Friday, July 20, 2018

Quit Preaching & Now Meddling

   I don't know where to begin on this issue of my blog. Usually it's about church stuff, but today and maybe the next few will be about our current situation in Washington DC.

  Briefly I'm upset with many components of our Government. For one thing, I think our President has stepped over the line toward Treason, especially in blaming his own country, which he stood up in front of a "huge" crowd and promised to defend, and to obey the Constitution of the United States.

  I'm also upset with our checks and balances system that is supposed to protect us from such threat to our security. Can't our elected leaders do anything about the damage the President is doing to our international reputation, our relationship to our allies, and those who look up to the US for some kind of democratic and moral example. To trash the NATO connection, to insult our neighbor to the north, to place tariffs on products is only going to hurt our own economy. I'm sure really heavily invested folks have found a way to make a lot of money as more and more people lose their jobs.

  I'm also upset with those who report their support for this President from a religious perspective. Poll after poll, show his support and yet he seems to violate some of the very basic tenants of our Christian faith. The standard of comparison should be Jesus. Jesus has given us a great deal of guidance in the Gospels that could be used to decide what is right and wrong. The Bible, which many of his supporters hold dear, has not influenced their beliefs enough to know that what is being recommended and supported goes directly against what the Bible teaches. How can you claim to be a follower of Jesus and make such poor connections to what Jesus would claim as a direction for us to follow. To me that's the essence of a hypocrite. That goes for the religious leaders who are misleading the flock to be supportive of the policies of our President.

  I'm also upset with us who claim patriotism and haven't a clue what our country stands for and what guidance our Constitution gives us for moving forward. Our country is not perfect, that's for sure. The way we treated native Americans, the way we treated slaves, the way we treated those of Japanese descent during the WWII, the way we treated the Chinese in settling the West, all give us reason to ask for forgiveness and to be extra careful in what we say and do now. But those very lessons should help us not misguide us.

  It's too bad that fear is holding us back from doing the right thing. I know a lot about that, not wanting to upset the apple cart etc. But at some point somebody has to say enough is enough.

  Enough of this right now, I'm coming back later for more.

Pastor Jeff

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Hurt Beyond Belief

   "Father, forgive them for they don't know what they are doing." Jesus said to the Roman soldiers who were crucifying him, to the Sanhedrin (establishment Religious Leaders) who decided he should die, and to those of us who fail to be followers in the ways of the Kingdom of God. It needs to be said loudly and clearly, that those who profess spiritual authority, and yet support the President of the United States after all that he has said and done about Charlottesville and other racist remarks, should know that Jesus forgives them.

   But Jesus also said, "As for whoever causes these little ones who believe in me to trip and fall into sin, it would be better for them to have a huge stone hung around their necks and be drowned in the bottom of the lake. How terrible it is for the world because of the things that cause people to trip and fall into sin! Such things have to happen, but how terrible it is for the person who causes those things to happen! If your hand or your foot causes you to fall into sin, chop it off and throw it away. It's better to enter into life crippled or lame than to be thrown into the eternal fire with two hands or two feet. If your eye causes you to fall into sin, tear it out and throw it away. It's better to enter into life with one eye than to be cast into a burning hell with two eyes." (Matthew 18:6-9 CEB)

   As a pastor I am finding that many people are withdrawing from the church because they believe that all pastors are like those who support Trump in spite of his being so "un Christ like." It is damaging to the young in faith or little faith, that those who know better, who know Scripture, who walk with Jesus, and pray to God, seem to have such little regard for the witness they are making. Jesus would never support the ideas and attitudes of this President that are so well documented. It's not hearsay, but we have proof of his lack of respect for women, people of color, immigrants, and the list goes on and on. "Many Sides" indeed. I have more respect for the business leaders who withdrew their support of the President over his remarks and attitude who show more of a moral compass, than the pastors who gather around him, lay hands on him, pray and support him and deliver permission to take out the leader of another country. I hope that the stone around their necks will lead to repentance and renewal. Please!

   Not just Scripture but political leaders whom we respect show us how to treat and care for one another. George Washington wrote in 1790 to a Jewish congregation as the new nation was being formed. "The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy, a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For, happily, the government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support."

   Abraham Lincoln, in the midst of the chaos of a Civil War, trying to move forward and offer a vision of a better future said in his second inaugural address, "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations." We need this kind of leadership now more than ever. We had for a while a political party that developed to support and sustain the Lincoln wisdom. I so wish it were still true. Perhaps it's time for a new political evolution, that will both look back to that wisdom and toward a future that is hopeful and optimistic. I would like to be a part of something like that.

   Jumping ahead one hundred years from Lincoln to John Kennedy, still trying to get our great nation moving toward even greater things. Kennedy in his book A Nation of Immigrants declares that "Immigration is on our blood. It's a part of our founding story. In the early 1600's, courageous men and women sailed in search of freedom and a better life. Arriving in Jamestown and Plymouth, they founded a great nation. For centuries ever since, countless other brave men and women have made the difficult decision to leave their homes and seek better lives in this promised land. In New York harbor, there stands a statue that represents the enduring ideal of what has made this nation great - a beacon on a hill. At her feet, on the pedestal on which the Statue of Liberty stands, are inscribed the eloquent words of poet Emma Lazarus: Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shores. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. I lift up my lamp beside the golden door!" We have moments of great inspiration and we need positive influence, not a suggestion that we be rougher on each other.

   Some may not read down this far, and I accept that. But I am committed to seeing our nation under the influence of God, be better than it has been, not worse. I ran for Congress the last time, as a Republican candidate in; Maryland's 8th District, because I believe in the power of the great examples, and the wisdom and influence of Jesus, to help us solve our problems and build a better future. Under Lincoln's influence, I tried to make a difference, and I hope others will strive to make a difference as well.

John Wesley put it so well when he said we should "Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can." I want that to be a part of what drives me.,

   Will you join with me in doing all the good we can?

Pastor Jeff

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

It's a New Year

   Hello Blogger followers, it's a new year, this is my 100th blog, imagine that, and I'm just thinking out loud here on my first day back to the church in this new year 2017.

   First of all I would want to recommend a commitment to grow in your faith this 2017. It will take some decisions on your part to keep finding something new you did not know about  in your walk with God each day. Some days are overwhelmed with other stuff.Thanks be to God, there is Grace and Mercy on God's part. Think how someone at home would feel if some days you didn't come home? And no one knew where you were? Skipping our time with God could be like not coming home, weird, hunh?

   Having been a pastor for 40 years, it's hard to find new things too. I keep looking though, because I don't want to be the pastor that spends his last few years just coasting on what has been my spiritual life up to now. I have this hunger and thirst for something new with God, I always have.

   So I want to recommend something I found today that is available on Kindle, which is easy, or available on Amazon as a hard cover or paperback book. The 52 Greatest Stories of the Bible by Kenneth Boa & John Alan Turner.

   They have tried to cover the 52 most important stories in the Bible so that it might make sense in helping us live our lives as followers of Jesus. They chose 26 from the Old Testament and 26 from the New Testament and make it a five day devotional, Monday through Friday. It's about looking at the story and then kicking it around a little, to see what it could mean, how it might help us now, what part does it play in the whole story of God with us?

   I like the illustration they gave about a clothes line. I remember those. They were outside and you hung wet clothes on them to dry. You still see them in movies sometimes when they want to make you think back. My grandmother had the line on a spindle with four sides so the line was not too far away, and it could be reached by turning the line holder.

   The reason I bring that up, is that in the book, they realize that when we study the Bible we tend to hang up the thought on our clothes line. But fewer of us have a clothes line to hang them on. We don't get the story or the connection or even see how that has anything to do with me. Hence the book.

   Let me urge you to get the book, use it for your devotions, and write me and let me know what you think or how the reading for the day, stirred something within you for improving your spiritual journey. Or if it was confusing, let me know about that too.

   Happy New Year. Please pray for one another and for our country a lot. May the Peace of God be with you.

Pastor Jeff

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

What to do when it feels like death?

   In the year King Uzziah died, the prophet, in his grief, turned to God in the Temple. For many of us, there may be a feeling that our hope for the new king, has died, and we turn to God. There is hope, and a lot of it in this passage from Isaiah 6:1-8

   In grief, anger, frustration, agony and surprise that can feel like shock, we have the situation that Isaiah was going through, before he was called to be a prophet no less. The grief pushed Isaiah toward the temple, while there he had an encounter with God and it changed his life. In our grief, we too should turn to God and find the same blessings in the midst of tragedy or uncertainty.

   What can help you to connect to God? For Isaiah it was the temple, it was the music he heard the singing of Holy Holy Holy and it brought him closer to the source of comfort. In his recognition of his own life circumstances the connection to God was a fearful one. But our loving God responded to that fear with forgiveness. The Seraphim brought the burning coal from the altar and it touched his lips and he was pronounced healed, forgiven, purified. The anger, frustration, fear, anxiety and confusion went away. In that cleaned up moment, he was able to hear God more clearly. He heard God say, who will share my message with those who need it?

   He responded, here am I, send me!  He became a prophet, a spokesperson, a representative for God and did some awesome things proclaiming the coming of the king, our Jesus.

   So following Election night, some of us are filled with grief, anger, frustration, loss of dreams and what could have been, afraid that awful things will now happen, etc. We need to seek God's help for sure. And the answers are going to be the same, and the results can be powerful.

   As we reach out to God, we can sense that we aren't perfect, the world we live in is not as we thought it might be, hence the" I am one of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips." We are all in need of forgiveness. Some of us have hoped that the form of government would put our Christian responsibilities into law and do the work of faith for us. Others have hoped that the government would encourage us so that we would grow more numerous and stronger, not put up barriers to our practice of faith, nor put into place much of what we may feel goes against God's will. But we are of unclean lips and in need of forgiveness.

   Our loving God gets on that right away. We are forgiven. We can hear a message of hope from God and can respond. We can remember that we as Christians have not always had the favored position. The first Christians had the Romans over them, which sometimes included being fed to the lions for having faith. Not every form of government has always totally appreciated what they believe in. And yet they did what God and the Kingdom of God would have asked for, or at least tried it. And we can do that too.

   But first, before we resolve to fix our concerns, we need to act as Christ like in this situation as possible. Paraphrasing Galatians 3:27-28, "As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; {There is no longer Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative} for all of you are one in Christ Jesus." We are going to have to be touched by God's altar coal to move to a more positive outlook toward one another.

   Paul's words to the Ephesians, 4:1-3 "I likewise beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." is something we sorely need right now. Are you willing to be more patient and loving?

   Micah too warned us about times like these and taught us to focus. "To do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with God."  Micah 6:8. Those things are still important and still available to us, no matter who won the election. These must still be important to us. This must still guide our actions, thoughts, and demeanor.

   John Wesley knew about elections. "Though we cannot all think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may, herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences."

  In the midst of this grief, doubt, anxiety and anger, we can refocus on hearing God ask us to be about God's agenda still. We are called to be about the mission of Jesus still. There are people to feed, people to clothe, eyes to open, people to respect and care for. We must remember that the reforms that helped people the most, came out of individuals with a mission and purpose, and a faith to motivate them to good things. Rarely has it come from a President or Congress or business.

   We look to and appreciate those who truly changed lives, often one life at a time. Harriet Tubman, Susan B Anthony, Jane Addams, Dorothy Day, Rosa Parks, Thomas Edison, George Washington Carver, Martin Luther King, Jr. By their sheer will and determination, followed their dreams and made things happen. These individuals changed the world as we know it. We can be the next world changers, as we turn to God in our grief and anxiety, as we approach God, as we sense God's forgiveness and blessing, as we hear God's direction, we can make a difference, the one we believed in could happen.

   A passion driven person can right a wrong, can write, speak, blog, recruit, collect and make a difference for a just cause. You could be the next one!

   Out of adversity, can come a new resolve. Out of fear, can come determination. We can reject darkness, by working for the light, we can reject hatred, by working for love to grow and heal.

   Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to find a way to "Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can."  thank you John Wesley.  Or you can recognize "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." Thank you Martin Luther King, Jr.

   When it feels like Uzziah died in your world, seek God, accept the forgiveness, and move into proclaiming the good news. Now and always. Amen.

Pastor Jeff

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Religion's Role in Culture

   With all the conversations and the news these days, the topic of the role or the absence of religion in the culture keeps coming up. There are so many ways to look at this issue and criticism of the role it plays is rightfully due, I'm afraid. But I would hold out for the right way of being faithful and devoted followers of Jesus Christ is what we really need to help us with what George Washington knew and declared at his Farewell Address as the first President of these United States.

"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.". 

George Washington's Farewell Address.

   He could speak to this because he witnessed a great deal first hand, that is similar to our struggles and challenges of today. We need the morality, the obligation that is connected to the right way to do faith in culture.

   He saw the beginnings of the struggle for independence. He participated in the grueling challenge to lead the army toward that independence. He was present for the arguments that led to our formulating what is, in principle, the best form of government in the world. He knows the difficulty of leading this country as it's primary leader, and with all that evidence in his life, he was determined to tell us that we need the influence in our culture of faith.

   With the tragedies of innocent victims of terrorist attacks, we need faith to under-gird our responses to those who have done this. With the ugliness of racism, and class-ism, and the outrage expressed to people who are from other nations, we need the spirit of love and compassion of Jesus more than ever.

   What I pray for is not a return to religion, but a growing sense of relationship to one another that is totally and completely influenced by the spirit of Jesus. If love of God helps us from a moralistic standpoint to behave properly in respect and in gratitude to God for the blessings we have, and the love of neighbor is what God would want from us, we need to embody the spirit and style of Jesus.

   We are in a good place for that. Jesus reminded us before he returned to God, that his style, his love, his perspective on treating others, is available to each of us. My Spirit, I give to you, he said in John's record of his final conversation with his disciples. Don't worry about what to say the Spirit will give you the right words to speak, that will bring the right solution to our problems.

   The tall order is that we pay attention to Jesus enough to adopt his style, his influence, his love for all of our circumstances. This will mean we must learn of him, study him, recognize his direction, so that his spirit might be available to influence us in the way we behave and treat each other. We can do some of this on our own. But it will be so much better for us and for our culture, our country, our community if we reinforce our understanding by being involved deeply in a community that does the same. If we study together, if we encourage each other, if we pray and support each other, we will be a powerful influence on our country when it needs it the most.

   I don't want more religion, because that doesn't seem to help. I want more people living in the style of Jesus. We need more apprentices who follow Jesus' lead in what we say, how we speak out to others about what is going on in our country now. Especially as we approach this election season, we need to hear from that Spirit in a powerful way. Pray for it.


Pastor Jeff

Thursday, August 18, 2016

World Future Society Challenges Us to move forward.


From CEO  Julie Friedman Steele’s intro speech

Pillars of the future, but awesome for discipleship

1. Have Empathy, see others from their perspective in life

2.  Be a Life Long Learner,  always learning new things
3. Be a Life Long Unlearner, abandoned what no longer works
4. Be a Dreamer, constantly thinking about what could be
5. Be comfortable feeling uncomfortable, the world keeps changing
6. Be a Collaborator, we all need each other, work with others
7. Be a Visionary Doer, put new things into action, practice etc.

   If as people of faith want to make a difference for our world and help usher in the kingdom, we ought to be into this too. Empathy, genuinely getting connected to our brothers and sisters, not only from a spiritual stand point, but for our communities, our nation and our world. Here is where Scripture admonishes us to be welcoming the stranger, and especially mindful of accepting the immigrants. There are multiple references to reminders from God that we were aliens too in our faith history. Love one another, helps to fulfill the second great commandment. Empathy is applying our awareness of what people are going through, so that we can relate to them in positive ways.

   Empathy, we must care for others, it will motivate us to do something about what’s wrong.

   A disciple of Jesus is a life long learner. Jesus said teach each other all that he taught us, we will constantly be learning about ourselves and God and others. Seek wisdom, our scripture admonishes us to do. Each day can reveal something new about God and our world, so that we can respond and connect and make it better. Learning doesn't ever have to stop. That's what will keep us young, fresh ideas will inspire us to make a positive step forward.

   The old has gone, the new has come. Be ready for behold God does a new thing, can’t you see it? We have to put away permanently that the old way was so good. It's never been perfect. Because we were used to it, made it feel good. Our political challenges right now are that we have a different impression of our past, and some want to go back to it. But our past if full of not quite reaching our great potential, falling short of our great ideas that started us as a nation and as people of faith. Our past is littered with short comings and miss treatment of people who are different than we are. Our current millennial group of non participants in church, blame our hypocrisy for why they aren't eager to work with the church to bring in the kingdom. We have to leave Egypt behind and move toward an unfamiliar promised land, and stop forming a back to Egypt committee as they did in the desert before Moses could get them to move forward.

   Be like Joseph and dream dreams, image what God could do, seek first the kingdom and work toward it. It seems God keeps calling us to be better at who we are and how we follow Jesus. It may appear awkward at first, these big dreams. But without a "what if", nothing would have been invented, nothing would have been tried. I so relate to the agony of the pilgrims when they were still in Holland thinking about going to the new world and getting the chance to live out their faith. They came up with many reasons why not to go to the new land. They were afraid of natives, animals, lack of food, harsh environments, dangers at sea. But the faithful in their midst, reminded them that in the midst of the fears, God spoke a word of trust. Not all the bad things would happen, some of the bad things could be prepared for, and the rest would be a miracle because God was with them. Dream dreams that help us move toward the kingdom of God.

   Jesus said we must lead by serving others. We become used to being put aside for thee, a John Wesley idea too. Uncomfortable with the weird just pushes us toward trusting in God some more. Every challenge has it's getting used to. If we are prepared to accept that God will never put us where he cannot help us, that he will be with us where ever we go, we can last through the uncomfortable as we wait for the sea to be calmed and see what the next adventure Jesus leads us to, will be.

   We are the body of Christ, and we need each other, collaborate, co-labor to grow the kingdom. It seems that Jesus was sending out the disciples on missions teams not solo, but with a companion. If we trust that others can help us far more than we can possible figure out on our own, we will be much better off and accomplish far more than we could have imagined. So put aside that it's all about you, and learn it's all about us. One leg on a stool, not so good, one strand in a rope, easily broken, but three legs on a stool, or three strands in a rope, and the power begins to grow. Be a Collaborator.

   With God’s help we are able to do far more than we can even imagine (Eph 3:20) Be a visionary, thinking ahead, looking for ways that God can make a new beginning. Don't just sit there and think, get up and do. Get up and worship with others, where ever two or three are gathered... Get up and go, to a Bible Study, to a mission project, do something to help neighbors, make a real difference. Even the simplest effort can change someone's world.

   I want to thank Julie Friedman Steele, the new CEO of the world future society, of which I've been a member a long time, for her remarks. I thank God that they are so closely aligned with mission purposes we have been given, by the Great Commission ( Matt. 28:16-20)

   Blessings on your responses

Pastor Jeff

Friday, June 10, 2016

Living with a new hip

   It's amazing how much we take for granted, without ever thinking about it. I've just gotten home from the hospital following a hip replacement operation. Who would think climbing stairs going to the bathroom, getting sox on and getting in and out of bed become torcherous time consuming events with starts and stops and begin agains.

   I was looking forward to some days of rest, but didn't think it would take so much time to get to where I want to go. I love our house and it's deck and will be on there for several days weather permitting. I can recline, watch tv walk to the bathroom and the kitchen and do my walking around the house in recouparation all on one floor, and climb the stairs at night. Woo. My friends have loaned me medical equipment of all kinds to make this work. Thank you all so much.

   I'll write some more when I can think more clearly.

Keep your prayers coming please!

Pastor Jeff