For the last Sunday of January in Northwest Pennsylvania, you really couldn’t have had much nicer weather. After the fog burned off – yes, we had fog this morning – we had blue skies and sun and a temp that topped out around 45. It was nice enough to go out for a walk this afternoon. That makes two nice Sundays in a row. The weather this week really wasn’t that bad for the last week of January – a week that is statistically the coldest week of the year.
Speaking of walking, our walk today took me over the 50 mile mark for January – which is 2-1/2 times the mileage of last January. It was more mileage than I had in January and February of last year, so I have reached the 5% mark on my way to 1,000 miles of running and walking. I should be at the 8% mark, but as long as I pick up 50 miles next month as well, I should be good, because once spring hits, I should start getting over 100 miles a month and that should make up the 3% I am missing.
You may have noticed I missed last week. At this point last Sunday, we were in Ellicottville, NY for our district Pastor and Spouses Retreat. I was asked to lead worship and was honored to lead worship in front of my peers. We had a great time of relaxing. We ate way too much food. Mark Gorveatte presented some great thoughts on leadership. We love our district family and now can’t wait until Refresh this summer.
After the retreat, we spend much time getting ready for today. We had a good service this morning. I presented a message called “The King’s Business Requires Haste.” We need to be urgent in the needs of God’s Kingdom. As we closed the service I prayed for each one of our families and especially those who do not have a relationship with Jesus.
That’s about all I’ve got for tonight. Have a great week.
Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany (January 28, 2018)
- First reading
- Second reading
1 Corinthians 8 | New Living Translation (NLT)
Now regarding your question about food that has been offered to idols. Yes, we know that “we all have knowledge” about this issue. But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church. Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much. But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes.
So, what about eating meat that has been offered to idols? Well, we all know that an idol is not really a god and that there is only one God.There may be so-called gods both in heaven and on earth, and some people actually worship many gods and many lords. But for us,
There is one God, the Father,
by whom all things were created,
and for whom we live.
And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ,
through whom all things were created,
and through whom we live.
However, not all believers know this. Some are accustomed to thinking of idols as being real, so when they eat food that has been offered to idols, they think of it as the worship of real gods, and their weak consciences are violated. It’s true that we can’t win God’s approval by what we eat. We don’t lose anything if we don’t eat it, and we don’t gain anything if we do.
But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble. For if others see you—with your “superior knowledge”—eating in the temple of an idol, won’t they be encouraged to violate their conscience by eating food that has been offered to an idol? So because of your superior knowledge, a weak believer for whom Christ died will be destroyed. And when you sin against other believers by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong, you are sinning against Christ. So if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live—for I don’t want to cause another believer to stumble.
In our readings during the season that follows Epiphany, we are working through Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth. We come to a section of the letter that has caused various controversies. In this section of the letter, we hear the concept of causing a weaker brother or sister in Christ to stumble. I know that I could make enemies on both sides of this issue.
Perhaps the greater issue is dealt with early on in this passage. Paul writes “we all have knowledge” about this issue. I think he was saying that we all have opinions about this issue. There are times in the church that we present opinions as facts. This happens on both sides of the issues. We even come up with our favorite scriptures to support our opinions.
This happened back in the mid-1800’s over the issue of slavery. Those who were in favor of slavery presented their opinion as fact and even scriptural. The ones who took a stand against slavery gave some great arguments against slavery. One of the reasons our denomination got started was because we were against slavery. We believed that was the biblical stand to take.
Perhaps this idea of eating meat sacrificed to idols was similar. I think Paul is foreshadowing in this letter…remember this is the same letter that has the “love chapter.” Paul makes mention already that love strengthens the church. I love the fact that he goes on to say that those who think they know the answers, don’t really know very much. There are two points in this. Paul says it elsewhere that we should think of ourselves more highly than we ought. That we should have an attitude of humility. Everything that we do, we should do out of an attitude of love – a love for God and a love for our fellow brothers and sisters. Paul makes this point: Don’t use your freedom in Christ to cause others to stumble.
There are three important things at work – at least in this passage as to whether something is permissible or not.
- Are we loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength and do we love our brothers and sisters in Christ with the love of God?
- Are we humble in our approach? Are we exhibiting the attitude of Christ?
- Are we using our freedom in Christ to cause others to stumble?
Don’t think just because you have “superior knowledge” that something is permissible. I’ve often heard that argument. In all things, we should be humble. I heard a phrase this week at our pastor and spouses retreat. Mark Gorveatte talked about MVS. It is a phrase coined at 12stone Church – a Wesleyan Church in Georgia (and one of our largest.) MVS is Mutual Voluntary Submission. Believers should be in mutual submission to each other. It is the way of Christ. Don’t hold your knowledge over other’s heads.
As I close, I encourage you to read through the passage again. Paul offers some great thoughts on deferring to one another.
Sunday Evening – 1/21/2018
- Your Great Name We Praise (Immortal, Invisible God Only Wise)
- What A Beautiful Name
- All Creatures of Our God and King
- This Is Amazing Grace
- Death Was Arrested
- Christ Is Risen
- Same Power
- This I Believe (The Creed)
- It Is Well
- Happy Day
- The Wonderful Cross
- Because He Lives (Amen)
- Death Was Arrested
Third Sunday after the Epiphany
Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive
the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Third Sunday after the Epiphany (January 21, 2018)
- First reading
- Jonah 3:1-5, 10
- Psalm 62:5-12
- Second reading
- 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
- Mark 1:14-20
1 Corinthians 7:29-31 | New Living Translation (NLT)
But let me say this, dear brothers and sisters: The time that remains is very short. So from now on, those with wives should not focus only on their marriage. Those who weep or who rejoice or who buy things should not be absorbed by their weeping or their joy or their possessions. Those who use the things of the world should not become attached to them. For this world as we know it will soon pass away.
This Sunday will be the Third Sunday after Epiphany. The scriptures during this season reflect the mission of Jesus. Today’s scripture comes from Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth. The first letter is one of Paul’s longer letters, but in the middle of the letter we find these instructions. In context, Paul is generally speaking about marriage in this part of the letter, but in doing so, he reminds us what is important. What is important, is that Jesus is coming again – that this world will soon fade away. As I read these words this morning, my prayer is that I would not be so focused on the things of this world. God has given us the beauty of this world. He has given us the beauty of marriage. God has freely given us the things that we have – the things that we can purchase – and these are all things that can be used to spread the gospel and build the Kingdom. But, we all know that it can be easy to lose our focus.
This morning in just these three short verses we are reminded that time is short. As I write, I am reminded of the song “Ground Zero” by Kerry Livgren. Below are the lyrics and following that is the song. Time is short – so very much remains to be done. Let’s be focused on that.
Days are short and time so dear. So very much remains to be done. It’s time to speak of one so near ‘Til all hearts have been won.
The wall is high beyond is much to find. A barrier we built so long ago. With fearful hope and a faith that is not blind. From clouds of joy we’ll see the depths below.
Across the sea and far away the eyes of all the world await the Passion Play. The final act at last begun; the new is born the old is bound to pass away.
No more the turn of the pages; and now the hope of the ages; for all the bondage is broken, all who see.
The oracles, the prophets of the past; the miracle of knowledge was revealed. The plan was laid upon a strong foundation. So long ago the future was sealed