Rafters (1/14/17)

What’s your honest answer to this question: Am I living up to my fullest potential as a Christian? For example, even though I don’t understand everything written in the Bible, am I being obedient to the verses I do understand? Am I compliant to the leading of the Holy Spirit in me? Is Jesus the most important thing in my life?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, why not? Perhaps it’s because we’re not living as we were created to live. To help understand what I’m talking about, let’s look at penguins again.

A group of penguins on land is called a waddle. The term comes from the way penguins walk. To “waddle” is to “walk with short steps and a clumsy swaying motion” (Oxford Dictionaries). Last week, we talked about how there are instances where our walk with Jesus is filled with short, clumsy steps. At times, we’re waddlers. This is why we need to love and support one another. But, at this point, we need to wrestle with something. Are we really supposed to be waddlers? (more…)

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Waddlers (1/7/18)

Do you ever wonder what goes through a pastor’s mind when he or she is in front of people? Let me tell you what went through mine when Jeff Dibert, our Pastoral Support Team Leader, gave me your Christmas gift. During the worship service, Jeff asked Stephanie, my wife, and I to come forward. Then he handed me a gift bag. When I pulled out a stuffed penguin, he said, “We heard you like penguins.” I immediately thought, “Surely to goodness they didn’t buy me a penguin, did they?” Knowing Jeff, he would if he could.

Isn’t it funny how once our minds start going in a certain direction, we keep moving in that direction even if it isn’t logical? Then I got to thinking, “Is it even legal to own a penguin in the U.S.?

“No. I don’t think it is. Are they sending me someplace that has penguins?”

By this point, Jeff revealed, much to my relief, that the gift was tickets to a Pittsburgh Penguins game.

Later in the week, I started thinking about my original question. “Is it legal to have a penguin as a pet in the United States? I decided to look up the answer. According to several websites, the answer seems to be only if you’re a zoo. Since they’re a protected species, you can own them only if you have the right permits and a proper place to house them. (more…)

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Go (12/24/2017)

In Luke 1, the angel Gabriel appears to Zechariah the priest and tells him that his wife, Elizabeth, is going to have a son who will announce the arrival of Israel’s Messiah. When their baby is born, they name him John. We now call him John the Baptist. Gabriel then appears to Mary and tell her she has been chosen to be the mother of the Messiah.

Luke 2 starts with Mary and her husband, Joseph, going to the town of Bethlehem, where their baby is born. Mary gave birth in a stable because there was no room for them in the normal living quarters. She then placed the baby, named Jesus, in a manger. A manger is a feeding trough. (more…)

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Wait (12/17/2017)

If you grow vegetables or flowers, are you planning on planting your seeds in the ground right now? If you said “no,” why not? The dirt you’re going to plant them in is right there. It never goes anywhere. Even though they’re harder to find this time of year, we can buy seeds, straw and fertilizer. Your plow and tiller are in the shed. So, again, why not plant now? The answer is simple. Seeds won’t grow right now because it isn’t the right time for it to happen.

We understand the concept of time. Our days are structured by it. There is a beginning and an ending to everything we do. We get up in the morning, do our daily activities and then go to sleep. Tomorrow we’ll repeat this same process. And the next day and the next day and…. Even our life span has a time limit.

God isn’t constrained by time like we are. Somehow, he operates outside of it because he is eternal. But he enters our world to redeem us from the curse of sin. The Christmas season is a time when we celebrate the way God entered into our world by sending the Messiah to be born. (more…)

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Listen (12/10/17)

How do you respond when God asks you to step out in great faith and do something that could change the course of your life?

Last week, we looked at Luke 1:5-25. In this passage, the angel Gabriel appeared to the priest Zechariah as he was serving God in the temple at Jerusalem. Gabriel said his wife, Elizabeth, would have a child who would grow up to announce the arrival of the Messiah.

Zechariah responded by asking, “How can this be since she is old?” Gabriel then rendered Zechariah unable to speak until his son was born.

Within a short period of time, God asked Mary to do something that would change her life. Luke 1:26-38 gives us the details of how it happened. 26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” (more…)

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Stop (12/3/17)

We are creatures of habit. Sometimes our habits cause us to do strange things.

I drive a lot. Even when my wife, Stephanie, and I travel, I do most of the driving. Like most of you, I’m used to doing the same thing when I get in and out of a vehicle. I can get in, start the vehicle and fasten my seatbelt without having to think about what I’m doing. Once I’ve arrived at my destination, I can shut off the motor, unhook my seatbelt, take the key out of the ignition switch and exit the vehicle without thinking about it.

Occasionally, I have to take my pick-up truck to a garage for repairs. I try to schedule repairs on Stephanie’s day off from work so she can help me get back and forth from the garage. Once, the parts supply store sent the wrong part to my mechanic. They couldn’t get the right one there until the next day.

These things happen in life. No big deal. Since Stephanie had to work the next day, I called a gentleman from our congregation, Gary, and asked him if he would take me to get my truck the next day. He said he would be happy to do it.

He arrived at my house the next day once my truck was fixed. I sat down in the passenger seat of his vehicle and hooked my seatbelt. We pulled out of the driveway and headed towards the shop. We had a good conversation during the ride.

Fifteen minutes later, we pulled in. Gary shut of his engine and got out. My mind was still on our conversation but that didn’t matter. I could exit the vehicle without thinking about it. I reached down to the right and tried to unfasten my seatbelt like I always do. But there was a problem. I couldn’t find the button to unlatch it. I looked down and couldn’t see the latch. By this time, Gary had gotten out of the vehicle, walked around to the passenger door and opened it.

I looked up and asked, “How do you unhook this seatbelt?” He responded, “It’s on the other side.”

I have to say I felt like a fool. My mind had been distracted. I didn’t focus on the fact I was in the passenger seat instead of the being in the driver’s seat. The seatbelt latch was on the opposite side. After I paid the bill for the truck repairs, I drove off thinking to myself, “I bet he wonders what kind of pastor they hired if he can’t even unhook his seatbelt.” (more…)

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One Body (11/9/2017)

A hen and a pig were strolling down main street in town. They passed a restaurant that advertised “Delicious ham and eggs: $2.75 cents.” “Sounds like a bargain,” said the hen. “That owner obviously knows how to run her business. “It’s all very well for you to be so pleased about the dish in question,” observed the pig with some resentment. “For you it is all in a day’s work. You just have to make a contribution. Let me point out, however, that on my part it represents a genuine sacrifice.”

The pig made an important point. Laying an egg would inconvenience the hen. It might even take a little more of her time than she’d like. But once she was done, she could go on about her business. The pig wouldn’t get off so easy. It required him to give everything.

This is how sacrifices work. In the Old Testament, people routinely sacrificed animals to God. How many times could an animal be sacrificed? One time. It was impossible for it to be offered more than that. (more…)

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Finding Rest (11-12-17)

One of my theology professors liked to include lots of complicated theological terms in his lectures. When my classmates and I asked him to explain a big word, he did. With even bigger words. It all sounded good from a theological perspective but we had no idea what he was talking about or how to apply it to our lives.

Last Sunday, I preached from Matthew 11. Our scripture passage included Matthew 11:28-30 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I ended the sermon by encouraging you to yoke yourself to Jesus and allow him to give you rest. That statement sounds good. It’s biblical. But what does it really mean and how do we do it in real life? (more…)

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Resting In Jesus (11/5/17)

Do you ever feel like you’re just not quite good enough for God? You know you have sin in your life. You also know God knows you have sin in your life. You’d like to quit messing around with these sins because you know they’re wrong. You really do try to stop. But when you’re tired or stressed, you give in to temptation.

Then you feel guilty. Since you’re disappointed in yourself, God must be disappointed too. You ask God to forgive you and promise to try harder. If you can just be more faithful, God will love you more.

For a while, you’re able to hold on and hold out. Then something happens and you give in again. This time the feelings of guilt and disappointment are a little worse. Since you feel worse about yourself, God must feel the same way.

So, you promise God and yourself you’ll try even harder this time. But the vicious cycle continues and eventually you’re exhausted. You feel like giving up because you just can’t do this anymore.

If this describes you, I have some good news. This pattern for dealing with sin isn’t what the Bible teaches. (more…)

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“OK” People (10/29/2017)

Anyone who knows me can’t help but realize I like to joke around and tease others. One of the people I occasionally tease is Evelyn Creps, our congregation’s board chair person. She also picks back. We both know it’s in fun and we don’t take it to heart. The reason we can do this is because we are building our relationship in other areas. Since she’s been the board chair person for the past two years, we’ve had many conversations regarding church business. We also talk about life. I ask her how she’s doing and she asks about my family.

I went grades 1-12 with a girl I’ll call Sally. She came from difficult circumstances. Her family was poor so often her clothes were outdated, ill-fitting and a little dirty. She also struggled with her grades and, unfortunately, often ate alone at lunch.

Some of the other students picked on Sally about her hygiene and academic struggles. I teased Sally too but, as well as I can remember, I never teased her about her appearance or grades. I just picked on her like I did my friends. Although I couldn’t see it at the time, I now realize there were issues with the way I picked on her. First of all, I didn’t really have a relationship with her. We had different friends and different interests. Second, and most importantly, she never picked back at me. She just hid behind her smile. (more…)

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