Welcome

If you have stumbled here by accident let me first insist that there really are no accidents in life. If however, you came on your own free will then please by all means open your hearts and your minds to the "New Wine" that God has prepared for you!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Serving others



“Excuse me, but where is my food? I’ve been waiting for quite awhile and these other people, who came in after me, have already got their order?” said one of the Greek women to Peter and James as the morning breakfast was being served. 

“I think you need to put in more hours preparing the food ahead of time so that we don’t have to wait so long.” replied a man who had accompanied one of the widows to Solomon’s Portico but was really  there for a free meal.

James whispered to Peter as he ladled out more cracked wheat porridge into the empty bowls that sat on the table. “We can barely find any time to study and now that so many people are coming we are stuck here all day serving tables”

“Patients James, God will give us the power to persevere and more people to help as we continue to do His will!” smiled Peter as he continued to hand out flat bread.

“God’s ways are not our ways, we need to give ourselves to all these people who are in need and show them God’s love and then, just maybe, they will want to know more about the Lord.” explained Peter to a group of disciples who had gathered around to hear what the apostle had to say.

“We are all a stiff-neck bunch of people who always want to be served first, have the best seats in the synagogue and receive praise for the gifts we bring to God.” added Stephen whose face was beginning to shine like an angel.

While the disciples continued to serve all who had gathered at the portico to be fed, a group of elders, scribes and Sadducees began plotting among themselves how they could silence these followers of Jesus. The disciples had been preaching and teaching, to anyone who would listen, how Jesus died, was buried in a tomb for three days then miraculously came back to life as He rose from the dead. 

The Sadducees, who were a group of wealthy pseudo-religious men living in Jerusalem, didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead or life after death and didn’t care for the disciples constantly preaching to their followers. So they hired several men to give false reports of what Stephen was teaching and brought him before the council for questioning.

Stephen used the opportunity to preach to the high priest and the council about Jesus and included a very detailed Jewish history lesson at no extra charge. Everything was going well until he pointed out their faults “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murders, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.” Acts 7:51

After hearing these words from the mouth of the young disciple, rage filled their hearts and they dragged him to the outskirts of the city where they stoned him to death. But God gave Stephen a great amount of faith to bear-up under the persecution as He allows the veil between heaven and earth to be peeled back giving Stephen a glimpse of the Son of Man. “But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” Acts 7:55

Stephen was the first martyr of the church and when asked what he believed he seized the opportunity to address the ones who had put Jesus to death. He gave them the whole truth even to the point where he reminded them that they were responsible for putting the Messiah to death.  He never worried about what he would say to them as the Holy Spirit welled up from inside and poured out over all who were gathered there to accuse him of blasphemy.

God’s ways are truly not our ways. He is a merciful God who is longsuffering desiring that all men come to Him in repentance. We are, on the other hand, a selfish bunch of stiff-necked people who want only to be served. Screaming for and demanding our rights over the rights of others while pushing our way forward in a crowd until we arrive on top. 

If we would only see our destination, eternity with God, just as Stephen did then maybe we would put the needs of others before our own. The only things we will take along with us into eternity are the relationships we make while here on earth.


Monday, February 13, 2017

Monkeys



Jake paused as he walked through the front door and landed in the middle of a huge crowd that had descended on a friend’s graduation celebration. Car keys were gathered as a bowl was passed filled with an assortment of pharmaceuticals. The kids weren’t drinking the sparkling punch, that had been thoughtfully provided or the assorted vegetables, shrimp rolls and chips, but were busy downing draft beer from a keg hidden in the back yard out by the pool.

The music was loud and the living room was filled with energetic dancers some of whom were clenching onto each other so tightly that they resembled fighters in an MMA fight. Upstairs the bedrooms were all occupied as Renee slipped into the only bathroom that wasn’t being used. She locked the door behind her and slipped into the bath tub with a single edged razor blade in hand. Carefully but painfully she began to cut her arm until she began to feel better about herself.

It was Friday afternoon as Harold clocked out of the service station where he had been employed for the past thirty years. He turned and walked exactly thirty steps to the liquor store, as he did twice a week, to purchase a half gallon jug of vodka. While sitting in his car Harold cracked the plastic cap and glugged down several swigs of the crystal clear liquid. Soon his anxiety began to melt away as he shifted the car into drive and pulled out into traffic with the open bottle between his legs. 

 Harold sat down in his easy chair and pushed the button on the television remote as the familiar face of the channel 8 news caster filled the screen. Harold had downed half the bottle and began to forget about his day, life and the frozen dinner that he had haphazardly placed on high in his toaster oven. 

William shut the door of his office and began to pour over the daily briefs. He had several cases to hear today as he sat on the bench in the local courtroom. His mind wheeled as he thought about a case involving a family with several young children whose lives had been endangered.   

William could feel the arteries on his neck tightening as he unlocked a drawer on his desk and retrieved a mirror laden with pure white cocaine. William had the mirror in his right hand chopping the chunks with his left as the phone rang. The sudden loud noise had startled him sending the mirror with the last of his cocaine falling to the floor. Frantically, he fell to the floor still clad in his coat and tie and began picking up the white crumbs which had fallen into the carpet fibers. 

There was a sudden knock on his door as the secretary announced “The chief of police is here to see you sir!”

Theresa had worked as a paramedic for the fire department for ten years where she triaged patients who were injured during automobile accidents. She had injected morphine into many people who were severely injured and in intense pain. Sometimes there was a little morphine left over, which was supposed to be logged back into the narcotics locker, which she began taking recreationally.  

Months went by as her morphine experimentation blossomed into a full blown addiction. Soon Theresa, who never had called in sick, began missing work. Her log entries too began to dwindle as more and more morphine began to come up missing. She eventually lost her job, family and began living out on the streets. 

Jim worked hard all of his life in the construction field where he would drink many cups of coffee and pounded down energy drinks while he worked. At night he had trouble sleeping so he started smoking Marijuana to help him go to sleep. Soon he needed something stronger so he got a prescription for sleeping pills and began to take more and more tablets as time went on. After a freak accident at work Jim started taking pain pills but after his injury had healed he continued to use them.

One night Jim forgot that he had already taken his nightly pills and overdosed on his pain meds. While he was asleep his heart stopped and he died. Unfortunately Jim lived alone so his body lay undiscovered for several days.

Life can be hard enough without living with a monkey on your back. Closing a blind eye to the monkey we carry around while masking our pain doesn’t help solve any of our problems. Keeping secrets only hurts us and keeps us away from the truth which separates us from God. Let us begin to trust in God and have faith that He can take away the monkeys from our lives.


Free ride



While the army is looking for a few good men and women, God is throwing out His dragnet in the hopes of catching every man, woman and child in a net of faith. God loves His creation and has a plan to save it and His plan is not dependent upon anything that you do or think. It’s a fair plan, a merciful plan that was wrought in ancient times before the foundations of the earth were formed.

One important note here, God isn’t angry with us and He doesn’t want to harm us but instead offers us salvation and wants to fill our lives with peace. It’s a special kind of peace; it’s the kind of peace that passes all understanding. It’s a gift we don’t deserve and could never acquire on our own. We can’t even live a good enough life that would qualify us for entrance into His kingdom. Yet, out of His deep, unfailing love for us he has provided a way into his eternal presence.

So how many people has God provided for and how will they ever get to where He lives? Who could ever know the way into His glorious heavenly realm and beyond? Well, while these answers might be blowing in the wind I know where we can find them in the bible. 

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” So that everyone who believes in Him will have everlasting life! All are invited to come but unfortunately not all will accept this precious gift. (John 3:16)

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”  God’s plan was in place before man was created and it is from His great love for us that He sent the cure for our sin sick soul! (John 3:17)

“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” As a pastor, I’m asked very regularly what the unforgivable sin is; well the above scripture explains that it is unbelief in Jesus Christ. (John 3:18)

 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” So on the same night that Jesus was arrested and condemned to be crucified, he instructed His disciples that He was going away to prepare a place for them and if He went away He would also come again to bring them back to His kingdom. (John 14:1-3)

Now, what is holding you back from receiving a gift from God? If you are struggling with substance abuse, come to God. If you struggle with alcohol, come to God. If you struggle with lust, come to God. Whatever it is that you are chained to, whatever it is that you carry around on your back, give it to God. While twelve steps will work, why not use the one step program and give it to God? 

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Jesus is inviting us to lay our burdens down on Him and offers us a free ride into eternal life. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Now maybe you can call me simple minded, or maybe borderline ignorant, but this offer sounds too good to be true. Is there a catch? Nope, it’s the real deal; God has already provided the way and the means for us to be healed from sin that separates us from a holy and righteous God. 

God cares for us and wants the best for us. He wants us to live lives that are free from drama, hurt and pain. He only asks that we trust Him and walk with His spirit while He illuminates our path. He promises us a safe landing at the end if we will only abide in Him. So while the road sometimes gets rough down here and filled with pitfalls, muck and mire, Jesus invites you to travel on a much better and higher highway to heaven.