Humility

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I have had the privilige of sharing a meditation during our Wednesday Evening Lenten worship. Each one considers a characteristic of Jesus that can be gleaned from Philippians 2:5-11. This was the first in the series. It considers humility.

If we think about it, Jesus really can turn our worldview upside down. Especially in a purely American context, where rugged individualism and striving for the top have influenced many for a long time. To be the best often meant climbing over others to reach the pinnacle.

Jesus directly challenges that approach to life. In fact, of the many words that could be used to describe Jesus, “humility” ranks toward the top. Humility: by definition is to have a modest or low view of one’s own importance.

That’s what Paul is saying in this passage from Philippians. And I think it a very appropriate place for us to dwell upon in this season of Lent. Lent is a time for introspection. I believe these words of Scripture are encouraging us to do just that. Jesus, being fully divine, still did not consider that to be flaunted during Hs time among people. The word ‘exploited’ carries the meaning taking in a robbery. It wasn’t by using others that the Lord was going to leave a mark on the world. Instead, Jesus reversed the “normal” outlook of the best being at the very top. His humble servant heart placed him at the bottom, holding us all up. I think of it as an inverted pyramid, where Jesus is at the bottom point, holding all of humankind up.

It is in doing the smaller things that can speak such volume to others.

Please consider these words from the first stanza of the poem The Things That Count written by Ella Wheeler Wilcox:

Now, dear, it isn’t the bold things,

Great deeds of valour and might,

That count the most in the summing up of life at the end of the day.

But it is the doing of old things,

Small acts that are just and right;

And doing them over and over again, no matter what others say;

In smiling at fate, when you want to cry, and in keeping at work when you want to play—

Dear, those are the things that count.

Next, Jesus further modeled humility, to a point where I dare say I would have trouble going: He emptied himself. What does that mean? He set aside any personal agenda, placing the needs of the many over any individual want/need He might have felt. And He did it every day, even in the ‘little’ things. The Lord did these things of his own accord. He chose to simply to be obedient to God’s plan.

More of Wheeler’s poem:

And, dear, it isn’t the new ways

Where the wonder-seekers crowd

That lead us into the land of content, or help us to find our own.

But it is keeping to true ways,

Though the music is not so loud,

And there may be many a shadowed spot where we journey along alone;

In flinging a prayer at the face of fear, and in changing into a song a groan –

Dear, these are the things that count.

It is in the obedience, not only exhibited by Jesus, but by you and me as well. We are to empty ourselves as well, whatever that entails in our own circumstance. For me, I refer to the words of John the Baptist when he said speaking of Jesus: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30 NRSV). Humility does not seek applause or even recognition. In fact, humility is its own goal and end. To be truly humble is not to think less of myself, but instead it is to think of myself less often.

May our Lenten journey lead us all to a deeper, more meaningful and effective faith. I leave you with the final stanza of the poem I’ve been reading from:

My dear, it isn’t the loud part

Of creeds that are pleasing to God, not the chant of a prayer, or the hum of a hymn, or a jubilant shout or song.

But it is the beautiful proud part

Of walking with feet faith-shod;

And in loving, loving, loving through all, no matter how things go wrong;

In trusting ever, though dark the day, and in keeping your hope when the way seems long –

Dear, these are the things that count.

Thanks for reading.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck










Who is your favorite

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

When Obedience Hurts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

He Got Out of the Boat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 I would love to hear them.

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

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

Thank You, Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Chuck

Who is my neighbor?

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If I were to ask you, Dear Reader, what is a good Samaritan, I am confident that many would relate the parable Jesus told that has come to be known as The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

In case you need a quick refresher, here is my synopsis: Jesus, in response to the question, ‘Who is my neighbor?’ tells this famous parable. In it a man traveling the 16 miles between Jerusalem to Jericho is robbed and beaten as he traveled. A priest and a Levite, see the injured man and deliberately pass by on the opposite side of him, not giving any kind of help to someone who clearly needed some.

Then comes our Samaritan, a social outcast in this setting, who lends what would have been life-saving assistance at the scene. He then transported the injured traveler to an inn, where he pays in advance for the care the injured man will need as he recovers.

Jesus used this parable to get his questioner to think about who exactly is a neighbor. When the man answered that it was the one who showed mercy, Jesus told him he was correct. But He also told him to go and do likewise.

As I mulled this over today, Luke 10:25-37 was part of my daily bible reading, I too got to thinking about just who is my neighbor. The answer is not as straight forward as I might want it to be. Oh, there are my next-door neighbors; the elderly couple with the seemingly countless grand kids and on the other side the married couple with two young daughters. Across the street is another older couple and a single mom of 2 teenagers. These are my neighbors. We are all on friendly terms and make ourselves available to help one another as needed.

This seemingly fulfills what Jesus is saying, but only to a point. Being ‘neighborly’ is important and should be done with a glad heart, but if it is as far as I take the question of who is my neighbor, it is terribly short-sighted.

If I am to be obedient to the teaching of Jesus in this regard, I must take a much broader view of who my neighbor is. Clearly, Jesus wants each of us to consider all others as a ‘neighbor,’ especially when someone is in need.

Being a good neighbor in the context of what Jesus is teaching is to have the willingness to give of yourself to help another. Under the Lord’s direction, there is no room at all for social bias or injustice. Both the priest and the Levite in the parable were duty-bound to help, yet they passed on the other side of the road, ignoring the need simply because they did not want to get their hands dirty on someone who they felt was beneath them.

The good neighbor in this parable cut through all the layers of dislike, distrust and disdain and simply rendered assistance.

 I would like to think that if I were in there instead of the Samaritan, I would have stopped to help as well. But being honest, I know that the perceived tightness of my schedule has caused me to join that priest and Levite in passing by a need from time to time. Typing these words makes me cringe at my selfishness and I ask God to forgive me of my hard heart. And while I am asking of the Lord, please also prevent judgment to worm its way into my mind.

With this now fresh in my heart, I am confident that should I come across someone in need to today, I will offer assistance. That is right and good of course, but I believe there are still things I can be doing for others even if I do not happen upon someone who has been robbed and beaten. In other words, I can be pro-active in helping out.

For example, there is a soup kitchen here in town that is always in need of volunteers. I also know of a home-bound person who may need a prescription picked up today. Perhaps there is another person that I know is struggling with loneliness. Today is a good day to call to say “Hello, I am thinking of you today.”

My point, to both me and you, is that there is plenty of need out there. We do not have to look to long or far to see it. May I encourage you to be a Good Samaritan today. I believe that when Jesus said, “Go and do likewise,” He included us in that direction.

I would love to hear how you have been moved to help others or perhaps share a unique way others can reach out to fill needs.

Thanks so much for reading.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?”

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As Jesus walks toward Jerusalem for the last time, He asks His disciples a question that is still relevant for all today: “”Who do you say that I am?”

Click on this link to hear the ‘studio version’ of the message I preached on this question this morning

Thanks for listening. 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

I Would Have Been Scared!

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In the first chapter of the Gospel according to Luke we read about Mary, about to become the mother of the Son of God, and the angel Gabriel, who had been dispatched to tell her this incredible news. If you would like, please stop here in order to refresh the account in your mind. It can be found in Luke 1:26-38.

Welcome back! What struck me as I shared from this passage with our Sunday evening group was how Mary responded to this angelic visit and the news it carried to her. Before delving into Mary’ response to this wondrous sight, let us take a quick look at the responses of some of the great persons of faith from the Bible who also received a visit from angels.

Daniel was a person of strong faith. He served God throughout his life, even when his faith brought him into danger. Yet when the angel visits Daniel (Chapter 10 of Daniel), he describes himself as having “no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. (Daniel 10:8 NIV).

Zechariah was the father of John the Baptist. He was a priest in Israel. They were the ones who did the regular ministry in the temple, and occasionally one of them was selected to burn incense at the altar. On one such occasion, this duty fell to Zechariah. As he was tending to the incense, out of sight of everyone else, an angel appeared to him. This visitor told Zechariah that even though he and his wife Elizabeth were well passed child-bearing age, they would have a son. Before he even got this fantastic news Zechariah was struck with fear at the sight of the angel: When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear (John 1:12 NIV).

The Apostle John was one of the original twelve disciples of Jesus. He was an eyewitness to all the miracles the Lord performed. He saw the healings and heard the teachings. He was in daily contact with Jesus for over three years. Despite all this experience, John is also gripped with fear as he has the vision from which he wrote the Book of Revelation: When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid.” (Revelation 1:17-18a NIV).

As we read about Mary’s encounter with a heavenly messenger, we see her response is not quite like the ones I just listed. The angel Gabriel appears and says to her, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:28 NIV). It is vital to keep in mind the circumstances: Mary, probably around 14 years of age, is engaged to Joseph. Marriages were usually arranged in those days, and it is possible Mary had not even met this older man yet. What was of the utmost importance was her purity: Mary had to be a virgin to be in keeping with religious and societal expectations then.

After the initial greeting, the narrative tells us that Mary is troubled, and wondered what this was all about. Notice she did not have the ‘knees turned to rubber’ response that Daniel, Zechariah and John had. She was no doubt shocked, but by no means paralyzed with fear. The angel Gabriel must have sensed her confusion as he told her, “Don’t be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.” (Luke 1:30 NIV). He then delivers the incredible news of her pending pregnancy with no less than the Son of God! In her sandals, I would have been more than scared at this point!!

Not Mary, however. The dialogue between her and Gabriel leaves us the with understanding that she listened, as outrageous as it must have sounded to her, and vowed her obedience to God’s plan. After Gabriel explains how she will super-naturally conceive the Savior of the world, she simply states, “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Luke 1:38 NIV).

Why then, I wondered, was Mary’s response so much different than what those three heroes of the faith had? After all, they had seen much in their long lives. God had no doubt been present with them and yet when faced with an angel from heaven, they literally quaked with fear.

Maybe, and this is just my opinion, their own experiences with the things of God had made them a bit too comfortable with how the Almighty does things. To a man, they gave witness to God’s greatness but when faced with a being from heaven, they melted as if they were wax near a flame.

Mary, with all of 14 or so years to her credit, simply listened to the message given her, considered it, and swore her obedience to God. Perhaps her understanding of God was less biased. Life experiences had not in any way caused her outlook to be anything other than innocently open to the Almighty. Hence, not fear when approached by Gabriel, but rather a more child-like wonder.

As the Christmas season comes again this year, I am hoping to re-discover some of that youthful wonder in myself. In a year that has left many of us bruised and battered by what we have seen and experienced, I yearn to be more open to God and what He is doing in these days.

I know how easy it can be to get distracted by and distraught over the condition of our world. Won’t you join with me in seeking to keep all those things in their proper place so that I/we can marvel again at the awesome work of God.

Thanks for reading. Be blessed and be a blessing,

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.