WHAT ABOUT THOSE MUSTARD SEEDS?….Read Matthew 17: 14-21

Last time I intended to focus in on the ‘mustard seed’ of faith that Jesus referred to in Matthew 17 verse 20.   Guess what?   Not one iota!  Did I forget?  Am I losing it?  No, to the former; you decide on the latter!!  Be nice, now!  Remember where we left off yesterday?   We’ve been to the top of the mountain with Jesus witnessing His amazing transfiguration!  Elijah and Moses were with Jesus, all caught sight of by Peter, James and John, the inner circle of His disciples.  Beginning at verse 14,  Jesus and these three are coming upon a crowd of people.  A man comes right up to Jesus, kneeling before Him, stopping Him in His tracks, begging for mercy for his son, who has some kind of devilish condition that causes him great bodily harm along with utter heartache for all who love this troubled youth.  The distraught father says that he has sought the help of the disciples… but to no avail.  The disciples were useless!  And how Jesus’ words must have stung their ears and scorched their souls–  ‘O Unbelieving and perverse generation’.  Who… us?  Those words would be painful to hear. Especially with what they saw up on that mountain.  The Father’s affirmation of Jesus.  Being with Moses and Elijah.   The entire happening should have lead to more faith in Jesus.  They certainly should have no doubts about what they had experienced up there. What they had seen with their own eyes.  The modern word ‘awesome’ would be an understatement at best.   And then He says that if they only had a tiny bit of faith, like the size of an itsy-bitsy mustard seed, they could pray and see God work utter miracles.  Like moving mountains.   Jesus wants us to witness His work in this world… and in our lives.  It doesn’t mean we must be a Billy Graham or a pastor or missionary.  But who can tell?  Jesus refers to a small mustard seed.  Nothing  pretentious,  putting on airs or wearing masks.  Simply trusting in Jesus.   Moving mountains through prayer, refusing to be discouraged by all the demonic and demoralizing  forces around us.  Mountains of bitterness and revenge–move aside!   Mountains of unforgiveness– let it go!   Allowing God to pick up our emotional rubbish for His disposal–good riddance.  Moving mountains with a tiny mustard seed called faith in Jesus our Lord.  Got any mountains to move?  Who doesn’t… except the one who likes to hide behind a self-righteous facade.  I have mountains of mountains.  To talk to God about.  Big mounds of bad memories and guilt laced with shame and embarrassment.  Dirt high up of what some people have done to me, which I need to let go of.  To leave things behind, so I don’t weigh myself down, all hunched over, with what the Lord has already lifted from my shoulders.  What a silly scene indeed!  Carrying around what’s been removed.  I know I’m not the only one.  You know who I mean!  Get current with what God has already forgiven and, here’s the best part,  forgotten.  Hills of wasted time and opportunity.   Are you with me?  You understand because you’ve been there as well.  Plant the mustard seed called faith, asking the Lord today to increase your trust in Him.  Faith will grow.  Sprouts seen where fallow ground used to be.  He’s a good farmer!  With but a mere tiny seed of faith.  Not very big.  Small is okay.  Don’t need gargantuan faith.  That’s the promise of the tiny mustard seed.  More accurately, the promise of Jesus Christ.  That should be good enough for me…and you?

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for being so trustworthy.  We can lean on you when everything else is so shaky in life.  We do trust you.  Increase our faith.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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I’M IN THE CLUB!… Isaiah 56: 1-8

I’m in the club!  Really?  Which one?  The Men’s Club!  In the town where I pastored, there was a club exclusively for men.  And I mean exclusive!  Men of wealth.  Men of prestige.  Men of position.  The building, which housed our club, was an old-fashioned, 19th-century home, located on the hill heading out of town, a stone’s throw from New York City.  We were exclusive, preclusive and exceptional(I must keep that new Thesaurus out of reach!).

I know exactly what you’re thinking!  How did I get into this club?  Good question.  The answer?   All male pastors in town had a complimentary membership to the Men’s Club.  So, there it is!  Gloat if you must!  I was rubbing shoulders with men I had absolutely nothing in common with.  Hanging out, drinking martinis, ragging about politics, bragging about stock portfolio winners was not my cup of tea. Totally out of my league.

However, there’s another ‘club’ that I’m a member of.  Membership has nothing to do with the requirements of the ‘Men’s club’.  Quite the contrary.  Money won’t help.  Your pedigree, meaningless.  Education is fine, but none required.  Open to all,  male and female.

Of course, I’m talking about being a member of the body of Jesus Christ, the Church Universal.  How do I find out about joining?  Why not turn to the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, chapter 56.  There’s no fine print.  Nothing secret about this society.  Look at verse 4.  I love this:  ‘…who choose the things that please me…’  These are the ‘Club’ members–anyone who loves to please the Lord, who wants to follow His instructions and words of wisdom found only in His Bible.  No myths or fables between its covers.  No ‘containing’ of His Word, leaving some doubt as to its total veracity.  No.  All from the Holy Spirit of God, through His divinely chosen human authors, to bring us the gift of the Bible.  Cover to cover.  Word for word.  Genesis to Revelation.  All of it.  His ‘Club’ members love to please Him.  Our passion is His mission… for our lives.  Christ’s church has members of all types and colors, shapes and sizes.

We’re created in the image of God.   Most important of all,  brothers and sisters in Christ!  Color of skin, irrelevant.  We’re in the same ‘Club’!  The body of Jesus Christ!  What could be better?  Certainly not that old Men’s Club.  Forty years later,  I can’t even find one reference to it on the internet.  For me, only a vague and distant memory.

The ‘Club’ of Christ, His Church?  Now, that’s a different story indeed!  Growing and growing, onward and upward, more diverse and colorful all the time!  That’s the one for me!  You too?  Complimentary membership…from His grace and mercy!

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for welcoming all of us, who believe in you, into the church.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED!… Matthew 17:1-23

Can you imagine?  Chosen by Jesus.  Not all of us.  A few.  Three to be exact.  Selected to go up that mountain. Why us?  Peter, James and John.  We can’t say ‘no’ to Him.  How could we?  Not to Jesus.  If He says ‘follow’… we follow!  Then strange things begin to happen.  Jesus’ face shines as bright as the sun.  His clothes

WALK ON WHAT?…Matthew 14: 22-32

This Bible passage puzzles me.  You know this story.  Jesus has fed thousands of hungry people.  Previously, their stomachs were probably growling!  He sends them on their way… well-fed!  The 12 disciples are in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, when a fierce storm blows through that canyon-like lake tossing them every which-way with water spraying all over.  Jesus remains up on the hillside, keeping a careful eye on them.  Finally, He comes toward His fearful and panicked disciples.  Walking on the water!

What did you say?  Walk on what?  Those 12 really question what’s happening now.  Wait a minute.  That’s not a ghost or a monster.  It’s Jesus!  Really?  Are you sure?  First the storm.  Now this!  Can you imagine what Peter comes up with next?   Peter wants Jesus to let him walk on water.  Do what?  Why?

Here’s what puzzles me.  Why not ask Jesus to calm the storm?  Why not beg for His help?   I don’t know.  I have the sneaking feeling that even he wasn’t sure.  Except that he knew that Jesus would help.

That’s a good idea for us to hold onto today.  And tomorrow as well.  Jesus cares.  He helps us.  Peter steps out of the boat.  Starts out fine.  One step in front of the other.  Looking straight at Jesus.  Floating barefoot on whitecaps, on the Sea of Galilee!  What a feeling!

But then he senses water up to his ankles, then his shins and knees.   He gets nervous, looking here, there… and finally down.   He falters…with that sinking feeling!  Who hasn’t felt that?  So, Peter cries out for help.  Jesus catches him.  Then our Lord, tenderly but firmly, speaks with Peter about his itsy-bitsy faith and those pesky doubts.  Peter needs to do some ‘faith’ soul-searching.

I was wondering–what does the Lord needs to speak to me about?  My easy worrying?  Miniscule faith?  How about you?

Peter learns a lesson or two.  Like what?  Little baby steps of faith will grow in Jesus’ hands, even in the face of devilish doubts and faltering faith.  Let Him help.  It’s what He does best.  Peter probably thought he was quite strong, but he was all wet!  Jesus will help us.   He will speak with us.  Like prodding us to be more than we are.  More like who we were created to be, made in the image of God.

Interested in that?  I am.  Let’s journey together…with Jesus!  I’m stepping out of the boat.  Look up.  Take His hand.  His grip is firm.  We can do it!   ‘(We) can do all things through Christ…'(Philippians 4:13).

Prayer:  Lord, we take your hand in ours.  We may slip and fall at times, but we know you are always there to lift us up!  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

MORE WIND CHASING!… Ecclesiastes 1-2 Again!

I wish my life didn’t involve so much ‘chasing after the wind’.  As King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes chapters 1 and 2.  I have a secret I’d like to share with you.  Many years ago, I made a commitment to read the Bible from cover to cover in the new year.  A Roman Catholic priest friend said that he’d like to also.  But a Lutheran pastor friend said that he had read the Bible through a few times.  Well, he wasn’t going to get one up on us!  No way!

I found a Bible-in-a-Year reading calendar and started out with Genesis, Psalms and Luke.  Two Old Testament and one New Testament every day.   If followed, I’d read from Genesis to Revelation by December 31st!   Now,  I knew that there would be some days when that would not be possible, but also that God was understanding.  Nevertheless, I really tried my best to stick to that schedule of Bible reading.  Every day with Him in the Bible.  Day by day, week by week, month by month, I was navigating through the entire Bible.

I didn’t notice anything different for awhile, but change was coming into my life.  And I don’t mean nickels, dimes and quarters, either!   You see, I was moving from Ecclesiastes 1:6-‘The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course’–to Ecclesiastes 2:26-‘To the man who pleases Him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness…’  From wind that blows here, there and who-knows-where; to God’s wisdom that anchors me firmly in Him.

Guess what?  I accomplished my goal–read the entire Bible that year!  Almost 30 years later, I’m still at it!  Every year–every book and letter, every chapter and verse.  Won’t stop.  Too much to lose.  Won’t stop.  Too much to gain…by staying with Him in His Word.

Up for the challenge?  In this new year, how about reading your Bible from cover to cover?  Or listening to it on CD?  Or on one of your digital devices(whatever that may be!)!  But don’t say I’ll do it…do it!  A good place to find a number of daily Bible reading schedules would be on the internet, at of all places, ‘Daily Bible Reading Schedules’!  Even I found that!  Have fun looking.  Find one that interests you.  Then go for it.  Do it!  Begin today.  And get ready to notice that life is changing for you…with Him!

Prayer:  Lord, we want to get close to you.  Help us to open our Bibles every day as we open our hearts to you as well.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

MORE WIND CHASING!……Read Ecclesiastes 1-2

  I wish my life didn’t involve so much ‘chasing after the wind’.  You remember King Solomon’s phrase from Ecclesiastes.   Chasing,  pushing, shoving,  fighting for…things that are just ‘wind’, meaning so little.   Like some years in my ministry.   Would have to admit that I began poorly.   Then, I had 20 very satisfying years as a Master Financial Planner with a large American investment firm.   Praise God I ended pastoral ministry with much less chasing you-know-what.  But looking back, way back,  I just shake my head at so much time and opportunity squandered and frittered away.  ‘Chasing after the wind’–as Solomon claimed in Ecclesiastes chapters 1 & 2.  Hope you’ve read those two chapters–again.  Doesn’t take a lot of time.  Maybe 10 minutes.  In that space of time, we could channel-surf the mass nothingness of cable TV or Hulu, HuHu or whatever they’re called!   For me,  what’s with this new italic I’m seeing?  It’s shown up from who-knows-where?  I must have pressed a wrong key on my computer.  Must have…but which one?  Who cares as I don’t know how to fix it anyway.  So, where’s my wife?  This is ruined!  Help!  Sue!  To my rescue once again!   Ah, she’s done it!  Back to normal.  Thank you, Lord… and Sue!  Doesn’t take a lot of ‘wind’ to waste 10 minutes…at least not in my life.  See what I mean?  Am I the only one?  But I do have a secret I’d like to share with you.  Many years ago, I made a commitment to read the Bible from cover to cover in the new year.  A Roman Catholic friend of mine, a priest, also admitted that he had never done so in his many years of ministry.  But a Lutheran pastor friend of ours said that he had read the Bible through a few times.  Well, he wasn’t going to get one up on us!  No way!  Not a Lutheran, anyway!!  So, I found a Bible-in-a-Year calendar and started reading.  It had 2 Old Testament and 1 New Testament readings every day.  If followed, I’d read from Genesis to Revelation by December 31st!   Must confess that I had made this same commitment when I was a student at Bible college many, many years before.  Think I kept that resolution through possibly part of one week!  That’s terrible to admit.  But truth be told.  ‘Truth or Consequences’– I can clearly see the consequences of not allowing God’s truth to penetrate this thick, Irish-German skull (and soul) of mine.  Not good.  Not at all.   Now, after I had made this new commitment to read the Bible every day, I knew that there would be some days when that would not be possible but also that God was merciful and understanding.  Nevertheless, I really tried to stick to that schedule of daily reading.  Every day with Him in His Word, the Bible.  Day by day, week by week, month by month, I was navigating through the entire Bible.  I didn’t notice anything different for awhile, but change was coming into my life.  And I don’t mean nickels, dimes and quarters either!  You see,  I was moving from Ecclesiastes 1:6: ‘The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course’–to Ecclesiastes 2:26: ‘To the man who pleases Him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness…’  From wind that blows here, there and who-knows-where;  to God’s wisdom that anchors me firmly in Him.  Guess what?  I accomplished my goal–read the entire Bible that year!   Almost 30 years later, I’m still at it.  Every year–every chapter, every verse.  Won’t stop.  Too much to lose.  Won’t stop.  Too much to gain…by staying with Him in His Word.  Up for a challenge?  For this new year, how about reading your Bible from cover to cover?  Or listening to it on CD?  Or on one your digital devices(whatever that may be!)?  But don’t say I’ll do it… do it!  A good place to find a number of daily Bible reading schedules would be on the internet, at of all places, ‘Daily Bible Reading Schedules’!  Even I found that!  Have fun looking.  Find one that interests you.  Then go for it.  Do it!  Begin today.  And get ready to notice that life is changing…for you…with Him!

Prayer:  Lord, we so want to get close to you.  We need more of you and less of us in this crazy world.  Help us to open our Bibles every day as we open our hearts to you.  We need your help to do just that.  In Jesus’ name and for His sake.  Amen.

 

HOW ABOUT A LITTLE REST AND RELAXATION?…Isaiah 36: 1-22

Here we are retired and in need of rest and relaxation.  What gives?   What about these Bible verses?   Isaiah 36:4 is a strange one.   Some context here.  Jerusalem and Judah are being threatened by the world power of its day, Assyria.  The Assyrian King Sennacherib sends his high officials to pressure God’s people into submission.  He seeks to undermine their confidence.  The foreign official tells Judah’s King Hezekiah this–‘…Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: On what do you rest this trust of yours?'(ESV).

Sennacherib preens himself as the supreme power in the world, upon which no foreign god has ever had any control, authority or success.  No god has ever defeated him, he brags.  ‘And yours won’t either, Hezekiah’.  Then Sennacherib has the nerve to say that Israel’s God, Yahweh, has said this to him– “The LORD said to me, ‘Go up against this land(Israel) and destroy it'”(Isaiah 36: 10).  The evil Assyrian powerhouse pulls out all the stops, resorting to any tactic to put abject fear into the hearts of God’s people.  I love what Hezekiah does next, up against such a fierce foe and liar.

What does Hezekiah do first?  Poll the citizens for possible options?  No.  Send out advisors to ‘spin’ a positive message in a dire situation?  No.  Gather his most trusted advisors around him for a consensus?  None of the above.  Verse 1 says–‘As soon as King Hezekiah heard it, he tore his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth and went into the house of the LORD.’  And then he calls for Isaiah the prophet.

Of course it’s wise to seek other’s counsel.  We know this.  But what comes first?  For me, it’s worry and fretting.   I go over things until they build up into a huge tangle of nerves.

What have I discovered over the years?  Prayer helps because God answers prayer.  God wants us to think about Him.  First.  To focus on His promises found in the Bible.  First.  To find rest and relaxation, trusting Him.  First.

Even though the question of the day comes from one of God’s enemies, it’s still a good one.  On what do we rest?  On whom do we trust?   Trust is a big issue.  The Hebrew word is used seven times here in Isaiah 36: 4-9.  Where do we place our trust?  On big ‘bucks’ and bulging investment portfolios?  On looks?  Government and elected leaders?  On education or positions in life?  On church and pastors?  Families and friends?  All have their place… behind coming to Jesus with everything, placing them at His feet, walking away knowing that in His care we’ll be blessed.

I wish I always trusted the Lord.  I haven’t.  But the little baby steps I take will result in giant strides for me with Him.  You too?  Why not?

Prayer:  Lord,  may my fears give way to faith in you.  Through Jesus your Son.  Amen.