September 12, 2021: Rally Day

Dear Lord, help and empower us to make Your joy over saving us complete!  Move us to speak Your truth in love with boldness and confidence, knowing that the Spirit stands behind those words and thereby fills hearts and souls with Your joy.  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST!

TEXT:  Philippians 1: 3-6:  “I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” 

Dearly Beloved By Christ: 

          Roughly 100 years ago, the American poet Earnest Thayer, captured what we’re all feeling today in his poem, “Casey At The Bat.”  I’ll read excerpts from this poem to show you.  “The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day; The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play, And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same, A pall like silence fell upon the patrons of the game. A straggling few got up to go in deep despair.  The rest,    clung to the hope which springs eternal in the human breast; They thought, ‘If only Casey could but get a whack at that—We’d put up even money now, with Casey at the bat.’”  It sound like the Red Sox lately, doesn’t it?  It goes on….until the final stanza: “And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go, And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.  Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright, The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;  And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout, But there is no joy in Mudville—the mighty Casey has struck out.” 

Where’s the joy in America today?  Have we all struck out?  Well, this is where you come in, dear Christian.   It’s up to you and me to make Paul’s joy, which is really Christ’s joy, complete!

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          Rally Day in any church is a time of joy.  It celebrates the joy of believers coming together, receiving Christ’s love and forgiveness, and being inspired to go and show it to the world.  Christian joy is tangible, palpable, and very real.  It manifests itself in both loving kindness and helpfulness.  Just like Jesus, the Source of it all, was loving, kind, and eternally helpful towards each of us.  Think of it this way: Did Christ ever ignore of turn down a cry for help from another?  In one instance He made them wait a little while,  but the answer is: No.  It made Him joyful to help and it fills and enriches our lives when we do likewise. Being stingy when it comes to doling out loving kindness doesn’t breed joy.  Perhaps that’s America’s basic problem today?  We’re stingy with our love and helpfulness.  Yes, “bear each other’s burdens and so fulfill the Law of love” which is: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 

II

          Paul says that we’re “partners in the Gospel” with Christ.  Do you think of yourself that way?  Do you view your churchmates from the oldest to the youngest as partners in Christ?  They are, you know.  For each of us has shared in His sufferings for our sins.  Each of us shares in Him making us: “dead to sin but alive to righteousness.”  Each of us also shares in the joy He experienced over making dead souls “alive in Christ.”  That, by the way, is why infant baptisms at church are especially joyful for all!

          True Christian joy gives birth to helpfulness in doing for the Lord and sharing yourself with others, just as Christ did.  It includes volunteering when a need is perceived, and even when it isn’t obvious.  It includes: “helping and  befriending your neighbor in every bodily need.”  And thus, through each  of you, God carries out His work until the final day of completion in Christ.  God doesn’t  live in a vacuum.  Faith doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  And neither will joy.  Joy is like a mighty home run which soars and soars….

          Today we begin a new year of joy in our midst.  We’re ready for some excitement and for good news.  In Jesus we have that “good news.”  We have eternal life and total forgiveness for any and all sins.  And since the Spirit stands behind our joy-filled labors—always—unlike the mighty Casey, we’ll never strike out!  Amen

THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH….

Pastor Thomas H. Fox 

September 19, 2021: Pentecost 18

Let us pray: Dear Savior, the human ego is a dangerous thing.  It is the chief cause of us failing to love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves.  It splits people apart.  It causes discord.  Lord, admitting we’re not always right and humbling ourselves always brings peace and blessing to all involved.  Remind us of that today, as You reminded Your disciples.  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE  ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, WHO ALONE IS #1!

Text:  Mark 9: 30-37

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

          They were popular comic figures back in the 1970’s.  The Smother’s brothers would banter on stage and it always devolved in one of them saying: “Mom loves you more.”  It was childish, silly, but it struck a chord with everyone.  It addressed the basic insecurity that everyone has, the insecurity over not being #1. We have the same thing occurring in our lesson.  The very fact that the disciples were arguing about “who is the greatest” shows their own insecurities.   They all had them from Peter, James, John, and down to Nathanael.  When Jesus quizzes them about their argument on the road, they all remained silent.  What does this tell us?  That they knew it was silly and that they were ashamed.  Yes, they knew it was wrong, but they did it anyway.  How often are you embarrassed by such things after the heat of the  moment, fueled by pride, has passed?

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          When I was a kid we would often pick sides for a baseball game.  The captains would never pick their team with the worst players to the best. It was always the best to worst.  And pity the poor soul that got picked last!  That’s what was occurring here.  So, Jesus addresses such behavior: “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

          The disciples were ashamed because they had seen His miracles, heard His sermons, knew that this was the Son of God, and seen Christ take on the very nature of a last-place slave to all.  They knew He was describing Himself in these words.  None of them, at the time of their argument, considered Christ to be in last place. He was their Leader!  He was their Lord and Savior.  None of them thought about displacing Him.  They all adhered to: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind.”   But among themselves, “Love your neighbor as yourself” got forgotten.   Here we get a honest glimpse into the inner workings of the human heart.  And it cuts, doesn’t it?

II

          “He took a little child and had him stand among them.  Taking him in his arms,  he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

          The point is: God doesn’t love and care about some people more than others.  He doesn’t base His preference upon all those traits we humans take so seriously—looks, brain-power, athletic ability, special talents and the like.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.”  Yes, “God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” So, what does God look for in you?  Recall the greedy tax collector in the back of the synagogue who came to realize how pitiful he was before the Most High God and exclaimed: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”  Here Jesus touches on the same truth.  Repentance and faith in Christ and not reliance upon ourselves is what makes us special to Him. 

          Christ became a servant, a slave, to His Father’s will in order to save us.  That’s what propelled Him to the cross and caused Him to willingly die for us.  He was the last who thereby became the first.  The disciples needed that reminder and boy, did they get it right here!  God’s kingdom isn’t about personal self-aggrandizement.  It’s about humility and self-sacrifice born  of God’s grace in Christ. 

          So, the next time you find yourself feeling superior remember that.  Christ actually was superior to all of us, but He still died to save you from yourself, didn’t He?  Amen

THE PEACE OF GOD…..

Pastor Thomas H. Fox  

September 5, 2021: 16th Sunday after Pentecost

Let us pray:  Lord, protect us from the evil one and his minions.  Keep us from throwing away the opportunities we have to receive Your grace.  And may we never, ever, become so jaded on Your gift of life that we ask You to forsake and leave us alone to our own destruction.  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM THE ONLY SAVIOR THERE IS: JESUS CHRIST!

TEXT:  Matthew 8: 28-34

Dearly Beloved By Christ: 

          I enjoy bacon—good bacon that has a nice smoke.  (Corn cob smoked is excellent!) I enjoy scalloped potatoes and ham, too.  Likewise, I’ve learned that meatloaf mix—beef, pork, and veal, also makes delicious burgers!  I’ve also known a few folks who were very good Christians who disavowed pork citing OT dietary laws.  (Here in our text is a reference to that as the Jews at this time considered pork “unclean.”)  So, why do I eat pork today?  Basically, in OT times the people didn’t know about trichinosis, but God did.  Likewise, pigs eat anything—including a lot of garbage in those days, so disease was always an issue.  Thus, to keep them safe, God banned it, just as He did shellfish, because He knew about red tide and they did not.  That’s the “why” behind the ban. But Christ came to “fulfill all righteousness” and in Him all such laws, including the dietary ones, were done away with.  So, I eat bacon guilt free.

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          The times when there is great spiritual outpouring from God are also times when Satan and his minions work extra hard.  I’ve been told by people who work in this field more than I that during the last couple of years they’ve seen more demonic “stuff” than in the past.  Are any of us surprised?  So it was here, during Christ’s ministry. 

          The Gadarene region was basically a heathen enclave by the Sea of Galilee.  They didn’t care about the Old Testament.  They were just greedy and exploitative.  They kept pigs openly because they didn’t cost much to feed and sold for a hefty profit.  They let them forage for themselves and tended them like sheep.  

          Two men who were demon possessed were in some local caves by a graveyard.  These men had super-human strength and lived and looked like animals.  “They were so violent that no one could pass that way.”  As Jesus fearlessly approached, they went out and confronted Him: “What do you want with us, Son of God?”  Demons know exactly Who God is and they also know His followers.  They immediately seize on the negative, too, because that’s all evil knows.  “Have you come to torture us before the appointed time?”  But true justice is never a torture.  Alas, attributing evil to God, which is exactly what they are doing, shows just how vile it is.

          “Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. The demons begged Jesus—‘If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.’”  They obviously knew His power and knew that something bad was about to happen, so they cunningly sought to be spared of annihilation by being consigned to a pig host who they would then go on to torment.  But Jesus has a better idea.  “Go!’ So they came out and went into the pigs and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water.”  A fitting end isn’t it?  Every demon really IS a pig in the worst sense of the word!

          Now comes the really sad part: “Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus.  And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.”  

II

          If Jesus came down and got rid of all the evil that was infecting your town today, what do you think would happen?  Would people thank Him and praise Him for His goodness?  Would they be happy not to have unborn babies murdered at the local clinic via abortion, all gangs snuffed out, the open sewer of the internet done away with, and banks being forced to never overcharge on their credit card rates?  Or would they complain once their source of income or vice was affected and beg Him to leave and never come back?  Here they chose commerce and greed over their soul’s salvation.  The question for all of us is: Do we fall into the same trap?

          God originally created everything holy, including pigs, clams, mussels, and people.  Evil is what corrupted everything and it is what makes creation unclean in His sight.  Christ’s job was to make it all new, totally clean, once again by suffering and dying in the place of human beings—they being the pinnacle of that creation.  Yes, “the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin.”  Moreover, He gives this gift of being a new creation through faith.  By believing, trusting, and thanking Him for His goodness and loving-kindness.  Scripture says that: “God makes all things new in Christ.”  Through faith evil cannot destroy us, but it ends up destroying itself.  Through faith, under the guidance of the commandments, we can savor all things without guilt.  And if we misuse or over-imbibe in our newfound blessings, we can turn to Him, say: “I’m sorry Lord, please forgive me,” and He’ll wash us clean once again.  Such newness of spirit is you’re greatest gift on this earth.  So, now, as a Christian, use it wisely.  Amen

THE peace of God which…..

Pastor Thomas H. Fox  

August 22, 2021: 14th Sunday after Pentecost

Let us pray: Dear Savior, You have given us a mouth in order to communicate and to praise You.  Since our tongues are another window into our hearts, we don’t want to use this gift in a manner which turns others off and disrespects You.  Today remind us to use our tongues wisely.  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE GIVER OF SPEECH

TEXT:  James 1: 17-27

Dearly Beloved By Christ: 

          You’re walking in the mall with a group of teenagers slightly ahead.  You overhear—on purpose—them using profane language and telling dirty stories about their girl, or boyfriends. They glance back, wanting to get a rise from you.  You silently shake your head and they all laugh.  You think back to when you were their age and your mother getting out that famous bar of soap to wash your mouth out, followed by a hairbrush applied to a sensitive area.  Too bad that isn’t accepted practice today.  All adults know that such behavior is a cry for attention.  Teens do it to appear more adult, but all it accomplishes is them appearing more immature. 

          But adults do it too. Profane language is more and more accepted.   It used to be men that were the worst offenders, but now women engage in it very often, as well.  We supposedly live in a highly advanced culture, educated and civilized.  But from the common, coarse language used daily by most, we’ve sunk to the barnyard, the outhouse, and reveal our debasement as a culture.  It doesn’t build up, but tear down humanity. 

What has caused this outcome?  Social media is certainly to blame.  But the root cause is sin and the lack of Christian standards which view speech as a gift from God.  God, “who chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might we a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”

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          “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, or a man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life God desires.  Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, and humbly accept the word planted within you, which can save you.”

          Christians are different than the world.  We’re holy.  We’re purified by the blood of Jesus Christ.  We’re reborn of water and the Spirit in baptism.  We wear crosses to mark our newfound status as children of God.  So why not show it even more clearly by using words which announce it to the world? 

          Talk is cheap because people cheapen it by how they speak.  We listen to words and don’t take them seriously.  Unfortunately we often apply this worldly principle to hearing God’s Word, too.  “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  But  the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard,  but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.”

II

          James then says that true religion worthy of the Triune God Who never lies and never misleads–does not use His gift of language in a profane way.  He never sought to tear others down but to build them up.  He never sought to hurt others but to lead them and comfort them.  Christ could be blunt and honest, but He was never malicious in His speech.  People know  where you stand by the words you employ and how you employ them.  So, don’t let the world pollute your tongue!  No one will remain in the stench  of a sewage plant for long because no one enjoys it. 

          The Son of God lovingly stood in the stench of our sins and died to free us from it.  He had better times and better things for us to do with our lives.  So speak wisely and show Him that His sacrifice was worth it…That you’re worth it….Amen

THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH……

Pastor Thomas H. Fox