All In.

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

When we have a broken bone, we are in a sense handicapped.

When we have a stroke, we don’t feel complete.

When lose a limb, we know we are not whole.

All of these physical problems are signs of what life is like when we are not all in to what God has for us. When our desires break faith with God, then we are not all in the Body of Christ. When our mind flits after something attractive, then we are not able to feel the full presence of the Holy Spirit. When we have removed ourselves from the Body of Christ, then the Body of Christ suffers.

Once we have experienced the light that is Jesus, we realize two major points. First, we realize that the Holy Spirit is all in our being. The Holy Spirit of God is moving in us so we shine as the light of the world. The second point is that we are all in the Body of Christ once we are in the light that is Jesus. All we do affects all that is the Body of Christ.

A. For what are we meant? (6:12-17)
+++1. Not all things are beneficial
+++2. We need not be dominated by anything
+++3. Food & our bodies – destroyed, in time
+++4. Our bodies are meant for the Lord
+++5. Members of Christ are united with Christ
+++6. Fornication, sexual immorality (for example, being with a prostitute) is not for members of the body of Christ
+===++a. It is not beneficial
+===++b. It can dominate the believer
++===+c. Being joined to another can divide our loyalty
+++7. We are meant to be with the Lord. What we do with our bodies affects how we are with Christ. What we do with our bodies affects how we are with the rest of the Body of Christ. Our loyalty, our life, our love is found in Jesus Christ. Anything that distracts our loyalty, our life, or our love keeps us from fully living in the Body of Christ. Why does this matter to us?

B. We are not our own (6:18-20)
+++1. Shun fornication!
+++2. Fornication – a sin against the body – yours and the Body of Christ!
+++3. Your body is a temple of the Lord
+++4. Glorify God in your body
+++5. “Devote and employ all ye have, and all ye are, entirely, unreservedly, and forever, to his glory.” – John Wesley (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/wesley/notes.i.viii.vii.html )
+++6. Since we are not our own, we cannot pursue any thoughts or actions that would hamper our body. We cannot pursue any thoughts or actions that would hamper the Body of Christ. What we do pursue are thoughts and actions that bring glory to God. For it is in our bodies that God the Holy Spirit resides. It is in the Body of Christ that God the Holy Spirit resides.

We cannot be whole if we are pursuing someone who is not filled with the Spirit of Christ.

We cannot be complete if we are tempted to veer away from God.

We handicap ourselves when we think we are alone in this world.

For we are not our own. We do not belong to ourselves. We belong to God. Jesus is the price that was paid for us. It is through Jesus that we belong to God.

Keeping faith with the rest of the Body of Christ is what we do to bring glory to God. It is by being in Christ that we are able to give God the glory he deserves. It is when we are in the light that is Christ that God is glorified.

We hurt the Body of Christ when we pursue fornication. We live as part of the Body of Christ when we shun fornication. God desires us to be all in the Body of Christ. It is for our good that we are in Christ. Be strengthened by the Holy Spirit of God to live all in the Body of Christ. Let us give God glory through our bodies as we lively fully in the Body of Christ.

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“The Light Dawns” Epiphany Sunday

Matthew 2:1-12

Happy Epiphany!

This 1st Sunday in 2018 is the day we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord. That is we realize that Jesus Christ appeared in this world not just for the Jews, but for Gentiles as well. In other words, Jesus Christ came here for all of us to know God. “Epiphany” means “appearing, manifestation.” It was the prophet Isaiah who wrote, “Arise, shine; for your light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” The time of the visit of the wise men is exactly that time when the Light has come.

Let’s find out how Jesus appeared to the wise men/magi.

A. Jesus grew up being worshiped (Matthew 2:1-9)
+++1. Wise men/astrologers/magi wanted to worship the child born king of the Jews
+++2. King Herod didn’t know what to do about this situation
+++3. The child born king of the Jews would shepherd his people, Israel
+++4. At a particular time & place Jesus was born and lived
+++5. Wise men came to pay homage to the child who was born king of the Jews
+++6. Wise Men – an unknown number of men who studied various ways of life (astrology, magic, sorcery, interpretation of dreams); from present-day area of Iraq/Iran
+++7. Homage – an act of respect, to kneel/fall down before, do obeisance, to be reverent to
++===+a. Saxon word – “worth-ship”
++===+b. Worship – reverence
+++8. King of the Jews – legend/myth says at various times stars have indicated the birth of a king (Alexander, etc.)
+++9. Herod did not like this idea – he did not want competition for his hard-fought throne
+++10. Growing up involves moving from the place where we were born. Jesus went beyond Christmas, for he did not stay in the manger. I am thinking many of us have also gone beyond Christmas. For we do not keep Jesus in the manger after the light has dawned. We find that we are guided to Jesus, like the wise men were guided to Jesus.

B. They were guided to Jesus (Matthew 2:10-12)
+++1. The babe in the manger had to grow up!
+++2. The wise men followed the star until it stopped over the place where Jesus was
+++3. Jesus is not in a manger now, he is in a house with his mother, Mary
+++4. The wise men gave Jesus gold, frankincense, and myrrh
+++5. The went home another route because of being warned in a dream about Herod
+++6. The wise men do get to worship Jesus
+++7. That is amazing. People, who have been involved in a lifestyle that is so contradictory to God, are led by God to see Jesus! It makes us wonder if today there are people who are involved lifestyles so contradictory to God that he is leading them to see Jesus! Well, we are here, aren’t we? God expects lives to change in worship. (Robert Schnase, Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, (Abingdon Press, Nashville; 2007), p. 35) After the wise men saw Jesus, God told them to go home a different way. After we have met Jesus in worship, God is most likely telling us to go a different way in your life. As we become a disciple of Jesus Christ, we realize all kinds of people become members of the Body of Christ. For the light has dawned for the Jews and for us Gentiles. We all get to worship Jesus.

Yes, we have had an epiphany. We have come to realize that our worship of Jesus changes us. The light has dawned for us to live differently than we have before. For the dawning of the light was not only for a moment of worship. As we worship Jesus, we realize what the light means in our lives. I am reminded of a story.

Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote a tale called “The Great Stone Face” about a man, Ernest, who lives in a village located near a mountain shaped like a great stone face. There is a legend that someday a stranger with a face like the one on the mountain will come and do great things for the people of the village. The hero in Hawthorne’s story spends his life in the village, doing things for people, helping and serving them, distributing wisdom to all who inquire, even becoming a preacher as he waits, hoping year after year that the stranger will come in his lifetime. But the stranger never comes. Finally, one day, when Ernest is an old man, giving a speech with the mountain with the great stone face in the background, someone points to him. A visiting poet exclaims: “Behold! Behold! Ernest is himself the likeness of the Great Stone Face!” (http://www.online-literature.com/hawthorne/139/ )

Yes, as we worship Jesus, may people see the likeness of Jesus in us. The light has dawned so we may help other people. The light has dawned so we may share the wisdom of knowing Jesus. The light has dawned so we may do great things for God. May we live in Jesus, the light that has dawned for us.

CJ

The dog wouldn’t go out…

I wonder what our Labrador/Weimaraner is thinking. We literally got him out of a barn. Though, we don’t know if he was born there or not.

That will hit you soon as being funny.

Anyway, my wife named the Labrador/Weimaraner a most curious name. I understand his full name to be: “Captain Jack Sparrow.” But my wife insists his name is only, “Captain Jack.” We call him “CJ” on most occasions. CJ is a good dog.

This past week, he wouldn’t go outside to take care of his business. I’d go to the door, call his name, and he would literally stare at me. Was he thinking, “Hey, bud, it is cold outside. I am not going out there. It is warm here in the house.” He eventually did go outside. But he wasn’t out there for long.

We did go for a very short, brisk walk. Though, with the temperatures in the mid-teen’s, brisk is not exactly the correct word! CJ made the trek in very short time. That tracking software on my phone even said it was a short walk. Was CJ thinking, “Let’s get back inside ASAP?” Maybe he was thinking along those lines. I sure was.

The past month has been hard for CJ. We go to the veterinary. Gracie, the red beagle, had cancer and we knew her time was short. It was a hard day for my family. We did say goodbye to our fourteen and a half year old dog. In the past couple of weeks, my wife even spied CJ going to the backyard and sniffing around Gracie’s grave. Was CJ thinking, “This grieving stinks. I miss you Gracie.” I wouldn’t want to project my thinking upon the dog, but who knows what he is thinking.

Then with our son being out of the home again, CJ has become the focus of much attention. He gets his treats and doesn’t have to worry about Gracie getting them. CJ finds the peace at home is somewhat better. Was CJ thinking, “Who is next? Maybe the rabbit will be gone, soon?”

When the rabbit, Simba the Lionhead rabbit, thumbs his foot, CJ scurries to safety. Simba has posh accommodations. As I understand what rabbits do regularly, Simba does quite well. He thumbs his rear foot. Often and loudly we hear the metal floor of the hutch whenever Simba feels like making some noise. When the 80 pound CJ gets on the back of the couch, it is quite a time! At least it was a time for me last evening! Was CJ thinking, “I am in so much trouble, even the rabbit is after me!?” Yet, it was perfectly quiet in the house before the rabbit made his noise.

As CJ and I count down the hours until my wife returns, it is quiet in the house. He may refuse to go out, but he will go outside for a quick pit stop on the way to bed. When I have returned home from various activities, CJ has scurried around the Civic, looking for my wife, or Gracie, or our son. It might be CJ is thinking, “Where is she? I want the lady of the house.” Soon, CJ, soon. She will be home soon.

Countless times…

There was the time he was eight years old when he was in a psychiatric residential treatment facility. The first time for us to be separated from him on Christmas. Yes, we were able to visit him at the facility. Over the years I’ve come across the pictures of him wearing the uniform of the facility. Sitting at the cafeteria table and watching him open his presents was not the same as sitting on the living room floor, in front of our Christmas tree opening all of our presents.

Then over the next several years he was in and out of psychiatric residential treatment facilities. He had two tours of duty at the one facility. He was released from the first tour of duty in time to have Thanksgiving with both sets of his grandparents. It was a joy to have him home for Christmas. Then shortly after his birthday the next year, he was back in that same facility. That Thanksgiving was spent with our son being on a pass and eating at a Cracker Barrel! It was another Christmas spent traveling to visit our son because he couldn’t be released to come home.

We need not forget the two consecutive Christmases in which he was in that one psychiatric residential treatment facility. It was a relatively short drive for us to see him. My wife and I would help each other lead our respective Christmas Eve worship services at the churches we serve as pastors. Then, we would get up on Christmas morning and exchange our gifts to each other. After our tradition of having some sort of cinnamon rolls we would make the trek to visit family. If we could, then we would visit him at the facility. If we could not visit because of the timing of our schedules and the visitation schedule, then we would anxiously await his phone call.

Last year, we had him home with us for Christmas.

We have had the roller coaster ride of emotions ever since that first Christmas that he was in the facility. There was joy that we could see him. There was sadness because he wasn’t home. There was frustration because we had to visit another facility at Christmas. Through these multiple placements in the different psychiatric residential treatment facilities we have been angry, confused, elated, sanguine, and befuddled.

Through it all we have learned that love is more than an emotion. For when we felt that he has not loved us, we still love him.

This Christmas is another Christmas without him at home.

My wife and I are going to continue to the lead Christmas Eve services. We are going to visit our family. I don’t know about the cinnamon rolls this year. We are going to keep on loving him, even if doesn’t want to see us or talk to us on Christmas. The love we have is beyond any emotional response. For what emotion can we have other than love? God loves him, and so do we.

Do we hear the voice?

John 1:6-8, 19-28

Do we hear the voice? John the baptizer himself said, “I am not the Messiah.”

What a burden that was lifted from John when he said those words! What a burden is lifted from us when repeat the same words! For we are not the Messiah, or Elijah, or even the Prophet. We are not the ones to save the world. We are not the ones to deliver people from sins.

Jesus is the one. Jesus is the true light! Jesus is the Messiah! Jesus is the Lord who is coming to this world. Jesus is far above John and Jesus is far above us.

No, this is not the second week in a row that we hear about John. For John was not speaking about himself. John was speaking about the coming of the Lord. John was telling us that despite all of the depravity and debauchery in this world, we are not doomed completely. There is one who is coming who will take away the sins of the world.

A. There is a light! (1:6-8)
+++1. God sent John
+++2. John was a witness to testify to the light
+++3. John knew he was not the light
+++4. The true light which enlightens everyone was coming into the world (1:9)
+++5. We need to know about the salvation that is coming to this world. Jesus is the light of the world. He is the one to break us out of our dark dungeons. It is John who was the witness for the light. It is John who is calling us to believe in Jesus. Do you hear the voice? Isn’t it about time for each of us to believe?

B. John speaks his testimony as a witness (1:19-28)
+++1. Who are you? (1:19-23)
++===+a. Priests and Levites from Jerusalem were asking this question
++===+b. John answered: “I am not the Messiah”
++===+c. Neither was John Elijah or the Prophet
+===++d. This caused the priests and Levites some confusion
++===+e. John said: “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’”
+++2. Why are you doing what you are doing? (1:24-28)
+===++a. Some had been sent by the Pharisees as well
+===++b. Why are you baptizing? (Especially if you are not the Messiah, Elijah, or the Prophet)
++===+c. John said his baptism is with water
++===+d. The one coming after him won’t be baptizing with water!
++===+e. The one is standing among you and you don’t know him!
+===++f. Earlier John also said: “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” (1:15)
++===+f. John was baptizing across the Jordan in Bethany
+++3. John was sent to get us ready for God! What will God do?
++===+a. From Isaiah 42:6-7 – “…a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.”
++===+b. From Isaiah 49:6 – “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the house of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
+++4. This is a testimony for us to hear! Do you hear the voice? God is sending light to us. God is sending salvation to us. John is the voice calling us to God. John is the voice calling us to the light. John is the voice calling us to salvation.

We need salvation. We need light. Let us hear the voice of one crying in the wilderness and turn to God. Let us hear the voice of John and get ready for life with God. For salvation can reach the end of the earth, even if we think we are at the end of the earth.

John is no the Messiah. This church is not the Messiah. John is not Elijah. This church is not Elijah. John is not the Prophet. This church is not the Prophet. But we continue what John started. We continue to use our voice to tell the world about the light. We continue to use our voice to tell the world about salvation.

Let’s get ready for the coming of Christ. Let’s get ready for life in the light. Do you hear the voice? Receive then, the one to whom the voice is a witness. Receive then Jesus, the one who can provide life to you.

Prepared by Baptism

Mark 1:1-8

We don’t have our Christmas card ready yet. But we are ready for life with Jesus.

We haven’t made any Christmas cookies yet. But we are ready for life with Jesus.

We haven’t picked up the Christmas treats for the rabbit and the dogs. But we are ready for life with Jesus.

With all of the preparations for Christmas, it seems almost a relief when Christmas arrives. We get all ready for the day that by the time Christmas Day arrives we are too tired to enjoy it! Yet we know the season of Advent is more than sending cards in the mail, baking cookies, and buying presents.

Advent is about making preparations for life with Jesus. During Advent we remember Jesus’ first arrival. We also get ready for Jesus’ second coming. John the Baptizer spent his ministry getting people ready for Jesus’ coming. How did the crowds get ready then? They were baptized for the forgiveness of sins. How do we get ready today for Jesus’ arrival? We get baptized with the Holy Spirit.

This is good news! Jesus Christ has good news for us. Jesus Christ is good news for us. When we receive this good news, our life is marked by being baptized. This washing called baptism is a preparation for all God has for us. Like Advent is more than getting ready for Christmas, baptism is more than a final destination for us.

A. There is good news! (1:1)
+++1. Mark records the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ
+++2. Jesus is the Christ – the anointed one of God
+++3. Jesus is the Son of God – the actual, one and only descendant of God!
+++4. With this good news, we gotta be ready for Jesus coming into this world. The gospel of Jesus Christ starts here. But it doesn’t end here. The good news of Jesus Christ continues. Wouldn’t we want to be part of what God has for us? If we do, then we get to decide to be part of what God is doing in this world.

B. What are we to do with this good news? (1:2-8)
+++1. John the Baptizer is the messenger of this good news
+++2. John prepares the way of the Lord
+++3. If baptism was all we did, then how could we follow the way of the Lord?
+++4. Confessing our sins is our part of the preparation for life with Jesus
+++5. Baptism with the Holy Spirit is God’s part of our preparation for life with Jesus
+++6. It took a prophet to get Israel ready for Jesus’ first arrival. It takes a prophet to get us ready for Jesus’ second arrival.

So you have been baptized. So what. Our baptism means very little unless our paths are straight. Our baptism means very little unless we are living the way of the Lord. Our baptism prepares us for life with Jesus.

Now that we know the good news of Jesus Christ, we can live in the power of the Holy Spirit. For Jesus didn’t just give us His Holy Spirit for the day of our baptism. We receive the good news of Jesus Christ for all of our days. We received the Holy Spirit so we could be ready for when Jesus Christ arrives again here on earth.

He doesn’t know. But I know.

He doesn’t know. But I do know.

There was the psychiatrist at the state hospital who told my wife and I: “If you hadn’t adopted him, then he probably be dead by now.”

That was about seven years ago that we heard those words. These words are part of what my wife and I have heard, experienced, and spent as parents of a special needs child. There has been embarrassment, tears, joy, and befuddlement in our life as parents. “Normal” parents experience these same items. Or at least I have heard that they do.

He doesn’t know. But I do know.

Over the years I have read about the amount of money and time parents spend on their children to be involved in traveling soccer, basketball, softball, and baseball. They spend a lot of money and time on their children. We don’t know how “normal” parents spend that amount of money and time. But then, “normal” parents probably don’t know the money and time “special needs” parents spend on their children.

Meals away from home, time on the road, and missed opportunities in life are probably shared by both “normal” and “special needs” parents. We do what we do because we love our children. Our “special needs” son may never read these words. That is alright.

He doesn’t know. But I do know.

He may never understand what his mother and I have done. The countless hours at doctors’ offices, specialists appointments, and counseling in and out of our home. The hopes of his eventual success in life. The yearning for him to have friends. The joy of seeing him do well in school and the concern about his giving up that success in school because he doesn’t want to do the work.

I have witnessed adult children loving their adult parents who suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s. Though the adult parents may not recognize the love and care from their adult children, the adult children love and care for adult parents anyway. That might be a good way to view the “special needs” parents and their special needs children.

He doesn’t know. But I do know.