Tag Archives: Peter

Mission Today: Time to go fishing

given on Sunday, April 10, 2016

Scripture connection: John 21:1-19, NLT

Later, Jesus appeared again to the disciples beside the Sea of Galilee.[a] This is how it happened. Several of the disciples were there—Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin),[b] Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples.

Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.”

“We’ll come, too,” they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night.

At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was. He called out, “Fellows,[c] have you caught any fish?”

“No,” they replied.

Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it.

Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore. The others stayed with the boat and pulled the loaded net to the shore, for they were only about a hundred yards[d] from shore. When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread.

10 “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,” Jesus said. 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore. There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn’t torn.

12 “Now come and have some breakfast!” Jesus said. None of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Then Jesus served them the bread and the fish. 14 This was the third time Jesus had appeared to his disciples since he had been raised from the dead.

15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?[e]

“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”

“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.

16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”

“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.

17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.

18 “I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others[f] will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.”



Let’s talk fishing. Sitting here in the sanctuary on a bright sunny spring morning, fishing may not be very far from one’s thoughts. Of course if someone has never fished, listening to John’s fishing story may not mean much at all. Yet to fishermen, and most of us know at least one who is so passionate about fishing they did go this morning rather than join us for worship, the story speaks to the heart.

When Simon Peter announced that he was going fishing, the others quickly said they would go with him. Remember, Simon Peter and his brother Andrew were fishermen by trade. In Matthew 4:18-22, we learn how Jesus called them:

1                8 One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. 19 Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” 20 And they left their nets at once and followed him.

21 A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them to come, too. 22 They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind. –NLT


Can you imagine what James’s and John’s father must have thought as they simply stood up from the task of mending nets and walked away!

Still, fishing was a vocation, a job that provided for families of the fishermen themselves but also for the customers who depended on the food source. Fishing was an industry to these men so they knew the basics but also the special insights that take casual fishing to a well-trained skill. Fishing was no hobby; it was a lifestyle.

When reading John’s gospel, fishing was a safe haven for Simon Peter. The days since the crucifixion must have been chaotic for the Apostles. Their emotions were swinging from euphoric highs to utter despairing lows.

Two times they witnessed Jesus’ return to assure them that he was alive, yet they had no plan. They had no idea what road was safe or what road lead to their own arrest or worse. As a small group, one had belayed their trust and was now dead. Others were draining them with thousands of questions of what to do now while some were turning away and resuming their old ways of living.

Going fishing was safe, and it was a way to get some sense of normalcy. Fishing could keep the hands busy while the mind sifted through all the events of the past and look ahead for direction. Simon Peter went fishing, and the others followed.

Stop and think about the events in our own lives. We all have had times that are so overwhelming that we lose a sense of stability. Yet, the very foundation of our Christian faith remains solid. We establish the routine of Sunday worship as an anchor for the week. Missing Sunday morning seems to make the week go on and on. There is no marker that ends one crazy week and refreshes us for the week ahead. There is no group of people who provide the nurturing support when we need it. There is no time for prayer, for scripture, and for direction—at least for many who are overwhelmed by the demands of daily life.

Arriving for worship and/or Sunday school is much like packing up and heading for a favorite fishing hole. There is a sense of peace that comes from stepping into the church, especially the sanctuary. There is a quiet unlike the quiet at home or at work. God is here.

Yet fishing is a process. A favorite fishing hole is no good if there is no pole or bait. There is skill in knowing the fish living below the water’s surface. Each breed goes for different styles of bait and live in that ecosystem differently. Avid and professional fishermen develop an internal mechanism that catalogs that information and can access it based on the weather conditions, the different locations, and even the seasons.

Jesus appeared that third time at the edge of the water. He understood the emotional turmoil these men were experiencing. Why he had told Simon Peter that before the cock crowed on that Sabbath morning (a Friday in the Jewish tradition) he would deny knowing Jesus three times. Remember how Peter felt when he heard the cock crow:

54 So they arrested him [Jesus] and led him to the high priest’s home. And Peter followed at a distance. 55 The guards lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter joined them there. 56 A servant girl noticed him in the firelight and began staring at him. Finally she said, “This man was one of Jesus’ followers!”

57 But Peter denied it. “Woman,” he said, “I don’t even know him!”

58 After a while someone else looked at him and said, “You must be one of them!”

“No, man, I’m not!” Peter retorted.

59 About an hour later someone else insisted, “This must be one of them, because he is a Galilean, too.”

60 But Peter said, “Man, I don’t know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.

61 At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.” 62 And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly. –Luke 22:54-62, NLT


Peter left weeping bitterly. He knew what he had done, and he knew Jesus had known.

Going fishing was Peter’s safe haven. He had stayed with the other Apostles, yet he needed some time and space to begin the healing process. Fishing was an antidote for all the craziness of the past three years, much less the last three weeks (if the season accurately reflects that time span).

Undoubtedly each one of us can identify with Peter. We surely have done something we were told we would do or should not do only to be the wrong thing to do. We know that sense of regret, guilt, shame, or horror. Others are hurt. Something does not get done, or something goes terribly wrong. When the proverbial dust settles, we find ourselves in a quandary. Friends or family members are hurt or worse, lost. All kinds of damage occurs and needs repair.

Jesus’ third appearance along the edge of the Sea of Galilee provided Peter an antidote. Hear those final verses again:

15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?[e]

“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”

“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.

16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”

“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.

17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” –NLT


Three times Jesus asks Peter if he loves him. Three times Peter had denied even knowing Jesus. The antidote was necessary before Jesus could send Peter out on God’s mission: Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.”

Going fishing is God’s mission. We are here this morning to be equipped to carry on God’s mission to spread the story and to eradicate evil in any way we can. Going fishing takes practice, it takes the right gear, and it takes us.   Fishing provides mental and emotional feeding as well as food for our tables depending on one’s needs. Anybody can fish as long as they try.

God equips us, we just have to realize that we are at the local fishing hole and that we have all that we need to do all that we can. We can work alone or we can work as a team. We may know what it takes to reach others in the name of Jesus Christ, or we may need to educate ourselves formally or informally. As a team, we probably can catch more fish, so rally around each other and share what you know or what you want to try. God will work through you.

Closing prayer:

Dear Lord Almighty,

Each of us have denied you

as Simon Peter denied you.

Each of us loves you

as Simon Peter loves you.


Grant us forgiveness

as you forgave Simon Peter.

Grant us courage

as you gave the Apostles.


Equip us with the knowledge

of your story

Equip us with the skills

to share your story.


Pick us up

when we stumble and fall.

Pick us up

when we become discouraged.


With you guiding us,

we will step out of the boat.

With your Words,

we will share the Story.


May we discover

we are fishermen/women.

May our work

continue your mission.


Praise be to you,

Father, Son and Holy Ghost. –Amen





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Continuing the Mission by Praying It Forward

given on Sunday, April 3, 2016

Thank you, Margie!  You post triggered this sermon.

Scripture: John 20:19-23

19 That Sunday evening[a] the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. 20 As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! 21 Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Reflection: Part A

The catch phrase “Pay it forward” may be overused. The movie about a middle school student’s social experiment has impacted our society for about 20 years. The theme is a version of John Wesley’s saying to do all that you can for all you can in any way you can.

Why do catch phrases like “pay it forward” or “what would Jesus do” or even movements such as “Random Acts of Kindness” make such an impact on society? Do such phrases make life changes? Do they teach God’s story? Do they keep God’s mission alive? Yes.

Scripture: John 20:24-29

24 One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin),[b] was not with the others when Jesus came. 25 They told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”

26 Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”

28 “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.

29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”

Reflection: Part B

Put yourself in the position of Thomas. He has walked side by side with Jesus. He talked with him in casual banter as well as serious theological discussions. He witnessed with his own eyes the miracles Jesus performed. There was no uncertainty that he knew God’s mission much less that God’s messenger was Jesus.

Jesus had selected or called him to be one of the next generations of Abraham’s descendants. He was identified as one of the faithful entrusted to keep The Story and the mission alive. Thomas had no reason to doubt who Jesus was. But Jesus knew that there was doubt even in this Apostle.

No matter what age we are, doubts will creep into our thoughts about the reality of Jesus. No one can fully comprehend the reality of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection. Only upon our own death will we erase that last thread of doubt. Until then, we must practice faith. And while practicing faith, we learn that God’s story does include the immaculate birth of Jesus Christ, the human life of Jesus developing physically as any other human being, his three short years of ministry,

Yet the key to life as Christian is living our faith with confidence in God’s story and with Christ-like actions. “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” Most of us sitting in today’s pews grew up with that verse (Luke 6:31) being repeated in Sunday school lessons, used in worship service, and even from repeated parent lectures.

Even Wesley had doubts, especially about his own faith. His brother is credited to encouraging him to live his faith until it became a reality to him. The Aldersgate moment when Wesley felt “strangely warmed” reportedly erased his private doubts, and history records the dramatic difference his ministry made, even becoming a global movement.

What does this mean for each one of us here today? Simply, we continue. We practice our faith. We use our faith. We keep God’s mission by “paying it forward,” by asking ourselves “what would Jesus do” and we pray.

Scripture: Acts 5:27-32

27 Then they brought the apostles before the high council, where the high priest confronted them. 28 “We gave you strict orders never again to teach in this man’s name!” he said. “Instead, you have filled all Jerusalem with your teaching about him, and you want to make us responsible for his death!”

29 But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed him by hanging him on a cross.[a] 31 Then God put him in the place of honor at his right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this so the people of Israel would repent of their sins and be forgiven. 32 We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey him.”

Reflection:   Part C

Today we are living safely in our communities. We do not worry about conversations about our faith. We do not worry that each time we “pay it forward” or decide to join in a ministry that reaches out to others who may or may not share our faith. We are living in a society that values our Christian beliefs, even encourages us to act in service to others.

Yet, there is the challenge to our faith, too. Evil keeps exploding around us. The news shares the face of evil globally. Maybe we do not easily identify evil in our immediate community, but it is there. Evil hovers around each one of us and we must defend ourselves from it. Keeping God’s mission alive means doing all that we can for all we can in as many ways as we can. It means “paying it forward.” It means self-checking our own actions with the question “what would Jesus do.”

The defense against evil not only in our own lives but also in our community whether local, national or global must have us actively involved in action to preserve God’s creation. Can you do it? Can you continue to maintain your own faith while doing whatever you can for others? Can you keep paying it forward for God?

Scripture: John 19:19-23

19  Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”


Reflection: Part D

When Jesus appeared to the Apostles upon his resurrection and when he appeared a second time eight days later, this time with Thomas present, Jesus repeated God’s message. He breathed on them empowering them with the Holy Spirit to continue the ministry Jesus trained them to do.

We, too, have accepted God’s mission upon our baptism. We have joined in with the Apostles and all the descendants of Abraham chosen by God to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In Jesus’ words we are to forgive anyone’s sins

How, even as we physically continue to age, how do we do what we can do to help others? Serving in God’s name is not always easy, but there is a way as long as there is the will. In fact, borrowing from a friend in ministry, Margie (lay missioner for two local small churches): “Pray it forward.”

Christ’s resurrection empowered each and every one of his disciples with the power of the Holy Spirit. Adding in the resurrection transforms a social credo to “pay it forward” to “ PRAY it forward.”

Prayer is a powerful tool in fighting evil. Prayer calls God into action even though we may not understand how or when he responds, we must be confident that he hears our prayers and will act. Today, every single one of us here and around this world must pray it forward.

Today, and every day this week, commit to praying it forward.  Complete a “Pray it forward” card for at least one identified cause. It can be a person who needs extra God attention or it can be a situation that needs resolving in a Christ-like manner. Whatever is in your heart whether it is a passion or is a personal concern is worth this focused and very concrete practice of faith.

God has done everything he can to make sure the world is not consumed by evil, have we done everything we can? Praying it forward needs to be the automatic response, not only a first step but a continual step in maintaining God’s mission.

Scripture: Revelation 1:4-8

“I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,”[c] says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.”


Reflection: Conclusion

Do not be a “doubting Thomas,” be you. Be the one who prays it forward now and on throughout your lifetime. Praying is the one faith practice that becomes like our own breath. If there is a doubt, practice praying until there is no doubt.

Look at others who practice prayer full time and you will see God in action. Look at others who are living a life without prayer and you will see evil. Pray it forward so that you are an active part of God’s mission.

We may not always understand how effective our prayers are because we do not understand the scope of God’s grace nor his timing, but we do know that God is the Alpha and the Omega. We do know that God loved us so much that he stepped onto this earth to make sure that we can trust in his words, “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.”

Concluding prayer:

Dear Almighty One,

Hear our prayers today, tomorrow and always.

Let our lives serve as the beacon for your love.


Hear our prayers morning noon, and evening.

Let the words we share provide answers for others.


Hear our prayers racing through our thoughts.

Let them reveal sources of sorrow, pain and evil.


Hear our prayers found in tears of empathy.

Let them cleanse the dirt in wounds of society.


Hear our prayers of praise and thanksgiving.

Let them shine your light upon new life in all forms.


Hear our prayers of excitement and joy.

Let them tell you what a difference your love makes.


Hear our prayers for strength and grace.

Let them ask you for refueling so we may do more.


Hear all our prayers, Lord,

so your mission continues

and our faith erases doubts

of your Story and your love.–Amen



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Easter Sunday: Who are you?

This sharing of scripture and thoughts ends the Holy Week this Easter Sunday, 2014.  Now Christians have a commandment and a commission to follow.  We need to know who we are to do the best we can.

Who Are You?


John 13:33-35 (During the last supper with the Disciples and after Judas left, Jesus went on teaching. . . )


“Dear children, I will be with you only a little longer. And as I told the Jewish leaders, you will search for me, but you can’t come where I am going. So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”


As we sit and look at each other or drive along the highways or rub shoulders in the stores, we see the faces of friends, family, strangers, and even foes. At those moments we register some tiny sense of recognition or evaluation of how they fit into our personal world.

Have you ever considered what others might think that same moment they see you? Would ‘Christian’ be the first descriptor that registers in their mind? Who are you in God’s eye?

Granted we often say we do not care what others think of us, but what if what we do, how we live, or even how we think is the key to whether or not God considers us his disciple?

In my study of these three verses during this past Holy Week, one of the study notes included a checklist of sorts for whether or not we are living this commandment:

Love is more than simply warm feelings; it is an attitude that reveals itself in action. How can we love others as Jesus loves us?

  • By helping when it’s not convenient,
  • by giving when it hurts,
  • by devoting energy to others’ welfare rather than our own,
  • by absorbing hurts from others without complaining or fighting back.

This kind of loving is hard to do. That is why people notice when you do it and know you are empowered by a supernatural source. [p. 1461, The NLT Chronological Study Bible]


John 14:15-17 (Jesus continues teaching during that last supper with his disciples.)


“If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. . . . “


Who are you? Are you living your life in such a manner that others recognize you as a Christian? Do you know who you are yourself? Are you Peter? Are you Mary Magdalene? Are you Nicodemus? Are you Judas? Are you a Pharisee? Are you Paul, the Jewish leader or the converted Christian missionary? Are you Lazarus? Are you John, the Apostle?

We are asking the same questions today that were asked over 2,000 years ago. If we were walking the dusty paths of our community, would we have recognized Jesus?

Would we have been one of the Jewish faithful still waiting for a Messiah? If we were, wouldn’t we be wanting to hear this man talk? Or would we have looked at him and thought there is no way he could be the new tribal leader.

Would we have judged this man Jesus and his odd set of followers? I certainly cannot imagine what the setting would have been, but today such a person might be traveling in a tour bus or flying from stop to stop. If one man came out of the door and was followed by all these others who did nothing more than what he told them to do or to just sit and listen, I am not sure I would have recognized him.

Would we have been worldly Roman businessmen who happened to be in Jerusalem on business and witness this confusing power play between two religious groups?   If that were the case, would we have stuck to our business meetings and simply ignored the local hubbub or would we have been so curious we checked it out? In our society today, it would be reported on the local news station or posts would popup on Facebook sharing opinions. It would be difficult to hear and to make decisions based on just our own evaluation of the situation.

Who are you today? This Easter morning do you sense the renewal Christ offers us each and every Sunday as we come together for worship? Or do you walk away simply to resume your busy daily life with little regard to spiritual maintenance?


John 19:38-42 (The crucifixion was finished, Jesus was dead, and the Sabbath was just about to begin.)


Afterward Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders), asked Pilate for permission to take down Jesus’ body. When Pilate gave permission, Joseph came and took the body away. With him came Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night. He brought about 75 pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes. Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth. The place of crucifixion was near a garden, where there was a new tomb, never used before. And so, because it was the day of preparation for the Jewish Passover and since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.


Who are you? Are you one of the faithful disciples who steps up even after Jesus has been crucified to take care of burial details? Have you been keeping your beliefs hidden? How do you suddenly have the nerve to show your loyalty even after Jesus is dead?

Trying to understand the events that unfolded that fateful Passover week takes knowledge of the Jewish customs and laws as well as the Roman laws. The situation was complicated and trying to fit all the details together is challenging, but Jesus died and on Friday, the day before the Jewish Sabbath, was the only time there was to do the work necessary to complete burial.

The Apostles and those closest to Jesus were all behind closed doors and in shock. Would you have been there with them or would you have been the secret followers who decided to take matters into your own hands and bury Jesus? Who are you?

John 20:1-2 (After Sabbath, the Jewish people resumed the business week on Sunday morning.)


Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”


            Jesus’ disciples included women. Mary Magdalene had already used perfume oil to cleanse Jesus’ feet earlier in the week, but she was considered a prominent, even wealthy, businesswoman and disciple. She and the other women, listed in the other gospels got, to work that Sunday morning because that was what was traditional. Some probably just walked away thinking that the trial and crucifixion meant there was nothing more to know. But not Mary; I wonder just how many women knew that Jesus was the Messiah and were strong enough to carry that belief forward even when word got out that the body of Jesus was missing.

Who are you? Just how do others describe you? Is Christian one of the first descriptors? Or do other words come to mind first such as businessman, farmer, professional, friendly, cold, judging, honest, two-faced? The list goes on and on how people describe each other, but the only thing that truly matters is whether all we meet know us as Christians first and foremost.

I want to be there right at Jesus’ feet. I don’t want to do everything he asks, but I am trying to do it anyway. Who I am depends on knowing why the rock was rolled away from the tomb’s door that day when Mary Magdalene arrived there that first Easter morning. I know Jesus lives. I know that God and Jesus are one. And I know that with the Holy Spirit I can deal with the messiness of this world the way God wants me to—by loving one another just as I want to be loved.

Who are we? We are God’s children and are loved by our father beyond our worldly comprehension. We are God’s hands and feet working with and for each other. We are one huge family who meets to worship together. We are one of so many who seek to know God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost so well that we recognize them in every shape, form, and color there is. We are the ones who understand how a rock rolls away from the tomb’s door so Easter morning we are given the gift of eternal life.


John 20:11-18 (To end the Easter morning story. . .)


Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her.

Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”

She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”

She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”

“Mary!” Jesus said.

She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).


Closing prayer:

Dear Father,

Dear Jesus,

Dear Holy Ghost,

Praise and thanks we give to you

this Easter morning.

We acknowledge all the work,

all the pain,

and all the heartache

given for our salvation.

Open the hearts of those here

and those not here.

Help each one of us

find ways to model Jesus,

to reach out to those strangers

yet to meet you.

Let this Easter morning

reveal to us our true selves.

Let this Easter morning

show us how your love

is for all people.

Let this Easter morning

refresh our faith,

renew our energy

to be your disciples today. –Amen


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Help! I just fell off my horse. What do I do now?

given on Sunday, January 19, 2014

            Don’t ask how the title for today’s thoughts developed because I have no good answer.  All I know is I was thinking about sermons and suddenly the phrase just popped into my head—and I have not been able to shake it off.  Sometimes you just have to follow what God seems to drop into your head.

Last week, the thought I had was whether or not one could yell at God.  While working on that, this idea came through, too:  I just fell off my horse so what do I do now?

Most of us have had the experience of riding a horse or maybe a bicycle.  We know that if you fall off you must get up, brush yourself off, and get on again.  If you don’t, you may not ever get on and try riding again.

Believe it or not, I went searching for a connection to this brain flash.  I thought surely there must be a proverb that connected to the idea, but there is not one!

Step 2 was to figure out how this phrase relates to our Christian lives.  Is there something to which this old adage is connected?  Is this a metaphor for one of Jesus’ lessons for us?  I was reading my nightly devotional and the phrase interfered.  But I found myself connecting it to the concept of forgiveness.

God forgives us.  Jesus tells us that we are to forgive one another.  Now how does that fit with falling off a horse!  Then the connection became clear!

We all know that falling off your horse or bicycle is part of the learning process.  There is no other way to learn than to simply get on, put your feet in the stirrup—or on the pedals—and nudge forward.  On a horse, you use your knees to urge the horse to begin moving.  On the bicycle, you keep one foot on the ground and push off as you push down on the opposite pedal.

Balancing is also important.  In the saddle, you must keep your balance in relation to the horse’s leg movements.  The feet are in the stirrups; the knees tucked in against the horse, and you balance while the horse moves.  One of the most important tricks of staying on the horse is knowing how to use your legs as springs absorbing the unevenness of the gait or the ground.

Now bicycling is a bit different.  It seems like everything is moving in different directions once you pick up your foot off the ground.  The handle bars move, the feet are moving, the wheels are moving, and suddenly you are moving—hopefully forward, but all too often you fall to the ground.  That is when the parent is right there to catch you and to encourage you as you get up and back on the bike.

These experiences are just like living the Christian life.  If you fall off, you simply have to get up, brush off the dirt, and get on again.  God is always there and always loves us.  He does not leave us stranded.  Instead, he waits for us to realize we have fallen, and then he starts to help us.

As a parent, when our kids fall, we rush to their sides to help them get back up; but they continue to grow and we begin letting go so they can develop their own independence.  God is always beside us, but he also knows he cannot do everything for us.  He cannot physically pick us up, carry us and fix our problems for us; he has to let us do it ourselves.

Throughout the Old Testament, the stories tell of the mistakes the faithful made.  When one looks up the term ‘forgiveness’ in the index or in a concordance, the Old Testament references are outnumbered almost 2:1 by New Testament references.

One of the references is annotated with the phrase:  no sin too great for God to forgive.  That phrase is then connected to four passages, two from the Old Testament and two from the New Testament:

  • 2 Chronicles 33:12-13–11 Therefore the Lord brought against them the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh captive in manacles, bound him with fetters, and brought him to Babylon. 12 While he was in distress he entreated the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors. 13 He prayed to him, and God received his entreaty, heard his plea, and restored him again to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord indeed was God.  [NRSV]


  • Psalms 51:1-7–Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
    according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
    Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
and blameless when you pass judgment.
Indeed, I was born guilty,
a sinner when my mother conceived me.

You desire truth in the inward being;[a]
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.  [NRSV]


  • Acts 2:14–14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.  [NRSV]


  • I John 2:2–and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.  [NRSV]

These verses lead us to understand how much God loves us and that he gives us simple instructions on how to live a Christian life.  Yes, three verses make absolute sense, but that one from Acts is confusing.

Why is a verse on forgiveness referencing Peter?  The key is to look at how Luke explains Peter’s story.  The fuller text creates a more complete understanding.  Peter is addressing the Crowd who just witnessed the Pentecost, Acts 2:13-21:

13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

Peter Addresses the Crowd

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20 The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,

before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

Peter was speaking, and knowing that he had denied Christ three times during the trial, Peter had fallen off the horse, so to speak.  He was struggling to understand the full story, struggling with how to share the story, and simply did not know how to get back up from the entire series of events through the trial, the crucifixion, and then the resurrection.

Pentecost made God’s word real once again.  Peter, after receiving the Holy Spirit, found his ability to once again share the story with authority.  And the first thing he shared was a reference to the Old Testament prophet Joel.

“No sin too great for God to forgive” is shown through Peter’s own experience.  From denying he knew Christ, he was forgiven, baptized by the Holy Spirit, and continued to follow the commission to make disciples of Christ.

Christians need to remember that they are always learning how to be Christians.  We are humans and we fall off or out of God’s favor all too often.  But, when we realize our errors, we ask God for forgiveness and we get back up and continue to learn.

God does not care if we made a mistake, he only cares if we do not acknowledge that mistake, ask for forgiveness, and return to living by the one commandment to love one another as we would want others to love us.  We must get back up and get on the horse to become better and better.

Certainly no one wants to fall off, but society has a way of throwing off our balance and we fall.  We might run with the wrong crowd.  We might ignore someone who is hurting or share a rumor that turned out to be hurtful.  We might overspend and forget to tithe.  We might drink, eat, or talk too much; but we must do the right thing when we realize our mistake.

Get back up, shake off the dirt, and get back to God.  It really is not hard to step back into church after you have been absent.  It is important to get back to reading the Bible or go to Sunday school.  Why, you can even ask for something new, a new tool, to help you grow in your Christian life.

The K-Love radio station is trying a new approach.  They are asking people to take the 30-day challenge.  The station asks listeners to commit, call in and commit, to taking the 30-day challenge of listening to nothing but Christians music.  They believe it will make a life-change for the listeners.

Should we set a challenge?  What type of challenge would strengthen us in our Christian journey?  I suggest a challenge, try reading a daily devotion from now until Lent.  Maybe it is just a paragraph like the Daily Word, Guideposts, or the Upper Room.  Maybe it is a devotional that pops up in the inbox of your computer every day.

A challenge could be along any of the basic recommendations from John Wesley such as daily prayer, grace before each meal, sing a hymn or listen to Christians music, read the Bible, have a discussion with a friend or a spouse.  Whatever you choose, get up and get it going!

God does not care if you just fell off or if it has been a little while since you fell off.  All God cares is that you realize you fell, and that you want to get back up and learn more.  He forgives our mistakes and he will rejoice many times over if you pick yourself up and return, too.

Closing prayer:

            Dear Patient Father,

            I fear I made a mistake and fell off my Christian path.

            Help me to start all over with the skills you have taught me.

            Help me to make changes in my daily life that show I believe.

            Help me to show others that I can return to my faith

                        by listening and following your words.

            Keep me near to you and let me lean on you when I stumble,

                        and open my heart to others who may have fallen, too.

            Let me be a little like Peter knowing I am forgiven.

            Give me the words and the actions to share God’s love

                        with those who are so alone without a Christian family.

            Let my lessons be examples to others so they may know

                        how much You love them, too.            –Amen

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Why the healing? Why the miracles?

given on Sunday, October 20, 2013

         Jesus began his ministry reaching out to the people walking right beside him along the road.  The Sermon on the Mount set the foundation for his teaching, preaching, and healing.  Certainly Jesus had to teach his followers how to shift from living under the Old Covenant to living under the New Covenant.  He had to teach them what the New Covenant was, and he had to prepare them for the journey ahead.

The Sermon on the Mount is the first formal account of the teaching process, and it shifted to preaching as the crowd beyond his Apostles grew on the mountainside.  The curious, the Jews, the Gentiles, the wealthy, the poor, the craftsmen, the sick, the possessed, even the Pharisees were all crowded around listening.

Why did Jesus need to heal the sick, the possessed, and even the dead?  Why did Jesus perform miracles?  He already had this huge following and it was growing daily.  Why the healing and the miracles?

Beginning this study of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 4:23 introduces the story:

Jesus traveled throughout the region of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness.


That verse lists the three different methods Jesus used—teaching, preaching, and healing.  The study notes from the Life Application Bible spelled out the purposes of each one:

Teaching shows Jesus’ concern for understanding, preaching shows his concern for commitment; and healing shows his concern for wholeness.  His miracles of healing authenticated his teaching and preaching, proving that he truly was from God.  (p.1651)


The healing had two purposes.  First he wanted to make sure that each one was whole—mentally and physically.  The healing made sure that those who believed were capable of living full lives demonstrating the Christian lifestyle that God wanted for his children.

The second purpose is to provide the new followers evidence of God’s power.  The people needed to see the work that Jesus could do in order to believe he was God.  The healings were instant, they were miracles that man alone could not perform.

The miracles begin with Matthew 8 as Jesus heals a leper:

8 Large crowds followed Jesus as he came down the mountainside. Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached him and knelt before him. “Lord,” the man said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”

Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared. Then Jesus said to him, “Don’t tell anyone about this. Instead, go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.”


Leprosy was a disease that ostracized the person from the community being forced to live with other lepers in a separate community.  There was no hope, no return to one’s family or community.  The lepers were left alone to die alone.

The fact that Jesus reached out and touched the leper was completely unexpected.  The scripture tell us that the healing occurred immediately.  The leper was told to go to the priest so he could see that he was cured or clean of leprosy, which was required by the Law of Moses, aka the Old Covenant.

The miracle cure of leprosy was clearly an example of how faith cured the man, but more importantly the healing bridged the gap between the people and the priests as well as between the priests and Jesus.  The healing made the man whole and it provided evidence that Jesus was God.

The list of Jesus’ healings and miracles is sprinkled throughout the New Testament.  The four gospels include the stories, but even the earliest disciples performed healings and/or miracles:

  • Acts 2:22, 43—Peter explains the miracles:
    • 22 “People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene[a] by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know.
    • 43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders.


  • Acts 19:11-12—Paul is accredited to have performed miracles, too:
    • 11 God gave Paul the power to perform unusual miracles. 12 When handkerchiefs or aprons that had merely touched his skin were placed on sick people, they were healed of their diseases, and evil spirits were expelled.


  • Acts 19:13-14–goes on to explain that the Jews who had been driving out evil spirits couldn’t:


  • 13 A group of Jews was traveling from town to town casting out evil spirits. They tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus in their incantation, saying, “I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out!” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a leading priest, were doing this. 15 But one time when they tried it, the evil spirit replied, “I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but who are you?” 16 Then the man with the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them, and attacked them with such violence that they fled from the house, naked and battered.


  • Romans 15:17-19—Paul is ministering to the Gentiles of Rome
    • 17 So I have reason to be enthusiastic about all Christ Jesus has done through me in my service to God. 18 Yet I dare not boast about anything except what Christ has done through me, bringing the Gentiles to God by my message and by the way I worked among them. 19 They were convinced by the power of miraculous signs and wonders and by the power of God’s Spirit.[a] In this way, I have fully presented the Good News of Christ from Jerusalem all the way to Illyricum.


Paul’s letters to the Corinthians adds more understanding to why miracles were performed:

  • I Corinthians 1:22—who needed to see miracles
    • 18 The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. 19 As the Scriptures say, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.”[a]  20 So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. 21 Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. 22 It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom.


  • I Corinthians 12:10—spiritual gifts include miracles
    • A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice[a]; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge.[b] The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. 10 He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages,[c] while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said. 11 It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.


  • II Corinthians 12:12—Paul explains what apostles can do
    • 12 When I was with you, I certainly gave you proof that I am an apostle. For I patiently did many signs and wonders and miracles among you.


As Paul’s ministry continues, his letters to the new churches continue to explain the power of God and how Jesus was sent to teach, preach and heal those who determine to live the Christian life.  He explains how the Holy Spirit is the power of God within each of us.  The Holy Spirit fuels the spiritual gifts within us.

  • Galatians 3:5—the Holy Spirit works through us to perform miracles:
    • I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ.
    • 14 Through Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing he promised to Abraham, so that we who are believers might receive the promised[a] Holy Spirit through faith.

The fact that the New Testament has references to healing and miracles in various situations, the closing discussion of why did Jesus perform healings and miracles must center on each one of us individually.  The cynics of 2013 continue to discount the stories of God’s miracles.  The years that have separated Jesus and his disciples and us have caused us to waiver in our belief.  We doubt miracles.  We become suspicious of healings that seem to have no explanation.  Paul was prepared for this and sent out a warning about this in Hebrews.

  • Hebrew 2:1-4—gifts of the Holy Spirit
    • 2 So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it. For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished. So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? And God confirmed the message by giving signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit whenever he chose.


Why did Jesus heal?  Why did Jesus perform miracles?  Healing was to assure that people were healthy or whole.  If a follower was not whole, how could he focus on Jesus’ teachings?  How could he stay God-centered or be able to live a faithful, productive life?  The miracles, the instant healings, the water turned into wine, Lazarus brought back to life all provided authenticity to Jesus claim to be God on earth.  Only God could do that, Jesus was man and God.

In our world right now, do we need proof that God is real?  Jesus knew we needed evidence that God is in control.  Jesus demonstrated God’s love right on earth in front of others, and the word of his work and his compassion spread.  Are we able to spread the word with confidence?  Are we able to see how God works through the spiritual gifts of each and every one of his children?  Can we accept our own gifts and work for the glory of God?

Remember the words of the hymn, “Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy,” may it be our closing prayer:

Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,

weak and wounded, sick and sore;

Jesus ready stands to save you,

full of pity, love, and power.


Come, ye thirsty, come, and welcome,

God’s free bounty glorify;

true belief and true repentance,

every grace that brings you nigh.


Come ye weary, heavy laden,

lost and ruined by the fall;

if you tarry till you’re better,

you will never come at all.


Let not conscience make you linger,

nor of fitness fondly dream;

all the fitness he requireth

is to feel your need of him.


I will arise and go to Jesus;

he will embrace me with his arms;

in the arms of my dear Savior,

O there are ten thousand charms. (or miracles)


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Just who is the Holy Spirit? How do you recognize him, her, it?

given on Sunday, May 19, 2013, Pentecost Sunday.

Opening Scripture:  Judge 3:10

10 The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he became Israel’s judge. He went to war against King Cushan-rishathaim of Aram, and the Lord gave Othniel victory over him.—the NLT


Have you ever heard those stories on the news about how someone could lift a car off a victim?  Or maybe how the neighbor runs into a burning house and saves a family?  Every once and a while a news story reports about a heroic feat on the battlefield.  Reactions to these stories range from complete disbelief to a prayer of thanks sent straight to God.              Typically these feats of heroism are credited to adrenalin, a hormone that acts as a full-body alert system.  Pursuing a deeper understanding, I learned that this is the hormone that causes an individual to react in either a fight or flight mode.  How does this fit in with understanding the Holy Spirit?

Reading through the opening scripture from Judges, I found the following statement in the study notes:

The phrase “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him,” was also spoken of the judges Gideon, Jephthat, and Samson, among others.  It expresses a temporary and spontaneous increase of physical, spiritual, or mental strength.  This was an extraordinary and supernatural occurrence to prepare a person for a special task.  (Life Application Study Bible, p. 381)


Does that not sound like the definition of adrenaline!  Even the ancient people, the faithful tribes of Israel, acknowledged that something unique worked in extraordinary situations.

Yet, there is a twist to our understanding—the Holy Spirit.  In Judges, this unique force is identified as the Spirit of God.  Reading through the listing of verses relating to the Holy Spirit, the Old Testament inclusions are overwhelming outnumbered by the references to the Holy Spirit in the New Testament.  The Judges study note adds in one more line for better understanding:

The Holy Spirit is available to all believers today, but he will come upon believers in an extraordinary way for special tasks.  We should ask the Holy Spirit’s help as we face our daily problems as well as life’s major challenges.  (Ibid.)


How often does something come up in our lives and we have to decide—fight it or flee it?  Recognizing the Holy Spirit and understanding how it works can help us manage the “fight or flight” response that hits us in difficult times.

As Christians, we are equipped with all that we could possibly need to manage the life issues that are constantly popping up in our lives.  Once we can acknowledge that there is a God, that he did send his Son Jesus Christ to teach us and to die for our sins, then we are linked directly to God’s adrenaline—the Holy Spirit.

Remember the verse I frequently reference, Philippians 4:13: “I can do everything through him (Christ) who gives me strength.”   A new level of understanding leaped out once again—the Holy Spirit is God’s adrenaline that makes it possible for us to manage all the unexpected, often un-Christian, experiences we stumble into during our lives.

God’s adrenaline.  The more science explains, the more I see God.  When God decided to create man and woman, he thought of absolutely everything.  The problem is that humans began using free will to out do, out think, or out maneuver God.  The business of living got into the way and blinded us to God’s power.

Now Christians are faced with a new quandary:  How do I know when the Holy Spirit is available and working?  Obviously one should know because as practicing Christians we go to worship, we believe in Christ, and we live out the Golden Rule.  Or, do we?  Maybe we go through the motions without really connecting to God, you know, by talking and listening to him.

Many days I know that students or family members do not hear what I am saying; therefore, it stands to reason that we do the same type of ‘hearing’ with God.  We are what we do.  This may be why Peter and Paul applied so much emphasis in their ministries to the Holy Spirit.

In Luke’s second book, Acts, he shares how Peter and Paul introduce the earliest Christians to the Holy Spirit.  The first half is Peter’s work of the Holy Spirit, and the second is Paul’s.  But, in Acts 1:4-5, Luke writes what Christ said:

. . . “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with[a] water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”  –the NLT


Through baptism, each individual is empowered by the Holy Spirit.  We symbolize that with the use of water, but consider the immense strength we are granted once empowered by the Holy Spirit!  There is a problem, though.  How do we know, really know, that we now exist with such a gift?

That is a tough question to answer.  Maybe we need to realize again God supplied these bodies he designed with that special hormone ‘adrenaline.’  Even when we do not consciously think, many times our bodies react with amazing skill, agility, and/or strength.  The fight-or-flight response is beyond our conscious control in many critical circumstances.

Still, there is the concept of the Holy Spirit as an additional presence with us, just not a visible presence.  Mull this idea over:

During that short time [30 years of Jesus’ life] the church was established, and the gospel of salvation was taken throughout the world, even to the capital of the Roman Empire.  Those preaching the gospel, though ordinary people with human frailties and margins, were empowered  [emphasis added] by the Holy Spirit to take the Good News “all over the world” (Acts 17:6).  Throughout the book of Acts we learn about the nature of the church and how we today are also to go about turning our world upside down.  (Ibid. p.1942)


The Apostles and the earliest disciples were just the average person like us, working to keep their families fed, sheltered, and clothed.  They were picked by Jesus or called by God to transform the world around them.

Today, we are the disciples.  We accepted God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit when we were baptized.  We joined a particular church because it provided us with a community of believers who wanted to see God in action.  Peter uses the story of Stephen as an example of how the Holy Spirit empowers the faithful:

Acts 6:8-10:  Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed amazing miracles and signs among the people. But one day some men from the Synagogue of Freed Slaves, as it was called, started to debate with him. They were Jews from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and the province of Asia. 10 None of them could stand against the wisdom and the Spirit with which Stephen spoke.  –the NLT


Again the study notes make a point of explaining that Stephen could not have managed all the lies, the imprisonments, the abuse, and the stoning if he had not accepted the Holy Spirit’s presence in his life.  God’s adrenaline provides us the physical, mental, and spiritual strength to manage all the un-Christian influences in our lives.

Just who is the Holy Spirit?  How do we recognize him, her, or it?  There is no simple answer to that question, but remember that science has been able to identify the hormone adrenaline and to explain how it works.  Compare that same understanding to the Holy Spirit.

We may not physically see it, but we know it is there.  We know that when life hands us the challenges, God has given us the Holy Spirit to manage.  The Holy Spirit is God’s adrenaline that makes it possible to do all things through Christ who strengthens us.  You will recognize it when life puts you to the test:

  • Maybe you are diagnosed with an extreme medical condition.  Knowing that God is right there, simply call out to him for the strength to manage.
  • Maybe some fraudulent person or company victimizes you by an accident or a scam.  Rely on the Holy Spirit to guide you through the problem successfully.
  • Maybe you are handed a task at work or even one you choose to take on that others say you can’t do.  Think positively and thank God that he has provided you the Holy Spirit to work through it with you.

Just who is the Holy Spirit and how do you recognize it can be answered much more simply than one could ever expect:  Once you accept Christ into your life, you accept the reality of God’s adrenaline, too.  You know the Holy Spirit whenever you tackle some issue in your life that others might consider too much to handle.  The Holy Spirit will give you the skills and the strength to handle the extraordinary situation in such a manner that others will think you are extraordinary.

Closing  prayer:

Dear God in Three,

We believe in you as one of three.

We believe in your presence

in this universe we live.

We believe that you joined us

on this earth in the form of Jesus.

We believe that Jesus ascended into heaven

but you empowered us with the Holy Spirit.

Guide us daily in modeling your grace and love

to others in our homes, communities, and countries.

Guide us in acting fearlessly to the daily challenges

that pop up around us.

Guide us in serving one another in love,

never tiring because we are empowered.

Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

May we recognize how it gives us the strength

to do all that we can for all that we can

whenever and where ever we can.  –Amen


Closing Scripture:  Philippians 1:1-4

3 Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters,[a] rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith.

Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. For we who worship by the Spirit of God[b] are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more!  –the NLT



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Rule No. 3: Stay in love with God.

given on Sunday, September 23, 2012

Rule No. 3:  Stay in love with God.

based on Rueben P. Job’s Three Simple Rules:  A Wesleyan Way of Living


What is the first thought that runs through your mind when you hear the rooster’s crow?  Is it that it can’t be time to get up!  Or maybe you think something is wrong, the rooster’s crow could be a warning.  Does it ever cross your mind that the rooster’s crow is asking a question for God?  God asks, “Do you love me?”

Oddly, that question is the one test that God asks of us over and over.  We just do not hear it.  “Do you love me?”  Not only once does he ask it, but he asks it over and over and over.  Peter heard it three times.  Peter could answer it with words, but actions do not always match our words.

While reading these three simple rules, the order of them seemed backward.  Shouldn’t the last, the third rule, be the first:  Stay in love with God.  In fact, I think it seems more logical to completely reverse the three rules:  1. Stay in love with God.  2. Do good.  3. Do no harm.

This third rule even lead me to ask our district superintendent about its wording and inclusion in the three rules.  The answer was the typical Jesus-style answer:  How else do we hear God?  How do we do the other two rules?

To stay in love with God seems so simple, but by now I know that simple wording certainly does not mean simple practices.  Bishop Job even begins the explanation with the word “ordinance.”  With a background exposure to a military academy, the word ordinance triggers images of weapons.  Ordinance certainly was not a word I expected in a theological discussion.  But, the Bishop begins rule number three with that word:

Ordinance is a strange word to our ears.  But to John Wesley, it was a word that described the practices that kept the relationship between God and humans vital, alive, and growing.  (p.53)

Another words, there must be ‘weapons’ to use for keeping us following God.  The Bishop continues to clarify that:

. . . He names public worship of God, the Lord’s Supper, private and family prayer, searching the Scriptures, Bible study, and fasting as essential to a faithful life.  . . . these practices can become a life-giving source of strength and guidance for us.  . . . these disciplines [are] central to any life in faithfulness to God in Christ.  (ibid)

Let’s go back to the rooster’s crow.  Jesus told Peter that he would deny him three times before the rooster crowed in the morning.  Peter refused to believe it.  Yet sitting with the crowd outside the palace, three times he was asked if he knew Jesus.  Three times he answered no.  Imagine what he felt when the rooster crowed!  He knew he had denied Jesus three times right there that night. (John 18:25-27)

Rule no. 3:  Stay in love with God.  Peter loved God, yet even he denied knowing Jesus.  If Peter can slip and deny Jesus at that very critical point in the story, why shouldn’t we be concerned with our ability to stay in love with God?

Maybe we are doing no harm and we are doing good, are we still in love with God?  How can we be sure that we stay in love with God?  Even after all these years as Christian, why should we be concerned about staying in love with God?

Maybe we are doing just fine, but we also know that the world around us continues to change and usually we are not too happy about it.  We complain, but we do not seem to have a solution.  We are comfortable in our daily routines and our typical weekly schedule.  Is not that enough to show that we are still in love with God?  The question possibly could be worded a bit differently, too:  Are my personal practices enough to maintain my love for God in the 21st century culture?

Here is Bishop Job’s checklist, which comes straight from John Wesley:

  • public worship of God,
  • the Lord’s Supper,
  • private and family prayer,
  • searching the Scriptures, Bible study,
  • and fasting.

Stop and review those practices—or ordinances—to keep us in a solid relationship with God.  Are we able to affirm that we are participating in those six practices?  Maybe we practice part of them, maybe three or four; but are our practices strong enough to convince God and others we are still in love with God.

The third rule needs to be the first as it leads to the other two rules as automatic results from this third rule.  Bishop Job provides the reasoning:

[1]  It is in these practices that we learn to hear and respond to God’s direction.

[2]  It is in these practices that we learn to trust God as revealed in Jesus Christ.

 [3]  It is in these practices that we learn of God’s love for us.

 [4]  It is where our love for God is nurtured and sustained.  (p.55)

The argument that rule no. 3 should be rule no. 1 is becoming more solid—at least in my mind.  If maintaining these practices keep us in a strong relationship with God, following his direction to do no harm and to do good will follow.

These ‘ordinances’ are not new.   These practices or methods or disciplines are designed to keep us in love with God, but they also result in doing no harm and in doing good even in the 21st century.  Jesus and his Apostles were using these practices.  Wesley used them.  And today we use them.  The methods to stay in love with God have not changed.  The cultures around us continue to change, but maintaining these practices is essential.

Granted the cultural changes lead us to modify or to adapt the practices in many cases, but the practices do arm us against the onslaught of a 21st century culture that seems to turn fire at us every moment of our earthly lives—even in those quiet sleeping moments at night.

The very constitutional amendments designed to preserve our religious freedoms here in the United States are challenged and adapted to social standards that are no longer the primary Christian ones that established the Constitution.   Yet there can be no excuse for not maintaining the practices of our faith.  For example, one individual tested prayer in our schools.  The Supreme Court ruled that we may not force someone to pray out loud at schools or other public functions.  But no one can legislate our silent prayers whether in school, in our homes, or on our jobs.

  • We continue to meet weekly for public worship.
  • We have no excuse to avoid reading the Bible in search of answers or simply for continual study.
  • We include communion in our worship.
  • We can choose to fast in a manner that works for us, too.

The truth is that we honestly need to review our practices.  Are we using these practices, often referred to as Wesley’s Works of Piety?  Again, Bishop Job points out that rule no. 3 leads to Wesley’s Works of Mercy that covers rules no. 1 & 2.

Holy living will not be discovered, achieved, continued, and sustained without staying in love with God.  And while staying in love with God involves, prayer, worship, study, and the Lord’s Supper [ i.e. works of piety], it also involves feeding the lambs, tending the sheep, and providing for the needs of others . . . [those] are the signs of love that we exchange with God.  And they are signs of the love that the world can understand.

Sadly, we live in a world that challenges us to maintain our works of piety.  Bishop Job quotes the theologian Henri J. M. Nouwen, “It seems easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people, easier to own life than to love life.”      With that statement, when we fail to maintain our Christian principles or to follow our practices, we have to answer Jesus’ question, “Do you love me?”

And like Peter, when the rooster began crowing on that fateful morning, we have to turn to God and ask for forgiveness.  Remember, God forgives us “70 times 7” or forever.  Peter denied his love of God, and there are times we do, too.  We may not use words, but we use actions.  Fortunately, as Bishop Job adds,

“The failures of the past are to be forgotten and the new possibilities are to be embraced. . . . Each of us has our own litany of failures to recite, but the good news is that we can start again.  . . . [our answer to ‘Do you love me?’ is] When we respond in the affirmative, the response from God is always the same, “Feed my lambs, tend my sheep.” (p.59-60)

The three simple rules are all wrapped up in on:  “Stay in love with God.”  By following the disciplines laid out by Wesley as the works of piety–prayer, worship, study, and the Lord’s supper—then we answer with the works of mercy—actions that heal the pain, injustice, and inequality of our world.  We do no harm and we do good as means or ways to stay in love with God.  To end, Bishop Job writes:

“It’s a way of living that can guard your life from doing evil and enable you to do good.  A way of living that provides a way to stay in love with God in this world and the next.  A way of living that promises a way to claim and enjoy your full inheritance as children of God. (p.61-62)

I believe that staying in love with God leads to the quality of life that I dream of living.  The end result, too, is continued life even after death.  Peter heard that rooster crow, but even after denying his relationship with Jesus, he was forgiven and continued to spread the Word.  God loves us, we love him.  Let us share the news, too, so others may know that love and the world can be transformed.

And to close, using the words of Bishop Job, let us pray:

Dear God,

Teach us today

to do no harm,

to do good,

and assist us

so that we may

stay in a loving relationship

with you and our neighbor.

Help us today

to be an answer

to another’s prayer

so that we may be one

of your signs

of hope

in the world you love.  –Amen


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