Anxious…Me?

Luke 12:29-31 

And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

 

In these six weeks after Epiphany, we are looking at Jesus’ most difficult words for His disciples, “Jesus, you really meant me?” Taking a stand by Jesus’ teaching is crucial in these days of social, economic, health and racial unrest. So we are spending time understanding how Jesus teaches us to respond.  Sunday, we heard the words of Jesus echoed in the scriptures: Do not be anxious. In Luke 12, Jesus spells out why worrying is wrong and gives us a simple solution, one that you might not wish to hear, but one that distinguishes us as true disciples of Jesus.

 

From the start, I want you to consider that the temptation to worry is little different for those who are poorer and those who are richer. I encourage you to read Luke 12:13-21. Here, Jesus speaks to the affluent about storing up possessions for the future. And now in Luke 12:22-31, He is speaking directly to His disciples about those who are worried about their daily needs…the bare essentials. If Jesus spoke to the rich about their preoccupation with getting ahead, He speaks here to those who are anxious about getting by. Though there is an obvious distinction between rich and poor, the principle is the same.

 

Being anxious about food, clothing and everyday drama takes good energy away from what God wants for us. It is like a woman worrying about how her hair looks as she is sitting in a boat about to be swept over Niagara Falls. Jesus teaches: Do not worry. And He gives us two  illustrations: the raven (not the Baltimore Ravens – Thanks Bill B.) and the wildflowers.

 

Now remember Jesus is talking to Jews when He brings up the raven. The raven is not considered a “clean” bird. And, the raven doesn’t even work for his food, yet God provides for its daily needs. Jesus reminds his disciples that they are of much greater value than birds. If God even feeds unclean birds that benefit from others’ work, don’t you think He will much more provide for humans?

 

Jesus, then, speaks of the wildflowers. These flowers are short-lived. One day they bloom with beauty; the next they are thrown into the fire as fuel. Yet the clothes of the wildflowers put the garments of Solomon to shame. Jesus is making a point here. If such unimportant and insignificant things as ravens and wildflowers receive such generous provisions from God, won’t God take care of us all the more? Can Jesus show how worry is wrong more plainly? Birds and weeds! What person, Jesus asks, has ever increased his stature (or lengthened his life) by worrying about it? We all need to answer this question frankly! If worrying is so futile an activity, why do humans love to engage it with so much time and energy?

 

In verses 29 and 30, Jesus gets to the bottom line. Worry is really fear! As people of Christ, in a world full of judgment, bad behavior, insurrection, entitlement, we are called to ramp up our faith…to not be anxious and to believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior! Fear or Faith, this is the question! These days, some may have even lost faith because faith is hard. Being a disciple is hard.  Jesus says: Do not be anxious for I am the epitome of goodness, power, and promises. I will provide for all your needs. Even when it’s difficult, choose faith. My fear is that when we’re consumed with temporal things, we mimic the hardness and panic of others. Why live following the world in constant frenzy? J.I. Packer says: Life’s surest certainty is that one day we will leave worldly pleasure, profit, and privilege behind. The only uncertainty is whether these things will leave us before our time comes to leave them.

 

Jesus is asking His disciples to trust Him…to make a faith statement about where our food and clothes come from; about our family members and their life and health; about this community and this nation and this world. He teaches: Seek First the Kingdom of God. The phrase translates: set your heart on or seek, look for. To seek God’s kingdom means to put your trust in God first over everything else! Paul understood it this way. He wrote in 2 Corinthians 4: we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. Focus on the problems and struggles of life and you get anxiety. But focus on God and his provision and you are flooded with the peace of God. What if we were to seek after the Father’s kingdom with all the energy we have previously spent focusing on the ways of the world!

 

It these weeks after Epiphany leading to Lent, search your heart and your mind. Think about what makes you anxious and recognize that you are more than your anxiety. Will you endeavor (I like that old word) to seek first the kingdom of God, knowing that and these things will be given to you as well?

 

I sure love being your pastor!  Joy, joy

Alexis                                 


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Trust the Navigator!

Matthew 1:18-25

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

 

Are we there yet?  On this Advent Journey, some have chosen to stay behind.  Those who have chosen to come have been touched with the idea of HOPE at the end of the journey. The second week in Advent we spent time realizing that the journey is not easy.  There are so many distractions and wrong turns and the only way to survive is with true PEACE. Last week on our journey, we stop and fill our tanks.  With what do we fill our tanks?  JOY! This is the JOY that Christ is with us every step of the way. 

 

Matthew’s version of the birth of our Savior mentions no journey to Bethlehem, no shepherds and no manger. Matthew is concerned with Joseph. Rev. Daniel Clark, a Vicar in an Episcopal Church, observed: Joseph is the blue collar Bible character; a quiet, humble and hard-working person that Scripture overlooks! Matthew paints a picture of the utter normalcy of the Holy family. This means, of course, he tells us about the confusion and the frailty of the family dynamic! We have – each of us – experienced upheavals, maybe not a virgin birth but still upheaval all the same!

 

Matthew calls Joseph a righteous person. There is a backstory in Matthew 1. Joseph and Mary are part of a long account. You should read before Christmas Eve. It will give perspective of Joseph and Mary … who they are in the genealogy, the genesis of Jesus the Christ, who is the son of David and son of Abraham and Mary and Joseph took part in that. More of that on Christmas Eve. For now, understand that Joseph was grafted into a line of righteous people of God. And now he must make a decision.

 

It is within Joseph’s rights to disown Mary, to make her a spectacle, to cast her out. She could be stoned for being with child without a husband.  But that wouldn’t be true to Joseph’s character and God knew that. He resolves to divorce her quietly. In his righteousness, his legacy, he follows the pull of against the norm. Joseph hears the call of something deeply counter-cultural. Then he goes to bed.

 

And he dreams of an angel who tells him: For the child within her has been conceived by the Holy Spirit. Listen, the virgin shall conceive a child! She shall give birth to a Son and he shall be called ‘Immanuel’ meaning “God is with us.” He wakes up and, without any noted hesitation, does as the angel commanded him to do and brings Mary into his home.

 

Like Joseph, in your life, when everything is pointing to disaster or choices that don’t seem like choices at all, God is working His kingdom work in us! Joseph said, “Yes.” Let that give you strength to remain faithful no matter what! Will you recognize Immanuel, God with us?  Will you allow God to grow your heart to strive to give love that makes no sense? Imagine what that would look like! We can be the sign of Jesus…we can be His love!

 

In the end, it is our capacity to love and be loved that is most important in our lives! In these final days before Christmas, underneath it all, may you hear the love that God is calling you to. And may it strengthen you to follow love’s call with joy and purpose, letting go of everything else.

 

This week, just days before that glorious Christmas Day where we honor the birthday of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we journey in LOVE!

 

Happy “Fourth Week of Advent!”   

I just love being your pastor!   Joy, joy – Pastor Alexis


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Fill Your Tank With Joy!

Matthew 11:2-6 (Read 11:2-11)

2 When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples 3 to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” 4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

Are we there yet?  On this Advent Journey, some have chosen to stay behind.  Those who have chosen to come have been touched with the idea of HOPE at the end of the journey. Last week, we spent time realizing that the journey is not easy.  There are so many distractions and wrong turns that the only way we can travel is with true peace. This week on our journey, we stop and fill our tanks.  With what do we fill our tanks?  (I’m glad you asked!) We fill our tanks with joy. But is this ok? I asked it Thursday and I asked it Sunday and still I ask it.  And my answer is always the same…yes! 

In 2nd Corinthians, Paul calls us ambassadors. And we are called to “rejoice” – spread Joy! … a joy knowing that there is more to this world than what we hear from this world! In Philippians 4:4, Paul puts it this way:  Rejoice in the Lord, always and again I say rejoice!  It’s not enough to say it once.  Paul knew how oppressed the people were so he said it twice … “Rejoice.”  Did you know that in this context, the word rejoice – joy, is a command?  Wooh! Can God command us to have joy…to rejoice? Does that mean I have to have joy all the time? Does that sound unreasonable! Pastor Francis Chan talks about joy in the light of some of God’s commands. For instance: “Do not kill.”  Would anyone say to “not kill” was unreasonable? Of course not.  Friends, we are called to live our lives with joy in our hearts! Dr. Willie Jennings of Duke Divinity School asks: Can we practice joy as an act of resistance against despair and its forces? Rejoice in the Lord, always…what do people see in you? Are you full of joy or are you the kind of person who, when you begin to talk to someone before you open your mouth, the other says, “What are you mad about this week?” Some people just try to suck the joy out of us!  What if we said next time they start to talk, “Knock it off…work it out!” No grudges! Truth is, joy is in short supply these days. 

We’ve all done bad things in life. Few of us have reasons to be joyous, save for the GRACE that Jesus gives so freely! So, in this world, we have to fight for our joy!  Rejoice in the Lord always! William Barclay said, “one of the highest human duties is the duty of encouragement. The world is full of discouragers. We have a Christian duty to encourage one another. A word of praise, thanks, appreciation or cheer often has kept a person on his or her feet. Blessed is the person who speaks such a word! To be an encourager is to bless, praise and glorify God and others!”

The Psalmist said it in Psalm 126:  Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them. The LORD has done great things for us, and we rejoiced. Laughter and shouts of joy are signs of coming restoration! Would you be part of that joy…that restoration this Advent season?

Jesus said that John was the greatest among all living because, though he doubted, he knew and he believed. What if we were to walk out the door this season not worried about a blessed thing because we knew without a doubt that Jesus was in control and wants pure joy for us! All that would be left for us to do is “Rejoice!” …to live and bask in joy.  I can almost hear God now, “calm down My children, I know how all this ends!”

Let joy take your mind captive. Will you point your mind to Christ who, being born of a virgin and growing in wisdom and stature, went about calling the outcast, healing the broken, forgiving sins, being crucified by the empire, dying, rising again, giving us victory over death.

Happy “Third Week of Advent;” Gaudete Sunday – Sunday of rejoicing!

I just love being your pastor!   Joy, joy – Pastor Alexis


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The “Pay Attention” list

Matthew 24:42-44 (Matthew 24 and 25)

42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

 
This Advent we are on a Journey.  Last week we choose to take the journey because of the HOPE that is promised us.  This second week in Advent we are invited to take the journey which promises peace! Very likely sometime in your life while going a long distance, you have been asked or have asked yourself, “Are we there yet?” We know it’s coming, the time of arrival is set…December 24th. We have Christ’s birth time and destination down perfectly – watch for the star, for Bethlehem, for the Baby in swaddling clothes lying in a manger! That’s how we travel through Advent.  But Advent is even more for us who believe. Matthew 24 brings us to another coming. Christ coming again in His final victory. However, this final victory does not have a time of arrival, at least not one that we know of (the Son of Man doesn’t even know!). So, maybe the question isn’t when do we end this journey but what are we doing to get us and others there?

So in this season, we have two journeys that can bring us peace. First to Bethlehem. But we have to decide if we are going to take the invitation to go on this journey.  I think of the shepherds tending their flocks by night in Luke 2 (this is a great read!!!).  The angels invited the shepherds to go to Bethlehem.  However, it was their choice whether to go or not.  We always have a choice! 

The second invitation on the journey takes preparation and our willingness to pay attention! People understand Jesus’ return in many ways: Some like a thief in the night; others on the clouds of glory and some, like me, believe that the Son has already come and we are living with Him, working out reign of God time! And when will that be?  If Jesus doesn’t know, how can the false prophets know?  Isn’t the better question, are we ready. In verse 44 Jesus says: You must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an unexpected hour. So what I am hearing is that in our everyday, Jesus calls us to pay attention. Unless we pay attention, we may miss the peace available to us because all we listen to and see is the ways of the world! Just look at us…caught up in every theory, news clip and hassle this world has to offer, and this is real stuff in our lives! This is not new news! Scholars affirm that many followers in Matthew were losing confidence. The coming Realm. The desire for Jesus to take hold of the craziness of the world was as alive then as it is now!

Advent is about anticipating something that is on the horizon, something greater than we can imagine on our own, something that speaks of God breaking in to the world we know. This season calls Cason to choose the way of peace amidst the chaos of the world! And that peace we have will influence those around us – imagine you influencing PEACE!  The Prince of Peace is our God! .

And so I take the advice of Rev. Janet Hunt:

1) Don’t lose sight of what matters most.

2) Know that it will all one day end in victory and that it’s ours for the taking. 

3) Live like that is so.

And, those days when I don’t live in peace that I know is mine because of the Christ Child who was resurrected and lives forever, I know that God is whispering grace in my heart and I can have peace all the same! Because I am loved by the Savior. 

Still we are called to paying attention lest we be taken by surprise! Will you Pay attention with me? Pay attention to Jesus.  Pay attention to who He is leading you to be and the relationship He is giving you. Pay attention to the moments where Jesus is most evident and ponder deeply where you don’t see Him so clearly.  God is doing great things in this world. How can you awaken your senses to notice goodness and peace? Will you pay attention to how God is using you in this Advent season? And how He is using you will lead you and others to the Christ Child?

Advent is a strange, double vision kind of season in which we look ahead as we look back and look back as we look ahead. It is a simultaneous celebration and anticipation. We celebrate the birth of a baby as we anticipate the return of a full grown, crucified, resurrected Messianic Son of Man.

Happy “First Week of Advent!”  I just love being your pastor!   Joy, joy – Pastor Alexis


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The Richness of a Thankful Heart!

I Timothy 6:6-10;17-19
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
 

The story goes that John D. Rockefeller, the richest man in his era, was asked, “How much is enough?” His response, “Just a little bit more.”  What does it mean to be content with what you have? A second home or car? Four walls and a roof? A nest egg? What the apostle Paul tells us is that whatever you have, be content in it.  Twice in today’s passage, the apostle says that contentment is true wealth.

 

It’s still difficult! We like our stuff (and other people’s stuff, too!). Honestly, Paul never speaks against us accruing much wealth. What Paul does say in verse 7: We came into the world with nothing, and we can take nothing out of it. That is where the phrase, “You can’t take it with you” comes from.  What do you have when you are born? Nothing. You come into the world a little red-faced, squally, naked baby. You do not have anything; even your diaper has to be furnished. What do you have when you leave this world? Nothing. You leave it all behind. Pastor Ray Stedman wrote: I picked up a young hitchhiker. As he was telling me about himself, he said, “My uncle died a millionaire.” I said, “No, he didn’t.” “What do you mean?” he said. “You don’t know my uncle.” I said, “Who’s got the million now?” “Oh,” he said, “I see what you mean.” Nobody dies with their possessions; we leave it all behind. Can you be content with what you have?

 

Paul talks about contentment in Philippians 4 also:  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. The next verse tells us the secret: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  No matter whether we are rich or not or how much we spend or make or give or lose, what God wants from us is to keep our relationship with Him and His Kingdom in the center of it all! 

 

Also in this passage is this most popular quote: The love of money is the root of all evil. Now remember, Paul loves for people to have money at their disposal. It’s the love of money that’s the pitfall. You know what a root is. If a big weed is growing in your back yard, you cut it down. It looks like you have gotten rid of it. But you haven’t if the root is still there. After a while the root will produce another shoot and soon another and a weed the same size or bigger will grow. That is what the love of money is like. Sure, get a good weed poison and you can eliminate some of the problems. But, just wait; others will show up! Roots that produce weeds are constantly trying to bring evil in your life, creating situations that are disastrous to you and to others. But Paul doesn’t end on this tough note.  He continues his letter by bringing challenge and a different way of thinking about our possessions.  

 

He says to those who have ample: They are to do good, to be rich in good deeds, liberal and generous. Those who have more than they need for nourishment and protection from the elements have a freedom to share their riches for the benefit of others. Rockefeller spent the last 40 years of his life focused on philanthropic pursuits in education and public health. His wealth helped pioneer the development of medical research in North America, eradicating hookworm and yellow fever. He was a devout Christian and supported Christian Colleges and missionaries throughout his life.

 

What Paul is telling Timothy is to remind the people to not just talk about it…do it. Most of us are not Rockefellers. Still, Paul calls us to give to the ministry of the church as together we relieve famine, help the needy, set up discipleship small groups, train and encourage the spread of the gospel and support the mission. Be personally involved in things that are good and helpful. Christian brothers and sisters, be liberal and generous.

 

And the result! The second part of verse 19… laying up for themselves a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life which is life indeedWhich is life, indeed! What will survive this life and carry over into the next? Not things (we have seen that), but there is something that will: It is people. The believer who moves from being stingy or fearful or having the love of money to allowing money to be a sign of generosity will shape lives in the image of Christ. Generosity is life indeed…an abundant life in Christ Jesus! Each of us who lives in Christ Jesus has to work out what it means to live generously. Will you give yourself and all you have to the disposal of the One who will use you your assets through you, for your good, and the good of others? What will you leave behind when you take your last breath? What poor soul will benefit because of your generosity now and after your last breath? Someday we must leave everything behind and only that which we have given away will we have in eternity. That’s contentment.

 

     I am blessed to be your pastor!   Joy, joy – Pastor Alexis


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Counting The Cost

It looks like Jesus wants us to have a plan! What Jesus is saying is count the costs, consider your resources, and make an informed decision about the decisions you make…almost like keeping a spreadsheet. No quick fix here. This is not a “part-time follower” position, only following when it feels good or when it’s convenient or not too hard! My fear is that too many of us sign up in a fit of enthusiasm in the moment where it feels good inside. That’s the consumer way, isn’t it.  Life in Jesus is a Journey. Because this journey is crucial, you may need to think about what things in your life need to fall away from your attention in order for you to be able to pay attention to Jesus! We are called to count the cost. Is Jesus worth it? This is your choice – our choice.

 

And what are the costs again? Jesus told us in verses 25-26. The costs include our closest relationships—our family and friends. The costs amount to all our possessions. The costs involve taking up the Cross in the Name of Jesus and living out His teachings no matter the sacrifice. And so, if we sit down and tally the costs—as Jesus Himself suggests that we do—the only reasonable  decision is to choose not to follow Christ. The cost is too much!

 

But that is where the spreadsheet fails. Why? Because following Christ is not a zero sum game. It is not a question of giving up X (family, friends, possessions) in order to get Y (prosperity, eternal life, etc.) in return. Nope, Jesus has something different in mind. And it may not be what you were taught about the heavenly exchange. This is important! Jesus is not talking about either/or. It isn’t an experience of poverty in this life for wealth in the next life, or vice versa. Jesus’ logic is one of abundance, not of scarcity. Yes, He demands that His disciples leave behind their families and their possessions, but not as an exchange… only to grow deeper in Him. Jesus desires to usher us into a plan that will start a change reaction…something bigger, a completed tower! Jesus is talking about sacrificing in order to have something more…something beyond our reach…this is Kingdom work! And here’s the joy: Jesus promises that those very same families that we must “disregard” are invited to be a part of the Kingdom as well.

 

So there is nothing to fear!  Will there be setbacks?  Of course there will be.  Will there be losses? “Yes,” this comes with life, our human frailty, stubbornness and greed. Life costs! And the choices are rarely cut and dry or clean and easy. Even so, every choice we make, day after day, puts us closer to a life in Christ or closer to a life in this world (even death)!

 

Still, a planned and calculated life, counting the cost, will bring peace and focus and will strengthen us to be the disciples that Jesus called us to be, even if we stumble! So leave behind what burdens you and distracts you and wastes your time.  Count the cost; build on the foundation that is Christ Jesus as you live your life…a life of promises, forgiveness and strength that will renew our hearts for humanity and heaven and will grow our families in Christ Jesus! And the more we count the cost…take up the Cross and live in Jesus, the more we will be prepared for all that this world throws at us! Living for Jesus will strengthen us to battle anything!   

 

The plan and counting the cost does not happen overnight but only after a lifetime of choosing one thing over another: depending on Jesus over going it on one’s own, gathering with others of God’s own for worship, prayer, study and generous giving of time, talents and treasures. Jesus says, “Count the costs.” When we do…when we believe, sometimes against all evidence to the contrary, the choice may not just make a difference in your life but in the lives of others! Will you estimate the cost, not only when the stakes are high but most certainly, day after day, decision after decision, choice after choice? Will you choose Jesus whatever the cost?

 

I am blessed to be your pastor!   Joy, joy – Pastor Alexis


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Being the Church!

I have come that you might have life, and have it to the full.
John 10:10

 

There was nothing special about these guys. They were not accomplished in the virtues of justice, worship, and mutuality; they were however, open to the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit. Luke’s Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 2:42-47, describes the community of faith as clearly operating in the power of God’s Spirit. These churchgoers knew exactly what drove them in the midst of a storm and in the harshness of an unbelieving society. They were clear about their identity and their purpose. Life in the Body of Christ was meaningful and deep, Spirit-led and intentional! Their lives were based on hope, justice, sharing, and love; which were as necessary in their time as they are in ours.
 
I thought that I’d tell the simple story again about the tenor in the congregation. This story acts as a thumbnail of how we are to treat each other. The visiting preacher wrote: “It was one of those mornings when the tenor didn’t get out of bed on the right side. As I listened to his faltering voice, I looked around. People were pulling out hymnals to locate the hymn being sung by the soloist. By the second verse, the congregation had joined the soloist in the hymn. By the third verse, the tenor was beginning to find the range and by the fourth verse, it was beautiful. On the fifth verse the congregation was absolutely silent, and the tenor sang the most beautiful solo of his life.” How easily a member of the choir could have chastised him. Or, those in the congregation could have been embarrassed. But when your heart is steeped in Jesus and the Holy Spirit is present, we can come together to assist one another and lift each other up! That is life in the Body of Christ, enabling one another to sing the tune Christ has given us. This kind of melody is what The Church represented and what The Church needs to be today!
 
Oh, it’s true that at times we will forget the Gospel and make life complicated with our worldly games and personal hurts, misunderstandings, grudges and rebel tenacity to not get the facts! All the while Jesus calls us to forgive and be reconciled! In the words of Jesus: I have come that you might have life, and have it to the full. Could it be that simple? A few decades after Luke’s historical writings in Acts, the apostle Paul encouraged believers to take hold of life that is truly life. Friends, this pandemic is not going to just fade away or go away “poof.” Life will not be the same (it hasn’t been the same in years, anyway!) The world standard is to panic; to be angry; to waste life by complaining and hurting one another; and pandering to a noisy group of people who say that the sky falling. But, what we know is that the world pales compared to the teaching of the Gospel.
 
Cason, we have to make a decision. Will we be about the business of our focus and identity in Christ through our mission: loving, serving and growing and our goal and vision to be Where all will find and know the love of God.? Or, will the world dictate the Church’s next move?
 
Friends, the biggest challenge of our day as a community of faith in Delray, is to believe that God, through the Holy Spirit, is in control and that we have the power in us that that raised Jesus from the dead! We are the Church! Moreover, remember, we don’t live for our own sake, only. Ever hear the saying: The church is the only place that exists for its non-members! The world we influence is hurting and we exist as an extension of Jesus to bring the Good News and salvation to all.
 
The kind of giving and sharing that we find in Acts 2:42-47 is a response to God’s presence in our congregation! Do we expect such divine work among us? Our lives, together and individually, are created by God to reflect God’s grace and action to a hurting world! In the midst of your day, during this pandemic, ask yourself: what message do I send to the world about God by my own attitudes and deeds? How can my own life better reflect what God has done for me?
 

In the season of the early Church, Luke tells us that 3,000 repented, were baptized, and joined the Christian community. After they joined, they stayed on and became mature because of the teachings, fellowship, eating together, and prayer they participated in.. Christian maturity happens together!

These guys really liked each other! And, the “Lord added to their number” daily!
 
Where are you right now? Will you join a small group at Cason? Will you pray for your community of faith? Will you connect with brothers and sisters in your influence and bring the love of Christ to them? Will you allow the Holy Spirit to have you and to move, mold and mature you? Let’s live together as the Church just as they did in Acts!
 

I just love being your pastor! Joy, joy


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A Kiss From Jesus 2

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.                                                                                                                    Ephesians 4:29-32

 

We don’t have long to live on this earth.  I’m already through nearly two thirds of my life (and am in no hurry!)  While I’m still breathing, I want to respond to God’s love!  For years, Jesus has been giving me kisses…important reminders that He watches me and He adores me.  He’s seen me through flat tires and surprise gifts; rejections and approvals; partings of friends, moves and changes; and, unexpected quiet times where He whispered in my ear encouragements, challenges and love.  These are just some of the ways that I have received kisses from Jesus.  And so, in the time that I have left on this earth, I want to help others feel kisses from Jesus, too.  As Paul says later in Ephesians 4, I want to: build people up according to their needs and showing kindness and compassion and most assuredly forgiveness – to show them GRACE.  One thing that I have learned,  I can’t get Jesus kisses if I have in me what members of the church of Ephesus had in them: unwholesome talk, bitterness, rage and anger; gossip and backbiting; or, a brawling spirit, slander and malice on these lips.  It is impossible to recognize kisses from Jesus when our hearts are ugly with regret, hurt and malice.  I definitely prefer the kisses from Jesus. 
 
To my surprise kisses from Jesus was not only my idea. A Christian artist penned a song about kisses from Jesus.  In 2005 John Mark McMillian, wrote “How He Loves Me.”   The evening he wrote it, he learned that one of his closest friends, Stephen, was killed in a car accident.  He felt so close to God that he began to wonder what it was like for Stephen when he went into Jesus’ arms that night.  The song is a love song…a poem, between God and us: It simply says that Jesus is jealous for us.  How He loves us.  Oh how He loves us oh how He loves.  And then there is the second verse: So we are His portion and He is our prize.  Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes.  If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.  –  Don’t you love that?  And then these words…So heaven meets Earth like a sloppy wet kiss and my heart turns violently inside of my chest.  I don’t have time to maintain these regrets.  When I think about the way that He loves us. Take a moment to listen to it: CLICK HERE.
 
Thousands were divided over the verse: “So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss…” Some said it was so weird that in newer versions, that particular line is changed.  But I wasn’t ‘weirded out’ because I had been getting kisses from Jesus for years.  That kind of affection from Jesus shines light in me!  That kind of pure love from my Savior reminds me that this weary, hostile world is not all the life I have to live, that I have eternity with one who adores me. 
 
I’m going to die and you are too!  But we are not dead yet!  So, in the meantime, what would it be like to give Jesus kisses indiscriminately, extravagantly and with total abandon!  This is called GRACE!  Not because they should have it but because you can give it freely!
 
Some time ago, I heard of a missionary returning stateside, who had a two-day layover in Germany during the early years of the Nazi occupation.  It was late December, and while out walking, he happened through a Jewish ghetto.
 
Appalled by the poverty he saw there, he took what funds he had and spent it on chocolates — sort of a Christmas present, if you will, for children who had all but forgotten what it was to laugh, or even smile.  When he telephoned home for more money in order to travel on to America, his superiors frankly found the request incredulous.
 

“You did what?”

“I bought chocolates for the children,” the missionary said. “It’s Christmas after all.”

“But they’re Jewish. They don’t celebrate Christmas!”

“Well, I know that,” he insisted, “but they’re still children, and children like chocolate.”

“For God’s sake, man, they’re not even Christians.”

There was a long pause. And finally the old missionary answered, “Yes, but I am.”
 
You know when you have given the perfect kiss from Jesus?  When you can walk up to, text, call or email the meanest person you know and say, I love you!  Now that’s a great big wet kiss from Jesus!  Not because they deserve it but because you can give it freely!  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we have the power to be a part of changing a life with Jesus kisses.
 

With more love than you can know…kiss – kiss

 

Pastor Alexis (Oh, and joy, joy too!)


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A Kiss From Jesus

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:29-32

Just one more scripture in the, “What Counts is on the Inside,” sermon series. This one may be the toughest of all for good Christians to hear! As we have studied the words of Jesus and of the Apostle Paul (inspired by Jesus), my prayer is that you have been challenged and touched by these admonitions as much as I have.
 
In this Ephesians scripture, Paul is obviously disappointed with the church Ephesus and their behavior toward each other. Next Sunday, let’s explore how we can counter Paul’s negative adjectives, rotten speech really, at Cason with the power of Christ Jesus in our midst at Cason! Let’s continue to strive to be the Church that Christ has prepared us to be.
 
For now, I’d like to offer to you ten starting points of where that rotten speech leads. I came across this “in your face” list not long ago. In a world that seems to be growing ever more hostile and much less compassionate, we may need a refresher of how “not” to be. Many of these areas are Paul’s plea to the churches. These may be just what we need to jar healthy conversation with the world about how Jesus teaches us how to respond.
 
SOME EXAMPLES OF ROTTEN SPEECH:
You could probably come up with more, but here are 10 examples:
 
1. NAME-CALLING, PUT-DOWNS, & TRADING INSULT FOR INSULT
Often this is done for so-called “humor,” but it does not honor God or build up others. 1 Peter 3:9 says that we should not return insult for insult, but give a blessing instead.

2. INACCURATE LABELING
Lumping people together into one negative group. Labels may be useful in identifying where a person is at on an issue, but they become harmful when we use them too quickly to write off someone because of some association. So be careful! Matthew 7:1-5; John 7:24

3. SARCASM, RIDICULE, MOCKERY
Godly people in the Bible occasionally use sarcasm, ridicule, and mockery against those who are leading people astray. Elijah, for example, mocked the prophets of Baal, 1 Kings 18:27. Jesus ridiculed the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and legalism Matthew. 23. But my experience is that using sarcasm is like righteous anger. It must be carefully controlled or it spills over into sin. Use sarcasm or ridicule to make a point; not to point at someone. Never mock something that a person cannot change, such as a physical feature or a family background issue.

4. BLAMING, EXAGGERATED ATTACKS (one of personal pet peeves)Blaming others came in with “The Fall”, Genesis 1 and 2, and it is a major element in ungodly speech. Often it is coupled with exaggeration, such as, “you always,” or “you never.”

5. GRIPING, COMPLAINING
Those in the world gripe and complain about everything, as you know if you have served in the military. But Christians are to do all things without grumbling or complaining Philippians 2:14, because all complaints are ultimately directed at God. Rather than griping about the difficult people, be a part of the solution or better yet, thank God for them. 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

6. DESTRUCTIVE CRITICISM, DECEPTION, LIES AND MANIPULATION
If your words are not aimed at helping or healing, you are sinning. Proverbs 12:18 says, There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. If your words are manipulative or partially true (it’s still a lie) in order to get your way is a form of deception.

7. ANGRY WORDS, INCLUDING THREATS AND REVENGE
Such words are only trying to dominate or control through fear and intimidation. Whether a parent, a colleague, a preacher, a supervisor, a friend or a Christian; speaking the truth in love, correcting or disciplining must be done calmly with careful thought, not in the heat of anger.
The aim is always to help another, child or adult, grow in godliness. It is sinful to seek revenge or to intimidate. Romans 12:17-21; Ephesians 4:29-32

8. ARGUMENTS WHERE YOU SEEK TO WIN SO AS TO MAINTAIN POWER
Your aim should never be to win the argument, but rather to promote godliness. You’ve got to judge your pride and allow Jesus Christ truly to be Lord of your tongue. 2 Timothy 2:23-25

9. GOSSIP AND SLANDER
Often, gossip and slander spread partial truths mixed with falsehood to make the other person look bad. Sometimes gossip and slander may be true, but is the one you are telling part of the solution of problem? Sometimes it is done under the cover, “I wanted you to know so you could pray…bless their hearts.” Stop it! Matthew 12:36

10. FILTHY TALK AND COARSE JOKES AND PROFANITY
Paul specifically hits this in Ephesians 5:3-4. It includes all dirty jokes and using words for sex, which ought to be sacred, as swear words. And shortcuts for words, count to (OMG). You could probably name of few of your own. (But please don’t say them out loud!)

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A Word to the Wise

My son, if you receive my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding— indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you seek for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding

Proverbs 2:1-6

 

I wonder if Socrates read Proverbs.  He sure seemed to when this story was penned about his understanding of wisdom. It goes like this:

A proud young man came to Socrates asking for knowledge and his wisdom. He walked up to the muscular philosopher and said, “O great Socrates, I come to you for wisdom.” Socrates recognized a pompous numbskull when he saw one.  He led the young man through the streets, to the sea, and chest deep into water.  Then he asked, “What do you want?” 

Wisdom, O great Socrates,” said the young man with a smile. 

Socrates put his strong hands on the man’s shoulders and pushed him under. Thirty seconds later Socrates let him up. “What do you want?” he asked again. 

Wisdom,” the young man sputtered, “O great and wise Socrates.” 

Socrates crunched him under again.  Thirty seconds passed, thirty-five.  Forty; Socrates let him up.  The man was gasping. “What do you want, young man?” 

Between heavy, heaving breaths the fellow wheezed, “Wisdom, O wonderful…” 

Socrates jammed him under again Forty seconds passed.  Fifty; “What do you want?” 

Air!” the young man screeched. “I need air!”

 Socrates responded: “When you want wisdom as you have just wanted air, then you will have wisdom.” 

I don’t know how many times, I have chosen other things (sometimes good things) over the better thing, wisdom.  If I do not monitor myself, I am prone to waste good time doing things that may not be helpful, useful or even kind.  It’s like gasping for air but asking for something more!

Honestly, sometimes I feel like kicking myself because I get caught up in peoples’ messes that I have no influence over.  The time I spend, often trying harder than they, is fruitless and in the end, I end up gasping with no more knowledge and understanding than when I began.  The truth is that I need Proverbs like chapter 2 to keep me turning to God!  The first six verses, especially, are like a prayer that any of us should pray often!  Some who live deeply seeking after God say that in order to be able to live a godly life, we must take these first six verses seriously:  Receive, Ask (listen), Seek!  These are the conditions of wisdom.  I love what Chris Tiegreen says: Modern hearer of the Word often hear so much truth with so little change in our lives.  We hear a sermon…or we read a Christian book, and even through the message may be powerful and true, we’ve often forgotten it within a matter of days or even hours.  Why?  One reason is that we don’t take the time to meditate on what we hear. (Walk with God, July 3)  If we receive into our being the wisdom of God and apply it to our heart we will not only do the things that are right, our character will change and we will live right more supernaturally  (I’m not sure any of us can live right naturally – according to our own abilities).  Paul tells us in Romans 10:10:  For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.  To receive, ask, seek and gain knowledge plus understanding gives us the condition for wisdom.  Wisdom is a gift from God, He planted deep within us.   As we uncover the secrets of through our prayers, the scriptures and in study together; the wisdom that God has put in us will spill out of us like sweet honey in our lives and the lives of others! How much do you want wisdom?  Is it as much as you want air?

I sure love being your pastor!

 

Joy, joy

 


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