtain to perform a ceremony of forgiveness in the Most Holy Place.

The death of Jesus Christ tore that barrier out of the way forever! His resurrection three days later stands as the living proof of God’s awesome love for us all. Jesus had taken our place on the cross. He bore the price of our sin so that those who place their faith in Him could be forgiven. The physical barrier, represented here as the curtain to the Most Holy Place, is torn away, never to be replaced.

So if God were to say, “that tears it,” He would be describing the end of our separation from Him. His perfect love paved and continues to pave the way to Him. Won’t you let allow Him to tear away anything you may have or hold to that causes separation?

If you do, you will experience the ultimate joy of having God tear it from you. Once gone, whatever it is, His loving kindness will begin to envelop you, and nothing can tear that away!

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck