Thinking… I’ve not made up my mind yet.

I read this article. I am still figuring out whether I agree with it or disagree with it. Paul Ratner does have historical points that we can consider for our dis-united nation.

What I do know is that we can repent and believe the good news of God. Following Jesus will help us treat each other with love as we are loving God. Unless we turn to God, we won’t live.

Also, Jesus did say something about “living by the sword and dying by the sword.” I think we would much rather live in Christ than be terrorized in this nation. Though, once we start following Jesus, we will have the perfect love of God working in us and we won’t fear anything. There is the idea that perfect love casts out fear. This love would even be true of a fear of tyrant, active shooters, and mass shootings. We won’t know this love of God unless we turn from our fear and turn to God.

Oh. Here is the link to the article!


Is Jesus a fool or a lover?

Mark 1:9-15

Maria told me a fact about Valentine’s Day. It seems that if a man does not get a woman he is dating flowers and candy for Valentine’s Day, 53% of women will dump that man. Who is the fool and who is the lover in that scenario? So, it seems like my idea of fools and lovers for this season of Lent is appropriate.

We find a Merriam-Webster definition of “fool” is a person who is lacking in judgment or prudence. This would like the person who walks around with a “Kick Me” sign on April 1st.

We find a Merriam-Webster definition of “lover” is an affectionate or benevolent person. This would be like a person who buys the homeless guy a meal.

Why am I so interested in fools and lovers? In 1945, Easter fell on April 1st. In 1956, we find the same timing. The next times this coincidence will happen is in 2029 and 2040. Easter moves because we celebrate it the first Sunday after the first Full Moon occurring on or after the March equinox. This roughly corresponds to the Jewish Passover, which is on the 14th of Nisan at the time of the Full Moon. Since Jesus was crucified after the Passover, we celebrate his resurrection from the dead after Passover.

With Easter falling on April 1st, it means Lent begins on Valentine’s Day, February 14th. Not counting the six Sundays before Easter, Lent is 40 days long. This means Lent would begin on a Wednesday. These forty days are days of preparation for living with the resurrected Christ. We begin by admitting our mortality and sinfulness, thus the ashes. We end Lent by thinking about the death of Jesus and what it means. Then we get to Easter, the celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and our hope of rising from the dead.

We get to choose whether we want to live with Jesus. Lent is a time for us to decide to follow Jesus. But do we want to follow someone who left his home? In deciding to follow Jesus, we figure out if Jesus is a fool or a lover. Was it wise for Jesus to leave Nazareth? What was Jesus proving by leaving Nazareth?

A. Was Jesus a fool for leaving Nazareth? (1:9-11)
+++1. Jesus had a home and family in Nazareth
+++2. Yet, he goes to where John is working in the Jordan
+++3. Jesus saw heaven opened torn apart!
+++4. The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus
+++5. Our Heavenly Father spoke: “You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.”
+++6. All along Jesus knew his identity. It is through John’s baptism and the Lord speaking from heaven that we know Jesus’ identity. If Jesus had stayed in Nazareth, then he would not be who he is. Think about this idea. We are created by God. Yet, we think we have everything we need in our lives filled with sin. It is by turning from our lives of sin that find we are more than creations of God, we become children of God! We cannot say that we are always children of God, for when we sin are not living as children of God. Yet, Jesus has always been the Son of God. Even Jesus was tempted.

B. What do we say about Jesus going to the wilderness? (1:12-13)
+++1. As soon as Jesus is acknowledged as the Son of God, temptation happens
+++2. Satan is the one who tempts Jesus and us
+++3. These 40 days in the wilderness are lonely, even with the wild beasts and angels
+++4. The Son of God did not give into the tempting of Satan. Jesus withstood temptation. As children of God, we learn to withstand temptation. The Holy Spirit may drive us into the wilderness. It is Jesus who helps us overcome temptation to live as children of God.

C. Is Jesus a fool for calling people to repent? (1:14-15)
+++1. John’s ministry ends when he is arrested
+++2. Jesus’ ministry begins when John is arrested
+++3. What was Jesus’ ministry?
++===+a. The time is fulfilled – salvation has come
++===+b. The kingdom of God has come near – God wants us to be with him
+===++c. Repent – change your way of thinking and living
+===++d. Believe in the good news – trust that God wants us know how to live away from temptation and live in God’s presence
+++4. We get to decide if we want to be fools or lovers. Jesus already knows who he is. The ministry Jesus had at that time is still the ministry we have today. Deliverance from a life of sin, ruled by temptations, does not have to be our life. We can choose to believe in God by turning to his way of thinking and living. Then we can see how God makes us his children.

Jesus is not a fool. Jesus is more than a lover. Jesus chose to live who he is, the Son of God. Jesus left the confines of peaceful Nazareth so we could have peace with God in the kingdom of God. We get to decide if we want what God has for us.

We could be fools if we remain in a life of sin, ruled by temptation. We could be lovers, if we decide to believe the good news that God has life for us. This life is one that overcomes temptation. This season of Lent is a time for us to choose. Salvation has come in the person of Jesus. Will we become children of God or will we remain as creatures ruled by temptation?

Inspiration for the UMC…

Not all United Methodist Churches will be large churches.  The figures I have seen over the years is that at a minimum the Holston Conference has 70% of its churches being small membership churches that average less than 100 in worship.  Being a small membership churches can be and are quite dedicated to Jesus Christ.  We who are in small membership churches doesn’t mean we are less important to the UMC or to God than a large membership church.  Every local church in the UMC could average growth over a 5 to 10 year period.

As a pastor in the United Methodist Church, I hope for our churches to be the church that the local community needs.  This is my prayer for the two-point circuit that I serve as pastor.  Hartman’s Chapel and Pine Grove have been a part of their community for over 100 years.  To continue to be part of our community we have to continually renew our commitment to Jesus Christ and to each other.  As we are faithful to God in these churches, I have not doubt that we can average growth over a 5 to 10 year period.  We won’t be exactly like the large membership churches.  That is alright.  We can continue to be faithful to Jesus Christ.


Mark 9:2-9 2 Corinthians 4:3-6

When we have seen the divine, we know it. Yet, the god of this world tries to blind us to that fact.

Our lives change when we meet God. Yet, the god of this age tries to make us second guess our situation.

When we meet Jesus, our lives are more than different, they are better. However, Satan doesn’t want us to believe we have met Jesus.

Satan has so confused people of faith that sometimes we blame God the Father for those tasks that Satan himself does to us. Let’s speak the truth. For the truth is what we find when we see Jesus. The god of this world encourages us to blame Jesus for our ailments. The god of this age entices us to believe the darkness is better than the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. What is the truth?

A. Jesus is the Son of God (Mark 9:2-9)
+++1. Jesus had Peter, James, and John with him
+++2. Jesus was metamorphosed – dazzling white clothes
+++3. Elijah & Moses appeared with them
+++4. Peter wanted to commemorate the time with 3 dwellings – he was terrified
+++5. From a cloud, a voice: “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him.”
+++6. Then it was only Jesus, Peter, James and John
+++7. What a moment! Oh, we would have been scared like Peter. We have witnessed times and spaces being memorialized. It wasn’t enough that Jesus’ appearance changed. There was the witness of the great prophet and the great law-giver. There was also the voice of God! We still have to listen the Beloved. That is what happens when we meet Jesus.

B. We proclaim Jesus Christ! (2 Corinthians 4:3-6)
+++1. Paul refutes his skeptics
+++2. Paul preaches the gospel – the good news
+++3. But those who are perishing, those who have decided to ignore the gospel, cannot see the gospel
+++4. The god of this world – Satan
++===+a. Sends physical/spiritual problems to plague people (2 Corinthians 12:7)
++===+b. Twists the truth so that even saints believe a lie!
+++5. We cannot and do not proclaim ourselves!
+++6. God shines through Jesus to us
+++7. God shines in us by way of Jesus

The church is about Jesus. When we see the light that is the glory of Christ, we are like the toad that hopped out of a century-old oak tree. John Wesley told about this toad in his sermon, “On Living without God.” The Oxford don was talking about men who deny God. We may say they had their view veiled by Satan. The story of the toad is this:

“…may be much illustrated by a late incident, the truth of which cannot reasonably be doubted, there having been so large a number of eye-witnesses. An ancient oak being cut down, and split through the midst, out of the very heart of the tree crept a large toad, and walked away with all the speed he could. Now how long, may we probably imagine, had this creature continued there It is not unlikely it might have remained in its nest above a hundred years. It is not improbable it was nearly, if not altogether, coeval with the oak; having been some way or other enclosed therein at the time that it was planted. It is not therefore unreasonable to suppose that it had lived that strange kind of life at least a century. We say, it had lived; But what manner of life! How desirable! How enviable!”( )

We may have life without God. But it is not much of a life. We gain life when we see the glory of Christ. We gain freedom to move around. We gain insight to what God has available to us. We gain so much more than we lose.

There is no reason for us to believe the god of this world. Satan is a defeated enemy. There is reason for us to believe in Jesus Christ. Jesus is then one who shows us God the Father. When we can realize the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, then we know the one who created us. That is good news. That is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now that we have seen the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, let us serve Jesus. Let’s not commemorate what has happened to us. Let’s live our lives so more people can see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ!

If the gospel has been veiled to us, then let us look to Jesus. If Satan has kept us from serving Jesus, then let us start serving Christ and one another.

Of Fools and Lovers

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Grace and peace to you from God our Father! I hope this newsletter finds you having all being well with your soul. It is the Rock of Ages who hides us in himself. What a glorious place to be, near to the heart of God!

As we look ahead to this month, we realize Ash Wednesday is on Valentine’s Day. That means Easter will fall on April 1st – April Fools’ Day! What better way to think about lovers and fools than a sermon series on fools and lovers. The world may think we are foolish for following Jesus. The world may think Jesus was foolish for dying on the cross. Sometimes to us it may seem we are foolish for loving God and for God to love us. Don’t we need someone to be the lover of our souls?

Lent Sermon Series: “Of Fools and Lovers”
Is it foolish to follow Jesus Christ? Is it possible that God loves us? Let’s figure out whether we are ‘Fools’ or ‘Lovers’!

2/18 “Is Jesus a fool or a lover?” Mark 1:9-15
2/25 “Am I a fool or a lover?” Mark 8:31-38
March 4th “My Father’s House – a place for fools or lovers?” John 2:13-22
3/11 “Which has God shown us, how to be a fool or a lover?” John 3:14-21
3/18 “Will Jesus die as a fool or a lover?” John 12:20-33
3/25 “Jesus dies – as a fool or a lover?” Mark 15:1-39
April 1st “Are we fools or lovers for following Jesus?” John 20:1-18

As we pray over these Scripture passages, may we see whether we are lovers or fools. Following God through Jesus Christ takes our actively walking with Jesus. I hope we can see how active our faith can be as we walk with Jesus. Who knows, God may start a ministry with you that only you can do! As we walk with Jesus through Lent, may we ever be found to be

In Christ’s Service,

Through whom do we exist?

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

I can only think of two modern examples of meat being offered to idols. One is an absurd example and the second actually occurs. The first example happens every week between August and February. Chickens, pigs, and cows are offered up on grills as the worshipers gather outside college and professional football stadiums. These worshipers may on occasion share the meat with the opposing side. Well, if one considers the fans of college and professional football to be worshiping idols, then this just might be meat offered up to idols. Though tailgating before a race car event might also be considered eating meat offered up to idols! I told you it was absurd!

On a more serious note, there is one religion that I can think of that offers up meat to their gods. The Sikh will slaughter animals to be shared at a community festival. People from around the neighborhood are invited to a celebration. It would be a time to have conversation around the Sikh beliefs. It is also a time to be aware that the animals are being offered to idols or gods.

Besides these two examples, I cannot think of any other instances in which meat would be offered up to idols. Through deeper reading of this passage, it turns out that Paul is addressing a larger topic. When we know a brother or sister in Christ is bothered by our eating meat, Paul has a remedy for us. It turns out this remedy is also useful any time we may offend a brother or sister in Christ. We get to decide if the knowledge we have is greater than the love shared by Christians.

A. Is it better to know or is it better to love? (8:1-6)
+++1. Paul is asked a question about meat/food sacrificed to idols
+++2. Some Christians are saying everyone knows this happens – “all of us possess knowledge”
+++3. Paul corrects their thinking – knowledge puffs up, love builds up
+++4. Just because we we say we know something, it doesn’t mean we do!
+++5. When we love God, we are known by God – the knowledge we need!
+++6. We know idols are fake gods – there is only one God
+===++a. There might be so-called gods
++===+b. People do worship many gods and lords
+++7. For us, there is one God
++===+a. The Father – from whom are all things & for whom we exist
++===+b. One Lord, Jesus Christ – through whom are all things & through whom we exist
+++8. Even in the church, we have people who think they have knowledge. Whether it be a tasty morsel of gossip or special knowledge of how things are done around here, this knowledge puffs some Christians up. Yet this knowledge does nothing else for us. It is the knowledge that we love God and God loves us that matters. For when we love God, we are known by God and we also love our neighbors as ourselves. I think we can arrive at an answer for the question: is it better to know or is better to love?

B. Yet, be cautious! (8:7-13)
+++1. In Paul’s days some Christians thought all food/meat was offered to idols
+++2. With this knowledge, when some Christians know others are eating meat offered to idols, then they are offended/defiled
+++3. Paul points out that whether we eat or not does not bring us close to God
+++4. The liberty that knowledge brings to some Christians causes other Christians to stumble
+++5. Our liberty may even cause other Christians to fall away from the faith!
+++6. When this happens, we also sin against Jesus the Christ!
+++7. So, for Paul, he vows to not eat meat so that he doesn’t cause another Christian to fall away from faith in Jesus
+++8. Since we do not know of many instances of meat being offered up to idols, what are we to do? Are we to ignore this chapter of the Bible? No, I think the lesson here is for even today. When our knowledge puffs us up, does this situation cause other Christians to fall away from the faith? In our strong faith, do we forget the needs of those weaker in faith? We can be cautious when speaking about what we know.

What then are we to do with weaker and stronger believers? We are to love them. As we love God, so we love the Christians around us. We don’t allow our knowledge to become a stumbling block for another Christian. We don’t allow our activities to be a stumbling block to other Christians.

It is the love we have for God which propels us forward in life. It is when we love our brothers and sisters in Christ which keeps them from being wounded. For the love that God has for us is lived out among us. There is nothing better in life than to know God loves us. There is nothing better in life than for us to love God and to love other Christians.

Have we been a stumbling block for other Christians? Have we allowed the knowledge we have to wound another Christian? Let us repent of these ways and seek to love God with all of our heart, soul, and strength.

Have we stumbled over what other Christians have said and done? Have we been wounded by another Christian? Let us then forgive those who have made us stumble and to be wounded so we also can love God with all of our heart, soul, and strength.


While we know that Benjamin is in a safe location, we are waiting word about his placement. We have visited with him. He has called us. Yet, we are still waiting the word about his next location.

Yet, while waiting we also have questions, ponderings, and realizations.

For everyone who has been in therapy and counseling, we realize the only way for those methods to work is for the patient to make the decision to buy into the program. We can line up therapists and counselors all year long. But unless the patient agrees to do the work, it won’t matter how many appointments there are. When will our son buy into a program that can help him?

What is he learning? The systems we with which we are engaged teach us so much. Some of the learning is how we can get away with whatever we want. Some of the learning is how to avoid getting in similar situations as other people are. Nevertheless, we are learning the system.

The pondering that I do leads to the realizations. We made mistakes as parents. But we tried everything we could. We are continuing to love. The love we have for Benjamin will have to be done at a distance.

Throughout our life as parents we have tried to do two tasks. Our first task was to protect Benjamin from society. There are people who will want to take advantage of him. Our second tasks is to protect the society from Benjamin. As a parent can realize, we can only do so much to keep society protected from our children. At least in many public situations Benjamin is polite and considerate. At least there is that realization!

I think that about every day we are finding a new normal. Yes, we have routines with work and home life. As a Christian, a husband, a father, and a pastor, I pray that finding the new normal encourages and shows love. The old life won’t return and the new life ahead of us depends on learning new ways to love. For Benjamin, he will know our love. However our love can be given to him. For my wife, Maria, she gets to know more of my love for her as we go together into the new normal each day brings us.

That is enough questions, ponderings, and realizations for now.