Monday, October 21, 2013

Break Time is over...

We are pleased to announce that our short break from radio programs is just about over. We are working on several new messages to share with you, via BlogTalk Radio. Stay tuned for more information on programs and schedules.
We encourage listener interaction during LIVE broadcasts.
Listeners can also access our programs via the archives after the original air date.

Our link to programs at:


Rev. Joseph Holmin
Lost and Found Today

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Break Time

Dear friend's, and visitor's...

As you may or may not know, we are taking a break from our internet radio broadcasts. Our vision and goals remain the same. Bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world, and show the principals lived out in our relevant examples and lives.

Rest assured, we will return. Our format may get changed, as we only bring our program in a limited 30 minute time slot. This will also change the times for our programs, to be aired either before 6PM, or after 10PM; in the Central Time Zone.

If you have any suggestions for future programs, we'd love to hear from you. Send us an email at and listen to our archives at

We look forward to seeing you all again, real soon.


Rev. Joseph Holmin
Lost and Found Today

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Cost of Being A Disciple for Christ

It seems that Christians are obsessed with counting sheep. How often do you hear Christians of all stripes asking each other about the size of each other's congregations? Often we hear folks asking, €œHow many do you have on a Sunday morning? We marvel at so-called mega-churches. We feel good when we see a large crowd in church on Christmas or Easter and wish that it was like that every Sunday. 

A large crowd at a worship service is considered a success.

In our gospel teaching today, we hear that €œlarge crowds were traveling with Jesus.€ If Jesus were a good church programmer, he would have dispatched some of the apostles to get everyone'€™s name, phone number, and home address. He would have made sure everyone felt welcome. Perhaps he would have fretted over his sermons, making sure that each one was a practical, uplifting message that the crowd would come back for again and again. If they were singing psalms, he would have made sure the tunes were easy and appealing to the largest group possible.

Jesus wasn'€™t a good church programmer. This is because Jesus wasn'€™t calling crowds; he was calling disciples. Jesus wasn'€™t concerned with being popular; he was concerned with helping people transform their lives. Jesus knew that no matter the size of the crowd, it was all temporal anyway. It didn'€™t matter in the larger scheme. Jesus was leading people toward eternity, not temporal things like material success.

When Jesus sees the crowds, his instinct is not to wow them. His instinct is to make each person aware of the cost of being his disciple. It is this awareness of the journey that brings about transformation. He tells the crowd that unless they can detach completely from everything they are holding onto emotionally and physically, they can never really be his disciples. He tells them€“ and us, that we have to detach from our family systems, from our very lives as we know them. We have to be ready to take up a cross.

This is a familiar message to Christians. We know that this is what Jesus keeps telling us, but when we get overly concerned with our institutional success, we lose sight of the heart of the matter: discipleship.

Jesus is calling us again to consider the cost. When we do not consider the cost, then we are like a builder who makes no budget for a project or a king who makes no contingency plans for a battle; we are bound for lackluster results and frustration.

When we consider the cost of following Jesus, then we will deepen our spiritual lives. We will hold in front of our prayers our need for discipleship, not membership in an institution. When we make discipleship and not the size of the crowd the number-one priority of our life as a church, then we are about making disciples, not growing membership rolls.

When we are counting the crowd and not the cost, we get into the dangerous habit of thinking we are in control of the movement of the Holy Spirit. We begin to think that we can grow€ the numbers. We become proud in our endeavors to draw and keep a crowd instead of trusting in God with all of our hearts. We also get trapped in our frustrations at not being able to draw and keep a crowd. This becomes the major focus of our life together as a church.

God sends Jeremiah down to the potter's house to make a point: God is the potter, we are the clay. We and our endeavors to be the church are in God'€™s hands. We are not called to manipulate and manufacture the outcome; we are called to be faithful as baptized ministers of the gospel.

We are to be the kind of ministers that Paul is asking Philemon to be: putting aside our past grudges and our need to be in control. Paul is asking Philemon to begin anew with Onesimus. Paul asks Philemon to do even more than he is asking him to do.

It's our spiritual and religious task to become good, pliable, usable clay. God makes the pottery. We become good usable clay when we put scripture and tradition at the core of our community. We gather to study life-matters found in the gospel and the teachings found in our Catechism and Baptismal Covenant. When a community places these things at the center of its common life, it can't help but grow and be fashioned into a beautiful and sustainable piece of pottery made by the Creator.

We also become workable clay for the potter when we apply reason to our study. We study in community so that we can hear and experience other points of view. This will make us grow inside; as we grow inside our discipleship blossoms. As our discipleship blossoms, we become more and more attractive to others. We become pieces of art made by our Creator that others admire and wish to become part of.

If we work primarily on our discipleship, then we will be prepared to minister to the crowd. Then we have something to offer them. Then we will begin to imitate Jesus. In the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 9, Jesus sees the crowd and has compassion for them. He sees that they are helpless and harassed like sheep without a shepherd. He reminds the disciples that the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.

We are called to be those laborers. We reach out to the crowd with compassion. When we encounter the crowd, we let them know that we are offering them the Good News: God in Christ has reconciled us to each other, to God, and to all of creation. We are new creation. We are the priesthood of all believers. We invite the crowd to join us on our pilgrimage. We show them, not tell them, how our lives have been transformed by the gospel and by the sacraments we celebrate. Each of us becomes a catechist. This is the cost of our discipleship. Drawing a crowd this way takes time. Many will turn away. But those who engage will engage deeply and profoundly.

Maybe then we can stop asking each other about numbers and start sharing with others the depth of our discipleship.

This is where we are headed with Jesus: eternal life. Eternity is a long time. Eternity puts all of our anxieties about numbers on Sunday into perspective. Jesus is calling us on a great adventure. It'€™s an adventure that is full of tension, healing, bold thinking, and new life. It goes beyond our Sunday worship out into our everyday lives. So, indeed, we seek out the crowds not to count them but to have compassion for them. Counting the crowd doesn't make them stay engaged; showing the crowd our transformed lives brings them to Jesus.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

5 Women Missionaries Beaten Publicly in India for Sharing Gospel

Courtesy of Charisma News.

Women beaten
Five women, Bansari, Jaladhi, Kuyil, Sunita and Viveka, were beaten in India for sharing the gospel. (Gospel for Asia)
Five women have been beaten by a man in the Andhra Pradesh region of India while sharing about the love of Jesus in a public marketplace. Amazingly spared, they retreated to safety, thanking God for the honor of suffering for His sake.
The women, all leaders in the Gospel for Asia (GFA)-sponsored Women’s Fellowship ministry, had been sharing with store owners and shoppers when one man demanded to know what they were doing. The assault began with a powerful slap to the face of one woman and continued to the others, one of whom was isolated and surrounded by five men.
“Jesus promised persecuting and hardships,” says Daniel Punnose, vice president of GFA ( “These young ladies see it worth facing the beatings in order to share the love of Christ.”
The women, Bansari, Jaladhi, Kuyil, Sunita and Viveka, were beaten on their faces, ears and heads. All report that no bystanders came to their defense during the ordeal and that they miraculously escaped from their multiple attackers and were delivered from further harm.
GFA-sponsored Women’s Fellowships are intentional ministries across South Asia for women reaching women with the love of Christ in cultures where men are severely limited in ministering to women. Local Women’s Fellowships are often nurtured by one of 2,000 GFA-sponsored women missionaries.
Special prayer is requested for the women attacked and for all the women missionaries and leaders of Women’s Fellowships who work in cultures where women endure cultural oppression and degradation.
“When we see young women publicly beaten for the faith, it tells us what the future holds in regards to persecution,” Punnose says. “Things will get worse, but the Lord is faithful in all things.” 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Keep Your Fork

Keep Your Fork

There was a young woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given 3 months to live. So, as she was getting her things "in order," she contacted her pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. Everything was in order and the pastor was preparing to leave when the young woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.

"There's one more thing," she replied excitedly."What's that?" came the pastor's reply."This is very important," the young woman continued."I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand."

The pastor stood looking at the young woman, not knowing quite what to say. "That surprises you, doesn't it?" the young woman asked. Well, to be honest, I'm puzzled by the request," said the pastor. 

The young woman explained. "My grandmother once told me this story and, from there on out, I have always done so. I have also always tried to pass along its message to those I love and those who are in need of encouragement." 

"In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, 'Keep your fork.'" 

"It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful and with substance!" "So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder, 'What's with the fork?' Then I want you to tell them: 'Keep your fork ..........the best is yet to come." 

The pastor's eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the young woman good-bye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the young woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She had a better grasp of what heaven would be like than many people twice her age, with twice as much experience and knowledge. She KNEW that something better was coming.

At the funeral, people were walking by the young woman's casket and they saw the pretty dress she was wearing and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over, the pastor and heard the question. "What's with the fork?" And over and over he smiled. During his message, the pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the young woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about what it symbolized to her.The pastor told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either. He was right.

So the next time you reach down for your fork, let it remind you ever so gently, that the best is yet to come.

Friends are a very rare jewel, indeed. They make you smile and encourage you to succeed. They lend an ear, they share a word of praise, and they always want to open their hearts to us. Show your friends how much you care.

Remember to always be there for them, even when you need them more. For you never know when it may be their time to "Keep your fork." Cherish the time you have, and the memories you share ... being friend with someone is not an opportunity but a sweet responsibility. And remember to keep your fork.

Fellowship of the Unashamed

(An African martyr's last words)

I am part of the Fellowship of the Unashamed.

The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line.

The decision has been made. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.

I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.

My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure.

I'm finished and done with low living, sight-walking, small planning,

smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions,

mundane talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals.

My pace is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven,
my road is narrow, my way is rough,

my companions few, my Guide reliable, my mission clear.

I won't give up, back up, let up, or shut up until I've preached up, prayed up,

paid up, stored up, and stayed up for the cause of Christ.

I must go until He returns, give until I drop,
preach until all know, and work until He comes.

And when He comes to get His own, He will have no problem recognizing me. My colors will be clear.

"For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ." [Romans 1:16]

This was the last will and testament of a man whose passion for souls grew from his love for Jesus.
PRAYER: Almighty God, Thank you for the opportunities that you place before me. Thank you Lord, that I don't "got to" do anything, but more so that I "get to" share your Word with those you place before me. Make me a more effective and obedient servant for your Kingdom. Use me to educate, encourage and edify others for your Glory. Father, you have prepared a way, The Way, and I know this. Take away my selfish thoughts, and instead replace this with a selfless outlook, that I may be more effective in the urgent matters of your work and your kingdom. Make me to be more like you, Lord.  In Jesus' name I pray. AMEN

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Ten Questions - Bible Verses

Ten Questions - Bible Verses:

Question 1:  Is there a direct command for it or against it in the bible?
Exodus 24:7
7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people.
They responded, "We will do everything the LORD has said; we will

John 14:15
15"If you love me, you will obey what I command.

Question 2:  Could this cause others to stumble in their faith?
Romans 14:21
21It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else
that will cause your brother to fall.

I Corinthians 8:13
13Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will
never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.

Question 3: Is this activity necessary?
I Corinthians 6:12
12"Everything is permissible for me"—but not everything is beneficial.
"Everything is permissible for me"—but I will not be mastered by

Question 4:  Does this activity harm my body?
I Corinthians 3:16-17
16Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's
Spirit lives in you? 17If anyone destroys God's temple, God will
destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple.

Question 5:  Does this activity rob me of my freedom?
Could it be addictive?
I Corinthians 6:19-20
19Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who
is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;
20you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

Question 6:  Does this activity promote evil?
Romans 12:9
9Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

I Thessalonians 5:22
22Avoid every kind of evil.

Proverbs 8:13
13 To fear the LORD is to hate evil;
I hate pride and arrogance,
evil behavior and perverse speech.

Question 7:  Can I ask God's blessing on this activity?
John 8:28
28So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you
will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my
own but speak just what the Father has taught me.

Question 8:  Would I act differently if Jesus were standing next to me?
Proverbs 15:3
3 The eyes of the LORD are everywhere,
keeping watch on the wicked and the good.

2 Chronicles 16:9
9 For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen
those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish
thing, and from now on you will be at war."

Question 9:  Can I glorify God in this thing?
I Corinthians 10:31
31So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the
glory of God.

Question 10:  What would Jesus do?
I John 2:6
6Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

LIVE Episodes vs. Pre-Recorded Episodes

So I tried my hand yet again, at doing a LIVE episode.
I was moving outside my comfort zone, for sure.
Alot can happen during a live episode...
notes can be lost, computer issues, phone issues, and more.
To add to things, I was using a USB headset, running on a 
slow net-book. 

A Pre-Recorded episode, is relaxed. You are in control of how and where your journey for that episode comes together. You are in control of the recording equipment, and it's capabilities.
If you screw up, you simply edit it out, or do it over again; til you get it right. I did not take the easy way out, this time.

That's right, I did not utilize my podcast equipment at all.

So today was a lesson and a labor of love.
From here on out, LIVE or Pre-Recorded...
Podcast equipment will be used.

I'm sure I will do another live episode in the future.
And I will be better prepared, for all those maybe's I described.

We shall see what next week's episode has in store for us.

Thanks for checking us out, and for listening to our episodes.
If you have an interesting idea on a topic for a later episode;
feel free to let us know.

We can be reached at: or email us at


- J

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Some Things You'll Never Do in Heaven

Something to think about and to
give us a different perspective on

Inappropriate in Heaven
• You probably did not realize it, but likely
today you've been involved or soon will be
involved in activities that would be
inappropriate in heaven.
• Not sinful things (hopefully), but little
things that remind us we are not at home
in this world.
• What are some of these things?

We will not:
• Observe the Lord’s supper---that was
given to us to remember His death and
sacrifice—UNTIL HE COME.
• Take up a collection.
• Pray
• Listen to a sermon
• About the only thing we will do is sing.
• But it will be new songs, not the ones we
sing here and now.

We will not:
• Go to the medicine cabinet.
• Here we have to deal with headaches,
arthritis, disease, and a million other pains.
• There are no drug stores in heaven!
• There will be no tooth-brushes.
• John wrote, ". . . neither shall there be any
more pain . . ." (Revelation 21:4).

We will not:
• attend any funerals.
• There are no hillsides dotted with the
markers of loved ones "across Jordan."
• You won't find silent cities of the dead in
heaven, for no one ever dies there!
• There won’t be flowers or words spoken.
• John wrote, ". . . there shall be no more
death . . ." (Revelation 21:4).

We will not:
• Turn on a light switch.
• There is no darkness there ". . . for the glory of
God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light
thereof" (Revelation 21:23). "There shall be no
night there" (Revelation 21:25b), so there will be
no street lamps, no nightlights and no light
• No incandescent, fluorescent, or neon lights and
no light for the TV screen.
• The sun and the moon and star have been

We will not:
• Face a temptation.
• We face temptations daily in this life because the devil
and his workers are very busy (1 Peter 5:8).
• Oh how we wish we could lay our armor aside and just
rest from the constant battle of faith (Ephesians 6:13-18).
• That day is coming! In the land where we are staking our
claim, the devil has no passport!
• In fact, he will have been cast down into the lake of fire
and brimstone (Revelation 20:10). His helpers, too
(personified as the beast and the false prophet by John),
will be cast into that lake (Revelation 19:20).

We will not:
• Visit a sick person.
• We try to get by to see the sick in hospitals or at
home, but we'll never do so in heaven.
• All the ill effects of living in a sinful world,
including sickness, will be reversed in heaven.
• There will not be any doctors or nurses in
• We won’t have to listen to people complain
about their aches and pains and problems.
• John said, ". . . the former things are passed
away" (Revelation 21:4).

We will not:
• Lock our doors.
• We live in a wicked society. Every night the news tells us
about those who were robbed, raped, beaten and killed the
night before.
• We rush to fasten our windows, bolt our doors and secure our
• But, have you considered that there will be no bad news in
• The doors on those mansions have no deadbolts, the
windows have no locks and the homes have no burglar
alarms. In fact there will be no doors or windows or homes.
• "And there shall in no wise enter into it nothing that defileth,
neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but
they which are written in the Lamb's book of life" (Revelation
• The wedding feast is by "invitation only" and nobody crashes
that party!

We will not:
• See an old person.
• We daily see the aging process in ourselves and our
loved ones. We watch our children grow so fast.
• Skin wrinkles; vision dims; strength fails; hearing goes;
energy wanes (cf. Ecclesiastes 12:3-7).
• But in that land there are no retirement homes or nursing
facilities because there are no old people! (Well, we'll all
be old, but no one will show it.) We will receive new,
incorruptible bodies (2 Corinthians 5:1-6). Spiritual
• Neither will there be nurseries or day-care for children.
The only children will be the children of God.

We will not:
• Shed any tears.
• Hardly a week goes by there is not some
sadness mixed with our blessings.
• We face heartaches, and sometimes
heartbreaks, far more frequently than would be
our choice.
• But did you know that the Bible says, "And God
shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and
there shall be no more death, neither sorrow,
nor crying . . ." (Revelation 21:4).

• The human experience is not very
pleasant a lot of the time.
• Yes, there are moments where we can
experience joy and happiness and peace.
• We must realize and know that everything
in this life is physical,
• And heaven is spiritual.
• So let us prepare to enjoy that place called

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Clearing Your Conscience

Clearing Your Conscience
'Jesus did not come to bring division, he didn't come to cause God's chosen people to fall. He came to LOVE them into the Kingdom'

Read 1 Corinthians 8:1-13
1 Corinthians 8:1-13
English Standard Version (ESV)
Food Offered to Idols
Now concerning[a] food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.[b]
Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating[c]in an idol's temple, will he not be encouraged,[d] if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers[e] and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

I think it's true to say that the Corinthian Church to whom Paul was addressing the words that we heard a few moments ago, was not a perfect church. Despite the fact that it had not been up and running very long, and the words of Jesus were still ringing in the ears of contemporaries, it was a church with problems.

Paul spent a year and a half or more in Corinth during his 2nd missionary journey, arriving probably in the winter of 50-51AD, staying at the home of Aquila and Priscilla while he carried on both the trade of a tent-maker and the mission of an evangelist.

There's no doubt that Paul cared very deeply for the spiritual and moral well-being of the people of Corinth, which was itself well known for being a morally corrupt city. It appears that several reports had reached Paul concerning the difficulties that the Church was facing, including letters from Church members raising all sorts of questions about Christian lifestyle and doctrine.

Paul's reply, by way of this letter, was his way of ensuring that the various congregations and sections within the church at Corinth understood fully the implications of their faith and the way that this faith must be separate from the accepted behavior of the day.
In chapter 8 which we heard read Paul deals with two separate issues, one briefly and the other at more length.

Firstly, there had obviously been a question posed….. 'Which spiritual gift is the better to possess? Is it knowledge?'

Paul doesn't waste many words on this issue, as he knows he's going to discuss the matter later, spending a lot of time talking about spiritual gifts. Here he contents himself with merely saying that there is something far better than knowledge, which can be divisive, something which all people can possess and which knows no class or educational boundaries, and that is LOVE - because love builds up the person and the fellowship.
It's not a simple 'aside comment' here that Paul allows himself though, because what he has to say next reflects on this particular viewpoint as well.

Paul spends the rest of this chapter talking about food. Not a subject that you would have thought could be a point of division between Christians, but then we approach it from 21st century western civilization. For the Jew, and certainly for an orthodox Jew, food is a very serious business, and as was the case with most of their life, the Jewish religious leaders had written a whole host of do's and don’ts regarding what was considered acceptable for consumption.

There was an added complication in that Corinth played host to a variety of different forms of worship, and many of them were certainly not Christian and included sacrifices. Now the practice was that only a part of an animal that had been offered for sacrifice was actually burned, and the rest eventually found its way onto the butcher's counter. Which probably sounds quite acceptable to us - rather than wasting a whole animal make use of what's left…….. eminently frugal.

Unless of course you are a recently converted Jew who still carries within you the fear of breaking those rules which until then had played such an important part of your life.
The dilemma of course was that this meat had been offered as a sacrifice to idols. Now, every good Christian housewife knew that idols were a load of nonsense, just bits of carved wood, of no value at all, and of course the gods to which they were dedicated simply didn't exist did they? After all, there was only one God.

But….. maybe she shouldn't touch the meat just in case idolatry did cast a spell over the food, and by this making it 'unclean' and unfit for consumption by believers.
Somehow it brings the debate over should we or shouldn't we eat Beef on the bone into perspective.

Would you fancy tackling the subject? What would you tell the Corinthian housewives who raised this matter with Paul? Should they eat this meat or not? And if not, then why?

Well, Paul handles it in a very clever way by looking at both sides of the problem. Firstly he agrees of course with the affirmation that there is only one God (big 'G'), even though the general population were used to being surrounded by idols and statues dedicated to a multitude of gods (small 'g'). So if there is only one real God and one Lord, Jesus Christ, then all those statues and idols - call them false gods if you will - are meaningless because the object of their followers devotions simply doesn't exist.

So, does that mean that this meat can be eaten without worry, then?

Well, hang on a minute, says Paul. It's not quite as simple as that for a true Christian. Why? Because of those few words with which he started the chapter. Head knowledge is one thing, but the really important thing is to understand and know 'love'.

It's fine for us, says Paul. We're strong and confident believers and know all this to be true now, but what about our friends and others with whom we have contact. Do they all share this same confidence about what is right and what is wrong to eat? Hardly, he replies, there are lots of folk around for whom this is a very important matter. Some of your congregation are so used to being surrounded by idols in their daily lives that they would still somehow feel contaminated by being forced to eat food that had been offered for sacrifice to idols.

So, says Paul, rejoice if you must in the freedom you now feel about eating such meat, but be sensitive to the views of others, because your new found confidence might inadvertently be a stumbling block to someone like this, someone whose faith is not yet strong enough to feel totally separated from the worldly values of your society. Some people's faith is strong, others a little weaker.

In this way your knowledge could cause the downfall of another, Paul tells his readers, and that is most definitely wrong.

In fact Paul goes on to say that this is more than just a case of being insensitive to the needs of others. If this is the way that you act towards others, he warns, then you are in effect treating Christ in the same way. Here Paul echoes the words of Jesus himself.
If it’s going to cause my brother to struggle with his faith, then I'd rather give up eating meat altogether, says Paul.

Of course there's no real relevance to today's church in this reading, is there? Sacrifices went out of fashion a long time ago, and people are free to eat whatever they want, or whatever their consciences allow them to eat.

But as in most readings of this type, it is quite easy to apply the truth within it to our own situation.

Take for example the very opening words again, where Paul talks about the relative importance of knowledge and love. Within the Church at large, and this church in particular, there are Christians whose faith is strong - built on a very firm foundation that has been tested over the years and found to be steady in the face of temptation and questioning. There are others who have only recently found that sureness of faith that can uphold them through the darker times in their lives, and there are yet others whose faith is vulnerable - who believe and yet are constantly searching for unanswered questions - and who can be easily distracted from the narrow road that the gospels talk of.

How easy for those of us who feel confident enough to speak out about issues of faith, to actually place a stumbling block on the road of someone else's journey. To do exactly as Paul warned the Corinthians not to. Saying the 21st century equivalent of
'Of course it's Ok to eat that meat, for goodness sake. You're not worried about the effects of non-existent idols on the texture, are you?'

We're never insensitive are we? We never criticize the religious viewpoint of another Christian, do we? We never abuse our freedom to say what we want on matters relating to our faith, even though it might upset someone else, do we?

If we do, says Paul then we need to be rather careful. If by our actions or words we cause someone's faith to be weakened, and for them to fall away…….. then it's to God we answer.

Jesus was the prime example to follow when it comes to handling tricky subject areas of faith. He was never, ever insensitive to the needs of others. If he had to get a point across that meant someone acknowledging that they were wrong and he was right, then he did it in a loving and sensitive way. Yes, he did shout now and then, but only where it was appropriate. Jesus LOVED people into the kingdom. He had more knowledge in his head than any man - he could have argued people into the kingdom if he had chosen to, but that was not in his nature, and that is not the way that he expects his disciples to behave.

Knowledge is one thing, says Paul, but it can be a dangerous thing if when used it causes someone to stumble. Love never caused anyone to stumble.

We would do well to remember these words of Paul within the church today. So often people seem to feel excluded because they find, perhaps, certain aspects of the church's doctrine difficult to grasp. I can't help but feel that Jesus must weep when he sees such things happening.

Jesus did not come to bring division, he didn't come to cause God's chosen people to fall. He came to LOVE them into the Kingdom, and that should be the example that we follow. If we're about to say something that we know will cause offence, if we're about to state our opinion on a doctrinal matter in such a forthright manner that others might start questioning their faith, then we need to be careful because that puts a very big responsibility upon our shoulders. Our conscience should be our guide. The great theologian and writer C S Lewis in one of his books explains how he believes that our conscience is not only a God-given gift for helping us to discern what is right and wrong, but it is even a proof of God's existence. It is certainly something that should not be ignored as happened in our reading from the Old Testament. The Pharaoh knew what was the right thing to do, his conscience told him, and yet his heart persuaded him otherwise.

Mother Theresa had a very simple policy when it came to her dealings with other members of the human race, whatever their particular beliefs, caste, condition might be. She treated each one as if she were dealing with Jesus himself. And it seems to me that Paul is saying something similar to us here.

In all things, in our dealings with other Christians especially, sensitivity and love are the key words.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

It's All About Forgiveness

'When a person forgives someone, they respond to wrong by going beyond what normal justice would seem to demand,'

Read GENESIS 45:1-15 and MATT 6:6-15

 Genesis 45:1-15

English Standard Version (ESV)
Joseph Provides for His Brothers and Family
45 Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. He cried, “Make everyone go out from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence.
So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not tarry. 10 You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children's children, and your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. 11 There I will provide for you, for there are yet five years of famine to come, so that you and your household, and all that you have, do not come to poverty.’ 12 And now your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see, that it is my mouth that speaks to you. 13 You must tell my father of all my honor in Egypt, and of all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” 14 Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin's neck and wept, and Benjamin wept upon his neck. 15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them. After that his brothers talked with him.

Matthew 6:6-15
English Standard Version (ESV)
But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,[c]
12 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.[d]
14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

There’s an enduring image in my mind of the Vietnam War, a picture taken by an American cameraman of a young Vietnamese girl running along a road. There is terror and excruciating pain expresses in her eyes, and her body is on fire with napalm. Even if she were to jump into a river the napalm would continue to eat into her skin, and the picture left little to the imagination as to the likely outcome of this indiscriminate bombing attack. It shocked the people of all over the world when it was published, and may well have been a catalyst in the stirring up of anti-war feelings within the United States.

The surprising thing was that the young girl survived, albeit terribly scarred. More surprisingly she was featured not so long ago in a magazine article.  Now grown up, she has come to terms with all that happened on that dreadful day, and is able to say that she feels no hatred towards the crew of that plane.

Do you remember Gordon Wilson who lost his daughter in an IRA bombing on Remembrance Day a several years ago, and the immense courage he was able to show both then and later, as he sought not retribution for what had happened, but love and forgiveness - and through that love was able to do a great work towards peace in Northern Ireland.

In our reading from Genesis chapter 45 we find that the tables have been turned dramatically on Joseph’s brothers. They’d sold him into slavery for 20 shekels of silver to a band of traders on their way to Egypt, and now because of famine they were at his mercy and feared for their lives. Joseph could, no doubt, because of his position have had them put to death or imprisoned, after apparently accusing them of being spies, but he rewards evil with good. His acceptance of them is surely one of the bible’s great stories of reconciliation and forgiveness.

No doubt Joseph’s thoughts were directed towards a reunion with his father and younger brother, who had not made the journey to Egypt, but there was a wider purpose in his mind based on his knowledge of his heavenly Father’s will for his life. He could now see that it was God’s will that had brought him to Egypt, and his brothers’ treachery had been a part of that wider story. A little later in chapter 50 we have Joseph telling his brothers ‘You plotted evil against me, but God turned it into good.’

The several Hebrew and Greek words which translate as ‘forgive’ fall into two general meanings. The first one refers to financial dealings, and deals with the canceling of a debt. Like today, people got into debt for a variety of reasons, but as far as loans were concerned the lender had discretion whether to show ‘grace and favor’ when approached with a request. Any terms agreed would naturally enough depend on the relationship between lender or borrower, but God had instructed the people of Israel to be generous in their lending. The second meaning is much more frequently used, and this is concerning the making right of a relationship that had been harmed through some misdeed.

Both meanings are used in the bible concerning God’s pardoning or canceling of people’s sins, and if we look at one of the most well known of passages in the New Testament where Jesus talks to his disciples about prayer, we find in Matthew’s gospel a version of the Lord’s Prayer which says ‘Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.’ and then if we turn to Luke’s gospel in chapter 11 we read ‘Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.’ and within these two meanings lies the overlap that the Israelites too often felt or were reminded about. That through Israel’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt, a debt was incurred which required the people to show their appreciation of God’s love to them by the kind of life that they led. Failure to comply with the terms of repayment by forgetting all that God had done for them ultimately led to Jesus dying on the cross for the sins not only of God’s chosen people, but for the sins of the world. And at this point it touches us as well.

The Lord’s prayer as we have it handed down says ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’ Do you notice the subtle difference between these words and those as translated in Luke’s gospel? For in Luke it doesn't say ‘as we forgive’ but rather ‘For we also forgive everyone who sins against us.’ The implication is that this forgiveness comes naturally to man.

So what did Jesus mean when he talked about forgiving people and being forgiven?

Jesus told the story of a servant who had got into serious debt to his master, and was now faced with the prospect of having to sell all that he had in order to service the debt, or go to prison. He went to his master and pleaded to be released from this burden, and no doubt to his surprise was granted his request. When a person forgives someone, they respond to wrong by going beyond what normal justice would seem to demand, and act in sheer grace - and what is grace, but ‘undeserved favor’. It doesn't mean that the wrong or sin is considered as unimportant, rather that the relationship is far more important.

Chew on that for a bit. I encourage you to research for yourself, the core info shared in this post; allowing scripture to be the ultimate authority. Amen.

- J