“ March forward”

Guest Minister -Rev. Caesar J. David, Pastor, Union Park United Methodist Church, Des Moines, Iowa

Video of service

Scripture Lessons:

Psalm 116

I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my supplications. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me?

I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones. O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the child of your serving girl. You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the Lord, in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord!

Matthew 9:35-10:8

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.

“ March forward”This passage from Matthew contains the account of Jesus calling and sending out the Twelve Apostles. When we read further in the passage (v. 16ff), Jesus lets them know that it is not an easy task that they have been given. They will have to face persecutions and hardships.
It is like soldiers being sent out to battle. And talking of battles an d soldiers, we have a very beautiful Hymn that you will be singing in this service. It’s called “Onward Christian Soldiers”. It’s a sort of controversial hymn.
The hymn began as no more than a simple processional song, something for children to sing as they crossed the village of Horbury Bridge to the parish church (Yorkshire, England). The author, Sabine Baring-Gould (1834–1924) who was a school master, later became a Pastor, in writing this hymn set the scene for the spiritual conflict between Jesus and the devil. It became controversial because of the perceived militarism in text and music (“St. Gertrude” which is the second tune used in an arrangement by George Sullivan in 1871). Now, we won’t get into the details of the Anglican / Roman Catholic ecclesial understanding of the states of Church – the Church Militant, Church Penitent and Church Triumphant, but let’s just say that history had some chapters like the Crusades, holy wars and other wars and so on. And it wasn’t easy to ignore the nationalistic and militaristic overtones of this Hymn.
It comes as little surprise, then, to learn that “Onward, Christian Soldiers” was initially to be excluded from The United Methodist Hymnal (1989). The decision was picked up by local newspapers and national broadcasters, unleashing a wave of protest from across The United Methodist Church (some eleven thousand pieces of mail were sent to the hymnal committee).
The restoration of the hymn resulted from a course of healthy debate over the use of military imagery, and recognizing its biblical and early Christian origins. People still thought that it may be dangerous in perpetuating the acceptability of religious warfare — metaphorical or otherwise.
Professor of Preaching Emeritus Thomas Long’s 2012 article in The Christian Century, “The absurd in worship,” suggests another meaning to the hymn — not in viewing the church as an entity able to militaristically destroy its enemies, but as one that “makes no advance except that of love, and has no enemy but that which undermines God’s hope for human flourishing.”
Today, if we are to consider ourselves as soldiers – Christian soldiers that are at war, it would not be incorrect, for we are indeed at war. Of what kind? Let’s see. The theme of spiritual warfare is deep in the Bible. Many Christian denominations still speak of “The Church Militant”. The Methodists define it as those “engaged in constant warfare against the world, the flesh and the devil…Ephesians 6 talks about the battle gear! It says ‘put on the whole armor of God’ and it goes on to mention (Ephesians 6:10-20):
 Belt of Truth.  Breastplate of Righteousness.
 Feet fitted with readiness to proclaim the Gospel of Peace.
 Shield of Faith.
 Helmet of Salvation.
 Sword of the Spirit — The Word of God.
Notice who we’re fighting. Eph 6:12 says: For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.Coming back to our text (I want to focus on Matthew 10:8), Jesus sent out his Apostles with very specific instructions:
Mat t 10:8a – Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.
No doubt, Jesus also healed physical ailments and expects those He sends on His behalf to do the same, but there’s a deeper spiritual dimension to this and we need to understand that in the larger, scheme of Jesus’ teaching and ministry about justice, gender-justice, peace, equality, affirmative action, call to faith and service, affirmation of the Reign of God, socio-economic sensitivity and so on – what these might further mean.1. Cure the sick.
One of the main signs of being sick is being weak. And it works both ways: weakness can lead to sickness, and sickness can lead to weakness. In any case, there is a close connection for us to know that the people who are weak are sick or close to being sick. Going beyond the physical affliction and understanding it metaphorically as well, we can see that people can be weakened in the sense of being disempowered and disenfranchised. People can be divested of their power to make choices, weakened to the point of subsistence or even substandard living, or forced by circumstances to not have the strength or opportunity to make changes to lift themselves out of those circumstances.The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a great comfort in seeking to address these struggles. The Good news is that God is interested in our affairs and struggles with us for justice and peace.As people ‘called out’ and ‘sent’ to heal and cure the sick, we need to l ook at how we may bring healing to the lives of the people afflicted in every way, not only physical, but spiritual, social and economic too. Our efforts to do that may take us into the area of charity, social justice, advocacy and focusing on people in the margins of our society. It’s not easy and we may find ourselves indeed contending with the ‘powers and principalities’ of this world.2. Raise the dead
There is the obvious message for people ‘dead’ in sin – so mired in sin that this condition has removed people far from the source of life and light. If we are in that state, we can rejoice in the hope we have in the Gospel message of Jesus Christ that gives life.When we see others in this condition, we need to reflect and shine the light of Christ in a way that they are brought to the saving and life-giving knowledge of the love of our Savior Jesus Christ.We may also be dead in the sense that we don’t feel anything – nothing moves us. We lose our sensitivity, our conscious is dead. If we find people around us in that state, may be, our efforts could be towards building awareness so that we would all be alive and alert to what ails us as a society and what our responsibility should be to contribute to the health of our society and world.
If we have become dispassionate or come across apathy, let’s make efforts to reignite the passion for the kind of life that God meant for us all to have as His created beings. The Good News of Jesus Christ includes abundant life for all.3. Cleanse the lepers
We know that lepers were considered unclean. They had to live on the outskirts of the town. They were not allowed to use the same resources as other people. Today, we may or may not have people around us that are afflicted with the disease of leprosy, but in our social treatment of some people we certainly have ‘social lepers’ – people that we keep far from us. And we’re not talking only about the redlining of neighborhoods. This can perhaps educate us about those that are ostracized, marginalized and relegated to live in shame or fear on the periphery of our mainstream society. Who could these people be? May be those that are of a different orientation, or people with a different skin color, or a certain race / nationality, may be disabled, may be those that hold a different ideology, and so on. When we observe systems and people that discriminate and exclude some people from mainstream activity, we must counter that with actively building up inclusive, democratic and participatory processes towards a more egalitarian society. That will cleanse the leprosy and there won’t be lepers. Can we understand that as as we do a social reading of the Gospel message?4. Cast out demons
A demon-possessed person was a person in the grip of an evil power; he or she was no longer in control of himself/herself and of their actions. The various manifestations of evil can be seen in the diabolical crimes and atrocities we see committed. For example, there are crimes against women and children, violence and injustice that are really demonic and represent forces of evil, death and destruction. When we make efforts to root out these evils, we’re participating in building up the Kingdom of God, because then we’re replacing these dark things with the Reign of God – replacing hatred with love, revenge with tolerance, selfishness with compassion, suspicion with trust, greed with caring and so on. We can bring faith, hope and love to counter the demons of our society.I hope that we are able to see what an important task we have in taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a broken world that really needs it. As we understand our responsibilities as followers of Jesus and as His apostles, we will have a sense of being at war. It indeed is! We have been given authority. We have been equipped. Let’s march in faith. Let’s march in His love and His strength. Onward Christian soldiers!God bless you.

Good Man or Godly Man?

First Scripture: Joshua 1:7-8
Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you may be successful wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful.

  • Sermon “Good Man or Godly Man?”

For those who may not know me. Or know me only as Santa, My other name is Tom Williams. I’ll be your sermonizer today.

So, thanks for letting me lead a conversation with you.

Let us pray

Lord, I invite you into this service. Take control. Open my mouth to speak your words.

Open their ears so that, no matter what I say, they will hear you speaking to them. Amen.

Hear these words from

Philippians 3:5-11

(I, Paul, was) circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ,

the righteousness from God based on faith.

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death,

if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

I have a problem y’all. If you have attended church for a while you have heard this section of scripture read and preached on before … several times.

But, if each of you promise to pay attention to the sermon, I’ll do my best, with the Spirit’s guidance, to give you something new to chew on. Okay?

As Jesus often did,

I’ll start with a story:

A man, tattered and torn, enters the church doors. He’s dirty and disheveled with a back bent under with the weight of the world.

His eyes and cheeks sunken from the years of abuse of alcohol, drugs, and fleshly desires. He hasn’t eaten in days. The money, for which he has panhandled, has been spent on his last fix.

Those drugs are now decaying in his system and he is sick beyond imagination.

This wretched man, holding himself upright by leaning along the wall, makes his way past the glares and stares of the neatly dressed people gathered in the foyer and enters the sanctuary.

Not wanting to be more of a spectacle than he already is, he looks for a spot near the back.

But since this was a normal church, on a normal Sunday…

… all the rear pews were already filled,

so he just slides down the back wall, to sit crosslegged on the floor, stooped over, and head in hands.

(You still with me?

Good!)

Another man enters the church. His head is held high. He strides purposefully into the foyer. He greets people by name, shaking their hands and clapping them on the back.

He is smartly dressed, as befitting his station in the community. He is a business man with income in the mid to upper brackets.

He was raised in the church and is on several of its committees. He is faithful with his donations. He is happy to push a mower, pound a nail, or paint a wall in and around the church.

He is a good husband and father who habitually attends worship service, most Sundays, unless away on vacation or business.

He enters the sanctuary and sees the man slumped to the floor. He looks around and sees all eyes are upon him.

(Big drum roll here … we are nearing the BIG FINISH. I hope y’all haven’t jumped ahead in the story)

He walks to the man on the floor and extends his hands to help him to his feet. Then he guides him to his pew, … the same pew where he and his family have sat for years.

Y’all got the picture in your head?

Can you imagine this happening in this church?

I can.

Now, What do you think,

which of these two men is to be pitied the most?

Some might say the man, who has been called “a waste of skin.”

Certainly it couldn’t be the church goer, for he clearly is a good man. Right?

Now, which is most in need of salvation?

Okay, Okay, that was a trick question. Both of them

… and all of us are in need of salvation.

But here comes the twist … Jesus’s parables all had a twist … and so does this one.

Though the tattered man is so far down that he can sink no lower, he stumbled into this holy place knowing he needs God.

Whereas the good man has never felt the need for God’s salvation. He has always been a good man.

He pays his dues to the church and works joyfully for the church.

There is a problem here, he does it for the church … not for the Lord he does it for the recognition of his fellow church goers.

Having been raised in the church, he has adopted the language, customs, and world view of the church.

He thinks he has become a Christian by being a good man.

Though he calls himself a Christian, he has never felt the need to face his own sinfulness and ask for forgiveness.

Nor has he given the control his life over to God. To make Jesus both Savior and Lord of his life.

This is were Saul found himself. Let’s hear what he wrote.

As Paul’s mostly Jewish Christian listeners heard the letter read to the congregation in Philippi, I can almost see them smiling and nodding in agreement with what this good Jewish man had just said.

  • circumcised on the eighth day (circumcision was a token of the covenant made by God with Abraham and his descendants an “everlasting covenant”(Genesis 17:13 “))

  • Descendant of Israel (the patriarch also know as Jacob, who wrestled with God)

  • From the tribe of Benjamin (Benjamin was the last-born of Jacob’s twelve sons. He was the progenitor of the Israelite Tribe of Benjamin.)

  • Paul was a pure-blooded Hebrew (The Talmud holds that a marriage between a Jew and a non Jew is both prohibited and also does not constitute a marriage under Jewish law. However, Paul’s lineage was pure)

  • He was a Pharisee (The Pharisees were a strict social and religious movement in Judaism which asserted that God could and should be worshipped even away from the Temple and outside Jerusalem. To the Pharisees, worship consisted not in bloody sacrifices — the practice of the Temple priests — but in prayer and in the study of and adherence to God’s law.)

  • Enthusiasticly he followed the strictest laws (The Pharisees’ ultra strict interpretation of the law is one of the things that Jesus railed against, calling them blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. He also accused them of giving a tenth of their spices (as a tithe), but of neglecting the more important matters of justice, mercy and faithfulness)

  • Saul was perfect in keeping Jewish laws (he had done as the prophet Joshua had said to do in the scripture that we read a few moments ago, “be careful to do according to … all the law . Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”) (Joshua 1:7-15 ESV)

Paul, when he was still called Saul, was assured of the promise of the Law. Obey the Law “For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

Notice that the only thing that the Law can promise is,

if … do not let that tiny word IF go un-noticed.

The promise of the Law was conditional IF you do ALL that the Law commands, THEN life on this world will be great for you.

So Saul was perfect, when it came to winning God’s approval by keeping Jewish laws and expected to profit and succeed as promised.

It wasn’t until he had a very personal, dramatic, life-changing encounter with the risen Jesus, that he learned that whatever rewards he might treasure on earth, paled in compairence with rewards he could expect in heaven.

Perhaps in some of his attacks on Christians, he came across the teaching of Jesus “Don’t lay up treasures for yourselves on the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consume, and where thieves don’t break through and steal.

Though Paul had done all that he … humanly … could to win God’s approval, by keeping Jewish laws, he realized that it was all … I can’t say that word in church, S.H.I.T. Yes, that is the literal translation of what he wrote.

To not offend modern readers, nicer words were used to translate: loss, trash, garbage, refuse, worthless or dung.

I’m sorry, but by “cleaning” the language, we lose the power of Paul’s intent. He intended his readers to be shocked by his comparison.

Paul wrote, reminding his readers how perfect he was under the law.

And then … and then, he wrote the most unimaginable thing, his whole life and accomplishments were all … all … EXCREMENT compared to life in Jesus the Christ. He was glad to give it all away.

As a pure-blood Hebrew and as a zealous follower of the strictest interpretation of the Jewish laws, Saul had sought to win God’s approval. But it didn’t work. It couldn’t work.

Saul, now going by his Greek (gentile) name, Paul, wrote to his fellow Jews, so that they might also understand the futility of the Law.

The Law can not save. It can only condemn. It can only shine a light on our failure to be righteous before God.

But Jesus came to us, while we were still law breakers and at war with God.

God was trying to bring us into his perfect will, while we were still willfully going our own way.

That was when Jesus came and bought our eternal life through his death. His Holy blood covers our sins and purifies them in God’s sight.

Before I gave my life to Jesus, I was a good man, as the world judges men. I abided by the laws of man … most of the time. And as far as the laws of God, I hadn’t broken any of the BIG ones.

But that’s the problem, you see, there aren’t big laws and small laws. There is only THE Law. To have broken one law is to be guilty of them all.

Yes, I was a good man, but I wasn’t a godly man. I may have been upright but I was far from righteous. My own goodness kept me from seeing my need for salvation.

God’s truth reveals that all need saving, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

Saul also knew that he was a good man, as the world judges men.

He was firm in his conviction that he was right in judgement.

He was so assured of his righteousness that he actively sought to punish those who believed differently.

And then … and then … he meet Jesus and discovered his righteousness was a foul and disgusting thing in God’s sight. His only hope lay in the grace offered by Jesus Christ.

And, friends, my only hope, and your only hope lies in the grace of God through Jesus Christ.

This is the life application part of the service. Thinking back to the parable, where did you see yourself?

  1. The world weary man who came to church seeking God’s forgiveness?

  2. The man so good that he never felt the need for God’s forgiveness?

  3. Or were you part of the congregation who sat in judgement over these two men and found one welcome in the church and one not?

  4. Or have you acknowledged to God that all your earthly achievements are nothing but … well, you know.

Or have you said to God, “I am no longer my own. I am yours, Lord, to do with as you please. All I have called my own are now yours. All I may ever have, will ever and always belong to you Lord.”?

Pray with me now.

God be merciful to me a sinner, and make me to know and believe in Jesus Christ; for I see, that if his righteousness had not been, or I have not faith in that righteousness, I am utterly cast away.

Lord, I have heard that you are a merciful God, and have designated that your Son Jesus Christ should be the Savior of the world;

and moreover, that you are willing to give him even to such a poor sinner as I am—and I am a sinner indeed. Lord, take therefore this opportunity, and magnify your grace in the salvation of my soul, through your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

  • “Apostle’s Creed”

I believe in God the Father Almighty,

Maker of heaven and earth;

And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord:

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

Born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate,

Was crucified, dead and buried;

The third day he rose from the dead;

He ascended into heaven,

And sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty

From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

The holy catholic church,

The communion of saints,

The forgiveness of sins,

The resurrection of the body,

And the life everlasting. Amen.

  • Prayers of the People

Tom

Father, in this time of social unrest I ask your prayers for peace; for goodwill among people and nations.

That our leaders be your followers.

I pray for your true justice and the peace which can only come from you.

I pray for the poor, the sick (of whom there are many), the hungry, the

oppressed, and those in prison (whether of stone and steal, or of their own making through sin or bad life choices).

I pray for those in any need or trouble, that they may be lead to your path.

I ask your prayers for all who seek God, for a deeper knowledge of him. I pray that they may find and be found by you.

I ask prayers for the departed, for those who have died, that their loved ones may find comfort in your loving arms.

These things we ask in the name of Jesus who taught his followers to pray in this manner …

  • Lord’s prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven,

Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom com,

Thy will be done

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses,

As we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from evil

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, Forever. Amen.

  • Benediction.

In the wesleyan tradition, I will dismiss us with prayer for you and for me.

Lord, we are no longer our own, but Yours.

Put us to what you will, rank us with whom you will.

Put us to doing, put us to suffering.

Let us be employed by you

or laid aside for you,

Exalted for you or brought low for you.

Let us be full, let us be empty.

Let us have all things, let us have nothing.

We freely and heartily yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.

And now, O Glorious and blessed God,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

You are ours, and we are yours. So be it.

And the covenant which we have made on earth,

Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen. Go in peace.

“The Family of God”

The Family of God” | June 7, 2020

(Minister – Rev. Caesar J. David) Union Park UMC, Des Moines, Iowa

Scripture Lessons:

Psalms 8

Unto the end. For the oil and wine presses. A Psalm of David. O Lord, our Lord, how admirable is your name throughout all the earth! For your magnificence is elevated above the heavens. Out of the mouths of babes and infants, you have perfected praise, because of your enemies, so that you may destroy the enemy and the revenger. For I will behold your heavens, the works of your fingers: the moon and the stars, which you have founded. What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you visit him? You reduced him to a little less than the Angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, and you have set him over the works of your hands. You have subjected all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and in addition: the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, which pass through the paths of the sea. O Lord, our Lord, how admirable is your name throughout all the earth!

O Lord, our Lord, how admirable is your name throughout all the earth! For your magnificence is elevated above the heavens. Out of the mouths of babes and infants, you have perfected praise, because of your enemies, so that you may destroy the enemy and the revenger. For I will behold your heavens, the works of your fingers: the moon and the stars, which you have founded. What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you visit him? You reduced him to a little less than the Angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, and you have set him over the works of your hands. You have subjected all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and in addition: the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, which pass through the paths of the sea. O Lord, our Lord, how admirable is your name throughout all the earth!

Matthew 28:16-20

Now the eleven disciples went on to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And, seeing him, they worshipped him, but certain ones doubted. And Jesus, drawing near, spoke to them, saying: “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go forth and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have ever commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, even to the consummation of the age.”

Today is Trinity Sunday. It brings us face to face with a mystery of God which makes us realize really how finite our understanding is. We have stretched our minds to the fullest to understand the Trinity. We have several examples and analogies, but they all fall short of explaining exactly how the Three Persons of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one God. Three in One and One in Three – The One Triune God.

“To meditate on the three Persons of the Godhead is to walk in thought through the garden eastward in Eden and to tread on holy ground. Our sincerest effort to grasp the incomprehensible mystery of the Trinity must remain forever futile, and only by deepest reverence can it be saved from actual presumption.” –A.W. Tozer.

Indeed, we must realize that, with our finite little understanding, we cannot understand all things. That is where faith comes in. Like Augustine said, “The limits of our reason make faith a necessity”. If we presume to know or understand all the mysteries of God, it may be almost arrogant of us as human beings – too presumptuous for our own good. We have to be humble enough to realize and accept that we are too small to understand God and His vastness – the vastness and depth of His Love, His Mind, His Plans, His Ways. We have to let God be God. (Read Romans 9:13ff). We have already read Psalm 8 as one of our Scripture lessons. Verse 4 says, “What is man (human being) that you are mindful of him?”. We are nothing in front of the vastness and beauty of God’s awesome creation.

While we may not have a clear understanding of some doctrines, we must not despair because we can know, and do know, what is sufficient for us to understand His Love, to respond to His Love, to care for His creation which includes us all, and so on.

Some things however, have been clearly revealed and spelled out for us. Like the Great Commission that we’re studying this morning. As we focus on this passage, I want to look at 2 important principles or concepts that emerge from here that are important to understand as we seek to ‘do mission’.

1. Disciple -making presumes love for God and love for people. This is basic. Disciple making is helping people to trust and follow Jesus. Why would we want people to have the benefit of God’s Love if we didn’t care for them and also want them to be saved? If you didn’t love God, why would you want His Kingdom to grow? These are indicative of our love for God and for people that is at the very root of disciple-making.

The imperative command of Jesus is “Make disciples”. How we do it is by going, baptizing (joining the family of God) and teaching (not just academic or intellectual instruction, but taught to the point of responding to God in obedience).

Sometimes, an ‘empire’ or ‘colonial’ mindset that has shaped our environment and us, or continues to influence us, gives us an understanding of doing things by way of an ‘imperial conquest’.

History bears evidence of the failures of such wrong understanding of disciple making. Such efforts can result in people becoming Christians by religion, but not by relationship with Christ. And that would be proselytizing, not disciple-making.

That is why it is important to understand that disciple-making has within it the objective and method of love.

Before the Great Commission, Jesus gave his disciples (us) the Great Commandment “You shall 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.” (Luke 10:27).

Love needs to be expressed through helping, caring, sharing, encouraging, protecting, forgiving, sacrificing, trusting and so on.

As we focus on the growth of God’s Kingdom, we could start with these simple acts of love and kindness that prepare the way for disciples to be made.

2. We are called to reach all people. The Great Commission clearly tells us to “Make disciples of all nations” (Italics mine).

We have already clarified what ‘making disciples’ entails. It is chiefly loving people and leading them to respond to God whereby they become part of God’s family (leading to other things in that relationship like discipleship, obedience, and so on).

The word translated ‘nations’ in Matthew 28:19 comes from the word ‘ethnos’ which means “a race (as of the same habit), that is, a tribe; specifically a foreign (non-Jewish) one (usually by implication pagan): – Gentile, heathen, nation, people”.

Scholars say that, perhaps ‘people groups’ comes closest to describing what ‘nations’ is trying to convey. It means every people group, language group and so on.

The crux of the concept is inclusivity. Sometimes we tend to become exclusive, in -grown, cliquish, and unloving. We forget that we’re not alone, that there are other people around us who have needs too, sometimes greater than our own. And perhaps we shy away because we are afraid or just plain uncomfortable. We need to become intentional about reaching out to others.

There are always going to be differences amongst people – race, color, ethnicity, language and so on. We can keep slicing our society on the basis of differences and find that we have slices that are so thin that they cannot stand by themselves. We have to reach out across our differences – reaching out to share, to help, to love, to make disciples.

Have you heard the Disneyland song It’s a small world (listen to it on YouTube)? It was created for the 1964 New York World’s Fair. The composer of the song, Richard Sherman composed this just after the Cuban missile crisis. It focuses on tolerance, empathy and kindness.

1. It’s a world of laughter A world of tears It’s a world of hopes And a world of fears

There’s so much that we share That it’s time we’re aware It’s a small world after all It’s a small world after all It’s a small world after all It’s a small world after all It’s a small, small world

2. T here is just one moon And one golden sun And a smile means Friendship to ev’ryone Though the mountains divide And the oceans are wide It’s a small world after all.

( Source: Musixmatch, Songwriters: Richard Sherman / Robert Sherman
Musixmatch, Songwriters: Richard Sherman / Robert Sherman
It’s a Small World (It’s a Small World) lyrics © Wonderland Music Co. Inc., Wonderland Music Co. Inc., Wonderland Music Company Inc., Wonderland Music Company Inc, Wonderland Music Co., Inc., Kobalt Music Pub America I Obo Hardmonic Music)

Yes, it’s a small world after all. And I might add, it’s a short life after all!

Have we been guilty of writing some people off? Do we presume for some people to not deserve God’s love? We’re given the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. We’re called to reach out, not in our own strength and authority but that of our Triune God. As we uphold and honor the mystery of God’s Being, let’s continue to do faithfully what we’re called to do – to go, to preach, to teach, to love, to bless and be blessed.

May God help us to see the opportunities we have in front of us for the growth of His Kingdom. May God strengthen us to reach out and touch the lives of all who come our way.

Memorial Day

For most people, Memorial Day is just another flag waving holiday, like the 4th of July, Flag Day, and Labor Day.

Though this year is different with social distancing, in most years:

  • It marks the beginning of summer. Can I get a hallelujah?

  • It’s the weekend of the Indy 500.

  • School’s out. Many have mixed emotions about that, Right?

  • The pools open. Even if the weather is cold enough to turn your lips blue, we have to at least dip our toes in the pool.

  • It provides the first real chance for picnics, grilling, and of course an outing to Cutty’s. How about another hallelujah?

Memorial day hasn’t always been that way though.

Memorial Day grew out of the human need to remember where we have been. The needed to remember is why we save photos, letters, trophies, odd bits of ribbon, and a million other things.

What things are in your treasure collection?

We save the past to help us gain a better view of the where we’ve been. Only then can we figure out where we are going.

The cherished memories of a nation, a town, a church, a family, or an individual provide the values and dream that one generation passes on to the next.

Forgetting to share with the next generation means dropping the torch, as does failing tho learn from the party generations. We as a nation have often forgotten the lessons of the past and repeated the same mistakes once again. Amen?

One of the lessons we have failed to learn is the human cost of war. It is estimated that 1,255,500 US military personnel have died on active duty, including the 620,000 during the civil war..

This is Memorial Day weekend the time set aside to remember those who died during active military service.

Memorial Day unofficially begun during the Civil War when some concerned women decided to decorate the graves of those who had bravely given their lives in that destructive civil conflict between the states.

I’m sure similar thoughts were on the mind of President Abraham Lincoln on November 19, 1863 as he made his way to a Pennsylvania battlefield.

He feared that he might well be the very last President of the UNITED States of America.

He had good reason for that fear. The country teetered on the brink of self-destruction. It could easily have become un-united and only a confederation of allied but separate countries.

The ceremony that afternoon was to dedicate the site of a cemetery for the over 3,500 union soldiers killed at Gettysburg in the three-day battle the previous July. However the toll was much higher when the loss of Confederate soldiers is added in. Over forty thousand American soldiers died in or because of wounds suffered in that battle.

Though it is short, his speech that day is well remembered. He said,”

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.

We are met on a great battle-field of that war.

We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.

It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground.

The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—

that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Lincoln’s remarks provided the seedbed for what would become Memorial Day. Memorial day was set up to honor, as Lincoln said, those brave men who struggled and gave their last full measure of devotion t li. Over the years, many memorials have been erected to honor a person or persons who have died.

I have visited the memorials and cemeteries in and around Washington D.C. The row upon row of white crosses standing in military precision at the Arlington National Cemetery was an overwhelming sight.

At the Vietnam Memorial, as I was standing and reading the names of those killed, I suddenly noticed my reflection in the polished black marble. I have no words to describe the flood of emotions that came over me. Though I was never in combat, I did serve in the army during that war.

What memorials have you visited? What was your reaction?

This is a worship service so let us think for a moment of the memorials to Jesus the Christ.

What memorials to Jesus Christ do we have? In a way, every cross and church building is a memorial to him. But the memorial that comes most readily to my mind is the communion meal where we are commanded to “Do this in remembrance of me.”

“Do this in remembrance of me.”

  • Remember the miracles that he did. What miracles do you remember?

  • Remember His lessons on how to live. What life lessons have you learned?

  • Remember His Descriptions of Heaven. Tell me what heaven is like

  • Remember His Promises. What promises have you claimed? “Where I am you will be also. I’ll be with you until the end of the age. I’ll send a helper, the Holy Spirit

  • Remember His betrayal by the religious authorities. Do you remember the illegal night time “trial” with false witnesses?

  • Remember the betrayal by his closest friends. Who betrayed him? Judas, of course, but all of them betrayed him by abandoning him. And to keep us from becoming smug, we are reminded that “all people have sinned, they have fallen short of God’s glory.” (Romans 3:23)

  • Remember the humiliation of his beatings, the path through the streets with the weight of the cross, the mocking crown of thorns, the nails that pierced His flesh.

  • Remember the agonizing effort it took for him to speak His few words from the cross. Because of the cruel nature of the crucifixion most prisoners died of asphyxiation (couldn’t breathe). And yet, Christ pushed with his nail pierced feet and pulled with his nail pierced hands to raise himself enough to breathe out some important words,

  • Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do

  • Today you will be with me in paradise

  • Behold your son: behold your mother

  • My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

  • I thirst

  • It is finished

  • Father, into your hands I commit my spirit

  • Remember His triumph over the grave.

  • Remember His final words … the last commandment to His followers after the resurrection and just before he ascended into heaven. “So wherever you go in the world, tell everyone the Good News

  • And always remember that He did all of it for YOU and me!

    Amen.

Also visit my other blogs

  • Tom and Ella’s Daily Journal of Our Lives

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© 2020 Thomas E. Williams

Sheep and Shepherds

John 10:1-16

1. “I can guarantee this truth: The person who doesn’t enter

the sheep pen through the gate

but climbs in somewhere else

is a thief or a robber. 2. But the

one who enters through the

gate is the shepherd. 3. The

gatekeeper opens the gate for

him, and the sheep respond to

his voice. He calls his sheep by

name and leads them out of

the pen. 4. After he has

brought out all his sheep, he

walks ahead of them. The

sheep follow him because they

recognize his voice. 5. They

won’t follow a stranger.

Instead, they will run away

from a stranger because they

don’t recognize his voice.”

The person who doesn’t enter

the sheep pen through the gate

but climbs in somewhere else

is a thief or a robber. 2. But the

one who enters through the

gate is the shepherd. 3. The

gatekeeper opens the gate for

him, and the sheep respond to

his voice. He calls his sheep by

name and leads them out of

the pen. 4. After he has

brought out all his sheep, he

walks ahead of them. The

sheep follow him because they

recognize his voice. 5. They

won’t follow a stranger.

Instead, they will run away

from a stranger because they

don’t recognize his voice.”
6. Jesus used this illustration as

he talked to the people, but

they didn’t understand what

he meant. 7. Jesus emphasized,
“I can guarantee this truth: I

am the gate for the sheep. 8.

All who came before I did

were thieves or robbers.

However, the sheep didn’t

respond to them. 9. I am the

gate. Those who enter the

sheep pen through me will be

saved. They will go in and out

of the sheep pen and find food.

10. A thief comes to steal, kill,

and destroy. But I came so that

my sheep will have life and so

that they will have everything

they need. 11. “I am the good

shepherd. The good shepherd

gives his life for the sheep. 12.

A hired hand isn’t a shepherd

and doesn’t own the sheep.

When he sees a wolf coming,

he abandons the sheep and

quickly runs away. So the wolf

drags the sheep away and

scatters the flock. 13. The hired

hand is concerned about what

he’s going to get paid and not

about the sheep. 14. “I am the

good shepherd. I know my

sheep as the Father knows me.

My sheep know me as I know

the Father. 15. So I give my life

for my sheep. 16. I also have

other sheep that are not from

this pen. I must lead them.

They, too, will respond to my

voice. So they will be one flock

with one shepherd.

Sheep and Shepherds

I don’t know much about sheep and I’ve never been a

shepherd. I grew up in Iowa,

where agriculture is king. I’d

venture a guess that most of

the land is in some row-crop

like corn and soybeans. But

there are plenty of farms and

corporate farms with cattle,

both beef and dairy. Oh yes,

hogs! “Smells like money.” 2nd

in the nation in hogs!

Chickens, layers and fryers are

everywhere on small scales

and large factory farms. But

Sheep? Ì can only recall seeing

sheep in the agriculture

buildings at the state fair. My

impression? Stupid, stinky

animals.

and I’ve never been a

shepherd. I grew up in Iowa,

where agriculture is king. I’d

venture a guess that most of

the land is in some row-crop

like corn and soybeans. But

there are plenty of farms and

corporate farms with cattle,

both beef and dairy. Oh yes,

hogs! “Smells like money.” 2nd

in the nation in hogs!

Chickens, layers and fryers are

everywhere on small scales

and large factory farms. But

Sheep? Ì can only recall seeing

sheep in the agriculture

buildings at the state fair. My

impression? Stupid, stinky

animals.

Since I personally know so very little about sheep, I asked

Google. On a site called

very little about sheep, I asked

Google. On a site called

Modern Farmer and one called

An Introduction to Sheep

Behavior

I found these fun facts.

  • Contrary to what I have
    thought, sheep are not
    stupid. They rank just below
    the pig and on par with
    cattle in intelligence among
    farm animals. (I know that
    is not a ringing
    endorsement of
    intelligence, but they are
    smarter than I previously
    thought.)

  • it’s estimated their field of
    vision is between 270 and
    320 degrees; compair that to
    humans average about 155

  • sheep don’t walk in a
    straight line to make use of
    that 320° degree field of
    vision, and walking a
    crooked path, they can see
    behind them.

  • Sheep see in color

  • They have poor depth
    perception

  • Sheep can’t right themselves
    if they’re on their back.

  • They can literally die of
    fright due to a copper overdose that they produce
    in their brains

  • Sheep have excellent
    hearing. their ears can
    swivel to better detect from
    where a sound is coming

  • Loud and clanging metal
    noises scare them

  • if one sheep will move then
    the entire flock will follow.

  • Sheep have an excellent
    sense of smell (which is
    unfortunate because they
    stink). But I suppose it it’s
    sweet perfume to them.

So, all in all, sheep couldn’t be designed any more perfectly to

be eaten by predictors unless

they had no legs at all.

designed any more perfectly to

be eaten by predictors unless

they had no legs at all.

They have no real defensive weapons in their arsenal, no

claws, fangs, nor horns. Their

only defence is avoidance.

weapons in their arsenal, no

claws, fangs, nor horns. Their

only defence is avoidance.

When attacked, their only means of survival is to run

from danger and to band

together in large numbers for

protection. They huddle into a

group and face the enemy so

they can, as a group, avoid the

predictor. But the fact is,

without a shepherd, at least

one sheep is going to get eaten.

means of survival is to run

from danger and to band

together in large numbers for

protection. They huddle into a

group and face the enemy so

they can, as a group, avoid the

predictor. But the fact is,

without a shepherd, at least

one sheep is going to get eaten.

And Jesus calls us sheep! No compliment there. Helpless

human sheep. We like to think

that we are at the top out the

food chain. But in the spiritual

food chain we are at the

bottom, totally defenceless

without the Good Shepherd.

compliment there. Helpless

human sheep. We like to think

that we are at the top out the

food chain. But in the spiritual

food chain we are at the

bottom, totally defenceless

without the Good Shepherd.

Now let’s talk about shepherds. If Jesus’s calling us sheep

sounded demeaning to you, he

wasn’t elevating his status by

claiming to be our shepherd

either.

If Jesus’s calling us sheep

sounded demeaning to you, he

wasn’t elevating his status by

claiming to be our shepherd

either.

If the image in your mind’s eye of a shepherd is of sheep

peacefully eating in a lush

green pasture while the

shepherd daydreamed in the

shade of a tree, think again.

They were rough, weather

beaten men who spent their

lives in the vast wilderness

exposed to the rain, the wind,

and the ever present sun.

of a shepherd is of sheep

peacefully eating in a lush

green pasture while the

shepherd daydreamed in the

shade of a tree, think again.

They were rough, weather

beaten men who spent their

lives in the vast wilderness

exposed to the rain, the wind,

and the ever present sun.

Maybe it would help to equate them to something more

familiar to our American

culture. Think of them as the

cowboys of the old west,

without the horses, hats, guns,

and spurs. No, not the idolized,

sanitized, clamorized

Hollywood version of Roy

Rogers and Gene Autry, but the

actual men who ate the dust

riding behind beef cattle as

they herded them up the

Chisholm Trail from San

Antonio to Abilene. Always on

guard against dangers to the

animals and themselves.

them to something more

familiar to our American

culture. Think of them as the

cowboys of the old west,

without the horses, hats, guns,

and spurs. No, not the idolized,

sanitized, clamorized

Hollywood version of Roy

Rogers and Gene Autry, but the

actual men who ate the dust

riding behind beef cattle as

they herded them up the

Chisholm Trail from San

Antonio to Abilene. Always on

guard against dangers to the

animals and themselves.

Shepherds were pretty low on the social standing ladder.

They were uncultured,

uncouth, unaccustomed to the

niceties of civilized society.

They were as far removed

from priesthood as the east

from the west. And this is

where Jesus placed himself on

that social ladder.

the social standing ladder.

They were uncultured,

uncouth, unaccustomed to the

niceties of civilized society.

They were as far removed

from priesthood as the east

from the west. And this is

where Jesus placed himself on

that social ladder.

Jesus did not come to humankind to lead the people

in elaborate rituals or to

preach beautifully crafted

sermons. He did not come to

stand apart from or above his

flock. He came to be in the

midst of his flock, warning

them, guiding them, and

educating them by simple

stories to which they could

relate.

humankind to lead the people

in elaborate rituals or to

preach beautifully crafted

sermons. He did not come to

stand apart from or above his

flock. He came to be in the

midst of his flock, warning

them, guiding them, and

educating them by simple

stories to which they could

relate.

Jesus made promises for us, his sheep:

sheep:

  • He opens the gate

  • He teaches us his voice

  • He calls us by name

  • He leads us

  • He goes before us

  • Those who enter through him will be saved.

  • He knows us

  • He died for us

And guess what friends. Jesus expects us to stop being sheep.

We are in training to be

shepherds. That is what meant

in Matthew 28:19-20

expects us to stop being sheep.

We are in training to be

shepherds. That is what meant

in Matthew 28:19-20

“Therefore go 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 I

have commanded you. And

surely I am with you always, to

the very end of the age.”

So, I’ll send you out from this worship service not as sheep

or cattle, you no longer are. I

send you, my friends, into the

world into the herd to round

them up, to protect them, to

guide them to the heavenly

coral, and most of all to make

them disciples. In the name of

the Father and of the Son and

of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

worship service not as sheep

or cattle, you no longer are. I

send you, my friends, into the

world into the herd to round

them up, to protect them, to

guide them to the heavenly

coral, and most of all to make

them disciples. In the name of

the Father and of the Son and

of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Who Pays?

Matthew 17:23-2623. And when they had arrived at Capernaum, those who collected the half shekel approached Peter, and they said to him, “Doesn’t your Teacher pay the half shekel?” 24. He said, “Yes.” And when he had entered into the house, Jesus went before him, saying: “How does it seem to you, Simon? The kings of the earth, from whom do they receive tribute or the census tax: from their own sons or from foreigners?” 25. And he said, “From foreigners.” Jesus said to him: “Then the sons are free. 26. But so that we may not become an obstacle to them: go to the sea, and cast in a hook, and take the first fish that is brought up, and when you have opened its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take it and give it to them, for me and for you.”Jesus had returned to his home base, possibly Peter’s home. Those who collected the “tax” for the temple (not to be confused with those who collected taxes for Rome) approached Peter and ask if Jesus as going to pay the required half shekel. This was used for the upkeep of the temple.I wonder how it would work if our churches collected a “tax” instead of relying on donations? It sure would be easier planning the budget. No amen from the administrative council?We know that Jesus was raised in a family which followed the Jewish laws. He was circumcised on the eighth day. (Luke 2:21) He was presented to the temple at forty days for formal induction into the Israelite community. It was also when, as the first born son, he was both given to God and redeemed to live with his family. Exodus 13:1-21. The LORD spoke to Moses, 2. “Set apart every firstborn male for me. Every firstborn male offspring among the Israelites is mine, whether human or animal.” Jesus, as firstborn son, would have been in a state of sanctity (meaning holy or sacred) and thereby predestined to serve in the temple. All firstborn males are in this state of sanctity, unless they are redeemed or ransomed. A Jewish firstborn son can be redeemed, by use of a sacrifice of silver coins, or if unable to pay with silver with doves.The point here is that his parents followed the laws and customs, so we can assume that Jesus did also. We read in Luke chapter 2 that it was their custom to go to the temple during Passover. You’ll remember the twelve year old Jesus being found by his parents at the temple.Now, back to that shekels. I’ve tried to find the worth of the shekels in those times. I’ve discovered that there is no straightforward answer to that. The shekel’s value varied greatly depending on time and place. The best answer I’ve come up with is anywhere from a day’s wage to half a month’s wage. Jesus, as skilled labor (carpenter), would have paid more than an unskilled laborer (fisherman).But listen again to the question. “Doesn’t your Teacher pay the half shekel?” Without being there or having the emotions or voice in how the question was ask, it’s impossible to know why they asked.It could have been asked very straightforward and with no hidden agenda. Is he going to pay?It could have been asked as an accusation. Suggesting a who does he think he is to not pay?It could had been asked in a very respectful voice that acknowledged Jesus’s role as a spiritual leader. The questioner may not know if Jesus is supposed to pay. Was he to be exempt even as the priest were exempt?However the question was asked, the answer was a quick “Yes.”However, when Peter went in the house (presumably to get the coins), Jesus, as he so often did, used it as a teaching moment. He said something along the lines of; “Hey, Pete, let me ask you a question.”Peter, recognizing the pattern that Jesus so often used, steadied himself and hoped his teacher would be proud of the answer.”Pete, all the kings of the earth levy taxes. Who do they tax, their family or others?”Peter answered, “Others.”Jesus said, “That’s right.”Even as Peter was accepting his “Attaboy” he knew his master was just winding up to throw a curve ball.And Jesus did. “So, knowing that the money was for God’s house, the temple, then God’s true children should not have to pay.”While Peter was still reeling from that unforeseen twist, Jesus decided to cause further amazement by sending Peter to go fishing.And without hesitation, Peter grabbed his trust ol’ canepole and went fishing. The first fish he caught had enough money in its mouth to pay both of their taxes.Great story, amen?But what does it mean for you and me?Are we to pay the “temple tax” or not?No! Absolutely not!Did that get your attention? Good. Hear what Paul wrote to the early Christians.2 Corinthians 9:5-135. So I thought that I should encourage our coworkers to visit you before I do and make arrangements for this gift that you had already promised to give. Then it will be the blessing it was intended to be, and it won’t be something you’re forced to do. 6. Remember this: The farmer who plants a few seeds will have a very small harvest. But the farmer who plants because he has received God’s blessings will receive a harvest of God’s blessings in return. 7. Each of you should give whatever you have decided. You shouldn’t be sorry that you gave or feel forced to give, since God loves a cheerful giver. 8. Besides, God will give you his constantly overflowing kindness. Then, when you always have everything you need, you can do more and more good things. 9. Scripture says, “The righteous person gives freely to the poor. His righteousness continues forever.” 10. God gives seed to the farmer and food to those who need to eat. God will also give you seed and multiply it. In your lives he will increase the things you do that have his approval. 11. God will make you rich enough so that you can always be generous. Your generosity will produce thanksgiving to God because of us. 12. What you do to serve others not only provides for the needs of God’s people, but also produces more and more prayers of thanksgiving to God. 13. You will honor God through this genuine act of service because of your commitment to spread the Good News of Christ and because of your generosity in sharing with them and everyone else.”What you promise to God is between you and God. Each of you should give whatever you have decided. You shouldn’t be sorry that you gave or feel forced to give.”There is no temple tax that you are required to give to your church.However, remember Jesus said, “But so that we may not become an obstacle to them.” And he provided the money to pay the temple tax.Wait. What about tithing? Isn’t there some law about that?Well, that’s not an easy one to answer because tithing (giving 1/10th of your wealth) predates the Law of a Moses by hundred of years. Abraham tithed. (Genesis 14:18-20) 18. Then in truth, Melchizedek, the king of Salem, brought forth bread and wine, for he was a priest of the Most High God; 19. he blessed him, and he said: “Blessed be Abram by the Most High God, who created heaven and earth. 20. And blessed be the Most High God, through whose protection the enemies are in your hands.” And he gave him tithes from everything. So Abraham gave to God, through Melchizedek, 1/10th of all he had because he recognized that Mel was a true priest of the true God.Now, about that Law. Leviticus 27:30 “All the tithes of the land, whether from the grain, or from the fruits of trees, are for the Lord and are sanctified to him.”So one tenth of every increase belongs to the Lord. And it’s the first 10% not the last.In Matthew 23:23 Jesus condemns the Pharisees not not for tithing, but for their abandoning the greater parts of the law. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! For you collect tithes on mint and dill and cumin, but you have abandoned the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, while not omitting the others.”I have to tell you that theologians and church officials are divided over tithing. But one thing they all agree on, Clearly in both the Old Testament and New God’s people are expected to use their resources to be of service to others and to further God’s kingdom.John Wesley said, “

When a man becomes a Christian, he becomes industrious, trustworthy and prosperous. Now, if that man when he gets all he can and saves all he can, does not give all he can, I have more hope for Judas Iscariot than for that man!”

My recommendation to you give whatever you have decided. But give it freely, expecting nothing in return. Just as salvation is a gift unearned and freely given.I love the hymn by Carol Owens, Freely, Freely
ChorusHe said freely freelyYou have received

Freely freely give
Go in My name
And because you believe
Others will know that I live.
Go in the peace of God: Father, Son, and Holy SpiritGive of yourself as God has given to you. Amen.Also visit my other blogs

  • Tom and Ella’s Daily Journal of Our Lives

http://TomAndEllaJournal.com

  • Visit my devotions blog new devotions every day (nearly)

Onward Christian Soldiers

Hebrew Scripture Reading: Judges 7:2-8 (NIV)
The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’ Now announce to the army, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.
But the Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will thin them out for you there. If I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go; but if I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.”
So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues as a dog laps from those who kneel down to drink.” Three hundred of them drank from cupped hands, lapping like dogs. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.
The Lord said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the others go home.” So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others.
New Testament Reading: Ephesians 6:10-20 (NIV)
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

Message: “Onward Christian Soldiers”
“You have too many men.” No commanding officer would ever tell their subordinate such a thing when they were sending them into battle, “You have too many men.” And yet that is what God told Gideon. And then after sending 2/3 of the army home, God said, “There are still too many men.” God then gives them a test and those 300 that passed (or perhaps those that failed) were left to go into battle against the scourge of the Middle East.
The Midianites ranged from one end of the area to the other, destroying everything in their path. And then they would turn around and go back just as people were beginning to rebuild, looting, pillaging and destroying it all over again. The Midianites were not just constantly at war, they were a living, breathing war machine. And God in his wisdom, weans Gideon’s army of 32,000 down to 300 and sends them into battle. And guess what! This mighty, terrifying swarm of living weapons runs away. God didn’t need an army. He just needed a few men who believed that God would give the victory.
Onward Christian Soldiers! Marching as to war. With the cross of Jesus going on before. Christ the royal Master, leads against the foe. Forward into battle. See His banners go!
Yes, the Prince of Peace is leading the charge into battle. And we (you and I) are to follow into the fight. This is not a battle over land or resources or ideologies as human wars are fought. This is a test of the ultimate good over the ultimate evil with our (yours and my) eternal lives at stake.
For many years I thought that being a Christian meant fighting a defensive battle. I thought we were to defend ourselves against the onslaught of Satan and his followers. Then one day as I was reading the sixteenth chapter of the gospel of Matthew, where Peter has just declared that Jesus is the Messiah. It is such a familiar story and yet I saw something that I had never seen before. It stood out almost like a flashing light and I couldn’t believe that I’d never noticed it before. Look here where Jesus says, “Blessed are you Simon, son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Wait! What? The gates of hell shall not prevail against His church! The gates of hell are not attacking the church (you and I). You and I are attacking the gates of hell! This is not a defensive battle. We are on the offence. We are to take the battle to the very gates of hell.
Have you ever asked yourself, “Why does hell have gates?” Well, it is certainly not to keep us out of hell! Satan is trying his damnedest to get us in there! Literally! The gates are to keep the lost from getting away.
Now here is some sad news. Satan didn’t build the gates of hell. We built the gates of hell and of our sins are they constructed. Our sin was keeping us from coming into the full presence of God. And Satan wants us securely locked behind those gates of sin.
You see the-great-liar has people convinced that once they have sinned that they are forever lost! That they are not good enough for God to love them. That they will have to work really hard to earn God’s love. That God can never forgive or forget what they have done. And Satan is always there to keep reminding us of how unworthy we are.
And, as all strong lies are, it is partially true. We are unworthy. We can never earn God’s forgiveness. We can never do enough good to make up for the bad that we have done. We can not balance the scales of justice. We are guilty!
The devil really does not want anyone hearing the good news; that by simply accepting the free gift of salvation, by accepting the Jesus is our Lord, we can break down our own personal hell’s gate. For you see, Jesus died to set us (all of human kind) free from the judgment of eternal damnation. That’s right. Simply by praying the sinner’s prayer, “Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe you died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. In Your Name. Amen.” From that point on, we are free, no matter how often the liar whispers in our ear. For Christ died once, for all. His blood was poured out for the forgiveness of all sin … of everyone’s sin.
By believing in our heart and confessing with our tongue that Jesus is Lord, we have broken down our own personal gate of hell. But we are called upon to do more. We are to attack the gates of sin that others have built for themselves. We are to share the good news that Jesus’ blood has cleansed away our sins. We are no longer separated from the fullness of God’s love.
Years ago I heard a story about fleas. No, wait, I haven’t gotten off the topic, I promise. Did you know that a flea can jump vertically up to seven inches? That is 200 times its body length. I’m six foot tall. If I was able to jump 200 times my height, that would be 1200 feet straight up! I’d have a big S on my chest and a cape on my back … but I’d skip the spandex tights! Not a sight anyone would want to see.
Okay, now I’ve gotten a little off topic. However, I needed you to understand what remarkable jumping abilities fleas have. If you were to put a flea in a quart jar, it could easily jump out! No big deal for a little flea. However, the story goes that if you put a flea in a jar and put the lid on the jar, the flea will jump and hit the lid and not be able to get out. It will try again and again and again. Each time it will hit the lid. Eventually, the flea will jump just high enough that it no longer hits the lid. After that, even if you remove the lid, the flea will not jump out. It is trapped under a lid that is no longer present.
Many people are trapped behind their own personal gate of hell even though the gate is gone. Jesus has already set everyone (you, me, the guy across the street, and the guy on the other side of the world … everyone) free! We have the obligation, the command, to let people know that they are free. We don’t have to save them … they are already saved by the grace of God and the sacrifice of Jesus. We just have to let them know that the gates of hell are gone. And by simply believing in their heart and confessing the Jesus is Lord, they can step into the presence of Almighty God without fear of damnation but with the confidence of a child of God.
Here is the “warning label” that is attached to every Christian: So gear up with the armor of God: “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” If you become (or became) a Christian thinking that suddenly your life was going to be all sunshine and roses or milk and honey, you have another thought coming. By giving your life over to God, your eternal life is secure. However, you still have to live in this broken world with all of its daily troubles. Remember Jesus told his followers in Matthew 6:34, “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
I doubt that the devil spends much time tormenting those he already holds captive. Their choices will carry enough consequences so that he can turn his attention to his main activity. His target is the man or woman of God. He will use every trick he can to make you turn away from God. Remember his response in the book of Job when “the Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’ Satan answered the Lord, ‘From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.” And 1 Peter 5:8 warns, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
· The belt of truth: The devil is a crafty liar. And quite often he tells the truth in a way meant to deceive. Matthew and Luke’s gospels describe how the devil even quoted the scriptures to Jesus in order to tempt him. Keep the belt of truth securely around you that you many neither be deceived nor deceive others.
· The breastplate of righteousness: Righteousness does not simply mean “being right” it means “being right with God”. To be righteous we must act within the will of God.
· The shield of faith: Faith is one of the most misunderstood concepts of Christianity. I have faith that if I hold this book at arms length and let go, it will fall. That is a secular type of faith. We have faith in gravity because we have seen its effects before. Religious faith is to believe in the unseen and often unverifiable word of God. To the nonbeliever, this kind of faith is foolishness. Saint Augustine said, “Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.”
· The helmet of salvation: The helmet of salvation covers our head and protects our mind, the seat of our knowledge. As I mentioned earlier, the devil will work to deceive us by attacking that which we believe. Trust in your salvation. It is enough protection because Satin can not take it away from you. Romans 8:39 “Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
· The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: The sword is both an offensive and a defensive weapon. So is the word of God, the Bible. Read it. Study it. Live it. The best way to keep from being deceived is to know the truth. The only way to know the truth is by the word of God. And if we are to fulfill the commandment to go into the entire world a share the gospel, we need to have the sword of the spirit to cut trough the enemy’s defenses and free the captive.
· And with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace: the gospel of peace is the good news that we are no longer at war with God as we were in our sinful nature. The gospel of peace means that we are in a battle to save not destroy, to release not to take captive, and not to destroy the enemy but to befriend him. (I’m speaking here of the souls held in bondage). Jesus declared that we are to love our enemies. What fantastic wisdom that is. If we love them, they are no longer an enemy we have “killed them with kindness.”
And rejoice in each victory while remembering the lesson that God gave to Gideon: God intentionally sent a weakened army against one of the mightiest armies of the ancient world so that men could not boast about the victory. The victory is God’s. We are just the vessels. No man or army of men could stand against a battle with the devil. But one man plus God is more than a match for anything that the evil one can muster. By wrapping ourselves in God’s armor, we are ready to both defend and attack. So go, not in your own might, but in the name of God in the armor of God and the gates of hell will fall away. Thanks bye to God. Amen.

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Ice Water Steam

1ST READING Genesis 1:1-2:4a
2ND READING Matthew 28:16-20
3RD READING 2 Corinthians 13:11-13
MESSAGE
A basic tenet of Jewish faith is the Shema as found in Deuteronomy 6:4 where it says,
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: 5And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
One God. One Lord.
Jews and Muslims share this basic belief in ONE GOD.
The Trinity that Christians believe in seems, at first glance, to say that we believe in THREE GODS.
And has and still is misunderstood that way by some today.
That is, of course, NOT true.,
Hear O Christians, Our God is one God.
We just see the various aspects of God as; Father, Son and Holy Spirit”
Different forms, different functions but one God, Commonly called the Godhead.
The Jews take the commandment,”Thou shalt not take the name of God in vain.” So serous that the name is too holy to be spoken aloud.
To make sure it was not mistakenly said while reading the Torah, it was spelled out without vowel marks – therefore unpronounceable.
In our English translations, when you see the word LORD written in all capital letters, that is a way of translating the unpronounceable name of God.
Here is another interesting thing about the name of God: as it is written in Hebrew, it is, by its nature, plural.
So while saying our God is one God.
It recognizes the many facets of God.
Also, throughout the Old Testament many ways were used when referring to the One God.
They used various names to describe various attributes of God,
Now, several weeks ago, I mentioned that a instructor of mine had said that anyone who tells you that they FULLY UNDERSTAND the Trinity is a liar.
And I said, at that time, that I had A way of understanding the 3-in-1 and 1-in-3 nature of the Godhead – that works for me
So, having said that, let me add my own “fine print”
Trying to understand the Triune God is not easy and it may not even be HUMANLY possible. .
This, however, is an analogy that gives me a “working understanding” of the Trinity.
Now understand that this is JUST AN ANALOGY and if you try to stretch it too far it may fall apart.
You may find something else that works better for you.
I find the analogy of water to work for me.
Water – H2O – 2 atoms of hydrogen and 1 atom of oxygen. 3 components combine to be 1 molecule.
Water also has 3 states of being.
Liquid Solid Gaseous 3 Forms but one substance.
Each of the 3 Forms of water have different properties without becoming a different substance.
Liquid water flows. The flow can be nearly still or in violent motion.
It is essential to life and yet can destroy.
Life, as we know it, must have water to exist.
We are literally made of water. 50 to 80 percent of our body is water.
In my mind I equate this liquid form of water to God the Father.
God the creator, God the life giver.
Solid water (ice) retains a distinct shape and easier for us to see and touch.
It is also, used for preservation.
I like to think of God the Son as ice.
God in solid form. Emanuel, God with us.
God the Son, preserver of my soul.
Gaseous water (steam) is harder to see but is the most energy filled form of water.
Steam harnessed can do amazing work.
So much power from something nearly invisible.
To me, the Holy Spirit is like steam.
The Spirit is what embowers us to do the work of the Trinity.
We can easily see the workings of the Spirit without seeing the Spirit.
No matter what form water takes (liquid, solid, or gaseous) it is still water.
So God is God whether He is in the form of Father, Son or Holy Spirit.
The Godhead is easily seen in our Genisis reading..
God the Father spoke.
In the gospel of John we see that God the Son was the agent through which creation took place.
And we see the Spirit of God moving across the waters of an unformed world.
Let’s take a look at what was the going on in our Genesis reading.
Repeatedly “GOD SAID” and miraculous things happened.
And it was GOOD.
When everything was done it was VERY GOOD.
God commissioned Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
We are part of creation and as God’s final creation, we were to be caretakers of creation; to maintain it the way God willed it to be when he spoke it into existence.
However, we, as people of Western Civilization, have set ourselves above and apart from creation.
In our error, we have, used His command to “subdue and have dominion” as excuses to exploit and destroy that which God created.
This is related to the “fall of man” and how that has affected ALL of creation.
Because of Adam and Eve’s willfulness in disobedience, all of creation was affected.
Therefore, we no longer live in the perfect world as it was created.
In the computerized day and age, you could say that the default setting for creation was perfection.
However, a virus (sin) has corrupted the system.
The Godhead has been and still is working to set the system right.
God, the Father, through the Law and the Prophets, gave us rules to live by.
The rules are not hard to understand.
By living within the rules people could align their will with God’s will.
As a matter of fact, If the Law were to be lived out by everyone universally, it would make for a nearly perfect world.
It would not, however, restore the world. The system is still corrupted. This would just be a “patch” to make it function better.
As I said, the rules / the Law is easy to understand. It is, it seems, impossible to live within the boundaries of those rules though.
Jesus, God the Son, came to set right that which had gone wrong in the relationship between man and God, man and man, and man and nature.
For about 33 years He lived among us. He experienced life as we live it.
By example and by teaching he showed us how we are to live in relation to God, to each other and to the rest of creation.
In His final moments as Emanuel (that is God with us), He gave His disciples what has been called the “great commission”;
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.”
If you look at the Son’s command you will see that it is not that far different than what the Father said to Adam and Eve back in Genesis.
Go into all the earth and bring it into the will of God.
We may have a tendency to think of the great commission in connection with sending missionaries or evangelists into the world.
You know, sending THEM.
It is easy to think that it is somebody else’s job.
The truth is, the command was given to ALL His disciples – that is, those who followed Him.
The command is to ALL who follow Him.
That means US. – YOU and ME.
Here is another thing about the commission that is often misunderstood.
It is often interpreted to be, “Go and get people into the church to do what Jesus taught.”
But today we are invited to hear it more deeply, and differently.
The first word of this text in Greek is not an imperative. It is a participle.
That is, the idea of going somewhere else is not commanded, but rather assumed. “As you go,”
This means that this is not some special pilgrimage or mission trip we are to take.
It means that as we go about our lives we are to make disciples; that is create and train followers of God who will restore the world to its “default setting”.
How?
As we go.
What we do, what we say, what we think, what we demonstrate to the world should all be useable to bring about changes in others.
By the way, I know that in our culture, when we say “make” disciples” we may be tempted to think of some assembly line process where we take the raw product (people) and force it into a mold that stamps out little Jesuses.
However, If we follow the example of Jesus, we can see that he didn’t force His followers to become copies of Himself.
Yes, He is our example and we are certainly to work toward the perfection that He demonstrated, However, we are not Him. We are US.
Frankly, we are unable to do what God, the Father and God the Son, have commanded us to do.
Really!
We are too weak.
We are too self centered,
too self willed
Too old,
Too young
Too ignorant
Too smart
Too fat
Too thin
Too …. Too … Too … US!
However, God, the Holy Spirit, that dwells in us, will use our talents, our strengths and even our weaknesses to further the kingdom of God.
If we let Him.
If we let Him, through Him, we can do anything.
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me!” That is what is says in Philippians 4:13
You can do all things through Him who strengthens you.
We can do all things through Him who strengthens us.
Here ends the lesson.

We Are Touching Lives Through Christ By Reaching Out, Bringing In, Lifting Up, Sending Forth.

Before you read this sermon, understand that parts of it are specific to my home congregation. However the message goes beyond that group. It speaks to all who call themselves Christians.

Ezekiel 34:1-17
The LORD spoke his word to me. He said, “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy to these shepherds. Tell them, ‘This is what the Almighty LORD says: How horrible it will be for the shepherds of Israel who have been taking care of only themselves. Shouldn’t shepherds take care of the sheep? You eat the best parts of the sheep, dress in the wool, and butcher the finest sheep. Yet, you don’t take care of the sheep. You have not strengthened those that were weak, healed those that were sick, or bandaged those that were injured. You have not brought back those that strayed away or looked for those that were lost. You have ruled them harshly and violently. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd. When they were scattered, they became food for every wild animal. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered throughout the whole earth. No one searched or looked for them. “‘So, you shepherds, listen to the word of the LORD. As I live, declares the Almighty LORD, because there is no shepherd, my sheep have become prey. My sheep have become food for every wild animal. My shepherds haven’t searched for my sheep. They have taken care of only themselves, not my sheep. So, you shepherds, listen to the word of the LORD. This is what the Almighty LORD says: I am against the shepherds. I will demand that they hand over my sheep. I won’t let them take care of my sheep anymore, and they will no longer take care of only themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, and my sheep will no longer be their food. “‘This is what the Almighty LORD says: I will search for my sheep myself, and I will look after them. As a shepherd looks after his flock when he is with his scattered sheep, so I will look after my sheep. I will rescue them on a cloudy and gloomy day from every place where they have been scattered. I will bring them out from the nations, gather them from the countries, and bring them to their own land. I will take care of them on the mountains of Israel, by the streams, and in all the inhabited places of the land. I will feed them in good pasture, and they will graze on the mountains of Israel. They will rest on the good land where they graze, and they will feed on the best pastures in the mountains of Israel. I will take care of my sheep and lead them to rest, declares the Almighty LORD. I will look for those that are lost, bring back those that have strayed away, bandage those that are injured, and strengthen those that are sick. I will destroy those that are fat and strong. I will take care of my sheep fairly. “‘As for you, my sheep, this is what the Almighty LORD says: I will judge disputes between one sheep and another, between rams and male goats.

Matthew 25:31-46
When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all his angels are with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. The people of every nation will be gathered in front of him. He will separate them as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right but the goats on his left. “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, my Father has blessed you! Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you took me into your home. I needed clothes, and you gave me something to wear. I was sick, and you took care of me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ “Then the people who have God’s approval will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you or see you thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you as a stranger and take you into our homes or see you in need of clothes and give you something to wear? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ “The king will answer them, ‘I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you did for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did for me.’ “Then the king will say to those on his left, ‘Get away from me! God has cursed you! Go into everlasting fire that was prepared for the devil and his angels! I was hungry, and you gave me nothing to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me nothing to drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t take me into your homes. I needed clothes, and you didn’t give me anything to wear. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t take care of me.’ “They, too, will ask, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or as a stranger or in need of clothes or sick or in prison and didn’t help you?’ “He will answer them, ‘I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you failed to do for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you failed to do for me.’ “These people will go away into eternal punishment, but those with God’s approval will go into eternal life.”

We Are Touching Lives Through Christ By Reaching Out, Bringing In, Lifting Up, Sending Forth.

When studying the scriptures we need to ask questions as we read. We need to ask; who, what, when, where, why, and how. We also need to insert ourselves into the narrative. It is often helpful to ‘try on’ the roles of the different characters in the story. We can gain new insights by ‘seeing through another’s eyes’. And finally, we need to ask, what does this mean to ME?
We are going to first examine our reading from Ezekiel. Let’s take a look at what is going on here. First of all who are the players in this story?

Well, God is God. Ezekiel is the man God has called on to be his messenger. That’s pretty straight forward. The sheep are lost. It seems clear that these are people that are lost, they are without God. But we’ve got shepherds, who are they?

The shepherds are the leaders. Remember that in that day and age the religious and political leaders were the same people. There was no division of church and state. So these leaders were supposedly men of God, his spokespersons to the people but they are falling down on the job.

Now we have the WHO let us examine the what. The WHAT is the scattering, neglect and destruction of the sheep, the lost people.
WHEN is the next question that we ask. Ezekiel may have had a specific time in mind for this prophesy, but when we examine it we’ll see that the story is timeless. It could and has taken place over and over.
Where did these events take place? Again, as in the question of when, the WHERE is not important to the events of the story because it is a story about universal events.
Moving on to the next question, WHY, we find that there are many WHYS here: greed, laziness, self centeredness, self willed and on and on.
The HOW of the story seems to indicate a general neglect of the sheep by the shepherds. When it is not neglect it is abuse.
Okay, so God says, Hey Zek! Take this message to the leaders of your nation. Tell them that I am really NOT happy. And when I’m not happy, ‘aint nobody happy. Do you blockheadds really think that I can’t see what is going on?
You are down there getting fat off of My people. You take the blessings that I have given them to pad your own nest eggs. You are all dressed up in your fancy clothes , living in your mansions, driving expensive cars – er, camels, and taking the best of everything for yourselves.
Man, it sure points out how little things have changed doesn’t it? If you watch the TV or read the paper you can tell that these guys would feel right at home in our world today.
They were supposed to be leaders. Now, you can’t be a leader if you aren’t moving and nobody is following! And according to this parable, the sheep – that is the people – were lost. They were scattered over the face of the earth and nobody was searching for them.
Not one of these, supposedly good, Godly people was getting out of their comfort zone and …. Oh oh! I just got one of those spiritual slaps up side the head! I was feeling fairly comfortable with my place in this parable. I was seeing myself as a sheep – were you?
But look here, we are not the ‘lost’. We have been redeemed. We are sitting here in church because we have found THE WAY. Oh, we’re not perfect and we may temporarily get turned around but I really can’t see casting us in the role of the sheep.
But wait a minute, Tom, if they are the lost sheep, who are we? Well, we sure aren’t God. And unless God has your cellphone number, I don’t think we are Ezekiel either.
Man, I hate to admit this, but I think that we may be the shepherds that ol’ Zeke here is talkin’ to. I was feeling so smug and comfortable a minute ago. Now, not so much.
The shepherds were the religious leaders and yet they were not doing what shepherds do. Shepherds do not sit at home while the sheep are in the field. Shepherds feed the sheep. They lead them to where the water is good. They protected them from the wild beasts. They bring them safely home. That is what shepherds are SUPPOSED to do.
Ol’ Ezekiel’s shepherds did not protect, did not heal the injured, did not lead, they did not even do the most basic of care by feeding the sheep. And as a result, the Almighty Lord says: I am against the shepherds. I will demand that they hand over my sheep. I won’t let them take care of my sheep anymore, and they will no longer take care of only themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, and my sheep will no longer be their food.
In our Gospel reading, Jesus lays out the job description for being the right kind of shepherd.
for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’
Now, this congregation does many good things to take care of the sheep. We do protect through various programs such as the blanket bucks,

We feed through programs like the food pantry, the monthly meals at Trinity, the Heifer Project and even the suppers provided through UP kids.
We clothe the naked through our contributions to the Ingathering and yes through the rummage sales.
We visit, pray for and send cards and flowers to the sick
We welcome the stranger that enters our doors.
However, I’m wondering if we doing all that we can to go find the lost sheep that are scattered across the face of the earth. Our church’s mission statement is. We Are Touching Lives Through Christ By Reaching Out, Bringing In, Lifting Up, Sending Forth

Answer this for yourselves, are we really reaching out? Are we seeking the lost? I know that if the lost find their way into our fold, we will welcome them, we will protect them, we will feed them, and many other things that a good shepherd would do. But let’s face this, a good shepherd does not just open the gate to the shephold and hope the sheep find their way to. He actively seeks the sheep and herds them into safety.
I have to ask this, and understand that I’m not just asking YOU, I’m asking US, are we actively inviting people in? And if we are, are they the lost sheep? Or we inviting the saved to come and join us?
I ask that because … well, here is a personal admission: We just recently got some new neighbors who will be spending the winter in an RV near ours. Ella asked them if they had found a church home yet and we invited them to come to church with us.
Were we being shepherds? Not really, these people are already Believers. We were not inviting sheep. We were inviting more shepherds.
If we are to live up to our mission statement, we need to go find the sheep and bring them in. We need to be seeking the lost. Just as Jesus did. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10. Jesus was fulfilling what Ezekiel had prophesied, “For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.” We, as Christ’s hands and feet on earth are under an obligation to continue this work.
Remember the words of the Great Commandment in Matthew 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit,and teaching them to obey everything that I have command you.”
This was not a suggestion to sit in our comfortable sanctuary and wait for the lost to wander in. This is a command to go and find them.
We each have to ask ourselves how we have obeyed this command. When we stand before God will He say, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’?

God bless

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