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Belonging

12 And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; 13 but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”14 Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, 15 and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’-Amos 7:12-15- The need to belong is powerful indeed. Without belonging, we die-in fact we do not come into existence, or should I say, “we will never come into existence.” To live is to be attached, to belong. We are often told not to be navel-gazers-it is too narcissistic. True enough. But there is a lesson to be learned even from this. We are reminded that life is a connection as well as separation. Here is the paradox of life: “WE DIE IN ORDER TO LIVE.” This balanced view of life is crucial for gratitude and interdependence. We come into existence because of others. We are continually dependent, and hence must be grateful. At the same time there must be a breaking away, a cutting of the cord so that we can grow into an independent-dependent adult. We must help others to live and belong to grow, so that they can exist as free (interdependent) beings. At times the need to belong comes in sharp conflict with our conscience. We must stand for something, so as not to fall for everything. And when we stand for something, our “FRIENDS” (or even our family) may choose to be with us no more. We must go alone. In “fear and trembling” we follow the truth. At times we must be true to ourselves even at the cost of losing “friends,” and the most painful part as Jesus articulated in His call to discipleship, “our family.” The prophet Amos feels the tension which comes from speaking God’s word and coming under attack. Amos is not a professional prophet. He is a simple shepherd whom God calls to challenge the rich and self-satisfied Northern Kingdom (Israel). Amos, a native of Judah (the Southern Kingdom), is considered an outsider, an agitator against the mighty Jeroboam II (786-746 B.C.). Amaziah, the court theologian and priest, turns against Amos. He accuses the prophet of tailoring his message for gain. However, Amos does not back down. He is God’s man sent to proclaim God’s word. Amos is on the outside as far as the power elites are concerned. However, he belongs to the Lord...

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God’s Thoughts

In this article, I would like to share with you one of my Prayer Meditation in our Prayer Celebrations every Thursday at 7:00 pm. You can tune in to our Gladbrook United Methodist Church Facebook of to my Facebook. This is a Facebook Live Stream Prayer Celebration. God is a GOD OF TIMING. The Bible reveals to us that our God is a God of seasons. Our experiences with Him are always in the context of SEASONS…. It means that HE IS EXACT in His plans, and He is exact in His plans for you and me. Too often Christians will take just whatever comes our way in life. This should not be. We should reach out and take what God wants us to take. So the big question is: “How do we know what He wants us to take?” It is significant that we need to affirm that He wants us to take His promises for us and receive it by faith. Have you considered this question in your faith journey: “What is it that God thinks about us when He is thinking about us?” Many Christians failed to recognize that God has a mindset or God has his own thoughts. Psalm 115:12-16 proclaims:“12 The LORD has been mindful of us; He will bless us; He will bless the house of Israel; He will bless the house of Aaron. 13 He will bless those who fear the LORD, Both small and great.14 May the LORD give you increase more and more, You and your children. 15 May you be blessed by the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. 16 The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD’s; But the earth He has given to the children of men. This Scripture tells us that the Lord has been mindful of us. What that means is simply that God is full of thoughts about mankind. So, we need to ask, “What is it that God thinks about us when He is thinking about us?” What you write in a letter is what you feel in your heart and what you think with your mind. God has written a letter to mankind. It is His Word and in His Word He shares His desires to clothe human being with His Glory (Hebrews 1:1-3; Galatians 3:27 NIV, among other verses). Hebrews 1:1-3In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and...

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Why You Don’t Have To Lose Heart

Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.-2 Corinthians 4:16-17- Paul declares, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8). What Paul faced would have sent the average person either into depression or to flight. But Paul not only took it in stride, but he also seemed to grow with it. How could Paul be under such tremendous pressure and stay on top of things? What did Paul know that we don’t? FIRST, Paul knew that trials accomplish the purpose of God. Peter wrote, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (I Peter 4:12-13). SECOND, Paul had confidence that God would sustain him in times of great difficulty. Take note of Isaiah 43 where God says, “when you go through the waters, I will be with you.” It was a foregone conclusion that in the world we will face persecution, especially if you stand on Christ and His Teachings. THIRD, Paul could face trouble because he knew we are residents of an invisible Kingdom that cannot be shaken or destroyed. Hebrews 12:28 says, “Therefore since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe!” FINALLY, Paul also knew that we have a home in heaven. Paul wrote, “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands” (2 Corinthians 5:1). My dear brothers and sisters, “therefore we do not lose heart.”Happy 4th of July.Pastor...

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Living Under God

I Peter 1:17-2317 If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in rever-ent fear during the time of your exile. 18 You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. 20 He was destined before the foundation of the world but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. 21 Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God.22 Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply[e] from the heart. 23 You have been born anew, not of perishable but of im-perishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.The triumph of the Resurrection of Christ summons followers of Jesus to take a fresh look at how life is to be lived. I Peter 1:17-23 directs our attention to holy living. The opening of verse 17 sets the context for the consideration of the rest of the passage. “If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds”(v.17a). Traditionally, if you look at the history of the Christian movement, Christians are those who invoke God as Father. Christians are people who operate “under God” as the divine Father. Calling upon God as Father reminds us of the familial relationship we have with God. The implication of intimacy should not be missed. We are part of the family of God and, as such, are expected to act accordingly. We should also not miss the implication of God as JUDGE. Judgment is a function of love and holds up the Christian the expected standard of behavior.The last part of verse 17 begins a string of imperatives implied in living under God. We are to live in “reverent fear.” The actions of each day are to be taken in awe of God and obedience to the Lord.… live in reverent fear during the time of your exile.Verses 18 and 19 invoke Old testament imagery of those ransom from slavery. We are reminded that the cost of our liberation was more than more than silver and gold. The cost was the sacrifice of Christ. The ransom price frees us from slavery to sin for service to God. We are no longer captive to the “futile way inherited from your ancestor” (v.18).18 You know...

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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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