Maybe I should ask the question using correct English: With what are you struggling? As you can guess I struggle with the English language, or should I say with formal English. Do I use “its” or “it’s”? Should I put the question mark inside the quotation marks or outside of them? You’ve heard the joke, “a preposition is a terrible thing to end a sentence with.” That describes my grasp of proper English to a tee!
We have many struggles in our life. You have witnessed as adults the struggles of puberty in teenagers, specifically boys, and laugh. I must pause here and tell you I did not have a son, I had two daughters. I wouldn’t trade them for all the riches in the world. They were wonderful and have grown to be beautiful women. As for a boy, I believe God in His infinite wisdom knew I would have had no patience for raising a teenage boy! I laugh, but I digress!
It’s easy to look back and see the struggles of others, but a little more difficult to see our own. While we can identify the struggles we overcame, how about those we failed to reach victory? It’s not as easy to talk about the latter, because of the first step to problem solving: admit there is a problem.
Those of us who gave our life to Christ at an early age did so with the faith of a child. We accepted the fact we could not solve the issue of our own sin. We were told Jesus died for our sins, we wholly accepted this, and made Him the Lord of our lives. But what happened after that?
Those who accepted Christ later in life approached Jesus with a different mindset. They had more years behind them, and therefore more “sins” to have forgiven, but the struggle is different. Adults rationalize, qualify, quantify, and apply logic to problems. But these struggles lie within ourselves rather than with God, so we wrestle inwardly.
Do younger Christians have the same struggles? Is accepting Christ at an early age make living the Christian life easier? Absolutely not!!! Older adults have experienced the “pulls” of this world and have seen those paths lead nowhere. But a younger Christian, even though they have Christ in their life, must face the inevitable decisions and struggles posed by the world without the luxury of experience.
Can we use someone else’s experience as our own? We all know the answer to that question. Can we use someone else’s faith as our own? I answer this question with a contrast: God versus my God. Is God just someone we’ve heard about, or do we have a personal relationship with Him?
We all have struggles. But those of us who call upon Christ’s sacrifice, and are covered with God’s unfailing grace know we have a source of strength far beyond our own.
Struggling? Give your struggles to the only One who can pull you through!!
Government should be trusted. After all, appointed officials are sent to represent the people in matters of the state. If they could all be honest, things would run well. But let a few begin to collude together, and then get caught, and trust goes out the window! The payoffs happened, the lies to cover up the ugly truth begin to flow, and more corruption emerges!
If you think I’m alleging this about our present-day governmental leadership you’re mistaken. The government I’m referring to is the one in the nation of Israel over 2,000 years ago. The parties were the Romans, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees.
The people didn’t like the Roman, the Pharisees didn’t like the Romans and disagreed with the Sadducees, and the Sadducees played the political game with the Romans and disagreed with the Pharisees! They might have been the first government to put the “fun” in “dysfunctional!” There were side agreements between the parties, scheming to stay in power, and hiding the truth to keep the Roman “eye” off the territory so Rome wouldn’t come down on the Jewish leaders. They wanted to keep the people of Israel under their power and any dissention was seen as a threat to their posh positions.
Enter Jesus. He was growing in popularity. People began to believe He was the Messiah who was prophesied in the Hebrew scriptures. Their mistake was a belief Jesus was there to set up an earthly kingdom and free the people from the oppressive rule of the Romans, much like God’s delivery of the nation from captivity in Egypt. This rumor was spread far and wide, and the ruling class felt threatened.
So, the Jewish leaders saw Jesus as an enemy, and the old saying in that part of the world is “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” The presence of Jesus forced those parties who were at odds with one another to begin to collude and devise a plan to get rid of this outcast Jesus.
They succeeded, but in doing so created a movement so strong, even a member of the Sanhedrin, Gamaliel voiced to the ruling council, “In this present case I advise you; Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
Jesus gave up His life for us but rose from the grave. He gave marching orders to His disciples to go make disciples! And to this day, the orders have not changed!! No matter how the government colluded, lied, and paid off guards, God’s plans have never failed.
Praise God this week for letting us be a part of His great plan to bring all of mankind back to Himself. We have our orders! Christ has risen, and it’s time to tell the world!!!
How many times have you heard the following come out of a little child’s mouth: “I don’t want to and you can’t make me!” Young children are notorious for digging their heels in when they don’t want to do something, go somewhere, or take much needed medicine! It wasn’t their idea in the first place, and frankly it’s a way youngsters show they have decision-making power over the matter at hand (even though they really don’t!!!). We as parents then calmly explain the advantage of carrying through with our wishes, and most probably the outcome if they don’t – it’s called parenting.
All of this reminds me of the old Life cereal commercial where all the boys sitting around the table have decided they do not like a cereal they’ve never tried, just because it’s good for them. Then they say, “Let’s get Mikey [to try it], He hates everything.” Much to their dismay, Mikey loves the healthy cereal. In their effort to validate their position of resistance, the boys instead make their parent’s point for them.
Before we laugh at such events on TV and in our homes involving children, we as adults to the same thing. We are resistant to doing some things because it wasn’t our idea, or we don’t see the advantage of fulfilling the request of another. Our military is based on this premise. Today we have an all-volunteer military. It seems when people want to join instead of being drafted, they tend to have a greater willingness to succeed – a willingness to serve.
The mother of Jesus had this same attitude. The prophecy was the king of the nation of Israel would come through the tribe of Judah. Judah, translated from the Hebrew word “yadah” means praise. Therefore, Judah was known as the tribe praise. Mary found favor with God. Even though she was devout, knew the laws and the prophetic writing, she was mostly available. She was chosen out of thousands of young women in Judah to give birth to the “Son of the Most High.”
When the Archangel Gabriel brought her the news from God that she would give birth to a son, a descendant of David, and will His kingdom will never end, Mary’s response is not that of a child’s – I don’t want to and you can’t make me!!! Her response was quite the opposite. She tells Gabriel, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” Mary’s willingness and availability changed the world forever.
What can you do for your city, state, nation, or this world if only you made yourself available? How can you serve? How can you volunteer? How can you advance the kingdom of God? Mary could not accomplish what she did on her own. God accomplished it through her, because of her willing heart. God is ready to do some mighty things through you, but He is waiting on your willing heart. What an easy starting point for us to have! Amen!!
Growing up my grandmother and mother both told me “don’t point fingers!” It was hard to understand at an early age just exactly what they were trying to teach me. And no, I didn’t learn after the first warning!! Many times, my hand was slapped when I continued to point because I didn’t heed the teaching point, no pun intended.
As I grew, I realized pointing a finger toward another was an outward sign of disrespect and in some cases aggression. A finger “poked” to the chest on the playground was just a way to either silence a classmate or to invoke a physical response. Regardless of the reason for the “poking”, it made both individuals appear less respectful to others.
In our world today there is a lot of finger pointing. We can open the paper or watch the news broadcast and hear about one country blaming another for violating their coastline or their airspace. Tensions then escalate and the verbal finger pointing turns to physical finger pointing, and the whole world hopes the finger pointing doesn’t turn into a “finger poking.” We all hold our breath in hopes cooler heads will prevail, whether between the two countries or with the help of a third party.
We seem to have a lot of finger pointing in our nation’s Capitol these days, both verbal and physical. One side of the aisle points an accusatory finger at the other, and it even occurs between the different branches of our government. Whether it is to draw attention away from one’s own actions, or to bring attention to another’s actions, the same disrespectful behavior initiates the controversial rhetoric – a finger point! If my grandmother was alive today, she would be doing a lot of hand slapping!!!
Finger pointing is not new to our times nor our society. In Chapter 3 of Acts, Peter and John stand before a gathering of people in a place called Solomon’s Colonnade, a place not far from the temple, and a place where Jews and Gentile alike could gather together. Peter had just healed a man who was born lame. The lame man was a beggar, and expected money but Peter and John had none. Peter told the man to stand up and walk in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, to which the man did. His leaping and praising caused quite a stir inside the temple. This didn’t set well with the religious establishment of the day.
Peter and John moved from the temple to the Colonnade, where he was able to address Jew and Gentile alike. Peter begins to speak boldly to everyone, and it appears he places blame for the crucifixion on the Jewish people – but that’s not the case. Peter calls them “friends” and acknowledges their actions were out of an ignorance of the prophets and Jesus’ own teaching. He called all to come together, repent, and turn to God.
Peter’s message is still very true today. We need to stop the finger pointing in every aspect of our lives, and find ways to call each other “friend”, repent of our disrespectful ways, and let the presence of God guide our actions toward one another and in our worship to Him!
Twenty years might not seem like a lot in terms of church birthdays. Take for instance the San Miguel Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico which is somewhere around 400 years old. Some could argue that the oldest church is somewhere in modern day Israel, having been established immediately following the death of Christ, which would place it in round figures, around 2000 years old. Be mindful that no such church building exist today, only a mention in the Bible of a remnant of Jesus’ followers who had gathered somewhere around Jerusalem. (Acts 2)
So twenty years is a drop in the bucket when it comes to church age. But for those of us at the Mountainside United Methodist Church it is a milestone.
A Google search reminds us that the Romans created the idea of “milestones”. Long before the signs heading out of town indicating the distance to the next crossroads or the next community, there were stone markers the Romans placed at certain distances on a road to indicate how far a traveler had gone.
And now, thousands of years later, this practice is observed on interstate highways by those small green number signs (stones) every mile.
A milestone is the marking of a significant event in the life of individuals, families, organizations, and even churches. These events are to be remembered and honored.
On Sunday, April 7 the Mountainside United Methodist Church will observe and celebrate a significant milestone – 20 years of ministry in Hot Springs Village. It’s a BIG deal and hears why.
20 years of supporting local missions
20 years of providing biblical instruction to children and youth
20 years of offering comfort and hope during times of grief and illness
20 years of helping families “Start Over”
20 years of providing a place to worship God
You are invited to help us celebrate this MILESTONE on April 7 at 9:30. The founding pastor, Rev. Lyndol Loyd, will be retuning to bring the morning message.
There will be a reception following the Worship Service. When you stop and think about it, this could be a milestone in your life!
-Dr. Walter (Bubba) Smith