27May

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line - Child-Like, Not Childish

Below is the podcast of a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find other devotions, sermons, essays, articles, and announcements on The Cove Community blog. You might also want to visit the congregational website (covepresbyterian.org) for more church information. 

 

If you find this meaningful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

 

Luke 9:46-50

 

An argument arose among them as to which one of them was the greatest. But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side, and said to them, “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.”

 

John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.”

 

Child-Like, Not Childish

 

I think we live in a culture that tolerates, even rewards childish behavior. I mean, the people of Montana just elected a man to Congress who pushed down a reporter, because the candidate got mad that the reporter was aggressively doing his job. Now, if this had happened in an elementary school, Montana’s new congressman would have been suspended for five days. But since he is an adult and lives in a society that only punishes children for acting like children, his childishness is discounted. And let’s face it, modern political campaigns have more to do with name-calling than problem-solving. Now, for me, this is childish behavior, and those who think acting like a child shows some kind of inner strength might want to reevaluate their assumptions.

 

Of course, this isn’t the kind of behavior that Jesus suggested when he took the little child and put him by his side. In other words, he wasn’t telling us to tolerate childish acts and people. Rather, he was commanding us to accept those who are like children, and using a first-century understanding of childhood, he wasn’t talking about the cute and cuddly. No, in Jesus’s world, children were on the lowest rung of the society ladder; they were people who lacked power, even over themselves. Those are the “children” about whom Jesus was talking. And I think that applies to us just like it did to his disciples. Our call is to accept the child-like and not sit quiet and overlook the childish.

00:0000:00

26May

Friday’s Essay - No Present Like Time

Below is the podcast of an essay that I sent to those on the Cove Presbyterian Church e-mailing list. You can find other essays, sermons, devotions, articles, and announcements on The Cove Community blog. You might also want to visit the congregational website (covepresbyterian.org) for more church information. 

 

If you find this meaningful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal

 

One of my favorite artists is a David Lamotte. And of all his songs, the one that always touches me is entitled, Deadline. Now it’s about a woman who grows up with a father who’s always busy doing things that he sincerely believes is important to his family. He’s what you could call a really hard worker and a really great provider, except for one thing. You see, even though he makes sure his daughter has everything she needs and wants, the one thing he’s not willing or able to give is time. Of course, she grows up the same way, sacrificing time with her daughter and husband so that she can provide for them. And this continues even after she’s told that her father has died. And in the refrain that repeats several times during the song, “There’s no time like the present. There’s no present like time.”

 

Now like I said, that song always touches me, and I think the reason is obvious. As my good friend Richie Marshall says, “I work too hard and too long.” I think that probably applies to me as well. Of course, I recognize that not everyone would agree with my priorities and time allocation. Still, I try to do the best I can, as a servant of God, to do what he’s called me to do. And for me, that seems to take more a lot of time, time that could be spent with my wife and daughter.

 

Of course, I don’t think my situation is unique. Although there are plenty of folks who look wistfully to the past and wonder out loud why we can’t live in a world where only one parent works, the reality is that we don’t. We just don’t live in that kind of world anymore. For reasons that are financial, personal and even spiritual, most parents have jobs outside the home. And it doesn’t matter whether the reason has to do with earning enough to keep the wolves away or feeling the need to build and maintain a professional network of friends or being dedicated to make good use of the gifts and talents God has given, it’s easy for our attention to become distracted from those whom we love most. And we forget the most precious gift God has given, namely our children. And this is something that was brought home to me earlier this week as I read about the Manchester bombing. You see, the time will come for us all when we’re just not able do undo the mistakes we’ve made. There’s no time like the present; there’s no present like time.

 

And for that reason, I think it’s important to claim and to give as much time as we can to those whom we love and who love us. Of course, I recognize that not all time is created equal. I think quality nearly always trumps quantity. And I’ll tell you, that’s got to be good news for busy people. I mean, spending a half-hour playing a game or talking in a car may be a lot more meaningful than being in the same room for three hours, concentrating on a YouTube video or taking a BuzzFeed quiz or playing a video game all alone. Now having said that, I don’t want to suggest that technology, by it’s nature, is a distraction. As a matter of fact, with a little creativity, laptops, smart phones and pads can actual provide a personal shared space regardless of the distance. And I think any person who looks forward to skyping or facetiming a grandchild or parent can attest to that. Even Facebook can be a wonderful way to connect. You see, I don’t think the “how” is that important. It’s all about just doing it. It’s about deciding that the other person has an importance at least as high as the job or the hobby. And it’s about making the effort to be present in whatever way we can.

 

Of course, tonight I doubt that I’ll get home before nine. And Saturday is my long day, and I’ve got a wedding to boot. In other words, I’m an easy target for the words, “practice what you preach.” But given that blending of demands and expectations we all face, I want to make sure that both Debbie and Maggie know that I love them. And I don’t want to waste the limited time that I have. And this is something I’m going to do right now, because there’s no time like the present, and there’s no present like time.

00:0000:00

25May

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line - Jesus Knows

Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find other devotions, sermons, essays, articles, and announcement on The Cove Community blog. You might also want to visit the congregational website (covepresbyterian.org) for more church information. 

 

If you find this meaningful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

 

Hebrews 2:10-18

 

It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying, 

     “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, 

          in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.” 

And again, 

     “I will put my trust in him.” 

And again, 

     “Here am I and the children whom God has given me.”

 

Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.

 

Jesus Knows

 

I think there’s a difference between saying, “I understand” and “I know.” You see, for me, understanding is an intellectual exercise, something that involves the mind and can be applied to concepts and ideas. For example, I might understand a theory or a lecture or an explanation. I may not agree with it or believe that it applies to me, but I can certainly understand it. But when you know something, well, that’s something different. Knowing demands a complete identification which is possible only when we’ve shared the experiences of another; therefore, at least in one particular area, we can actually know what is being thought or felt. And knowing really leaves no room for questions or doubt. I mean, although we now hear about alternative facts, when I know something I’ve made a commitment to what is known. 

 

And that’s what the writer to the Hebrews says about Jesus Christ’s relationship with us. You see, he doesn’t understand what we’re facing. And he doesn’t understand what we’re thinking. And he doesn’t understand what we’re feeling. Rather, he knows. He knows the problems and pain that enter every life, because he faced them himself. And he knows that there are times when we question and doubt, because, as he endured the cross, he had those thoughts too. And he knows our fears and frustrations, because during his time with us, he felt them as well. You see, Jesus knows. 

00:0000:00

24May

Weir High Baccalaureate Service - May 21, 2017

Below is the podcast of the 2017 Baccalaureate Service and a copy of the message I gave for the Weir High Baccalaureate, on May 21, in Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia. 

 

Let me ask y’all a question. How many of y’all like movies? And what kind are your favorites? Well, I’ll tell you, even though I enjoy almost every kind, I really like the ones with a lot of CGI special effects, because they can do stuff now that would have been impossible when I was your age. Remember, when I was eighteen, a guy in a Godzilla suit stomping around a miniature Tokyo, man, that was a big deal. 


And so, because I really like big monsters squishing stuff, about a month ago, I saw Kong: Skull Island. Did any of y’all see that? I’ll tell you, it’s a great date movie, especially if you’re dating a gorilla. Anyway, since I wanted to see it on a big screen but didn’t want to spend a lot of money, I saw the movie all by myself at one those early matinees over in Robinson, and after you know the movie part was over, of course, people started to leave, except for this group right in front of me. You see, as the credits started to roll, they just sat there. 


Which kind of left me with a decision to make. You see, my initial plan was to see everything thing in the movie worth seeing but usually that doesn’t include the credits. I mean, I don’t really care who the key grip, best boy, and gaffer were. And so, I was ready to go. But then, I’ve learned that sometimes, after all those people and positions are listed, sometimes there’s a little bit of movie tacked on at the end. And I know that to be true, because I’ve left a couple of movies too soon and missed the set-up for the sequel. And so I figured those people in front of me must have known something, and so I made a huge decision, one that may affect the rest of my life. I decided to stay.


Now, I recognize that right about now you’re either thinking, why is he telling us this stupid story about Kong: Skull Island or am I going to like the food at the senior dinner later? Well, there’s a reason I said what I said, and here it is. Right now, you’re sort of in the same position I was at the end of the movie, only what you’re facing is a lot bigger than Kong and a lot scarier than those skeleton, lizard things he fought. 


You see, everybody here, except for this list of folks the principal wants me to talk to after the service you know about what should have been their graduation (You see, for those people the bad news is that there was some confusion about a paper you didn’t turn in as a sophomore, but the good news is that you’ll get back most of your deposit on the cap and gown. I’ll talk to y’all later), but for the rest of y’all, your life is going to change in a couple of weeks. And so, soon you’re going to need to get up and go on with the rest of your life. And I’ll tell you, that’s both exciting and scary. And for that reason, I’ve got three pieces of advice that you might want to follow. And they’re sort of what I did in that theater, and I think it’ll really help you get moving forward. 

You see, first, just like I planned to enjoy as much of that movie as I could, right now, all of you can plan to succeed. And I think that applies regardless of what you see yourself doing in future. To be successful, you really need to plan. For example, I know a lot of y’all are going to college. Man, that takes planning, you know, thinking about what classes to take and finding those professors who don’t give term papers and deciding whether or not to drop Statistical Analysis before the middle of the semester. And for those of you who’ll be going to work, that takes planning too, you know, like thinking about what kind of job won’t suck too bad and deciding that spending a couple of years hauling bricks is alright and figuring out how to convince the woman behind the desk that you’re really excited about working in retail. And for those of you who plan to be a burden on your parents, well, that takes planning too. You see, to get where you want to go, you need to punch the address in your phone and go where the little voice tells you to go. And so, if you want to succeed, you need to plan. That’s one.

 

And second, just like I found out when I left the first Captain America early, it’s important to learn from mistakes. And I’ll tell you, that’s something we sometimes forget. But in my life, I’ve learned a whole lot more from the mistakes I’ve made than the successes I’ve had. As a matter of fact, it would be great to look back on every mistake as a learning experience. For example, when you bomb that first term paper, because you decided to start it the night before and assumed that grammar and spelling don’t count in college, you’ve learned a valuable lesson. And when you’re reprimanded because you assumed that your boss really does want to know how to make the store better or why you had an excellent reason for getting to work late for the third time in ten days, you’ve learned a valuable lesson. And when you find that if you allow mom to do your laundry and to cook your meals and to make your bed and that part of the deal is she’ll continue to treat you like you’re in high school, curfews and all, man, you have learned a valuable lesson. Remember Einstein said that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Take it to the bank, that won’t happen if you learn from your mistakes and that’s two.

 

And third, as you move forward, I think it’s an excellent idea to trust in God and those whom God has sent into your life, you know, like I did with those folks sitting in front of me in the theater. Now, when I say trust in God, I’m not saying that only to those who are super religious. You see, whether you’re religious or not, you can still trust that there is someone, something greater than you sort of looking after you. Now personally, I believe in God who entered our world as a guy named Jesus and I know it through the Holy Spirit. But, I’ll tell you, if you don’t, you can still trust that there are people who really care about you, and I’m talking about professors who want you not just to pass but to become everything you can be. And I’m talking about employers who believe that they can help you as much as you can help them. And of course, I’m talking about family and friends who are going to love you even when you really screw up, and trust me, the time is going to come when you will. If you take the time to look, you are surrounded by people who will always be in your corner and by a God who couldn’t love you more than he does right now. Trust them and trust him. And that’s three.

 

Now remember how I was telling you about Kong: Skull Island and how I waited just to see what was coming after the credits. Well, if you’ve seen the movie, you know that was a good idea. And I did the same thing when I saw Get Out, and nothing followed. But with Guardians of Galaxy: Volume Two, well, trust me it was worth the wait. You see, I planned and I learned and I trusted. And I’ll tell you, the same thing can happen to you when you decide to plan for success and to learn from mistakes and to trust in God and others. And believe me, if you decide to do this as you move away from Weir High School, well, you never know what awaits you after the credits.

00:0000:00

23May

Cove Presbyterian Church Worship Service - May 21, 2017

Below is the podcast of the service I lead on Sunday, May 21, in Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia.

00:0000:00

23May

Sunday’s Sermon - A Hard Knock Life

Below is the podcast of the sermon I preached on Sunday, May 21, in Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia. You can find other sermons, devotions, essays, articles, and announcements on The Cove Community blog. You might also want to visit the congregational website (covepresbyterian.org) for more church information. 

 

If you find this sermon meaningful, please consider supporting this ministry by sending an offering to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

 

Now if you don’t already know it, the title of the sermon is a song from the musical Annie. And if you haven’t heard the song before, well, you’ll never be able to say that again, because here it is. 

 

To see the video, for to https://youtu.be/YM16e39lxgE.

 

Of course, that performance isn’t from the actual show. I mean, if it was, then Annie and the other orphans are all cross-dressing, and I don’t think that’s the case. But that’s the song, and if you didn’t like it, you can be thankful that I didn’t show the version done by Jay Z or Dr. Evil and Mini-Me, and the rhyme was unintentional. 

 

But you know, regardless of the version, the point is the same. And even though the term “a hard knock life” was first used in Annie, it’s sort of come to describe a life that’s full of hardships, you know, hard knocks. And that’s certainly in the lyrics. I mean, whether it’s Annie or Jay Z or Dr. Evil, the singer says, “It's a hard knock life for us, ...instead of treated, we get tricked, instead of kisses, we get kicked, it’s a hard knock life.” And the reason, well, that’s in the song too: “No one cares for you a smidge, when you're in an orphanage. It's the hard-knock life...”

 

And I’ve got to tell you, based on the how orphanages are presented in books or on film, that sure seems to be true. My gosh, whether you’re talking about Oliver Twist or Quasimodo, Cinderella or Bambi, life is no bed of roses for your garden variety fictional orphan. I think I’m safe in saying that Lord Voldemort carried a few scars, because he was an orphan. 

 

And I’ll tell you something else, I think there are times when we all feel a little bit like orphans ourselves, and again I’m talking about how orphans are often portrayed. I mean, even though I’m sure, now-a-days, an orphan can get more gruel without having to ask, I’m still glad I wasn’t an orphan. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t times I feel a little like one. 

 

For example, I don’t know about y’all, but there are times when I feel pretty weak, you know what I mean, powerless. My goodness, there’s stuff happening all around me over which I have almost no control. And even though most of it I didn’t create, or at least I don’t think I did, sometimes I’m still blamed for it or am expected to fix it. Now, does that ever happen to you? And so there you stand, with things unraveling right before your eyes, and you feel powerless to do anything about it, something that I think Annie must have felt all the time. 

 

But then there are other times when I think we all feel really confused, you know, sort of aimless as we move into the future. I mean, can anybody make sense of what’s happening in our country right now? Of course, everyone I know is ready to assign blame.It’s the president. It’s the media. It’s the Russians. It’s the Chinese. But we all know that’s wrong, because we all know it’s Hillary Clinton. Still nobody seems to know what’s going to happen next, much less what we’re suppose to do about it. And that’s the big stuff, sometimes it seems like we constantly facing problems and challenges, and I’ve got to tell you, I don’t run across a lot of folks who know exactly what to do, something else I think Annie could understand. Let’s get real, our world is a pretty confusing place. 

 

And then, as though we needed anything else to make matters worse, sometimes it sure seems like we’re all alone. And that ain’t a great place to be. It’s sort of like I say about my basketball career. I was short but made up for it by being slow. Man, we’re weak and lack the power to make changes and we’re confused and lack the direction to know what to do, but we make up for that by having no one to buck us up and to show us how to fly right. At least, sometimes that’s the way it feels, doesn’t it? Like good old Orphan Annie, we’re left on our own to figure it out. And I’ll tell you, if that’s how an orphan feels, you know, weak and confused and alone, well, I think there are times when we can identify. And for that reason, even though we may not sing about it, maybe, in our own way, we all know something about hard knock lives. 

 

And I think that’s something that Jesus Christ understood about us, and I’m talking about all of us who are living in the world that we have, not necessarily the one that we want. In fact, in my opinion, that’s what’s going on in the passage printed in your bulletin. Now, remember the context, Jesus had just told this to Thomas and Philip; he said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.” [John 14:1-3] In other words, Jesus told them that, soon he was going to leave them. And even though they could trust him, you know, especially since he was the way and the truth and the life and since he’d shown his power to do it over and over again, soon they would be on their own, without him being around. 

 

And because that was just around the corner, he said to them, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” You see, knowing that his followers were probably going to be a little stressed after he’d gone, Jesus didn’t want them to feel like orphans. Instead he was going to send them the Advocate, the Paraclete, the Spirit of truth that would provide for them some of the things that orphans often feel they lack.

 

And I’ll tell you, in my book, that’s pretty good news, because I believe that same message applies to us as well. You see, just like he said to his disciples, Christ doesn’t what us to feel like orphans either. And that’s why he sends to us that same Spirit he sent to them, and that Spirit does for us exactly what it did for them. In fact, I think that Spirit brings into our lives the three things that we often need.

 

For example, first, it’s through this Spirit that we have power. And I think that power comes in the form of both knowledge and skills. You see, a little later, Jesus is going to say this to his disciples and through them to us: “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” [John 14:25-27] You see, even though Jesus isn’t standing here, teaching us; he’s given us something that’s just as good, and I’m talking the Spirit that will teach us everything that we need to know about God’s love for us and how we might respond. But more than that, this same Spirit gives us skills and talents that we can use to respond. It’s like Paul wrote to the Romans, “We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.” [Romans 12:6-8] Take it to the bank, we are anything but weak. Through the Spirit, we have power, power both to know and power to do. And if we don’t feel that, well, maybe we haven’t claimed it yet. You see, we have power, that’s the first thing Christ has given us.

 

And second, unlike the orphans we read about in books or see in movies, we also have a pretty clear purpose, a definite reason to be, in other words, we’ve got some bonafide direction. And we can find it right in the command that Jesus mentioned here in these verses and explained a little later on. You see, this was what Jesus said to all his followers: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” [John 15:12-14] Now, I’m not sure it can be any clearer than that. Jesus wants us to love one another; that’s our purpose. But before we assume that this love business is all tied up with how we feel, I think we need to remember that this is how Paul described love to the Corinthians. He wrote, “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things,  endures all things.” [1 Corinthians 13:4-7] Now that’s the kind of agape love Jesus wants us to show, and this kind of love starts with a decision, you know, a decision to love. It’s not about liking everybody; my gosh, we couldn’t do that if we wanted to. No, it’s about deciding that we’re going to respond to everyone with kindness and respect. We’re not going put them down or say nasty things about them behind their backs. Instead, we’re going to treat them exactly like we want to be treated. That’s what Christian love is all about, and you know what that means? We can actually love folks we don’t even like. You see, that’s the direction Christ gives us. Man, that’s our purpose. And that’s the second gift of the Spirit.

 

And third, we also have a presence, because the Spirit is with us all the time. In fact, right now it’s flowing around us and through us. And I’ll tell you, this is something I hope everybody here believes, because remember, a few weeks ago when we were talking about Thomas, remember what happened before Jesus appeared to him. John wrote, “When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” [John 20:19-22] You see, even though we might feel as we’re on our own, alone in the universe, we’re not. The Spirit is with us. And as a matter of fact, it’s through the Spirit that Jesus fulfills the promise he made to his disciples, up there on that Galilean mountain at the very end of Matthew, when Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” [Matthew 28:19-20] Through the Spirit, Jesus is Emmanuel. Through the Spirit, God is with us. Through the Spirit, we have his presence 24/7, and that’s the third thing we need to remember. 

 

Now, if you know anything about Little Orphan Annie, her life got better after she was adopted by Daddy Warbucks, at least it did in the musical. You see, she wasn’t an orphan anymore. And you know, neither are we. I mean, even though there are times when we might feel really weak and confused and alone, just like Jesus promised his disciples, he’s given us the Spirit and with it comes a source of power and purpose and presence just waiting to be claimed. And if we do, if we claim this Spirit from God, than maybe life’s knocks won’t be quite so hard anymore.

00:0000:00

22May

The Wedding Service for Tyler Atkinson & Lacey Baker - May 20, 2017

Below is the podcast of the wedding service for Tyler Atkinson and Lacey Baker on Saturday, May 20, 2017.

00:0000:00

18May

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line - An Alternative to Judging and Despising

Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find other devotions, sermons, essays, articles, and announcements on The Cove Community blog. You might also want to visit the congregational website (covepresbyterian.org) for more church information

 

If you find this meaningful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

 

Romans 14:1-12

 

Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

 

Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.

 

We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

 

Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, 

     “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, 

          and every tongue shall give praise to God.” 

So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

 

An Alternative to Judging and Despising

 

In my experience, it seems as though Christians often drift in one of two different directions, both of which are understandable, even Biblical, but also have some real negatives consequences. I mean, on one hand, there are plenty of believers who appreciate the importance of obedience, and because of that, they construct systems of rules and laws for the faithful to follow. And those who don’t, you know, don’t follow the rules, well, they’re judged to be less than faithful. Now that’s what’s on one hand. On the other hand, though, there are others who praise God for the freedom that he offers, and they resist any attempt to restrict or restrain their experiences of faith. And if this kind of attempt is made, then they tend to despise and mock those legalists who are seen as servants of the law. Now, those are the two sides, and while both are reflected in Scripture, both also cause fissures and fractures within the Body of Christ.

 

But this issue is certainly not new to us. It must have been happening in the Roman church that received Paul’s letter, because in the passage we read, the apostle wrote about not judging or despising one another. And even though he didn’t mention it, I think we have an alternative that we can claim. You see, instead of indulging our particular version of faith, we can decide to listen. In other words, those who focus on obedience can listen to the freedom we enjoy in Christ. And those who believe they’re free in Christ, they can listen to why some believers feel that laws and rules enhance their faith. You see, regardless of which direction we drift, we can always claim this alternative.

00:0000:00

16May

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line - Keep A-Goin

Below is the podcast of a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find other devotions, sermons, essays, articles, and announcement on The Cove Community blog. You might also want to visit the congregational website (covepresbyterian.org) for more church information. 

 

If you find this meaningful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

 

Luke 8:4-15

 

When a great crowd gathered and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture. Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.” As he said this, he called out, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

 

Then his disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but to others I speak in parables, so that ‘looking they may not perceive, and listening they may not understand.’

 

‘Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones on the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away. As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.”

 

Image result for Keep A-Goin 

Keep A-Goin

 

Back when I was a kid, a comedian named Henry Gibson would recite a poem written by  Frank L. Stanton entitled “Keep A-Goin.” And this is how the first verse went: 

Ef you strike a thorn or rose,

    Keep a-goin'!

Ef it hails, or ef it snows,

    Keep a-goin!

'Taint no use to sit an' whine,

    When the fish ain't on yer line;

Bait yer hook an' keep a-tryin'—

    Keep a-goin'!

Of course, the intention of this poem is simple and clear. It’s to remind us that we might need to keep our focus on the task at hand and not to become distracted by all the stuff that we might encounter along the way. You see, when difficulties arise, we need to tighten our belts, stiffen our chins and keep a-goin.

 

And I’ll tell you, I think that’s the point of both the parable and the interpretation we read in Luke. You see, as we scatter of the seeds, in other words, as we spread the good news, we need to understand that some of the seed will never have the chance to take root and become fruitful. That’s just the way it is. But we also know that some will, because we know that there’s some awful good soil out there. And for that reason, even though some will produce nothing at all, other seed will be incredibly productive. And that’s why, the very best thing we can do is to keep a-goin.

00:0000:00

15May

Cove Presbyterian Church Worship Service - May 14, 2017

Below is the podcast of the service I lead on Sunday, May 14, in Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia.

00:0000:00

- Older Posts »