Love is Eating Your Vegetables…gladly

Philippians 2:14

Vegetables…

Some of us love them and some of us don’t.

Life includes vegetables, those moments, experiences, decisions we may not like or want to do, but we do them and we do them, and should do them, with a willingness when they have to be done.

As I conclude my portion of our summer series 10 Ways to Love, l suggest this morning that “one of the ways we love is with an attitude of cooperation.” And we turn to Philippians 2:14 as our focus text for this morning:

Do everything without grumbling or arguing,

Now, I perused an article on Presidents and their favorite food at the website spoonuniversity.com and as a result of scrolling through the article I found that only six of the 44 Presidents listed had a vegetable as a favorite food or part of a favorite food.

John Adams, our second president, loved his pickles.

James Buchanan, our fifteenth President, liked cabbage tops.

Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Abraham Lincoln after his assassination, liked a dish called, according to the article, “Hoppin’ John, which is made with black-eyed peas, rice, chopped onion, sliced bacon, and seasoned with salt.”

Benjamin Harrison, Ohio born but a long time Indiana resident and the 23rd President like good old corn.

Our 27th President William Howard Taft of Ohio, liked his potatoes, along with his steak.

Herbert Hoover liked sweet potatoes along with toasted marshmallows.

So not a lot of vegetable fans in the Oval Office especially our 41st President George Herbert Walker Bush who declared that there would be no broccoli served in the White House!

Finally, according to a survey by the Green Giant brand of vegetables, Indiana is an island of carrot orange in a nearly complete yellow sea of corn.

What do we do with those vegetable moments?

What do we do when the best options are to grumble and argue? But we know that it does not solve anything?

If we accept this idea that a good way to love is to cooperate willingly, how do we do that?

Paul, who I remind us is considered the author of most of the New Testament books, is the author of our text this morning, writing under the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit. And it comes in the middle of a very important section of this book which will help to shed light on what Paul, and more important, what the Lord says through Paul to the Christians of that day and to us today.

The context of this verse really starts back in chapter 1 and verse 27 and it forms the basis for what is to follow through chapter 2 and verse 18. I am not going to read the entire segment this morning but I am going to read verse 27 because it is the statement upon which Paul expands from there.

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel

Paul is making a very clear point: If you say you are Christian, then start acting like it. Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then…I will know you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel…

Then as we leave chapter 1 and moving to chapter 2 Paul begins with that one word I have spoken so much about, Therefore

Therefore! In light of! Because then…

if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

There is a unity Paul seeks and it is based on the intentional choice of these believers to be united with Christ, to be intentional about following Jesus and turn their back on everything that does NOT make that happen. And that includes NO selfish ambition or vain conceit.

Paul’s focus here is on Christ and Christ alone. It is not on himself or anything else. It is about being united in Christ! And that is a choice we have the privilege of making.

Then Paul launches into a very famous and oft quoted passage of this book starting with verse five:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

And Paul then describes this mindset with verses seven and eight focusing on a core choice Jesus made regarding this mindset:

he made himself nothing

by taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself

by becoming obedient to death—

even death on a cross!

I have heard some great sermons and some great theological discussions about what this passage means. Important statements, important theology about who Jesus was and is.

But I realized this past week that as I wrote this message, verse five is very important in the context of what the Lord, though Paul, is trying to get across!

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

God is concerned with the quality of relationships in the Philippian Church

God is still concerned with the quality of relationships in today’s Church as well

Why?

Because the quality of relationships we express as Christians are a witness to others as to the strength and authenticness of our faith. They are a testimony, positively or negatively, to others.

They describe the kind of love we express to others.

Well Paul brings another Therefore into play as we move to verse 12 and closer to our main text

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

This passage is about a process of growing and maturing in our faith. That is very important to understand because I think that when we read our main text, which immediately follows this verse, we think that we have to immediately do this! And then we think, “I’ll try,” then when we fail at stopping to grumble and complain and we get discouraged and give up.

Obedience to Christ is both a continuous process and a moment of choice throughout our life. And Paul’s words we have just read emphasize this process:

…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose….”

And I believe that the Lord is speaking through Paul to the entire church of that day. And I think that the Lord is speaking to the entire Church, today about this same issue.

There are Bible scholars who believe that based on what is said in this book as well as in the book of Acts that the church at Philippi needed to get their act together and work through their issues so that how they handle their conflicts demonstrates their faith in Christ and their love and respect for one another.

Now we come to our main text for today:

Do everything without grumbling or arguing,

And we now have a context to grasp what Paul was saying and the point he was trying to make with them. But he is not done because we need to follow our main text with, verse 15 and part of 16 to fully grasp what he was trying to say:

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.

Why no grumbling or arguing? So we reflect the light and love of God in a manner that brings glory to Him and that the good news of Christ can be clearly seen. And Christians have been working to put this passage of scripture into practice in many different contexts, including family:

For example, several years ago, Carey Bailey a wife and author, wrote about how she and her family began to put this verse into practice.

It simply involves two jars. At the start of the day one is filled with 40 (good biblical number, right?) plastic coins and if ANYONE whines or argues then a coin gets moved to the other jar. If we end the day with 25 coins left then we get a family check mark and if we get thirty check marks we get a family prize. Doesn’t have to be huge…can be a family trip to grab ice cream or maybe go BIG…your call. I do recommend the kids know what their goal is and even have input in the reward.

We also read the verse together in the morning and remind ourselves WHY we don’t want to complain or argue. I have created my own CB kid friendly translation. (I was in children’s ministry for 10 plus years so I take liberties like that sometimes.)

Can I just say how good this has been for all of us?!

1. We sat down and talked about what equaled complaining and arguing.

2. We talked about ideas of things we can do if we think we are about to complain or argue. The kids thought of things like catch a bubble in your mouth, give hugs, and put yourself in time out (my daughter has done this multiple times and fallen asleep). My son who is a major rule follower tells on himself and moves his own coins but also keeps us all accountable. Saying things like “Mom, don’t do it…catch that bubble!” Since whining typically equals me raising my tone of voice we decided that we also lose family coins if anger rather than patience comes out. Hello, accountability for patience????

So what does this mean for us this week?

 

1. How we handle conflict, those vegetable moments, is a witness to others both Christian and non-Christian. It is a statement of what and how we believe in Jesus.

2. Handling conflict is part of life. Our attitude determines a great deal in how we handle conflict. An attitude of humility, as Jesus demonstrated, is important in choosing to not let grumbling and arguing be our conflict resolution modes.

3. One of the most important ways we love, as followers of Christ, is to enjoy without complaining. Yes, we do not agree at times and we see things differently, but when it comes right down to it, if we are seeking to truly follow the Lord, we learn to enjoy one another, and others, without complaining.

Let’s truly let the Holy Spirit work in us to change our attitudes from grumbling and arguing to loving, listening, and enjoying.

 

Amen

 

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My Review of Jo Ann Simon’s Rose Colored Glasses

Jo Ann Simon has given us, as human beings, and as caregivers ( I care for my 94 year old mother who I blame for my love of books!) an honest, gut and soul wrenching, and yet beautiful story of her journey to save her husband Tom from the grip of ALS but to no avail.

Rose Colored Glasses: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Hope  (E.L. Marker, 2018) is a powerful presentation of a wife’s caregiving journey, and more importantly, love giving journey. In this book Simon chronicles her journey from a divorcee’ to that of a woman deeply in love to a wife who is possessed with all strength and hope that her husband can be freed from the grips of ALS.

If you have been a caregiver, a spouse, a child, a friend, a significant other, of one who has a terminal illness, you will see yourself in Jo Ann’s story: the desperate hope against hope which refuses to give up on a cure, a perceived misdiagnosis; the passionate pursuit of medical personnel who know what is going, who know what to do; the intense persuasion of letters, calls, emails to get a treatment approved; the growing and final realization that the battle is lost…but love is not; the days, weeks, months after…learning to live again. It is all in this book.

Written in a journal style, Rose Colored Glasses brings you along as you walk with the author as she faces the pain, the hope, the loss, and the love of caring for someone who is terminally ill.

This is a powerful and human book. It is not sugar coated nor clinical (though there is a section at the end of the book which presents links to ALS research). It is human..one that serves to remind us of the power of love and hope in all of us.

This is a wonderful book especially if you are a caregiver and with a group discussion guide, you will have the opportunity to process Jo Ann’s journey and your own.

I gave this book a four-star rating on Goodreads.

Note: I received an e-copy of this book in exchange for a review from the publisher via Smith Publicity.  I was not required to write a positive review.

Coming Back to Life

Sermon/Communion Meditation for Sunday, August 5, 2018

One of my favorite TV shows is Chasing Classic Cars hosted by Wayne Carini. Each episode features Wayne finding a classic car, some that are known and remembered and some that are not, and then he sets about to restore them..

One episode of a couple of seasons ago featured Wayne finding a 1921 Stutz Bearcat stowed in a garage in Georgia for many years.

According to a couple of sources I used, the asking price for the car, which reportedly only had 10,000 original miles on it, was 30,000.

Carini restored the car to mechanical condition so that it could run…

and decided to leave rest of the car as is.

And it won, as it was, the International Federation of Historic Vehicle Organizations’ 2015 Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance, a very prestigious award at a very prestigious car show!

And it went to auction where it was sold for 594,000 as it was!

Now, as we go through this message for this morning, I want us to keep this car in mind as I want to make a point with it at the end of my message.

Our text for this morning are portions of 1 Corinthians 15 and I am going to read specific passages with comments out of this chapter.

Point number one comes from verses 1 and 2

I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. (NIV)

Paul, who was walking, riding, and sailing around the world of that time and place talking to people about Jesus, makes a very important point about the content of his message…. The gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news about and from Jesus Christ…the gospel which offers forgiveness, a better way to live now, hope and meaning in the midst of and in spite of the dings and dents of this life we walk through.

It is this message which enables us, through Christ’s work on our behalf, to come back to life. To live again! To live the way we were truly created to live!

No other message, no other spiritual path, no other way, but Jesus’ way offers this wonderful and necessary hope.

Point number 2 from verses 3,4, and 5

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. (NIV)

In a nutshell summary, this is gospel Paul preached…Christ died for our sins, just as what we now call the Old Testament said that He would and it is said in a no more concise and better way than what was said by the prophet Isaiah at the end of chapter 53:

For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (NIV)

Isaiah is talking about Jesus centuries before He would come to earth! And Jesus did exactly what Isaiah said that He would do…bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors…

What does that mean Pastor Jim?

To intercede means to intervene on behalf of another. Jesus intervened on our behalf with God His father because of our transgressions, our offensive ways, our sins that we have committed.

The most important story line of the Bible is the story line of a God who wanted us back and did what He did, through His son, His one and only son, Jesus to get us back.

This coming back to life, this good news, comes as we remember and very importantly accept what Christ did on our behalf. We celebrate life this morning! Eternal life and a better life now because we can begin to live in ways that brings us peace, joy, and hope!

Point number 3 from verse 17

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.

Starting with verse 12 Paul turns his attention to the resurrection of Jesus and the implications of what if Jesus did not rise from the dead. There are some powerful questions being asked by Paul which goes to the very core of our faith.

And this verse, verse 17, makes clear that if Christ has not be raised from the dead then one’s faith is in vain and our sins have not be forgiven.

So this coming back to life is possible if, and only if, Christ was resurrected. I believe that He was! I have experienced His resurrection power in many different ways and I have seen other people come back to life as well!

Point number four from verses 21 and 22

For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

Paul bookends the long arc of human history in these two verses. The terrible tragedy of humankind’s disobedience ended, when Christ rose from the dead and will finally be put right, when Christ returns! The coming back to life, available to each of us, today, came through Jesus Christ, who took on human form as Paul would write in Philippians 2:7 “Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.”

Finally, point number five from verses 50 to 58:

I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (NIV)

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

I focus on this verse, verse 56:

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

We come back to life, we celebrate the Lord’s supper this morning because of the truth, the experiential truth that the power of sin and death has been broken because of Christ death…and resurrection!

Do you believe this, this morning? Are you willing to believe it?

As we prepare for communion this morning I return to this 1921 Bearcat.

copywrite: http://www.motor1.com

Was this car restored or resurrected?

I suggest that it was resurrected. It was brought back to life.

No it is not restored to what we might think restored cars should look like. They are bright, shiny, clean, refined…this car isn’t

We are not perfectly restored as perhaps we wish we were. We are still flawed, dented, imperfect. We still wrestle with many things – impatience, fear, greed, control, anxiety etc – but have been redeemed and are redeemable! We may not look like much, but when we accepted Christ’s forgiveness of our sins, we come back to life!

We are like this 1921 Bearcat! Dinged, dingy, flawed, but very, very much alive and operational!

And we are more valuable than that car! We were bought with the price, the sacrifice of someone’s else death! Jesus death!

The death and praise God, the resurrection, of Jesus Christ has brought us back to life! The spiritual death, the loss of perfection, that took place in the Garden of Eden has been revived, brought back to life. Our souls, our relationship with the Lord died when Adam and Eve disobeyed God. But they have been brought back to life because of what Jesus Christ has done for us!

Jesus’ actions, in love and on our behalf, has brought us back to life!

I conclude with these powerful and poetic words of Paul and merge them this image of a partially restored automobile classic to point out that the reality of life in which our dinged and dented souls and bodies live each day in the current power and future hope of the resurrection, is made possible by Jesus! Words found in 2 Corinthians 4:8-12

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

We do not give up! We are being changed for the better, little by little, day by day, because of Jesus death and resurrection!

There is a hymn that I remember from my childhood that came to mind as I wrote these words and it forms the basis of my invitation to us this morning:

Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing pow’r?

Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?

Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Are you walking daily by the Savior’s side?

Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Do you rest each moment in the Crucified?

Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Are you washed in the blood,

In the soul-cleansing blood of the Lamb?

Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow?

Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Folks, this is not all there is! There is hope, there is faith, there is love, there is second chances because of what Jesus Christ has done for us. Take hold of it today…now…

Amen!

My Review of Ronald Rolheiser’s Wrestling With God

Father Ronald Rolheiser has given people of faith, and those who struggle with faith, especially the Christian faith, a helpful, inspirational, and insightful book on finding hope and meaning in the daily struggles with our humanity in his book Wrestling With God (Image Press, 2018).

Written with three audiences in mind, those who are looking for meaning and some kind of faith in the midst of their uncertainty; those who have been part of the church but find her answers lacking but still want them to help them in their present life; and those who want to deepen their faith, Wrestling with God: Finding Hope and Meaning addresses the major issues of today’s culture: understanding what it means to be human, sexual identity, wealth and the poor, dealing with faith and doubt in the opening chapters.

But it was in the last four chapters of this eight chapter book where I found a source of both informational and inspirational thought that makes me give this book a five star rating. In chapter five the author address wrestling with doubt and faith and makes a wonderful case for the belief that faith is not a loud and splashy presence in our lives but rather a quiet stream which runs below the stream.

In chapter six Rolheiser addresses wrestling with God Himself and, in a statement that echoes Father Richard Rohr in his work Falling Upward, notes that the second half of life struggle includes anger not against regret but against God Himself. Chapter seven addresses wrestling for faith within a complex culture and makes a very strong case that the secularity railed against in certain parts of the Christian church is actually a product, in part, of the Christian faith. And in chapter eight, the concluding chapter, the author offers “some guidelines for the long haul” where he quotes the late Australian novelist Morris West as saying that at age 75 one should still have one word left in one’s vocabulary, namely, gratitude; that Jesus’s first words out His mouth was metanoia or repent; and that we leave this life as an unfinished symphony.

This book has much to recommend people who are seeking some deeper and more solid answers to the questions they are asking. This is a book that I will read again and highly recommend.

I gave this book a five-star rating on Goodreads

Note: I received a copy of this book via the Amazon Vine program in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Waking up my blog and my blogging!

Good Monday morning everyone!

I am waking up this blog and getting back to post new material, especially my sermons and my book reviews.

I took a break from social media and blogging for most of July and after a six month hiatus from book reviews, and I am now reading new books that will be reviewed over the next several weeks.

PLUS, I will be re-posting over the next several months ALL of my sermons from the past eighteen years! I took them down a couple of years ago because of issues related to intellectual property rights. (Some legal views hold that sermons belong to the church and not the pastor. Other legal views disagree so to post with integrity, I respectfully requested  the congregational leadership of the church I serve that I be given full intellectual property rights to my sermons. They graciously granted that request!)

I will be posting sermons and they will be automatically posted throughout the overnight hours (New York Time) so as to not be a nuisance during the day.

I am now in my tenth year of blogging here at WordPress and I am grateful for the followers and comments and likers (?) that have joined me on this journey.

Later!

 

Jim

My Review of Jim Turner’s The Disconnected Man: Breaking Down Walls and Restoring Intimacy With Him

“You’re not listening to me…do you hear what I am saying…I need you to understand my feelings…”

Common phrases spoken in many marriages, often by frustrated women who believe and feel that their husbands are not truly connected to them in a meaningful way and who are starved for attention and validation.

How do the walls come down in such a relationship? Why are the walls there in the first place?

How do wives, and families, re-connect with disconnected men?

Jim Turner, who once considered himself a disconnected man, offers both men, and the women who love them, some ways and hope that a disconnected man can meaningfully reconnect with those who love him, and whom he loves as well.

The Disconnected Man: Breaking Down Walls And Restoring Intimacy With Him (Faith Works, 2017) is an intense book which reveals the journey of a man, who considered himself faithful and loving, finding that his wife viewed him as distant and unreachable and, as a result, left him. But in the midst of the pain of the divorce, Turner began to reconnect, with God and others, and as a result offers readers, especially the wives of men, faithful and loyal, who are disconnected in relational ways, the hope and a path toward re-connection.

As I read this book, I at first had trouble grasping what Turner was trying to say. But as I continued to read, I began to think of men that I have known, who were faithful and loyal men, but were disconnected from their wives in a manner which, unfortunately, caused a separation and divorce.

Turner speaks passionately and deeply to this issue of disconnection and I believe offers, because of God’s power and ability to help, hope for wives and their husbands.

I gave this book a four-star rating on Goodreads.

Note: I received a copy of this book via the Amazon Vine program in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.

My Review of Grant Corriveau’s Uplift: A Pilot’s Journey

Growing up around an Air Force base (my father was a civilian employee) airplanes were part of my life from the very beginning. I am still an airplane fan to this day and am always willing to spend time at any active airport which has a viewing area. I am also a flight simmer (Microsoft FSX) and have been for nearly two decades. (I am also writing this review as I listen via an aviation website to HF Oceanic traffic!)

So when I saw Grant Corriveau’s book of his experiences as an airline pilot in Canada on NetGalley, I requested a copy to read and was graciously granted that request by the publisher, CWR Press. Thank you CWR Press!

Uplift: A Pilot’s Journey is a wonderful memoir about one man’s love of aviation and his career as a pilot in now legendary aircraft which I had the privilege of flying when they were in active service – the DC-9 and the Boeing 727 (which was the first passenger jet I first flew in over 40 years ago)

Uplift is a simple but wonderful telling of the personalities and planes of one pilot’s career. It is not melodramatic narrative but it does include some stressful moments when the control of an aircraft requires a sixth sense, based on experience and an intuitive feel, is needed. It is not a ‘kiss and tell’ book but it does include Corriveau’s assessment of passengers and cockpit crew who challenged his sanity and patience at times. If you are looking for more drama in the skies, this is not the book for you. But if you, or someone you know, loves aviation, Uplift is a great book which gives a detailed but varied view of life in the cockpit of a commercial airline pilot, who loved his job.

I really enjoyed this book as it was a simply wonderful book to read abut a pilot who enjoyed flying and yet looked beyond his job and gave thought to a view that life has a spiritual dimension that we need to consider.

I gave this book a four-star review on Goodreads.

Note: I received an electronic ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.