Are You Walking In Darkness?

Click Here to Read This Week’s Epistle: Ephesians 5:8-19


 

Walk in light mlk

Light is critical to all life. No living things grow and flourish in darkness. Without Christ in our life, we walk in darkness. St. Paul tells the Ephesian people how important it is to live and walk as children of light. In this scripture, St. Paul tells us that all good fruit in life is a product of the light of Christ in our world. As such he encourages us to walk in ways that will grow good fruit; this is the heart of the gospel. Jesus says the world will know we are Christians by the fruit of our lives (Matt. 7:16).

Yesterday (Sunday) began the season of Advent on the Western Christian Calendar. The Eastern churches have been in Advent for a while longer. Advent is a time for celebrating the coming of Jesus Christ, the uncreated, eternal light, into our world at His nativity. Jesus’ first coming was not only to save the world, but to show us the way to a life of meaning and purpose, to shed His light upon those who will open their eyes and see. The Light of Jesus conquers all darkness; it brings us together so we don’t have to walk alone. St. John says if we walk in the light of Christ, because He is the light, then we have fellowship with one another and we are made clean by His blood (1 John 1:7).

But, what does it mean to “walk in the light”? One thing it means is to have eyes of faith that Jesus is present and working in our situation no matter how dark it looks. The psalmist says that even thought the light around us becomes dark, it isn’t dark to God, and there is nowhere we can escape His presence (Ps. 139). Sometimes, life gets so hard it appears all is darkness, but don’t give up. Jesus never leaves or forsakes us. He is at work in even through the dark times of life.

Just as darkness can seem to prevail even though the light of Christ is everywhere, it is also possible to perceive darkness as light. Our Epistle for this week tells us to discern what is pleasing to the Lord (Vs. 10). Not everything that looks like light is light. Some light is counterfeit. Satan masquerades as an Angel of light, according to scripture (2 Cor. 11:14), so we must learn what is pleasing to the Lord. One of the ways we learn is to spend time in scripture and prayer; Advent is a great time to grow in these spiritual  disciplines.

This Week:

As we begin Advent this week, ask yourself this question; am I walking in darkness? We must be able to discern the difference in true light from false light. If things appear dark around you, call out to Jesus; He is here for you.  Let’s take the great Apostle’s words seriously and learn to walk wisely (vs. 15) because the days are evil. I’m praying for an increase of light on my path, and I hope you will too. The first candle of Advent is the candle of Hope. Not matter what your life is like today, remember, there is always hope, and hope does not disappoint (Rom. 5:5).

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Brad

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

Matt. 5:6

Where Does All the Madness End?

Further thoughts on Luke 12;                                                                                    Click Here to Read This Week’s Gospel: Luke 12:16-2

Black Friday

I started this week with an intention to be thankful for what I have been given in this life. No, not the stuff (but, yes that too), but the real gifts: family, freedom, shelter, food, and of course, love. Thanks to meditating on Jesus’ parable about the Rich Fool in Luke 12, I have managed to be more thankful than usual. In my meditating, I also started wondering how much and how soon all this bounty we enjoy in America might go away, if we stay on our present political course. Let’s face it, for all the slams capitalism has received by the current Administration, it is what built our freedom and plenty. That, coupled with an understanding  it all happened by God’s grace (which as a nation we have totally taken for granted) brought me to a place of anger this day after Thanksgiving.

Why am I angry? Because like the fool in the parable, we ought to know better. Just like the fact that no communist/socialist economy in the world has ever produced the kind of success in science and industry capitalism has in the West, so too no other Western nation has ever produced the freedom the United States has. And, what have we done with our freedom? If the advertisements on Thanksgiving week TV are any indication we’ve used them to further fuel greed in the masses.

I spent over 18 years in the retail industry in my young working career (before entering the ordained ministry). I worked every day after Thanksgiving; it was always the biggest shopping day of the year. BUT…our store didn’t open till 8AM, AND there were no mobs beating down the doors to get inside. No one was trampling over their fellow man to grab a supposedly incredible deal item out of the hands of another. There was almost something beautiful about it. Were the retailers greedy? Sure. But they were sane about how they went about it.

Where does the madness end? Now retailers can’t even wait until Friday. Many big box stores are opening on Thanksgiving Day! Pretty soon there won’t be a Thanksgiving Day because no one will have time to cook; they’ll all be out shopping for early “Black Thursday” deals. And, then it will be Black Wednesday, Tuesday and so on. Get the picture? Like the fool in the parable, greed has taken over our thankfulness.

Where does all the madness end? I guess, when like in the parable, God says to us all, “You fool, this night your soul will be required of you.” I pray we don’t get to that point. I pray we wake up and take time to smell the coffee on Friday morning. Then, relax and enjoy a second cup as we reflect on the wonderful time we had on Thursday with our families. I did. And, that’s what I plan to do next year, and the year after that, and so on and so on, unless and until the Lord puts a stop to the madness one way or another.

It doesn’t have to come to that, you know.We can put a stop to the madness. Next year, you can refuse to go out and shop on Thanksgiving Day. Just stay home, relax and enjoy your family. There will always be another deal.

 

 

From Whom All Blessings Flow

Click Here to Read This Week’s Gospel: Luke 12:16-21


 

Thanksgiving rural black and white

Thanksgiving is this week. It is a time to be thankful for all we have and to remember from whom all our blessings flow. I wonder how many people will gather around a table Thursday and eat an extravagant meal without even realizing for what they should be truly thankful? It seems ironic to me that of all weeks the gospel for the Sunday before Thanksgiving speaks to the consequences of living a thankless life.

Some will be thankful. They will be thankful for living in freedom so they can gather as family to celebrate. Some will be thankful their employer hasn’t laid them off at work like so many others in recent years. Some will be thankful for the family that gathers around them. I suppose there may be a myriad of other things people will be thankful for this Thursday, all of them well and good, but how many will recognize the real source of their blessings?

Like the man of whom Jesus speaks in this week’s gospel lesson we all have much to be thankful for, but I fear many of us will gather without a clue of of just how blessed we really are. We will fail to see the true source of our blessings. The rich farmer was extremely satisfied with himself and all he had accomplished. His crops had a banner year, so much so that he thought he needed to build a bigger barn to hold them all. And, it appears his desire to store up his crops was to make certain he was secure well into the future. And, all of this was without even a thought of God who blessed the crops, the land, and the weather.

How many of us will go to the pantry this week to pull out all the trimmings to cook for our feast and it won’t put a dent in the stockpiles we have? And, on top of that, we will all go the grocery store and buy a bunch more to be sure we don’t run out of food over the holidays.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against celebrating holidays with feasts for our families. After all, God taught His children to hold feasts to celebrate the holy days of their faith. But, when we can live in a land of such plenty  that we no longer give a thought to the hard work and sacrifice it took someone to put the food on the market shelves and on our tables, let alone the God who made it all possible, then I have to wonder if we really are thankful for anything, or if we’re just getting together to pig out on turkey, potatoes and pie.

Thankfulness should be ingrained in our being. In a chapter of St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians that speaks mostly about death and hardships, he reminds those who are grieving that the hardships come that we may remember to give thanks to the glory of God that is being revealed:All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God” (2 Cor. 4:15). 

This Week:

I hope you have someone to gather with this week around a big dinner table filled with all your favorite foods. If you feel alone, and have no family with whom to gather, I pray you can find a church ministry nearby that will be offering Thanksgiving dinner to those who are without.

I also want to challenge you to think about your blessings each day this week as you work your way toward that great feast. Try meditating on this verse from Psalm 95 each day this week: Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods.” (Ps. 95:2-3). The LORD our God is the source from whom all blessings flow. Let us praise him, Father, Son and Holy Ghost…Amen.

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Brad

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

Matthew 5:6

 

 

I Am A Miracle!

Further thoughts on Luke 8…


miracles

Friday is my favorite day. I’m off work on Fridays, usually (that is if a pastor is ever really off work). When it comes to the end of a hard week, I really need to be reminded that Jesus is here to heal me, just as much as He was that day back when He healed the woman with the issue of blood. Sometimes, I think we believe Jesus was more likely to heal someone back then than He is now. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Jesus is still in the miracle business as much as ever, perhaps even more. I recently listened to some testimonies of a Christian tribal leader in Africa where they regularly see miracles. In fact, he said they even see resurrections. That’s right, I said resurrections. The man said they are surprised when there is only one resurrection in a month; there are usually three or four.

Do we, in our 21st century modern context, where we can put a man on the moon and cure many diseases, think miraculous healings are even possible? I wonder. When Jesus commissioned his disciples to go and minister, He told them to go and heal the sick, and even raise the dead (Matt. 10:8). There are two records where his Apostles, Peter and Paul did just that by raising Dorcas (Acts 9) and Eutyches (Acts 20) from the dead. Ancient Christian history is filled with many other such miracles.

But what about today? Do we live and minister in the church like we believe this is still possible? Perhaps such lack of faith is precisely why so many churches seem to be living below the power of the early church. I don’t know about you, but I believe God still does miracles. In fact, He never stopped.

We began this week looking at Luke 8 and two miraculous stories, one was Jesus’ raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead. As I come to the end of the week, I know I believe Jesus still does miracles – because I am one. My life is nothing short of miraculous when I look back on all Jesus has done for me, and what He has kept from me. Today, after a long hard week, rather than feel sorry for myself and how hard a week I have had, I realize I don’t really need a miracle to rescue me from a tough week; that’s life. What I do need is to be thankful for His grace given to me to handle the many ups and downs of each day. I really need to spend some time thanking Jesus for all he has done for me.

What about you? What kind of week have you had? Perhaps you really do need a miracle to rescue you. If so, ask and believe; don’t doubt. My pastor, Brent Van Hook has a benediction prayer he often prays in services. The last line of the prayer says something like this, “Pray not for easy lives, but for strength equal to your task…so that you will become the miracle.”

I pray that through all the ups and downs you have probably encountered this week you can look at your life and say… “Thank you Jesus. I am a miracle!”

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Brad

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

Matthew 5:6

Image credit:http://pleaseconvinceme.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/miracles.jpg

All That Is Hidden Will Be Revealed

Hidden

This Week’s Gospel – Click to Read: Luke 8:41-56

Jesus Heals the Woman With the Issue of Blood


It is a sad commentary that some who come to faith in Jesus Christ think they can hide the fact from everyone around them. They want the healing that comes through Jesus, but they really do not want to change; they are afraid to be seen as, somehow, different. But, the truth is once we have encountered the risen Christ in a personal way we are different, and we will never be the same again.

The gospel this week tells of a woman who wanted desperately to be healed of her affliction. In fact, she had spent most of her money going to doctors, year after year, but to no avail; none could heal her. Then, she met Jesus.

She heard He was coming to her village. The crowds were huge that day. The streets were like wall-to-wall people crammed together all trying to get a get a glimpse of the miracle worker. Some perhaps, wanted to try and touch Him thinking that would make them well. Such was the lady whom had spent her life’s savings on doctors that could never heal her.

When the woman actually got close enough to Jesus to touch his garments, she felt it. She knew it had worked. She could feel it in her body. She was healed – instantly! All those years and all that money wasted, looking for a cure that came with just a touch. Why? What was different? This time she came in faith, not to a man, but to God.

Everyone had said Jesus was the Messiah. She had heard such amazing stories; the blind saw, the lame walked, the dead were raised. She knew it must be true. Her faith told her if she could just touch Him, she too would be healed. And so she was.

You would think she would have shouted for joy! I think I would have screamed Hallelujah! But, not her. Verse 47 says that when she realized she was not hidden, she fell at Jesus’ feet. Not only did Jesus know she was healed, everyone else did too as He exclaimed, “Who touched me?”

We can’t come to Jesus on our own terms, expecting to get everything we want, and not have to give anything in return. Hey “I thought grace was free”, you say? Grace is free, but Jesus is not a vending machine. We cannot just come to Jesus anytime we want, put in a quarter, and get whatever we want, then walk away as if we just made a secret transaction. No, Jesus wants us to show the world what He has done for us.

The woman wanted to stay hidden. She wanted to go back to living her private life with her newly healed body as if nothing ever happened. When Jesus touches our lives it is a big deal! So big that He wants the world to know.

Why is it so important for us to show the world what Jesus has done for us? Because, He is the answer to all the world’s needs and if we don’t tell what He has done for us, others will continue looking for answers in all the wrong places. They will keep wasting their money on would be cures that never happen. Our testimony might be the key to unlocking Jesus’ healing in someone else.

This Week:

What about you? Are you still living as if you are trying to hide like the woman did. I know God wants to touch your life in a powerful and meaningful way. He wants to heal all that is broken in you. But, He wants you to give Him the glory, and you do that by telling others what He has done for you.

Won’t you come to Jesus with all your needs. He may take the burden away from you, or give you the grace to bear up under it, either way His healing is always perfect. Let him heal you, and then live out your amazing testimony. Others will see, and others will come. All that is hidden will one day be revealed.

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Brad

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

Matthew 5:6

The High-Low Game

High low

Ever play the High-Low Game in life? No, not the card game. You know, the one where your day’s events take you from the heights of the splendor of the Himalayas all the way to the depths of the Dead Sea. Sometimes it happens all in one week, sometimes even all in one day.

I began this week concentrating on the miracles of Jesus. Even though things kept going low, I kept thinking about Jesus and His miracles. It’s just like Him to remind you of His great love by giving you a great High at the end of some pretty low lows.

How can we understand the depths of the Father’s love for us, when all we see is lows, gloom and despair? The days when we have real lows, the kind that leave us completely exhausted and praying for the day to end so we can just get past it, can leave us feeling as if we need a miracle in order to recover. These kind of lows knock us down so low, we know the only place left to go is up.

But, how do we get up? By believing in what seems impossible? Yes. By believing in miracles? Absolutely. Our Father in Heaven specializes in things thought impossible. When you are feeling lower than ever, get ready. God is going to rush in to you with good news, and you will be back up before you know it. Lows are inevitable in life, but it is important to remember that God’s plans are to bring you hope and a future, to prosper you and not to harm you (Jer. 29:11).

On Thursday, my day began with a worst possible scenario at work. In fact, the week had been filled with more than a few lows already, like family emergencies and strained relationships. However, knowing how low I felt, Jesus reminded me of hope, and hope never disappoints (Rom. 5:5). Just when I thought my week couldn’t get any worse, I went from what had to be the worst appointment in my career, to one of the best. Then to top it all off, a young couple came in to the church looking for someone to believe in them. With a marriage license in hand, and hope in their hearts, the couple was looking for a Pastor to marry them.

The young couple were friends of a friend. Like so many young people today, they don’t attend church. However, after a year of dating they knew they wanted a Pastor to marry them, not a judge. My friend told them, “Let’s go see Pastor Riley”. And so, a day that started so low it couldn’t get any worse, which came on top of a week already filled with a lot of lows, ended in the chapel celebrating in joy for a young couple just starting out in life together.

How has your week been? I hope it has not been filled with too much of the High-Low game. As I have thought about the gospel this week, and how Jesus brought such a high to a whole community by healing the demoniac (of whom the people were terrified),  I can’t imagine how they could ask Him to leave. Yes, life will always have low times, and yes some may be pretty bad. But, Jesus is faithful to always lift us up with highs; we just have to be open to His Spirit to recognize them when they come.

This Week:

Sunday is only two days away. No matter what your week has been like, or how low it has been, remember, Sunday is a “High” day! All that is good in our world is made possible because Jesus Christ conquered sin and death one Sunday about two thousand years ago. So, if you have made it to the weekend and your feeling TGIF, remember the real high is TGSC – “Thank God Sunday’s Coming!”

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Brad

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

Matthew 5:6

The One Thing We All Need…Is The One Thing We Least Beleive In

This Week’s Gospel: Click Here to read – Luke 8:26-39

Jesus Heals the Gerasene Demoniac


healing_web_series_graphic

Who would have believed that a man with multiple demons, a man no one could control, not even keep chained up, could ever be healed? You would think having witnessed the most incredible miracle of their lives, the people of the community where the possessed Gerasene man lived, would believe. How could they dispute the goodness of what was done? The man was released from his demons. He was made whole again. He was healed. Yet, the people asked Jesus to leave.

Before we get too surprised at their unbelief and their audacity of asking Jesus to leave their community, perhaps we should take a look at our own lives. All around us are hurting people who need the healing of Jesus, but do we even offer it to them? It seems the one thing we all need, is the one thing we least believe in.

Where in the Bible does it say that miraculous healing left our world when Jesus ascended into Heaven? Why do we seem to think that it was okay for Jesus to work such miracles because He is God? But, as for us, well we shouldn’t expect ourselves to do what he did. Or should we?

Jesus told his followers they would do even greater works than He: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.…” (John 14:12-13).

St. Peter raised a dead woman to life (Acts 9). St. Paul raised a man from the dead (Acts. 20). I would say those are greater works than Jesus did, just like He said. Why? Because Peter and Paul were men and not God. It is really quite remarkable when you think about it. The early church moved throughout the world with the miraculous power of God. Some have said that such “apostolic” power died out with the twelve apostles. But, did it?

In St. Matthew’s gospel, chapter 10, we read how Jesus commissioned the twelve to heal the sick and raise the dead. Paul was not even one of the original twelve disciples, yet the power was manifest in him. We know the twelve apostles ordained successors to their offices out of concern to pass on the apostolic ministry to the next generation (Acts 1). In fact, the ancient history of the church is filled with accounts of saints who worked great miracles, and even raised the dead.

So, why don’t we believe in such apostolic power filling the church of today? Is it because we have become too smart for such things? Have we become so sophisticated in our thinking and our ability to save lives through modern medicine that we don’t really believe in miracles anymore? Or do we even acknowledge the healing we bring in modern medicine is not from us at all, but from God? I wonder.

I look around our world today and see so many lost and hurting people, people in need of miracles. Yet, it seems the church offers little if any; most churches anyway. Again I ask, why? The very thing our world needs most, seems to be the very thing we believe the least – a church filled with apostolic power!

What miracles do you need? Is your life bound up with demons? Perhaps the common demons of today are not the possessive kind, but rather the kind we allow to plague us through our lack of faith. Jesus is still able to do through His church today, all the miracles He did then, but He won’t do them without the consent of our faith.

This Week:

As you go through this week, read the miracle stories of Jesus and His apostles. Consider your own life. Do you need a miracle? Jesus said, “For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Matt. 7:8). As a minister who stands in the line of apostolic ministry, I’m asking for faith to believe He wants to do miracles through me. Won’t you ask Him for your miracles too?

Feel free to comment or ask a question. We must build each other up to the fullness of faith as we journey together.  Until later in the week…

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Brad

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

Matthew 5:6

Image Credit: http://www.princetonalliance.org