The Sacrifice of Praise

sacrifice-of-praise_t-960x250Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 17 (22) (August 28, 2016)


Hebrews 13:1-8 | New Living Translation (NLT)

13 Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters.[a] Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.

Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery.

Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said,

“I will never fail you.
    I will never abandon you.”[b]

So we can say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper,
    so I will have no fear.
    What can mere people do to me?”[c]

Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith.

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

Hebrews 13:15-16 | New Living Translation (NLT)

15 Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. 16 And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.


The Sacrifice of Praise

The title of this week’s devotional reminds me of the old praise and worship chorus of the same. name.  I remember that it seemed quite contemporary at the time, even though it seems dated now.  In the late 90’s the writer added some verses, slowed it down to get rid of the um-pa beat. It was one of those songs that we sang so much that we got tired of it and yet the principles that are listed in this week’s scripture are as relevant today.

These are the final paragraphs of the letter to the Hebrews – a letter that was written to the Hebrew people that were scattered throughout the world.  It was written to show the place of prominence that Jesus had over the Old Covenant – Jesus was the perfect replacement for the old.

In these few verses, we see some things that would have been familiar to God-fearing Hebrews.  The writer admonishes them not to forget the down and out – the aliens and strangers – to keep on loving each other. It’s interesting even to see the parallels to Jesus’ teaching – to show hospitality to strangers – to visit those in prison – to give a cold cup of water in Jesus’ name.  We are suppose to have empathy and compassion – the writer says remember those who are being mistreated – as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.  In our culture today, it is way too easy to dismiss. After all we need to assert our rights – I say that sarcastically, because that is not what the writer is saying…the writer says have a compassion for those who are not well-off – it really doesn’t matter how they got there.  It is interesting because while Israel did get in trouble for not remaining holy as God is holy, they also got in trouble with God because they forgot the alien and stranger – the widows and the orphans – those who were down and out.  God gives the Israelites some very specific instructions – in fact, we see some of those in the book of Ruth, when Ruth is gathering the grain that has been intentionally left behind for those who couldn’t afford it – the widows and the orphans.

The writer then goes on to remind the Hebrews to keep marriage sacred – to remain faithful to your partner…God will judge those who are immoral…and those who commit adultery.

We are getting quite a list of things that honor God – a list of the sacrifices that please God.  We are reminded – much like Paul writes in Philippians to be content with what we have…not to be lovers of money.  For remember…money is not the root of all evil, but the love of money is.

We are reminded to be content with what we have — interesting – that could apply to money or things – or even what is mentioned in the paragraph above about relationships.  So many are looking for the right relationship, that they forget the relationship they have right in front of them.

We are to remain content because God will take care of us.  This was something that became very clear in the year that we were in transition.  Even now God is taking care of us.  I try not to worry – I think that is some of my personality – but God is taking care of us.  The words of the writer remind me of the Christ Tomlin song Whom Shall I Fear God of Angel Armies. The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people to do me?

We are then reminded to think of leaders who have set the pace – who have been faithful to preach the Word of God – the examples that they set – the great cloud of witnesses – and we are encouraged to follow after them.

These things are what the author means when he says to offer up the continual sacrifice of praise.  Even though we don’t need to constantly sacrifice animals because of Christ’s once and for all sacrifice, we are commanded to praise him continually – to do the things that please Him – because through this we proclaim our allegiance to God.  I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want to pledge allegiance to anything but God and his Kingdom.

The writer finishes with where he started – don’t forget to do good and share with those in need, because these are the sacrifices that please God.  I want to encourage you today – even as I preach about worship on Sunday to offer up to God the things that are pleasing to him.

Hospitality

hospitality-112 Then [Jesus] turned to his host. “When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. 13 Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14 Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.”

Our youth are currently in a series called “The Invitation.”  So far our lessons have gone like this:

 

  1. An Invitation to Love God
  2. An Invitation to Love Your Neighbor

At first, I thought tonight’s lesson was more of the same from last week.  Tonight we talked about An Invitation to Hospitality.  I asked the teens what they thought hospitality was and I got some interesting answers.  I threw them a little party tonight. We had soft drinks, nachos with cheese and salsa, popcorn, and some delicious cupcakes made by Pam.

Jesus loved a good get-together.  The Pharisees were always looking to trip up Jesus.  I encourage you to look up Luke 14, where our opening passage is found.  After we discussed this just a little bit, I read the story “Where Love Is, God Is” by Leo Tolstoy.  What a great story.  I encourage you to click on the title (link) and check it out.

The story finishes with these lines from Matthew 25:40 – 40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’  This is the point where I realized what hospitality is.  I was so proud of one of our teens when they came up with this definition.  “Hospitality is helping those who can’t repay you!” It really is – it is helping those who can’t afford it.  Perhaps even extending to those who don’t deserve it – our friends – our enemies – the unloved – the invisible.

When I was growing up in youth group, there was a musician by the name of Keith Green.  One of his songs was “The Sheep and the Goats.” Again this is a powerful song.

On the original recording that song is followed by “Asleep in the Light.” I really believe it is time for the church to wake up.  We have it so good and there are many people – many of them “invisible” to us that need to be shown the light of Christ and we are sleeping.  As the line in the song goes, “Jesus rose from the dead, and you can’t even get out of bed!”

Yesterday, there was a moment during the pope’s inauguration that caught Pam’s attention.

This is the love of Christ in action.  The fact that Pope Francis was so moved to stop the vehicle and get out and bless the man on the spot was particularly touching.  Among all the faithful gathered at St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis found this man.  It really is a picture of what God has called each one of us to do through Christ.

The Dark Side of The Super Bowl

Several of my friends posted a link to this post on Facebook and Pam and I thought it would be a good idea to post here.

On February 5, 2012, over 100 million people will watch Super Bowl XLVI.

The Super Bowl is the most-watched program on TV every year. But many people don’t know about its dark underside: the Super Bowl, like other large sporting events, is a magnet for sex trafficking and child prostitution. It is possibly the largest sex trafficking event in the US. As more than 100,000 football fans descend on Indianapolis, sex traffickers and pimps will also arrive in droves to take advantage of the demand….Large sporting events like the Super Bowl are prime targets for sex traffickers because of the high demand generated by thousands of men pouring into an area for a weekend of fun. The 2010 Super Bowl saw an estimated 10,000 sex workers brought into Miami. Despite efforts to crack down on sex trafficking at the 2011 Super Bowl in Dallas, there was still a tremendous number of women and children sexually exploited. In the past, attempted crackdowns by law enforcement have misfired by treating prostitutes as criminals to be locked up rather than victims to be rescued, but new efforts are gaining traction: a bill moving through the Indiana legislature aims to toughen the state’s sex-trafficking law before the Super Bowl.  This year the event is actually near the Detroit-Toledo corridor, which has one of the highest incidences of trafficking in the country.

To read the whole article [Click Here]

FLAME Gives Back

[The following is a support letter for a missions trip I will be taking this summer.]



For the last several years, I have been involved in the FLAME program.  FLAME is an ordination program within the Wesleyan Church designed for non-traditional students.  I graduated from the FLAME program and have had the opportunity to go back at least ten times to serve tables and to lead worship.  Because of my involvement in FLAME, I have been made aware of a missions opportunity and I would like you to prayerfully consider your involvement.

In June, Wayne Richards, the director of FLAME will be leading a FLAME Gives Back missions trip to Keams Canyon, AZ.  One of our FLAME students is a Native American pastor on the reservation.  Darwin and Ann Tsosie gave up a comfortable lifestyle to minister in the harsh realities of the Navajo Reservation.  Those who have been to Darwin’s home and church describe it as “third world conditions, in the United States.”  Darwin is the pastor of Red Rocks Wesleyan Church.

We will be going to repair the parsonage and church, teach Vacation Bible School, paint, fix vehicles, and do electrical work.  The cost for the trip is $300 which covers food and project supplies; plus airfare to get to Phoenix, AZ and back.  In checking the airfares, they are running about $400 for a round trip ticket, plus the cost of additional baggage.  I will be taking my guitar to help lead the singing for Vacation Bible School.

I would like you to prayerfully consider assisting me in this project.  The team needs two things:

  1. People who will pray for God’s protection, empowerment and blessing on the team.
  2. Financial support

If you would like more information on this trip, I encourage you to email me at dargot25[at]gmail[dot]com.  You can also get more information about the trip at www.wesleyan.org/em/flame.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share this missions opportunity with you.  May God richly bless you.

Haiti Update

Wesleyan Churches in Haiti Damaged by Earthquake

Jan. 18, 2010

The Wesleyan church of Carrefour Dufort-Leogane (pictured) is one of five Wesleyan churches in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. This photo by Thony Querette shows the extent of damage to one of those churches. Photos and videos of Haiti are being sent to The Wesleyan Church World Headquarters by World Hope International CEO, Dr. Karl Eastlack. Updates on the Church’s Haiti Emergency Relief efforts are being posted regularly.

A “call for a church-wideDay of Prayer and Fasting for Haiti, along with sacrificial giving, has been issued by the Board of General Superintendents of The Wesleyan Church. According to board chair Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, “The immense tragedy of the earthquake that has devastated Haiti is beyond human comprehension, but not beyond Christ-inspired compassion. We encourage each of our local congregations to set aside one day between Sunday,January 17 and Sunday, January 24 as a day of sorrow, prayer and fasting for the suffering nation of Haiti. We also ask every Wesleyan to donate the cost of at least one day’s meals to our cooperative disaster response effort by sending gifts either to the Wesleyan Emergency Relief Fund or World Hope International (our primary international relief and development partner).”

Transitions – Eleven Days

thriftstoreThe packing has really begun in earnest.  I am trying to decide what can be pack at this time.  I have been looking around the house to see the stuff that I still need to keep life to go as normal till we move.  The surprising thing is how much stuff we have that we can live without.  I know that there people that have much more that Dale and I have.  Remember we live in a country that people can rent places to hold stuff they cannot hold in their homes.  We have been packing and giving away.  Dale’s manager at the Salvation Army Thrift Store was very happy to receive the items that we donated to the store.  According to her, most of it was quickly sold as soon as it came in to the store.  This is not to brag, but to encourage you to donate quality items so that the Salvation Army can help those who are needy in your community.  I encourage those who are reading this, that if you have quality, unused stuff in your house, why not donate them to The Salvation Army and help people in your community

April’s Compassionate Ministry

whi_logo_07I know that churches are start thinking about Vacation Bible School. Here is a mission project that all churches can do no matter if your church is large or small — World Hope Fill in the Gap and Give a Penny. World Hope has sponsorships for children around the world.  The money helps fill in the gaps which have been made because of the financial crisis around our world. Just think, if one church could make a difference, how much difference could be made by many churches. World Hope has made it easy — you can download a take home paper and a coloring paper for the kids. Just think, even pennies can make a difference.

Looking Into the Face of Human Trafficking

Dale and I have discovered the sad reality of slavery through an organization called World Hope International. World Hope has done many things to stop this sinful acted against people. This past Christmas my sister Barb told us a story about how she looked into the face of human trafficking and put a person’s face to it. Barb likes to get her fingernails done at a nail salon. Around Christmas of 2007, Barb went to the woman she liked to do her nails and during the conversation the woman started to talk about how she would like to go home. She did not have the money but she missed her family so much. Barb and her daughter started to come up with the money to get this woman home to Vietnam. They just could not come up with that kind of money. Barb kept these events in the back of her mind — which for a mother with young three adopted special needs children, that was a task in itself. One night Barb was watching the local news and to her surprise, she found out that the owner of the nail salon was arrested for having slaves as employees. As the story unfolded it hit my sister that the woman who she talked the before was one of the slaves. For my sister the reality of human trafficking had touched her life and made her really take notice of this issue.

Since my sister told me her story, I have found myself wondering how many faces do I look into during the course of a normal week who are being trafficked.

This has been the second year that February is my human trafficking compassion focus. Why? Because it is a sinful to treat people who were made in God’s image like property. I may never come face to face with a human slave but I can help bring into focus this problem and maybe someone may have a chance to help set someone free from slavery. I would like to open people eyes to see this as problem that is not just across the world but it is also down the street. We all need to take a stand again human trafficking. What are you going to do about it?

Martin Luther King, Jr.

2008-04-dr-martin-luther-king-jrToday is the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  I am enjoying the day off with my children.  As we were laying in bed preparing for the day, our local Christian station played a short devotional about a time in Dr. King’s life when he was about to give up.  I did a search of he internet, and after a few tries, I found what I was looking for.

“The first 25 years of my life were very comfortable years, very happy years…. I had grown up in the church, and the church meant something very real to me, but it was a kind of inherited religion and I had never felt an experience with God in the way that you must, and have it if you’re going to walk the lonely paths of life… It was around midnight. You can have
some strange experiences at midnight. (That night, a phone caller had told him.) ‘We’re tired of you and your mess now, and if you aren’t out of this town in three days, we’re going to blow your brains out, and blow up your house.’ And I thought about a beautiful little daughter who had just been born… And I started thinking about a dedicated, devoted, and loyal wife… And I discovered then that religion had to become real to me, and I had to know God for myself. And I bowed down over that cup of coffee. I never will forget it… And I prayed out loud that night. I said, ‘Lord, I’m down here trying to do what’s right… But Lord, I must confess that I’m weak now. I’m faltering. I’m losing my courage. And I can’t let the people see me like this because if they see me weak and losing my courage they will begin to get weak.’ And it seemed at that moment that I could hear an inner voice saying to me, ‘Martin Luther, stand up for righteousness. Stand up for justice. Stand up for truth. And lo, I will be with you, even until the end of the world.’ I heard the voice of Jesus saying still to fight on.

He promised never to leave me alone. No, never alone.” (Bearing the Cross, David J. Garrow, © 1986, p. 57-58.)

January Compassionate Ministries

paamlogo

[This post was written by Pam, but I added several hyper links and some graphics and forgot to log in under Pam’s account. ]

In October of 2008, our county was added to a commission on Appalachia.  We often think of the poor living in urban areas, but the poor often live in rural areas as well.  It’s just not as well represented in the media.  Below is a press release:

10 counties added to Appalachian commission

Oct 10, 2008 06:36 AM
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Ten counties have been added to the Appalachian Regional Commission, which fights poverty in the region that stretches through 13 states.


The expansion is part of legislation reauthorizing federal appropriations for the commission for the next five years.

The White House announced Thursday that President Bush has signed the legislation, which provides funds ranging from $87 million this year to $110 million in 2012.

The new counties are Ashtabula, Mahoning and Trumbull in Ohio; Metcalfe, Nicholas and Robertson in Kentucky; Lawrence and Lewis in Tennessee; and Henry and Patrick in Virginia.

They bring the number of ARC counties to 430 in a region from southern New York to northern Mississippi.

January is Poverty in America Awareness Month. How can we help the poor in our nation?  By helping out The Salvation Army.  Most of us are reminded about the Salvation Army at Christmas because of the red kettles.  However, one of their slogans in the past was, “Need knows no season.”  You can help them not only with money but with food to fill their food banks. You can also help out rescue missions and other organizations that help the poor. Let us not forget these organizations just because Christmas is over. I know that is easy because they are not at every store ringing the bells. Christmas is not the only time that they need help.  They take care of the poor all year long.

Here is a great suggestion that one of the churches in our district did for the homeless in their community. New Hope Church (Fairfax) plans to pass out 50 Christmas bags this week. The bags will contain: a hat, scarf, pair of gloves, socks, chapstick, hand lotion, soap, hand and feet warmers, candy, a $5 McDonalds or Dunkin Donut gift certificate, and a Target or Walmart certificate. Rev. Pat Deavers and her great people give and serve like no others…wow!   The Lord bless them!

Let’s do our best this year to help the poor and needy and bless them with the love of Jesus.