A Sermon for the Week
December 9, 2018
Carla and I were newly married and we were packing the Suburban to hit the road to Alaska. I thought, I had everything in the truck and then Carla brought three more suitcases of stuff out and the kids had more pillows and stuffed animals and whatever else to put in there, but we were out of room. I went to my new wife and told her all of that stuff couldn’t come along because we didn’t have room. She didn’t argue with me and just told me, “I’ll handle it,” in a tone that suggested, I shouldn’t argue And, believe it or not she did get all that stuff in there but only after we bought a car top carrier. That was one crazy trip and if you moved one little thing in the back of the suburban there was an avalanche that buried a child or two.
Well, on this day Jesus was getting ready to go on a journey too, and instead of trying to pack a Suburban he is just trying to get to walking and a man comes up wanting to talk. Jesus and the disciples are starting a journey and I wonder if Jesus was tempted to tell the man, “I don’t have time for you, get out of my way.” That would be very human of him, wouldn’t it? But, not Jesus, he stops and listens. Unlike most of us, who are chasing so many things we can’t keep track of them, but Jesus takes the time and sees this man as a precious creation of God.
I’m sure this man has been listening to Jesus teach. Why else would he have come to Jesus? He had probably been a part of a crowd that had listened to this new teacher and was amazed by him? He was amazed by the new ways Jesus was teaching? But, now as Jesus was about to leave, he wanted to get to the very foundations of what Jesus was teaching. So, he asks, "Good teacher, what do I have to do to inherit eternal life?"
Maybe, he was thinking, what more can I do? I'm a good person. I know the rules and the commandments, and I try hard to keep them. I’m a good neighbor and help others when I can. But, I think we all feel something is missing in us before we have come to faith in Christ. I think this man was trying to understand this hole in his soul and wanted it to be filled? Or, maybe he was looking for a pat on the back for being such a good person? We all do that sometimes, too.
Maybe all he wanted from Jesus, was some reassurance, a word of praise for being a good, decent, law abiding person? Maybe he wanted to hear, all he had to do was just keep up the good work, that God was proud of him? But, here’s an important truth…when you come to Jesus with a question, you are going to get a straight answer and you may be challenged by his answer. The risk, for us and this man talking to Jesus, is we may be challenged to try a new way of living in Christ. What that man understood as enough for salvation and a close walk with God was and still is the beginning of something far greater.
It is not that this man had done anything wrong. Mark tells us that Jesus loved the man. He was keeping the law; he was good and decent. But, Jesus saw the potential for this man to be a true disciple. He hoped he would take the next step in his faith walk.
When the man walked up he called Jesus, "Good Teacher." Jesus replied, "No one is good but God alone." Jesus wanted him to see goodness is not something you can get, instead it is a goal to work toward. He was challenging this law abiding man, reminding him, he could never be good enough on his own; none of us can, without Jesus Christ. He wasn’t quite ready to begin trying to put Christ first in his life.
I think, Jesus saw this man believed he was in control of his own life and wasn’t ready to give control to God. We all too often make that mistake, asking what we can do for God instead of asking what God can and will do through us. Jesus told him, he was only one step away from salvation…with faith in Christ. But, this man, on that day, just couldn't or wouldn’t take that step. He didn’t trust Jesus enough to put Christ first in his life. Or, maybe he just loved his stuff more than he loved Christ and I think that is a problem many of us have and I pray he later came to trust Christ enough to put him first in his life.
I remember one time we were checking the packing list for our soldiers for a deployment. It was only for thirty days, so we were taking only a rucksack. For, longer deployments we would often pack a duffel bag too. When I was young, I always wondered where that duffel bag stayed while we were on the deployment, for I never saw it until we came home. One soldier had missed the Friday inspection and came in Saturday before we left Monday to get checked. He brought his wife and kids along and as he put the two changes of clothes, toilet items, poncho liner and poncho for sleeping, and the rest of the list. I overheard his wife say, “Is that all you’re taking for thirty days?” He looked at his wife and smiled, knowing she didn’t know about what he wore and carried on deployments and said, “We have to have room for ammo and food, honey.”
The things we think we just have to have, those things that we think we can’t live without…do we own them, or do they own us? Have you noticed that yesterday's luxuries often become today's necessities? A second car used to be a luxury but has become a necessity and central air used to be a luxury but has become a necessity.
Also our souls are always searching for fame, comfort, wealth, or power. While, deep down, our hearts know, many of these things cause as many problems as they solve. Look at the famous people who have so much…do you see the joy that it seems should be there? Look at the suicides, the drug abuse, and the divorces of those who have gotten all the luxuries. Many folks are on an endless search for something that can’t be found outside of a walk with Jesus Christ! Our souls are hungry for meaning, for the feeling that our lives matter. The challenge for this man, was to put God in Jesus Christ first in his life, over all his earthly stuff. It was to free him from all the things that were more important to him than his relationship with his Creator. His possessions weren’t inherently bad, not until they came to mean more to him than his relationship with God. Our possessions, our wealth, our stuff can become obstacles between us and God, if we allow it. Just as a soldier can sometimes try to carry so many creature comforts he won’t have room for ammo and food. It is, sometimes, hard to let go of all that stuff we think we have to have and just trust in God's grace and care.
At the very beginning of the Bible, there is the story of Adam and Eve and the serpent. Eve is tempted by the serpent to eat the one fruit they weren’t supposed to eat in the entire garden. Satan told her that if she ate it, she would become as wise as God. Then when Adam heard this, he was all in for being as wise as God, too. Since the very beginning, Humanity has been looking for a shortcut, the easy way but it didn't work in the Garden of Eden, it didn't work for this man talking to Jesus, and it will not work for us.
Another thing we are taught by the interaction of Adam, Eve, and Satan is be very careful about the source of the advice we follow. Satan and those speaking for him, tell us there is an easy way to happiness, a way where we won’t have to put God first in our lives. The truth is, there is no other way to eternal life in heaven than through faith in Jesus Christ. All the rest of the religions and lifestyles are just false hopes and stuff we use to try to fill that hole in our souls that only Christ can fill. God will not play second fiddle in our lives; he wants us to love him with all our heart and soul, while, making our relationship with Christ above all.
To lead us to growth, God sometimes challenges us. The man who approached Jesus loved his stuff more than he loved God. So, Jesus told him to get rid of it. I wonder if he asked, "Why so much Lord?" Or, did he ask, “Why can’t I just say a kind word instead of having to actually help someone?” “Why can’t I just put my name on a list saying I am for God instead of putting God first in my life?” I think we all often ask, “Why can’t God build his kingdom on my good intentions?”
Can’t the hungry feed themselves? Can’t the lonely care for themselves? I was talking to a nurse a few weeks ago at a Long Term Care and she told me that there were people living there who never had a visit except for the preachers and piano players who come on Sunday. Do we often say, “Shame on those people’s families, while not filling in for them”? And, do we often ask ourselves, “Why can’t the children and youth learn about faith in Christ from someone else, instead of me?” Do we say by our actions if not our words, “Teaching kids about Jesus is their parent’s job and those children’s souls are not my problem.” It is a constant battle to have enough Sunday school and Bible study teachers. And, if we had the teachers, does anyone actually do something to get some kids here in church so they can learn about Jesus? Are those things Christians should be doing? Of, course! Then the question is, “Do their souls matter to us?” When it’s time to help someone get out of a hole, do we ask, “Why can’t those people help themselves?” Do we ask, "Why do I have to be the one to help”? Or do we whine, “I am already doing more than my fair share, why me, why do I have to do even more?" “Let someone else do it”.
This man talking to Jesus asked what he thought would be an easy answer, but was blown away by the answer, that day, he decided, he wasn’t all that interested in doing God’s will? He loved his stuff too much. I wonder, did he walk away heartbroken with his head bowed in sadness or did he walk away angry that this peasant teacher could ask so much from him. It is so sad, because he came so close, but missed his chance for faith in Jesus Christ.
I wonder, did he know how Peter, Andrew, John, and James dropped their nets and followed Jesus. Did he know, how Matthew had gotten up from the riches of his tax collection table and followed Jesus? This man just couldn't take this last step of commitment to Christ. He loved his stuff more than he loved his relationship with God in Jesus Christ. Let’s not be like this man and let love of our stuff keep us from discovering the joy and peace that comes into our lives, making our relationship with Jesus Christ most important.
Have you ever noticed the more you have the greater the danger is of you being selfish and not giving God charge of our lives? When Jesus saw what was happening with this man, he warned them that it is difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And, since we all live here in the USA, we all are some of the richest people in the world. At Las Posadas this year one little girl had two pieces of candy and I asked if she would share with her little sister.
She didn’t even blink and gave a piece to her sister. Are we like her? I hope we learn, don’t let our possessions own us and always put Christ first in our lives.
So, we don't know what happened to the man who turned away from Jesus; we don't even know his name. If he had accepted the challenge Jesus gave him, he might have been there at Pentecost to stand with Peter, he might have written a Gospel like John or Luke. He might have been an evangelist like Andrew or a missionary like Paul, but he faded into history because he would not put Christ first in his life. But, unfortunately, if he stayed where he was, he is not spending eternity in heaven with Jesus, now. I pray, each day, he changed his mind.
Listen again to the promise that Jesus makes to you and me, "For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; all things are possible." Whatever is holding you back from making a total commitment to God in Jesus Christ, deal with it. Get it out of your life. I pray each of us will put our relationship with Christ first and love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. Amen.
Rev Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor
UMC - Healy, Kansas
“The End is Near”
December 2, 2018 1st Sunday of Advent
Jesus told us how awful the end of the world will be before he returns and John told us even more in Revelations. Yet, two thousand years later, the surest way to prove you are full of bologna is to pick a date for Christ’s return. People are always trying and according to many of them we shouldn’t still be here. As I sit here and write this in October I just don’t know, if I will even be here to deliver this sermon? We just don’t know, do we?
Jesus says, “People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” Time after time, people have wrongly predicted the end of the world. I remember when I was in the Army and in 1998 we were trying to get ready for the Y2K mess with all of the utilities and equipment on the Army posts in Alaska. But, after all that money and the IT people telling us the terrible things that might happen, Y2K fizzled out with barely a whimper just like so many other big scares that turn into nothing. I hear it all the time from people I talk to and especially on some Christian radio station, preachers telling us that the end of time is soon, maybe even tomorrow. But, who knows what soon means in God’s time and the truth is, it just doesn’t matter when, for those who have a personal relationship with Christ. If we die or Christ returns Christians will end in the same place. Christ hasn’t returned yet, but I hope we can get as many as possible ready for his return before he does.
Jesus says, “Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory.” The disciples thought Jesus would come back soon, probably, even in their lifetime. They lived their lives thinking that at any moment Jesus would return. That is how we should live, for when he returns there is no more time to lead new souls to Christ. The time for coming to Christ is over when he returns, if you haven’t by then it is too late. Christ has not returned yet and the Christian church has waited, for twenty centuries but Jesus hasn’t returned…yet.
Jesus told us, “Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” You know the word Advent means “coming.” The first day of the new church year, and like every church year, we start by remembering when Jesus first came into the world and on the First Sunday of Advent we remind ourselves, he will come again. But, we can’t walk around all the time with our heads up looking at the sky, can we? We would get nothing done, eventually we would get hungry. So, what are we supposed to do as we watch the world falling down around us?
Luther was asked, “What would you do if you heard that Jesus was returning tomorrow?” He said that he would plant a tree. For almost surely the rumor would be false. After all, Jesus said that no one knows the hour or day when he will return but the Father. So why not plant a tree and plan for the future? Then if we are wrong and the Lord returns, we are preparing for an earthly future, as we make plans for his work on earth.
Jesus told this parable, “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.” The signs are there for everyone to see. Just look around and you can see the world is coming to an end. The signs of evil winning and the end of time keeps getting closer. Thirty years after Jesus’ death, the Romans crushed the Jews in a horrible war and the Temple was destroyed. Many Christians still worshipped at the Temple and I’m sure they thought it was the beginning of the end? Then there was the fall of the Roman Empire, the rise and fall of the Nazis in Europe, Stalin’s murderous reign of terror in Russia, Chairman Mao in China, Pol Pot in Cambodia, Castro in Cuba, all of whom are just a few of the people who have killed thousands for power? It does begin to make a person afraid that the end is near.
Many worry the end of times will come with a nuclear war…all I can say is, “Nope,” the end will come when Christ returns, not when or if we have a nuclear war. It may get really nasty here on earth because of a nuclear war, but it will not be the end. The Global Warming crowd say we are going to end the earth with pollution… And, all I can say is, “Nope,” when Christ returns will be the end, not before and not after, but right then! Yes, we need to care for the planet God gave us, but no matter how bad life gets here on earth because of pollution…it will not cause the end. These things seem like signs of the end, don’t they? But, they aren’t. How can we possibly know what truly signals the end?
We don’t do very well in reading the signs of the end times. So, why bother with worrying about the end anyway? The end of the world will come, sometime, and there is nothing we can do to speed it up, slow it down, or predict when. But…it is a fact, today is the end of time, for some. Thousands of people will face their end today. For many, today is their Day of Judgment. Many, many people will die today and for those people, the end is very near, because it is today.
Passages like this remind us that we don’t have forever to decide what we think about Jesus of Nazareth. There is a time to decide and that time is always right now. We always have right now and we may not have it tomorrow. For, later won’t come for many of us. Like I said earlier, as I wrote this in October, I wondered if I would be here to deliver it. We just don’t know, do we?
Now, Jesus either was who he said he was, the Son of God, or not. But, if he was who he said he was, we can have a relationship with him right now. The end of the world is a lot less scary, when through our faith in Christ we have already begun eternal life. But if Jesus wasn’t who he said he was, then he was just plain crazy and we should drop the whole thing. It is that cut and dry.
Passages like the Gospel reading today remind us that each one of us have decisions to make concerning the end, right now, today. Each one of us can accept or reject Jesus Christ. We each must decide, whether we believe him or not. But, please know, the Kingdom of God is near. If we accept Christ, we enter into that kingdom, right here and right now. If we reject faith in Christ, we are standing here waiting and watching for the end. And, I’m sorry, it won’t be good for those who remain.
Chicken Little ran around scaring everyone with the news that the sky is falling. An acorn fell on his head and he ran around telling everyone, “The sky is falling,” scaring everyone. Today, some folks have said the end is near so often that they sound a lot like Chicken Little. Listen to Al Gore about Global Warming or some of those preachers on TV and on the radio who believe they know when the end will be.
I say instead of worrying about, “The sky falling,” remember “The Kingdom of God in Jesus Christ is near”. Because, whether Jesus returns in glory, if he comes before this service is over or if he waits another thousand years, the Kingdom of God is near. Whether we live another fifty years or we die tomorrow, the Kingdom of God is still near. The Kingdom of God is as near as a prayer asking Christ to be our Lord and Savior. The Kingdom of God is as near as the bread and juice in our Holy Communion. God in Jesus Christ is here with us, right now and the Kingdom of God is near.
Jesus says that we are to be on our guard so our hearts are not weighed down. Those who have asked Jesus Christ to be their Lord and Savior there is no to fear the end. If there is war among the nations or even if the sky does fall, followers of Christ need not be afraid. Because, it is a fact that the news Christ is coming is Good News for those who follow him. Our only worry, our only fear should be for those we love who do not know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Yes, I still believe Jesus will return to earth in glory someday…but, just as importantly, we know Jesus is here with Christians right now! He is in our hearts as we worship, the Kingdom of God in Jesus Christ is near when we pray, he is with us when we worship. He’s always with us.
For Christians there is no good reason to fear the signs of the end times, we only need to trust our Lord. But, for those who have not yet made a commitment to Christ, this moment may be your last chance to ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior. Your last chance before your personal end or when Christ returns. Please, don’t wait…do it now!
Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor
UMC, Healy, Kansas
Hebrews 10:11-14, 19-25
November 18, 2018
When I was a boy I asked Jesus Christ to be my Lord and Savior. Then I was baptized by our old preacher Louis Dodd and I was on fire for the Lord. Then for al while it didn’t matter who you were or what I was doing I was ready to tell you about my Savior, Jesus Christ.
A change in me began one night when I was about sixteen at the Texaco gas station. The guys were talking about going out and spotlighting jackrabbits that night. They wanted me to go because I had a 47 Chevy pickup. Then they talked about how they could get some beer for the trip and how much they would need. I will never forget my stupid embarrassment when one of the guys said, “Well, one things for sure, we won’t need any for goody two shoes, Tuxhorn.” I left, I was so embarrassed.
About that same time, I started trying to be Larry Mahan, the great rodeo man of my childhood. Mahan made so much money that he bought a ranch of his own, just like I dreamed of doing. Now, in my mind rodeo guys were tough and they fought like buzz saws. Sometimes those ideas were hard to live up to, but I can tell you, I gave it a fair try.
Those days, I was still in church and being reminded of my sinfulness at church and at home, because, as I have told you I was a drug child…drug to church every time the doors were open. Mom kept me well informed about my sins.
Then in the Army, I became a paratrooper and a Ranger. Literally the only time I read the Bible or went to church was when I was on leave. The influence of Mom and Dad, again. My prayer life had gone down the drain too, about the only time I prayed was at the door of an aircraft as I was about to trust a parachute with my life.
Now, I believed Airborne Rangers were tough and that they did wild and crazy things in their off time and at work. There was no requirement to act that way, but I did. I was just trying to live up to an ideal I had in my head of how Rangers lived. What I was doing certainly wasn’t what I had been taught in Sunday School or at church or had read in the Bible. Nor, was it what I knew was right in my heart…for I still felt guilty about many of the things I was doing. But, I didn’t let that stop me, and some of it I enjoyed, this life that had begun to seem normal. I was definitely not following Christ in my life or heart.
You know what woke me up and started bringing me back? It was becoming a father for the first time. I knew that despite my terrible behavior, I was headed to heaven because of my profession of faith years before and I wanted my daughter there too. I also knew if my child wasn’t raised in the church, learning about Christ all her life, her chances of coming to a personal faith in Christ was not very good. In fact it’s only about 20% of the folks who haven’t come to Christ by twenty-one, don’t. I asked forgiveness for my sinful life and started back to church and Sunday School.
The writer of Hebrews was worried about some of the same problems among the people he was writing. He is reminding them that they were every bit as much pilgrims as their Israelite ancestors. They were walking a path trail, with a new way to forgiveness and the new Promised Land…following Jesus Christ. He tells them, through their faith in Jesus Christ they will make it to the Promised Land. And, if they do they will not suffer the fate of the first generation of those who were led out of Egypt by Moses. Remember, they sinned when they worshiped the Golden Calf and were not allowed to go into the Promised Land.
Today’s lesson tells us the Lord Jesus Christ is both leader and victim. Christ gave his life for the sins of the world. As leader and forever sacrifice, Christ Jesus Himself fulfills the promise of a new covenant seven hundred years before Jesus died on the cross, when Jeremiah told Israel, “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.” In Christ, God opened the door to the heavenly Promised Land for all those who have asked Jesus Christ to be their Lord and Savior.
This writer knows that, like the Israelites, those who have come to faith in Jesus Christ, can sometimes walk away, like I did, worshipping false gods like the Israelites did. One of the ways we do this is when we begin to worship God in church only when it is convenient. When our first instinct is to not be in church on Sunday mornings, we’re in trouble. When we get there, we are falling into the same hole the people the writer is talking about were in. We are also getting to that point, when we no longer pray, except when we need help from God. Kind of like me, when the only time I prayed was when I was at the door of an aircraft, before I jumped. But, when after the parachute opened, it was back to my sinful life again. And, we are getting there when we stop supporting the church with our time and our treasure. When we stop volunteering to help in the church and other people and giving of our tithes and offering we are getting there, too.
Luther said, the commandment against taking God’s name in vain can be flipped over and understood in a different way. He said, we should not read it as only to not take the Lord’s Name in vain. That, we should also read it as God’s command to call us to prayer, praise, and thanksgiving and in the Ten Commandments we are told to remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy by gladly hearing and learning the Word of God. Not just, when it is convenient or when we have nothing else to do…every Sunday.
Those that neglect the Word of God and don’t come to worship are sitting ducks for every other thing that comes into their lives to tempt them. When I drifted away from my faith, I no longer missed the rabbit hunt with the boys and never missed a drinking night out. When I was invited to do something sinful, I stuffed down my conscience and went along whole heartedly.
Now, we know the one that leads us to sinful behavior is none other than Satan. We are following him we are saying things like, “I really don’t think God would mind if I did this one little thing and after all I’m going to heaven anyway.” Or, to the preacher or a neighbor, “Hope you don’t think badly of me, I took the past couple of weeks off from church, I just wanted to spend a little time with my family.” And then, the next week our excuse is, “We were so tired from the family stuff, we just all needed to sleep in this Sunday.” “Isn’t the Sabbath supposed to be a day of rest?”
It’s like the preacher at the door after church telling a man, “I’m so glad to see you today. I’ve been missing you.” The missing person replied, “Yeah, I’m in the secret service of the Lord, now.” Well, there are not supposed to be any secret Christians, not ever! I love the crowds on Easter Sunday and Christmas Eve. But, it is sad that all those people on all the other Sundays seem to think they have something more important to do than church.
Now, I think most of us prefer encouragement to scolding. But, false encouragement is much worse than being chewed out. I brings to mind a time when as a First Sergeant of a company I was sent to try to straighten out. The Brigade Command Sergeant Major spent thirty minutes telling me all that was wrong with the company before he sent me down to take over. And, I’ll tell you, he only knew about half the story. It was truly a disaster…but it was a little hard to get down on them too bad. When I asked the three hundred of them on the first day what they needed most from me. Nearly all of them said they had pay problems…when I asked them to line up in front of my office over one hundred eighty of them had messed up pay. It took me months to get their pay straight and no one had been promoted in months because the paper work hadn’t been done. It was no wonder they didn’t care about their jobs.
That company of three hundred men, was such a mess that they were looking for a lost two and half ton truck, when I got there and we never found it. One of my goals was to get a good physical fitness program going but it was really hard to get them to show up at 6:30 in the morning for PT. In the morning, I would go through the barracks hollering raising a ruckus and those that didn’t show up in the morning had to do PT after work each night. About three weeks into the job, almost all of them showed up for PT. That day, I’m not sure I wasn’t guilty of false encouragement when I told them, “Wow, I am so proud of you, almost all of you showed up for PT!”
Man, I wish I could say that here in the church, one Sunday. I wish I could say that almost all of the members showed up most of the time to worship. We wouldn’t have room and wouldn’t that be nice? How many of us miss church, when we really could have been here?
False encouragement is epidemic in our culture. Trophies for just being there, graduating and being promoted in school without being able to do the work, because of some silliness about self-esteem. Many of us seem to think it is OK to call ourselves Christians when we aren’t doing what Christians are supposed to be doing. I heard once, “God’s Word should afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.” When we neglect the Word of God are we saying it doesn’t matter and does not have any authority over our lives? Are we a part of the culture that says, “I’m OK, you’re OK, no matter what we do”? Look what is called normal behavior on TV and at the movies and many of us are following their example.
Instead in our Hebrews reading we are told not to neglect the Sabbath meeting, as many do, and to encourage one another to hold fast to our faith in God’s Son, Jesus Christ. We are to do it even when it feels uncomfortable and is scary. Look at the Christians in the Middle East nowadays. They are dying for their faith, while we can’t make time to do the things we should for God.
Don’t we understand the Day is coming when each of us will meet God face to face and give an account of our lives? It may be the day we die or when Christ returns. We need to be ready to face our maker. I live my life each day trying, trying, and I say trying, to have as little to explain at judgment as I can. I often say, “I’m going to have a bad afternoon of explaining…but I get to stay.”
When we don’t come together in church to hear and learn the Word of God, when we don’t have a regular prayer life, and when we no longer share with the Lord of our time and our treasure we have fallen away from the Lord, we will have some serious explaining to do when we meet our Lord. If I have remained ignorant of God’s Word, I am not doing as Christ intended! If I no longer have regular prayer time and not just when I am scared or hurting, I have fallen away. When I no longer share my time and resources with God and church I have fallen away from my faith. And, what about the example we are setting for our family who don’t know Christ? As an old friend of mine used to tell me, our families cannot ride our coat tails to heaven. If we are not raising them in the church and if they don’t come to faith in Christ they are headed to hell. Surely, that is not what you want and what are we going to tell God when we face him about their souls?
Faith in Jesus Christ offers us hope we don’t have without him. He knows our weaknesses and loves us anyway. He loves us so much, he died on the cross for our sins.
He opened the one and only way to the Promised Land, made possible by the grace and mercy of God in Christ. Through our faith in Christ, we are marked with the cross of Christ and sealed with the Holy Spirit forever.
But, we need to remember, God is not Burger King and we do not get to have it our way. Our God is the only true God, who gives eternal life to those whose hearts have been cleansed from evil by their faith in Christ. In thanks to the Lord each week, we need to be in church weekly as we gladly hear and learn the Word of God. We are to pray often even when things are going well and we are to share our time and treasure and setting the right example for our loved ones and the world. Knowing the promise of Jesus’s sacrifice has become our own through our faith in him. When we do those things the Holy Spirit will go to work sanctifying and strengthening us in the one true faith that will bring us to life everlasting. Amen.
Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor
UMC, Healy Kansas
November 11, 2018
Carla takes me shopping. I’m really not too sure if she likes taking me along, because she complains that I look bored. But, it depends on where and when we are shopping that causes me to be bored. I like to shop at busy places so there are lots of people to watch. And, I beg to differ, I do not think I look like I’m in some sort of torture chamber when we shop. In fact, a lot of the time, I enjoy our shopping trips because I like to people watch, while Carla shops. My-oh-my do you see some amazing things in places where people shop. In fact some of them are so amazing, I have to catch up to Carla and have her take a look. I always whisper in her ear, “”Just casually look across the aisle at that lady, don’t let her know you’re looking.”
I like to give the other folks in these places something to laugh about too. One time when Carla and I were first married we were in Sears in Manhattan buying a car top carrier for our move to Alaska. We were coming down one of the side aisles. I could see over the top of the shelves an older man and his wife coming down the main aisle. He had his shopping with the wife face on and I decided I’d give him something to remember. So, as I came out into the main aisle with Carla behind me I jumped as if she had pinched me or something…well you know. Then, I turned around and told her to quit it. She added to the show by swearing up and down, she hadn’t done anything. I’ll bet we really made a nice addition to that grandpa’s memories on his people watching trip.
Our Bible story for today is a people-watching story, and we have to get into the people watching mode. Jesus had been teaching at the Temple. The temple was huge and was being built by Herod the Great. Now, I know we you think of him as Herod, the Killer of little boys two years and under, but the history books remember him as Herod the Great. The main reason they call him great is that he was a great builder. In 20 B.C., he rebuilt the temple and it was magnificent. It was 150 long, 75 feet wide, and fifteen stories tall. It took 10,000 workers to construct it over a year and half, that’s quick for a time with no heavy equipment. It was by far the biggest and fanciest building around and was the spiritual center of the Jewish religious life. The temple was also the social center. It was like a market place hooked up with a church. If you wanted a good time, you went to the Temple where all the people were. Especially if you wanted to people watch, like me.
Jesus had been there all day, debating the religious big shots, the Pharisees and Sadducees and was worn out. So, he came over and sat down on a bench. It was a great place for people watching. There were thirteen offering boxes which were like suitcases made out of metal. There was a slit in the top of those boxes so people could come and drop their offerings in. There were little signs on each of the offering boxes telling what the money would go for.
A big shot came riding to the temple on the best horse you ever saw, I think it was a buckskin, that’s my favorite, and parked it in the parking lot at the very front. I think it was the VIP parking. He was dressed in purple and fine silk with a cumber bund around his waist, and Italian leather sandals. Just looking at him, you could tell he was rich and he wanted you to check him out. You can always tell a rich man by his shoes and this man had the best sandals you ever saw. Made in Rome, I think. He walked right into the center of the building and everybody watched when he pulled out his checkbook. Everyone knew this was not going to be nickel and dime stuff. He was a big time giver. He wrote out his check and while everyone watched, he ripped it out, and pompously walked over to the offering box and dropped it in the slot. Jesus and the disciples were watching and they smiled at this show off.
Then a Jewish rabbi came walking in. You could tell this man was religious. He had those curls coming down the sides of his face; with a long black beard, and a matching long black robe with lots of rings on his fingers and came piously strolling into the temple. If you have never seen someone walking piously in church, all I can say is you haven’t been watching very closely, there are always a few. Then with an angelic look on his face. He looked around and made sure people were watching as he pulled out ten large silver coins. He knew they would make a loud clank when he dropped them into the offering boxes and that’s why he did it. He dropped them one at a time, clank, clank, clank, as everyone watched. Jesus and the disciples chuckled as they watched.
Then a little old lady walked in. Well, not really walked…as she came in it was more that she limped in. People hardly noticed her, old poor ladies were a dime a dozen. She was humped over, from a life of hard work and worry, wearing worn out and repaired a million times, clothes. An old widow, in her seventies, walking slowly because of her arthritis. She had a stick for a cane, as she came to the offering boxes. She dropped two small coins in, worth less than a penny. Jesus whispered to his friends…“Do you see that little old lady? She gave her last penny. The others gave from their abundance; they have plenty to live on, but she gave from the abundance of her heart; she gave everything she had.”
All this happened one day when Jesus was people watching in the temple. This little old lady was amazingly generous. She is one of the four people in the New Testament who are given as examples of what it means to be extra generous. First there’s Zacchaeus, the short little tax collector who cheated everyone. When Jesus came to his house and got into his heart, Zacchaeus repaid everyone double what he stole from them and gave half of everything he owned to the poor. He gave more than what the law required; that’s what happens when Jesus gets into your heart. The second example was Barnabus in the book of Acts who sold his property and gave it all away. And, the third example of excessive generosity was the church in Macedonia. That church just gave and gave and gave. And, then we have this widow, who was an extravagant giver, yet she only gave only two pennies, but it was all she had.
Of all the people in the Bible, why don’t we know her name? She is one of the most generous givers in the whole Bible, she gave all she had, and the Bible doesn’t tell us her name. We know Zacchaeus and Barnabus and the church in Macedonia’s names; but we don’t know her name. So, I am going to call her Sally.
Now, Sally was much different than most of the other people in the temple that day. She was different than the Pharisees and Sadducees, with their purple and black robes. Yes, they were active church members; they worshipped regularly and came to church most of the time. They were good, moral people but…they were stingy with God. They had good incomes and gave far more money than Sally, but they weren’t as generous as her. I think they probably gave about 2% of their income. At least that’s what average church people give nowadays.
So, why was Sally so generous? Well, she had four qualities that are characteristic of a generous person. First, she had a personal relationship with God. She prayed every day, visiting with her God. She didn’t just believe in the existence of God, she had a living and loving relationship with God. She gave herself and all she had to the Lord. It is a fact, you cannot be a generous giver if you have not given yourself to Christ, first.
Think about Cain and Abel. Cain grudgingly gave some of his grain to God; while Abel gave the first and best portion of his meat to God; and God was more pleased with Abel’s offering not because it was meat, but because he gave the first and best of his produce. God could see that Abel loved God more than his possessions, while Cain gave only what he had to and not even his best. This woman in the Temple gave all of herself and all she had to her God. She demonstrated with her offering that God and her relationship with him was most important to her.
A second reason Sally was so generous was she realized how abundantly generous God was to her. She had experienced the generosity of God. She may have experienced a good life. She may have been married and had a husband who provided for her for many years before he died. She may have had a dozen children and four dozen grandchildren and she may have experienced the good life of a Jewish woman with family. Or, maybe her husband died when she was thirty years old or maybe she never had children at all. Maybe she was always poor and her husband left her nothing to live on. It could have been either one.
But, however her life had been and whatever was going on in her life now, Sally still felt gratitude to her God. She knew that everything she had, even if it wasn’t much in the eyes of the world, was a gift, a gift from God. Sally and all the Sally’s of this world feel this way. All the Sally’s of the world know that everything is a gift from God. Our abilities, which we use to make money; our brains, our work habits, our health, our abilities to make a decent income, and our job themselves, are all gifts from God.
The Sally’s of this world, know this. If you are a generous giver, you know this. But, if you are walking around, feeling in your heart that everything you have is your own and that you earned it, chances are you are not like Sally. She knew in her heart everything she had was a gift from God.
The third reason that Sally was so generous was that she was a mature, spiritual person. She wasn’t a shallow believer. She was a mature follower of God. For, it is the mature Christians who are the generous givers. They walk with God, they talk with God, they know the Bible, and they give of themselves in many ways besides money. Their Christianity is not a Sunday only Christianity; it is not a habit inherited from their parents. You don’t have to tell the Sally’s of the church what the Bible teaches about money because they already know. They know what is in the Bible and they do it, because that’s what a mature Christian does.
Sally also knew she will have more than enough to meet her own needs after she has given her offering. You don’t have to tell her because she has lived that way all her life. You know, I have never met a generous giver who complained about lack of anything they needed.
So, this leads me to a couple of questions. One question is easy and the other question is really hard. First, “Why was Sally so generous?” Think about that moment. And, then the hard question…”What would it take for you and me to be like Sally?” That is a sure-enough hard question isn’t it?
Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor
UMC Healy, Kansas
November 4, 2018
We talk a lot about accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior in this church and I hope, in churches everywhere. But, unless the person who has come to Christ, comes and tell us we don’t know it happened. Sure, we know, after asking Christ into our hearts, we are supposed to come before the church and proclaim our faith in Christ and be baptized, but how will we know and help them as they begin a Christian life if they don’t tell us? One thing is certain, though, if they are truly changed by their faith we will notice the change in them.
Some may ask, “Why doesn’t God take us to heaven when we are saved?” That would be an easy solution to the sin we Christians have in our lives. If that happened some people would say, “No, Mom, dad, all of our loved ones, please, don’t ask Jesus to be your Lord, because I don’t want to lose you.” Thank the Lord, it doesn’t work that way and there are good reasons for it. Who would be left here to make new disciples, if as soon as people came to Christ, they were taken to heaven? There would be nobody here to witness to them about coming to faith in Christ. Yes, I’ll admit, not many share their faith and we know what lost souls would do without their witness?
When we accept Christ, God changes us, he raises us, almost like He raised Lazarus, from death to life. He leaves us here after salvation but He doesn’t leave the same person. Don’t you think Lazarus was a different man after being raised from the dead? We can’t really become a true disciple without going through a Lazarus moment where we die to self. Paul says in Galatians 2:20…”20and it is no longer I who lives, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
So, how are we changed? Remember the story when Jesus had the helpers fill the empty wine jugs with water and then, after he blessed them they became wine. Those jugs were definitely better, right? When we ask Jesus to be our Lord and Savior, we are touched by Christ and through the infilling of the Spirit we are better than we were before just as those jugs of water were. My wife, Carla, often says she believes that a person truly in Christ cannot help but want to do things for Jesus and it’s all because they are changed.
Remember what happened when Jesus healed the nobleman’s son. After Jesus touched this man’s life and healed his son, he became a believer in Jesus Christ. He began trying to live as Jesus lived. Just as we should, when we ask Jesus to be our Lord and Savior, we are a better human being as we begin trying to follow Christ. Especially if they tell other Christians so they can help them in their new Christian walk.
Think of the paralyzed man by the pool from our scripture lesson. He had laid by that pool waiting for healing, but until Jesus touched his life he had no hope. At the Pool, people believed that if the waters stirred it was because an angel caused it. Then, the first person who touched the waters after the stirring would be healed. But, this poor paralyzed man couldn’t have gotten in the waters when they stirred if he tried, he could not move. So, that day when Jesus told him “…take up your bed and walk.” He was healed without ever touching the waters. He was physically healed and most importantly, he was changed through his faith in Jesus Christ.
We know that our Lord will provide for us, we saw it when from when he fed the 5,000. We know from when Jesus walked on the water and calmed the storm that he is all-powerful, loves us completely, and will never, not ever abandon us. We know that no matter what the world does to us, even if they kill us, Christ will catch us and bring us to him. We know that when Jesus touches our souls and heals us spiritually we should be changed like the man who was healed of his blindness and became a witness.
Today we are reminded that when we truly come to Christ and ask him to be our Lord and Savior, we will be changed. Before our salvation in Christ we are headed to death and an eternity in hell; separated from God. When we come to Christ, we are changed and are given eternal life, here on earth and eternally in paradise with our Lord Jesus Christ.
Will any of you admit to playing pool? Now, I know in the church I grew up in no one would admit that. I’m pretty sure some of them did, but no one would admit it. But, years later in Christ United Methodist Church in Salt Lake City we had a pool table in the youth room. Tings do change. But, there is no way that would have happened in my home town church. You know, I never quite figured out how hitting balls into pockets with another ball was sinful. Maybe it was the pool hall that was the sinful part?
When you’re playing pool, you figure out what angle the cue ball has to hit other balls to make them go in the pocket. Or, in a combination shot, the cue ball hits one ball at just the right angle to make that ball hit another ball and go in. Let’s say you’ve got the 9 ball by the pocket, but the 1 ball is in between the cue ball and the 9. If the cue ball hits the 1 ball at the right angle, it will send the 1 into the 9 and put it in the pocket. Well, Jesus is like the cue ball in a game of pool and the ball that is hit first is we Christians. We Christians are then to give others the nudge to Jesus Christ.
That is why does Jesus leave us here after we are his? We are left here to become an oasis in a hopeless desert. A person, who in a dry and thirsty world that works to change the world, an oasis to the lost. As Jesus was and still is. He said to the Samaritan woman in John chapter 4…“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water…whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
When we come to Christ, we are raised from death to life and we are given eternal life with Jesus Christ, not at a later, but at that very moment. We say, as we bless the baptismal waters…”Lord, pour out your Holy Spirit, to bless this gift of water and those who receive it, to wash away their sin, and clothe them in righteousness all throughout their lives, that, dying and being raised with Christ, they may share in his final victory.” In Baptism we are supposed to die to self and rise up alive in Christ. Unlike what some people think, the water doesn’t have the power to save, it just signals to the world that we are changed in Jesus Christ. Like Lazarus, those who are not in Christ are dead, and when we come to him, we are reborn in him.
After we have asked Christ to be our Savior and been baptized, we are called to be an oasis to a thirsting world. But, unlike an oasis in the desert, where people have to make it to the oasis to be saved, We are to be a moving, full service oasis, going to others, helping them and sharing our faith in Christ. Not just the preacher or the Sunday School teacher, it is each and every one of us who must go to others to tell them about Jesus Christ and our faith in him.
You know sometimes in the desert people are fooled by mirages. They think they see something that looks like water, but can never get there, it is an illusion. When we come to faith in Christ and don’t have a Lazarus moment…that moment when Jesus comes to us and brings us into life in Christ, if we don’t die to self, our salvation is only a mirage. For some they seem to pop up from death to life and then falter, because when they jump out on their own power without Christ, they have not died to self. Those who haven’t truly opened their hearts to Christ, truly surrendering everything to Christ, I worry for their souls.
Maybe they are playing possum, playing dead, while hiding from a Christian life. I worry about the souls of people who say they have come to Christ but have no intention or compulsion to follow him with their time, their treasure, or intending to give their all for Christ. Getting caught up in coming to the altar or making a statement of faith in Christ when we haven’t truly opened our hearts and our lives to Christ, is a mirage.
How do we know the difference? We aren’t the judge, not ever. But, how do we know ourselves are at the oasis of Jesus Christ or are just seeing and feeling a mirage? My Dad often said he wasn’t a judge, but that he was a fruit inspector. We can often tell a lot about their salvation in Christ by how they live their lives.
When Jesus was talking to the Samaritan woman about the living water, he says, “Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Now, I’m not saying that as soon as we ask Christ into our hearts we will be another Billy Graham. But, I am saying there should be a noticeable change in our lives when we come to Christ.
Dying to self, and being alive in Christ is that moment when we have opened our hearts to Christ and confess Christ as our Savior? Then, for the rest of our lives, every morning we need to wake up and begin once more, trying to be more like Christ. Trying with all we are to live as Christ did, a Christian life that people notice…because we are changed. Paul said his goal was to consistently have more of Christ and less of himself. Maybe, our first prayer each day, should be…”Lord, let there be more of You and less of me, today.”
Some of you here have Jesus Christ in your hearts and are not afraid to let others know! Your direction has been changed by your faith and you’ve had your coming out of the grave party. Then there are some followers of Jesus Christ for whom it’s a scary challenge to confess your faith in Jesus Christ publicly. I know, I’m a preacher and it’s still scary to tell others about my faith. Yes, it’s easier for me here in the church…but I still have had to work at preaching the real deal rather than a few platitudes of social doctrine. It used to be really scary to tell people that without Christ they were headed to hell. And, it is still scary for me to talk about my faith in Christ outside of the church. But, unfortunately some have taken the step to Christ, but stopped there and haven’t continued to grow.
There are also those here who have never accepted Christ as their Savior. Unfortunately, some of us today are still in the grave. Jesus has called you and will call you until your life on earth is ended. When he calls, when you feel the touch of the Spirit, that is when the stone has been removed from the tomb, but, sadly some of us choose to stay in the grave. Staying in the grave…rather than coming out and asking Jesus Christ to be their Lord and Savior.
If you are there, I ask you, “Will you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior today?” God offers this, not because of what you have done or will do, it’s all because of what Christ has done. Lazarus was not called from the grave because of what he had done. It wasn’t what the paralyzed man did, it was what Jesus did on the cross of Calvary. Will you accept what Jesus did for you, today, right now, before it’s too late? If you end this life on earth without coming to Christ, it is too late. All of us who are Christians don’t want that for you, we want you in eternal life now and in heaven with us, someday. Please, ask Christ to come into your heart today and he’ll lead you out of the tomb to eternal life.
Some people here today may have may have been Christians a long time but have never come very far out of the grave into life in Jesus Christ…maybe you are just peeking out? Many of us have never began a life of following Christ in which we share our treasure and time with God as we share the words of hope in Jesus Christ. Won’t we please, all pray “more of Jesus and less of me”, and be changed by our faith in Christ? Will we begin taking baby steps toward being an oasis for those who do not know Christ? Even the greatest of Christ’s witnesses here with us today can be changed even more and can do more to bring the world to Christ.
Rev Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor
October 14. 2018
I have to admit I love some of the Jesus Stories more than some of the others. Some of the stories, like the cheating servant make my brain work too hard. Some have messages convicting me of sin in my life and none of us want to be reminded of that. But, the story for today is a fun one, partly because it has a wonderful ending.
Jesus and the disciples are coming into Jericho. Jericho is way down south just north of the Dead Sea on the Jordan River. It is the lowest city on Earth and is 850 feet below sea level. We need to remember that the Gospel of Mark is Peter’s story of his time with Jesus. Peter talked a young man who could read and write to write it down for him because Peter, the fisherman, probably didn’t know how. He wanted a written record of all he had seen and heard from Jesus.
On way into Jericho, there was a blind beggar sitting on the side of the road. His name was Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus heard all the commotion of the crowd going by. So, he asked what all the uproar was about. Someone told him the famous Jesus of Nazareth was going by. In his heart, he knew this was IT, his BIG chance. He shouted at the top of his lungs, in fact he must have screamed because he was heard above all the other people. He said, “Jesus of Nazareth, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Some of the big shots thought that his screaming was inappropriate and they told him to shut up. But, what did he do? He knew this was his chance at a normal life, what would you do? He screamed even louder, “Jesus of Nazareth, have mercy on me.”
I think that is the how we pray when we are desperate for help. We shout to God when we are hurting, “Lord God, have mercy on me, fix this problem I have.” Often, our prayers are like the desperate prayer of Bartimaeus, “Lord God, have mercy on me.”
Well that day, Jesus stopped in his tracks as he still will, today. He looked over at the bling man and said, “Bring him to me.” Some folks said to the blind beggar, “Take heart. Get up. He is calling you.”
Let’s stop right here in the story and hear those sacred words, “Take heart. Get up. He is calling you.” Now, this is what I hope and pray we all want in life. We want Jesus to stop and care for us. We want Jesus to notice us in this fast-moving world of ours. I think we want Jesus to say to us, “Take heart. Get up. I am calling you.”
We all want it, whether we will admit it or not, we want God to come to us and help us when we are in trouble. That is why we need to hear those precious words. “Take heart, Get up. The Lord is calling you.” Jesus knew Bartimaeus had trouble in his life, he was blind in a society where the disabled made their living from begging. No help from the government and often none from their families. When we are in trouble and our lives are all messed up, we too want to hear the voice of Jesus say, “Take heart. Get up. I am calling you.”
As I was writing this I remembered times in my life when I felt I was in Bartimaeus’ place. When I was a little boy and my puppy was sick and I prayed for God to fix him. Or, when I was a boy and my Grandpa died and I prayed to God, “Why him, I wasn’t finished with him.” The first time I stood in the door of an aircraft with a parachute on, I prayed, “Lord, be with me, please…” And, the first time someone shot at me I prayed, “Lord, help me get through this.” Or, when I got my divorce papers and knew I was going to be separated from my two girls I prayed, “Why me Lord,” as I cried lying face down on a bed. We’ve all been in circumstances just like Bartimaeus was experiencing.
Look what he did when Jesus called him over, this blind man threw off his coat, jumped up and ran to Jesus. We can feel his joy as he jumped up and ran to Jesus. This blind man didn’t walk, he ran to help, a blind man ran to help. Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do?” This is the big question that Jesus asks all of us, too. “What do we want Jesus to do for us?” “What do we want Jesus to do for me?” I think we all have been there. In those times of fear and sadness I talked about earlier I’m afraid I was not always sure what I wanted Jesus to do for me? So, I thank God he is a better judge than me on what I needed.
If Jesus asked you today, “What do you want me to do for you?” How would you answer that question? What would you ask for from Jesus? What do you want most from him?
Bartimaeus knew, he wanted his sight, his physical sight, eyes that could see. So, Jesus, touched his eyes and said to him, “Go your way. Your faith has made you well.” Immediately and miraculously, he could see and began following Jesus. What a witness he must have been for unbelievers? But, again I think we have all had times when the Lord answered our prayers and unfortunately we keep his praises to ourselves and do not tell others about them. I wonder why, aren’t we proud of how Jesus touched our lives and changed outcomes?
This story is simple, yet it teaches a lot. What do you think this story meant to Peter, that day in Jericho? What does this story mean to us? We all need to ask ourselves, “What do I get out of this story that I can put into action in my life?” Where in this story do I hear the voice of Jesus speaking to me?
I think we all want and need to hear the words Jesus said to Bartimaeus. “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” Sometimes, it is Jesus who says these words to me. Sometimes, he speaks these words to me through my wife when she explains something I am doing or not doing that worries her. Sometimes it’s through a good friend who only wants the best for us. Sometimes it’s even our children who Jesus communicates with us through and whoever it is they become an angel from God, a messenger of God, who speaks the word of the Lord to us. Sometimes it might even be a country preacher, with all his faults. At least I hope so and try to be a messenger form God for all of you. In this story, we aren’t told the name of the person who became a messenger for God who relayed Jesus’ words to the blind man.
When Jesus said through that person, “Take heart,” the words touch my heart and echo in my mind. There are many times when we all have lost our inner desire to get up and do something. Times when we have given up or are pretty close to giving up and feel we just can’t go on.
I think we all have those times. Times when we are overloaded, with too much that needs done and are in over our heads. Maybe, a loved one is in the hospital. Maybe, we don’t have enough to pay the bills. Or, times when we are short of time, short of energy, and short of whatever we need to face what’s happening on in our lives. When we are in that situation, Jesus or a messenger from God often comes and says to us, “Take heart.” Those words are like a blast of energy for us. And, if we aren’t hear the words from God, I am afraid we aren’t in a close walk with him or we just aren’t listening. Because he is always there giving us advice and help…always! So, when we are in trouble and we aren’t hearing those words of encouragement and help we need to get on our knees and get in touch with the Lord.
Jesus will always tell us, “Get up.” There are times when you are lying in a hospital bed and think that you will never be able to get up again. Or, you have really messed up and hurt someone and you don’t think you can ever face them again. And, the voice of your own personal angel says to you, “Get up. Stand on your own two feet. Get out of the bed. Here’s what you need to do.” They are words of hope from our Lord.
Jesus is saying those words to each of us today, He’s telling us, “Get up.” I pray we hear the words from the Lord or some messenger from him telling us, “Jesus is calling you.” And, if you aren’t the person today who needs help, I pray you are open to God and can and will be a messenger of hope for someone else. For, Jesus wants to talk with all of us. Jesus wants us to listen him, to his words, his wisdom, and his way of life. Jesus wants us to hear him, to receive his healing touch in our lives, and then follow him as Bartimaeus did.
We are called today, “Get up. He is calling you to follow him.” If you are already following him I know he is calling each of us to be the messenger of Jesus Christ to others. Someone needs those words from each of us personally…“Take heart. Rise. He is calling you.”
For, those who are not followers of Jesus Christ and those who are out of touch with Christ, Jesus has come this day, to heal our blindness. Bartimaeus was physically blind. Physical blindness is a fact of life for many who also have a great relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.
But, those with spiritual blindness. Those who have never asked Jesus Christ to be their Lord and Savior and those who are so out of touch with him, they no longer hear his voice, you need him so badly. Get on your knees and open your heart to communication with our Lord and end your spiritual blindness.
Spiritual blindness is a much more common and much more overwhelming illness than physical blindness. So, many times we are blind to the power and goodness of God all around us and our heart is blind to communication with him. When we are in that circumstance need to get on their knees and call to the Lord…he will come.
We are also often blind to the immense misery that is a part of many people’s lives. Remember the old folk song, “How many times must a man turn his head, pretending he just doesn’t see, the answer my friend is blowing in the wind. The answer is blowing in the wind.” How many times do we look away from others in pain and spiritual blindness? How many times do we simply turn our heads away from pain on this Earth and the lost souls pretending we just don’t see? Well, we shouldn’t and we don’t have to.
Jesus came to heal the blind, blind disciples, blind Pharisees, blind religious leaders…the blind me…and the blind you. The physically needy and the spiritually blind who do not know Christ or out of touch with him. If Jesus touched your eyes today, what kind of blindness would Jesus heal in your life?
Bartimaeus had faith in Jesus to heal him, to make him well. What part of your life does Jesus need to heal in order for you to become well? THAT is the most important question today. Please, answer it, today!
I love the story for today from Peter in the Gospel of Mark. They are on the road North of Jericho. A blind beggar by the name Bartimaeus is screaming, “Jesus of Nazareth, have mercy on me.” Yes, all of us need the mercy of Jesus. We all need to cry for his mercy and whether we admit it or not, we ALL need his mercy.
When I feel there is no hope, when I feel like I’m at the end of my rope, I hear the words spoken to Blind Bartimaeus by God’s unknown messenger, “Take heart. Get up. Jesus is calling you.” We all need to hear those words sometimes. “Take heart. Get up, Jesus is calling.” Please listen and follow Jesus!
Rev Bud Tuxhorn, Pasotr
UMC Healy, Kansas
“Being a Stumbling Block”
October 7, 2018
Jesus taught us, 6“Whoever causes one of these little ones to sin, it would be better that a giant millstone was tied to their neck and they be tossed into the middle of the ocean.” So, I think we need to know how to avoid putting stumbling blocks in front of our neighbor?
I think back to a time in Germany when I threw a party for my men. Not only did I encourage everyone to drink up, I also bought the beer. Then I compounded my mistake, when I didn’t make sure everyone who had too much to drink had a safe way home. That afternoon after the party a young man from my platoon got a quick shower and jumped on his motorcycle to go and see his girlfriend downtown. During that ride he ran a stop sign and was rammed by a truck, killing him. Now, he should have known better than to drive drunk, right? But, remember what Jesus said, 6“Whoever causes one of these little ones to sin, it would be better that a giant millstone was tied to their neck and they be tossed into the middle of the ocean.” How do these things happen?
I read a story about a pastor and congregation in Northern Ireland. The pastor taught it is OK to hate Roman Catholics. That it was OK to throw bricks through the windows of their homes. That it was good to harass Catholics at school. That was taught by many Catholic and Protestant leaders. Both the pastors and the children’s parents taught hatred and violence to their children. And Jesus said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones to sin, it would be better that a giant millstone was tied to their neck and they be tossed into the middle of the ocean.” How on earth do these things happen?
White pastors in the United States taught that blacks were inferior and that whites were the superior race. That white blood was better than black blood, that blacks were intended to be slaves. That slavery was their God-given and biblical right. People in our country lived that way over two hundred years and some still believe that idiocy. And Jesus said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones to sin, it would be better for that person to have a giant millstone hung around their neck and it be thrown out into the middle of the ocean.” How do these things happen?
Our so-called entertainment industry normalizes sinful behavior every day. They numb us to sinful behavior and then lead us to do the same things ourselves. Even many of the advertisements are leading people to sin. Saddest of all about this is that we can’t wait to watch these shows and movies and listen to the filth in music. There is plenty of blame to go around for who is doing the leading to sin…but, Jesus told us that it would be better to be drowned than to lead someone to sin. How did we get here?
We often think of Jesus as the sweet and nice Jesus, who never says anything nasty about anyone. We think of him as the caring Jesus, the Son of God who loves everyone and never says anything mean. Well, the truth is, he wasn’t always like that. Jesus taught the straight unvarnished truth. He tells us here, if you or I cause another person to sin or lead them into sin, it would be better if we were drowned. It is one of the toughest statements in the Bible.
Now, of course temptations are going to come for everyone without anyone’s help. All that tempts us is not going to be offered to us by someone else. The Greek word for temptation means, being caught in a trap. When a trap is set, bait is put in it, then when the animal takes the bait they are caught. When we lead someone to sin, we are presenting the bait that causes another person to sin.
There is another Greek word that is also used to mean temptation in the Bible. It means being a stumbling block. Temptation is a stumbling block. Temptations are sure to come in our lives; those things that trip us up and cause us to sin. But, we need to NOT to be the one who offers the temptations that cause others to stumble.
So, what about the “little ones”, who are they? Of course the “little ones” includes children. Most of us feel protective of children because they are vulnerable and don’t know any better. But, I think most of us think, adults are responsible for their own actions. That they should know better, so it’s not their own fault if they copy us in something that causes them to sin.
But the, “little ones,” is talking about everyone. If we cause another Christian or those who do not know Christ to stumble and fall, it would be better that a giant millstone… We used to say in the Army, “He was serious as a heart attack”, when someone really meant what they were saying. Jesus was serious “as a heart attack” about Christians causing others to sin. He is telling us if we cause another person to sin; if we entice another person to sin…“Whoever causes one of these little ones to sin, it would be better that a giant millstone was tied to their neck and they be tossed into the middle of the ocean.”
So, how do we Christians lead other Christians astray by our preaching, our teaching, and the example we set for others? Well, what about in Northern Ireland, Christians teaching other Christians it’s alright to hate those of a different denomination? Or, those Christians who thought it was OK to own another person, holding them in slavery? Or, a Platoon Sergeant in the Army who not only encouraged his soldiers to drink too much but also allowed them to drive after. Or, the maker of a TV show that encourages or normalizes sinful behavior?
But, causing others to sin is not just in those glaring examples. What are you and I doing every day of our lives that lead our children, our friends, and people all over the world away from Christ? What things do we do every day that demonstrate for our children and others that a sinful practice is OK for them to do? What are we doing in our lives that lead others to sin? Are we teaching that it is permissible to be materialistic, not only by what we say, but by what we do? Are we teaching it is OK to be so busy we don’t have time for our families, God, and prayer, or even church? Are we leading others away from Christ with things we do every day in our lives? Well, we need to remember what Jesus said…“Whoever causes one of these little ones to sin, it would be better that a giant millstone was tied to their neck and they be tossed into the middle of the ocean.”
You know when I have to make an accounting of my life before my Lord, I think I have asked for forgiveness for most of what I have done, and when asked with a repentant heart it is forgotten in heaven. But I think most of us have many things, maybe thousands of things, we should have done but didn’t. They are sins of omission. That is one way that almost all of us are leading others away from Christ and away from salvation and into sin, they are sins of omission. When we are too afraid and too self-conscious about our faith that we don’t share our faith with those who don’t have it. Or, when we stay home with company because they don’t go to church on Sunday morning. When we are not doing what we as Christian know we should be doing, sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with every one we meet. We who are given perfect forgiveness through our faith in Jesus Christ are supposed to be sharing the Good News with others. I have a feeling each and every one of us ignore a chance to witness if not every day, at least some of the time. And, Jesus said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones to sin, it would be better that a giant millstone was tied to their neck and they be tossed into the middle of the ocean.”
We need to look at ourselves and see, “Are we sending people down the wrong road or the right road with how we live our lives? Jesus told us, “7Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling block comes!” We are told to be careful as Christians not to lead other people into sin by what we say and with the examples we set. Yes, we know about kids who shop lift and get others to shop lift. We can talk about other people doing drugs and leading others to do drugs. We know about those who abuse alcohol and convince others to do the same. Jesus is telling us, it would be better for anyone doing these things that a giant millstone hung around their neck and be thrown into the ocean.
But, as much as I would like to think so, this Bible passage isn’t about everyone else. It is about you and me. What are the ways we, personally lead other people into sin? What does it mean for you and me, to lead someone else into sinning? Jesus said, Temptations, testing, enticements, and things that cause us to stumble are surely going to happen to all of us. That is life. But, if any one us causes another to sin, it would be better that a giant millstone was hung around our neck and we were thrown into the middle of the ocean. Does that sound like mild mannered, sweet little Jesus, talking? Do these words from Jesus show us some things we need to change in our lives? I hope so!
Rev Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor
UMC Healy, Kansas
September 30, 2018
Early in my career as a preacher, the church, had a pew right at the back, on the left, next to the door that was almost big enough for two.
- But, you would have to be very good friends.
- But, one Sunday, part way into the service, after the “glad handing and back slapping” time a white haired man came in and sat down in that pew.
- You could almost hear the surprise in the looks of the regulars.
- For a second all you could see were their eyes, they had gotten so big.
I don’t think his coming in late was an accident.
- He didn’t really want any contact with any of us and I’m afraid, it was mostly because he doubted he’d be welcomed.
- Besides, I think he had come to see God, not us.
- I had seen this man at Casey’s and at the Café, but had never met him.
- So, I was all ready to talk to him after church.
- But, as I prayed the Benediction I heard the door open and close and when I raised my head he was gone.
The next Sunday he came again and I had a plan.
- After the Hymn of Invitation, I said, “Let’s bow our heads for the Benediction”.
- As soon as everyone bowed their heads, I walked past him to the door and prayed at the door.
As I met him, I noticed a whiff of whiskey on his breath and he looked pretty worn out.
- I told him, “I’m glad you came,’ and, ‘please come back”.
- I talked later, to the Lay Leader who had been in town all her life and knew everyone.
- I asked what his story was.
- She explained that he had been a heavy equipment operator and had lived a life of work and partying.
- She believed he was an alcoholic, had heard he’d been sick, and told me he lived in the trailer park.
Monday morning I went to see him.
- He let me in, I was glad and a little surprised.
- After I told me we were glad to have him in church, he explained he had terminal Leukemia and he was getting weekly blood transfusions to stay alive.
- I invited him back to church and told him about a pot luck meal after church Sunday and we would like to have him eat with us.
- And, we prayed before I left.
That Sunday he came to church and joined us for lunch, he ate a bunch.
- I guessed he wasn’t much of a cook or his money didn’t provide for much food.
- I asked him before he left, if he could use some help with food and said, he figured he could.
- So, Monday I went and got him a fifty dollars of food, with the emergency fund.
- You know fifty dollars went further then, than it does now.
- My wife and I took turns taking him to appointments and making sure he had food.
- We kind of adopted him.
Now, I wish I could say that the church family helped him stay sober.
- But, every once in the while he fell off the wagon.
- He just couldn’t shake the whiskey.
- But, he would repent, get sober and come back to church.
- I was so proud of the church, because they would welcome him back each time, just as if he’d never been gone.
Carla and I and that little country church tried to welcome him back to the church and to Christ each and every time we saw him.
- And, you know, I think we did OK.
- For he started staying after church to talk and to tell a story or two.
- Some of his adjectives and adverbs were a little salty for the congregation, but the people just ignored them.
- And, he never, not ever, missed a pot luck.
One day after he had become a regular part of our church he called and told men he had been admitted to the hospital.
- He asked if I could come and talk to him.
- When I got there he told me his life story, how he had treated his wife and daughter horribly.
- How he had spent every dime he ever made on drink.
- Then, I finally asked him if he knew Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior?
- I should have done it before, I’ll just use the excuse that I was a rookie.
- He told me he thought he was probably too far in the hole to ever get out of it with God.
- He told me he thought all he had done to his family and wife was probably unforgiveable and he wasn’t brave enough to come to Christ and ask.
I explained the all-powerful God can and will forgive any sin when asked, with a repentant heart.
- With a repentant heart, where we truly feel sorry for our sins and will try with all we are to never do those things again.
- I told him that the only unforgiveable sin is saying, “No,” to God’s offer of salvation in Jesus Christ.
- For a minute he looked terribly surprised and then the flood gates opened.
- He confessed every sin he could think of and I’ll tell you, his story could have been made it into a documentary.
- There were tears that day, from both is us, as he asked forgiveness and asked Christ to be his Savior.
- I then anointed him with oil, and we prayed for him to be made whole and well.
You know people do read the Bible, especially people who are facing difficult times or their end on this earth.
- I have seen this many times through the years.
- Those Gideon Bibles in hotel rooms get some use.
- That man was reading his Bible, studying it, and was trying to apply it to his life.
So, let’s look at the scripture for today, why was this written?
- The early Christians were struggling.
- Just as we do in our lives.
- They were suffering so badly and had almost given up.
- The Jewish and Roman leaders were after them all.
- You don't need confession, intercession and healing unless there is sin, trouble, sickness, or the lack of salvation in Jesus Christ.
- All of us have some of those problems in our lives, don’t we?
We know that whenever two or three Christians gather together there will be sin, trouble, sickness, and lost souls.
- There will be gossip and pride.
- There will be teenagers with big and small problems.
- There will be lies and liars, disease and injuries.
- There will be all the sins of humanity there.
Well, James is telling us, to see these times of trouble in a new way, as times for the use of God's gifts, and those gifts are confession, intercession and healing.
Let’s call them spiritual practices.
- Verse 16 reads, "Confess your sins."
- We are all sinners, whether we want to admit it or not.
- Sometimes we sin against someone else by what we say or what we think or do.
- And, sometimes we sin against ourselves, it’s just a fact, we are all sinners.
- There is only one way to rid ourselves of sin, and that is through confession.
- 1st John 1.9 says, "If we confess our sins, the Lord is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
- Confession is naming the sin and then asking forgiveness.
Another spiritual practice is intercession.
- That is praying for others.
- Have you ever known that others are praying for you, if you have you know how powerful it is?
- In a laying on of hands prayer…where those praying touch you as they pray, has amazing power that can be actually felt in our souls.
- Samuel, said, "God forbid that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you".
As I was writing this, I was thinking about another member of a congregation that I served, who died a few years ago.
- In her final years of life she lived in a nursing home.
- Every time I would visit her, as I was leaving, she would say, "You know I pray for you and the church, every day."
- She could no longer be physically active or even come to church, there were many things she couldn’t do.
- But, she could pray and she prayed all the time.
A third spiritual practice is healing.
- I understand the bad reputation some of those guys who say they are healers have given Christian healing.
- The thieves who prey on the weak mostly for their money and for fame.
- They do it in front of television cameras which is so different from Jesus who healed and said, "Go in peace, your faith has made you well, and don't tell anyone."
- Yes, physical, mental, and relationship healing does happen because of prayer and I’ve seen it many times.
- And, it is still happening today.
Jesus came to teach, to preach, and to heal.
- Earlier in my Christian life I was always more comfortable with teaching.
- I loved teaching Bible studies and Sunday School classes.
- The preaching part I grew into; I could see the need for it.
- But, was afraid to try it because I was afraid I wouldn’t do it well enough.
- And, I also didn’t want the responsibility preaching gives.
Then came the healing.
- Now, that scared me even worse than preaching.
- But over time I have learned that along with teaching and preaching…healing is a part of our Christian work.
- Jesus taught his disciples and he wants us to be teachers, preachers, and healers.
How can we do this?
- First off, we need to remember healing is not magic.
- Authentic healing is the work of Christ, who is the great physician.
- And, yes sometimes, Christ does the healing through the hands of a doctor.
That day, in the hospital, I prayed for Lucky's healing and he lived another year or so.
- But, during that time, each Sunday morning, in worship.
- People came to love him as he became a friend of Christ in our church.
- Some said, they had never expected him to change and were amazed that he had.
- It was not all perfect, he would still fall off the wagon once in the while.
- But, with all his faults he was a follower of Christ, a Christian.
- And, then one day, Lucky died.
We had prayed for his healing and he still died.
- I go back to the scripture, the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up.
- That is the ultimate healing, when we are resurrected to heaven, through our faith in Jesus Christ.
Yes, sometimes there is physical healing.
- I believe and have seen this happen in people’s lives many times.
- I have had no other way of explaining why some were healed, except through the power of the Lord, and I rejoice in it.
- Sometimes there is the healing of relationships, healing in families, among friends, and in a troubled church.
- And, sometimes there is spiritual healing, where Jesus Christ comes into lives and their sins are forgiven.
All of us have done something, or said something that we later regretted, and we all need to put it in our past.
- God calls us to confess.
Some of us have some kind of trouble or we know someone who has.
- God invites us to pray for them or ourselves.
Some of us find that illness or suffering is a part of our lives or the life of someone close to us.
- Our Lord God offers to heal us physically and spiritually.
You know, I think one of the reasons God sent that sick man into my life was to remind me that God loves each and every one of us.
- And, God hopes each of us will ask Jesus Christ to be our Lord and Savior.
For, God's gift to us, is in the presence of the One who came to teach, to preach and to heal, our Lord, Jesus Christ.
- And, the church needs to remember the practices of his first followers that are just as important as when they were first written…
13Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. 14Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. 16Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.
Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor
UMC - Healy, Kansas
“Answers” Mark 9:30-37
September 23, 2018
Sometimes and in some places being known as a “disciple of Jesus” has been a compliment some of the time and in some places. The disciples of Jesus were handpicked people who lived and learned, as they walked with Jesus. Now, I am sure much of the time they considered it an honor to be known as a Follower of Jesus. But, I am sure they accomplished things they never thought possible when they healed the sick and shared the Good News of Jesus Christ. After some notable mistakes they did a pretty good job. You know if they hadn’t, God would have had to find another way to get us here this morning to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
But, the Bible is not always complimentary about the Disciples. In fact, sometimes they were the problem and not the solution. In our scripture lesson Jesus is teaching the disciples that he will soon suffer, die, and rise again and the disciples still didn’t get it.
Jesus tried to teach the disciples this important lesson three different times. It was important for them to know what was coming so they could prepare their hearts and minds. But, each and every time Jesus teaches them about what is going to happen, they just don’t get it. Instead, they worry about things like which of them is the greatest, what the people in town will think of them, and what they are having for lunch.
But, even crazier, not only do the disciples not understand Jesus’ teaching about his suffering, death, and resurrection. Even worse, they’re afraid to ask Jesus any questions so they can!
But, before we get down on the disciples too hard for not understanding or even asking questions, how often are we guilty of the same things? I may have told you this before, but there was a time when it was time to say the Lord’s Prayer and we got to the part about, God’s will being done…well, I shut up or just went, “mmmmm,” because I knew I didn’t want God’s will in some of what I did in my life. I knew what I wanted and that I didn’t want what I was pretty sure God wanted from my life. I did not want to understand what God wanted from me. Have you ever been there, where you don’t ask for God’s solution for your problems because you knew you won’t like the answer from God? Or, how often are we afraid to ask a question because we think we should know the answer? You know, when the boss assigns a job assuming everyone knows how, but you don’t. But, you’re afraid to ask about it because you don’t want to seem like the one who didn’t listen or you don’t want to seem dumb.
How many times have we not asked important questions because we’re afraid it is stupid, or we’re afraid of the answer? Why can’t we see, that if knowledge is power then ignorance is weakness? We should never try to not know God’s call on us. We need to be trying to fulfill God’s call on us.
When I was working in a glass fiber factory after we moved back to Kansas I was the shift leader of second shift, I worked from 3PM to about Midnight. Occasionally something would come up that none of us on the shift knew how to do and we would have to call our supervisor and have her come in to help us. She would actually hide the way she fixed the problem. She would rather get up in the middle of the night and come in, than teach us in second shift how to do it. It was all a great secret and one night it finally dawned on me, “Why”. Her knowledge of these things she wouldn’t show us, she believed gave her power over us. It was as if she was afraid we were all after her job. That blew my mind, because in the Army we were always working to train our subordinates to do our job and she was hiding it from us.
Maybe the disciples were afraid to ask Jesus questions because they felt they should already know the answers. But, unlike my boss in that factory, Jesus wanted to show and teach them everything so that they were prepared to do the work when he was gone. Or, maybe they were afraid to ask because they were afraid Jesus would get rid of them. But, Jesus was and is all-knowing, he knew their weaknesses and he picked them anyway. And, the all-knowing God also knows our weaknesses and he picked us anyway. Or maybe, they were afraid to ask Jesus a question because, like me in the Lord’s Prayer, they already knew the answer and didn’t want the answer they knew he would give.
Jesus told them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and after three days he will rise again.” Mark, doesn’t tell us what the disciples’ thought of this and doesn’t tell us what the faces of the disciples must have looked like when Jesus said this. He doesn’t tell us about the dropped jaws, the wide eyes, the gulps of fear, or the quiet that happened. All Mark tells us is, “They were afraid…”
I think we are often afraid, too? Afraid of the mission, afraid of failure, and sometimes even afraid of success. Because, success at making disciples for Jesus Christ and having new people in the church might mean giving up some of our power over it. Kind of like my boss in the glass fiber factory.
Sure, they were afraid for their leader and friend, Jesus. But, I am also sure they were afraid for themselves. Afraid that they too, would be tortured and killed. Worried about what they would do and where they would go when Jesus was gone. Each and every one of them had left their families and their jobs to follow Jesus so when Jesus says he would be arrested and killed…like I said, last week, I think they probably stopped listening and didn’t hear the part about rising from the dead. They knew Jesus Was the one who raised people from the dead and may have wondered who will raise him.
I am sure the disciples were afraid of what would happen to them? How could any human not be? They must have thought, “If Jesus were arrested and killed, surely his followers would be arrested and killed, too?” I wonder if their fear was that they were starting to understand the true cost of discipleship to Jesus.
In a world where wealth is good but more wealth is better; where having stuff and consuming is king. In a world where our worth is measured by what we have rather than what we give, the cost of discipleship is hard news for many of us and we don’t want to be reminded of it. But, that is what we all need to hear and remember!
I have talked a lot about the cost of discipleship to Jesus Christ through the years. So much so, that I am sometimes afraid many of you have stopped hearing me? Things like the need for helpers in children’s ministries and how each and every one of us have time that we could give. Things like being in church every week, somewhere even if you are not here. Some of you took me seriously and brought me the bulletins of the church you visited. Loved it…I wish we all would attend church every week wherever we are. Things like bringing our neighbor and our neighbor’s children to church. Things like telling one who is lost about Jesus Christ. It is a fact, not enough of us are accepting the true cost of discipleship in fact about 15% of the people in the church do all the work.
I’ll never forget it, once in confirmation class a young lady said after hearing me say ten percent of time and treasure were to supposed to be given to the Lord…she suddenly yelled, “I knew about the money we were supposed to give but ten percent of my time…that’s 2.4 hours a day and almost seventeen hours a week….WOW!” Now, before we panic this time for God can be spent in many ways…in being in worship with others in church, in prayer, in Bible study, and in inviting, helping, and teaching others about Jesus Christ. But, how many of us give more than an hour or two a week to God? What if we all did a time card for the time we spend on our relationship with God, how bad would it be? How far from seventeen hours a week would it be? I believe if we took those 17 hours a week seriously we would see a change in this church and in the world.
One of the costs of discipleship to Jesus Christ is that we are supposed to go out and make new disciples for Jesus Christ. We are not just to worship when it’s convenient, not just bring our own families to church when it convenient or when we can get then ready in time. No, we are to tell others about how our faith in Jesus Christ has changed our hopes for the future. We are to tell others, not just our family about faith in Jesus Christ and how they need it, too. Telling them, we want them in heaven with us when we die…and, we all WILL die. We need to tell them how they will not be in heaven if they do not, ask Jesus Christ to be their Savior. How will they know this if we don’t tell them? How can they be saved from hell if we, personally don’t tell them? Who will tell them if we don’t? At the very least we should at least bring them to church and Sunday School and let a teacher or me tell them!
For, some the cost of discipleship may be our lives. Christians are being killed all over the world, mostly in Muslim areas for their faith. I’m not sure I understand, I thought Islam was supposed to be a religion of peace? But, murders of Christians has happened here in the USA in churches and at schools. I will always remember the girl, Cassie Bernall at Columbine High School who was killed specifically for saying she believed. Or, the black church in Charleston who invited a young white man into their Bible study and his thanks was shooting them. Yes, some people may die for following Jesus Christ and as awful as that is… We know that because of their faith in Christ he will catch them and keep them for eternity.
So, as the disciples faced their fears about what Jesus was teaching, they were beginning to realize how much their discipleship to Christ was going to cost them. I think we too need to face up to the costs of discipleship to Jesus Christ. People dying for their faith is extreme and does not happen very often here in the United States. But, it does remind us, we cannot confess the faith of Christ risen without understanding that discipleship to Christ requires something from us.
I hear it often, “Well he got saved and even though he doesn’t come to church or do anything for the Lord, but he is saved, isn’t he?” And, my answer will always be, “I hope so”. Because, I have come to believe, if you have been truly touched by the Holy Spirit you cannot help but do things for the work of God on earth in thanks. So, those who feel no compunction to work for God…where does that leave them? I don’t know, I hope and pray they are in Christ.
For some of us our faith in Christ, may cost us being the popular person. For others, it may cost us some embarrassment. And, for others, it may even cost us a friend.
And, yes, there is an easier way, the way Satan wants us to go. Only hearing Jesus’ hard teaching about suffering and death and resurrection and then continuing on with what WE want to do in our lives. Yes, we can go on acting as if nothing has happened and keep pretending WE don’t understand. But, I believe we all know, deep down in our bones, doing that will leave us knowing we aren’t doing what we should. For, it will leave the church preaching an “I’m OK, and you’re OK watered-down Gospel that is nothing more than being about being comfortable and complacent and not about the cross of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on it for us it.
Yes, the path of discipleship is sometimes hard. It may lead us to suffering and for some even death, yes, it can cost us everything in this life. But in the end, when this life is over, we will find it is the path that leads to resurrection and life forever with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! Don’t we all want that of everyone?
Rev Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor
UMC Healy, Kansas
September 16, 2018
We have all heard the sound of a heart breaking in our lives? You remember the sobbing and of course, you remember the tears of a broken heart? Do you remember what it was like when they were your own?
Maybe it was your child's heart breaking when they graduated and what they wanted to do all their lives is no longer needed. Or, maybe it was a loved one's heart breaking when the doctor called to say the cancer was back. Maybe it was your friend when he called to say his marriage was over. Maybe it was when you looked at a field that had looked so beautiful, but has now been hailed so badly that it looks like it was mowed.
Sometimes my heart breaks; when I know in my heart that I have failed Christ in my work as a Christian? I was thinking about a man that I was with many times when he was on his death bed. I visited him lots…he had never been in our church and if he was well tomorrow he probably wouldn’t have come then. But, he was dying.
I kept telling myself I would broach the subject the next time I visited. Time after time I told myself, “I’ll do it next time.” Then the phone call came one morning and he was gone…while I still hadn’t talked with him about eternity with Jesus Christ. I had never gotten brave enough to tell him what he needed to know about Jesus Christ, and what he needed to do before he died.
I pray I’m wrong, but to the best of my knowledge, he died without Christ. That call, telling me he was dead, broke my heart, not only because I let my Lord and Savior down…of course, that can be forgiven with a repentant heart. Even worse, was that I had left that man to go to hell without a word from me. Now, I know, maybe I wasn’t the only one who was supposed to be leading him Christ. Maybe he would have said, “No,” to my offer of Jesus Christ? But, I don’t know and I never will in this life…it was my job, as it is for all Christians and I didn’t try to lead him to Christ. I have a feeling there are many of us who have done the same thing and I hope it convicts our hearts to never let it happen again.
Today, we heard the sound of a heart breaking in today's gospel reading. It might be hard to find at first; but if you look and listen closely, you can hear a heart break. It happened just outside of Caesarea Philippi, a village 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus is walking with his disciples when he asks them what the people are saying about him. The disciples have been with Jesus for quite a while, they have seen the sick and injured healed, demons cast out of possessed people, literally thousands of people fed, and of course people raised from the dead.
Then, Jesus asks them what the crowds thought of all this. And the disciples tell him him the the crowds recognize Jesus is a prophet, a holy man of God.
Then Jesus gets to the real deal and asks the disciples, "But who do you say that I am?" That is the same question each and every one of us must answer for ourselves as we are working our way to faith in Jesus Christ. Then Peter says that Jesus isn't just a prophet but, is the Messiah, the one sent by God to save Israel.
We don’t know if his confession of Jesus as Lord and Savior, was the first time or one of many? But, if you have done it yourself, you know it is one of the best moments in our lives. There's something so wonderful about knowing and confessing the greatest truth and knowing through that belief you will live eternally in Paradise with Christ.
Do you remember the first time you told your spouse, “I love you”? I remember when Carla told me the first time she loved me. She kind of caught me by surprise, I didn’t see it coming. And, of course I had come to love her, she had gotten into my heart, but because of other life experiences, I was afraid to say it. Now, I don’t remember it this way, but Carla says my reply to her, “I love you,” was, “I thought so.” That is not what are you supposed to say? But, when I finally recovered from the shock and told her I loved her, too. When I finally said "I love you" to Carla for the first time, I realized just how true it was and it was so much more true after I said the words, than before.
The moment we know in our hearts Jesus Christ is the Messiah, that he was God on earth in a human body is the moment we come to faith in Jesus Christ. It’s not a good moment…it’s not even a great moment…it is, without a doubt, the most important moment of our lives!
That's what happened for Peter just outside of town. He was on an emotional mountain top and just seconds later, after proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord, then Peter’s heart was broken. Now, I can guess you might be thinking, that Peter's heart was broken when Jesus told him, "Get behind me, Satan!"
But, I don't think that's quite when it happened. I think it happened earlier. Listen carefully to the story again…Jesus asked them, "But who do YOU say that I am?" Peter answered him, "You are the Messiah." Then Jesus ordered them not to tell anyone about it, not yet. Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer awfully. That he would be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and scribes, and then be killed, but after three days rise again.
Did you hear it? At first it is just a little tremor, as after Peter says Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus then tells them not to tell anyone. What, Why? This is the best news ever…and they couldn’t tell anyone? You have to be kidding?
Then it gets louder, as Jesus' words completely break Peter's heart and crash his hopes. Can you hear it happening? "Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering"…"be rejected by the elders"…"the chief priests and the scribes"…then at last comes the final blow, "and be killed". Peter's heart broke into a thousand pieces of disappointment and grief. How could it be, he must have thought. Jesus was supposed to take the throne of Israel, and now this.
No wonder Peter disagreed with Jesus. The Savior of the world, suffer? The Messiah, die? Surely, no one could hurt him, he was all-powerful.
Peter, wants and needs a strong God. Like so many, he's looking for a descendant of mighty King David to come and overthrow Roman rule and restore Israel. He's already brought comfort, healing, and new life. What's all this crazy talk about suffering and dying?
Peter wants a strong God...and who can blame him. But, are we any different? When life bears down on us, when the voices of our own despair drowns out everything. When there's one disappointment after another, don't we also want a strong God to help us get even, to right all the wrongs in our lives, and put us back on top? Yes, we ALL want that strong all-powerful God…we want this super God when we need help. But, not necessarily all the time, especially when God asks and needs something from us.
When I'm down and out, when life's setbacks and disappointments have almost broken me. That is when I wonder what a God of might, strength, and justice, a God of winners, has to say to me, just a regular old guy. A regular old guy…who often feels far closer to losing that to winning.
I think this is what Jesus means in his rebuke of Peter where he is comparing God and spiritual things with earthly things. Often, for us, we get to thinking might makes right, and the one who dies with the most toys wins. But God looks at it all differently.
The Lord measures strength not in terms of might but in amounts of love, not in victories but in weakness. Not in possessions but in sacrifices, not in glory but by His huge sacrifice on the cross. Jesus knows this; but poor old Peter does not know it YET. For this isn't the last time Peter's heart will break, it happens two more times, if we listen carefully, we'll hear it. The next comes much later, this time not in response to what Jesus says but in response to what he himself said, when Peter denies his Lord three times and then must watch Jesus beaten, nailed to a cross, and die. Leaving him all alone in his guilt and despair.
He’ll watch Jesus no longer strong, but destroyed, no longer victorious, but needing relief from the terrible pain. Peter, can do nothing else but run away with his broken heart and hide. Until, on the third day, when he hears Jesus has raised and soon Peter will see and hear his Lord. The Peter, who denied and ran, Peter, who is broken and defeated is told Jesus would meet them in Galilee, just as he promised.
I think at that moment Peter's heart might have broken again. Can you hear it? It is broken wide open by mercy and grace he couldn't understand before and he knows he doesn't deserve. It is split apart with finally understanding a divine vulnerability and sacrifice that is greater than all human strength. It is blown wide open to the possibility that God’s mercy, grace, forgiveness, and life are so much better than anything he could have ever imagined. And, that through this amazing gift humanity is given the promise of eternal life through faith in Christ.
Peter's heart breaks in today's reading because he doesn't get the God he thought he wanted. It breaks at the end of the story when he realizes that instead of getting the God he wanted, he got the God he needed. And, it is this way with us. As we recognize the God we worship comes not for the victorious, not for the powerful and strong, but for the vanquished the lost and alone, looking not for the mighty, but for the weak. Our God in Jesus Christ comes, to feed the hungry, to heal the lame, to free the slaves, and to bind up the broken-heartened. Our God comes so that we can lead the lost to him so they can find salvation in him. Yes, our God comes, for us and if I had been brave enough to tell him…for that man on his deathbed that I was afraid to tell about my Savior, Jesus Christ. Don’t let that happen in your life.
Rev Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor
September 9, 2018
The lesson for today from James tells us, 27Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. If you and I want to experience a true spiritual life this is something we need to be doing. Isn’t there something inside of you which gets tired of cheap and undemanding Christianity? You know…come to church when you have nothing else to do, give a few bucks once in the while it you’re there, and figure that’s enough of that God stuff, but your soul wants more? I think there is something inside of each of us that gets tired of a shallow commitment to Jesus Christ? Something inside of us that longs for a deep and authentic spiritual life? I believe those things are there for all of us. For when we ask Christ to be our Lord the Spirit is instilled in us and makes us feel a need to become committed Christians.
Now, I like the Book of James for a couple of reasons. First, because it is a book of action. It tells us what Christians should be doing. Tells us we are to be people doing something because of our faith and not be just a listener and watcher…we are to be believers in Christ who get things done for the kingdom of God.
James told us, 23For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; 24for they look at themselves and, after going away, immediately forget what they were like. I like to think of myself as a doing person. Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe faith in Christ is the only way to heaven and works will never get us there. In Ephesians 9 we are told, “A person is saved by grace and not by works lest any person should boast.” But, unfortunately because of that passage many think, we do not need to help others and that the things we do for God are not all that important. We may begin to believe, God does not expect action from us. If we are thinking that…we are dead wrong.
We cannot and should never separate faith from doing our Christian duties of helping others and leading others to faith in Christ. Just as we cannot separate our heads from our bodies, without both of them dying, when we separate faith from works of love in Jesus Christ our faith dies. For, it is a fact if you separate them, they both die.
James says true faith is active in helping the orphans, the widows, the needy, and most important of all, in leading others to faith in Christ. James says, “Now this is true religion.” The Greek word for religion is liturgy and that is a word describing the worship of God. So, James is saying, “Now this is true worship” and I believe true worship comes to “True Faith”. Just being at a church once in the while is not and has never been true worship. Just giving a few bucks each week IF, that’s a big if, you happen to be there is not true worship. Never sharing our faith with an unsaved person is not true faith, either. True worship is when we care for the less fortunate while remaining unstained by the world, as lead others to faith in Christ. That is when we are truly worshipping our God and truly exhibiting true faith. I believe in our hearts that is what we all want in our heart.
Why were the people in James’ congregation separating faith in Christ from doing Christian acts of love? There has always been this problem in the church, Christians not helping others, while not caring about the souls of those who have not asked Christ to be their Lord and Savior. For James, one of the problems in his church, was that it was a wealthy congregation. Many of the members of this wealthy Christian congregations wanted to just believe in Christ, come to church once in the while , put a little in the offering when they are there, never shared their faith with another, never caring about the rest of the world. They were not going to help the widows and orphans. After all it was their money, they earned it and those people needed to get to work and make their own way. They wouldn’t tell others how Jesus Christ has changed their lives. They all figured those people wouldn’t listen anyway. And, they sure did not want to rub elbows with those who did not know Christ. It was almost as if they thought the hurting and the unsaved would contaminate them.
James’ congregation wanted to believe and say, “Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I like going to church, once in the while. Jesus, I love worshipping you. Jesus, I love seeing friends at worship.” They wanted to believe that was true religion, true liturgy, and TRUE FAITH. But, these Christians in James’ congregation were not truly worshipping God.
Jesus had the same problems with the Pharisees. The Pharisees went to their synagogues every Friday. They tithed and knew their Bible very well, better than most of us. But, they did not care about the poor, the widows, the prostitutes, the beggars, the blind, the lepers, and all the outcasts of society. And, they did not care about the souls of those who did not know God. Because, of this they did not truly and faithfully worship the Lord.
The prophets of the Old Testament saw the same problems from their people. Amos, Micah, Hosea, and Isaiah all said the same things, “Do not oppress the orphan, the widow, and the stranger who lives among you. All rituals and sacrifices are worthless without charitable love, justice and kindness, and without bringing others to follow the Lord.”
So, there was this problem then and it’s still here. It is still happening today, where people try to separate their faith in Jesus Christ from the deeds and actions of Christian love. And, I refer you back to the head without the body…that kind of faith is dead.
You know, compared to the rest of the world, we are all wealthy here. Compared to the rest of the world, we all live in amazing luxury. Growing up in Eastern Colorado, I thought I was poor. Yeah, I wore Goodwill clothes and hand me downs and my sisters wore homemade dresses, and we ate a lot of beans and when I whined for cowboy boots, my Dad always told me I was free to get a job and buy some. But, the poor people and peasants I saw in my travels around the world in the Army gave me an entirely different perspective. I realized and we all should understand here in America that we are rich while still many of us, in many of our churches want to ignore helping those less fortunate than us as we ignore our duty to tell them about Jesus Christ.
There is a story about St. Francis of Assisi as he prayed in a church building that was falling down. He heard a voice which said, “Francis, go and repair my church don’t you see it falling into ruin.” As he went to get his tools, the voice of God said, “Not the bricks, Francis. The people are in need of repair.” He then went out and took care of orphans and widows, working to lead them to faith in Christ. The voice of God is still telling us today, “Go and repair my church which is falling into ruins,” and, God is STILL not talking about a building.
That reminded me of a time when Carla and the girls were in Anchorage shopping at Fred Myers. We loved that place, they HAD the best produce in Alaska. Don’t know how they did it, they got theirs off the same boat from Seattle on Tuesdays that all the other stores did, but theirs was always better.
That day Carla came out of the store with a cart of groceries and a man walked up to her and asked her to give him some gas money so he could get his family home to Palmer, a town a few mile North of Anchorage. Carla looked at her cart, felt a little guilty, perhaps, and dug in her purse and gave the man gas money. Telling him she would pray for him and his family. When she got into the car the girls asked her, “What if that man was lying?” And, Carla said, “You know, I kind of hope so, I hope his family is fine, but I needed to give anyway just in case.” For she knows, true faith in Jesus Christ is to take care of our fellow man and lead them to Christ. And, every one of us can do it, whether we believe it or not, if we will just try.
Here’s another one…often when I get a call to go and see someone, when I get there a couple from one of our churches has already been there. They visit people in the hospital, in the nursing homes, and in their homes all the time. They often beat me to the people who need a visit. They also have been a part in leading at least one person to faith in Christ since I’ve been here. True worship, true faith in Christ, is to take care of others, and to care about their souls and it is something every one of us could do, if we only would.
On Wednesday nights after school, Healy has a program that brings unchurched kids into our church and we have an opportunity to tell them how Jesus loves them and wants to be their Savior. Now, there are a VERY few who run this program. They slave away and put their personal needs aside to teach these children about Jesus Christ. While WE ALL KNOW there are those who could come and help, but don’t. The help could be a simple as making the snacks, but almost all of us could help in some way. Now, I don’t know the reason, I pray it is not because they don’t care about the souls of those children. Teaching those children about the love of Christ is true and good Christian worship and faith and we all should want to be a part of it. I know our first reply is, “They haven’t asked for my help,” but should they have to? We also complain that no kids come to Sunday School yet, what have we done to get them here? Do our neighbor’s and our family’s children’s souls matter and teaching them about Christ is true faith.
In Utica Judy and Jordan do Sunday School for children. But, it is like pulling teeth when Judy and Jordan and Elizabeth can’t do it to find a replacement. Why is teaching children about the love of Jesus Christ a bridge too far for so many of us? I pray, that it is not because those who could help do not care about the souls of those children. For, doing Sunday School in Utica, Kansas is true Christian worship and faith and we should all want to be a part of it and it true faith in Christ.
I guess you can tell I don’t take widows and orphans, too literally from this passage. The one needing your help may be a family member, the person across the street, the one down the road, or the child of your own kids. For many of us, these people we should be caring for their physical needs, also do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Physical care is a Christian duty and we should all be doing it, but leading the lost to Christ is even more important and we need to be doing it, also. For, our souls last forever…in heaven or hell, what do we hope for, for those who do not know Christ? Do we really believe Christ is the one and only way to heaven or do we even really believe in a life after death here on earth?
Now, all these things I have talked about are true worship and signs of true faith in Jesus Christ. To care for the widows and orphans in their suffering and remain unstained from the world is true faith in Jesus Christ. Leading those who do not know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior to faith in him is true faith in Christ. Now, I know, the first time you tell them about your faith, they may not come to Christ, and maybe not the twentieth time, for some of them it may seem they will never be changed by faith in Jesus Christ. But, please don’t stop…because their souls are important and forever and doing it is true Christian worship.
Leading others to Christ is following Christ in the truest way. It is true worship and true faith in Jesus Christ. Please, don’t say, you love someone if you are leaving them on their own, headed to hell without Christ in their hearts. Let’s all, today begin living true and faithful worship in Jesus Christ while remaining unstained by the world.
Rev Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor
United Methodist Church
September 2, 2018
There are churches out there who think they are the cat’s meow. They think that even though they have been shrinking and dying of old age for years. They have lots of money, a beautiful building, and lots of room for ministries. They remember the great things they have done in the past, when they were full but they cannot bring themselves to admit that little by little, they are shrinking and dying. Sure, there are still great days when the place is full and kid’s voices can be heard like on Christmas Eve and Easter morning. That’s how it is with this congregation as it shrinks and the congregation’s hair whiter and whiter. But, for some unknown reason they are still happy about where they are today?
The congregation has come to resemble a story about a volunteer group of rescuers at a lighthouse. At first, they were devoted to saving the shipwrecked and drowning. But in-between those exciting moments they sat around having potluck meals and enjoying each other’s company. Eventually, despite the fact that they had all of the equipment necessary to save lives… to save souls…they were no longer interested in rescuing the shipwrecked, lost, and drowning. They had become a social club that occasionally did a nice thing or two but no longer could be counted on to be there for those that truly needed rescuing.
It has become a wonderful place to sing and listen to music, but that was slipping too. It is a wonderful place to learn Bible trivia for Jeopardy and a great place to get a meal and even a SENSIBLE donation for the poor. Yes, I said a sensible donation. But, unfortunately, the congregation has continued to shrink and grow older because it no longer remembers God is the Maker and Owner of everything they have and everything they are. They don’t get that God isn’t interested in the past. They don’t understand, God is not asking, “What have you done in the past?” Instead, God is asking, “What have you done for the lost today?” They don’t get that God is allowing them to shrink and die, because they have forgotten whose they are and the mission God expects of them.
This congregation is not the only one. Throughout the Christian Church, there are congregations in which there is rarely any lifesaving. Churches where souls are not being saved.
I was remembering when Bishop Jones came to Kansas and set up a meeting for all the preachers in Kansas East. I know he did it out here, too, in Kansas West. He talked a little about “making the main thing, the main thing…meaning making new disciples for Jesus Christ and making that our number one priority. But, then he asked the hard question, “How many of the churches you serve have had a new proclamation of faith in Jesus Christ this year?” It got real quiet and two of us among all the preachers in Kansas East, probably 200 preachers sitting there and only two preachers raised their hands. Only two souls in Kansas East saved in the last year. How sad is that? All those churches having forgotten their mission for the Lord.
There are very few souls being saved in churches all over the world. Churches that have all they need to be life-saving, soul saving congregations, but aren’t using them for doing that; nice places to meet, Bibles and books, preachers and teachers, amazing resources, and gifts. But, the congregations are still aging, shrinking, and dying.
And, you and I know what the problem is…don’t we? Let’s admit it. Those congregations have either forgotten whose they are and what God expects of them. Or, this is scariest, they know and just don’t want to reach out and share their wonderful places with the unsaved? With the unwashed and those who don’t understand how things are done around here.
Well, I’ll tell you, God is the Maker and Owner of ALL Christian churches and congregations refusing to do their heavenly Father’s business will shrink and die. Just like the unproductive olive tree, that was chopped down and burned. God doesn’t and never did need a church that is just a social club and a place to get buried. I heard that once from a dying church…that they just wanted to stay open so they could be buried there. Well with them and with all the others doing that the building will either be sold to some business for the great location or hopefully to a congregation that wants to serve God and will use it to make new disciples for Jesus Christ!
Now, these congregations don’t say out loud or feel in their hearts God doesn’t have a place in their church. But, a congregation can forget whose it is and what God expects form it. When each of us works to serve God, it is impossible for us to forget who we belong to and what God expects from us and when and if we get there, it is impossible for our churches to shrink and die! We need to always remember if a church is shrinking and dying it is because they are not reaching out to make new souls for Jesus Christ. It is that simple.
Now, some churches say there aren’t any people left out in their area, especially no young people. Yet, someone is doing the farming, servicing the oil wells, working in the businesses, and sending their kids to school in our towns. The problem is, the unchurched aren’t being reached. Probably 90% of the members of those churches have never asked anyone to church and the other 10% haven’t done it in 20 years. Most of them have never asked a neighbor if they could bring them or their children to church and even more sad they aren’t planning on working up their courage and doing it.
Jesus told everyone who would listen that even King Herod’s temple and country will be destroyed. Jesus was telling them that rejecting God’s Son, Jesus Christ would be the cause of their destruction. God is Maker and Owner and when we aren’t doing what he wants we are walking on thin ice. But, the good thing is he also told us, if we follow him and do all we can to make new disciples for Jesus Christ he will rebuild us!
So, what are we learning here? First, God doesn’t just ask us to come here each week. That is not all he asks of us! He wants us to be making new disciples for him. Second, the Lord doesn’t want us to know the Bible just to show we love him. He wants us to know the scriptures so we can use them to make new disciples for Jesus Christ! Third, God hopes that all will come to faith in Jesus Christ, not for his ego, but so that all will have an eternity of joy in heaven. For, God hopes each soul will choose him and heaven instead of Satan and an eternity of pain and sorrow!
We need to worship, to learn, to trust, to share with others, and respond with gratitude to our Lord God. We need to repent and believe the Good News that Jesus Christ died for our sins. We need to stop pretending that we are in charge and that we are the owners of what the church has. We are just caretakers until out time here is done.
For, God is the Maker and Owner of everything. If we fail to be His through faith in Jesus Christ…if we fail daily to repent and seek His mercy…if we fail to be faithful stewards of all God’s things, using it to make new disciples for Jesus Christ, we will die in our sins and our little kingdoms on earth will fade away. For, there is no hope anywhere or in anything without God’s amazing grace in Jesus Christ!
So, what does faithfulness, this service to God look like? That’s not a trick question, it is simple…faithfulness looks like God’s Son who was obedient to His heavenly Father all the way to death on the cross. The call to discipleship is the call to give your life to the Father, following His Son, and living in the power of the Holy Spirit.
We also need to remember that just because a congregation has numeric growth does not always mean it is faithful. Time and time again congregations begin to assemble around something other than saving souls for Jesus Christ. Like a fancy building, light shows, and great music…all things that can lead to new souls being saved but if they are the end all, they aren’t what God is looking for. It is easy to become a club with Christian background music and all the other accessories of Christianity, while ignoring the mission of saving souls. It is easy to forget the cross of the Crucified God while pretending that God the Maker delights in giving us more and more things for our satisfaction. It is easy to build kingdoms on earth that the Stone the builders rejected, Jesus Christ will have to crush, because kings and kingdoms must all pass away! For, we all know all that is not in Christ will fail or be destroyed.
As Christians we are to pray daily, worship every week, study the Bible, serve others, witness to others, and give of our time, talents, and resources. This may seem like the same old stuff we have heard a million times but how many of us are doing them? Or, maybe you are one of those who dislike religious bumper stickers or t-shirts with Jesus stuff on them. God knows those things are not nearly as popular as sports or, for that matter, designer clothes. Despite the fact that most Americans say they believe in God, many products we see advertised every day are much more successful at positive brand recognition than even the most faithful churches. You name it from Budweiser to Clairol more people can tell you what they are about than what our churches are.
It isn’t whether you can tell me all the marks of discipleship, or have a chrome fish on your car, or wear clothing and jewelry with Christian symbols. The key is, can others can SEE those marks of discipleship in your life. Do your neighbors see you going to worship weekly and do your friends and loved ones see you shaking the dust off and studying your Bible. Do those closest to you see you praying and do you pray in restaurants allowing others to see your faith? Do you share of your time and treasure and most importantly…do you share Jesus Christ with others often and over and over, until, someone who has not responded, does? I’ll tell you every twenty years is not often and it is not enough. Do you really care if your neighbor is going to spend eternity in heaven or hell? And, are we doing something about it by telling them about Jesus Christ, asking them to church, and bringing their kids?
Doing these things is not to earn our way into God’s heart. The Lord Jesus has already done it all for us on the cross by dying for our sins. And, it is there for all of us, just for the asking. No, we are faithful because we are grateful and because we care about other’s souls and hopes in eternity. This is who we are supposed to be when we truly have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and it is what our Lord expects.
Shrinking and dying churches have forgotten entirely that this is what the Lord expects of them. They have stopped following Jesus in order to follow something else! Is it money, is it memories, is it a place to be buried, or is it that we just don’t care about lost souls? I wonder, if we aren’t sharing Jesus Christ with others, do we really believe Jesus Christ is the answer? Do we really believe that followers of Jesus Christ will end in heaven and those who don’t choose him as Lord will end in hell?
I pray we don’t let our churches shrink and die and we don’t let our hearts be separated from God in Jesus Christ by not doing what we are supposed to be doing. Do your part this week by showing your neighbors that God is indeed your Maker and Owner! Pray daily, worship weekly, study your Bibles, and serve God. Invite someone to church with you and bring some children to church, demonstrating you truly care about their souls. Give of your time, talent, and resources. Act like your life belongs to God and that you believe it is a matter of life and death! Because, it is!
Many years ago a missionary, Daniel T. Niles said: “evangelism is one beggar showing another beggar where to get food.” When you follow Jesus with humble service you are telling other beggars where to get the Bread of Life. I pray that is why you are here today? I pray you come because you want so badly to get to know and love the only One who can forgive you, strengthen you, and give you eternal life? Don’t we want that for everyone?
Rev Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor
United Methodist Church
“Forever” John 6:35. 40-51
August 19, 2018
When I flew to Idaho to see our daughter graduate with her Master’s Degree, I sat by a nice young lady on the plane who wasn’t completely disinterested in talking. We’ve all sat by people who you couldn’t press a conversation out of them, with a ten ton weight. Maybe it is just me but I like to shoot the breeze…I remember once in Walmart, my daughter whispered in my ear, “You don’t have to tell the cashier your life story when we get up there.” On the plane that day our conversation began with what we did for a living and she told me her husband and she ran a river rafting company. We talked about that for a while, I have had some fun experiences in rubber rafts and we shared and laughed a little at some of the stories. Then she asked the question, that I sometimes dread…she asked me what I did for a living because often the person I’m talking to clams up when I tell them.
So, stalling, I told her I had served 28 years in the Army, she thanked me for my service, and asked me what I did now. Many times when you tell people you’re a preacher it ends the conversation. So, when I couldn’t put it off any longer and I told her I was the preacher in Western Kansas. She said, “Excuse me,” and left.
I thought to myself, “Well, there goes talking on the way to Boise, I guess people with my job aren’t real high on her list of desired conversation partners”. But, she came back and explained to me that she had once been a practicing Catholic but could no longer do it. She said that she just couldn’t believe that science was so wrong about the beginning of life and the universe.
This was one of those moments that as a Christian you want so badly to say the right thing. You want to say the words that will start them towards faith in Christ and life eternal in paradise. Then she asked me what I thought about Creation and I admitted I didn’t understand how God created the universe but…that I believed in my heart God had done it. Then, she told me that she believed when you are dead, you are just dead. I told her that I believed that all of us live eternally, that those who have asked Jesus Christ to be our Lord and Savior will live with Christ in paradise forever.
The entire time I was trying to think of just one sentence that would start her towards faith. Then it finally dawned on me…I told her that faith wasn’t a facts and science thing…that faith in Christ had to begin in the heart. That when we have a willingness to believe, the the Holy Spirit, can and does come and change our hearts. That, she had to open her heart to the chance that all I believed about God was true. I told her Christianity is not based on science… that it is all in the heart, all by faith. I pray, I said the right things and that she opened up her heart to allow her to come to believe in Christ. My words, didn’t seem to make her mad as she left the plane, she smiled and said, “Goodbye.”
That lady on the plane, said she couldn’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus or that a person might live forever. She couldn’t believe that God’s hope for her, was to love her forever in paradise. You know, I think God put me in her path hoping that he could lead me to the right words, so she would open her heart and come to faith in Jesus Christ. That lady didn’t say it, but I think she told me about her disbelief because she wanted me to convince her of the truth of Jesus Christ. Wanted me to show her that through her faith in Christ she could live eternally with Christ in paradise. But, how can anyone prove that? We can’t, it has to be done in the each person’s heart, not in their mind. She had to open her heart and accept that maybe, just maybe Jesus was raised from the grave to new life. That she might begin to believe that there was a chance, that the people who saw him AFTER he was dead, really did see him.
She didn’t believe in miracles nor in a resurrection and not in the living presence of God. She didn’t believe there was a loving eternal God. But, I pray she started to think…maybe…just maybe God could create life after death and that God could love her forever. I hope she began to think that God could love her forever. I hope she began to wonder if God could have raised Jesus from the dead he could raise her. And, if God created life in the first place, he could certainly create eternal life. I also believe that if she got there, it would cause God to smile because, I believe God hopes that all choose Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, while he does give us the freedom to not choose him.
Seven times in John 6 we hear the words "eternal life" and "forever." The words from John 6 are not a promise for the future, they are right now. The person who believes HAS eternal life! It is not WILL HAVE eternal life…it is Has Eternal Life! God wants us to believe in our hearts, that through our faith in Christ we will live forever, beginning right now and for all eternity. God wants to give each and every one of us eternal life…right now. Not when we die, but right now.
I love Psalm 23 and read it at every Christian’s funeral, think of the last line and the last word of that line, "I shall dwell in the house of the Lord…forever." The words “eternal life” are found 400 times in the Bible, and the word explains the very center of God. And no I’m not going to quote them all. God is forever, God’s love is forever, and the Lord God rules forever. Those who are known to God, through faith in Jesus Christ, will live forever in paradise. Don’t you want that? If you don’t, I pray that you and that lady on the airplane came to want that?
If you think, like that lady, “It can’t be true.” Let me ask you, “Why can’t it be true?” Is it because it seems too good to be true? Our hearts often tell us, “Death is death. Abraham is dead. Paul is dead. My loved one is dead and gone.” But, the message from Christ and Gospel triumphantly reminds us, “Life is forever and ever.” The gospel tells us that there is never a cutoff in our relationship with God. Unless you choose to not to take Christ as your Lord and because of that end in hell, you will be cut off from him, forever. To be alive with God is to know God and live forever, beginning right now.
In John 6, we heard, “…whoever eats this bread will live forever.” “Live forever”, that’s a big promise, proclaiming victory over death in this life and the life to come. Well, I and I think lots of folk wonder, how long is living forever? With never an end, infinity…how big and how long is that?
We know, the universe is infinite with no end. It goes on and on and there cannot be an end for what would come next? But, there is no everlasting life out there in infinity. There is just…forever. So, there is a big difference between “forever” and “living forever.”
One of the oldest living things on Earth is the General Sherman Giant Sequoia Tree in California and it is believed to be about 3000 years old. It is the oldest known thing on earth and maybe the oldest living thing in the universe. It is almost 3000 years old. But, even three thousand years of live is not eternal life, it is not everlasting life, it is not forever life for three thousand years old is just a blink when compared to forever.
Christ defeated death forever with his resurrection from the grave…forever! Death became impossible. All of our souls will live forever and those who choose faith in Christ shall live forever in heaven. While sadly, some will not follow Christ and spend eternity separated from God in hell. I pray, that each and every one of us choose Christ!
I think one of the greatest freedoms we can have is not the freedom of speech, not the press, but the greatest freedom of all is the freedom to die without fear. For when one is free to die, that person is finally free to live. When through our faith in Christ, we are no longer afraid of dying, we are truly free to live.
I was thinking of a friend of mine who was in her nineties. We talked about almost everything in my visits, she was a great teacher for a rookie pastor. One of the things we talked about is dying and what we thought would happen after this life on earth. She always told me how much she had enjoyed her life and that she knew she was nearing the end of it. But, she hoped that God would wait a little while to call her home because she had a bunch of things she still wanted to do and try. She would admit her list of things she wanted try had begun to get a little smaller. She said, she always envied my opportunity of jumping from an aircraft with a parachute on. But, she thought maybe that had become a bridge too far at her age?
She wasn’t at all afraid of death, because she knew where she was headed. She also said she wanted to wait until she gotten a few more of her family members converted to faith in Jesus Christ. In fact I think that was the main reason she was in no hurry to go to her reward in heaven, her non-Christian relatives. She wanted them headed to heaven before she left this life. She told me many times, that she knew her loved ones couldn’t ride her coattails to heaven…that they had to choose Christ for themselves. That fine Christian lady was free to die and because of that, was free to really live. And, I ask you, “Are you?” Her only concern about dying was getting her family to faith in Christ. Is that your only concern about dying?
Well, one day she was gone, went to sleep, and didn’t wake up. Some folks who didn’t know any better said that she was dead and gone. But, I knew then and I know now that she was not dead, she was changed as we are told in 1 Corinthians 15. “We will not all die, but we will all be changed…” I know through my faith and hers that she is alive and with her God and my God and we will meet again in paradise. She was a woman who knew her God through faith in Jesus Christ.
When you believe in the resurrection, when you know that you will live eternally with God, then you are free to die AND you are also free to live. I pray that each of you come to a free to live faith in Jesus Christ as I pray that woman I talked with on the plane did.
For, Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever lives and believes in me will never die but shall live forever.”
Rev. Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor
UMC, Healy, Kansas
August 12, 2018
I have preached in my hometown three times. Once was when my sister told their preacher that I was coming to visit her and he invited me to preach. The other two times were when I preached my Dad and Mom’s funerals.
That first time we were at home and I preached it was scary. There were lots of extra folks there that morning, many of my old friends and some who weren’t necessarily friends there to listen to the home town boy. These people knew me before…before I was a pastor and some might have said, when I was pretty wild. But, you know, looking back I don’t think I was all that wild. Times were different and what was thought of as wildness was pretty tame by today’s standards. Stealing watermelons, doesn’t compare to robbing convenience stores. Underage drinking on the creek seems pretty tame when compared to crack and meth and Grange Hall and Rodeo dances weren’t all that wild.
That day I preacher at home there were some after church who couldn’t wait to tell a few stories about me after church. How I was one of the three wise men who fell off the altar in a Christmas play because we were giggling. How we didn’t listen in church but played hangman on the bulletin. How when I was little I crawled away from Mom under the pews and went up on the altar with Pastor Dodd.
Because of the remembering, I wondered if any of them really listened to my sermon about how they personally could make new disciples for Jesus Christ right there in their home town. I wonder, were they too busy remembering my craziness as a kid to listen to what I believed about making new disciples here at home? Did they hear, that even there at home new disciples for Jesus Christ could be made? Did they understand, each and every one of them had friends and relatives who didn’t know Christ and needed their witness, their witness, not someone else’s, to plant the seed of Jesus Christ? But, I am afraid many were too busy remembering the old Bud and were getting their stories ready for after church The Bud they knew as a kid and teenager. One older man told me, “Who would have thunk you would someday be a preacher?” Well, I told him, “I sure didn’t thunk I would”.
But, something has changed in the last few years…each week I post my sermon on Facebook and old friends make my day when they read them and make comments on them. My sister and her husband really pumped up my ego when they asked me if they could post my sermons on their church website. Here in this church allow me to preach every week and even say, “Amen,” once in the while, if I beg you. Maybe a few people, here and there, have begun to accept my spiritual authority. Now, I’m not saying I’m a prophet or anything, but, maybe a few folks have begun to believe I have been called by God to be a pastor?
So, let’s look at The Gospel story for today where Jesus is visiting his hometown and he told them, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown”. Jesus was on a roll, he had performed three miracles. He had miraculously stopped the storm on the Sea of Galilee. A woman who had been hemorrhaging for more than twelve years, was healed by touching the hem of his robe. Then, he raised the dead girl.
Now it is Friday night, and Jesus is coming into his home town. The people had heard about the miracles and the service at the Synagogue that night was jammed to see Jesus. There wasn’t room to park for all the donkeys outside and they ran out of bulletins. They put chairs up in the center of the aisles, it was standing room only. It was hot from all the bodies packing that little place in Nazareth. All, because the “local rabbi who had made good” was coming home. He had been performing miracles all over the country and now he was coming home. Surely he would do some good work for all his old friends?
Jesus came into the crowded service that night, and the worship service had an order much we like have. They began with singing of songs, like we do, from their songbook, the book of Psalms. Then they had prayers, kind of like we do. Then they read from an Old Testament lesson, from the Law, the first five books of the Bible. Then the guest of honor was to read from a passage in the Old Testament prophets.
Jesus read from Isaiah 61, this passage described his ministry seven hundred years before it happened.
Jesus read: “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; 2to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…”
This passage from Isaiah 61 is about Jesus’ ministry and when he finished reading he closed the book. There was a long silence, and then he said, “These words are fulfilled in your hearing.” Then he preached a sermon, and afterwards, “everyone spoke well of him and wondered at his gracious words.” Many were amazed, “Where did he get all of this!” Another said, “Where did he get so wise?”
But yet there were others who murmured and grumbled, “Isn’t this the son of Mary and Joseph?” And “Aren’t those his brothers and sisters standing there?” “He’s just a punk kid from Nazareth, who does he think he is?”
Pretty soon, they had worked themselves up to a good old fashioned self-righteous anger. Jesus had said, “A prophet is not accepted in his own home town.” He told them he was a true prophet, like Isaiah, Elijah, and the prophet Elisha. Elijah and Elisha could do no miracles in their home towns because the people didn’t have faith. Then Jesus told them, “I don’t see any true faith in this room.” That they are more interested in “in doing religion” than in walking with God. More interested in my popularity and publicity than in the poor, blind, and the lame. More interested in religious celebrations than a life lived in God. It was religion in place of searching out and doing God’s will. Then he really got them when he said he is the promised one, the Messiah.
His words made the people mad, partly because I think they realized they weren’t getting any miracles and they ran him out of the synagogue. Ran him right up to the edge of a high cliff and were going to push him off and kill him. Think about it. These people came in with high hopes. I am sure they all had something they wanted this new prophet to fix. Jesus was on a roll; he was performing miracles, and the synagogue was full up to see him. But, by the end of the night, they were ready to kill him.
Why were they were so offended by Jesus? Well, first off, they couldn’t believe a person from their own town could actually be a prophet. Jesus was saying he was even more than a prophet. He said he was the long awaited Messiah, and the people weren’t ready to accept that either.
Come on. He watered their donkeys and cleaned their yards. There’s no way he could be a prophet. How can this snotty nosed kid come back here where we know him and call himself the Messiah?
I would like you to imagine someone sitting right over there. Imagine he has been raised in the church. He is baptized here and comes to worship and Sunday School, and goes off work or college. Imagine he comes back and stands in this pulpit and declares: “I want you to know that I am the Messiah.” As soon as he says that, we would run him out on his ear, wouldn’t we? It was so offensive that day because everyone knew that the Messiah must be like a King not a lowly peasant. We know our friend, so well that we just know, he couldn’t come back and be the Messiah.
Sure, we can believe God made the universe. We can have deep spiritual experiences with Jesus during a wonderful night of worship. Most of the human race believes in a God. But, to believe God could come to us through some person like a man in church with us is pushing it. And, that is what offended the people of Nazareth. They couldn’t believe God would come in the flesh of a man they knew so well, a man by the name of Jesus that they watched grow up right there in Nazareth.
Jesus talked about the people of Nazareth having little faith. But, are there things in the Christian faith that are a little hard for us to believe? I think we all have a few of the articles of our Christian faith that stretch our believability. Why do good people die of cancer far too young? Of all the religions of the world, how do we know that Christ and Christianity is the right one? God invites us to go and love our enemies. Christian doctrines such as the Virgin Birth, resurrection, and miracles are hard to buy for some of us. Well, Jesus invites each of us to mature and grow through the stumbling blocks that weaken our faith in Jesus Christ and come to trust him and his doctrine.
Another problem for some Christians is that God chose to come to earth as a snot-nosed, little kid who was a carpenter, born to peasants and not a King. It upsets us that God would come as a human. We can accept God will touch us in our spiritual experiences and we can accept God created the sun, moon and the stars…but, to accept and believe that God came as a human being pushes some of us, a little too far. I think many of us think, God isn’t supposed to come and speak to us in such ordinary ways. Some of us are offended that God comes to us and speaks to us in such common and ordinary ways.
Let me give you an example…I was the teacher of a junior high boy’s Sunday School class in Eagle River, Alaska. One by one those boys were giving their hearts to Christ. One day my preacher’s wife cornered me and asked me when I was going into ministry. I wondered, “Why didn’t God just whisper in my ear and tell me what he wanted me to do?” Instead of sending a regular and I have to say, a pushy woman to tell me.
When we first started preaching if I didn’t have what Carla calls Bud stories in the sermon she would counsel me. She said that she believed it helped people understand and compare my experiences to theirs. I kind of thought that the “Bud Stories were country and not high faluting, but Carla insisted they were important. Why did God send her to tell me instead of a professor at St. Paul’s Seminary or just whisper in my ear himself?
God comes to us and talks to us in common and ordinary ways, so much so, that we often don’t listen. And, even sometimes through a guy who didn’t seem like much of a messenger of Christ in his hometown like me…who sometimes gets God’s messages from regular old people who I love and appreciate so much. I think we all would like to be spoken to personally by God. Don’t get me wrong God can and does do that, I’ve been the recipient. But, we also need to be open to God’s communication through other people who seem a lot like us. Yes, sometimes God comes to us in such ordinary ways, that we sometimes miss Him. Let’s try not to. Amen
Rev Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor
UMC Healy, Kansas
“Bread of Life”
August 5, 2018
Jesus told us, “I am the bread of life.” And, when he taught us to pray, he said, “Give us this day our daily bread.” While we all know bread is an important part of what people eat all over the world.
Don’t you love homemade bread just out of the oven? Remember that man on the Wichita news station that cooked on the noon news and then when he closed the show, he said, “It is sooooo good”? I remember Mom making homemade bread and it smelled and tasted sooooo good and when she made it she always made a bunch of cinnamon rolls. Except we didn’t call them cinnamon rolls, for some reason in our house, or maybe it was only me, I called them sweet rolls. And, I used to make them with our girls, what a mess but it was a great time and they were, soooo good.
That’s kind of how it is with Jesus and his love. Jesus and his infinite love is soooo good and it is there for everyone, there just for the asking. He went to the cross for us before we were even born…now, that’s perfect love. His love and a life in him is just soooo good.
When we eat fresh bread, eating it just makes us feel better and that is how it is when we live in the bread of life. Jesus, the bread of life and God’s perfect love came to us through his sacrifice on the cross. Infinite and never ending love for all people. With infinite justice and never ending peace through faith in him. Jesus’ love is soooo good and the bread of life is sooooo good. Salvation in him is the answer, to all our questions and all our problems. Jesus is the bread of a great life here on earth and eternal life in heaven. Jesus, the bread of life, the source of infinite love, is also there in your kitchen. Jesus and his love is everywhere. Jesus is the source of love for creation.
We buy our bread from a grocery store where we shop. Now, at our little store in Healy it is easy to find the bread. But, at some of those great big stores, the bread area can go on what seems like forever. There are the sweet breads, like Ding Dongs, Twinkies, Zingers, and Brownies. Then there are the bagels in so many different flavors. There are hot dog buns and hamburger buns, hard rolls, French rolls, sour dough rolls and a bunch of other rolls. Then, there are the loaves of bread. There are twelve grain, nine grain, eight grain, and the numbers of grains goes down until you get to Wonder Bread. I guess it has no grain at all, isn’t that why it’s a wonder? And, we know most bread couldn’t be made without the Kansas farmer who supplies much of the wheat for entire world!
Well, our Jesus is at the grocery stores of our lives, in all those common and public places that we visit every day. He’s at the bank, the post office, and out on the highway. And, we need to try to imitate Jesus in our lives. Trying with all we are to be people of Christ’s love. The bread of life, Jesus Christ needs to be living inside all of us.
Just as bread smells and looks so good; the infinite, compassionate love of Jesus tastes and feels so good? If you haven’t tried it, you need to, he’s waiting for you to come to him and ask. Ask him to be your Lord and Savior and taste the bread of life, Jesus Christ.
When Jesus taught us to pray, he told us to ask God, “Give us this day our daily bread.” God wants all people all over the globe to have enough daily bread, enough food, not just you and I. We know, all that is good in our lives comes from God. We know, that all bread and all food comes from God and bread is a gift of the sunshine, rain, and good soil which God gives us. No one could ever make a loaf of bread if God had not been generous in nature. Our Kansas farmers know this better than anyone.
When Jesus said “us” in that first part of the Lord’s Prayer he isn’t talking just about just us, he’s talking about everyone. Jesus did not tell us to say, “Give me this day my daily bread.” No, he said, “Give us this day, our daily bread.” He did not teach us to pray a prayer just for me, our family, and friends. He taught us to pray a prayer for everyone all over the world.
Many people around the globe are hungry every day. God wants each of us to have just enough bread and not too much. Jesus’ Prayer is asking God, Give us, all of us, all over the world, enough bread today.
The Lord wants us to share our bread and resources with other people who are not as fortunate as we are. Remember when Jesus fed the five thousand. This story is told in all four of our gospels, so the disciples must have thought it was very important.
On that day, Jesus was preaching out in the country, and it got late. There were no stores or markets around to buy bread, so Jesus told the people to sit down. Jesus asked if anyone brought any food and there was nothing, finally a boy who had five loaves of bread and two fish volunteered his food. Andrew brought a little boy to Jesus, and the boy gave his five loaves of bread and two fish that Jesus fed the five thousand people with. Then when Jesus finished, there was enough bread and fish left over to fill twelve baskets.
Some people, who are afraid of miracles, say when Jesus preached to the people and after seeing the generosity of the boy, and were shamed into sharing. They say, then people opened up what they had hidden and shared. They say, this was one of the greatest miracles of Jesus, because Jesus transformed five thousand selfish hearts into generous hearts. To transform selfish people into generous people is definitely a miracle. But, I think they are afraid of the miracle of food miraculously appearing. But, each and every one of us should realize how selfish we are and the start sharing with those who have little. In Proverbs 19:17 “People who are kind to the poor lend to the LORD, and the LORD will reward them for what they have done.”
We need to remember, Jesus Christ is the Bread of life. He is the source of infinite and compassionate love, and he is soooo good. In our reading we heard, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life.” Human nature works very hard to put food on the table and to pay the bills. But, we sometimes work so hard to get ahead financially we sometimes start thinking those things are all we need. We sometimes forget happiness is not found in material things. We work so hard for the things which wear out, break down, rust, and rot. While we forget about faith in Jesus, who is the true bread from heaven that never molds and never dries out. If we let him, Jesus Christ and his love will energize our life here on earth and forever in Heaven with all the love and compassion we will ever need.
On that day, “Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Jesus is the bread of life. Jesus is pure love, with compassion for ALL. When you ask Jesus to be your Savior, you take in God’s pure love and compassion for ALL people. Jesus is the source of all life, the source of eternal life, and is the only thing of true worth in our lives.
When we bring Christ into our lives, we take in the Mind and Heart of God who loves us all and that is part of what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit. It means having the heart and mind of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Bread of life and whoever eats of Christ will never be hungry again. When we eat and then try to live Jesus’ words, his spirit, and his love in our lives, Jesus lives in us and we will never die. We’ll be changed when we go to heaven, but we will never die.
Remember the most important food for the world is bread and Jesus is the most important spiritual food. Bread is short in this world of ours, but there is even a greater shortage of the bread of love and life, in Jesus Christ. Too many do not know Christ and too many have never heard about him. We, you and I need to begin to change that. Sharing the bread of eternal life with others, telling them about our faith in Jesus Christ.
Don’t we love to eat bread, especially when it is fresh and warm? And, if we will just try it, just ask, we will love being filled with the bread of Christ and his spirit of love! Then as we are filled with the spirit of Jesus Christ and his love will flow from us to others who do not know him.
Jesus is the BREAD OF LIFE. When we eat physical bread, it gives us nourishment and energy for our physical lives and when we are filled with Christ’s Spirit, he will fill us with compassion and love. He will be the nourishment and energy for our spiritual, emotional and moral lives.
So, this morning think of the smell of fresh baked bread…think of the taste…yuummmm! It is soooooo good! That’s how it is with the bread of life…the bread of love…the bread of Jesus Christ. It is soooo good! Take it as your own.
Rev Bud Tuxhorn, Pastor
UMC Healy, Kansas