Thursday, October 13, 2016

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Cor 9:8)

May you discover anew the blessings that are all around you.  May you live in joy and expectation to look upon God's creation for new blessings that await you.  May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always.  Amen. 
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  (Genesis 12:1-2)

We remember God’s call to Abraham, back before he was renamed by God, when his name was Abram.  This call from God came to Abram when he was settled in a place and surrounded by people he had known a long time. Abram was seventy-five years old, when God called him, and he responded, and  made a new start.  Abram ventured out into the unknown.  Abram followed God.  

What Abram did can be held up as our example, as we begin a new day.

First, let us hear what God has to say.  It may be that God has been trying to be heard for some time.  Now may be the time we pay attention.  What God says is more important than what anyone else says.  God is usually doing something new in our lives.  So when God says something new, it fits with a day that is new, and a desire to do God’s will.

Next, be ready to go or do something that is outside of the routine.  This does not suggest that every person will get this particular message.  In fact, in other times to other people God has called them to stand fast, remain firm, and keep doing what they have begun until it is completed.  However, Abram is among the many that God called to do something unfamiliar, and it may be that God has such a plan for your life.

Finally, notice that there are many blessings about to happen.  In Abram’s case, he would become a great nation, would be blessed, and his name would be great.  There are very few of Abram’s contemporaries that you or even eminent historians can name, unless they were associated with Abram, members of his family or people he met.  Also, see that Abram will be a blessing.  What he does will benefit others.  We like our efforts to benefit others, it gives our lives meaning, and at the end of a day, a sense of having done things well. 

As you venture into today, into tomorrow, keep the picture of Abram in your mind’s eye.  Let God propose to you what you can and will do with the all that awaits.

Yours in Christ,

Dr. John A. Dalles, Pastor
"Do not, therefore, abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward.”  - Hebrews 10:35

          The letter to the Hebrews was written by a faithful leader of the early church, to Christians who had been Jewish, before they became followers of Jesus.  We don’t know who the writer was.  This verse is talking about confidence in a Christian context. Confidence is generally described as “a state of being certain.”

Jesus was confident of who he was, and of his purpose, and of his abilities.   He came to save sinners.  From his first miracle onward, he changed the expected course of people’s lives and of events.  He transformed situations.  Jesus healed them.  Jesus found them and made them the center of his attention.  Jesus called them to something higher and more challenging.  Jesus taught with simplicity, and clarity and wisdom.  Jesus was confident of his abilities.

Jesus was confident, of who he was, and of his purpose, and of his abilities.  Hebrews says.  We should be, too.  All who call themselves Christians are engaged in the adventure of being confident.  Christians are confident, of who they are.  They are people who have been set free from sin and death by Jesus, and know that because Christ lives, they shall live also. Christians are confident of their purpose.  They are to do what they have seen Jesus doing, and say what they have heard Jesus say.  And, Christians are confident of their abilities.  So that in today’s challenge and tomorrow’s, in good and in difficult times, they will not lose hope, but be confident.

This passage goes on to say, “When you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.”  The rewards come after the successful completion of your faithful living.  God has something for you to do today.  It may be to speak out against some injustice.  It may be to teach someone Jesus’ truth.  Don’t toss away your confidence. The unfolding of God’s plan depends upon it.  The world’s future depends upon it. And if these things were not enough, your future depends upon it.

Yours in Christ,

John A. Dalles, Pastor
Recently I had a chance to hear a motivational speech by Silver Medal Olympian Noelle Pikus-Pace. Among the many fine things she had to say, she also held up a small bound book and told us that she kept a “Goals Journal.”  The bound book was her daily Goals Journal.  Over the years, it has helped keep her focused on what is most important each day.

Noel told us that she tries to have three goals for each day.  Any more than that, and she feels overwhelmed.  That too is a great reminder.  One of the keys to personal happiness is that we do not expect too much of our selves.  When there is too wide of a gap between self-expectation and our ability to meet the goals we have set, feelings of inadequacy are inevitable.  

Soon thereafter, I was talking with someone else who was at this same event.  Speaking about daily goals setting, she said, “I do that, but mentally”.  It was good to hear that there are more ways than one to keep goals before us: sometimes, by writing them down, sometimes by carrying them in our heads and in our hearts.  Wherever they are, these goals give our lives meaning and purpose throughout each day, each week, and each year.

The key feature of keeping a cluster of goals, is to surround them and infuse them with prayer.  Conversations with the Lord about what we hope and intend to do does several things.  First of all, it allows us to determine whether our goals happen to coincide with God’s goals for us.  Most often, they do coincide and we sense God at work as we try to meet those goals.  Sometimes, however, our goals are not in line with what God intends for our best good.  When that happens, God will let us know.

Second, God will assist us in reaching these goals.  This is exactly what we hope will happen.  We want to have God’s Holy Spirit’s energy, focus, direction and inspiration in order to meet and achieve the best possible results from our goals.  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” is how the Bible talks about this.

Third, God loves to see us at work when we are “about our Father’s business”.  So prayer is a way to hear back from God how we are doing.  This summer, why not try the “Three Goals” approach to each day.  You very well may find that this spiritual discipline helps the day go better than expected.

Yours in Christ,

Dr. John A. Dalles, Pastor
Not long ago, I got lost searching for a place I wanted to get to.  I had GPS instructions, but they were not exactly correct.  In fact, although they were followed explicitly, the car ended up on a long hillside in a rural-meets-outer-suburbia location that was all wrong.  And being in the car, I was just as lost as the car was!  I imagine many of you have at one time or another found yourself in a similar situation – maybe it was when you were a kid and got lost at the mall.  Maybe it was sometime in the past several weeks.   The worst part about being lost isn’t that you cannot find your way back (there are lots of ways to do that), but it is the feeling that you have been cut off, alone, and unable to reconnect with your friends or your family. 

Scripture reminds us that we are never as lost as we think we are.  Even though there are many situations that make us seem like we are spiritually out in the boondocks –  facing some kind of trouble, seeking a job, dealing with illness, wrestling with injustice, or missing someone we love – to name but a few.  We know how it feels – heartache, loneliness, grief, fear.  So how good it is to hear someone say something like this:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 37-39).  

The Apostle Paul wrote those words to Christians in Rome who were up against tremendous challenges.  He wrote them because they were true, and because they would build people up, and because they would help people reboot their lives in a Christ-like direction.

Have you wound up in a place that you do not recognize?  A remote location where everything seems unfamiliar?  A place where the road seems to narrow down from a broadly paved superhighway to a gravel wagon track?  When you reach such a place, allow the words from Romans to center you.

If events have made you feel far from God, if you are lost or hurting, physically, emotionally, spiritually, let God do for you what you cannot do.  God will always be there.  In Jesus Christ we know this is true.  Have every ounce of faith in the Lord and Savior.  Christ is there for you.  Christ can make you more than conquerors.  Let Him.

Yours in Christ,

John A. Dalles, Pastor

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” - Matthew 5:14-16

This is a beloved passage from The Sermon on the Mount. Keep in mind that he had a wide range of listeners there.  Of course, his disciples were present.  There were others who were close to Jesus who also followed him, but who were not numbered among the Twelve.  We can picture them, eager to hear what he has to say.  And there were people of different ages and circumstances in life, who gathered to hear what he had to say. 

First: Jesus gives them all a wonderful compliment by calling them the light of the world.  Normally, if you were to ask anyone what the light of the world is, they would say what?  The sun, probably.  The sun provided both light and heat to our planet and everything that is on it.  This is a rather spectacular statement Jesus is making, comparing the people gathered there to the sun.  God is light. Jesus is light. And, as Jesus says, so are you!  Are they the ones who provide light and warmth in the world? 

Second: Jesus calls them a city built on a hill.  This is an uplifting comment, to be sure.  What does a city on a hill do in the landscape?  It draws us to it.  Remind me to tell you about the one we visited in France.  You have possibly been drawn to cities on hills (Rome, San Francisco, etc.).  During the Olympics, we were watching Rio, and the many hills there.  Cities on hills are almost always of interest.  People pay attention.  They cannot be hid.

Third: Jesus compares them to a lamp that has been lit.  People light lamps when it begins to get dark, when the sun is going down, at night, or when things are very dark and stormy.  We have had some days like that recently, where even in the middle of the day, it gets very dark.  Putting a bushel basket over a lamp renders it ineffective.  It stifles the light.  We might want to ponder what things stifle the light that God’s people shine forth. 

Jesus  encourages them to let their light shine.  The message that Jesus offers here is inspirational. It is as if Jesus is saying to them: “What you think of yourself is much more important than what people think of you.” And adding to that, “What I think of you is even more important than that.”  The message that Jesus offers is motivational. He wants them to act on the idea: “Be a little more YOU.  And a lot less what others have said you are.”  Jesus knows who they can be, and is prompting them to live into that reality.  In Christ, to do more, to be more, to give more, to serve more, and to love more. 

So there they are: Light of the world.  City on a hill.  Lamp on a lamp stand.  It would be good to hear Jesus' words as less of a requirement, and more of a blessing; as less of a command, and more of a commissioning. When we hear Christ’s teachings in this way, they are invitational.  Come and be this.  Come and live in this way. 

Yours in Christ,

John A. Dalles, Pastor
            22 But God has helped me to this very day; so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— 23 that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles.” - Acts 26:22 & 23

In this section of Acts Paul is making his defense.  He is speaking boldly and frankly, we sense that his viewpoint is one of strength, not of timidity.  He understands that this is an opportunity for him to witness to the Gospel and to reach people he might not have been able to reach otherwise.  

Paul is standing and testifying to “small and great alike”.  He is well aware that there are some very important people with him, people who are very good friends of the Emperor.  He also knows that the people who serve the court, and who look on at what is happening, have stories to tell.  Small and great alike are worthwhile to Paul because they are worthwhile to God.

            Paul stresses the continuity of God’s help and that his current predicament has not gotten in the way of what he is being called to do.  Sometimes we turn it around and allow our predicaments to stifle and stop our initiative.  We need Paul’s example, here.  Paul uses the example of the prophets and of Moses – examples which would be clear to every person in the room, small and great alike.  Paul does not even have to elaborate.  He simply mentions their names.  If we said, “I am saying nothing beyond what Thomas Jefferson and George Washington said…” we understand something of the importance.   Great figures of the past who represent our shared ideals are being evoked in the present moment.  Paul indicates that Jesus is the fulfillment of what the prophets and Moses said would happen.  His message is one of light, to enlighten all believers. 

Here are some questions to ponder as you put this passage to use in your own life:

Would you say that God has helped you to this very day?  What are some examples you can think of, when God has done this for you?  Can we say that God has helped Wekiva Presbyterian church to this very day?  Again, what things standout for you?   What is Paul’s purpose (clue it is in the second half of verse 22).  What is the purpose of each Christian?  Why is the message “to small and great alike”?

Yours in Christ,

The Rev. Dr. John A. Dalles, Pastor