Tuesday, March 28, 2017

March (and April) Madness Part 2

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9
Many of us have been enjoying watching March Madness, (which interestingly will still be going on into April). This annual NCAA basketball tournament started with 68 teams, and the Final Four were decided last weekend. KU, the last Kansas team in the running did not play well enough against Oregon to get out of the Elite Eight. Next weekend Oregon, North Carolina, Gonzaga and South Carolina will play to see who gets to compete next Monday night for the National Championship.
In the NCAA Tournament it's "do or die" for every team. Win and move on — lose one and be done. The season is at stake with no second chances. This inescapable fact weighs heavy in every game. Everyone gives it all they've got, because it might be their last game of the season. There are no second chances on the road to the Final Four.
Thankfully our God is a God of second chances. Because God loves us so much, He gave us a second chance (and a third, fourth, fifth…) by sending His own Son Jesus Christ. Most Christians I know are obviously thankful for this basic truth. But today I challenge you to live life like you are in tournament mode.
Don’t ever take for granted God's grace and mercy. Have you ever faced a temptation and fallen into sin partly because, in your mind, you were thinking something like, "Oh, if I mess up just this once God will forgive me … after all, He loves me unconditionally doesn’t He"? Do you ever take second chances for granted?
Don't let God's unconditional love be a mental and moral excuse to give less than your best effort. Know this; our salvation is not dependent upon how good we act (THANK GOD) but rather by what Christ has done for us on the cross at Calvary. But in response to that indescribable gift of God’s grace we strive to, as the old hymn suggests, “Give of our best to the Master”.
I encourage you to live life more like you are competing in March Madness. After all, if we really understand what the cross meant in terms of love, forgiveness, grace and second chances, we'd do nothing less than give our very best, playing with a passion and resilience that will not give up or give in.
Whether you are a college basketball fan or not, we all look forward to the madness of March ending and on April 16 embracing the most important event in all of human history; the celebration of Christ’s resurrection at Easter.
Your pastor and partner in ministry,

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

March Madness

Last weekend was the beginning of the N.C.A.A. Men’s Basketball Tournament which will conclude with the championship game on April 3 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale Arizona. Many Kansas basketball fans were happy that their favorite teams KU, K-State or Wichita State all made it to the “Big Dance”. College basketball aficionados call all of this hoopla, “March Madness”. I think back to my younger days as a teenager, when I really enjoyed playing basketball, not just watching it. I even captained my high school team in Chicago back in the late 1960’s. (And no, we didn’t use a peach basket and a ladder to get the ball out!)
With March Madness in the air I got to thinking about a few things this time of year reveals about us as Christians:
* We are made for something extraordinary
I believe that inside each of us is a desire for something more, a craving to be part of something bigger, something greater, and something significant to strive for. Tourney time gives us a glimpse of young student athletes aspiring, on their sports biggest stage, to live out a part of their God given purpose and to seek a payoff for all of the hard work it took to get to where they are at.
* We love rooting for the underdog
Why do we love the underdog? I think it’s because we see ourselves in the story of these Cinderella teams. We identify with the “Davids” who battle and win over the Goliaths because we believe in our hearts that we are overmatched by the forces against us. But all of us want to cheer for those who overcome the adversities and succeed in living out their dreams.
* We want to be on the winning team
There’s a longing in all of us to come out on top. As ABC’s Wide World of Sports video introduction used to say, they were, ”Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport... the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat!”
I want you to know something that is ultimately important: As followers of Jesus we are on THE winning team. Christ secured that victory for us all some 2000 years ago. Though we may experience failures and momentary defeats in our lives, our humble champion has already won. And because of that He reigns eternally and we share in the fruits of that victory!
On April 3rd at the end of the Road to the Final Four as the 2017 National Champions cut down the nets as a show of their victory, CBS will play, as it does every year, the Luther Vandross song “One Shining Moment”.
As Christians, as members of God’s team, we are all awaiting that one shining moment that Christ will return and claim us, His trophy of the final victory that He secured for us all on the cross at Calvary.
Whether you are a college basketball fan or not we all look forward to the madness of March ending and on April 16 embracing the most important event in all of human history; the celebration of Christ’s resurrection at Easter.
Your pastor and partner in ministry,

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Apostle to the Irish

This week those of us who have some Irish in us and many many others who don’t celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day. My Irish mother used to say, “ There are two kinds of people in this world those who are Irish…and those who wish they were.”
If you ask people who Saint Patrick was, you're likely to hear that he was an Irishman who chased the snakes out of Ireland.It may surprise you to learn that the real Saint Patrick was not actually Irish—yet his robust faith changed the Emerald Isle forever.
According to Wikipedia, Patrick was born in Roman Britain to a middle-class family in about A.D. 390. When Patrick was a teenager, marauding Irish raiders attacked his home. Patrick was captured, taken to Ireland, and sold to an Irish king, who put him to work as a shepherd.
In his book, How the Irish Saved Civilization, Thomas Cahill describes the life Patrick lived. Cahill writes, "The work of such slave-shepherds was bitterly isolated, months at a time spent alone in the hills."
Patrick had been raised in a Christian home, but he didn't really believe in God. But now—hungry, lonely, frightened, and bitterly cold—Patrick began seeking out a relationship with his heavenly Father. As he wrote in his Confessions, "I would pray constantly during the daylight hours" and "the love of God . . . surrounded me more and more."
Six years after his capture, God spoke to Patrick in a dream, saying, "Your hungers are rewarded. You are going home. Look—your ship is ready."
What a startling command! If he obeyed, Patrick would become a fugitive slave, constantly in danger of capture and punishment. But he did obey—and God protected him. The young slave walked nearly two hundred miles to the Irish coast. There he boarded a waiting ship and traveled back to Britain and his family.
Patrick was a different person now, and eventually, Patrick recognized that God was calling him to enter a monastery. In time, he was ordained as a priest, then as a bishop.
Church history teaches that through Patrick, God converted thousands. As it is with many Christian holidays, Saint Patrick's Day has lost much of its original meaning. Instead of settling for parades, cardboard leprechauns, green beer and being pinched if you are not wearing any green, we ought to recover our Christian heritage and celebrate the great evangelist teaching our kids about this Christian hero.
Saint Patrick didn't chase the snakes out of Ireland as many believe. Instead, the Lord used him to bring into Ireland a true faith in the one true God—and to forever transform the Irish people.
Proud to be part Irish,
Your pastor and partner in ministry,

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Take Something On

With apologies to you the reader and the original author, Craig Gates whom In my haste I inadvertently did not credit with my recent GIVE UP blog which I originally posted on March 1, 2014.
During this season of Lent people often give something up or take something new on that helps them to draw closer to God as we get closer to Easter. Some folks give up meat on Fridays, or little indulges like chocolate. I have always believed that if you think you should give something up then it should probably be permanent instead of for just 40 days.Two years ago I gave up donuts for Lent and haven’t had one since. That’s very tempting considering we serve donuts at church every week!
Each year at this time in addition to “giving something up I am always more interested in the notion of “taking something on”. Recently I heard about a woman that instead of giving something up decided to do something special during the 40 days leading up to Easter. She decided to write a note to 40 people she knew who had impacted her life. Wow what a great idea! Who are some people who have been big influences in your life? Who has encouraged you, prayed for you, gone above and beyond to help you? I want to encourage you to take time right now to text them ,e-mail them, call them or even jot a note to them by longhand and tell them how thankful you are that they are in your life. And then continue to do that with others who have blessed you until Easter day comes. You, along with all those who you contact WILL BE BIG TIME BLESSED!
Your pastor and partner in ministry,