Itching Ears

There is a deep and intense hunger in our souls. We know we need to fill our hungry ears with that which will sustain and strengthen us. The problem is that we are impatient. We want instant fulfillment. We want fast-food answers that satisfy us and we are prone to jump at the first thing that makes us feel good. 

Our hungry ears become itching ears that cling to the first thing that makes them feel better. Itching is an irritation, while hunger is a yearning to be filled. Itching ears are irritated. Scratching an itch feels good but if you do it too much, infection sets in. 

There is a deep anxiety that seeks anything that will bring relief. Itching ears don’t take the time or expend the energy to ensure the truth or usefulness of what they are hearing. They look for quick relief instead of long-term enrichment. Itching ears cling to what I call “junk food” teachings that only teach health, wealth, prosperity, and blessings. They neglect the life-sustaining bread of God’s Word that teaches the worth of persecution, the importance of endurance, and the necessity of increasing holiness. Rebukes and corrections do not satisfy itching ears, but they will serve as bread to the hungry soul. 

Just like we have to take time to nourish our bodies, we have to slow down and take the time to seek out the necessary ingredients to nourish our souls. Paul tells us in 2 Tim. 3:16, “All scripture is inspired by God.” So, every time we have the opportunity to hear God’s Word, we should take it in urgently, hungrily, and reverently. We may differ on interpretation but we do so with reverence. We, who are hungry for sustaining nourishment for our souls can’t jump to convenient interpretations that only scratch an itch. As people hungry for true nourishment, we must work to learn the context in which the scripture was written, as well as the intended audience.

Why shouldn’t we give into that which we know will make us feel good and draw in the crowds? Why not give in to the easy fix that satisfies us right now and that scratches our itch? Though these messages feel good when we hear them, they bring false and incomplete hope. They shelter us from the hard truths of the world and fail to prepare us for the suffering we all must one day endure. Teachings that do not challenge us, hold us back from growing stronger in our faith and closer to God. 

Paul tells Timothy to  “continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it.” To continue learning about what you believe, your faith has to be on a firm foundation. If you trust the foundations of our faith, why not continue to urgently seek more of the truth to fill your hungry ears? Why settle for shallow words that make you feel good for a moment when you know you need more? We have to keep learning the things of God to get and stay spiritually healthy.

The truth is hard to hear sometimes because it cuts to the depths of our souls. Just as it is easy to give in to junk food when we are hungry, it’s easy to give in to quick sound bites and flowery words that make us feel good. Putting in the effort to seek nourishment instead of scratching an itch reaps long-term benefits for one’s soul. We have to be concerned about the long-term effects on our souls. As continuing to scratch an itch causes infection, and a constant diet of junk food is harmful to our bodies, a constant diet void of deep and challenging truths from the Word of God infects our souls and weakens our spirits. 

If you are not taking in every opportunity to hear and learn from God’s Word, start small but start now. Take notes in the sermons you attend with the expectation that God has something for you within each message. Each week, we hear the Scriptures. Listening with hungry ears will bring nourishment to your soul.

If the words of the hymns do not excite you, slow down and take the time to understand them. I promise that if you think about what you are singing, you won’t be able to help but sing with more strength and volume. In our hymns, we remember in Whom (we) Have Believed,) that the “Word is a Lamp” to our feet, that the Scriptures contain “Wonderful Words of Life.” Our hymns nourish our souls by reminding us of our victory in Jesus, of God’s Amazing Grace, and of so much more.

There must be an urgency with which we approach our time together every Sunday. There must be an urgency to come to fellowship, to go to the table, to sing to God, and to hear the Words of God. We take in Scripture knowing it has an essential purpose: to make us “proficient, equipped for every good work.”

While it is tempting and easy to give in to teachings and experiences that make us feel good at the moment, we have to put in the hard work necessary to satisfy our hungry ears and nourish our souls. We have to keep learning the things of God to get and stay spiritually healthy. 

The lure may be strong to run to fast-food doctrines. Fear, anxiety, and busyness can cause you to settle for other things that do nothing more than scratch and itch. As Jim comes to lead us in our closing hymn, please hear and receive this invitation. Slow down, come to God, and pray. Pray that the itch turns into a hunger. Pray that God restores your hunger for that which is holy. Pray that God awakens the desire to come more often to church, to sing the hymns with joy and strength, to receive Jesus’ invitation to come to His table, to see every part of the service as an act of worship and to take every opportunity to listen and learn from the Word of God.

Scripture Reference: 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

Present Yourself To God

There are many ways in which we may suffer hardship for our faith in Jesus Christ and yet the Apostle Paul encourages Timothy and all who read this letter to “present (ourselves to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.” The word pronounced, “prɪˈzent,” is a verb, a word of action.1 As we look at the word and see the image on our sermon slide, we can hear the word as a noun pronounced, “prez.ənt.”2  

Imagine yourself as a present presented to God. The Scripture brings some troubling questions to mind. What kind of presentation would not be approved by God? What kind of present would bring a feeling of shame to the presenter? What steps would we need to take to become a present (prez.ənt) worthy to be presented (prɪˈzent/d) to God? 

While I have always been assured of my eternal salvation, I have not always thought of myself as a pleasing gift to God. So, this Scripture really got my attention from the first time I saw it. The reason it grabs and holds my attention is because of the first part of Paul’s exhortation, which says, “Do your best…”3 Paul, knowing we are called to be acceptable, pure, and holy gifts to be presented to God doesn’t say, “be acceptable now.” He says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him…”4 This lets me know two things. First, God expects us to present ourselves as acceptable, pure, and holy gifts. Second, if my spiritual life is cluttered with junk that needs to be cleared out, there is both the time and the opportunity to start the cleansing process so the Holy Spirit has room to work, fill, and help me bear fruit worthy of presentation. 

I can get a bit anxious in light of my flaws. There are things I have done, thoughts, and attitudes I have had that are unacceptable to God. Sometimes, I fail to be worthy of presentation to God. Yet, I am comforted by Paul’s words, “Do your best…” That says to me that though I know there is work to be done, a race to the goal line that needs to be crossed, I don’t have to be there right this minute. That which makes up the content of my soul does not have to be absolutely perfect when I come to God. As long as I come humbly, with a desire to change and grow, I can start where I am and take it one step at a time.

Right now, what do we bring that is worthy of our King and Savior Jesus Christ? What do we present to our God? If we are not yet ready and confident in the presentation we bring, how are we going to get ourselves ready to be presented to God?

Assurance can be ours. As we continue doing our best for God each day, we will change, and we will grow. The gift that is all that we are, our thoughts, attitudes, and actions will begin to change. Those things which are unacceptable to God will no longer have a place within us because we will be filled with the Holy Spirit of God.

Paul begins this section of scripture in verse eight telling Timothy to “remember Jesus Christ.” What is it about Jesus Christ that he wants Timothy and us to remember? We have to remember who Jesus Christ is to us. We have to remember that Jesus rose from the dead. We have to remember that God proved that life-giving resurrection power is found in Jesus Christ. This is the Gospel, the good news. We have to remember that Jesus Christ is the King of all. So, we must give God all of our habits, intentions, and desires. We start doing our best by presenting ourselves at our worst, surrendering all that we are to God, and allowing God to change us, mold us, and make us into a present worth of presentation to God.

Since Jesus rose from the dead, that which is dead within us can have new life. We do not have to stay trapped in sin. Since resurrection power is found in Jesus Christ, our desire to love and live for God can be resurrected. Since Jesus Christ is King, we must do our best to be faithful, strong, and fruitful.

The Wesley Study Bible points out that in verses nine and ten Paul reminds Timothy that he “suffer(ed) hardship” to do that which is approved by God. Just prior to this section, in verses 3-6, Paul illustrates the kind of Christians we are called to become by likening us to faithful soldiers, winning athletes, and successful farmers, all of which “illustrate a disciplined faithfulness that cultivates personal virtue.”5 There is much hardship on the paths of those who faithfully pursue holiness. Though we are comforted by the words, “do your best,” these words are balanced by illustrations that let us know that to be successful, we have to be faithful to God, build up our spiritual muscle and stamina for holiness, and plant the right kinds of seeds in our souls to produce a fruitful harvest that is pure and acceptable to God.

According to John Wesley, the salvation of which Paul speaks in verse ten “is deliverance from all evil…Glory (is that which brings) the enjoyment of all good.”6 We know that we have both salvation and deliverance from evil through faith in Jesus Christ our Lord. This realization is the foundation on which we begin our journeys toward cleaning out that which brings us shame. Emptied of all evil, we will not only enjoy all the good that God is creating in our lives but we will happily present our changed lives as beautiful presents to God. Realizing we are gifts to be presented to God inspires us to live faithful, strong, and fruitful lives.

Without a doubt, we are called upon to be faithful, strong, and fruitful. We are called upon to do whatever it takes not to give in to our carnal desires or to the whims of the world around us. This is the heart of Christian discipleship to which all of God’s children are called.7 We are inspired to strive for holiness because our lives have been changed by the love of God by which we are sustained. Our lives are changed by the grace of God by which we were called. Our lives are changed by the Son of God, by whom we are redeemed. 

Without God, we were left to wander blindly about. Without a confident hope for eternal life in heaven, we lived self-centered, self-destructive, selfish, and sad lives. When God took hold of our hearts and opened our eyes to the love and salvation God graciously and continuously offers, we found hope for a future. With God’s help, our grateful hearts have been resurrected for a new life in Christ. This is why we change. This is why we do our best. 

If we are not doing our best to make the necessary changes in our hearts and lives, then by default, we are doing our best to allow the world’s influence to take hold. Apathy is a noun meaning “the feeling of not being interested in or enthusiastic about something, or things in general.”8 Apathy applied daily becomes an adverb. Our faith becomes apathetic. Our connection to the church becomes apathetic. Then, inevitably, our connection to God becomes apathetic. As we drift away from that which is holy, we draw closer to that which is not. There is no way around it. Those who drift away from God, draw closer to satan. If you are not doing your best to “present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed…,”9 then you are presenting yourself to apathy which will take hold and take over. 

Apathetic Christians stop working to become holy. They turn God’s grace into an excuse to stop trying, assuming God will forgive and save them simply because they believe in God and Jesus Christ. Apathetic and empty of all that is holy, unholiness, unrighteousness, and sinfulness fill their souls. Faithfulness to godly things will help us become more holy. Consistent exercise of our faith will make us grow strong. Pruning out that which is ungodly and destructive will make us bear the fruit of holiness. 

Christian, rid yourself of apathy and remember you are a soldier of God. Be faithful to your calling as a child of God and disciple of Jesus Christ. Brothers and sisters, put in the work to prune out all that is ungodly and destructive. Stop giving in to dark desires and actions that only bring shame. Beloved sons and daughters of God, it’s time to start planting seeds of holiness. It’s time to fertilize the soil of your mind by filling it with that which is holy, uplifting, and pure.

Without faithfulness to our God, our king becomes ourselves and our lord becomes satan. Unless we build our spiritual strength by reading the Word of God, worshipping God, fellowshipping with other Christians, and praying to God every day, we will grow weaker. Pulled further into apathy, dark thoughts will increasingly fill our minds. Drifting into slothful sinfulness,  guilt and shame grow until all we have to present to God are our presents of weakness, thoughts of anger, bitterness, resentment, and fear, and lives filled with sinful and shameful behavior.

As John Wesley says, if we are “Dead with him – Dead to sin, (then we are to die for him).”10 Once we awaken from our apathy and start doing our best for God by unloading selfishness, dethroning satan as our lord, and refusing to give into spiritual weakness. Our souls will be revived. As Jesus Christ increasingly becomes our Lord, we will grow stronger, our lives will change for the better we will grow closer to God. 

Without the junk that once filled our lives, we are now ready to live for Christ. We are prepared to grow stronger in our faith. We are awakened to faithfulness, and God’s Holy Spirit enables us to live increasingly holy lives. Remaining faithful and strong, we will continue to do our best to empty ourselves of vain desires and fully yield to God through Jesus Christ. Finally, we will be ready to take our faith to the next level. As we prune the evil away, the fruits of holiness will blossom and grow for God’s glory and these fruits will be worthy of presentation to God.

Perhaps you realize that you have let apathy make you weak. You have allowed dark thoughts to clutter your mind, slothful sinfulness has enslaved you, and guilt, shame, anger, bitterness, resentment, and fear have filled your soul. Maybe all that you have left to present to God is an apathetic and listless life that has drifted away from God. 

Now is the time to start making changes in your life. Now is the time to cry out to God. God can heal your mind so you begin to care. God is ready to help you change. It is time to consider this question: At the end of your life, what kind of gift will you present to God? Will you present a life filled with regret, rage, and rebellion? Or, will you lovingly, boldly, and excitedly present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth?.”11 Realizing we are gifts to be presented to God inspires us to live faithful, strong, and fruitful lives.

I encourage you to turn your life around now. Rid yourself of apathy. Stop waiting. God is faithful and powerful enough to help you begin the cleansing process. Come to God in prayer through Jesus Christ. Become the present you want to present! Die to yourself and give yourself completely to God! Fight the good fight, grow strong in the Lord, and bear fruits of righteousness and holiness for the glory of God.

Scripture Reference: 2 Timothy 2:8-15

Work Cited

  1. “Prɪˈzent,” – pronunciation in English by Cambridge Dictionary.” Cambridge Dictionary, 5 October 2022, https://dictionary.cambridge.org/pronunciation/english/present. Accessed 8 October 2022.
  2. “Prez.ənt” – pronunciation of present by Macmillan Dictionary.” Macmillan Dictionary, https://www.macmillandictionary.com/pronunciation/british/present_2. Accessed 8 October 2022.
  3. 2 Tim. 2:15. Bible Gateway. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Timothy+2%3A15&version=NRSVUE. Accessed 7 October 2022.
  4. 2 Tim. 2:15. Bible Gateway. 
  5. Arnold, Bill T. NRSV Wesley Study Bible Charcoal Bonded Leather: New Revised Standard Version. Abingdon Press, 2017.
  6. Wesley, John. John Wesley’s Notes On The Entire Bible. Kindle Edition ed., Unknown.
  7. Westley Study Bible.
  8. “Apathy” defined by Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries. https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/us/definition/english/apathy?q=apathy. Accessed 7 October 2022.
  9. 2 Tim. 2:15. Bible Gateway. 
  10. John Wesley’s Notes On The Entire Bible.
  11. 2 Tim. 2:15. Bible Gateway. 

Rekindle The Gift

At some point in our lives, the excitement we once had about God dwindles. The assurance we had about our calling and purpose in life is shaken. What once were flames of passionate worship, fiery confidence, and a burning sense of purpose are extinguished and we are left wondering how to rekindle these gifts we once had.

As I read 2 Timothy 1:1-14, I was reminded of the gifts of relationship, calling, and purpose that God has granted me. I was reminded of the wonder, joy, and love I first felt as I realized I could have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Most relationships start with attraction and infatuation. Then, as they grow, relationships experience struggles, slumps, and challenges. 

As a child, I fell in love with being in love with God. I longed to spend time in church. I was attracted to the things of God, found joy in the beauty of the hymns, and comfort in the sacraments of baptism and communion. I was thrilled to learn of the things of God. 

My relationship with God grew, as did the assurance of my salvation and growing confidence in my calling as a pastor. I gladly received and flourished in God’s gift of purpose as a faithful child of God and disciple of Jesus Christ. 

As the struggles of life grew, I sometimes allowed the darkness of the world to throw water on the flames of my love for God. What confidence I had in my initial calling had diminished because of the imperfections I saw in myself as well as other challenges. 

There was a point in our lives at which most of us began a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. You may have been born into the church and made the decision to confirm your faith in God as a teenager. Or, perhaps you came to God later. But, at some point, you began a relationship with God that was fresh. The fire was new. The songs and sacraments were new. Then troubles and challenges came and chipped away at your relationship with God.

There was a time you were assured of your calling and purpose as a child of God. Then, life happened and now you find yourself lost, confused, and shaken. So you seek ways to rekindle those things that were lost. 

We fail at finding the solutions we need because we turn inward and not upward. We get distracted, discouraged, and disheartened. We give up and give in to mediocracy in our worship and our lives. We half-heartedly worship and slug along with life, just happy to make it through another day. 

We certainly do not want to come to our end face to face with God and hear the words of Revelation 2:4, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.”

A close, joyful and satisfying relationship with God can be yours. 

A powerful life of confidence purpose and hope can be yours. 

How do we find that which has been lost? Where do we start and where do we find the answer?

We get a strong clue in Paul’s first line of his second letter to Timothy, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim.1:1 NRSV).

In this first line, we see how Paul was assured of both his purpose and relationship with God. Because of his strong faith in God, he retained his determination to live according to God’s will. Because of his faith in Jesus Christ, his relationship with God remained in full flame. Where else can “the promise of life” be rekindled but by the grace of and our faith in Christ Jesus?

By our faith in Christ, we not only find the ability to rekindle our hope for a promise of eternal life in the hereafter but the promise of life in the here and now! In Jesus’ life and resurrection, we see that the flame God has placed within can last forever and burn bright now. 

The gifts God has given have to be rekindled. 

It is the renewed realization of God’s gracious presence in our lives that rekindles our love and zeal for Christ. It is faith in a resurrected Savior that rekindles our purpose. Renewed realization and faith are the gasoline that rekindles these gifts of relationship, calling, and purpose that God so graciously gives.

In any relationship, love’s flame is kindled and rekindled by choice, not by anything as fickle as feelings. The more we kindle the flame of love, the hotter the fire and the longer it burns.

It is the remembrance of why we answered the call that rekindles our calling and purpose. We saw a need and realized the gifts God gave us to fill it. We heard the cries of the needy and answered the call to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ. No matter what profession we chose, we did so as children of God and as disciples of Jesus Christ. Even in retirement, God’s gifts of calling and purpose can be rekindled.

When the fire of our relationship with God is smothered by the distractions and temptations around us, our spirits weaken, and we lose our hope. We lose our passion for the things of God and our distance is reflected in our worship. It is in times like these when the gifts God has given have to be rekindled.

When the passion for our calling and purpose as children of God and disciples of Jesus Christ is quenched, we lose sight of our place in this world. We lose sight of our calling and forget why we go on and why we serve. Without passion, vision, and sight, apathy takes hold and we stumble blindly about our lives and stop caring about what God wants us to do next. It is in times like these when the gifts God has given have to be rekindled. 

The flame of relationship with God was once lit in our lives. The embers still burn but we have to take action before the fire goes out. We can start small with just a prayer for help to rekindle the fire. Then, we can take bigger steps, like getting back to church, opening our mouths and lifting our voices to sing the songs of God, ensuring that we, our children and grandchildren are baptized, and remembering our Lord Jesus Christ regularly by taking part in corporate communion.

We were once passionate about our calling and purpose as children of God and disciples of Jesus Christ. Whether or not you feel it, there is still a spark but it’s up to you to fan the flames and rekindle the gift. Ask God for renewed passion. Seek God for clarity of purpose. Open your eyes and ears to the needs around you.

A spark that is rekindled becomes a raging fire. You can be certain that the more you rekindle the gifts God has given, the hotter the flame will become. Your relationship with God will grow closer. Your calling and purpose will regain their clarity and excitement. You will be a light burning bright in a dark and dreary world because the gifts God has given have been rekindled.

As we share together in holy communion, now is your opportunity to begin rekindling your gifts of relationship with God, calling, and purpose. The ushers will direct you from the back center. As you draw nearer the table of communion, imagine yourself drawing closer to God. As you open your hands to receive the body of Christ, invite the fire of love for God to burn brighter within. Let the reminder of Jesus’ blood shed for you and for the world reignite your passion to grow in Christ, proclaim the Word, and serve others. Spend time in prayer. Repent, forgive, renew, receive, and rekindle.

Scripture Reference: 2 Timothy 1:1-14.

Separation

Scripture Reference: Luke 16:19-31

Two people in this parable find themselves separated from each other. They are separated by man-made systems that were built during their lives and now they find themselves separated by a great chasm in the afterlife.

We are told in verse 19 that “the rich man was dressed in purple and fine linen and (that he) feasted sumptuously every day.” By contrast, in verse 20, is the injured and starving poor man, who was apparently dumped at the gate of the rich man. 

The rich man was not only in great health, but he was dressed in the finest clothes and ate all he wanted and more. Purple and fine linen were reserved for the wealthiest and highest in status. It’s likely the poor man did not even have a change of clothes. We also know from this story that the rich man ate very well.  

In Greek, the word, translated as “‘sumptuously’ denotes brilliance and splendor.”  The word used for “feast” is a word that denotes special occasions.1  So, while the poor man starved, the rich man had Thanksgiving dinner every day. 

There are occasions on which some splurge on an expensive restaurant. We pay a premium to feel special and to dine in an atmosphere of opulence. In these moments, the night out becomes more than a shared meal, it is a dining experience. We pay a premium to feel special for a moment. The white tablecloths, fine china, linen napkins, and silver settings take us away into another world. In this case, we encounter a man who splurges in this way every night. It has been said that looking at one’s spending will prove one’s priorities.2 Looking at the rich man’s spending, it is clear that his priority was in separating himself from the needs of others and setting himself up for comfort and overindulgence. 

What is it that separates us from each other in this life and what bearing do these separations have in the life to come? I believe the deciding factor on how our life in the hereafter is affected is the heart behind our behaviors. 

We know there will always be poor people. Jesus said so in Matthew 26:11. Does being poor automatically create a connection between you and God and does being rich automatically consign you to eternal torment? Not a chance. I can say that with complete assurance because I know that our salvation is granted through faith in Jesus Christ. That means that poor people who come to God through faith in Jesus Christ are saved by their faith, not by their poverty. Rich people are saved also, through their faith. 

This parable is not directed toward rich people simply because of their wealth. It is directed specifically to the Pharisees. More generally applied, it is also directed toward any who think their social status on Earth has solidified their place in heaven. They use their social status to separate themselves and others from God. 

There is separation. Separation of classes and separation between rich and poor, humble and proud, heaven and hell. The Pharisees separated themselves from everyone else, setting themselves up as the gatekeepers of God’s Word and of God’s temple. They interpreted the law to justify themselves and create a barrier between themselves and the rest of God’s people.

In their pride and love for money, the Pharisees were as guilty as the rich man in the parable, in that they gathered wealth solely for personal gain. Like the rich man, the Pharisees retained control and power over others and, like the rich man, they oppressed the poor and needy. 

Here is our main point which serves as an important warning, there is separation in many things in this world but the worst kind of separation is that which eternally separates ourselves or others from God.

Eternal separation from God is only an extension of the separation we created here on Earth. God does not separate Himself from us, we separate ourselves from God. Once we die, the chasm we worked so hard to create becomes one that is impossible to cross. Our calling is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We carry out this calling by connecting others to God. 

We have to answer two questions to clarify our main point and to keep from this eternal separation. how do we separate ourselves from God and how do we separate others from God?

First, how do we separate ourselves from God? We separate ourselves from God by becoming unteachable. Some of us have grown up in church and feel like we have heard it all. We have studied and listened and have come to the point that we don’t feel we have any more to learn. So, we start shutting down. We reason that with so many interpretations of Scripture, what use is it to listen to preachers and teachers? We decide we know enough, we have heard enough, and decide it is time for us to live according to our own understanding. Following this line of thinking, some have stopped going to church. 

Some have let hurt feelings take them out of the fellowship of the disciples of Christ and in so doing have removed themselves from the place of worship, corporate prayer, shared smiles, warm hugs, friendly handshakes, and loving smiles. 

We become unteachable in separation from the things of God. Separation leads to isolation. Isolation leads to destruction. Whether it is isolation from other people who have the Holy Spirit of God within them or isolation from God’s love, isolation is deadly. If you are too ill to get out of the house, make sure someone with the Spirit of God within them is visiting you regularly. If ours is the only voice to which we are listening, we will become and remain unteachable.

We separate ourselves from God by becoming unreachable. We become unreachable by creating impenetrable barriers with our pride. We create unpassable chasms by dulling our senses with drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, pornography, possessions, food, and activities, among other things. We find it difficult to take time to listen to an invisible God amidst the noise of the constant temptations around us. So, we don’t stop. We don’t notice that our soul is poor and starving at the gate because we are too busy feeding our flesh and giving in to distraction.

Second, how do we separate others from God? How we treat others has an eternal bearing because it is a matter of the heart. Our hearts have separated from the love of God and we have extended that separation to others. 

We have separated ourselves into white, black, Hispanic, and Korean churches. We have pushed people away from our tables of fellowship, pushed them out of our churches, and placed them out of their minds. Yet, they are no less precious children of God than anyone else. All of God’s children are highly valued. 

The outcast, the unloved ones, the humble and lowly tend to be separated in our society and yet find a connection with God much easier than those who are well off. Why? Because they are hungry and they know it! They are starving for fellowship, thirsting for righteousness, seeking to know more of God and learn more about how to please God. The outcast who has found the love of God through Jesus Christ has made it past the judgmental glances and words of the Pharisees to find freedom. They have heard words of acceptance, love, and deliverance from their Savior Jesus Christ, and have gratefully run into the presence of God.

The torment of eternity comes to the faithless and the proud whose hunger is fed by the things of the world. They have great celebrations, the best of everything, the biggest churches, and the best houses. On the outside, they appear well off, while in reality, their spirits are isolated and empty. Their chasm has been created and unless they start finding ways to connect themselves and others to God, their souls face eternal separation.

The worst kind of separation is that which eternally separates ourselves or others from God. Make a decision now to stop separating yourself from God. Stop separating others from God. The time to connect to God is now. The time to connect with other children of God is now. Invite God in. Invite others to come. Just as you are. Just as they are. Drop the barriers. Lay down the pride. Be teachable. Be reachable. Pray to God and enter through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Works Cited

  1. Johnson, Luke Timothy. The Gospel of Luke. Edited by Daniel J. Harrington, Kindle Edition ed., vol. 3, Collegeville, Liturgical Press, 1991.
  2. Sethi, Ramit. “How You Spend Money Reflects Your Priorities.” Business Insider, 19 February 2019, http://businessinsider.com/how-you-spend-money-reflects-priorities-2019-2. Accessed 26 September 2022.

Acceptance Awareness

There are many who struggle with acceptance awareness. Overcome with shame from past mistakes, we are prone to lose self-respect, self-love, and self-acceptance. Our loss of care for ourselves grows in our speech and actions, and we turn increasingly inward to shield ourselves from love. Left unchecked, we can become angry, bitter, and isolated.

There is a shift that has to occur. Instead of denying acceptance, we must be aware, amazed, and grateful for it. This acceptance begins with our awareness of God’s prevenient grace. God tells the prophet, Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations’ (Jer. 1:5). God created us. God reached out to us first. Not only that, God sets us apart from a world of hate and corruption appointed to love others. To do that, we have to love ourselves first. 

Jesus said, says, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” Jn. 15:13. God sent Jesus Christ, God’s only Son to die for you. Yes, for you. God’s love is expansive, unconditional, and healing. It’s time to step out of the darkness of self-doubt and self-loathing. Step into the light of God’s love and acceptance.

May God bless your journey,

Pastor Don.

Photo credit: Keegan Houser on Unsplash

Mature in Christ

   In his letter to the Colossians, the Apostle Paul connects maturity in Christ with wisdom. The problem is that without knowledge, wisdom is impossible. Take Paul for example. Before Jesus stopped him on the road to Damascus, he acted upon his limited knowledge of God. His zeal led to the persecution and death of many Christians. Once he knew the truth, his zeal was redirected and his actions changed. In fact, his change was so drastic that his name was changed from Saul to Paul. 

     Knowledge was the first step. His actions proved his wisdom and led to Paul’s maturity in Christ. Among other things, Paul learned that in Jesus Christ is found “all the fullness of God” (Col. 1:19). With this knowledge, wisdom led Paul to spread the word about this and other great truths he learned about Jesus Christ. Paul learned that faith in Christ creates an inner change that is outwardly observed.

     To be mature in Christ is not only to know about Jesus but to be changed by our knowledge of Jesus. Knowing Jesus draws us away from anger and divisiveness and closer to holiness, love, and grace.

     To be mature in Christ is to allow ourselves to be changed by our encounters with Christ. You have heard of Jesus Christ. The challenge now is to get to know Him better. With open hearts, our eyes are opened and we see God in a new light. We are invited by Paul to see the image of God in Jesus Christ. The same one who lived among us, healed us, fed us, and brought us comfort, died to set us free from the power of death and hell. God wants a connection with us that grows stronger each day. May God help us move past our selfishness and immaturity. May God help us all be mature in Christ.

God bless you,

Pastor Don. 

Love With All…

There is a recurring theme in the New Testament that ties faith and love together. In Luke 10:27, Jesus said that the path to eternal life is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself.” 

It seems many have overcomplicated salvation and have made connecting with God difficult for others. If we say we believe the words of Jesus Christ, then we have no business adding requirements for salvation that do not exist. No special prayer has to be said, no outline has to be followed. On the other hand, repentance is clearly required, as the call to repent is found in both the Old and New Testaments. One question left unanswered is, repentance from what exactly? 

One problem is that too many fill in the blank for others. There are those who take the grace of God for granted and feel entitled to do and say what they want. There are also those who add additional rules and regulations on others. We see both extremes. We see people making Christianity too burdensome and we see others foregoing the idea of repentance completely. Where do we find the balance? Based on what Jesus says in Luke 10, I believe we find it in our devotion to God and others. 

When I love God with ALL my heart, my words and actions are guided by God’s love. When I love God with ALL my soul, selfish desires are overcome. When I love God with ALL my strength, my energy is focused on living our lives for God. When I love God with ALL my mind, my thoughts are guided by God, rather than by the world and my own desires. When I love my neighbors as myself, I make better choices, speak with more patience, and give because I care. Let us come and bring others into life eternal through Jesus Christ, our Lord, with love.

God bless you,

Pastor Don

Scripture Reference: Luke 10:25-37

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Getting What We Give

Wouldn’t it be great if we could eat as much as we want and not gain a pound? I lived like that for many years in my youth. I could eat whatever I wanted and as much as I wanted and not gain a pound. On the other hand, I wondered why I was always worn out. It was because I was not paying attention to my diet. Nor was I exercising. Later in life, the effects of overeating are more outwardly visible and difficult to counter. 

The idea of “getting what we give” is an ancient one that is found in many of the world’s religions. Some call it Karma. Christians know it as the principle of reaping and sowing. Most of us learned the hard way that we all live by the principle of cause and effect. What we do, how we eat, how we act, and so on. Everything action and inaction has a result.

The Apostle Paul warns the Galatians in chapter 6:7-10 that we will reap whatever we sow. In that warning, I find both a warning to be on the lookout for what good I may do in the world and a warning against doing that which will cause harm to my body and spirit. We go on diets and exercise to lose weight and we find that we have to keep exercising to keep the weight off. In the same way, we cannot “grow weary in doing what is right.” To stay spiritually strong, we have to guard our eyes and ears against the evil around us. We have to build our relationships with God through prayer and reading the Scriptures. We also have to keep our eyes open so we may “work for the good of all…” I pray that God helps us remain faithful and always remember that we get what we give.

God bless you,

Pastor Don

Scripture Reference: Galatians 6:7-10

Imprisoned & Guarded

“Imprisoned and Guarded” are the words used in Galatians 3:23 to describe the way we were before we came to faith in God through Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote that without faith in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ we are “under the law.”

The faithless imprison themselves to the lusts of the flesh and desires of this world because they hide from a reconciling God. The faithless guard themselves from redemption through Jesus Christ because they have become jaded. They don’t believe such incredible grace could be possible. The norm is to think there will be a payment expected; that there must be some kind of catch. So, they free themselves to indulge their desires and open themselves to that which pulls them farther from God.

So, why am I writing to believers about the effects of faithlessness? Because these same effects can creep into our lives if we are not careful. Our world is full of voices that would imprison us from faith, grace, and redemption. Perhaps we stop praying as intently as we once did. Or, maybe we get out of the habit of reading God’s Word. Before we know it, our guard starts coming back up and we are pulled deeper into shame and farther from the love of God. 

The ways of evil are deceptive and subtle. So, I remind you, as people of faith in God through Jesus Christ, to remember what Galatians 3:27 says, “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Since, in baptism, you were welcome into God’s fold and since you are clothed in the redeeming love and grace found in Jesus Christ, remember the beauty of your calling. Revive your faith daily in prayer and by reading the Word of God.

You are free! Free to thrive as strong believers in a vibrant church of redeemed warriors who will continue to grow in Christ, proclaim the Word, and serve others.

God bless you,

Pastor Don.

Scripture Reference: Galatians 3:23-29