Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year Plan to Grow

Every year about this time...someone wants to talk about New Year's resolutions. Sorry, I don't want to do that. But here is what I do. I rewrite and update my Spiritual Growth Plan.

Each year, I review my plan, make course corrections, add different components, and jettison the items that are either fulfilled or no longer valid.

It is that time of year, so I am praying it through right now. I am not quite ready to go to press but it is getting close. My 2010 plan was great...not that the plan itself was so wonderful but it produced very significant results for me. It was challenging but worth the effort. (Check my post September 12 to see my 2010 plan...I call it my Personal Rule of Life)

Next week I am going to speak about the process in worship. George Barna (church research guy) finds that less than 20% of active engaged Christians have a plan for growth. They want to grow. They are blessed when they do grow. But their process for encountering growth opportunities is like being blindfolded with the great hope that you will spontaneously bump into something positive. Maybe there is a better way.

Let me invite you to join me on this journey. If you have a plan, is it time to update? If you do not have a plan, would you be interested in taking off the blindfold? Maybe you would be willing to jot down some thoughts, create a map, establish a plan...then we could compare so I can learn from your insights.

I will share mine here before the clock strikes 12 and the Dick Clark team drops the ball! Let's pray together for the best insights that will result in an outstanding plan. Join me!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Gospel of Luke Sunday December 26, 2010

Luke 2:21-52 Sunday, December 26, 2010 First Sunday After Christmas

Only one day has passed since we celebrated Christmas Day, but now we are going to move through time as we arrive at the temple eight days after the birth of Jesus. It is time for the child to be dedicated according to Jewish ritual. Mary and Joseph bring the child and their small sacrificial offering so they can comply with the custom of the day.

While they are there, they meet a man named Simeon. He is a good and righteous man who has been waiting for this moment for years. Through a spiritual insight, he recognizes the child as the long- awaited Savior. He takes Jesus from the arms of Mary and offers a wonderful blessing for the child. At the same time he offers a word of caution to Mary and Joseph.

Then they are blessed to meet a woman named Anna from the tribe of Asher. She too recognized the child and offered a word of thanksgiving for all who long for redemption.

Redemption, salvation, deliverance, rescue…those are all expressions of what God has done for the people of God. Let me ask you to reflect for a moment. How do these four words impact your life today? Have you known Christ and the fullness of his love? Are you ready to move forward into 2011 with a new spirit of hope, a fresh commitment of faith, and a willingness to grow as a disciple of Jesus Christ?

Your reflection and your response will make all the difference!

As always, it is a joy to serve with you and to share worship together in the name of Jesus!

This is the last installment of our Advent series on the Gospel of Luke. It has been a blessing to share this journey with you. I do pray that the experience of seeing the life and ministry of Jesus through the eyes of Luke has helped you know the love that Jesus has for you and your family. Personally, the Gospel of Luke continues to expand my vision of what God calls us to do and to be as Christian disciples.

And so now, Theophilus, (may I still call you Theophilus?) I pray the peace of God upon you as we step into a New Year together. I pray that 2011 will be filled with blessings, discoveries, growth, and the presence of our Holy God. Amen

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Gospel of Luke Saturday December 25, 2010

Luke 2:1-20 Saturday, December 25, 2010 Merry Christmas!

What a wonderful Christmas Eve we had at the church! Many thanks to all who took part and worked so hard behind the scenes!

Is it a quiet day at your house? Maybe it was noisy in the early hours with the crinkle of wrapping paper. Perhaps you hurried so you could travel and be on time for Christmas dinner. You might be home for the day with a telephone call lighting your path.

Whatever your situation, I want to invite you to do something very special even though it may sound kind of silly. I want to invite you to read. Now, that is not an unusual request, but I want you to read out loud the words of Luke 2:1-20. You may have family around. If so, gather them, take the lead, read the account of the birth of Christ to them.

You might be alone. If so, read aloud to yourself to allow the words of Scripture to sink deeply into your spirit. Read about the census and the trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Don’t miss the manger scene with the shepherds, angels, and the holy family gathered around the child. Be sure you do not miss the response of Mary as she begins to live in amazement and thoughtful reflection.

It is my deepest prayer that your Christmas Day is filled with the fullness of the Christ Child and the incredible grace of God. Merry Christmas, and thanks for being a part of the Wilson United Methodist Church family!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Gospel of Luke Friday December 24, 2010

Luke 1:57-80 Friday, December 24, 2010 Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas! It is the day before the heart of the celebration. But for some, Christmas Eve will be a centerpiece of the holiday events. It will be a great day. Be sure you take part in a worship service to offer your gratitude to God. Our Wilson United Methodist Church family will gather at 5:00, 7:00, 9:00, and 11:00 for candlelight communion. I hope you will join us for one (or more) of those worship services. It will be beautiful!

You might be reading this passage of Scripture and engaging these words while you are traveling to see family or friends. You might be with your family for the Christmas holiday. Either way, take time to locate a place to worship tonight wherever you are. I know you will be blessed!

Yesterday we talked about Mary and Elizabeth. Today we meet Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah. As you read the passage, you will discover Zechariah’s faithfulness and his struggle. He was a man of faith but he had questions. Go back to the early parts of Chapter One to discover Zechariah’s struggle and his hesitating response to God. It may even sound familiar as a replay from your own life!

We not only find Zechariah’s struggle, we also discover his song! In church liturgical history it is called the Benedictus (Blessed be the Lord) and it is used early in the morning for the service of Lauds or praise. “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to redeem his people.”

It is Zechariah’s contribution to the Christmas season! He reminds us that the celebration is really about the fulfillment of God’s eternal promise. That redemption will come to the people of God. That salvation will be available for the faithful. It all comes through Jesus who gains a spotlight from Zechariah’s son, John, who is known as the “Baptist.”

Tonight, we will sing the carols of the season, we will proclaim our faith in Christ, and we will lift a candle to give thanks for the faithfulness of God. For unto us a child is born!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Gospel of Luke Thursday December 23, 2010

Luke 1:39-56 Thursday, December 23, 2010

This passage of Scripture brings together the family dynamic that exists between Mary and Elizabeth. It also provides the initial relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus. The meeting of Mary and Elizabeth takes place about 80 to 100 miles from Nazareth in the hill country of Judea. It has been quite a journey for Mary who ‘hurried’ to be obedient to God. It is a sacred meeting.

The passage also contains the beautiful song that Mary sings. Formally the song is simply known as the Magnificat, a name that is generated from the Latin phrase that opens the hymn. “My soul magnifies the Lord.” It is a song that is used often in Christian liturgy as a reminder of our call to a life of faithful living.

It is also a scene that reflects a wonderful spirit of humility between these two women and their God. Humility is always a key component of spiritual growth. It has been true for centuries and is vital for our lives today. We tend to be caught up in the busy commercial pace of the Christmas season. Seldom do we take time to stop, remember what God has done, and then proclaim, “My soul magnifies the Lord.”

I wonder if you would take a moment right now. Simply read the passage again, take a moment to reflect in a posture of humility and silence, and then offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God. My soul magnifies the Lord. My spirit is thankful for the gift of grace. My life is fresh and alive because God is good and Jesus is Lord. Choose your own words, but offer your thanksgiving to God as a way of preparing your heart for tomorrow’s act of worship.

Be sure to join us for a beautiful candlelight worship service on Christmas Eve. 5:00, 7:00, 9:00 or 11:00...all with wonderful music and a message that is designed to encourage your spirit. Bring a friend!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Gospel of Luke Wednesday December 22, 2010

Note: For the next few days we are going to double
back to the early chapters of Luke so we can refocus on the details of the birth narrative.

We covered this territory in our early reading but now we can recapture the actual
accounts of Mary, Joseph, and the Christ Child as we
revisit the Bethlehem manger.

Let’s take a close look at the baby Jesus!

Luke 1:26-38 Wednesday, December 22, 2010

This is the account that sets the ultimate redemptive act of God into motion. Luke takes great effort to detail the conversation between Mary and the angel Gabriel. It begins with a holy “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary listens with a troubled and anxious heart as Gabriel assures her that there is nothing to fear. But the news he brings to her would create apprehension in the heart of any human. No matter how worthy the person (or in this case – unworthy) the message is both marvelous and mysterious. Either way, it is the start of God’s plan to transform the world through the gift of grace. It is salvation history coming to fulfillment through the life and faithfulness of Mary.

Our Methodist protestant tradition does not honor or elevate Mary in the fashion of the Roman Catholic Church. However, it does not take much spiritual thought to celebrate and give thanks for her faithful response that unfolded in a very complex situation. It really is a remarkable moment in time when the holiness of God is communicated through an angel and received by a humble human.

We will gather for candlelight communion services in our worship center on Friday evening to celebrate Christmas Eve. The next day we will walk through family traditions that may include gifts, a special meal, family visits, special phone calls, and maybe a bit of an afternoon nap. No matter what traditions you follow, I invite you to ponder this: Is my life open to the will of God, and is my personal response one of immediate faithfulness?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Gospel of Luke December 21, 2010

Chapter Twenty-Four Tuesday, December 21, 2010

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:30-32

He lives! That is the cry of affirmation that echoes around the world each time we celebrate the beauty of Easter! “I serve a risen Savior, he is in the world today; I know that he is living whatever foes may say. I see his hand of mercy, I hear his voice of cheer, and just the time I need him, he’s always near. He lives, he lives, Christ Jesus lives today! He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way. He lives, he lives, salvation to impart! You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart.”

It was the declaration of the women who went to the tomb. It was the cry of John and Peter who raced to the empty grave. But it was also the eye-opening, heart-warming experience of the two disciples who were leaving Jerusalem on the way home to the city of Emmaus.

Only Luke records this walk of faith that was encompassed in a conversation about the Scriptures. Jesus appeared but he remained unknown to the disciples until the end of the day as they sat together at a table. In that moment, Jesus broke bread and his identity was revealed. The breaking of the bread and the offering of the meal became the backdrop for a revelation that became the testimony of the disciples. They abandoned their home coming, returned to Jerusalem and began to share the discovery of their faith. “It is true! The Lord has risen!”

The fulfillment of the season of Advent is the long-awaited arrival of the Christ child. We will celebrate it with candlelight communion on Christmas Eve. But the ultimate message of hope is really fulfilled in this chapter of resurrection and ascension. Read it again. Explore it with your senses. What do you see and smell? Can you taste the bread? Was your heart strangely warmed?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Gospel of Luke December 20, 2010

Chapter Twenty-Three Monday, December 20, 2010

Everything we have read from Luke’s greeting to Theophilus until now has been pointing us to the events of this 23rd chapter. (Remember the 23rd Psalm?) I still have difficulty reading this section. I feel the pain and struggle with the outcome. At the same time, I am blessed to know that this is the gift that bought our salvation.

The cross was set. The soldiers mocked. The sign was hung. Then one thief challenged him while the other asked Jesus to remember him. Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Then, it was the sixth hour. Darkness covered the land. The temple veil was torn in two. And Jesus called out, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” He breathed his last. For some, the overwhelming noise of the day was energizing. For others, the incredible silence of the moment was devastating.

I am so thankful that we know the rest of the story.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Gospel of Luke Sunday December 19, 2010

Chapter Twenty-Two Sunday, December 19, 2010 The Fourth Sunday of Advent

When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” Luke 22:14-16

The table was set. The deed was about to be done. Jesus was on the verge of betrayal as he came to the Passover meal in the upper room. He was eager to eat with his followers and to spend this sacred time together.

In a moment he would take the cup and give thanks to God. Then he would offer a word of thanksgiving for the bread and share it with the disciples. Within minutes of that sacred moment, the disciples would quarrel about their own personal importance. Then Peter would declare his undying loyalty only to learn about his own betrayal of Christ. Then, the meal was over.

Ultimately, Jesus would return to the Mount of Olives ‘as usual’ to rest and pray. He asked his closest friends to wait and watch. They chose to fall asleep. Then the soldiers came with swords drawn. Judas betrayed the identity of Jesus with a kiss, and Peter denied that he ever knew the Lord. At daybreak Jesus was standing before the chief priests as he revealed his true identity as the Son of God.

From sundown to dawn, it had been day that would not soon be forgotten.

As we wait and watch for the celebration of Christmas, I wonder, can you see yourself in this ten- hour snapshot? Has Jesus ever invited you to the table? Have you ever been bold in your faith? Have you ever denied that you know him? Did you fall asleep when the Lord invited you to wait and watch? Where are you in the story of the Living Lord? Take some time to reflect on one of the days that shook the world for eternity!

It is a joy to share worship with you on this day!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Gospel of Luke Saturday December 17, 2010

Chapter Twenty-One Saturday, December 18, 2010

Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives, and all the people came early in the morning to hear him at the temple. Luke 21:37-38

The teaching ministry of Jesus became more intense and directive while he was in Jerusalem during his last earthly days. He was blessed at the temple gate by the offering of a widow who gave generously out of her poverty. He also began to teach about the last days or the signs of the end of the age.

People were coming each day to hear him speak in the temple courts. It was a mysterious time for many of his disciples and followers as he spoke about the temple being torn down and the persecution that would take place in the lives of believers. Everyone was a bit baffled, but they also hung on each word as he spoke to them about the sun, the moon, and the Son of Man.

It must have been a time of struggle for Jesus himself. He knew the reason he was present in Jerusalem. I don’t know if he had a clear image of every step that would unfold, but he knew that he was about to offer himself for all of humanity. As a result, he taught with intensity and then withdrew to the Mount of Olives to be refreshed each night.

I don’t know what you did today, but somewhere in this season we all end up at the mall! It is not a place of persecution (at least not intentional persecution!) but it is often a place of confusion. We go, accomplish our task and then retreat to that safety zone we know as home. It is a ritual that has become intertwined into our Christmas experience.

Aren’t you glad you have a safety zone! You have a home, a place to withdraw, a location where you can shut the door and be yourself. Not everyone has that, but we all need it. We must find a place of sanity in the middle of confusing times. Don’t you wonder what these days must have been like for Jesus? The child, born in the manger, has now been baptized, equipped, sent forth, and is now facing his inevitable death. And yet, he stood his ground, taught the people, and generously offered himself out of his own poverty. Thanks be to God!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Gospel of Luke Friday December 17, 2010

Chapter Twenty Friday, December 17, 2010

Be sure to join us for worship on Sunday. Choose 8:45 or 11:00...but be sure you are there to celebrate with your sisters and brothers. Remember, our new worship schedule (8:00 ~ 9:30 ~ 11:00) starts on January 9, 2011.

Don't forget, this is the week to invite someone to join you for Christmas Eve worship. 5:00 ~ 7:00 ~ 9:00 ~ 11:00... offer to pick them up! Be sure to host them while they are at the church and then follow up with a post-Christmas conversation to see how they are doing. Don't miss this unique opportunity!

Then the owner of the vineyard said, “What shall I do? I will send my son whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.” But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. “This is the heir,” they said. “Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.” So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Luke 20:13-15

This particular chapter is filled with teaching that arrives in a culture of conflict and struggle. Jesus has now made his way into Jerusalem where he overturns the table sin the temple court. Then he begins to encounter questions, opposition, and outright threats upon his life. From this side of the cross we know the outcome is going to be difficult. But for now, let’s glean all we can from the teaching.

The Parable of the Tenants is one of those troubling, brutal, and challenging teachings that causes us to squirm just a bit. One by one the servants are beaten and thrown off the property. Finally the owner decides to solve the problem by sending one who has a different kind of authority. He sends his own son to settle the conflict. But the desired resolution does not take hold. There is no respect for the son. He is received with harshness and even death.

Jesus is directing this teaching at some of the religious leaders of the day. We clearly see a fairly direct reference to the way the life of Christ has been received and the response that is waiting for him in Jerusalem. There are difficult days on the horizon, but that does not stop the Lord.

If we take a ‘back door’ look at this parable, we can see a number of views. We can even see ourselves. Where would you be in this awkward picture? Would you be one of the spiritual leaders? Would you be one of the servants? Could you be the owner who sends his son? Perhaps you are waiting for Jesus in Jerusalem? Or would you be one of the disciples who overheard this conversation and wondered what was going to happen next?

This is the nature of Advent! Four weeks set aside to ask the kind of questions that we typically would simply avoid. The effectiveness of our time of preparation will depend on the depth of the questions we are willing to ask.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Gospel of Luke Thursday December 16, 2010

Yesterday I was late...but today I am LATE! Thanks for you patience.

Chapter Nineteen Thursday, December 16, 2010

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
Luke 19:5-6

Don’t you just love Zacchaeus? Do you know that “wee little man” song from Sunday School? There he is, high overhead in the sycamore tree. Jesus is passing by so Zacchaeus climbs the tree to gain a better line of sight. He doesn’t want to miss a thing. He has heard about Jesus but now he has the chance of a lifetime to catch a glimpse of the teacher.

We know that Jesus and the disciples are on the way to Jerusalem. They pass through Jericho and draw quite a crowd. It won’t be long before they arrive at the edge of the holy city at Bethphage and prepare to enter Jerusalem. But now, all eyes are on Zacchaeus because Jesus has just invited himself for a meal. Here’s the rub…Zach was a well-known sinner! What in the world is the famous rabbi doing with a man like that?

I mean, who was going to really believe that Zacchaeus the cheating tax collector was really serious when he repented of his sin? So what if he says he will pay everything (and more!) back to the people! Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice…!

We don’t know all the follow-up details but we do know this: Jesus has a reputation for changing lives! And it isn’t limited to folks outside of Jerusalem in the first century! Jesus loves to transform lives from night to day. You have seen it happen. You may even hold tight to a testimony of how your life was changed. Here is the Good News, it still happens today. And it happens because people prepare, are open, and sometimes they even climb a tree!

Have you been out on a limb lately? Watch and wait because Jesus is coming your way.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Chapter Eighteen Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.”
The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about. Luke 18:31-34

In only nine days we will gather in the Wilson worship center for Christmas Eve candlelight services. We are only ten days away from the celebration of Christmas. Time is moving fast! And yet, we are in the time of Advent, so we wait. We prepare. We read, pray, and open our hearts for the arrival of the Christ Child.

The early disciples missed the birth scene in the manger of Bethlehem. None of the Twelve were there. But they did have the unique privilege of walking with an adult Jesus as he taught throughout the countryside. They heard him teach when he changed the world with the Sermon on the Mount. They watched him heal the sick and they were present when a blind man recovered his sight.

Day by day they were blessed by their time with the Lord but now they are at a turning point. He is telling them that this particular trip to Jerusalem will be his last. In fact, he is quite clear that he will die to fulfillment the words of the Old Testament prophets. Jesus is not only clear that he is about to give his life, he is also unambiguous about the fact that he will rise again on the third day.

From this side of the cross in the year 2010, we see history in the rear view mirror. The disciples were hearing a projection of what was about to happen. But they could not understand. Matthew records their lack of insight and says that the meaning was even intentionally hidden from them. Like most important messages of life, there would be a right time for the fullness of the information to be revealed.

It makes me wonder, what message from the Lord have I missed? What is the next important thing that I need to understand? And when will be the right time for me to receive and act on that information? Will I be ready? Will I be spiritually aware so I can fully receive? These are the questions of Advent. The answers are on the horizon. In fact, some of the answers are only ten days away. Will you be ready?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gospel of Luke Tuesday December 14

Chapter Seventeen Tuesday, December 14, 2010

If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘be uprooted, and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”

Note...Sorry this is late getting posted today, it has been a day!

The Kingdom of God comes to the great and the small. It is received and has impact in accordance with the degree of faith upon which it is received. So it was for the disciples and for a group of 10 lepers.

You know the event. Ten lepers approached Jesus as he made his way to Jerusalem. They stood a safe distance away and called out to Jesus for mercy. Jesus heard their cries, had compassion on them, and sent them off fully healed.

Then, as Jesus continued his journey, one of the lepers returned to pour out his spirit of thanksgiving for being healed. It was a time of great joy and serious questions. “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?”

Is 10% good enough? Do you ever get lost in yourself by failing to give thanks for the grace you have received? In this Advent season we want to be fully connected to the heart of God as we long for more of his gracious gift. We get more when we give something in return! Something as simple as ‘thank you’ can strengthen your faith and reaffirm your relationship with Jesus.

“Come thou long expected Jesus. Come to set your people free.”

Monday, December 13, 2010

Gospel of Luke Monday December 13, 2010

Chapter Sixteen Monday, December 13, 2010

The overall denominational mission of the United Methodist Church is to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” That, my friends, is a lofty but essential task!

It all comes down to personal discipleship that is lived out by individuals who are connected to a common purpose. But sometimes the discipleship journey can become a bit fuzzy. We lose track, get confused, wander away, you name it…we do it.

In this chapter, we have two major narratives that come to us from Jesus himself. One is about a servant, a master, and a tricky business deal. The other account involves a rich man and a fellow named Lazarus. If you give them a quick reading, they might come up sounding a bit baffling.

I want to invite you to look a little closer and to ask some important questions. Does my life fit anywhere in either of these accounts? Have I ever struggled with relationships that seem to be similar? What is the primary message God wants to share with me today from this passage of Scripture?

Gracious God, you alone are the source of our peace, and you look mercifully upon your people in their moments of need. Bring us into the dignity that distinguishes the poor in spirit, and show us how great is the call to serve. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Gospel of Luke Sunday December 12, 2010

Chapter Fifteen Sunday, December 12, 2010 The Third Sunday of Advent

“But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” Luke 15:32

Have you ever misplaced your keys? Lost your checkbook? Left your credit card at some unknown location? Or maybe you have been lost yourself.

It is an uncomfortable feeling to lose something important. First there is the anxiety of not knowing. Then a state of confusion begins to set in as you wonder what in the world might have happened. Before long (depending on the value of the object) some level of panic might even set in.

I was leading a team of American preachers who had been traveling through Eastern Europe on a preaching mission. We had been traveling for about two weeks but now it was finally time to head home. We were packing and getting ready to travel to the airport when one of our team members could not find his passport. At first, he shuffled through all the reasonable places where it might have been misplaced. Then he started retracing his steps. It didn’t take long for the severity of the situation to set in. He began to panic. He dug through everything, his voice became stressed, his face was flushed, and his heart was pounding fast. Everyone pitched in to help. We found it fifteen minutes later after a lot of anxiety. Guess where it was. It was in his back pocket all the time!

We celebrated, took a deep breath, and loaded the car for our trip home. Isn’t it good when the lost is found!

Jesus shares three parables in this chapter of the lost and found. There is a lamb, a coin, and a member of the family. All are lost, and all are found. Every situation calls for a time of celebration that engages the joy of heaven.

Let me simply ask this question: Where are you in these parables? Do you see yourself in the reflection? Take a moment to re-read and reflect on your desire to be ‘found’ by God.

I celebrate the opportunity to share worship with you on this third Sunday of Advent!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Leadership Lessons from the Saddle #5

Friends, here is another leadership / life lesson that I learned while riding my bike through the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. Like most lessons, it dawned on me as I was making my way up a small hill while enjoying the beautiful scenery.

Here is the lesson: Get off your butt and ride! Oops, my apology for the typo. It should be get off your but and ride!

Here's what I mean. Have you ever known someone who talked a good game but always had an excuse? They are forever living in the land of "but" or settling for a world that is full of "if only".

They may really want to ride, jump, talk, walk, serve...(you name it)...but it never seems to happen because they have a "but" that stops them in their tracks. We all know people like that. Sometimes, we even are people like that!

Let me invite you to get off your but and ride! Or do whatever it is that you know you need to do but are afraid, hypersensitive, or overly anxious. Like the folks at Nike say...just do it.

So how 'bout it? Are you ready to get off your but? You will be glad you did! Peace.

Gospel of Luke Saturday December 11, 2010

Chapter Fourteen Saturday, December 11, 2010

“For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 14:11

I hope you have been enjoying the readings. Have you found some to be comfortable and familiar while others are a bit cloudy and maybe even a bit confusing? That is par for the course. No matter what your approach, have faith! Isaiah 55:11 affirms that the Word of God will not return empty but will achieve the purpose for which it was sent. God is working!

Now, back to Chapter fourteen! Be sure to focus a bit on the cost of being a disciple. It is not easy to be fully faithful to the call of Christ in your life. However, the process of discipleship always carries a challenge of personal growth and movement toward maturity. It is a good journey!

I want to call your attention to the teaching of Jesus regarding humility. Do you remember the ‘first shall be last’ teaching? Or ‘do not think of yourself more highly than you ought?’ Christian discipleship is all about humility. That was the central nature of Jesus to be humble.

Centuries ago St Benedict wrote a little instruction book for a life style of discipleship. He wrote a whole section about humility. In fact, he identified the 12 Steps of Humility. It was the original 12 Step program! Look for the Rule of St Benedict online for more detail.

Isn’t it interesting how humble people have a stronger impact than those who are proud? But you remember the recent political campaign, don’t you? In that leadership arena pride, boasting, arrogance along with speaking poorly of your opponent really wins the day. We actually reward those folks with public office! But the Christian disciple is invited to behave in a different way.

Think for a moment about this day. What will you do this weekend that will demonstrate humility? How will you prepare your heart so it is a natural act and not a pre-packaged expression of a humble spirit? Start today, it is never too late!

Note: tomorrow in worship we will be exploring the Prodigal Son from Luke 15. Check it out in advance to get the picture!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Gospel of Luke Friday December 10, 2010

Chapter Thirteen Friday, December 10, 2010

“What is the Kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew, became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches. What shall I compare the Kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.” Luke 13:18-12

It is Friday! I hope your week has been wonderful as we begin to look to the weekend and another opportunity to gather for worship as the Wilson family of faith. Breathe deep; good things are on the horizon because we have been invited to live as Kingdom people.

In many ways the Kingdom of God was the primary focus for Jesus during his brief time on earth. It was the central theme of his preaching, and he unfolded parable after parable to help the people of his day capture some insights into the nature of the Kingdom.

When it comes to an explanation of the Kingdom, I am so thankful that Jesus chose to use parables rather than deep theological language. What if he had said, “The Kingdom of God is a transcendent yet eminent and invisible universe that is realized when the grace of God is activated by the faith expression of an individual believer who is then radically and universally transformed through the concomitant gifts of a Trinitarian God who happens to be my divine parent while I stand in my authoritative position as the second person of the triune divinity.” Oh, really?

I am so thankful that he spoke about mustard seeds that start small and then grow to a magnificent size. I rejoice that he said the Kingdom of God is like yeast that works throughout the loaf. I can get my head around that kind of Kingdom language.

Personally, I actually find the Kingdom parables to be very challenging. Here we are, just two weeks away from the celebration of Christmas. The neighbors have decorated their home, the stores are full to overflowing, the air is crisp, and the tree has been prepared to receive brightly colored gifts. But I thought the Kingdom was about yeast and mustard seeds? Maybe we should stop and take a second look at our preparation.

Have our lives and activities taken the form of yeast that allows our faith to work its way into the whole loaf of our life experience? Are we demonstrating faith that takes the mustard seed approach when we develop relationships with others? Are we living this Advent season as intentional Kingdom people?

Maybe it is time to get started on a Kingdom journey!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Gospel of Luke Thursday December 9, 2010

Chapter Twelve Thursday, December 9, 2010

“But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” Luke 12:31

This is a long chapter. Fifty-nine verses flow forth to share some profound teachings from the life and ministry of Jesus. Even though the chapter is filled to overflowing, I want to highlight two small verses that carry a really big message.

Luke 12:22 and 32 share a potent word that applies directly to my heart. It may even speak to your life situation. “Do not worry” and “Do not be afraid” are words of instruction and challenge that can be applied directly to our personal journeys.

Have you discovered that there are times when the spiritual journey of faith seems to take us down a road that seems contrary to our human nature? This is one of those places where the instructions of Jesus seem to be the opposite of what we actually do in everyday life. That is where the challenges come into play. Would I be willing to set aside my ability to worry? Is it possible to never be afraid?

I hear it all the time, I am worried about … you name it, we worry about it! Or I hear people saying that they are afraid, intimidated, scared, or uncomfortable with the current conversation. We worry about our families, about money, about an uncertain future. You name it, someone is worried about it right now!

And then there are the times when we find ourselves living in some form of fear. In some ways fear is an extension of the fruitless activity we call worry. The two processes have their roots in the same garden of uncertainty. From that garden we grow anxiety, anger, animosity, and often a healthy crop of antagonism.

While we are planting this unproductive garden, Jesus is speaking about ravens that do not sow or reap. He speaks about the lilies of the field that grow in splendor. And then he draws our attention to the heart of the message in verse 34, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

So the focus is really not about worry or fear, it is really about the potential positive spiritual direction of our lives. It is about the treasure of faith in God! As a result the question seems to be, will worry and fear become our ‘treasure,’ or will our faith in God become our wealth?

Lord, make us wise and wealthy with eyes that see your Kingdom!

Note: On Sunday of this week we will be reading Luke chapter 15. It contains three parables about being lost...including the Parable of the Prodigal Son. That will be the focus for our class time and for the Sunday message in worship. Join us, discover, seek God's grace and blessing! See you then!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Gospel of Luke Wednesday December 8, 2010

Chapter Eleven Wednesday, December 8, 2010

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:…” Luke 11:1-2a

The season of Advent is a time of waiting, being prepared, creating new openness to the Spirit, and developing a mindset of anticipation. We are waiting for the celebration! Not just the celebration of Christmas that involves wrapping paper, family gatherings, abundant food, and a spirit of good cheer. We are waiting for the Christ child to be born anew in our hearts. We wait with anticipation, we prepare our hearts through a season of prayer, and we become open to God’s grace as we remember the child born in Bethlehem.

That same child grew to be a man. He invited people to follow him. And he taught his followers how to pray with a spirit of anticipation. Have you ever asked Jesus to teach you to pray? What do you think he would say? Would he give you the prayerful prose that we recite on Sunday mornings?

I think he might shift to a more declarative style of personal prayer. It might be a prayer style that includes outcomes, opportunities, and the power of transformation. I think it would likely sound a lot like Luke 11:9-10. Take a look!

So, what happens when we ask? And what is the result of faithful seeking? How about the outcomes of a solid knock on the door of life?

The Lord’s Prayer invites us to present our basic needs before God with the full knowledge that the Lord will provide. But the activity of asking, seeking, and knocking is to be done in full expectation that the response has already arrived. The two go hand in hand so our faith can be complete.

Please take a moment right now to recite the Lord’s Prayer out loud or in your heart. Then take a few minutes to commit Luke 11:9-10 to memory. The time will be well spent!

Don't forget to join your friends for dinner tonight at 5:30. Call or email the church office so we know how much food to prepare. 6:00 to 7:00 is the second session of the Gospel of Luke study. Youth and children's groups also meet to think about Christmas Presents that Don't Break!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Gospel of Luke Tuesday December 7

Chapter Ten Tuesday, December 7, 2010

[For many this date will be a reminder of Sunday December 7, 1941 when the invasion of Pearl Harbor changed the world forever. We pause to give thanks, to remember those who served, and to pray for those who are currently serving for the cause of freedom.]

“On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’
‘What is written in the Law?’ he replied. ‘How do you read it?’
He answered: ‘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 ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’
‘You have answered correctly.’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’” Luke 10:5-28

Do you know any ‘experts’ in religious life? Not professional Christians but folks who believe they have all the answers? The expert who brought the test question to Jesus was trying to create a stumbling block. Maybe Jesus would answer wrong so the expert could rightfully say, “A-ha! Got ya!”

In fact, when you read the rest of the story you discover that the expert was not really satisfied with the answer Jesus provided. The probing test was extended with a follow up question. So who is our neighbor? It may be the folks next door. Perhaps the people down the street. Or even the citizens of the next community or country. Who is our neighbor?

In response, Jesus shared a parable. We call it the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Does it ring a bell? Read it once again and then ask yourself, who is my neighbor and how shall I respond? Will I be satisfied to drop a few coins in the Salvation Army kettle? Is there some other way to make myself available? Do I really need to go the extra mile? In what areas of my life do I demonstrate mercy?

Here is the key question…do we demonstrate mercy because it is the ‘Christmas’ thing to do or because it is the Christian way of life that has captured our soul?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Gospel of Luke Monday December 6, 2010

Chapter Nine Monday, December 6, 2010

Before we get started with today's post...let me just say thanks to all for a great day in worship on Sunday! I pray that it means as much to you as it does to me. I love being a part of the Wilson family! Now, let's discover more from Luke!

“Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to set before the people. They all ate and were satisfied and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.” Luke 9:16-17

Have you ever noticed the three primary activities related to the hands of Jesus? He tends to beckon, bless, or break. As he is calling the early disciples to ‘come follow me,’ he beckons with his hand to invite them on a journey of radical faith. When he gathers the children, he places his hands on them and blesses them where they stand. In the passage above he breaks the loaves and fish to feed the 5000 who are gathered on the hillside. In the Gospel of John he breaks the bread at the Passover table. In Luke he walks with the disciples on the Road to Emmaus and breaks bread with them at the end of the day.

Each of these spiritual movements has incredible meaning for us as we approach the experience of Christmas and the manger scene. The shepherds came to bless him. The Wise Men arrived as the star beckoned them to follow. And in just 18 days we will gather in the worship center to remember the Christ Child through the lighting of candles and the breaking of bread.

When Jesus beckons it is our task to follow. When he blesses it is up to us to receive so we can pass it along to others. And when he breaks the bread it is our responsive heart that is fed by the grace of God present in that offering of his own life. In the act of breaking we discover the beauty of multiplication. Many are fed, many are freed, and many are found.

I wonder if you would be willing to join me in an act of faith during this Advent season. Would you join other sisters and brothers in the faith by simply allowing your heart to be open to the beckoning hand of Jesus? Would you willingly allow his hand to bless your life? Would you be available to the grace of God in a new and fresh way as we break bread together? If we do, many will be fed, all will be satisfied, and there will be an abundance left for others.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Gospel of Luke Sunday December 5, 2010

Chapter Eight Sunday, December 5, 2010 Second Sunday of Advent

Have you ever planted a crop? Maybe you have real life farm experience where a large acreage is planted, tended and harvested. Or your crop may be a single tomato plant well placed on the patio each spring. Either way, you know the joy of moving from the initial investment to the final product.

If that is the case, you will be easily captured by the parable of the sower. It is one of the best known parables of Jesus. Some seed fell on the path and was trampled. Other seed fell on rock and withered. Still other seed fell among the thorns. But (here is the Good News!) some fell on good soil and the yield was one hundred fold. Isn’t that what we all want for our lives…good soil and a plentiful crop?

The problem arrives when we are faced with rocky surfaces, trampled paths, and thorns aplenty. All of a sudden life can look a bit grim. It can even feel out of control. You might think you are about to drown when suddenly Jesus comes along and calms the raging storm and heals our spirits.

I don’t think I know a single person who has no need for healing on some level. We all long for solid steadfast health, a positive spirit, peace of mind, and wonderful relationships. Even though that is our deepest desire, we discover places in our lives where we recognize the need for healing.

Here is the really Good News: Jesus is in the healing and wholeness business! He loves good soil, strong seed, calm waters, and lives that have been transformed by the touch of his hand and the sound of his voice.

Take a moment today to reflect on your life. Identify the areas that need to be stronger. Then turn them over to the Lord. Tell someone about your prayer, for “no one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed.”

It has been a blessing to experience worship with you and the Wilson Family on this day!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Gospel of Luke Saturday December 4, 2010

Chapter Seven Saturday, December 4, 2010

Jesus is now well engaged in his ongoing ministry of teaching, preaching, and healing. He encounters the most interesting people as he becomes open to the broad possibilities of ministry. He builds relationships, changes lives, and teaches through the use of parables.

There are actually 16 parables of Jesus that are found exclusively in the Gospel of Luke. In addition, there are many more that are also recorded in Matthew, Mark, or John. It is a great way to teach. Just take a common every day experience, put it into context, and tell the story so others can see the answer and get the point.

Even though the parable is the key way Jesus teaches spiritual principles, it is really through relationship building that he transforms the lives of individuals. In this chapter he encounters a military leader, a grieving widow, and a woman with an alabaster jar of perfume. These are three very different situations but all with a common theme. It all comes down to trust and faith.

We are now one week into our journey of discovering the message of Luke. It is a great time to stop for a moment of reflection and evaluation. John Wesley (our Methodist founder) would say, “How is it with your soul?” I just want to ask, “How is it with your faith in God and trust of Jesus?” Take a moment to look at the military leader, the pain of the widow, and the commitment of the woman with the perfume. Then consider your own faith and ask this question: “What is the next step for me on my journey of faith?”

Be sure to prepare your heart for worship tomorrow. Communion will be served and received as we are open to the next steps in our journey of faith.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Gospel of Luke Friday December 3, 2010

Welcome to the Gospel of Luke. If you are just signing in our catching up a bit...there is Good News! There is plenty of time to get on board with our plan to read the entire Gospel during the season of Advent. Remember, Advent simply means 'coming'...we are waiting and preparing for the coming of Christmas. More specially, we are waiting for the Christ Child, Jesus. It is a wonderful time to discover the presence of God in our lives. Get ready, here we go!

.Chapter Six Friday, December 3, 2010

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27

It happens all the time. People end up in conflict. Sometimes it is over simple things that really don’t matter. Other times it is a philosophical difference or a world view issue. We all know that conflict can be resolved to a degree that relationships are much stronger. We also know that it can become infected and never reach any degree of healing.

It happens all the time, and it happens to everyone. Relationships that were once warm and wonderful turn cold and sour. People are hurt and emotions can run high. We all know that feeling that says, ‘this is not going well and I don’t know what to do next.’

As it turns out, we do know what to do next. Jesus said, at a minimum, we should pray for one another. Especially we should pray for those who stand in opposition to our way of thinking. They don’t have to be ‘enemies’ to deserve our prayers.

Can you name (right now) some folks who fall into the conflicted relationship category? Have you prayed for them today? Have you gone the extra step to become an agent of reconciliation? It is difficult, but the blessing is well worth the effort. Remember to re-read 6:37-38! It is all worth the effort!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Gospel of Luke Thursday December 2, 2010

Chapter Five Thursday, December 2, 2010

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:31-32

Luke takes great care to introduce you and me to the original followers of Jesus. There is Simon (who will soon become Peter, the Rock) along with his fishing partners, James and John the sons of Zebedee. We will meet more soon. For now think about what it would be like to leave behind your job, your identity, your livelihood for a traveling preacher who simply says, “Come, follow me.”

These were regular people who were making radical decisions. I am glad they were regular folks. If they had been elite socialites, or wealthy business people, or famous athletes…I would have had a really hard time connecting to their journey. I connect better with people who live real lives, have real problems, but still make radical decisions.

I am so glad that Jesus came to restore health to the sick and not to walk among the well. I am blessed to know that he speaks to sinners and not the righteous. For the righteous may not need a savior. And those who are well do not need a physician. As a result, only sinners need apply.

From where I sit, that includes me. I think it also includes you. Am I correct? If so, even to a small degree, I am thankful that Jesus was faithful to his calling because I always find my life in need of the Great Physician.

Lord Jesus, thank you for your faithful walk among the sinners of this world. If you only walked among the righteous, we would miss you. We declare that we need you. Hear our prayer, restore our health. Grant us grace. Amen.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Gospel of Luke Wednesday December 1, 2010

Chapter Four Wednesday, December 1, 2010 World AIDS Day

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19

You may have noticed that Luke does not spend a lot of time on the joyful childhood experiences that Jesus shared with Mary and Joseph. He only mentions one situation when Jesus was a child. It was the Chapter Two famous ‘did you not know that I would be in my Father’s house’ quotation from the lips of a pre-teen Jesus. (See Luke 2:41-52 for review.)

From here on out we find Jesus as a fully grown man about age thirty as he prepares for the intensity of his earthly ministry. The first major obstacle is an encounter with Satan. This power scene of temptation opens Chapter Four and sends us marching victoriously into Nazareth. It is in his hometown synagogue that he is invited to read from the Holy Scriptures. He opens the scroll to the Book of Isaiah and reads.

He reads what most scholars consider to be the formal call to ministry for Jesus. It is his challenge, his marching orders, his ministry outline, and the core task that will always be central to his ministry. He will serve among the poor, the broken, and those who need recovery and salvation.

You would think that someone arriving in his hometown with a fresh victory over evil would receive a hero’s welcome. The hero welcome should especially apply when he publicly declares that he has not only defeated Satan but he is now about to accomplish something really spectacular in the world. Not so.

The people are furious. They run him out of town and actually try to take his life. How dare you speak words that imply that you are the Messiah? We know what the Messiah looks like and we know that you are just the carpenter son of Joseph. How wrong they were!

I was just wondering, have you ever been falsely accused? Have you ever been absolutely sure you were on the right track but the people around you thought you were all wet? Maybe they held a grudge against you or challenged you to the point that you became silent. Things happen. It happened for Jesus. He took it in stride, stepped forward into the will of God, and launched his active ministry of teaching and healing.

Is there an area of your life that needs the healing touch of Jesus? He’s been there you know. He understands. And, he is focused on fulfilling his call to ministry. Ask him in an act of prayer to touch your life and make you whole.