“So if anyone is in Christ Jesus, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; everything has become new!”
II Corinthians 5:17
What if clothing were designed to fit only one particular body style or preference? And what if everyone were required to wear one particular outfit all the time? It would seem pretty weird to see everyone look alike. We might try to make it work but deep down inside our spirit would want to break free of constantly being the same as everybody else and seeing everybody doing and thinking the same old things. The incredible gift we have been given is the opportunity to accept a whole new way to celebrate life and perceive others. Christ Jesus invites anyone and everyone to turn away from a dusty old life of sameness and the trappings of sin to a new life of adventure, joy and the peace of knowing that our faith is not a relic from the past rather it offers the ultimate freedom of living in this thing called grace which is eternal. Anyone and everyone are invited to experience grace, God’s unconditional love. Accepting Jesus Christ is all about celebrating the freedom of seeing people as children of God first and foremost. Accepting Jesus is acknowledging that our lives are not as they should be but God’s love for us is too big to ever let us stay that way. Living by faith is seeing God not as a judgmental tyrant requiring us live in lockstep with everybody else; rather it is about accepting the freedom of knowing that no matter where our journey leads us, we are never alone. Even if we have ventured far away from this thing called grace, God through Christ wants us back. Jesus the Christ celebrates your life and all the gifts you have been given; all you need to do is turn and accept the joy and freedom you are being offered by the one who “did not come into the world to judge the world but so that the world may be saved through him.” You are loved by God, more than you will ever know, accept that fact and experience the newness of life. Thank you Jesus!
“I have no gold or silver, but what I have I give to you; in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.”
Just when we think we have nothing to offer, Jesus comes alive in our soul. The very power of God fills us when we least expect it and when God’s presence is deeply needed, we are filled. Have you ever asked yourself, “What can I do?” Money may be tight, and physically every movement may be a challenge. Or maybe you are able to write a check to help someone, which is truly a gift, but do not feel beyond offering money you can be of any help. Truth is, you have everything you need. You have the power of the Holy Spirit to offer someone hope even in the midst of hopelessness. When Peter left church that morning and saw a need, he did not reach into his pocket for silver and gold; he reached into his heart and extended the hand of Christ. In a world of isolation, electronic relationships, and pleas for money, Jesus Christ offers us an opportunity to offer something far more profound; the gift of faith, hope and a hand of flesh and blood rather than a tweet or a post. When you extend the hand of Christ you are giving someone the hope that they are not alone, that no matter the circumstance God through the living Christ is with them, through you. Think of it this way, when you extend the hand of friendship, you are offering Christ. When you walk with someone in need, you walk with Christ. The greatest gift you can give someone is your time and your faith; “gold and silver have I none, but what I have is my Savior, and I give Him to you.” You have been blessed, go, and do likewise. Thank you Jesus.
“Very Truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these because I am going to the Father.”
Phillip, a disciple of Jesus, had a first row seat to the ministry of Jesus. He saw Jesus cure the sick, heal the physically and emotionally challenged, and with a word made God’s incredible message of grace and hope come alive for the people. Yet Phillip was not satisfied, he wanted more proof that Jesus was as close to God as Jesus said, “I am the way the truth, and the life.”(John 14:6) So often, we are satisfied being spectators rather than participators. We want the satisfaction of knowing Jesus as Lord and Savior and that through the amazing grace that Jesus shared we may have eternal life. Yet Jesus wants more for us than simple understanding of the concept of faith. Jesus calls us to actually be a part of the life of faith and offers us the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish far more than Jesus did in his earthly ministry. If all we needed was an understanding of faith and the gift of Jesus Christ then all the Bible would amount to is another self-help manual and serving the church nothing more than time served. But through Jesus Christ we have been given an incredible gift, a gift that makes faith come alive and the word of God a reality. We are filled “all in all,” with the power of God’s Holy Spirit to do far more for our neighbor than Jesus ever did during his earthly ministry. The challenge for us is to believe that we are a beloved part of our faith, filled to the brim with the power to witness to the world a far more excellent way to live. You have been given a gift, a gift that cannot be taken away by anybody on this planet. You have been filled with the very presence of God to do far more than you could ever imagine. If you don’t believe that you have been filled with the grace of God, then look around and see what God has already given you. You have been blessed, and you have been filled, to the max! Thank you Jesus.
“But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.”
God speaks, we get all excited then comes the doubt; how can I…, what can I…., why can I…, and who cares anyhow…. In the marketing and the psychological world this doubt is called “cognitive dissonance;” part of our thinking is “all in” while another part says, “not sure this is the right thing to do.” Something has to give and often times the solution involves running, fast! Fear has a way of winning out and though our intentions are great our tendency is to hide from uncertainty. For Jonah, God called him to hold an entire city accountable, to take a stand in the name of the Lord; pretty heavy stuff, even for a card-carrying prophet like Jonah. Jonah knew he should listen to God and that would be the right thing, yet all he wanted to do was to run and hide. Prophets are no different than you and me in many ways; they have doubts and they question their abilities, their commitment, and their time. Maybe our “dissonance” lies in our reliance on ourselves rather than on God’s grace, mercy, and power. Jesus shows up in our lives and calls us to be “all in” for him, to make disciples and to know that by faith our lives and the lives around us can be transformed and made new yet we ask ourselves, “who am I, that the voice who calmed the sea, would call out through the rain and calm the storm in me?” (Casting Crowns) You are a child of God, so unbelievably loved by God that through Christ God will “neither leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) As those fears and doubts start to add up and you begin to look around for your running shoes, remember the words of the Psalmist, “with the Lord on my side I do not fear.” Maybe it is all about trusting in the Lord even and especially in those times of doubt. Even to the end of the age, to the end of the age Jesus will be with you. Jesus is “all in for you,” no matter where life may lead. Thank you Jesus!
Rev. Tom Joyce, pastor
Fields United Methodist Church
“This is my son, the beloved; with whom I am well pleased; listen to him!” Matthew 7:5
When Jesus led a few of his closest disciples to the top of a mountain and they saw Jesus, the guy they have been traveling with for some time, transformed before their eyes it must have been one of those once in a lifetime experiences. The disciples were blown away by what they experienced. Some experiences do that more than others; sometimes we just don’t know quite what to do when Jesus shows up in our lives. The disciples thought they knew what this thing called faith was about, but this experience changed everything. Then God says something troubling to them; “Listen to him!” Bottom line is that they thought they were listening to Jesus and doing all the right things along the way. So why did God feel the need to remind them to listen? Maybe then, as today, we have a hard time listening to what God has to say to us. We think we are going in the right direction then God gives us a “wow” experience, a realization that God is a whole lot bigger than we could ever imagine. The little rooms we build for God do not hold the majesty or the fullness of the grace of God. We tend to compartmentalize God to suit our needs. We seek a God that satisfies our needs rather than experience God who will transform our lives for the better. Allow God to touch your life and be “blown away” by the change that ensues. God offers us reminders along the journey, some profound and others simply a small quiet voice. God speaks in many ways; we just need to be open to what God is doing in us and around us.
Rev. Tom Joyce, pastor
Fields United Methodist Church
“Let your light shine before others, so that your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
You are the most important person in the continuing ministry of Jesus Christ in the world. You may not believe it, but people depend on you to live out this Good News called Jesus Christ, especially in a world that seems to be full of one-sided conversations and adversarial relationships. People yearn for more than what they see, and desire to live a life of pure joy but often times have difficulty finding the peace that comes through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the past few days, the lyrics from Jeremy Camp’s “Give me Jesus” have been ringing in my ears, “you can have all this world, just give me Jesus.” Just give me Jesus; that desire can be fulfilled through our faithful witness of the grace of Jesus Christ. Jesus is amazing; he reached out and touched those others would not even consider worthy their time. Jesus saw people, all people, as God’s beloved worthy of Jesus dying for on a cross for them. When others saw someone as unworthy, dirty, and soiled with the cares and bitter crosses of the culture or sullied by the judgments folks cast upon them, he looked beyond and saw a soul worthy of being saved. When your witness is a witness of grace, there is rejoicing in heaven, because someone has found what their soul has been seeking. Our witness of God’s grace is not about rules or regulations or making sure the way we believe is how they should believe, it is about sharing the same love that God has shared with us to another. It is offering the gift of eternal life; it is knowing that when somebody turns back to the mighty and loving arms of Jesus, their life will never be the same. Your words or actions may be the only hope they receive when they need it the most. The light of Christ can only be seen when it is not hidden. Faith needs to be shared. You have been given an incredible gift not to be tucked away but to be celebrated. This thing we have received called grace is amazing, it reaches beyond what is seen and extends not judgement or pain, but shares hope, compassion and understanding. We offer grace through our witness not for our glory but for the glory of God. As St. Paul writes, “Yes, everything is for your sake so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:15) May your words and your deeds give glory to God as you extend the love of Christ to somebody that is waiting and hoping for a transformed life in Christ. You are the witness of Jesus that is so important. Think about it this way, the soul of another just wants Jesus and is crying out, “just give me Jesus,” just give me Jesus to the glory of God. Thank you Jesus!
“I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Christian conversation, or as our Methodist tradition calls it “Christian Conference,” involves the art of getting along with one another and understanding the incredible value of sharing our life with other Christians. It does not mean we need to always agree but does call for us to, in the words of St. Paul, “make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Worship is imperative for a vital church community, as is prayer, Biblical understanding and attending opportunities to better experience the grace of God, yet there is a need to take the time to talk about our faith as we journey with other Christians. The bottom line is that our faith is not intended to be lived out in isolation from other Christians or the world around us. We were created by God to be in community for the dual purpose of nurturing our souls and equipping ourselves and others to be faithful witnesses of Jesus Christ beyond the walls of the church. When Jesus taught us to pray he instructed us to begin, “Our Father…,” not “my Father.” We are baptized into one body, with a variety of gifts to share with each other for the purpose of equipping “the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12) “Christian conference” is a means of grace by which we more fully understand how God has called us, nurtured, and equipped us to celebrate the joy of living out our faith in our everyday lives. God never intended for you to live out your faith alone, rather God has placed folks along the way and opportunities to nurture what God has given you. More than a “means of grace,” Christian conference (talk) is living out your faith to the fullest; it is God’s precious gift to you. Thank you Jesus!
“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
It is hard to imagine what the presence of God would be like, yet Jesus offers a taste through calling us to worship “in spirit and in truth.” “Attending to the Ordinances of God” is a way which we can truly be caught up in God’s grace, whether through partaking of the Lord’s Supper or celebrating worship. If we believe in the real presence of Jesus Christ in worship, that God comes to us in Spirit when we raise our hands to truly give honor and praise to the creator of the universe and the author of our salvation then we will truly come to know even more completely what an incredible gift God has offered to us. To worship in “spirit and in truth” is to come to worship with an open heart, an open mind, and a soul longing to be drawn closer to Jesus. To some, worship may be the thing to do on Sunday. For others, a chance to sing familiar tunes; and for others worship is a time to just get away from life for but an hour. So what if we saw worship as a celebration of the presence of God, no matter our circumstances or our disposition at the time. What if we came to worship to do nothing more than to give thanks to the Lord our God? When we worship in spirit and in truth we recognize our absolute dependence on God and our need to come into God’s presence with a spirit of humility, openness, and joy. Worship out of a sense of duty or tradition is no worship at all; worship becomes then only something to do, not to experience and celebrate. As a “means of grace,” corporate worship is crucial to feeding our souls and living a transformed life. When we worship in “spirit and in truth” as Jesus calls us to do, we experience the amazing grace and incredible joy that can only come from God’s Holy Spirit. As the Psalmist writes, “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God…O Lord of hosts, happy is everyone who trusts in you.” (Ps. 84) Thank you Jesus!
“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting.”
As someone who enjoys the life necessity of eating, I typically have mapped out when I will be eating and what will be on the menu. It is fun to consider new recipes and tweak old ones! Fasting, or abstaining from food for a period of time averts our attention from our human needs and focuses our soul on celebrating God, the author of our lives as well as the giver of the sustenance to keep our life moving. As a “means of grace,” fasting redirects our spiritual journey and deepens our relationship with God. Consider this, when Jesus was baptized, he immediately fasted and in the midst of his fasting he was certainly tempted to veer away from the journey God intended for him to make for all humanity. Food is perhaps the most tempting thing in our lives. We are tempted to overeat, under-eat, eat foods that are not the healthiest for us, and just plain eat out of habit. Fasting is for a few hours taking our devotion to food and instead concentrating attention on our spiritual need to be fed by God’s Holy Spirit. It is not a statement of will to be on display rather it is a gift to God between only you and God. In a sense, fasting is putting our spiritual needs ahead of our human need of food consumption. Some medical conditions make fasting out of the question, but even in those instances, simply giving up for a day something that is consumed for more devotion to the love of God will greatly enhance our relationship with God and offer spiritual nourishment to the soul. Abstaining from food as a Christian is a spiritual discipline which allows God’s grace to be clarified and strengthened. Fasting is a reminder “of our dependence upon God and God’s grace.” May God’s grace strengthen you in your devotion to God and dedication to God’s calling on your life. Thank you, Jesus!
Rev. Tom Joyce, Pastor
“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17
Perhaps the grandest love letter in the history of the world is the Holy Bible. It may seem odd to some that a book that includes war, anguish, and even a pretty gruesome crucifixion could even be considered in the category with the words of Elizabeth Browning, “How do I love thee, let me count the ways…” Yet contained in this sacred text is the story of humanity and ultimate redemption offered by God who refused and continues to refuse to let us go. There is comfort, healing, presence, spiritual direction, peace, and joy; all the elements that will transform lives. Reading and studying the Bible is a “means of grace” in that understanding God’s Word opens up a whole new understanding of what it means to be a child of God. It is not a book of rules rather it is the affirmation of the amazing love (grace) that God shares with us. Over the course of centuries, the Bible has been used and abused. But the true intent of this precious thing we call the Word of God through Scripture is to be a transformative witness of the pure love of God made real and alive by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So where is the love? How about Jesus’ promise at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Or how about when all seems lost and loneliness creeps into every part of your being; to hear the words, “I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers…nor anything else in all creation will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:38-39) God’s love will never let you go, no matter who you are and no matter what you have done. You are redeemed through this “Word that has become flesh and dwelled among us.” (John 1:14) The Bible is God’s eternal love letter to you and is there for the reading, and the living. The Word of God as witnessed in the Bible is an incredible gift from an amazing God. Thank you Jesus!