Monday, December 28, 2009

Hey Jude!

Photograph of The Beatles as they arrive in Ne...Image via Wikipedia

WAY BACK WHEN, in my junior high school days, I remember going to a little "dance" party at a friend's house (a birthday party if my memory serves me correctly), some one put on the Beatles "Hey Jude" which was considered a "slow-dance" song. So there we were "slow-dancing" to "Hey Jude," and as you know the ending of the song includes a long section of "na-na-na-na-na-na's" they only problem for our little group of dancers was that the record got stuck and we didn't figure it out for a good 10 minutes or more. The sight of 10 junior high couples going round and round for minutes on end must have been something to laugh at. Thankfully, I really "like-liked" the girl I with whom I was dancing. Ah, junior high love.

Now, you might be asking yourself, "Self, where in the world is Pastor Randy going with this?" Well, I will tell you. I am going to Jude. Not the song title (which seems to have nothing to do with drug abuse and the use of heroin, but was written about John Lennon's son, Julian), but I am going to that second to the last book in the Bible, the Book of Jude, all one chapter of it.

Paul McCartney's song really does have similarities to Jude's letter to the Church, within limits of course. McCartney's song calls for a young man to deal with the hard things that are being dealt to him, and to not let those things dictate his life. In Jude's letter to the church there is a call for the followers of Jesus to deal wisely and actively with the things being dealt to them by those who might say they believe in Jesus, but who in reality are living quite contrary to the call of Christ.

Jude's words (all 619 of them) come hard and fast. He spends the first part of his letter pointing out those who are bringing destruction to the church. Warning his readers of the ultimate end to those who continue to walk contrary to the design of God. His condemnation comes against those who are 1) self deluded, 2) self polluted, 3) self promoting, and 4) self-empowering even over the "powers" in heaven. (Jude 1:8-11)

His letter would be completely discouraging if it were not for the words of challenge he brings after his words of condemnation. He brings a strong call to the church to rise up and live as it was designed to live.

It is these words of challenge that I am going to focus upon in this week's sermon with the hope that his words will bring a proper call to commitment as we embark upon a new year. Jude reminds us that we must 1) remember the Apostle's teaching, 2) be built up in the faith, 3) pray, 4) abide, 5) wait, 6) practice mercy, and bring salvation. (Jude 1:17-23)

I guess the biggest difference between the song and book could be found in the reality that the strength is not to be found in our self to make the difference in our lives ("...Then you can make it better...,") but rather found in the One who can "Keep you from stumbling." (Jude 1:24) May we all so be committed to the Lord and His work in this coming year.
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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

GIFTS & GIVERS: Wrappings Matter

MY GRACIOUS AND LOVING WIFE taught me many years ago that how a gift is wrapped matters. Gifts that are wrapped with care and creativity go to express the "worth" of both the gift and the recipient of the gift. A gift not wrapped or just thrown into a bag without any forethought just is not as special as a gift that was thoughtfully wrapped. Now, I know that there are some of you reading this that would disagree with the above, but I will stick with what my wife has taught me...I feel it's better that way.

In my Advent Sermon series ("What are You Getting for Christmas") we have been looking at some of the gifts which God has given to us, such as His Light, His peace, and His joy. This week on Christmas Sunday as we light the fourth Advent Candle, we are focusing up God's gift of love.

As I pondered God's great gift of love in His Son, Jesus the Messiah, I was drawn to my wife's words about the importance of the "wrapping" in displaying the worth of both gift and the one receiving the gift. In God's gift of His Son to be our Savior, He not only wrapped Him in human flesh (John 1:14) but Jesus was the very love of God (John 3:16; Romans 5:8.)

I suppose God could of scared us into accepting His Son as our Savior. He could have sent Jesus to unleash the justice of God upon those who have disobeyed His commands and turn to worship the god of self. But God chose to not to scare us into salvation, but to love us. Jesus came as the love of God to us. God wrapped His gift of forgiveness, reconciliation, grace, mercy and salvation in the Person of Jesus Christ in order that we should see, hear and experience the love of God in the greatest wrapping possible.

So, this Christmas, as we ponder the manifold gifts of God, let us not forget that God has wrapped all of His gifts with love and in love. Remembering, that these great gifts, which come from the hands of our loving heavenly Father, come to us not to be horded but to be shared.

How can you share God's gift this Christmas season? How can you wrap it in the Love of God? Blessed to be a blessing; gifted in order to give. This is who and what we are as those who have received such an indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:6-15.)
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Sunday, December 06, 2009

GIFTS & GIVERS: Oh, for the Joy!

ASK PEOPLE THEIR FAVORITE CHRISTMAS CAROL and many times the answer will be "Joy to the World." Sure, they like "Away in a Manger," but when it comes to Christmas carols it's "Joy" that wins out! (No, "Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer" does not classify as a "Christmas Carol.")

JOY is one of the top emotions for the season, and rightfully so.  There is JOY when the kids see Santa and packages with their names on them under the tree.  There is JOY when the aromas of fresh-baked Christmas cookies and breads permeate our homes. There is JOY that comes as we hear the clarion call of the bells, and yes JOY when we sing the Christmas songs.  Truly, JOY is the emotion of Christmas.

JOY fills the Christmas scene.  There was the JOY that filled the proclamation of the angels (Luke 2:10-14). There was JOY in the shepherds hearts as they saw the new born baby and recounted the message of the angels (Luke 2:16-20).  I am sure there was JOY in the heart of Mary as she pondered the little one in her arms and the greetings brought to Him that night (Luke 2:19). And there was JOY in the attitude of the magi who had traveled so far to worship the new born King (Matthew 2:1-12)

JOY is a gift that God gives to us, and like His gift of peace, it is not dependent upon the circumstances.  For when the angels withdrew to heaven and the shepherds returned to their fields, life was still waiting to be lived.  They were still shepherds...but forever a different group of shepherds for they had met the Good Shepherd on that dark starry night.  And when the magi returned to their far away countries by a different route because of the threat of death over their heads, they returned a different group of kings for they had worshiped the King of kings. And even when Mary and Joseph had to bundle up their new born son and head south to Egypt for  fear of Herod (Matthew 2:13-18) they knew that even though they were in exile they carried with them God's promised Deliverer.

JOY is still a gift that God offers us today.  Even in our rough and tumble world, His JOY remains firm and steadfast in the hearts of those who know Jesus, the Son of God, our Savior.

So, this Christmas, receive again God's gift of JOY, and remember, this gift is given to be shared.  How? By letting Christ dwell richly in you.  By focusing your heart on His.  By remembering that is was His JOY to go to the Cross for you. (Hebrews 12:1-3) As you do these things, His JOY will be manifested in and through you, and you will sing with the carolers of the ages,
"Joy to the world the Lord is come,
Let earth receive her King.
Let every heart, prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and heaven
And nature sing."

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

GIFTS & GIVERS: Wrapping the Unwrappable

THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT is approaching and for us at Felton Bible Church it will be a full day of celebration and fellowship as we remember the One who came as the Prince of Peace, as we remember His great gift to us as we share together in Holy Communion, and as we gather around the tables to enjoy another scrumptious FirstSunday Fellowship Meal.

Last week's message "What are You Getting for Christmas?" focused upon the reality that we have been given much so that we could give much. (Genesis 18:18; Galatians 3:8; 1 John 4;10; 1 John 4:19) And in particular we focused upon Jesus being the Light of the world (John 3:19-21; John 8:12) and our call to live in that light (Ephesians 5:8-11) and to be a light (Matthew 5:14-16). This week we shall focus upon the gift of God's peace that comes to us in and through the Person of Jesus Christ, and what it means to not only get that gift, but in turn to give that gift as well.

So, the question before us today is, "If we have received God's gift of peace, how then can we give it away?" As I pondered this question I realized that we are talking about "incarnational-giving." That is giving in the very same way (limited as we may be) as God gave to us through the Son, Jesus the Christ.

In the Incarnation, God was wrapping the unwrappable. (a new word, I believe. ;o)) God was taking Himself, and wrapping Himself in human flesh (John 1:1-5; John 1:14; Philippians 2:5-11). When we speak of incarnational-giving, we are talking about in some form giving ourselves as gifts to another.

If we are talking abut giving the gift of peace, how can we wrap that gift, which is in many ways unwrappable? What are the ways in which we can give peace that goes beyond just saying, "Peace be with you"? I am working through the possible ways that can be done, and I know that this gift will at the least demand presence (there's the Incarnation again), and meeting of real needs (there it is again), and it will most like be costly, at least in the sense of time (I suppose we could read that as "sacrificial" another aspect of the Incarnation). Beginning to get the picture?

I would love to hear some of your ideas about how we could wrap the unwrappable in regards to God's gift of peace. I am sure the Scriptures would help us in that matter. There are those words about God's peace in the Apostle Paul's letter to the Philippians (Philippians 4:4-9), which might give us a good starting point, and to that I would had our Advent text for this coming week which includes God's Word through the Prophet Isaiah,
He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those who have young. (Isaiah 40:11)
So, as you seek the gifts to give this Advent be sure to add to your list God's gift of peace. I am sure you know at least one person who needs that gift.