January 6

Well it is a new year.  And with most new years, one of the things many people do is make new years resolutions.  In my sermon on Sunday, I challenged the congregation to start a Bible reading plan.  We need to ingest more of God’s words to keep our hungry souls filled.  So I would like to also challenge those who read this blog to also start a reading plan.  It can be short like reading through the book of Psalms twice (read one chapter a day for all 150 chapters and repeat), reading through the book of Proverbs once a month for the year (31 chapters in 31 days: repeat 12 times), or read through the entire Bible in one year.  There are many plans out there.  Just goggle Bible reading plans and thousands will pop up.  I am using a plan from YouVersion (https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/158).  It goes in Biblical order.  But one problem I have found with Bible order plans is you start to get bogged down in February when to get to Leviticus.  This is also the time of year when other new years resolutions fall by the way side.  To combat this there is another type that divides the Bible in 7 sections and you read one section per day (https://www.ligonier.org/blog/bible-reading-plans/).  Also on that website they have chronological order of the Bible which puts off reading more “boring” sections of the Bible until you have made it more of a habit.  I also like this because it places the Psalms with their historical times in David’s life and Paul’s letters into the history of the book of Acts.
     If you use your phone as a source for your bible reading there are many apps out there that you can you. 
     Let me give you a couple of tips for reading the Bible through.  1. Choose a reading plan that is right for you.  If you have limited devotional time, reading 2-4 chapters may be too much at first. Choose a three year plan if that is the case.  I would rather you read something then have you say, “I cannot read that much” and read nothing at all. 2. Choose a good translation.  If this is your first time attempting this, I would suggest the New Living Translation or another readable version.  KJV or NASV might be too difficult on your first go around.  3. Do not get discouraged or quit if you miss a day or two.  You can either read twice as much the next day until you catch up, or just continue being a few days behind the rest of the year and finish in January (or February).  The point is don’t stop until you reach your goal.  4. Do not read just to read (and boast that you finished).  Each day ask God to show you new things in the section you are reading.  And you know what, God will do what you asked.

December 30

Another year has passed us by.  And I looked looking back on the sermons I put together this year.  It is good to look back every once and a while and see God’s faithfulness.  But God also wants us to look forward and not dwell on our past accomplishments.  He wants to do new and exciting things to further his kingdom and bring more people to the saving knowledge of Jesus.  So as we look into 2020 we need to “let our light shine before others so that they may see our good works and glorify God in heaven”

December 23

Christmas is coming this next week (in just a few days actually).  So want to use this opportunity to wish all of you who read these posts a very Merry Christmas.  And I hope that your new year will be filled with hope, life, salvation, and joy (the four Advent messages from this year).  And as I preached in my message this last week (it is posted under the Media heading), I hope that the prayer for all of us is, “Jesus, I want to get to know you better this year”.  This is a prayer for those who do not know much about Jesus to those who have known him for most of their lives.  We all could get to know Jesus better.

December 16

As the days are counting down until Christmas, the more we need to expect the Savior.  That is what looking for, preparing, and welcoming him are all about.  Each season we need to allow our hearts to be open to what he wants to do in our lives.  He wants to come and shed a light on us again this year.  Whether or not you have a personal relationship with him, our hearts needs that light to shine bright in us.  Let it cast aside the darkness that has crept into our lives this last year.  Even those who know Jesus sometimes try to hide in the dark.  But ready or not, here he comes with his light once again to expose those things we try to hid and get away with.  I hope each of us will embrace the light once again this year.

December 9

Jesus came to bring us life.  But sometimes that life seems enamored in suffering and pain.  And the holidays don’t seem to be much help.  As hard as it is to think about for many of us, depression and suicide increase during holiday seasons.  Maybe it is the contrast between the outer happiness and joy that is seen around us with the inner hopelessness and sadness that some feel that accounts for this.  When we think we should be glad like “everyone else”, but still suffer on the inside, we injure ourselves even more than usual. What many people do not understand is that even though many people seem holly and jolly on the outside, are not always that way on the inside.  So do not be discouraged by the masks people wear.  The great thing about Jesus is that he can give us the life on the inside that we show on the outside.  He can fill the void in our lives.  He can encourage us and strengthen us.  His Spirit can fill us with love, joy, and peace throughout the year, but most often during our times of discouragement.  As my old professor said, “Never forget in the darkness what you have learned in the light.”

December 2

I was able to change a bit of the website this week to reflect the light of Bethlehem.  I hope that this light will encourage you all during this season of Advent.

November 25

I am going to make this brief this week because the message was about giving thanks.  So this week and the next week and every week after that, find 10 different ways God has blessed you and you can thank Him for.  I am sure by this time next year, you can find over 500 different things to give thanks for without a single repeat.  Count those blessings.  Begin today.

November 18

Money is a sensitive topic.  Some pastors worry that if they preach on money it is misunderstood as being greedy.  But money is a spiritual issue.  Jesus talks about the things about our heart attitude and does connect money with the intentions and inclinations of the heart.  As with other aspect in our spiritual life, how we treat and deal with money is vital.  If our giving is not consistent, we need to ask ourselves why.  If it is not a significant proportion of our income, we also need to examine why.  Even if it is regular, automatic, and proportional, we still need to look at our attitudes and inclinations to giving.  So whether you are a regular giver or not, we need to look at how our heart is involved.  I hope that we continue to evaluate all of our spiritual disciplines (prayer, Bible reading, church attendance, communion, giving, witnessing, etc.) on a regular basis to see if they not only practiced but done with the right motives and heart sensitivity.  For where your treasure it, there your heart will be also.

November 11

Well, I am continuing to heal this week from the cold/sore throat I had over the weekend.  I am thankful that God allowed me the strength of voice to preach on Sunday.  He is a great God.  I am grateful He has allowed me to be a minister for Him and to serve Him with the talents He has given.  I know that God has blessed me with this ministry and with the wonderful people here at GMC.  And I plan on continuing my service to Him at this church until He calls me elsewhere.  As I preached Sunday, I pray that He gives me the wisdom to use my time wisely and to make the most of every opportunity.  May the Grace of our loving Lord be with you all.

November 4

Much more could be said about the parable we looked at Sunday from Matthew 25:14-30.  One of the ideas is works righteousness: the idea that it is our works that save us.  Or in this case, it is our lack of works that sends us to hell.  Both this parable and the one that follows in Matthew seem on the surface to teach that if you do not do good works (either by not using your talent or not caring for the “least of these my brothers”) that you will not get into heaven. 
If you first look at the second parable of the sheep and the goats it is important to realize right from the beginning that there is a division between the sheep (Christians) and the goats (Non-Christians).  So the results for both group is determined already from the beginning and so the works credited to the sheep and debited from the goats is not the determining factor that determines who gets into heaven or hell.  So the idea of doing certain actions (feeding the hungry, visiting the sick or imprisoned) is not what saves them.  From other passages in the Bible, we can understand this judgement determines rewards in heaven (1 Cor 3:15) or degrees of punishment in hell (Luke 12:47-48).  Also from other passages, there will be two judgement times at the end of the age; The Bema Judgement and the Great White Throne.  The Bema Judgement (Rev 20:4-6) is just for the righteous who have trusted in Jesus as their righteousness.  Adding into Luke 19:19 about ruling cities, it seems to imply that those who were faithful with more responsibilities on earth will have more responsibilities during the millennium (more cities).  If this is the case, the works of the Christians (sheep) seem to determine positions in heaven, not whether or not they are worthy of heaven based on their works.  It is only “by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph 2:8)
The Great White Throne judgement (Rev 20:11-15) is just for the unrighteous (the goats), who do not know Christ.  And this trial is apparently based somewhat on works (the books) because they do not have Christ’s righteousness (his good works) substituted for their own (i.e. their names were not in the book of Life).  All of those who are part of this judgement are condemned to the lake of fire.  In the book of Revelation, at least 1000 years past between these two judgements.  It appears in Matthew’s parable, the sheep and the goats are squished together with no mention of the intervening 1000 years which we read about in Rev 20.
So using this parable to help interpret the one starting in Matt 25:14, we see that works does not determine the outcome of heaven or hell but positions in each.  So what does Matthew then mean when he says the third servant is “thrown outside into darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”?  As I mentioned in my sermon, Matthew uses extremely large quantities (a talent is a very large amount of money).  Perhaps, Jesus is exaggerating in this parable account for some unwritten reason.  In order to make a point, Jesus often uses exaggeration (i.e. cutting off your hand if it sins, or plucking out an eye).  So if Jesus is using exaggerated amounts of money, he may have exaggerated the fate of the third servant and in a sense is saying what Paul later says in 1 Cor 3:15; they will be saved but not have anything of worth in heaven (i.e. treasures in heaven from Matthew 6:20).  We are going to at treasures in heaven next Sunday.