Pastor’s Blog

Pastor Jeff will soon be retiring.  His blogs will be coming to an end.  The blogs of the past will be moving to the archive tab.  This will be happening soon, so if you don’t find the Pastor’s Blog tab, you can look for them under the archive tab.

June 16, 2022

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”   1 Thessalonians 5:16,17

This will be my last blog as pastor of the Lakemore United Methodist Church.  I appreciate the opportunity to share faith and life with you in this way.

The Apostle Paul used all kinds of opportunities to give witness to his faith and to teach God’s Word.  As I have read through the book of Acts and especially the last few chapters, his ministry changed dramatically from free movement throughout the world at that time, to limited movements that were either in prison or under some kind of guard.  Still, he found ways to tell his story of God’s call upon his life, to teach the Scriptures, to show how Jesus was the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies, and to live for God in his circumstances.

I love this practical and simple summary of God’s will for all of us.  We may not know or perceive all of what God wants of us, but we can be sure that he wants these three things:  be joyful always, pray continually and give thanks in all circumstances.

Each of these phrases have a very complete and inclusive dynamic to them:  be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances.  This is a real separator when it comes to what is “higher plane” Christian living and what might be the norm.  Most of us have joy at times.  We all pray, at least some of the time.  We are a people who are thankful at least some of the time.  Yet, Paul calls us to a life that can only be lived in this way, as our whole life is not really for ourselves, but is yielded to God for his use.

On mission trips, the team members will often do things that they would not normally do, because the purpose is to serve and to do what we can for the benefit of those we have come to serve.  If it means rising early, so be it.  If it means pushing oneself beyond what we might normally do, we try to do so. The greater good is chief in one’s thinking.  Of course, we might not do so perfectly and without complaint, but you can see how a greater purpose and a purpose that is really for the glory of God and the good of others, changes the dynamic of how we live and respond.  So, too, it is with Paul’s admonition.

I thank God for you and the many examples I have seen of those who are seeking to live for God in such practical and wonderful ways.  I have been blessed to serve with and among you.  Keep living for the glory of God.  Keep the joy in your life that comes through a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Keep at your praying and your life with a prayerful attitude, and keep up your giving of thanks and a the maintaining of a thankful heart.  Indeed, this is the will of God for each of us!

June 14, 2022

“On that same day the LORD told Moses, “Go up into the Abarim Range to Mount Nebo in Moab, across from Jericho and view Canaan, the land I am giving the Israelites as their own possession.  There on the mountain that you have climbed you will die and be gathered to your people, just as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people.”       Deuteronomy 32:48-50

These words at the end of Deuteronomy highlight the activity of Moses before his departure.  In his case, the departure was his death.  While there is no record of declining health or any pressing illness, God tells of his death and it apparently comes as declared.

I find interesting some of the things that he was asked to do before his conclusion of service.  One of the things that I don’t remember reading before, was the teaching of a song to Israel.  It is an unusual song and you find it earlier in Chapter 32.  It declares the goodness of God, but also gives words of warning.  It is a rather sobering reality that God does let Moses know that the children of Israel will go astray.  They are warned of it in the song, yet the knowledge of what will be doesn’t keep it from happening.

It has been a rather unusual experience for me to come to this time of departure.  I have been through similar things several times before.  Yet, this time is unique because of the length of time that we have been together.  In a few cases, I have seen a child born and grow into an adult in the time that I have been present.  It is also different because I will not be going on to serve another church.  I don’t know if I quite realize the tremendous change that will come in that fact.

We will go on.  In truth, even Moses did go on, into the life eternal.  We will likely go on in this earthly journey.  We may sing a song or two as I leave.  I hope to sing the songs of praise to God, songs of the faithfulness of God, and songs of great expectation of what God has in store.  We are probably wise to recognize that unless we stay close to the Lord, we will stray.  We may not sing those songs, but we will keep it in mind.

What emotion Moses must have felt!  What life he had shared with all of these.  What prayers he had offered for them as they moved through the wilderness.  Still, there is a season for life together and as with him, so with us.  I carry you in my heart as he did with them.

We are a people of faith, and so we know that ours will be a reunion again.  If not sooner, than certainly in the land of living to come. 

June 9, 2022

“Now when Jesus returned a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him.  Then a man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying. . . While Jesus was still speaking someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler.  Your daughter is dead,” he said.  “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.”

 “Stop wailing,” Jesus said.  “She is not dead but asleep. . . But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!”  Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up.    (Selected verses from Luke 8)

 This week I learned of the tragic death of a seventeen year of young man, who was beaten and died.  It appears that some horse play turned unbelievably violent.  This young man was the son of one of my colleagues and the son of a man that I know and respect. 

I cannot help but think of how the best of a father’s love wants life and not death for his child.  So, it was with Jairus, and so it was with my friend.  Jesus’ compassion went out to the father.  His compassion still does, and it may be that our simple acts of compassion are Jesus’ acts even today.

Jairus’ daughter was raised to life.  Grief was turned inside out.  It is not so for my friend or his family—yet.  This word, yet, is quite significant.  There is more yet ahead.  God is the God of new and full life.  Jesus is the resurrection and the life.  I hope and pray that this young man had a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  If so, what is ahead, will one day be the joy that Jairus experienced when he received his daughter back alive.

Right now, my heart aches for this family.  I know that there is little that one can say or do, that is sufficient.  Still, we wait for the Master to do his good work. 

One day, there will be rejoicing again.

 

 

 

June 7, 2022

“Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus.  Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away.  He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night.  Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.  Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen.  This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.”  John 19:38-40

 Tucked into the description of the events of Jesus’ death and burial are these words.  They give insight into two men and what they did.

Joseph of Arimathea was apparently a man of some means.  He may have had some position in the community and was not wanting to lose that place.  Yet, it says that he was a disciple of Jesus, although secretly.  I fear that we, like this man, are sometimes “undercover Christians”.  We are Christian, but we may not emphasize the fact in some settings.  Maybe the reason is that we don’t want to offend, or it may be that we know that a particular group of people might not want to have contact with us if our Christianity was too vocal or obvious.

I appreciate that Joseph was willing to break with his past secrecy and come into an obvious devotion to Jesus, even at his death.  It may have taken some courage and it may have been at some cost to his status or life in that place.  I hope that we would be willing to live with an obvious devotion to Christ as well.  I hope that it would be evident that we are a follower of Christ, cost whatever it might.

Nicodemus may have many of the same concerns as Joseph.  He, too, comes out from the shadows of devotion, to also do what he can do for his Lord.  He brings a very large amount of spices that would be an amount used in a royal burial.  This would have been of considerable monetary value.  Again, we see a declaration of allegiance at a cost.

I am encouraged by their acts of faith and of allegiance.  It reveals a shift from secretive to unashamed.  People can change.  People can become courageous, or at least willing to pay the price of devotion. 

May we bear gladly the identification with Christ.  He is Savior and Lord of all!

June 2, 2022

“. . . he told this parable:  A farmer went out to sow his seed. . . Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. . . This is the meaning of the parable:  The seed is the word of God. . .Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root.  They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.”      Luke 8:4-6,11, and 13

Many of you who read this are familiar with Jesus’ parable of the sower.  I choose this morning to focus on the seed that fell on just one type of soil, that soil that is described as rock.

Jesus said that the seed came up, but withered, because it had no moisture.  When later Jesus would explain the parable, he said that this type of soil resembled those who would receive the word of God with joy, believe for a while, but would later fall away.  This falling away he said was due to the fact that the person had no depth to their faith.  When trouble would later come, the lack of depth of faith would be revealed.

Many of Jesus’ parables leave us to figure out what the point was.  This one is different.  Jesus would explain it to his disciples.  So, I don’t want to try to better explain it than Jesus did, but just think about it for a moment or two.

God’s Word does come to us in many forms today.  We might hear a sermon in person or through some form of media.  We might be talking with a friend who shares a significant word from God that has meant something in their life.  We may be reading the Bible and the Holy Spirit gives us something that we take hold of and find encouraging or very real to our own situation.  We may read a blog or some Christian devotion.  The seed is sown.

I was reading an article that spoke of rain after a long time of drought.  The yard that was brown, now responded with a new spurt of growth and green.  The author was talking with a yard man and telling him that he guessed that he would have to get out his lawn mower and get on the lawn.  The yard man caused against it.  He said that when the dormant grass gets water, it seems to wake up, but unless it gets more rain, it will go dormant again.  Cut it now, and the grass can’t grow some roots.

Sometimes we are greatly encouraged after a long time of spiritual drought.  We seem to spring back to life and joy.  This is good, yet this is not the full measure of growth and life.  We must let growth come through quiet times, even difficult times and in such times sink “our roots” down into the depth of the character and nature of God.

I did a gravesite service recently.  One of those at the service had just shortly before, experienced the death of his wife in a car accident.  Now, his mother, who was elderly had also passed.  He was feeling the intensity of grief and I’m sure that the words of the Scripture which I spoke of the hope in Christ, did not seem to fully satisfy the emptiness and loss that he felt.  In such times, while it is not easy, still we must allow God to work His plan to take us deeper into the reality our life with Him and our hope of eternal life with Him.

If you have been in a dry or dormant spiritual time, don’t despair.  If refreshment comes, receive it with gladness, but don’t think that such time is the full measure of what God has in store.  Be patient and allow God to take you deeper into the reality of his character.  We want God to break up rocky ground in our lives and it may take some difficult things to do so.  Know that the Sower of good seed is looking for a good result in you.

May 31, 2022

“Do your best to get here beefore winter.”    2 Timothy 4:21

I read that when early settlers were given land to homestead, that at first, they would build their homes in the center of the plot.  Later, they found it helpful to move their homes to the corner of the property to live in proximity to three other families.

We need others.  Many times, although having one near is a blessing, we desire even more. We reflect the nature of God, who as Trinity, lives in community.  Christians together as a church, form one body; many parts, but not complete without each other.

This morning, I am again thinking of all the blessings that have come to me through the lives of others.  I may at times be able to be alone, but I cannot and do not want to be so for extended periods.  I, we, were made to live life with others.

May you take a moment with me to give God thanks for those that God has put in our lives, and to thank Him as well for His abiding presence with us.

May 26, 2022

“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”  1 Corinthians 2:2

 When NASA first started sending up astronauts, they quickly discovered that ballpoint pens would not work in zero gravity.  To combat the problem, NASA scientists spent a decade to develop a pen that writes in zero gravity, upside down, underwater, on almost any surface, including glass, and at temperatures ranging from below zero to 300 degrees Celsius.

The Russians used a pencil.

I wonder how often we try very hard to come up with that which will “wow” congregations.  Unique sermons are sometimes preached on really obscure passages.  The Apostle Paul did not try to get excessively “tricky”.  He just tried to share Jesus Christ and the message of his death, burial, and resurrection.   He sought to know nothing but Jesus and him, crucified.

I need to make sure that I am lifting up Jesus Christ.  We may know many other things, but it is Jesus that is essential and it is Jesus that is all we really need.

May 24, 2022

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”    Galatians 6:10

 Perhaps some of you have seen or been given a round “tuit”.  It is usually a round disc with those words printed on it.  The round tuit is for all those occasions when you intended to do something, but didn’t get a round tuit (around to it).  With your round tuit, you can’t use that excuse!

I found a little reading called “opportunity”.  It read as follows:  I shall pass through this world but once, any good or any kindness that I can show, let me do it now.  Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.

I have often had an urge or a thought about doing something, maybe a phone call or an act of kindness.  Then, I got side-tracked or talked myself out of it, for fear that the action might be perceived in a wrong way.  I wonder if some of these thoughts are motivated by the Holy Spirit?  I am sure that you have also had such nudges.

The Apostle Paul makes it clear that we should seize the opportunities to do good.  It is fitting to treat all with kindness and to do good to all.  It is especially urged that we take the opportunities to do good to other Christians.  It was said about the first Christians that they really loved one another.  Too often, as Christians, we find that which divides us or emphasize that which separates us.  I am not discounting that there are some non-negotiables, like the truth that Jesus is the Son of God and our precious Savior.  Still, we can and should be gracious and take the opportunities that God gives to do good.

What good might you have opportunity to do today?  Let the impulse go on to action.

May 19,2022

“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.  When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.  Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nation, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”   Matthew 28:16-20

 

You may be very familiar with this passage which is known as The Great Commission.  It is one of Jesus’ last words before his ascension into heaven.  It remains the call of the church and of Christians, to go and make disciples of all.  We can never cease to spread the good news of Jesus.  We must be ever-going and sharing the life-giving message of forgiveness made possible to each one through the sacrificial death of Jesus, and his resurrection from the dead.

What we may skip over, is a little statement at the beginning, that is surprising.  It says that “when they saw him, they worshiped him, but some doubted.”  If the “they” is the eleven disciples, they had some earlier occasions to see the risen Christ.  We think of Thomas as one who doubted until he was included as Jesus appeared to them, but here there were apparently some others who doubted as well.  I don’t know who or why. 

The Bible is very honest.  The Holy Spirit seems to move the writers of the Bible to include these honest details.  How human it is for us to have faith and yet at times, doubts.  I feel at times like the father who said to Jesus, ‘I believe. Help my unbelief.’  We don’t always see clearly or understand fully.  Jesus did not let such things keep him from calling them to the work.

The Holy Spirit’s coming, gave added power and perhaps, belief, to the disciples.  If they were doubters earlier, they became convinced.  Each of the eleven heeded the Great Commission and gave themselves to it.  All but one, were apparently martyred in the endeavor.  We, who are Christians today, trace our faith to others who have carried forward the message from these who among the first.

Are you facing something today that makes you pause and wonder, even doubt?  Ask for God’s help and then go, as well, with confidence in the God who is worthy of all our worship.  God can and will use very human vessels.  God always has.