“What is right?” Matthew 6:25-34

“But strive first for the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Matthew 6:33

 

So what is the “Kingdom of God” really all about?  Maybe Pilate’s question has even more profound meaning than ever, “what is truth?” (John 18:37) The Kingdom of God is not about hate, violence, bigotry, or any other attitude that diminishes the life of another.  The truth is, the Kingdom of God is about the incredible grace and mercy of God that offers joy, even in the midst of an uncertain world.  If you want to know what the Kingdom of God is all about, check out Jesus Christ, the Word that became flesh and dwelled among us. (John 1:1) Jesus is the Kingdom of God in the flesh and offers an alternative to the worries of day to day living.  The righteousness of God lives out the Kingdom “which has come near.” To strive for the righteousness of God is to be motivated by the witness of Jesus Christ who reached out to those that others had no desire even to give the time of day. To live in the righteousness of God is to do what is right, for the benefit of somebody else, to love your neighbor and above all else love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength.  The truth, as Pilate and all the others who may be asking, is that Jesus is the “Lord your God, the holy One, [and] you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you.” (Isaiah 43:3-4) To live in the truth is affirming and living out what is right; to hear the cry of the needy, to care for those who are oppressed, struggling, hurting, and alone. Maybe to really know the truth is to live out the Gospel message of grace, hope, love, peace, and forgiveness; to strive for a closer relationship first with God then to one another.  To do what is right is to witness a faith that does not succumb to worry but rather celebrates the miracle of God in everyday living. So, strive first for the Kingdom of God in all your living and you will be a profound blessing to someone else as you have been blessed.  Thank you Jesus.

Pastor Tom

Holy and Blessed I Peter 1:13-16

“Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourself in all your conduct; for it is written, you shall be holy for I am holy.”

I Peter 1:15-16

Have you ever thought of yourself as “holy?” We know God is holy, and we call the Bible the Holy Bible, but to say we are holy sounds like a stretch.  It also sounds like a stretch that the Son of God died on a cross and was resurrected so that our lives may be transformed by the amazing grace of God. It may also sound like a stretch to say that we will do “even greater works” than Jesus ever did in his earthly ministry. (John 14:12) It is all true, the holiness of God is carried on through the gift of God’s presence in each of us; we have been redeemed, equipped, and empowered by the Holy Spirit that dwells in each of us.  Being holy does not mean that we sit around all day and consider everything that God has given us, nor does it mean to think of ourselves as any better than anybody else (holier than thou).  What is does mean is that we are set apart to continue the work that Jesus has begun in each one of us and that we have been called to witness the joy of believing in something far greater than ourselves. To be holy means that your life is prayer lived out and faith proclaimed as “doers of the Word.” (James 1:22) You are a hero to somebody, you may not know it but because you are holy, part of the holy Body of Christ, your presence in the world has made a profound influence in the life of somebody else; that proves you are holy, and blessed.  The call to holy living is a call to action, not to apathy. You are needed because you are holy, set apart to witness the love of God to someone desperately in need of God’s grace in their life.  Never forget how much God loves you and the gifts you have been given to make a difference in the life of somebody else. Never forget that God has also set people apart to reach out the hand of Christ to you so you may know what the joy of the presence of God along the way is all about.  Maybe think of it this way, you are holy as Jesus is holy to truly celebrate the joy and peace of God in amazing ways so you, and all you touch in this life will have life, in abundance.  Thank you Jesus.

Rev. Tom Joyce, pastor

Fields United Methodist Church

“You are needed” I Corinthians 12:14-27

“Indeed the body does not consist of one member but of many.”

I Corinthians 12:14

 

It is incredibly humbling to watch people who have amazing gifts; carpentry, gardening, speaking, singing, athletics, technology, and chemistry just to name a few.  As I see so many with so many gifts I can’t help but think, “where do I fit?”  I cannot do what others can do and not sure what I can do would add anything to the mix.  Have you ever questioned what you are called to do or what gifts you are able to bring to the church?  If the church consisted of those only interested in teaching, how then could we have music in our worship?  Or if the church was only interested in those who could go on a mission trip that could only frame a house or repair a roof, how then would we ministry to those who are going through challenging times in their lives?  You are important to the life of the church, not only important but critical.  Without the gifts you offer to the church, the ongoing ministry of Jesus Christ would surely suffer.  St. Paul describes the church as the “Body of Christ,” not a few individuals that do only certain things.  God has blessed you in incredible ways and what you bring to the church is critical to the ongoing ministry of Jesus Christ.  We are connected to each other with a common purpose to serve Jesus Christ and all those who are in need of God’s grace in their lives.  We laugh together, cry together, and rejoice together.  Where else can you be a member where you are offered grace no matter who you are or what you have done?  Where else can you serve with what you have been blessed with by God rather than be told to go home because you do not fit in or not have abilities that are sought.  Amazing thing about God, all are accepted and all are offered a chance to serve with the gifts they possess.  Yes, some are teachers, others are not; some are artisans and others have no clue what a carpenter’s square looks like.  And know what, that is ok, because you are offered grace to learn and God offers the Holy Spirit to empower you to do things you never in your wildest dreams would have thought you could do.  You are needed because you are loved and God wants a relationship with you more than anything else in the world.  If you want to know God is with you, you will know God even more fully when you serve the people of God.   You are needed because you are loved more than you will ever know.  Thank you Jesus!

Pastor Tom

“In God’s Eyes” Matthew 20:1-16

“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Matthew 20:1-16

 

To our human minds, Jesus makes little sense.  We make contracts. We have job descriptions that indicate very specifically what we are to do, and how we are to be paid. And if we work overtime or are called to something above and beyond, the expectation is additional payment for services rendered.  The more time one gives to the job, then the more recognition is given and in some cases tenure is offered so the position is permanent.  When Jesus describes the Kingdom of God, suddenly our ideas of workplace fairness are turned on their head.  In the parable of the “Laborers in the Vineyard,” Jesus describes God as one who simply celebrates those who respond to the call to be transformed and does not base a seat in Heaven on years served or duties performed.  No matter how long or short the list of good deeds and no matter how long one has lived on earth celebrating Jesus, all are welcome to the Kingdom.  In God’s eyes, we are all equals.  By God’s grace and mercy, everyone who turns back to God and accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior is welcomed.  Like Jesus affirmed to Martha when she asked Jesus about her brother Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die will live and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die,” (John 11:25, 26) all are welcome who live and believe, no matter when they turn back to God.  It is all about grace, all about Jesus.  God’s grace may sound a bit strange at times, but it is an incredible gift offered by an amazing God.  In God’s eyes, you are amazing and loved more than you will ever know. Thank you Jesus for the gift of everlasting life.

Pastor Tom

Mercy Luke 15:25-32

But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.”

Luke 15:32

 

The kingdom of God is a strange world to be sure.  It is a lifestyle not of condemnation but of commendation. It is a life-view that sees hope even in the most hopeless and new life offered to those that do not seem to deserve a second, let alone third chance.  Our humanity doesn’t react well to folks that appear to have turned their life around.  In fact, we often times see those lives trying to hide their true nature, plotting to return to the life they once embraced.  Somehow we may even think we are superior since we did not live such decadent lives.  So along comes Jesus who offers a new thing, a whole different way to see the world which actually encourages and celebrates relationships with people who may in our opinion have a sullied past or even a different way of seeing the world.  Jesus proclaimed that, “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17)  In other words, Jesus offers hope and renewal even to those that we feel are undeserving.  The heavens celebrate those who have turned their lives around. Maybe God is waiting for us to see people a bit differently as well.  Maybe Jesus was sent by God to offer us an alternative way to base our opinions of others as well as to offer the “way the truth, and the life.”  When the basis of our lives is Jesus the Christ and not ourselves, we will “know the truth and the truth will make [us] free.” (John 8:32)  Offering grace and mercy is not an option, it is a lifestyle; it is accepting the truth of our Lord Jesus Christ and the message of hope even to the most lost.  Nobody is too dirty for Jesus to clean up; that is the celebration, and that is our hope as well.  Bottom line is that we are all in the same boat and just as grace and mercy is offered to us, it is offered to all.  The joy, and the challenge, is in the acceptance of the gift.  Thank you Jesus for another chance to get it right.

Pastor Tom

Mercy Luke 15:25-32

But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.”

Luke 15:32

 

The kingdom of God is a strange world to be sure.  It is a lifestyle not of condemnation but of commendation. It is a life-view that sees hope even in the most hopeless and new life offered to those that do not seem to deserve a second, let alone third chance.  Our humanity doesn’t react well to folks that appear to have turned their life around.  In fact, we often times see those lives trying to hide their true nature, plotting to return to the life they once embraced.  Somehow we may even think we are superior since we did not live such decadent lives.  So along comes Jesus who offers a new thing, a whole different way to see the world which actually encourages and celebrates relationships with people who may in our opinion have a sullied past or even a different way of seeing the world.  Jesus proclaimed that, “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17)  In other words, Jesus offers hope and renewal even to those that we feel are undeserving.  The heavens celebrate those who have turned their lives around. Maybe God is waiting for us to see people a bit differently as well.  Maybe Jesus was sent by God to offer us an alternative way to base our opinions of others as well as to offer the “way the truth, and the life.”  When the basis of our lives is Jesus the Christ and not ourselves, we will “know the truth and the truth will make [us] free.” (John 8:32)  Offering grace and mercy is not an option, it is a lifestyle; it is accepting the truth of our Lord Jesus Christ and the message of hope even to the most lost.  Nobody is too dirty for Jesus to clean up; that is the celebration, and that is our hope as well.  Bottom line is that we are all in the same boat and just as grace and mercy is offered to us, it is offered to all.  The joy, and the challenge, is in the acceptance of the gift.  Thank you Jesus for another chance to get it right.

Pastor Tom

“Never a Question” Luke 15:11-24

“For this son of mine was dead and alive again; he was lost and is found.”

Luke 15:24

 

There are times when the gifts we have received are not fully appreciated until we think they are lost.  The story of the Prodigal Son is a familiar one which tells of a man who took the inheritance that his dad set aside for him even before his father died.  He then squandered all that he was given and realized just how wonderful and valuable the gift was that was freely given.  But here is the even greater gift; when he “came to himself,” he returned home and found his dad running toward him with open arms and tears streaming down his cheeks.  His dad was so consumed by his love for his son that despite what the son had done with the hard-earned inheritance that was given, he was welcomed home.  We have been given an inheritance as well, an inheritance that is freely given but bought with a heavy price.  Sometimes what God has given is squandered just by the busyness of our daily lives.  Chris Tomlin sings, “Amazing love, how can it be, that you my king would die for me.”  It is true, Jesus died so we can live again, so we may have another opportunity to celebrate the amazing love that will never let us go. No matter how much we squander the gift, God is reaching out towards us with open arms to celebrate our return.  You are redeemed and forgiven by our loving and gracious God.  Consider all that you have been given by God, and consider the grace that is offered when you have forgotten or take for granted the gift that was given.  Donald Barnhouse wrote that “love that goes upward is worship, love that goes outward is affection, love that stoops is grace.” God is running to you, stooping down to pick you up, clean you up, and is celebrating your return.  Turn back to God, and you will know the love that is eternal, a love that will never let you go.  You are blessed by a gracious and merciful God.  You are loved more than you will ever know.  Celebrate God’s love with every breath.  Thank you Jesus for the gift.

Pastor Tom

“Everybody” Luke 10:25-37

“Go and do likewise”

Luke 10:37

 

It is said that “the devil is in the details.”  The truth is, the more the detail the more we feel lost.  On the other hand, the more the details, the more we can pick and choose which details can be used to suit our own agendas.  So the age-old question is who is my neighbor?  Who is it that I need to talk to, care about, or even consider in my daily walk?  The more the definition of a neighbor is narrowed, the more latitude is offered as to who needs attention and who does not.  Then there is the cry, “we need to take care of our own!”  At this point, Jesus steps in for some clarity.  The question no longer is, “who is defined as my neighbor,” rather it becomes “how are we defined as a neighbor?”  The Christian journey is not about trying to figure out who is worthy or unworthy of our attention; it offering the hand of Christ to someone in need regardless of who they are or what they have done.  The bottom line is that no one deserves God’s mercy but it is offered; that is what grace is all about.  Jesus does not narrowly define who we should be a neighbor to or how we are to be a neighbor to another, he just says, “go and do likewise.”  Go and offer Christ to another.  God, through our living Savior Jesus Christ has offered you grace, mercy, and peace; go and do likewise.  Thank you Jesus for the privilege of serving all for whom you suffered, died, and was resurrected to transform.  So, who is my neighbor?  Everybody.

Pastor Tom

“As far as it depends on you.” Romans 12:9-21

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all”

Romans 12:18

 

There is a feeling in society that the church is losing its relevance that this thing called the “Body of Christ” no longer is in touch with the post-modern world. The question is where is the starting point of the conversation?  If the starting point is defined by personal agendas, then yes, the church is irrelevant.  God sent Jesus the Christ into the world to redirect our attention from ourselves and establish a relationship first and foremost with God. The Christian faith, the church, is all about relationship; first with the way, the truth, and the life which is Jesus Christ, then with one another.  St. Paul lays out the very definition of the Christian faith, which is all about how we relate to and love those around us just as Christ loves us.  When Jesus walked on the earth, he ate, drank, and related to people, most of whom did not share his commitment to God.  Yet he loved them, and cared passionately for them.  Jesus did more listening and celebrating than he did judging and preaching.  In other words, Jesus, in all his relationships, shared the amazing grace of God to all people; he listened a lot, laughed a lot, and loved the people more than they were ever loved before.  The people who met Jesus were transformed because Jesus cared about them enough to witness the love of God through his commitment to the truth grounded in God’s grace. So what happened to the people that were touched by Jesus?   Did their lives change?  Yes!  Did they come to know Jesus as their Lord? Yes.  Was the Word of God relevant to how they lived prior to meeting Jesus? No.  The Christian journey begins with turning back to God, confessing who we are and seeking to live a life of grace through Jesus, and witnessing a faith that offers hope, peace, and the grace that only God can offer.  When relevance is based on God’s grace, then every relationship we have depends on our abiding relationship with God and our commitment to share the grace of God, even with those who may not look like us, think like us, or act like us.  Bottom line is, it is all about God, and God’s grace shared through Jesus Christ.  Open your arms and your heart to those around you; you will be blessed as you will be a blessing. Thank you Jesus for the privilege to serve.

Pastor Tom

 

“Follow Me” Matthew 4:18-22

“Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”

Matthew 4:19

 

Jesus has a way of calling people to witness the incredible message of grace to a world sorely in need of God’s grace.  Did you know you have been called?  It is true; you have been called by God to witness the good news of the saving grace of Jesus Christ.  Is your response to the previous statement, “wait a minute, I have not been called by anybody and even if I were, I am not equipped.  It is not me, Lord, it is not me….”  If that is your response, you are not alone; anyone who humbly accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior feels humbled by such a statement.  It has been said the “Jesus does not call the equipped, but equips the called.”  The original disciples of Jesus were hardly bastions of righteousness or educated about God in any way.  Yet Jesus called them and equipped them to do amazing things for the Lord.  Jesus used the gifts the disciples were given to further the ministry in spite of who they were, and Jesus uses us in the same way.  Our church is blessing a mission team to be the hands of Christ to the people of West Virginia, and down to the one of them, have doubts about what can be done, especially in a non-familiar part of the country and using tools sometimes alien to their everyday life.  But God sees the team differently; God has called each of them to serve, to follow, with the gifts they have been given. The amazing thing about the Holy Spirit of God, it does equip those responding to the call, and not only transforms the lives of those served but also of those serving.  You are filled “all in all” with the presence of God; you just need to accept the call that is being placed to your soul.  Follow Jesus and be blessed, as you are a blessing to others.  Thank you Jesus for privilege of serving in your name.  Go, and affirm as the old hymn sings, “I will go Lord, if you lead me; I will hold your people in my heart.”

Pastor Tom