January 29, 2011

A Far Country

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:41 am by Steve

“Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” John 12:26

 

Every time I read this statement by Jesus I have to stop and wonder whether he’s talking directly to me. There are times I feel I’ve lost the sound of the Master’s footsteps, I’ve missed the boat because of my obsession with comfort and convenience, or I’ve just gotten so tired and worn out that I sat down too long. Where exactly is Jesus going, what kind of people will he associate with and what kind of work is He doing? Perhaps I already know the answers, I just don’t like where they lead. Henry Blackaby in his best seller “Experiencing God” says that immediately after the will of God is made knowing to us we face “a crisis of belief”. A crisis of belief is a moment of doubt or indecision as to whether we will follow and do what God is calling us to do or simply fall back.

When I stop to consider my own faith journey, I find myself wondering less about where Jesus is and more about where I am. When Jesus was at work in the world 2,000 years ago, very few people had any doubt in their minds that something from God was happening, they just weren’t sure what. As a matter of fact, whatever Jesus did so upset the people who saw it that many wanted to kill him in order to get him to stop. You may not like it what He did, but you couldn’t deny it was unlike anything you’d seen before. Wherever he went, Jesus drew a crowd because something was happening. In these days of overwhelming demands and unrealistic expectations, it’s easy to get lost, to lose sight of where Jesus is going and even harder to follow and serve.

At the beginning of February I will be making a personal journey to follow Jesus again to a place I believe He is at work, an orphanage outside of Port-a-Prince Haiti. Why there? Well I know that when Jesus was in Israel He went to where the poor and the broken people gathered and He healed them, He went where there was no hope and taught them about the love of God, and He went where there were children and told them the Kingdom of God was theirs.

So during the first week of February I will be travelling to a far country that is broken beyond my imagination in order to love on some children that will probably never know a mother’s hug or the confidence of have a family behind you, to teach local pastors about the meaning of the Sacraments as God’s Means of Grace, and to help build a place of hope and security for children year to come. But if you really want to know why I’m going, I’m going to follow Jesus.

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January 15, 2011

A New Year, A New Body

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:18 pm by Steve

What’all this talk about a new body? Do we change bodies? Is the new one different than this one? Will I recognize anyone? Will anyone recognize me?

“He will take these dying bodies of ours and change them into glorious bodies like his own” (Phil. 3:21 TLB).

Your body will be changed. You will not receive a different body; you will receive a renewed body. Just as God can make an oak out of a kernel or a tulip out of a bulb, he makes a “new” body out of the old one. A body without corruption. A body without weakness. A body without dishonor. A body identical to the body of Jesus.

Would you like a sneak preview of your new body? We have one by looking at the resurrected body of our Lord. After his resurrection, Jesus spent forty days in the presence of people. The resurrected Christ was not in a disembodied, purely spiritual state. On the contrary, he had a body—a touchable, visible body.

Jesus didn’t come as a mist or a wind or a ghostly specter. He came in a body. A body that maintained a substantial connection with the body he originally had. A body that had flesh and bones. Real enough to walk on the road to Emmaus, real enough to appear in the form of a gardener, real enough to eat breakfast with the disciples at Galilee. Jesus had a real body. (Luke 24:13-35; John 20:10-18; John 21:12-14.)

At the same time, this body was not a clone of his earthly body. Mark tells us that Jesus “appeared in another form” (Mark 16:12 RSV). While he was the same, he was different. So different that Mary Magdalene, his disciples on the sea, and his disciples on the path to Emmaus did not recognize him. Though he invited Thomas to touch his body, he passed through a closed door to be in Thomas’s presence. (John 20:14; John 21:1-4; Luke 24:16; John 20:26)

So what do we know about the resurrected body of Jesus? It was unlike any the world had ever seen.

What do we know about our resurrected bodies? They will be unlike any we have ever imagined.

Will we look so different that we aren’t instantly recognized? Perhaps. (We may need nametags.) Will we be walking through walls? Chances are we’ll be doing much more.

Will we still bear the scars from the pain of life? The marks of war. The disfigurements of disease. The wounds of violence. Will these remain on our bodies? That is a very good question. Jesus, at least for forty days, kept his. Will we keep ours? On this issue, we have only opinions, but my opinion is that we won’t. Peter tells us that “by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Pet. 2:24 NIV). In heaven’s accounting, only one wound is worthy to be remembered. And that is the wound of Jesus. Our wounds will be no more.

God is going to renew your body and make it like his. What difference should this make in the way you live?

Your body, in some form, will last forever. Respect it.

You will live forever in this body. It will be different, mind you. What is now crooked will be straightened. What is now faulty will be fixed. Your body will be different, but you won’t have a different body. You will have this one. Does that change the view you have of it? I hope so.

Your pain will NOT last forever. Believe it.
Are your joints arthritic? They won’t be in heaven.
Is your heart weak? It will be strong in heaven.
Has cancer corrupted your system? There is no cancer in heaven.
Are your thoughts disjointed? Your memory failing? Your new body will have a new mind.

January 7, 2011

What Happens at Death?

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:34 am by Steve

Into the Warm Arms of God
by Max Lucado

What about my loved ones who have died? Where are they now? In the time between our death and Christ’s return, what happens?

Scripture is surprisingly quiet about this phase of our lives. When speaking about the period between the death of the body and the resurrection of the body, the Bible doesn’t shout; it just whispers. But at the confluence of these whispers, a firm voice is heard. This authoritative voice assures us that, at death, the Christian immediately enters into the presence of God and enjoys conscious fellowship with the Father and with those who have gone before.

Isn’t this the promise that Jesus gave the thief on the cross? Earlier the thief had rebuked Jesus. Now he repents and asks for mercy. “Remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Likely, the thief is praying that he be remembered in some distant time in the future when the kingdom comes. He didn’t expect an immediate answer. But he received one: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43). The primary message of this passage is God’s unlimited and surprising grace. But a secondary message is the immediate translation of the saved into the presence of God. The soul of the believer journeys home, while the body of the believer awaits the resurrection.

Some don’t agree with this thought. They propose an intermediate period of purgation, a “holding tank” in which we are punished for our sins. This “purgatory” is the place where, for an undetermined length of time, we receive what our sins deserve so that we can rightly receive what God has prepared.

But two things trouble me about this teaching. For one, none of us can endure what our sins deserve. For another, Jesus already has. The Bible teaches that the wages of sin is death, not purgatory (see Rom. 6:23). The Bible also teaches that Jesus became our purgatory and took our punishment: “When he had brought about the purgation of sins, he took his seat at the right hand of Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3 neb). There is no purgatory because purgatory occurred at Calvary.

Others feel that while the body is buried, the soul is asleep. They come by their conviction honestly enough. Seven different times in two different epistles, Paul uses the term sleep to refer to death (see 1 Cor. 11:30; 15:6, 18, 20; 1 Thess. 4:13-15). One could certainly deduce that the time spent between death and the return of Christ is spent sleeping. (And, if such is the case, who would complain? We could certainly use the rest!)

But there is one problem. The Bible refers to some who have already died, and they are anything but asleep. Their bodies are sleeping, but their souls are wide awake. Revelation 6:9-11 refers to the souls of martyrs who cry out for justice on the earth. Matthew 17:3 speaks of Moses and Elijah, who appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus. Even Samuel, who came back from the grave, was described wearing a robe and having the appearance of a god (1 Sam. 28:13-14). And what about the cloud of witnesses who surround us (Heb. 12:1)? Couldn’t these be the heroes of our faith and the loved ones of our lives who have gone before?

January 2, 2011

2010 Christmas Blessings

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:45 pm by Steve

Grace and Peace to You this Holiday Season! 

 
 

  As the world bustles around you in search of love and meaning, may your heart rejoice with the true love of Christmas. May the coming of God’s light fill you with unquenchable hope and bring you moments of inexpressible joy that fills your heart with peace and love.

 
 

   I thank God for all the ways you have supported First United Methodist Church and its mission to make more people aware of Christ’s coming, ministry, and mission throughout the year. I thank God for the many hands and feet that have been the apostles, saints, and disciples of this generation through whom God has worked to bring eternal life and hope to our families and friends. Your labor continues to bear fruit in countless way. 

 
 

   I thank God for the many saints I have been privileged to know and serve but who now rested from their labor and belong to the ages. They have been a great source of wisdom and grace and I will miss them deeply.

 
 

   As you gather with your family and friends over the next several days, remember the joy of this day and the promise it holds for the days that are yet to come. Jesus said, “take heart for I have overcome the world.” [John 16:33]

 
 

  As we move into 2011, I pray that God’s love astounds and awes you even more with new insights into the power of transforming grace, new opportunities to practice being Christian, and new moments of humility and gratitude.

 
 

So this Christmas, I pray that the Reign of Christ, the Love of God and the Passion of the Holy Spirit permeates every area of your life and bring you peace, now and always.

 
 

Blessings,

Steve