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A Purpose In Life

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” -Matthew 28:20- In my sermon last March 14, I used the life of David Livingstone as an illustration of what it means and what it costs to be a disciple/follower of Jesus. I want to share more of his story in this article. He left his heart in Africa, but his body is interred in Westminster Abbey in London. At his death, natives gently removed his heart and buried it in the Africa he so loved. Then his body was carried to the coast, where it was shipped back to England for burial. David Livingstone, born in Blantyreshire, a mill town in Scotland where he grew up. The small flat where he grew up is now a museum, and on display there are artifacts and memorabilia from his years in Africa. His diary, written in a firm hand, tells his devastating loneliness and pain he experienced following the death of his wife, Mary. Though the page was beginning to yellow with age, it was not the antiquity of the text that captured the eyes of many and filled it with tears. It was the message. “Oh, my Mary,” he wrote, “how often we wished for a quiet home since we were cast adrift in Kolobeng, and now you have gone to a better home, our home in heaven.” What sustains men and women who leave behind family and comfort to go to another country for the gospel’s sake, as did Livingstone? More directly, what kept Livingstone there when, as a medical doctor, he could have lived comfortably in his native Scotland? Livingstone, himself, answered that question. After sixteen years of service in Africa, he returned to Scotland and was asked to speak at the University of Glasgow. One of his arms had been rendered useless, the result of a lion’s attack. His body bore physical evidence of the suffering he had endured with twenty-seven bouts of jungle fever. His face, a leathery brown from exposure to the elements, was creased from the cares of a hard life battling the Turks and the slave traders, both of whom had little use for Livingston. A hush crept over the students who listened to his man, realizing this was no ordinary person. “Shall I tell you what sustained me amidst the trials and hardships and loneliness of my exiled life?” he asked, and then he gave them the answer. “It was a promise of a gentleman of the most sacred honor; it was this promise, ‘Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.’” Did Livingstone feel, though, that...

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Consecrate Yourself

5 Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”-Joshua 3:5 (NIV)-After forty years, God finally told His people it was time to cross the Jordan and take the land He had promised their fathers. Joshua-the one who had succeeded Moses-told them, “Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River.” Three days later, the hour of march came. On the eve of that momentous day, Joshua gave them further directions:“Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lordwill do amazing things among you.”With the passing of time a language changes. Catch words, idioms, and certain phrases seem to lose their meaning. It is also true that with the passing of time, some great spiritual truths are lost. Perhaps that is what contributes to our ignorance today of what Joshua meant when he said, “Consecrate yourselves….”Consecration is preparing yourself spiritually for something that God wants to do. (“Isn’t it this is what we are reminded of on this Lenten Season?”) It is like transferring ownership of your property to God Himself, realizing that He already owns it and wants to use it for joyous celebration.There is value in stopping what you are doing for spiritual reflection, inward purification and moral house cleaning. There is no way of knowing whether any of the of the Israelites regretted the deci-sion to march across the Jordan, but for those who did consecrate themselves to what was before them, it was a joyful experience. They had transferred responsibility for what was ahead to Him who rolled back the waters of the Jordan and went before them. I passionately believe that conse-cration still precedes the awesome, wonderful things that God intends for our tomorrow.My invitation to you as we continue in our Lenten Journey is:“Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lordwill do amazing things among you.” In Christ,Pastor...

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“Beginning Anew”

“…Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 3:13, 14 How do you turn over a new leaf in your life? Do you begin by breathing a prayer thanking God that before you, lies a future untainted by the failure and troubles of the past? Whether it is the first day of new year, or the emerging of a tender shoot through the barren grounds as Spring comes, that which is new gives hope that it can be better. Do you ever walk on the beach after a wave has swept away the footprints and imperfections of the sand? It is clean, fresh, and virgin…like the snow which covers a landscape masking every footprint and mark. Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, one of the fundamental differences between human beings and nature is the matter of RENEWAL. (You have been hearing this from my sermons for the past two Sundays of January. You will continue to hear it from me for the remaining Sundays of January. By the time you receive this Newsletter, you already heard and listened to the last two sermons on this theme “RENEWAL.”). Wherever he or she goes, human being tends to pollute the environment and leave behind waste and destruction, but God’s touch brings gentle restoration in nature as well in our personal lives. In the beginning God instructed that REST and RECOVERY was essential. There was and is the Sabbath as a day of rest, and God even instructed that farm land be rested and crops rotated, something that took modern agriculture many centuries to learn. RENEWAL – beginning anew – is a spiritual matter as well. It is the work of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives and can never be accomplished by us acting on our own. Spiritual Renewal is possible only as we allow God to work in our lives. “The inward man” wrote the Apostle Paul, “is renewed day by day.” Some people, and many of them are “Christians”, live in a world of broken pieces held together with the glue of bitterness. Renewal means change, and they don’t want change. They would rather live in a world of bitterness, excuses, failures, shattered dreams, broken relationships, and crushed heart thank risk the adventure of renewal. I am thinking of the cartoon by Charles Schultz showing Lucy talking to Charlie Brown. Charlie Brown says, “You’re going to be proud of me, Lucy. I’ve decided that this year is going to be my year of decisions!” He continues, “This is the list of...

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LASTING IMPRESSIONS

Before the New Year gets too far ahead of us, I want us to consider the following question: “How would you like to be remembered when you are dead?” This might be a rude question to ask considering what we have been through in 2020 and what we might go through this coming 2021. Some might even claim it that this is morbid. So-ber, yes, morbid, no. Because one day all of us will be facing or are already facing the reality of this question. And in the final analysis we do write our legacy. By the way in which we live, we are now composing what will be said of us and what will follow us into eternity. So, what will be written? In the Book of Acts, contains a touching remembrance of Jesus by Peter: “…he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” The One who was baptized by John in the Jordan, the One whose sandal strap John as not fit to tie – THIS JESUS was the man for others who brought God’s healing love and forgiveness. The Baptism of Jesus teaches what our baptism is all about: loving God our Father eternally and totally and using our talents and resources to lessen the burdens of others. We too are the beloved children of God through baptism. Baptism is never an excuse from loving service. Rather, baptism draws us into a deep fellow-ship with Jesus and his ministry. The dignity of Christian comes from meeting the needs of others in the name of Jesus. Peter powerfully sums up the life of Jesus. Jesus fulfilled the words of Prophet Isaiah: Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations…open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dun-geon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. (Isaiah 42:1-2, 7) All this Jesus did out of loving obedience to the Father. The same is expected of us as disciples of Christ. Each day we are presented with many opportunities to be of service and bring God’s healing to a broken world. We work for daily victories, “not shouting or crying out,” but by quietly doing the work of God. The second Sunday of 2021, gives us opportunity to recall and remember the baptism of Jesus and what it means, considering what we went through in 2020. The invitation and call of Jesus is clear: “let us be mindful of our own baptism.” Again, let us return to...

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Countdown to Christmas

11 To you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. -Luke 2:11- Every December 24, thousands of people of various nationalities from all walks of life will converge on the little village of Bethlehem, six miles from Israel’s capital city, Jerusalem. On Christmas Eve, pilgrims from all over the world will meet in the Shepherd’s Field and blend their voices in song and prayer. “O LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM,” Philip Brooks beautiful Christmas hymn, will be sung in Hebrew, English, French, German, Spanish, and dozens of other languages. At the Church of the Nativity, special services will be held commemorating the birth of Christ, and the beautiful bells in the tower of the church will blend their resonance with chimes, organ and cathedral bells around the world, as people everywhere pause to remember that first Christmas morning. The nearby olive groves seem strangely quiet after Haifa and Tel Aviv. Humble Bethlehem is overshadowed by modern Jerusalem. Bethlehem seems so out of character in a world of fast jets, computers, and space exploration. Yet Bethlehem hits you with tremendous impact. Here the course of history was changed. Here God became flesh and dwelt among us. Today a 14-point star marks the spot where Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary. The significance of Bethlehem cannot be overstated. Bethlehem is a measurable distance from the place where you are at this very moment. It is our world to which Christ came, not a fairy-tale, make-believe world. The story of Christmas involves real people. Caesar Augustus, the Roman head of state, Mary, and Joseph, the carpenter to whom Mary was engaged, the shepherds tending their flocks outside of Bethlehem, were real flesh-and-blood people. Catching the world with its depression, fear, strife, and turmoil, the message of what God did at Bethlehem needs to be told and understood. A father and his small son were walking down the streets of a city during World War II. The child noticed a small flag with a star on it in the windows of certain homes and asked his father what it meant. “Son,” explained the father, “this means that a father had a son who gave his life for his country.” Impressed, the little fellow noticed home after home where one or more stars hung on a flag in the window. Finally, the sun began to set in the western sky, and twilight turned into dusk. The evening star began to shine with a brilliant radiance. Noticing the star, the little boy exclaimed, “Oh, look Daddy. There’s a star in God’s window. He must have given a son too. And...

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A Family of God’s People

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritu-al blessing in the heavenly places.-(Ephesians 1:3)-How often do we hear this expression: ONLY IN OUR FAMILY?There are words and expressions and things that we do and looks that are only understood within the family because they grow out of the family’s common experience and memories. This letter is to the members of the family of God or the Body of Christ. It is a sharing of the deep gladness that ONLY the family understands.It reflects the joy in its deepest sense with which we look on home when home has proved itself through years of love, fellowship, and security. Home for us people of God is WHERE GOD IS. We sing in our heart “Happy the Home When God is There,” The United Methodist Hymnal #445.The United Methodist Hymnal Number 445 Text: Henry Ware, Jr., 1794-1843 Music: John B. Dykes, 1823-1876 Tune: ST. AGNES, Meter: CMHappy the home when God is there, and love fills every breast; when one their wish, and one their prayer, and one their heavenly rest. 2. Happy the home where Jesus’ name is sweet to every ear; where children early speak his fame, and parents hold him dear. 3. Happy the home where prayer is heard, and praise is wont to rise; where parents love the sacred Word and all its wisdom prize. 4. Lord, let us in our homes agree this blessed peace to gain; unite our hearts in love to thee, and love to all will reign.(You can also listen to this Hymn on YouTube: https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=youtube+video+of+the+Hymn+Hapy+the+home+when+God+is+there&view=detail&mid=2EDB4B43766F06C8B2102EDB4B43766F06C8B210&FORM=VIRE)God is our Father. Christ has brought us to Him.Sheer goodness God gives to us. All else called “good” will tarnish. The “good living” which advertisements glow (we see and hear them every day) about is based on “much having” (accumulation of things we do not need). Materially based “good living” is like bubbles that blows away with our breath. It is false front that falls in the first storm.Yet there is a goodness or a blessedness that breathes the very breath of life. It is the goodness or blessedness of God that God Himself shares with us when we, through Christ, are drawn from our places to His place.Thanksgiving Day is coming and with what we are going through, this year might be different. But, with God as the center of our thanksgiving celebration, I firmly believe that this will be one if not the best thanksgiving celebrations that we will have. Remember, “There are words and expressions and things that we do and looks that are only understood within...

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…God Is the Ruler Yet

It stands to reason that if God is as great as we have claimed and believed, we cannot fully understand Him and all His ways. “Human beings are only a part-a small part, in a vast universe!” How can we know everything that our God knows? How can we see all that God sees? How can we experience that God has? How can we comprehend that vast plan God is working out? Last August 10 at about 12:03 pm, Gladbrook Community and a big part of Iowa, was hit a big storm. Our faith was put to the edge, shaken to what we witnessed after this big, big storm. As of now, there are still communities that have not yet fully recovered from this big storm. It is difficult to comprehend how horrific events like this big storm, Derecho, in Iowa are. I must admit I have difficulty comprehending especially when I came to know that many cornfields are affected and expected not to yield the desired harvest. Many of our farmers are hoping to have good harvest, to the extent of praying for it. However, my faith and the Scripture urge me to leave a good deal to God and to stop worrying about what is too great for me. Psalm 31 says,Song of Quiet TrustA Song of Ascents. Of David.1 O LORD, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. 2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.[a]3 O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time on and forevermore. Maxie D. Dunham in his book, Irresistible Invitation, succinctly put: “What we need to know is that God owns the darkness as well as the light, and that God is present in the night as well as in the day….No aspect of human experience is without God’s presence….God brings deliverance from darkness; sometimes God reveals himself most vividly in the darkness. We may not understand it or be able to explain it, but we know full well that God is in the midst of everything.” When we believe that God is in the midst of everything, we are led away from that desire to know everything and we are challenged to open our eyes with compassion, to see the need and to respond with joy. In this “INTERESTING TIMES,” the Christian Faith will remain to be constant and strong. Wewill continue to affirm and proclaim that the world is “OUR FATHER’S WORLD…” and we...

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