Thursday, September 06, 2007
For those of you who may read this and know nothing about our community, allow me to put this into perspective. This was very similar to the win that Appalachian State secured over the Michigan Wolverines the following afternoon. Dalton loses very seldom, and when they lose, it is usually to a team in their own class or in a higher class. Calhoun is a Double-AA team and Dalton is a Quadruple-AAAA team.
For me, personally, this was a victory in which I relished. I grew up in Ringgold, Georgia, and we also played the Dalton Catamounts. The last time I saw Dalton lose to Ringgold was in 1981, when I was only eight years old. When I was a junior in High School, we only lost one regular season game, and it was to, you guessed it, Dalton.
To make the victory even more sweet, Calhoun won the game on the very last play when their quarterback threw a "Hail Mary" pass to the five yard line where it was caught and run into the end-zone for the go-ahead score. The stadium on the Calhoun side was in blissful chaos. Grown men were hugging each other, students were jumping up and down, and there were even a few tears of joy in the eyes of some of the fans.
As I left the stadium that night, I took a moment to look at the Calhoun players who were assembled in celebration on the field. I thought to myself, "I hope they really celebrate this victory." Too often, we allow victories to go by too soon. Before the taste of victory is even savored, our attention is turned to the next opponent or the next responsibility.
As a follower of Christ, I believe that life can be lived in victory. No, not a victory which ignores reality and refuses to see the pain in ourselves and in our neighbors, but a victory that is based on the person of Jesus Christ. Because Jesus conquered death and rose from the grave, I believe God is pulling all of us into a victorious future that has already been won. I celebrate this victory with my brothers and sisters in Christ every Sunday when we gather for worship. During worship, we remember the goodness of God, the victory of Jesus, and celebrate the victory over death that we share with him - not because of who we are - but precisely because of who Jesus is and how good He is to us.
The next time victory comes your way, take time to celebrate it. And if you are looking for victory in life, seek the Lord who loves you and has already won a victory on your behalf.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
She worked just outside of the cafeteria at Emory University Hospital in a bakery/coffee shop called The Bishop's Pantry. One day while eating with other seminary students in the cafeteria, a fellow student said, "have you gotten the deal yet at The Bishop's Pantry?" My inquiring mind wanted to know more. "What's the deal?" My friend divulged his secret, "when you order two chocolate chip cookies for a dollar, the lady behind the counter automatically slips a third cookie in your bag." "NO WAY," I said.
That very afternoon, after depositing my tray at the hospital cafeteria, I decided to go to The Bishop's Pantry to see if I would get the deal. I ordered two cookies, paid my one dollar bill, and quickly took my bag and went outside to see if three cookies occupied a two cookie bag. I couldn't believe it....I had gotten the deal!
For the remainder of my days in seminary, I was a frequent recipient of the deal. Never did I go to The Bishop's Pantry and only receive two cookies. There was always a third cookie gracing my bag. It sounds like an insignificant gesture, and maybe it was, but to me it made a tremendous difference. There I was...a lowly student with little income. The third cookie in my bag was always a boost to me. It was the special treat I saved for the drive home that brightened my outlook on life. It was the dose of sugar I needed to get me through my final class. It was a token of blessing that made me feel like I had someone looking out for me in a place where it can be easy to go nameless.
The other day I found myself back at The Bishop's Pantry. The kind lady no longer worked there. Out of curiosity and the desire for a sugar rush, I ordered two cookies. Upon opening my bag, I looked inside to find no surprises. The deal was no more. I thought of the law students, medical students, and seminary students who were missing out on a little blessing in life. And I said a word of thanksgiving to God. I don't know where the little lady from The Bishop's Pantry is today or what she might be doing, but her generosity will never be forgotten. Quite possibly, it was a third cookie on many occasions that helped me make it through school.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
My wife and I were in the process of painting our little boy's bedroom. He will turn two years old on Friday, and we are transforming his room into a "big boy" room. As we coated the walls with shades of Georgia red, I wondered silently why someone had turned off the A/C. A trip to the thermostat revealed that our house was a toasty 86 degrees. I quickly jumped into "jack of all trades" mode. Upon arriving at the breaker box in our basement, I found that the breaker had simply tripped. No problem there. I flipped the breaker and wonderful cool air began flowing again through the house...but not for long. Only ten minutes or so went by before the breaker tripped again. On my return trip to the breaker, I found that the breaker was extremely hot to the touch...a sign of a compressor going bad...or at least I thought.
On Sunday morning, after sleeping through a hot night, I shared my woes with a friend at church. My friend asked, "will you be home after church?" I replied, "sure will." He asked, "do you mind if I come by and look at your A/C?" "Do I mind...no way." I was sure that I would be without A/C for at least one more day until the heating and air specialists came back to work on Monday. The prospect of getting something done earlier almost seemed too good to be true.
To make a long story short, my friend did come by that afternoon with tools in hand. After a quick inspection of the breaker box, he found that my compressor was fine and that my whole problem was a simple loose wire connection in the box (alot of folks might say my main problem is a loose wire!). After tightening the wire, the A/C was up and running again like new. After a few hours, the house was tolerably cool again. My entire countenance changed. Before the A/C was fixed, I was hot, uncomfortable, agitated, and just out of my comfort zone completely. After the A/C was fixed, I was back to myself.
There are many people who face circumstances much worse than a broken A/C unit on a daily basis. They yearn for a little bit of good news. They look for solutions to their problems and understanding from a friend like the kind I had received from my friend at church. We may not have the solutions or the right tools to "fix" their problems. But the one thing I'm sure of, a little good news goes a long way. A smile, a listening ear, a touch of compassion, a willingness to be of help...all of these can brighten the countenance of those who are in the dark valleys of life. Do you have some good news to share with a friend? Don't be shy and assume you're only going to be an intrusion or a bother. Go out of your way to share a little good news. It might just be someone's saving grace when they need it most.
Monday, August 06, 2007
The thing I love so much about the writings of James is the way he speaks in practical terms about how our faith is applicable to everyday life. He teaches us how to deal with trials, how to understand temptation, how to deal with finances, how to confront the evil in our own hearts, and most importantly - how to please God.
James reminds me that the focus of our religious practice is often misplaced. Our thoughts and efforts need to be directed toward people who are powerless. As we read together into the second chapter, James will say more about deeds being necessary to our faith.
As you read James chapter two this week, think about this question: "How does my life reflect the faith I have in Christ?" Do your words honor Christ? Does your use of time and money speak of your love for God and for your neighbor?
May the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit fill your heart with joy and give you guidance for everyday living as you read the Letter of James.
Saturday, August 04, 2007
When I turned 30, I made a short list of things I wanted to do in my thirties. I keep the list in my Bible as a reminder when I study in my Bible. The things on my list are not profound, but they are important. In my thirties I want to spend more time with God, spend more time with my family, save more money, and take better care of myself than I did in my twenties. So far, I have achieved most of my goals and am working on those that I haven't yet attained.
One goal I am doing better with is taking better care of myself. Over the last month, I've started a three day a week exercise routine at Fitness First of Calhoun. For thirty minutes, I do cardio exercise and for thirty more minutes I lift weights which was a passion of mine in High School. I've already lost five pounds, and I feel so much better. This year, I'm planning on feeling better at 34 than I did at 31.
In all of life, I believe balance is the key. I struggle with spreading my attention and efforts in a balanced manner. My prayer is that I will spend as much time with God (if not more) as I do getting into better physical shape.
Whatever age you may be, it is never too late to refocus your life and put God first in everything.
God's Blessings To You,
Friday, August 03, 2007
James: Life As It Intersects Faith: Part One: Religion That Is Pure
I. Ryan Malcom – one of the coolest kids I’ve ever met.
A. Great taste in music, clothes, sports, and girls.
B. Joy despite hardship.
C. His religion is pure…based on works of love.
II. Ryan epitomizes James One, and James One epitomizes life.
A. Out of the gate, he speaks of hardship, money, and
B. James is trying to define a life and faith that is
acceptable to God to a church that is plagued by the clash
of culture and religion.
III. What makes religion acceptable?
A. Vs. 27 – to look after orphans and widows.
1. Who do orphans and widows represent?
2. Who are the orphans and widows in our community?
3. Vs. 22-24 – “Doing” the word.
B. Vs. 27 – to keep from pollution.
1. Vs. 21 – What is the moral filth of our time?
2. The things that cannot save us are often what we are
striving so hard to attain in our culture.
Responding to God’s Word: Let us “do” what the word says.
Next Week: Read James 2. Memorize verse 26.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Next week, we will be starting a new sermon series on the Letter of James entitled "Faith As It Intersects Life." Another good title for this series would be "Where the Rubber Meets the Road." You can look here to find my outlines for this series each week. Enjoy!
The Tough Questions: Part VII: Cremation Vs. Burial: Is Cremation Wrong?
1 Corinthians 15:42-58 (pg. 166)
I. A story of life, death, fear, and relief.
A. Death is a sobering subject.
B. What we do with the dead is of utmost importance.
1. It reflects upon God.
2. It reflects upon the deceased.
3. It reflects upon ourselves/the community.
C. Thus, today’s question is vital in our present time.
II. A bit of history.
A. Cremation was common in Greece and in Rome in the
final eight centuries before the birth of Christ.
B. The Jews and Egyptians preferred burial.
1. The mummies of Egypt – preparing for the afterlife.
2. The burial of Jews – the body as sacred.
a. Genesis 50:24-26 (pg. 46 in O.T.)
b. Burial in tombs – 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (Pg. 165)
c. Ossuaries, “bone boxes,” from early Christianity.
d. Orthodox Jews do not cremate to this day.
C. After Christianity became the religion of Rome, cremation
ceased as a common practice.
D. The majority of Christian denominations including the
Catholic Church allow for cremation today.
III. What is at stake in this question? The Resurrection.
A. The human body does not have to be in a certain condition to be resurrected. (1 Corinthians 15:50 – pg. 166).
B. The human body in whatever form of death will be changed
(1 Corinthians 15:51).
C. God will make the resurrected body as God desires despite
its form in death.
Responding to God’s Word: Prepare for death as a new beginning and take peace in the love, grace, and power of Almighty God.
Monday, July 02, 2007
Last week, I led a group of 15 missionaries from our district to repair homes in the Biloxi, Mississippi area. We began our week with a devotion from Psalm 4:6 which says, “Many are asking, ‘Who can show us any good?’ Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord.” Our prayer was that the light of God’s face would shine upon us as we worked and ministered.
On Wednesday of last week, I was feeling pretty good about being an ambassador for Christ. Then it happened. While placing insulation in the attic of a house with our District Superintendent, I misplaced my foot and stepped through the sheetrock in the ceiling. I was immediately sick with disgust. I thought to myself, “here I am trying to help a lady repair her home so that she can move-in by the end of the week and instead of helping, I’ve just caused another problem.”
On Thursday morning, a couple of expert handymen
For the rest of the day, while we waited on sheetrock mud to dry, we did odd jobs around her home. We fixed little things that needed repairing and tried to determine the cause of some electrical problems she had been having. All the while, she talked to us about her life, her family, and her trials over the last two years.
When our work at her home was done and we reflected on the day, a team member stated something I hadn’t yet realized. She said, “Brian, I think God wanted you to step through that ceiling.” You see, without my “mistake,” we would have insulated her house on Wednesday and been on our way to another project. However, my “mistake” had afforded us the opportunity to slow down and listen to the concerns of this dear lady who not only needed a helping hand but a listening ear as well.
Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” I believe that some mistakes are divine in that they enable us to be still long enough to listen to what God is saying and to see what God is doing. The next time you step through a ceiling you didn’t intend to damage or find yourself off the path you were traveling, take the time to listen and hear the voice of God.
Monday, May 14, 2007
Last week, we played a team that was superior to our own. In the first inning, this relentless group of Baptist sluggers mercilessly racked up eleven runs. The rest of the game consisted of more of the same. After three innings of watching their team members round the bases and score, my blood began to boil. I wanted our team to at least be competitive, but the Baptists made beating us look fun and easy.
Then it happened. While playing in the field at second base, a ball was popped high up in the air behind me. I was determined to catch it. I ran toward middle right field looking over my shoulder, adjusting to the flight of ball. Nothing was going to stop me from catching that ball. So as the ball shifted directions with the wind, I changed my own trajectory and dove toward where the ball would be landing.
Now I wish I could tell you that I caught that ball, but I didn't! No, the ball hit the end of my glove and bounced to the ground. I immediately knew that I had a problem. Scraping myself off the ground I felt a sharp pain in my upper left ribcage. That sharp pain is still piercing me with every wrong move one week later.
Back to the ballgame....the anger that had been at boiling point before my dropped ball was now at volcanic explosion level. Being the preacher that I am, I gritted my teeth and kept playing without expressing my displeasure to my teammates or to my opponents. Then the bad got worse. Two bad calls by the umpires put an already lost cause so far out of reach that it was an utter impossibility to come back in our final at-bat.
I went home that night with a chip on my shoulder. "You're only out there to have fun, you know, " is what I kept telling myself. "It doesn't matter if you win or lose, it's how you play the game" were words from past coaches that surfaced as I fought against my anger. But I wasn't buying it. Why did I want to win so bad? Why did getting beat in a softball game that meant "nothing" sting so severely? Why had I let myself get so angry?
Maybe, just maybe, my anger has nothing to do with losing a softball game. Maybe the softball game was only the event that unleashed what was buried beneath. If I'm honest with myself, I might admit that my anger from losing the game came from my anger about the inequities of life. Perhaps I need a good softball game every now and then to remind me that there are some things worth getting angry about.
There is much in our world today we need to be angry about...starving people who go ignored, those dying of diseases that could be cured, greed in the face of rampant need, leaders bent on power and domination instead of the welfare of those they lead, laziness (my own included) when so much needs to be done....just to name a few. If it takes a good softball game to remind me that I need to be more serious in combating the evils of this world, then put me on the field, coach, I'm ready to play!
Prayer: Gracious Lord, may the pain in my rib and every pain in life remind me of those who cries for help go unheard.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Right now at Calhoun First UMC, we are talking about the future. These discussions in our Administrative Council and other committees have been going on for the past two years. We are trying to decide the best course of action for our future concerning our buildings. We are somewhat landlocked with only a couple of acres and very little parking, but we have good facilities where we are. So what is a congregation to do? Do we buy property elsewhere? Do we build where we are and pray for more parking? Do we do both?
Lately, my prayer is that whatever we do, we will do it "God's Way" and not according to human wisdom and business strategy. I think we Christians often do things our way because it is logical and makes sense instead of seeking God's Way which often times isn't the most efficient or logical. We do this in our personal lives as well as in the church.
Pray with me today that we would seek God's Way...whatever that may be in our various situations. Pray that God would give us the wisdom to recognize God's Way over our own.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
Yesterday during our Lenten Luncheon devotional, the Rev. Charles Gardner (Associate Pastor at Peachtree Road UMC in Atlanta) spoke about simplicity. I needed to hear his message during this busy season. The meals, the fasting, the prayers, the devotions, the Bible Studies, the movies, and everything associated with Lent all lead to one conclusion and one celebration - Jesus Christ gave His life on the cross for every human being and after dying, God raised Him from the dead. That's it. That's the life changing message we need not forget. Christ needs to be at the center of our hearts and lives this Easter.
I encourage you to take some time today for silence...to prayerfully listen to God. Read Scripture, turn off the noise, sit quietly, and center yourself on Christ.
May His grace and resurrection power transform each one of us!
Monday, April 02, 2007
“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.” 1 Corinthians 15:17-20 (NRSV)
Several weeks ago when the program aired, I watched every minute of it along with the program that followed during which the creators of the documentary and other scholars debated the validity of the ossuaries. As I watched the program, I must say that my faith was not shaken in the least bit. While there are scholastic reasons which explain how the ossuaries are likely not those of the family of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, my personal experience of the living Christ and the truth of God’s Word are more than enough proof that Jesus is indeed alive.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is at the very core of our faith. The Apostle Paul explains clearly that if Jesus was never raised from the dead we are fools for wasting our time following a dead savior. If Jesus was never raised from the dead, we are still sinners doomed for Hell. If Jesus was never raised from the dead, our ancestors in the faith are also perishing in Hell. But the truth of the matter is that “Christ has been raised from the dead.” It is not for this life only that we have hope in Christ, but our eternity rests upon the power of the resurrection now at work in our lives.
The Christian message is unlike any other. We are saved by grace through faith in the living Christ. Through Jesus the living Savior, we have hope for tomorrow no matter what tomorrow brings. Through Jesus the living Savior, we will share as heirs with Christ in His eternal kingdom. Through Jesus the living Savior, the sting of death has been removed. Are you sharing this message of hope? Are you letting your neighbors know of your own experiences of the resurrected Christ?
As for those who believe that Jesus’ bones are in a grave and that the resurrection is a hoax, Paul also provides us with a clear explanation: For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18
Thursday, March 29, 2007
At the same time, the process of finding staff members can be draining. There are so many things to consider. Who is the best "fit" for the congregation's needs and the needs of the ministry? How will potential staff members work with me and the current staff members? Along with these and hundreds of other questions, there is the sadness involved in saying good-bye to the beloved staff members we are seeking to "replace."
As I write these words, I am revealing that I am tired. But more importantly, I am expressing that I am yearning for the pure nourishment and ministry of the Gospel. Sure, finding staff members is essential to the ministry of the church, but I want to share the Gospel. I want to be about the Father's work of healing hearts and mending wounds. In a nutshell, I am ready for Easter. I am ready to celebrate. I am ready to leave the darkness of Lent and find the rest and peace of Resurrection.
How about you? May God give each of us the grace to faithfully finish this Lent and to attend to the journey of our Lord to the cross during this upcoming Holy Week. The mystery and grace of our Resurrected Lord is just around the corner.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Why did the Roman soldiers act this way? What were they trying to accomplish? It would have been bad enough for them to flog and crucify Jesus, but they go beyond this to totally strip Jesus of any respect. Perhaps they were ensuring that this man who claimed to be a king would get what he deserved for defying the Roman government. And then again, maybe it was a simple act of elevating themselves with the power they possessed.
The action taken by the Roman soldiers still goes on today. There are human beings in the world who use their power to elevate themselves and tread on the lowly.
God calls us through the Scriptures to live with humility and to take our place among the lowly. Indeed, the Apostle Paul says, "Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you."
To possess power is not a sin - in an of itself. However, we are to use our power to bless others and provide for the needs of the powerless. How are you using the gifts of power that God has given you?
Monday, March 26, 2007
This past Sunday, we read from Mark 15:15-20. In these verses, Jesus is tortured and humiliated by the Roman soldiers. His torture begins with a flogging and continues with repeated blows to the head. And as far as humiliation is concerned, Jesus is spat upon and mocked for being a "king" who the Romans regard as no king at all.
I hinted during my sermon that I don't like reading this passage. I am much more comfortable reading about the resurrection and skipping to the end of the story where Jesus is victorious. But as I've thought about this passage, I can't help but wonder what Jesus is doing and thinking as they torture and mock Him. Mark does not tell us about the look on Jesus' face, the agony that He must have experienced, or the shrieks that must have come from His mouth with the strike of every whip.
So what did Jesus think? What words or noise were uttered from His mouth? Far be it from me to give answer to that question. However, I can tell you what Jesus was not thinking or saying. Jesus was not thinking about vengeance nor was He uttering threats. Whether it was in silence or words, the posture of Jesus' pain was one of dignity...not a dignity of pride...but a dignity of purpose born from love and grace. They could strip Him of His clothes, deny Him of any human respect, and make a mockery of Him, but they could not change His heart...a heart filled a love and grace we can only begin to understand.
From a Christian point of view, being "dignified" has nothing to do with what we wear, what we drive, or where we live. To live with dignity means that we exhibit the same love and grace as our Savior...even when our Lord and our faith are mocked or disregarded.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Let me set the picture for you. Peter and John had just been released from captivity. They had been arrested for healing and preaching in Jesus' name. After they were reunited with their fellow believers, they began to pray with them for boldness. Listen to what they pray:
"For in this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness." (vs. 27-29)
Did you catch what they prayed? The believers remembered that Herod and Pilate (along with others) had tried and crucified Jesus. However, the trials and crucifixion had not stopped the ministry of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. The believers desired the same power and boldness that was exemplified in the life of Jesus.
You may be going through a trial in your own life. Don't give up. Don't stop praying. Instead, pray for the boldness to follow Jesus and trust in the power of the Holy Spirit to guide you.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
The first fifteen verses of Mark chapter fifteen tell us about Jesus' trial before Pilate. Each Gospel account makes additions to the information that Mark provides. One of the most interesting additions is found in the Gospel of Matthew. In Matthew 27:24, we find these words: "So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, 'I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves.'"
According to Matthew, Pilate wanted nothing to do with the death of Jesus. While he held power over Jesus and handed him over to be flogged and crucified, Pilate wanted to make it clear that it wasn't his idea or desire to crucify Jesus. Furthermore, when it came to an accounting of the blood of Jesus, Pilate wanted to remain innocent.
In one sense, all of humanity is like Pilate in his desire to be innocent. We hear from Scripture that "he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:7)," and yet, we want to proclaim our innocence. We argue with ourselves and with God that we have only broken the minor laws of the Ten Commandments. We work hard at times to justify our sins and provide good reasons for the times we turn away from God to follow our own desires. Essentially, we - like Pilate - want to wash our hands of having any part of Jesus dying on the cross.
Don't get me wrong...I'm not trying to riddle you with guilt as you read this devotional and make you feel that Jesus' death is all your fault. The truth is that each one of us, myself included, had a part in sending Jesus to the cross. My point is this: we cannot wash our hands of Jesus. We can justify our sins, we can proclaim our innocence, and we can even say we want nothing of Jesus, but the living Christ will whisper to our hearts that He went to the cross for each of us and desires to lead us into true wholeness and innocence through His forgiveness, grace, and salvation.
Monday, March 19, 2007
I can identify with Pilate this morning. I am a people pleaser. I am one of those folks who want the crowd to be satisfied, and when the crowd is not pleased, I lose sleep over it. How about you? Is pleasing others ever the source of your motivation? If we are not careful, pleasing people can lead us down the wrong path. In order to please the crowd, we can go against our better judgment. More importantly, we can go against God's will in order to please the crowd.
Examine your life today. Do you help others and volunteer your time out of love and compassion or out of a desire to please others? Do you make decisions based upon the truth and what is right, or do you make decisions based on what your peers think is best? Consider these questions today, and ask God in prayer to give you the strength to follow His commands and not the commands of other human beings.
Friday, March 16, 2007
Jesus did not leave Peter to suffer in his failure nor did Jesus abandon Peter as a disciple. Instead, in the Gospel of John, we read where Jesus gives Peter three opportunities to affirm his love for Jesus...three being the same number of times he had denied Him. Read the passage below.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Yes, Peter denies that he knows Jesus while Jesus is being interrogated by the High Priest. But let's look a little deeper this morning. Take into consideration the fact that Peter was present. While all of the other disciples have dispersed and fled the scene, Peter is close enough to Jesus to make eye contact with him. Think about the courage that it took for Peter to go with Jesus to the High Priest's house. The guards that had arrested Jesus are standing just a few feet away from Peter, and Peter knows that at any moment they can recognize him and arrest him too.
There is one fact we cannot deny...Peter loved Jesus and believed that Jesus was the Messiah - the Son of the Living God. Perhaps in his love for Jesus and in his strengths and weaknesses, we can catch a glimpse of ourselves. Are you feeling strong and courageous in your faith right now? Or are you feeling weak and timid in your walk with Christ? Whatever your answer to these questions may be, keep this in mind: The power of God is made perfect in weakness. Invite the Lord today to use His power through your weaknesses to accomplish His good and perfect will in your life.
On another note: Thursday is our day of fasting at Calhoun First United Methodist Church. I invite you to join us today as we fast and pray as a congregation. Pray for the church, pray for your walk with Christ, pray for other needs and concerns in your life, and give-up a meal or two throughout the day to focus on the presence of the Lord in your life...for He is your true nourishment. Blessings to you!
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Jesus called on a witness as He stood before the Jewish ruling council. No, He didn't call on a human witness or rely on the witness of His disciples. Instead, Jesus called on the witness of Scripture to affirm His identity and His ministry. In Mark 14:62, Jesus said, "I am; and 'you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power,' and 'coming with the clouds of heaven.'"
What did Jesus mean by this statement?
Take some time today to read Exodus 3:14, Psalm 110 and Daniel 7:13-14. After reading these passages, see if you can understand the witness Jesus was calling the Scriptures to provide for Him as He makes the statements in Mark 14:62.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Jesus tells the truth, but more importantly, He represents Himself truthfully. When asked if He is "the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One," He could have "skirted" the issue and told them He was only a prophet or a teacher. Instead, He answers by saying, "I am." Jesus knew the consequences of this answer, and yet, He lived with integrity even when it would lead to His death.
Peter tells lies, but more importantly, he represents himself falsely. When asked if he was "with Jesus the Nazarene," he answers by saying, "I don't know what on earth you're talking about" and again, "I don't know this man you're talking about." Peter knew the consequences of telling the truth, and he chose to lie in order to protect himself.
Mark, the Gospel writer, contrasts Jesus and Peter clearly. While life and death are at stake for both men, their integrity is also at stake. How do you represent yourself to others? Do people see "the real" you, or do people see one person in public that is totally different from the person you are in private? Jesus calls us to authentic faith and to holy living. Jesus calls us to live by faith in private as well as in public.
Confess to God today the areas in your life where you lack integrity. Pray for His transforming grace to help you live with integrity in every aspect of your life.
Monday, March 12, 2007
Is fear a motivating factor in your life? Fear can be a healthy motivator. It is fear that keeps us from touching a poisonous snake or jumping off a high cliff. However, fear can be an unhealthy motivator as well especially as it relates to our faith. Fear can lead us to avoid stepping-forward in faith to follow Jesus. Fear can also lead us to work against another person for the purpose of self-preservation.
So how do we deal with fear? 1 John 4:18 says, "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." We are to allow the perfect love of Jesus Christ to "drive out fear" from our lives. In other words, we are live following Jesus in His way of love and avoid giving into our fears.
Talk to God about your fears today. Ask for faith to trust in His love and grace that covers your life.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
As we prepare for this Sunday's message, the lesson comes from Mark 14:53-72. I haven't listed the passage below because of its length, but my sermon outline is listed below. Think about those who condemned Jesus to death. What was at stake for them? Think about the disciples, especially Peter, who were bewildered and silent as Jesus was being condemned. How are we like them in their silence in the current state of the church? May God bless you as you pray for and participate in Sunday worship.
Read Mark 14:53-72
24 Hours That Changed The World
Part 3: Condemned By The Righteous
Mark 14:53-72 (pg. 49)
I. Who sent Jesus to the cross?
A. If Jesus’ death had occurred five years ago, how would it be
B. Who would be questioned?
1. The Jews – the High Priest, the Chief Priests, the Elders,
the Scribes, and the false accusers.
2. The Romans – Pilate and the Roman soldiers.
3. The Disciples of Jesus – Judas’ betrayal; Peter’s silence.
4. Jesus – words reviewed.
II. The question remains: How could a man who was sinless and completely innocent of wrong-doing be put to death?
A. Those who believed Him to be guilty spoke up. vs. 55-56.
1. The “righteous” often speak out of condemnation.
2. The “righteous” often speak out of fear.
B. Those who knew Him to be innocent remained silent.
1. The silence of Jesus’ disciples.
2. The issues we remain silent about today for the sake of
our own comfort and convenience.
III. How did Jesus change the world?
A. Silence-vs. 61 – Isaiah 53:7 (Jesus gave Himself for our sins)
B. Confession-vs. 62 – Exodus 3:14 (Jesus was the Messiah)
Responding to God’s Word: Realize that the true answer to “Who sent Jesus to the cross?” is found by looking in the mirror. Isaiah 53:5 says, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities.”
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
In 1 Corinthians 10:12-13, the Apostle Paul gives a warning that is similar to Jesus' warning. He says, "So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it." It is interesting to note in verse twelve that Paul says, "if you think you are standing." Here again, when we feel strong in our faith is often when we are most vulnerable to temptation.
Where are you often most vulnerable to temptation? How would you finish this prayer, "God I often struggle..." Finish this prayer today by acknowledging to God your inner struggles and asking God to "provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it."
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
What human emotions are you experiencing right now? Sometimes we feel that our faith is weak or strong based on how we feel or on the emotions we are experiencing at any given time. However, the Christian faith is not based on feeling and emotion. In other words, our faith isn't strong when we feel good and weak when we feel bad. Emotions are human feelings we all experience, but faith is a choice to follow Christ and trust in His grace even when we feel weak, sad, agitated, distressed, etc.
Talk to God about the emotions you are dealing with this week. Ask God for the grace to handle those emotions with a positive attitude and to strengthen your faith.
Monday, March 05, 2007
In Mark 14:32 we read, "They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, 'Sit here while I pray.'" Jesus' favorite prayer retreat was the Garden of Gethsemane. Although we do know not for sure where it was located, it is possible that it was on the Mount of Olives overlooking the city of Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple.
Where do you pray? Do you have a sacred space where you go to be alone with God? If you do, give yourself some time in that special place this week to be alone with God and to listen for God's voice. If you do not have a special place of prayer, begin seeking that place and creating a time for prayer.
Thursday, March 01, 2007
Mark 14:32-42 - New International Version
They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, "Sit here while I pray."
He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.
"My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," he said to them. "Stay here and keep watch."
Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him.
"Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Simon," he said to Peter, "are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour?
Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak."
Once more he went away and prayed the same thing.
When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.
Returning the third time, he said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!"
24 Hours That Changed The World
Part 2: The Prayer In Gethsemane
Mark 14:32-42 (pg. 49)
I. When do people see “the real” you?
A. We often want to hide the fact that we are human.
B. We realize that we all deal with the same emotions.
II. In Gethsemane, we see the humanity of Jesus.
A. Jesus was distressed. vs. 33
B. Jesus was agitated. vs. 33
C. Jesus was deeply grieved. vs. 34
1. Jesus knew the prophecies of what was to come.
2. Jesus saw no way out – “a sink hole of dreadful agony.”
III. How does Jesus react to these emotions?
A. Jesus surrounds Himself with His closest friends. vs. 33
B. Jesus prays for deliverance. vs. 36a (response was “no”)
C. Jesus rebukes His friends for their lack of attentiveness.
1. vs. 37 – “Could you not keep awake one hour?”
2. vs. 41 – “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest?”
IV. How did Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane change the world?
A. Jesus chose God’s plan. vs. 36b
B. Jesus reversed the selfishness of humanity since the Garden
of Eden. (Genesis 3:6 pg. 2).
C. Jesus gave Himself in love instead of “bending” to His
Responding to God’s Word: Choose to meet the Lord on the path of self-giving love. Find a way this week to give to another in love.
One of the great promises in this section of Scripture comes from John 14:25-27 (provided below). Here, Jesus promises His disciples that the Holy Spirit will come to be their teacher, their Counselor, and their peace. As the disciples face an uncertain future, Jesus promises them that they will not be alone, but that the presence of Almighty God will be with them.
Read the words of John 14:25-27 today. Receive them as words of promise in your own life. Remember that Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit to guide you in the truth and to fill your heart with peace. Therefore, you do not have to live in fear of the uncertainty of the future. Instead, you can face the future knowing that the Holy Spirit will be with you to guide you in your walk with Jesus Christ.
John 14:25-27 - New International Version
"All this I have spoken while still with you.
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
In vs. 20 of this passage, Paul tells the Corinthian Christians that it is not the Lord's Supper that they eat. Sure, they were drinking wine and eating bread in their church setting, but they were doing so with no regard for each other. Furthermore, in disregarding each other, they were ignoring the presence of the Living Lord among them as they ate the elements of the Lord's Supper. For years (maybe even centuries), people have read vs. 27-30 and abstained from eating the Lord's Supper in fear of being unworthy of the Sacrament and thus bringing judgment upon themselves. However, eating the Lord's Supper in an unworthy manner doesn't mean that one eats the Lord's Supper before becoming "good enough" on his or her own merit. Instead, eating the Lord's Supper in an unworthy manner is to eat without regard for one's brothers and sisters in Christ and without remembering the Living Lord who gave His life for her or him on the cross.
In eating the Lord's Supper, how do you take worthy consideration of your brothers and sisters in Christ? Do you pray for them? Do you seek reconciliation with them? How do you remember and meet the Living Lord in the eating of the bread and juice? Think on these questions.
1 Corinthians 11
In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good.
In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it.
No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval.
When you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper you eat,
for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk.
Don't you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not!
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread,
and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me."
In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me."
For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.
A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.
For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.
That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.
But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.
When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.
So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other.
New International Version
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
First of all, the disciples were eating the Passover Lamb with Jesus who was also the Lamb of God. In 1 Corinthians 5:7, the Apostle Paul refers to Jesus as "our paschal lamb, Christ, (who) has been sacrificed." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of The Christian Church simply defines the "paschal lamb" as "the lamb sacrificed and eaten at the Jewish Passover. By analogy Christ is regarded as a 'Paschal Lamb.'"
Secondly, in the same way that the blood of the Passover Lamb was placed upon the doorposts of the Israelites' homes to deliver them from slavery and death in Egypt, so the blood of Jesus shed upon the cross and consumed in the wine/juice of Holy Communion became our deliverance from sin and death.
Thirdly, the Passover Meal was eaten during the Jewish Festival of Unleavened Bread. The bread was a symbol of God's sustaining grace. Jesus took the Unleavened Bread, broke it, and gave it to His disciples as a sign of the grace God was offering the world through Him.
Certainly, there are other similarities between the Passover Meal and the Lord's Supper. Therefore, to consider more about the Passover Meal, read Exodus 12:1-13 (provided below). As you read, answer these questions: How is the Passover Meal similar/different from the Lord's Supper? How is Jesus like/unlike the Passover Lamb? Pray today and thank God for sending Jesus to be our Paschal Lamb.
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt,
"This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.
Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household.
If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat.
The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats.
Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.
Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs.
That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast.
Do not eat the meat raw or cooked in water, but roast it over the fire--head, legs and inner parts.
Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it.
This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord's Passover.
"On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn--both men and animals--and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord.
The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.
Monday, February 26, 2007
As you read today's passage, look specifically at verses 17 through 21. In these verses, Jesus tells the twelve disciples, "one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me (vs. 18)." Although Mark does not tell us who this disciple is, we know him to be Judas Iscariot.
As we consider Judas' betrayal, let us not be too quick to condemn Judas. Like the other eleven disciples, we often think "surely, not I (vs. 19)" and believe that we are incapable of betraying Jesus. But let us consider how we betray Jesus in small ways...perhaps by choosing our own way instead of Jesus' way...perhaps through selfish indulgence instead of self-giving denial.
After reading verses 17 through 21, ask the Lord's forgiveness for the ways you have betrayed Him and invite the Holy Spirit to reveal God's loving presence with you as you work through this day. Also, reflect on how you met Jesus yesterday before, during, and after receiving Holy Communion. Have a blessed week!
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
This coming Sunday, February 25, I will begin a six week sermon series on the final day in Jesus' life...a day that tranformed the world and eternity. The sermon series is entitled, "24 Hours That Changed the World." The first sermon in this series is about the Last Supper and comes from Mark 14:12-25. At the end of this paragraph, you will find the Scripture passage and sermon outline for this sermon. Starting Monday, February 26, I will post a daily devotion based on the sermon for previous Sunday. May God bless you as you join us in studying the Scriptures and devoting yourself to a closer walk with Jesus Christ.
On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus' disciples asked him, "Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?"
So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, "Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him.
Say to the owner of the house he enters, 'The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?'
He will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there."
The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.
When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve.
While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, "I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me--one who is eating with me."
They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, "Surely not I?"
"It is one of the Twelve," he replied, "one who dips bread into the bowl with me.
The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born."
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take it; this is my body."
Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it.
"This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many," he said to them.
"I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God."
24 Hours That Changed The World
Part I: The Lord’s Supper
Mark 14:12-25 (pg. 48)
I. A farewell banquet for Michigan State’s next punter.
A. At a farewell banquet, the host and celebrants normally
gather to prepare the traveler for the journey ahead.
B. At Jesus’ Last Supper with His disciples, the traveler
prepared the hosts and celebrants for their journey without Him.
II. They ate the Passover meal– an important Jewish Festival remembering their ancestors’ suffering in Egypt and celebrating their freedom from captivity through God’s deliverance.
A. A sacrificial lamb was prepared. (Exodus 12:1-6 pg. 56)
B. The lamb was roasted along with bitter herbs which
represented the suffering of the Israelites in Egypt. (Ex. 12:8)
C. The blood of the lamb became their deliverance. (Ex. 12:7,
D. It was prophesied that blood would be the sign of God’s
covenant with Israel through their coming King. (Zechariah 9:9-
11 pg. 833) [This prophecy looked backward and forward].
III. Their meal became the Lord’s Supper – sharing in the suffering of Christ and celebrating complete deliverance from sin.
A. The unleavened bread became the sign of His body (vs. 22)
B. The cup became the sign of the covenant blood (vs. 23-24)
C. In eating the Lord’s Supper, we share in Christ’s suffering
and celebrate our redemption through Him.
IV. Why was this meal so important to Jesus?
Jesus intended it (the Lord’s Supper) to be the central means
whereby His kingdom-achieving death would be known, believed,
appropriated and lived out. Tom Wright, Mark for Everyone
Responding to God’s Word: Participate in the Lord’s Supper believing, appropriating, and living out Christ’s sacrificial death.