Hungry Hearts

John 6:22-59
Ephesians 2:4-9

Every time I read John 6, which features Jesus first offering bread to satisfy hunger and then offering the bread of life to satisfy spiritual hunger, I think of Bruce Springsteen’s song, Hungry Heart:

Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack
I went out for a ride and I never went back
Like a river that don’t know where it’s flowing
I took a wrong turn and I just kept going
Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Lay down your money and you play your part
Everybody’s got a hungry heart

Both Springsteen and Jesus acknowledge a fundamental truth about human beings: that we possess a deep desire to seek and find that something in life that will truly satisfy.

In His ‘bread of life’ sermon, Jesus not only acknowledges this need to discover satisfaction but also attempts to derail two of the most common philosophies that falsely promise to deliver. + Read More

The Upward Look

Psalm 121
Hebrews 12:1-3

A Kindergarten teacher was observing her classroom of children while they drew. She would occasionally walk around to see each child’s artwork. As she got to one little girl who was working diligently, she asked what the drawing was.
The girl replied, “I’m drawing God.”
The teacher paused and said, “But no one knows what God looks like.”
Without missing a beat, or looking up from her drawing, the girl replied, “They will in a minute.”1

The little girl had her eyes set on God.

The same could be said of the writer of the 121st Psalm: “I will lift up my eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord.” We don’t know the historical context for the writing of this Psalm, but it’s not hard to imagine that for whatever reason he was downcast. His opening line “I will lift up my eyes” implies that he had been focusing in the opposite direction. And perhaps someone has reminded him as he reminds us that when we are feeling down we need to lift up the eyes of our souls and fix our gaze on heavenly things and therein rediscover hope.

That’s good counsel for those of us who either live in or worship in Chippewa Lake, for a sadness fell over the community last Tuesday afternoon when we learned that Mr. Bryon Macron, who many had been praying for was gone. Many are downcast. We are sad for him, sad for his widow and three daughters. Sad for his colleagues, the firefighters who were so close to him in life, and who were closely involved in the recovery of his body. + Read More

Sowing and Reaping

Psalm 126
Mark 4:21-34

There was a church hymn that was written in 1874 and was still popular in the 1980’s when I first began attending church. The song was written by Knowles Shaw who was inspired by the last couple of verses in Psalm 126 (5-6).

Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy.
They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.

Can anyone guess the song title?

“Bringing in the Sheaves.”

Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness,
Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve;
Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves;
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

In his The Treasury of David Commentary, the 19th-century English preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon writes:

He that goes forth and weeps, bearing precious seed shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him. He leaves his couch to go forth into the frosty air and tread the heavy soil; and as he goes he weeps because of past failures, or because the ground is so sterile, or the weather so unseasonable, or his corn so scarce, or his enemies so plentiful and so eager to rob him of his reward. He drops a seed and a tear, a seed and a tear, and so goes on his way. In his basket he has seed which is precious to him, for he has little of it, and it is his hope for the next year. Each grain leaves his hand with anxious prayer that it may not be lost: he thinks little of himself, but much of his seed, and he eagerly asks, “Will it prosper? Will I receive a reward for my labor?” Yes, good husbandman, doubtless you will gather sheaves from your sowing. 1

+ Read More

Let There Be Light

Matthew 5:13-16
II Corinthians 4:1-6

The prophet Isaiah uses light as a metaphor in describing Israel’s mission to the world.

Isaiah 42:6 says, “I the LORD have called unto you in righteousness, and have taken hold of your hand, and submitted you as the people’s covenant, as a light unto the nations.”

Isaiah 49:6 has it, “I have made you a light to the Gentiles, to bring salvation to the farthest corners of the earth.”

And in 60:3, Isaiah says, “And unto your light, nations shall walk, and kings unto the brightness of your rising.”

In other words, God wanted Israel to be a light; that is to be a witness so that other nations would also come to know and worship Him. They were to be a witnessing people in two ways. First, by their lifestyle and then by their proclamation; deeds and words. It was not just a matter of speaking; it was also a matter of right living. They were to live a lifestyle so dramatically different that it was a testimony to God. And then they were to verbalize the things that God revealed to them. Words and deeds, deeds and words; the two go hand in hand. And the tragedy is, they failed! That’s all that can be said, they just plain failed.

It’s no wonder then, that before He ascended into heaven, Jesus told His disciples that they were going to be His witnesses. In those words, the torch was being passed from the Jewish people to the Church comprised of all those who have embraced Jesus as the Son of God who came to give His life for the forgiveness of sins. We are His witnessing people. Individually and collectively, we are given the privilege of shining light in the darkness, of sharing God’s grace with the community. Be it our church sharing God’s grace with the community of Chippewa Lake or you as an individual sharing God’s grace with your community of folks; that is those in the sphere of your influence. + Read More

A Healthy Body

Ephesians 4:1-16
Speaking of church, Johnny’s mother looked out the window and noticed him “playing church” with their cat. The cat was sitting quietly and he was preaching to it. She smiled and went about her work. A while later she heard loud meowing and hissing and ran back to the window to see Johnny baptizing the cat in a tub of water.
She called out, “Johnny, stop that! The cat’s afraid of water!”
Johnny looked up at her and said, “He should have thought about that before he joined my church.”

In the second week of January, I went to see my physician for a physical. As usual, Dr. Jackson ordered a complete blood workup, which indicated that I have a little inflammation somewhere in my body. So she wrote me a prescription for an antibiotic that will eliminate the inflammation and restore my body to health.

In today’s text, Paul is giving us a prescription aimed at maintaining a healthy body, as he states in the last sentence: “so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (16).

The big picture of this passage is that for the body of Christ to be healthy there must be UNITY.

“Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all” (Ephesians 4:3-6).

Now to be sure, theological unity already exists in the Spirit of Christ that binds us all together in love. That unity is an amazing gift of God to His Church. According to Paul it is our responsibility ‘to guard, to maintain and/or to preserve the unity’ that exists in the Spirit.

Unity has nothing to do with looking alike or wearing a uniform or thinking alike for as you know, we are, all of us, remarkably different. + Read More

Peace with Others

Matthew 5:21-26, 43-48; Romans 12:9-21
CBS Affiliate KDKA Channel 3, in Pittsburgh, reports of an unusual Christmas disturbance that took place this past December 16 in Connellsville, PA. Their lead for the story was, “Motorist Tried to Run over Ex as He Put up Lights.” Local resident Alan McCutcheon was busy putting up outside Christmas lights when his ex-girlfriend, Mary Jo Smith, came barreling through his yard. She made several tours through the yard screaming, “Merry Christmas,” all the while Christmas carols blasted from her cranked radio. At one point, she even took aim to run McCutcheon over. When police arrived she told them, ‘I was just trying to get some peace.’ But that did not deter the police from arresting her. And then the newscaster ended the segment by saying, ‘So much for “Peace on earth, goodwill toward men!’ 1

Today as we conclude this series on peace, the message is simple; yet challenging. If we desire to experience the peace of God, our relationships with others need to be harmonious. Mary Jo was looking for peace; can’t blame her for that. We all want peace. But her method to find it was a little lacking.

The Apostle Paul writes, “Dear friends, never take revenge” (Romans 12:19). Rather, “Do all you can to live in peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). With who? With everyone!” This verse summarizes the words of Jesus we just read in the Sermon on Mount.

Let’s begin with a question . . . Has anyone ever wronged you? + Read More

Go In Peace

Luke 7:36-50; Galatians 5:22-25

It’s that time of the year again . . . tax-time. There was a fellow who one year decided to cheat on his income taxes. The problem was that he later started to feel so guilty that he couldn’t sleep. After thinking about it for a while, he sent an anonymous check for $100 to the IRS along with a note that read: “To Whom It May Concern, I cheated on my taxes and now I feel so guilty that I haven’t been able to sleep for weeks, so I’m sending you this check for one hundred dollars. I hope you forgive me. P.S. If I still can’t sleep after one week, I’ll send you the rest of what I owe.”

We laugh, but the truth is it is very difficult, perhaps even impossible, to experience the peace that passes understanding when we are out of sync with God’s purposes for our lives.

Just ask the woman in today’s story who sought Jesus. The NLT refers to her as an ‘immoral woman;’ however the fact that she displays unloosed hair and also has a local reputation indicates she was a prostitute. My guess is she, like our tax evader friend, was also losing sleep. We can only surmise that sometime before this scene played itself out she had heard Jesus speak about forgiveness. Now sufficient time had elapsed for her to see the error of her ways – to realize that she was breaking God’s own heart and to feel in her soul the desire for forgiveness and a new life. When she came to the realization that He offered what she craved, she didn’t hold back but ignoring custom and religious tradition, she crashed the party at Simon the Pharisee’s house. Why? Because something told her that Jesus held the key to set her free from her past, from regret, from her guilt. In other words, something told her that in Him she could find a little peace. + Read More

I Will Trust In You

Luke 8:22-25
Isaiah 26:1-4

A couple weeks ago, Gail and attended one of my grandsons, Matthew’s, Boy Scout banquets. His Scout troop enjoys putting on little skits. One of them this day was about Jack, who was walking along a steep cliff one day when he accidentally got too close to the edge and fell over. On the way down, he grabbed a spindly branch, which temporarily stopped his fall. He looked down to see the canyon fell straight down for more than a thousand feet. He couldn’t hang onto the branch forever, and there was no way for him to climb up the steep wall of the cliff. So Jack began yelling, “HELP! HELP! Is anyone up there? HELP!”
He was about to give up when he heard a voice: “Jack, this is God.”
“God, please help me! I promise if you’ll get me down from here, I’ll stop sinning.”
“Easy on the promises, Jack. Let’s get you off from there; then we can talk. Now, here’s what I want you to do. Listen carefully.”
“I’ll do anything, God. Just tell me what to do.”
“Okay. Let go of the branch. Just TRUST Me and let go of the branch.”
There was a long silence.
Finally, Jack yelled, “HELP! HELP! IS ANYONE ELSE UP THERE?”

Ever felt like you’ve been left hanging for dear life? Those are times that will try our souls,
as we either join our friend in seeking someone or something else to trust or we choose ‘let go and let God.’

TRUST is the key word. Today’s key verse is Isaiah 26:3: “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!” This verse is an example of Hebrew parallel poetry where the second line reinforces, and/or in this case explains the first line. “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You” . . . trust you? “All whose thoughts are fixed on You!” + Read More

Prayer Leads to Peace

Philippians 4:4-6
How many of you are familiar with the name Ann Landers? Beginning in 1955 and continuing under various authors to this day, the Ann Landers daily newspaper column receives thousands of letters every month requesting advice on various topics. When PaulineLederer retired in 2002, she was asked what her most common question was, and answered that most people worry too much. “They’re worried about losing their health, they are anxious about their job, they worry about family concerns, they are whacked out about their neighbors or frustrated with their friends. In short, people are looking for peace, but peace seems so elusive.”

According to one recent poll here are the top ten things we worry about in reverse order:

10. Unhappiness
9. Paying rent/mortgage
8. Our physique
7. Wrinkles or aging appearance
6. Job security
5. Credit card debt
4. Our diet (don’t know if that refers to losing weight or what we eat)
3. Low energy levels
2. Savings/financial future
1. Getting old in general

What have you been worrying about lately? Don’t deny it. In fact, I would like you to take a minute and think about it. + Read More

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