Monday, December 30, 2019

Pastor's Ponderings, December 30, 2019

Real Love Is Sacrificial

Colleen Shalby, a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, wrote an article on December 26, 2019, entitled 
Father dies on Christmas Eve trying to save daughter who was swept out to sea.  Although the daughter lived, this father, Paul Lewis, gave his all for his child.  On the same day, Jorge Fitz-Gibbon wrote in the New York Post another heart-breaking article, entitled California dad died trying to save his kids in Christmas tree blaze.  Without regard for his own safety, Juan Moreno, gave his life trying to save his three children all of whom perished.

We are in the holiday season celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  When we hear of the sacrifice of Jorge and Juan, we can begin to appreciate the great love that Jesus had for us when He laid aside His celestial garments and came to earth for the express purpose of dying for us.  He endured the pain and shame of the rugged cross all for the joy of accomplishing His purpose for us (Hebrews 12:2).

God so loved the world that He gave His only Son as a sacrifice for a sinful world (1 John 3:1, John 3:16).  What love the Father had for us!  God looked beyond all of our weaknesses, imperfections, disobedience, cantankerousness, and saved all who will accept His sacrifice from a burning hell and the Lake of Fire.  

This holiday season let us remember the Jorges and the Juans and all of those who lay down their lives for others exhibiting the greatest love (John 15:12-14).  Let us be willing to be sacrificial towards one and another and be concerned about the well-being of others and not simply our own.  Let us love each other indeed and not simply in words.

Hebrews 12:2
Amplified Bible (AMP)
[looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity], who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross, disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work].

1 John 3:1
New International Version (NIV)
1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

John 3:16
New International Version (NIV)
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 15:12-14
New International Version (NIV)
12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 
13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
14 You are my friends if you do what I command.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Pastor's Ponderings, December 22, 2019

Today, we have my daughter, Malika Fair, making a guest submission.

Living Out Your Purpose

Eight years ago, I began working with an outstanding physician scholar who would eventually become my mentor and friendFitzhugh MullanHe helped to celebrate the birth of my daughter and one week after she was born, my dear mentor passed away. As I reflect on his life, I am struck by his commitment to his life purpose right up until the end.

Fitz fought for equity and social justice in healthcare both in the US and abroad. They say if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. But the truth is, sometimes our calling is not always fun. Dr. Mullan’s fight towards equity was not always popular. He fought for unconventional practices in medical schools and teaching hospitals that would ensure minority students access to medical schools, more physicians and other health professionals practicing in rural and underserved areas and a posture of health institutions to consider their social responsibility to reduce health disparities. 

Dr. Mullan realized that his role as a physician scholar was one of privilege and he used his national positions and academic credentials to pursue social justice for others despite resistance. Even with the knowledge that his time on this earth was coming to an end, he still submitted a paper during his last week of life that furthered this mission.

The scripture says “To whom much is given, from him much will be required” Luke 12:48 NKJV. Also, in Matthew 25:14-30, we read the parable of the Talents. Three men are given talents to invest while their master is away. One man buries his talent, another invests modestly and the other maximizes his potential. We all have been given talents to use on this earth and it is our decision to either bury that talent or use it for good.

What talents have you been given? What tables have you been invited to join? We all have an opportunity to either fulfill our God given purpose or squander our lives away. Please join me in honoring the life of my mentor and pause to consider what God has called you to do. What are you scared of? What seems too difficult or unpopular? We each have a purpose and mark to make on this world. Let us work with what we have been given and let God use it to bless others.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Pastor's Ponderings, December 16, 2019

All I Want For Christmas Is Jesus

What would you do if you were informed that December 25, 2019, would be your last Christmas?  What would you want to give and what would you want to receive?  What would be important for you to do, who would you want to talk with, and what issues would you want to resolve? If your life had a clear expiration date, some things would suddenly become extremely important while other things would quickly diminish in value. 

Neal Morse wrote a hymn entitled, “Only What You Do For Christ.”  Some of the lyrics are, “You may build great cathedrals large or small, you can build skyscrapers grand and tall, you may conquer all the failures of the past, but only what you do for Christ will last…only what you do for Him will be counted at the end;
only what you do for Christ will last.” Hopefully we would all recognize that the most important thing to do this Christmas is to have a close relationship with Jesus Christ. 

This holiday season, as we are making our Christmas lists and checking them twice, let us decide that we should give Jesus what He wants most and paid His life for and that is us.  He wants us to present our bodies, souls and our spirits to Him (Romans 12:1).  He does not want us to conform to the world’s idea of giving to receive more (Romans 12:2), but to allow Him to guide us where we should give and to whom we should give.  Does Dad really need a new sport coat, or could we provide monthly giving for a needy child?  Does your boss need new golf clubs, or could the office support an inner-city youth with a summer camp opportunity?  

I want these lyrics to be my Christmas present. These are some of the lyrics from the song entitled “Day By Day” from the 1971 musical Godspell. “Day by day, oh dear Lord, three things I pray. To see Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly, follow Thee more nearly, day by day.” What I want for Christmas is to be more like Christ. 

Romans 12:1
New International Version (NIV)
12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

Romans 12:2
New International Version (NIV)
2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Pastor's Ponderings, December 10, 2019

They Are Not Heavy: They Are Our Brothers

Nina Golgowski, in the Crime Section of the 12/8/2019 Huffington Post, wrote an article entitled, “Abandoned 5-Year-Old Carried Toddler Through Subzero Cold.” The article stated, “The child wore only socks and light clothing while making the incredible half-mile trek to get help, authorities in Alaska said.” This shocking tale reminds one of the "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" ballad by Bobby Scott and Bob Russell.  Some of the lyrics are, “The road is long with many a winding turn that leads us to who knows where, who knows where. But I'm strong, strong enough to carry him. He ain't heavy, he's my brother.”  

In the Bible, Cain murdered his brother, Abel. God asked him where Abel was, and Cain answered “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9).  This was an unreasonable answer to a reasonable question. Recently a person asked me to give him something for the homeless. I fished for some change, but then I noticed that he had no shoes.  He was walking in 40-degree weather while wearing just socks.  I helped him because I am my brother’s keeper.

We could blame his bad choices, the economy, the political administration, or serendipitous luck, but he is my brother.  He is not heavy; I feel obliged to help.  If I see my brother in need and withhold my compassion, how can I say that I love with God’s love and how can I call myself a child of God (1 John 3:17). If I can provide some things for those in need and decide to ignore him how does that help him (James 2:15-16)? 

This is the Christmas season and we are reminded that Jesus, not Amazon, is the reason for the season.  The essential tenant of Jesus’ work on earth was to fulfill our need that we could not fill.  Let us decide that while our brothers and sisters may be physically heavy, their relationship to us means their weight is unimportant.  We will love them, care for them, and serve them like Christ loves, cares for and serves us.   They are not heavy; they are our brothers.

Genesis 4:9
New International Version (NIV)
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

1 John 3:17 
New International Version (NIV)
17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?

James 2:15-16
New International Version (NIV)
15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 
16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?

Monday, December 2, 2019

Pastor's Ponderings, December 2, 2019

Let’s Make Truth and Honesty Our Policy

A few years ago, when one of our family members worked for a major corporation, they were able to share the benefits of a discount on mobile phone costs.  When they recently resigned, we contacted the mobile phone company and explained that we were no longer eligible for the discount.  The surprised representative said we could have maintained the discount for months because they would only periodically review them.  Then we proceeded to ask how much our bill would increase in the future without the discount. To our surprise, we were eligible for another discount that minimized our bill increase to four dollars per month!

It would have been easiest to keep the discount for as long as possible and hope they never checked, but because we chose the honest path, we were rewarded. While deception may benefit in the short run, honesty is the best policy.  Jesus was the ultimate honest person when He stated that He was the Way, the Truth, and the Light (John 14:6). When the church was first established in the New Testament, the first qualification listed for the deacons was that they be able to give a good report or to be honest (Acts 6:3).  The online source called, TheOneThing, shared research stating, “The encouraging news is that over 94 percent of people were honest even though they thought no one was watching.”

People may not be watching, but God’s eyes are in every place looking at the good and the wicked (Proverbs 15:3).  When the Bible lists the kind of thoughts we must think, honesty is the second on the list (Philippians 4:8).  During this holiday season when many are dishonestly pushing this or that product or scheme, let us be honest with one and another and speak the truth always. 

John 14:6
New International Version (NIV)
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Acts 6:3
King James Version (KJV)
Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.

Proverbs 15:3 
New International Version (NIV)
The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.

Philippians 4:8
King James Version (KJV)
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.