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.

October 21

Technology is great until it stops working.  I came in this morning ready to do many of the things I do on Mondays – do my devotions online, upload the weekend sermon to the website, answer a feel emails from the weekend, send out an announcement about our Parent’s Night Out (canceled this month) and our Trunk or Treat (check it out under the Events page), and of course post this blog.  It was a tech heavy morning.  That is until I figure out that the church’s modem was on the fritz.  After multiple phone calls, plugging and unplugging cables, reboots, restarts, refreshes, and finally service tech with a new modem, it is back up.  Until it had to reboot another time.  And so the morning was not what it was cracked up to be.  But with the help of this week’s sermon still fresh in my mind from yesterday (and still a bit of those crazy cartoon hallelujahs singing in my head), I was able to praise the Lord.  He is a technology that will keep us hooked up when everything around us will turn to dust.  Keep on praising.

October 14

This devotion, along with the sermon is several days late being posted due to sick kids, the holiday on Monday and my 13th wedding anniversary all happening at the same time.  I have also just been a bit lazy and put this off.  Sometimes it is hard to write posts like this week after week.  And for the longest time, it seemed like few people if anyone ever read them.  However, just before I started this post, I looked at some of the analytics from this website and was encouraged that there have been a few recent hits not only on the sermon podcast, but also on these ramblings.  So my encouragement is passed on to you.  In light of this week’s sermon, I would encourage you to start a daily Bible reading.  If this is tough for you, there are several programs and apps that help you (and even remind you) to start reading.  A couple of them that we have links to on our website are Logos and YouVersion.  I know each of them are free to download and use and I believe both include a reading program that will help you read through the whole Bible in a year or certain books of the Bible.  Also as Christmas is coming, look and ask for “One Year Bibles” that divide the Bible into 365 minor chunks that you can read each day.  If at all fails, take the book of Proverbs and read one chapter each day.  With 31 chapters, it will fill most months (you may have to double up on those months with less than 31 day/month). Remember as the old children’s song goes, “Read your Bible, pray everyday, and you’ll grow, grow, grow.

October 7

Well, the sermon was not recorded, but I can still give you a quick word.  Psalm 117 is the smallest chapter in the Bible but has some of the biggest words.  God’s steadfast (hesed) love and God’s faithfulness are two big words in Hebrew.  However the word translated “great” (in NIV) or “powerful” (NLT) or “towers over” (NET) is something even bigger.  It has the idea of something so big and powerful that it cannot be imagined.  And in my sermon I compared it to the waves that are formed off the shores of Nazarè, Portugal.  These waves which only the best can surf are sometimes over 100 feet tall.  And that picture of a massive, unstoppable, powerful wave is the kind of idea behind the words in Psalm 117.  So you can either ride that wave of God’s love and faithfulness, or you can be crushed by it. The choice is up to you.

September 30

I preached on Psalm 139 this week, but because of the Acorn Bank Breaking, I was only able to touch on two aspects of this incredible Psalm.  So I hope that if you listened to this week’s sermon, you will dig deeper and read the entire psalm.  And as I hinted on in the sermon, read it in two different modes.  First treat this psalm in a way that sees God’s all-knowing power and all-present person as a positive that inspires awe and wonder at God.  Then read it a second time.  But this time read it as someone who does not like the fact that God know every thing and is everywhere.  Maybe as someone who is under conviction and does not want God to know about things they want to keep hidden or for God to know about.  Then ask yourself an even tougher question . . .  one I did not have time to deal with.  How does verses 19-21 fit in to either one of those readings.  These verses are often skipped over by many preachers and commentaries because they do not seem to fit in.  What do you think?  As always feel free to comment on them on this website.

September 23

Another week has passed us by.  We have so much to be thankful for.  But this week’s thought based on Sunday’s service has to do with our past failures.  Do we try to forget them?  Or do we try to remember and learn from them?  But our learning from our mistakes should not be then end of them.  Do we remember, learn, and then tell the next generation of our failures?  Too often we are tempted not to share with others the mistakes we have made.  We may even believe that we should let the next generation fall into the same mistakes we did so they will learn from them.  And while that may need to be the case in certain circumstances, we should try to help our kids not to make those same mistakes.  That is what learning from history is all about.  Because as I quoted from some wise people in my sermon, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”.