Wednesday, December 31, 2008

E pluribus Unum

1 Corinthians 1: 10-17
10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas]"; still another, "I follow Christ."
13Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? 14I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. 16(Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don't remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

The best way to say this is that the people had lost the focus on Christ and put the focus on the preacher. We see much the same today in churches throughout our communities. People focused on the preacher, or the music, or the ministries, yet there is not much focus put on the teachings of Christ. Or more to the point there is a lot of flash, but not a lot of substance. This is what Paul was talking about when he talks of emptying the cross of Christ of its power.

To take it even a step further, when we think division within the Church, we think of all of the different denominations. We have, on many levels, let legalism dictate our beliefs, instead of aligning our beliefs to the doctrine of the Lord.

I was talking to a fella the other day; he is quite convinced that the Catholics are going to hell. He had all types of examples of why, yet none of the examples really had anything to do with going against sound doctrine, his examples were largely based on his beliefs, not the Lord’s. In the same respect I have heard Catholic priests talk long and hard about why they are the one true faith, and all others are deceived.

I do not mean to point fingers or start any disagreements, what I am trying to bring to light is the foolishness of all of this bickering. In John 17 Jesus is praying to his father for all believers, listen to what he says “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” That all of them might be one… us and them within the community. I do not think Christ could have been anymore specific about how he wants us to live as a Christian community. To borrow a line from our founding fathers, Unified, E pluribus Unum….out of many, one.

Now I am not saying that everyone needs to quit their Church, or that a specific denomination is a bad thing, What I am saying is that we are Christians first, and foremost, that is the key; that is the glue that bonds us together as brothers, and sisters.

We should be striving as a community to come together, not tear each other apart. We should be looking for all the things that we agree on, and believe me, there is more that we all agree on than we disagree about. Each of us need to drop the pre-text that comes with our denomination, and join hands as Christ intended us to, all as one, in Him, as He is in the Father.

Rev. Thetford

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

1 Corinthians 1 Division

1 Corinthians 1
1Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,
2To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours:
3Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

4I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5For in him you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge— 6because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. 7Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.

Many of the letters that Paul wrote were directed at very specific problems, and specific Churches. However when we look at these letters we can easily see where the same message still applies today. I want to start off looking at the letters to the Corinthians.

First let’s look at the Town itself. Corinth was a town in what is now Greece. It was a major trade route between East and West, and it had two major ports. This made it a very prosperous town. The atmosphere might not have been as high society as Athens, but it was a major city nonetheless.

As one can imagine a port town, and a town along the trade artery there were many different people and many different customs. The largest amounts of the population were made up of Jews, Romans, and Asians. So, many different people, many different religious backgrounds.

One thing that many people here in the States take for granted is the concept that Christianity “has always been”. Not many people give much thought to the struggle and rejection that the early Apostles were met with. While Christ was a very well known figure, and many people far and wide knew of him, and knew of his works, many more had not. This was the great commission that Christ gave us when he said in John chapter 15: 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Christ was very well aware of the hardships his followers would face. I bring this up because it is important to understand that being a Christian and preaching the teachings of Christ back in the time of Paul was no small feat. Often when people did start to follow, and a Church would be founded, the Apostle would leave, and the Church would be spiritually attacked by people wanting to distort the truth. Worse yet, sometimes the Church would lose the focus of Christ and start to splinter among themselves.

This is the situation that we find the Church of Corinth in. Paul started a church within a pagan community, only to find that after he left it was starting to fracture. We know that there was not only the Jewish faith, and the Pagans to contend with, but within the Christian faith there were people who wanted to distort the teachings of Christ. There were groups that wanted to adhere to very strict regulations, there were groups that wanted to only take the easy part of being a Christian, and this led to them trying to teach acts that led to disorder within the faith.

Paul opens up his letter establishing his authority, or more to the point establishing that he is speaking on behalf of the Lord. Paul also makes reference to Sosthenes, who was at one time the leader of the synagogue at Corinth, and became a Christian convert, and a minister under Paul. Paul goes on to give thanks and praise for the followers of Christ in Corinth, and makes it clear that they all know the teachings of Christ, and have in the past held true to those teachings.

Paul then moves on to the first problem within the church, division.

I will pick up with this tomorrow,

Rev. Thetford

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

"Glory to God in the highest and peace to those on whom his favor rests" Luke 2:14

I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!!! Happy Birthday Jesus!!

Rev. Thetford

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Don't Miss the Gift

It seems that we spend a lot of time picking out a gift, and the more we care about someone the more painstaking it becomes to find just the right one. We search high and low, in and out of shops, searching the internet, driving all over town, until finally, we find it. When we do find it we are elated, and excited, it seems that the longer we wait the sweeter reward.

God has done the same with his gift to us. The book of Isaiah was written around 700 B.C! Yet 700 years before this gift is to be given it is written in chapter 9: 6-7 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

If this is not specific enough, Isaiah in chapter 7 spells it out: 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Going even further back to Gen. 1 The Lord says “let us, make man in our image.” This gift has been a long time coming! Much has happened, generations have lived and dies, nations have risen, fallen, and risen again. Much like we have been searching through the stores, God was searching through time, looking for the time to be full. One could only imagine….now I would never assume to know the thoughts of God, but could you imagine?? All of these events have to unfold, floods, plagues, the wilderness, war, prophets…..If it were me, I would just want to hit the Fast Forward button! Of course the Lord has a plan for his gift, and the timing must be right.

Why do we buy gifts anyway? When we go out and start the shopping cycle why are we doing it in the first place? Well, because typically the person we are buying for is buying something for us! We are always thinking “ I wonder how much they are going to spend”, or “are they going to get me something that I asked for?” maybe more to the point…..” I hope they don’t get me some piece of junk!” Ok maybe none of you are like that, and you are happy with whatever you get, you are still out there looking for that one item, and if it is not reciprocity that you are after, then what is it? It is that we don’t want to be forgotten right? We want to pick out that gift that says, you are special to me; we want to give the gift that stays on the person’s mind, the gift that will keep us in their hearts!

God has the same plan for his gift, and the best part is that the gift is free! We serve a God that has no needs. There is nothing that we can buy for him, nothing we can build for him. All he asks if for our thanks, and praise. HE has asked us to take this gift and use it daily, keep it in our hearts, on our lips, and on our mind, so that we might be able to draw closer to him, and realize the plan that he has for us. He has freely given this gift in the hopes that we freely give it to others.

Everyone knows the best gift is one you can share. Think back to when you were a kid, a great gift was one that you could run outside and say LOOK GUYS!! LOOK WHAT I GOT!! Come on over and let’s all play with it! What is the first thing that the shepherds wanted to do when the saw Christ in the manger? We see in verse 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child. The angels appeared, told them the good news about the gift of the Savior, they ran to see him, and then they ran to spread the news!! HEY EVERYONE GESS WHAT?!?!?

Running out to share, that is the beautiful part of the gift. We not only get the gift, we get to give it to others. We all know that the only thing better than giving a gift, is getting a gift! Even better getting a gift from someone that does not want anything back form you. They already have it; they wanted to give it to you, so that you could walk along with them. We are giving and receiving a gift from the Lord, one that contains so much love, so much grace, and so much forgiveness, that the result is everlasting life. A gift that is so big, that no matter how many times it is passed on, there is always more left to give!

SO this Christmas don’t miss the gift! While everyone is busy unwrapping gifts, and the squeals of excitement from the kids who just got that perfect toy…. the one they just could not live without. In the middle of this commotion, and excitement, do not forget to take time out to remember the true gift. The gift of the child in the manger, born in a barn, the child born to lowly surroundings that will mature to save to world. Remember the night when shepherds rubbed shoulders with wise men. When Angels came to spread the good news and proclaim Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth. Don’t allow the day to pass without wishing Jesus a happy birthday. His birth is the beginning of our salvation. The child, who would grow to be a king, then becomes a living sacrifice for each and everyone of us. This is the gift the Lord has given us; this is the true gift of Christmas!

Rev. Thetford

Monday, December 22, 2008

God's Gift to us

Luke 2
The Birth of Jesus
1In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3And everyone went to his own town to register.
4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

Of course the shepherds were not the only visitors that Jesus had that night, when we read Matthew 2: 10When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.

The three wise men, they came bearing gifts. Gifts fit for a king. This started a tradition that has now spread into a season that puts the retail market in the black every year! The gift giving season is upon us, and we are all busy, running out, trying to find that perfect gift, the one that gets the message across, the one perfect gift for each person in our life. No this is not another sermon on how we all spend so much time on spending money that we lose the meaning of Christmas. What I want to look at over the next couple of days is the whole gift giving experience. By looking at the scripture above, and then looking in to our own lives, we can see that today there is just as much to celebrate as there was when the angles appeared to the shepherds. Christmas is upon us and the search for the gift is on!

Rev. Thetford

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Light, The Word, The Holy Trinity

This brings us to John 1:18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared.

Jesus came to reveal God to man. Up until the time of Christ, God was feared greatly. HE was a great and powerful God, yet you often hear of “the Old Testament” God, and the New Testament God. When you talk about the O.T. God most will bring to mind very strict laws, harsh judgment, a God that sometimes seems quick to anger. This is another reason the Christ came to earth, to show us the fullness of God, the side of God that is loving, forgiving, patient, and kind. Jesus came to show us all of God; he did this by being the proclaiming word, proclaiming light, and life.

John 1: 4-9 tells us: 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
6There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

Jesus is the light of the world. He came into a world of spiritual darkness. He pierced that darkness with the light of his word. The light that Christ brought was a light for all men. A light that would give every man, woman, and child everlasting life! It is a light that will lead us home, no matter how dark our lives have become. That light is a light for all. The light is given to us from Christ himself. By Christ coming into the world, we became brothers to him, and children of God. We are given a choice, a choice every one of us is free to make on our own. As it reads in John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. So each of us can choose a life that ends in death, or a life that never ends.

Jesus proclaimed that life while he was among us John 1: 10-13 10He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

Jesus came to his people, the people of God, and the people who he had raised up to a mighty nation. HE came to give them the promise, the New Covenant, the Covenant that would forgive sins and give life eternally. Jesus came to the world…. a world he created, yet his own people, the very ones that were waiting for him, they did not recognize him. We know that Christ came not for the righteous, but for the sinners. And verse 12 –13 in John 1 let us all know that even though his chosen people did not receive him, all who did believe, all who would call on him to light up the darkness, no matter their natural birth, they will be granted the gift of becoming a child of God.

If you find yourself wondering are we somehow second best? Since the Jews rejected Jesus are we just the leftovers? We only need to read verse 13 to see 13children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. Our birthplace, our nationality, the color of our skin, none of that matters to God. We are children born of God, not a natural birth, but a supernatural birth! We are born by the design of God. Our parents might have prayed for us, but it was the will of God that created us. This is the message that Christ came to spread. HE came for the sinners. He came to show us the way home.

As we approach Christmas day, and celebrate the birth of Christ, let us all give pause and remember, that while yes, he was born by natural birth. Christ has existed well before that birth. HE was there in the beginning, he is here with us now, and we will all meet up with him in the future. HE came to the world to give us light in a dark world. A world that even today has much darkness in it. Let us remember that 1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Christ is the light, the word, and together with God and the Holy Spirit. Make up the Holy Trinity. Three in one, then now, and forever.

Peace, and Merry Christmas,

Rev. Thetford

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Constant, Controversial, Living Christ

Hebrews 13:8

8Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Linking this verse back to the initial into to John, we see that Jesus always has been. In the beginning was the Word. This is what I mean by Jesus was not “born” in Bethlehem. He has been in existence forever. Since the beginning there was the Word, and the word is unchanging just as Paul says, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Deuteronomy chapter 31 tells us: 6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.". This is exactly why Christians can trust in Christ. He always has existed, he always will exist, and he will always be with you, and never forsake you. There is nothing in life, not your best friend, not your best dog; nothing in your life is a constant as the Lord.

Not only is He constant, Jesus is part of the family. Reading the first and second verses of John 1 1-2 we see: 1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. Jesus knows what family is, because he has been part of one since the beginning. He was there when the world was created Genesis 1:26 tells us that: 26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." The key here is God said “let US make man in OUR own image” HE was not some ides that was baked up as a way to bring salvation to man. Jesus was with God in the beginning, as a family. The plan for salvation was in place before THEY spoke of any creation.

When Christ became man he was without a doubt the controversial word, and many today still grapple with Christ becoming Man. The rulers, and the lawmakers of the day did not know what to do with Him. He was a nuisance when he preached repentance, when he preformed miracles, and healed people, they were scared, yet when he claimed to not only be equal to God but to be God, they killed him! I often wonder how that would play out today. Sure, it is easy to say that if Jesus were to come back all would recognize him. I am certain that would be far from the case. Just like then, many would miss every indication that is given. Now just like then many are waiting, but if he was to show up as he did before, as a simple man, more would want to not believe than believe. This is a result of people having a hard time getting their head around the incarnation of Christ. They have a hard time with Jesus being the living Word.

Here is the explanation John gives: 14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us……….There is no why, or better yet, there is no how!! There are verses in the Bible that scream loudly by saying nothing. This is one of those times. No one knows the answer, but God. How could God become man? There is nothing that God is incapable of. He created this world, and He created us, it would not be a stretch for him to put on the flesh of a human and live among us; and live He did! Scripture tells us that He dwelled among us. He did not live, He did not roam, He did not pass through….He dwelled here. He was born here He lived among us, He made His home here, He had friends here, He was persecuted, suffered and dies here. He became flesh, and dwelled among us, yet so many refused to recognize Him.

From the day Christ was born to the Virgin Mary, in the humbleness of a manger, God was on the set of this life. He became an actor on the stage of life. He was walking, talking, breathing, and speaking proof that God was real, and he was here to save all that would follow him.

Rev. Thetford

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Jesus, the Word

John 1: 1-15

John 1
The Word Became Flesh
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.
3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
6There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
10He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.
14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
15John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' "

As we close in on Christmas day, I want to take the chance to look at the birth of Christ through a different lens. The first three Gospels Matthew, Mark, and Luke, tell much the same story about the birth of Christ. They each have their subtle differences, but it is the same story that we expect to hear every Christmas. John however brings Christ to life by showing us that when we say “Christ coming to life” we are only saying that he became human. John shows us that Christ had always existed. He is the word, and that is what I want to dive into this week, everything that is wrapped up in being The Word. The Constant, Creative speaking, everlasting, family oriented, controversial, human, light and life proclaiming Word!

Friday, December 12, 2008

On time, on target, and heading your way

So to wrap up this weeks thoughts I ask; as Christmas draws near, let us take the time to remember. We are not running on our schedule. We can bang our head against the wall all we want to and things are not going to move any quicker or any slower. Just as we have seen with the birth of Christ, life will unfold for us as the fullness of time comes. I am not saying we should not keep pushing towards our goals; we just need to understand that the end might not be where we thought it was. No matter where that end is, as long as we are charging hard after the Lord, we will land right where we are supposed to be.

Remember that we are part of a brotherhood; Christ was born by a woman, under the same laws as we are. His birth is the beginning of the events that would forever change the world. HE came to us as one of us. The Lord always is searching for us. HE will come to you no matter how dark the night might seem. I know a lot of people like to ask, “have you found the Lord” of Have you found Jesus”, I believe we miss part of the marvel of the Lord when we pose that question. Yes we all might be searching for the Lord, but he has been searching for us since the day we were born. He is the good shepherd, not the goal of a hide and seek game. To ask if we have found him is to suggest that He might be hiding from us, or that he might be hard to find.

He is always easy to find, because He is searching for you. Remember Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened. The Lord will change your life, he will take you from where you are right now, and take you to your full potential. Read about Moses, Jacob, Joseph, these men were lifted up to their full potential through the Lord. Read about Paul in the book of Acts. You will see just how big of a difference the Lord can make in a persons life, you will get an idea of just what someone’s full potential is! That is really all we can hope for, to reach our full potential in the eyes of the Lord. With him nothing is impossible, yet without him, nothing will last.

I encourage everyone to take the new few weeks and reflect on were they find themselves this Christmas. Make a decision to commit fully to the Lord, I will put forth this challenge, fully commit, and give the Lord 60 days. For 60 days make it a point to read the word, reflect on it’s meaning. Pray to the Lord for strength and guidance. If you do not have a church already, seek one out. Decide to fully let the Lord work in your life, no half measures, no if you do this for me I’ll do this for you deals. Just open your heart, and open your ears. What you see unfold before your eyes will be unbelievable.

Rev. Thetford

Thursday, December 11, 2008

the brotherhood

Galatians 4:5

5to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.

So why would the Lord, who has everything he needs waste his time coming to find us? The answer is in verse 5. The Lord comes to find you because he wants to take you from what you are right now, and transform you into all that you can be. He wants you to receive the full rights of sons (and daughters of course).

This is huge! It is a point that I think many miss when we reflect on Christ and just what he brought to us with his birth, and death. Sonship, a birthright if you will; available to all who will call on the Lord. In John chapter 15 Christ tells us: "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love.

We have a place in the Heart of God through the love of Jesus Christ. In John 17 Christ tells his Father while praying to him: 26I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them."

We have entered into a Covenant with God that does not just make us part of promise, this covenant makes us brothers to Christ, and sons to God. He has adopted us; he counts us among his own. The day that Christ dies on the cross, the adoption papers were signed……they were signed in the blood of Christ.

If we are now sons of God, then does this not solidify exactly what Paul was talking about to the Philippians when he said: 5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. If God is our Father, and Christ our brother, then how could strive for anything other than glorifying the Lord?

We have been given this gift, this wonderful, empowering, loving gift, one that we do not deserve, a gift that does not just grant us peace, or safety in the storm. We have been given the gift of entrance into the brotherhood of Christ. This is the gift that started in a manger in Bethlehem. It started with Jesus drawing his first breath as a human baby. Everyday up to his death, and every day since, every man woman and child has been given the opportunity to enter in to this brotherhood. No matter your struggles, no matter your current position. The lord wants to take you from where you are right now, and work within your life to make you a true child of God, complete with all of the grace, and all of the love that comes with it!

Rev. Thetford

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Right on time

Galatians 4: 4-5

4But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.

Last week we talked briefly about the timing of the Lord. I want to expand on that thought this week. This time of year we become very sensitive to timing. Much of what we do is all based on timing. The day after Thanksgiving here in the states depends on your timing. It even has a name….black Friday. All of the stores that sell anything open their doors early. Ridiculously early. 5 a.m. early. Funny enough the 24 hrs stores actually close their doors for a few hours, just to build up that all-important sense of timing. Get there to early you are standing in line, get there to late and everything is gone. The stores slash prices for the remainder of the year, everything must go, buy one get one, ( I love that new phrase bogo!) This all fuels so many peoples direction for the remainder of the year. Buy, buy, buy. People worry more about what they are spending, than they do about what they are buying. Many people say that there are those among us that are trying to “take the Christ out of Christmas” or that there is some war being waged. While there are many things that might lead us to believe that; nothing has done a better job of taking the spotlight off of God’s timing and placing it on ourselves; than the retail market has done.

We do the same thing with our expectations of preaching. We want the Wisemen, we want the Star, all of the things that we expect to hear. Each and every year. We want to hear about the Angles appearing to Mary, Joseph, and the Shepherds. Don’t misunderstand me here, I like those stories myself, and yes they are a vital part of the birth of Christ, but I often wonder, do we really hear them anymore?

Are we missing the importance of the timing? Look at the manger, it was not that Mary and Joseph were poor and could not afford better accommodations. God’s plan was not for Christ to just be born to normal circumstances. If that were the case Christ would have been born at home. No, Mary went in to labor when she was far form home, not only far form home, but under the circumstances brought on by the census count, and taxation that resulted in the inns being full. Because of this, Christ was not born in the lap of luxury; He was born in some of the most humble surroundings. Surroundings that most would find unacceptable, and no one would think would even be close to fit for a king!

Yet the timing of the Lord was well thought out… usual. What about the wisemen? I know you have all heard the saying that if it had been the three wise women, they would have arrived on time, brought practical gifts, and cooked a meal for everyone! Well, I would have to say that is why God must have chosen men to go. He knew they would not ask for direction, they would get lost, and arrive, not before the birth, but right after, making Christ’s first guests some of the most respected men of the time. They did not bring practical gifts, because they were coming to see a king, they brought gifts fitting of a king. Could you imagine their surprise when they came upon the stable! A child born to deliver the world, born in a barn…..(you know, His parents could never ask him that question when he left the door open!). What I am trying to say here is that while on the surface we acknowledge Christ’s birth, do we take the time to marvel at the impeccable timing that God showed, the great care to detail, the grace that he is about to show to the world? The deliberate, and painstaking effort that went in to bringing this all about.

Paul hits the nail on the head by starting off with, “when the time had fully come”. The Lord is always on time. He will not move until the time has come, and once here the Lord will not be stopped. If only we could have even a drop of that patience, and conviction.
How often do we try to force things? Impatience comes so easy to us! We want what we want when we want it, and we do not like to take no for an answer. We pray and pray for things to happen, because we want them to happen on our schedule. Make no mistake about it, no matter what we thing, the Lord is running right on time.

Take a couple of examples, Look at Joseph, the son of Jacob a young man, who was sold into slavery. What might seem like a terrible turn of events for him ends with him being the Pharaoh’s right hand man, which allows Joseph to save his family in the end. This might not be the path that Joseph would have picked for himself, but as he looked back Joseph himself explains that it was God’s plan, His impeccable timing that allowed things to turn out so well for him. What about the Israelites, 40 years in the wilderness; wandering around, wondering just what the future held for them. Because of God’s timing they crossed the Jordan, full of faith, full of commitment to the LORD. Had they crossed sooner, their faith would not have matured, had they crossed to late and their faith might have started to lack. God had them cross just at the right time. How about when they left Egypt? The Red Sea parted just in time to allow their escape, yet closed up at just the right time; freeing every Israelite form the grip of the Pharaoh, and swallowing up all who chased after them.

So we know that the Lord is always on schedule, from freeing the Israelites to the birth of Christ, he has been faithfully on schedule. It might be his schedule, and not ours, but he it tracking 100% on time.

He will be right on time for the second coming as well. I know that there are many out there who like to speculate, and second guess. They spend much of their time worrying about when, and if, and will there be two raptures, will there be one. Some might question if He is going to show up at all, or better yet, if He is not already running late. Make no mistake about it. Christ himself tells us that not even He knows the exact day or hour that He will return, but you can bet that the Lord will show up right on time, when the time fully comes!

The Lord works just as punctually in each of our lives, now it might not seem like that to us, it always seems too fast or too slow. We either think that we are ready and waiting, or not even close to being at the jump off point. The beauty of the Lord is that he comes to you, not when you are ready, but when it is time. IN the passage reminds us that Christ was born to a woman, under the law. HE came to the world as one of us, he knows what it is like to want people to understand you and they don’t, he knows what it is like to have people doubt you, to be tempted, and to feel despair. He fully understands that sometimes in life things happen before we are ready, but it all runs on His Father’s clock. He came to us as a child, born in worse conditions than most of us could imagine, HE started off his life showing us that even though he is the most, He is willing to be the least. Christ did not receive a future King’s birth. There were no huge celebrations; there were no feasts, or balls. The town crier did not run through the street announcing his birth with joy. HE entered this world with a humble start. Paul reminds us in Philippians 2:5-7 “5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”

He made himself nothing, a servant, a human. See the Lord comes to each of us no matter where we are, from the time He set his foot on this earth, he has shown us that when the time is right, he will come to us, he made this sacrifice for us, because he loves us. HE comes to us like the good Shepard searching for his lost sheep. Not full of anger towards us for getting lost, but full of joy, for he has found us. He will meet you today, where you are, where you stand. You do not have to go far to find him diligently searching for you. Just call on him, and he will hear. As He tells us in Matthew 7:7 “7"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Just remember to walk through when the door is opened.

Rev. Thetford

Friday, December 5, 2008

Meeting your maker

Luke 2: 8-14

8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ[a] the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
The one fear that is seldom talked about but causes fear nonetheless is the fear of being before the Lord, or “meeting your maker”. I had a very good friend of mine that anytime something would come up that he thought was questionable, his response was always the same. “ ugh- uhhh, I will have to explain that to the Lord, and just what am I gong to tell him?” We all will bear our souls before the Lord, he will make the dark corners light, and he will remove all shadows. IN the reading above it shows that not only did the angel of the Lord appear, but the glory of the Lord shone around him, and the shepherds were not scared….they were terrified.
I think it is fair to say that most of us would react the same way. Many men throughout the Bible have fear grip them when the Lord presents Himself to them. Moses, Abraham, Isaiah, Job, Peter….they all were scared, they all felt as if they were not worthy, they questioned why me, instead of what can I do?

The beauty of the Lord coming in to our lives, and making his will known to us is not reason to fear. The Shepard’s were terrified; yet look at the news that was being brought to them. A savior was coming in to the world. Christ was on the way, that is news not to fear, but to celebrate!

The birth of Christ is exactly why we have no reason to fear any longer. I know that so many people hear that and they say yeah right….don’t worry, easy for you to say….you don’t know what all I have going on……you have no idea how full my plate is….What I am just supposed to forget all about it? TO all of those questions, and any like them, all I can say is you are right, I do not know what all you have going on, but the Lord does. No I am not saying that you should forget about all your responsibilities, I am saying quit fearing them, lay your problems at the feet of Christ, let him take the worry form you. Yes you will have struggles, yes times might still be tough, but there is nothing to fear, there is no need to worry, wring your hands, and let yourself get worked up. Ask the Lord for guidance, and LISTEN. God has always promised to take care of his people, and Christ not only proves that point, but Christ himself tells us that we are in Him, as He is in His Father.

Life will always hold challenges, there will always be interruptions, distractions, loss, and yes, there will always be fear trying to poke its head into your heart. All of these are nothing more than an opportunity to trust in the Lord. Joshua 1:9 sums it up well: “….Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

He is with you always, lean on him, trust in him, you will see your fear and worry for what they really are nothing more than wasted emotion, and misplaced trust.

Rev. Thetford

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Personal Loss

Matthew 1: 18-25

18This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

Another avenue for fear is the fear of personal loss. Take Joseph for example, HE was a righteous man….he kept the faith, he was a good God fearing man, he was a respected carpenter. Much like any man of the time he was betrothed to a woman. He was working hard; making plans, just like Mary his life was perfect. Now his betrothed is pregnant, and he KNOWS he is not the father.

Joseph is thinking about leaving Mary, divorcing her. All he can see is all of the loss in front of him. Loss of respect, loss of business, loss of dreams, and loss of time. Joseph has spent much of his recent past preparing and working for his future life, saving, storing, making a name for himself… his soon to be wife is pregnant??? How much more could go wrong?

If we read further into the text we see: 20But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

Notice how the angel starts off with "do not be afraid", but what is it that Joseph fears? Not the angel! He fears taking Mary! He knows that to take Mary as his own under the given circumstance, he will be taking a huge risk. A risk that might just cost him everything that he has.

Don’t we all know on some level what Joseph is feeling? Do we not see risks that arise in our lives, and we run away in fear. The easiest thing in the world to do is nothing. We fear that taking the risk might cost us something that we are not willing to give up. If we take that risk, it might not be worth it. I am sure we can all think of at least once where we have had the opportunity to trust the Lord, and his plan for us. I guarantee if you think about it, there has been some point in your life where you could have taken a leap of faith, and did not do it. You were scared of what others might think, or you knew that you might stand to lose money, time, or something that you hold dear.

I am not talking about some frivolous opportunity; I am talking about big risk, like the one that Joseph is taking. When it comes to that kind of leap you know if it is pert of God’s plan for you. You know it, because you can feel it, yet even with that reassured knowledge, we are still hesitant. Sometimes the Lord has to rip something from our hand because we have such a tight hold on it. We want to take the risk but are frozen with fear worrying about the loss. We dig in and we will not let go

I used to climb towers for a living you know the big tall red and white towers hundreds sometimes thousands of feet tall. The man I worked under told me a story about a new guy that came out to work with him. The first thing a new employee had to do was climb; if you can’t climb you can’t work. So up the tower the two go. When they got up to about 100 ft. the new guy looks around and immediately pulls his body in close to the tower, and closes his eyes. He refuses to move. He will not go down, and he cannot go up. After half an hour of trying to convince him to just go down the same way he came up, my boss called for another employee. With one man on each side, hooked in to the safety belt of the terrified man, my boss pulls out his wrench, and starts to tap……directly on the fingers of the terrified man. Each tap gets a little harder until finally the man let’s go, and they guide him down to the ground.

We do the same thing with the Lord. He is trying to show us a new way, he is opening up a path for us, all we have to do is trust in him, but we grip to the rung of the tower. We just can’t seem to let go! SO the Lord has to take evasive action sometimes. I heard this put into perspective the other day, I think it was in an e-mail someone sent me it said : 'The will of God will never take you where the Grace of God will not protect you.

We know how things worked out for Joseph, and they can work out just as well for us. We have to be prepared to take that risk, accept that loss. The Lord blesses us daily. HE wants us to be happy and give him praise. Sometime we have to be willing to open up that hand and let something go, so He can put something better in it’s place.

Rev. Thetford

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The unexpected.

Luke 1: 26-28

26In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. 28The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."

Losing control, the unexpected, personal loss, fear of God. There are many things will bring fear about. Look at Mary. Here we a have, by all accounts, a normal young lady. She is leading a normal life, she is pledged to be married, she is keeping up with the faith for she is favored by God, I am sure that right up until this moment she had all the same hopes and dreams that many her age have today. She is living her life, just as any girl of her time. In a nutshell, she is happy.

So there she is minding her own business, lost in her own world, minding her own business, and the next thing she knows there is an angel…, scratch that, there is the angel…Gabriel himself is before her! One could see where this might cause quite a bit of fear, but going beyond that initial fear, one could only imagine just what would be running through her mind.

Imagine it, here you are life is going pretty and in one second your whole life path is altered. This is what has happened to Mary, and when we look at it that way, wouldn’t we all have some initial fear? Don’t we all jump to battle stations at the first sign that our life course might be altering? We get very comfortable with the idea of just how life will play out for us. Some of us have a very hard time accepting change, we fear it, we fight it, we do everything we can to avoid the change. What makes change so hard is the unexpected; it is the fear of the unknown that keeps us shackled to our same old day in day out lives.

The easiest thing to do when faced with the unexpected is to panic. Yes there is a bump in the road, time to change course, not lose your head. It makes me think of the shows where you see the person get so caught up in the moment; they allow themselves to become so panicked, that they start to stammer, then they start wringing their hands, then it just turns in to full blown mumbling. Incoherent, unintelligible words ran together, as if every fear is rushing out at once. Of course there is the long time friend waiting in the wings, and just as the panic reaches it’s height, the friend reaches in and SMACK right across the face! The panicked person immediately becomes calm and realizes wow, so it is not as bad as I thought it was!

Folks, that right there sums up my point. Look at Mary, yes her life was going as she thought it should. The Lord steps in and changes her plans. When the Lord woks in your life, it is never detrimental. What great news the angel brought that day! Yes, Mary’s life will not finish out the way she thought it might, but look at what the unexpected brought not just her, but the entire world.

We cannot reach the heights that the Lord has planned for us if we panic at the first sign of the unexpected arising. There is only onew person who knows what the true path for our lives is, and that is the Lord………the last time I checked, he is not telling anyone.

Rev. Thetford

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

No Fear

I hope everyone’s Thanksgiving went well. I know some people read from other parts of the world, so I hope you had a blessed week last week as well!

I am going to start doing thing a little differently. Each day I will continue off the prior day. So as long as I get to post 4 times a week, I will get several days to expand on one thought.

Luke 1: 29-30

29Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.

Do not be afraid, have you noticed so often when an angel appears to someone, some of the first words they speak are something to that effect. Do not be afraid….Fear seems to be a very quick to appear in our hearts, even when we know it to be the will of the Lord.

I guess some might think there was reason for fear to spring forth. At this time in the world, the Lord seemed to be moving slow. 400 years pass between the time of the Old Testament, and the New. 400 years, that is a long time. Imagine all of the prophets during that 400 years…..400 years of prophecy with no result. So perhaps it is fitting that Mary was afraid.

Yet when the Lord moves fast people seem full of fear, unsure of themselves, and full of doubt. Think of the Israelites, Moses showed up, and within a very short amount of time the Pharaoh freed every man woman and child. They were happy to be free, yet full of fear. After the 400 years ends the Lord shows up in high gear! John the Baptist will be born. Shortly there after Christ himself will make his appearance. Things are moving fast, and still fear is the rule. One has to look no further than today to see how fear grips us daily. It is something that seems to be lurking around every corner just waiting to rear its ugly head.

I know, you are thinking today fear is different. These people were in contact with angelic creatures, sent from God, of course they were fearful. Some of them talked directly to God…..what more of a reason do you need to be fearful? Do we not see the same things in our lives? No it might not be on the grand scale of the Lord presenting himself to us, but he does talk to us, he tries to direct us, he sends angles, yet we all to often are to busy to take notice. I believe one of the big differences between then and now, is that today our fear is largely due to us not listening to the Lord so we feel as if we are out of control……But guess what? We are! We just do not want to give it up!

Rev. Thetford