January 16, 2022: Epiphany 2

Dear Savior, may we all embrace Your gift of life, both earthly and eternal.  May we glory in the outpouring of the Spirit upon us all and never take the goodness He gives for granted.  Let nothing block our praise of You with body, soul, and spirit.  Amen

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

TEXT: I Cor. 12: 1-11

Dearly Beloved By Christ: 

          Everyone is suffering from the winter doldrums earlier than usual.  Let’s face it, we’ve had a lot of ups and downs.  At such times it’s easy to just go through the motions of living.  Christians aren’t immune from this, either.  I know that I’ve had moments of wanting to experience the joys of heaven sooner rather than later.  Who wouldn’t knowing their future is secure in God’s grace?

          And so, all of us get lazy over this business of living.  We neglect our bodies beyond the basics and don’t exercise.  We neglect our souls by not engaging in an active prayer life for others and  not just ourselves.  We neglect our spirit by haphazardly employing the spiritual gifts we’ve been given from baptism on.  Well, today is the day we to take ourselves in hand and jump-start our Godly gift of life!

I

          We learn over time that people can let us down. After all we’re mortal. However, the one exception is God.  He’s always there with His love, mercy and forgiveness.    But God gave us life for a reason.  He keeps us here for a reason.  That reason being: to savor and utilize the Spirit’s gifts poured upon us thereby giving Him untold glory and ourselves untold joyous blessings.   So, let’s  all snap out of the doldrums and get that dynamo of faith implanted at our baptism running at its optimum!

          Pagans, Paul says, or non-Christians only have the here and now.  So when things get overwhelming they get angry and curse the God they don’t think exists!  In actuality they are really cursing themselves.  Thus they give up on life.  But as Paul says: “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Ghost.”  In other words, at conversion the Spirit is implanted in us and a new exciting relationship is born with God.  Faith is engendered.  An uplifting of body, soul, and spirit occurs.  We’re given the real reason for living as God originally intended it to be.

II

          As a result of being linked to God’s grace in Christ, an upwelling of spiritual gifts occurs.  They all come from the Spirit Himself and are poured out in varying degrees upon all of God’s children.  Yes, you and I are rich!  Rich in embracing God’s gift of life here and now.  So use these joy-bringing gifts, my friends, and be recharged!

          “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.”   These are some of the reasons Christians never give up on life but seek to embrace it—for the Spirit’s glory.   We live, not just for ourselves, but for Him, and for the common good of His Church, His body.

          Here are those gifts: wisdom, knowledge, healing,  miraculous powers, prophecy, the ability of distinguish between truth and error, the ability of speak to others from the heart and directly impact their hearts, and the ability to explain such thoughtfulness and impact sorrowing souls.

          In other words, let’s get out of our skin and look outward instead of inward.   Let’s begin to understand the great joy God spreads around when we utilize our Spiritual gifts!  You and I are still breathing.  We’re alive.   Why?  Because God’s not done with us yet, that’s why!    Jesus died to save us basically from ourselves.  He did a complete and masterful job of that on the cross.  He further confirmed it by resurrecting Himself from the grave.  And His life of fulfillment lives on in each of you through faith.  So, He has given you this life, right now, to praise Him with by using the Spirit’s gifts to the best of your ability.  And knowing that fills us with joy that begins now and culminates in heaven.  Dear Christian, don’t wish your time of grace away—just use it!  And embrace it by honoring Him through using the many tools He has given to you!  Yes, rejoice in the Lord always, I say it again: Rejoice!   Amen

THE PEACE OF GOD….

Pastor Thomas H. Fox  

January 9, 2022: Epiphany 1

Let us pray:  Lord, we need a double portion  of Your help this new year.  So today we ask for it!  Pour out the Spirit upon us all so that love, mercy, strength, hope, and a spirit of steadfastness may fill our hearts with Your peace which surpasses all understanding.  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM OUR GOD WHO HAS REVEALED HIMSELF TO US IN A MANGER!

TEXT:  Titus 3: 4-7

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

          Recall the words to: “Jesus Loves Me.”  Recall especially those words: “I am weak, but He is strong.”  I’ve been thinking about that phrase a lot over the past months.  Mentally and emotionally all the stuff that has occurred has made me feel weak and rather powerless.  When people ask me about situations beyond my control I’ve taken to answering with: “It’s beyond my pay grade, it’s God’s problem.”  We’re all caught up in a maelstrom of evil and nastiness and we all feel helpless.   But you’re here today to have me remind myself and all of you that: We’re not alone or weak or helpless.  For when we’re weak, Christ is strong—in each of us.

I

          Right now our synod president is recovering from covid.  So are many of our pastors, not to mention members of our churches.  Congregational attendance has been negatively impacted in every church.  God’s people are tired and worn out.  We all want it to go back and be normal—whatever that is.  Our comfort zones have been turned upside down.

          So it was in Paul’s time and so it is sometime during every generational change, such as we’re currently in.  God’s humble people often suffer the worst, since this evil world takes advantage of their kind hearts and stomps on them.  It’s no fun being a “stompee.”   But when we are at our lowest and plead for God’s help—He always hears and He answers!  This is the point of our text here in Titus.

          “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.”   Christ came to Bethlehem when the world and those people had hit low, low, low tide.   They had done nothing perfectly in their lives to deserve or warrant or earn His coming.  No, He came out of and because of His pure mercy.  And what a coming it was!  Angel choirs, Magoi from Babylon, a miraculous escape to Egypt and more marked His coming and His star.  All this and more saved them from the morass of despair and hopelessness and gave them comfort and joy.

II

          Then, as now, it was the application of the Spirit and His comforting work which wrought a change in the attitude of the heart.  “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified (made right with Him) by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”

          The powerful uplifting of the Spirit is transferred to us by faith.  And for most, faith begins when we’re at our weakest—infants—whom the Spirit anoints with the loving power of Christ, the power over sin and death that He won for us on  the cross.  He did all of this generously  Paul says because that the meaning of grace.  And thus, out of darkness we are given light and hope—from Christ the Light of the world.  In Him we will live, not just survive.  In Him we will triumph in the end.  That’s the message of Christmas, Epiphany, and the whole of Christianity.  It’s what gives us fortitude and good cheer.  Yes, in Him when we’re weak, HE is strong!  So, Yes, Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.  Amen

THE peace of God which….

Pastor Thomas  H. Fox