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May 287, 2020

THE WARRIOR CHRIST

I imagine that subject line got your attention! We rarely, if ever, speak of Jesus as a warrior. We think of him as a teacher, a healer, a preacher. We think of His statements of “turn the other check, forgive 70 times 7, walk a second mile, pray for those who persecute you” and so on. Those philosophies and teachings do not seem to fit a “warrior” profile. And yet I think we overlook that part of Jesus.

What do we think Jesus facing Satan in the wilderness was--a picnic? IT WAS A BATTLE OF GOOD VERSES EVIL. What do we think Jesus turning over the money changer’s table in the Temple was--just a bad day? Again, it was GOOD VERSES EVIL. What do we think Holy Week and the Cross was--a walk in the park? IT WAS JESUS VERSES SATAN; IT WAS GOOD VERSES EVIL.

John McDougall, a chaplain in the U.S. Army Rangers, wrote a book titled, “Jesus was an Airborne Ranger”. Obviously, it got my attention. He based his approach on another great Christian writer of an earlier period. Quoting C.S Lewis’ famous book, “Mere Christianity”, he shares that Lewis wrote in his book, “Enemy-occupied territory – that is what the world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.” McDougall and Lewis’ approach are not that far removed from early Christianity. As early as the first century Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection were being compared to a great military victory over a formidable enemy. THIS IS A DOCTRINE CALLED “CHRISTUS VICTOR” (Latin for “Christ the Conqueror”) and it acted as the primary framework for understanding Jesus’ mission on earth.

In his book McDougall also has a very interesting sentence: “Many Christians today have a bunker mentality, content to wait in the relative calm of their churches while enemy (Satan) shelling wreaks havoc on families and individuals outside.” He will later add that “ONLY A WARRIOR CHRIST CAN SO POSITIVELY IMPACT THIS FRACTURED PLANET”.

The reality for us is that the modern church has largely overlooked the fact that there is real spiritual warfare going on. HAVE Y0U READ THE NEWS TODAY? A heartbreaking killing in Minnesota that has led to riots and violence. Politicians on both sides of the aisle who cannot treat one another with any form of politeness or agree on anything, run our government. Opinions of COVID 19 run the entire spectrum from it’s a hoax and a government conspiracy to take control – to, we are all going to die. We need Christian warriors to follow a warrior Christ, to change our world.

That does not mean we knock someone down or scream Hebrew curse words at them. It takes a Warrior’s heart to turn the other check, to love someone that doesn’t love you, to pray for someone when you would rather take them to a woodshed. We who claim to love Jesus and to follow him must face the unfortunate fact that Jesus’ church has plenty of “lukewarm” Christians in it. The gospel of Matthew talks about that when it says, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Matthew 15:8 quoting the prophet Isaiah). So, here is the reality for us. You and I must be soldiers for Christ. Jesus is calling us to a life that is bold and active. He is calling his church to follow him into enemy territory to fight the evil in our world. So, while the words may sound strange, I believe that Jesus is a warrior and I follow Him, today and always.

Amen & Amen.

Agape,

Dad, Papaw, Uncle Rich, “Butter, Rabbi, Turkey”, Son-in-Law, Rich, & Rev. Rich

May 27, 2020

WHEN IS THE CHURCH GOING TO REOPEN?

First of all, WRONG QUESTION!

May 26, 2020

THOUGHTS ON DEATH

You may be thinking as you see the heading for this devotional...that sure is a depressing topic. I suppose it is. I once had a funeral home director tell me that everyone would talk about sex but no one ever wanted to talk about death. There is a lot of truth in that statement. So why are we talking about it? There are several reasons.

Today marks the 8th anniversary of my Mother's death. Add to that the simple fact that recently I have had two staff members and a church member lose a parent. It made me reflect on the fact that death is part of our journey of life. It is not a fun part, and normally it brings pain, heartache, and a grieving period.

So, why talk about death? Well, why not? Unless Jesus returns during our lifetime, we all will continue to experience the death of loved ones until we ourselves take that journey. Death should not be a taboo subject. It is one the church should speak to, and yet unless there is a tragedy or a loved one (or we) get very sick, it is not something we think about or talk about. Even though to quote Lion King, it is "part of the circle of life".

DO I MISS MY PARENTS (my Dad died in 1997)?

Of course, I do! Do I believe that they are in a better place? Yes, I do! Did I grieve? Yes, I did. Did God and I have long talks about death and dying? Yes, we did. Did I ask God why we have to die? Sure, I did. What have I learned about all this - about death and dying since I became a Christian (all my life) and a pastor (46 years)? I have learned that all my prayers are not answered the way I want them to be. I have learned that the death of a loved one (and I include the flocks I have served and the friends that have died) HURTS. It hurts because I LOVED THEM. But I have also learned that I am not willing to give up LOVING MY FRIENDS, FLOCKS, AND FAMILY to spare the pain that death brings. In fact, I wish there was another way for me to go to heaven that wouldn't cause Debbie, my boys, and their families and our extended family, friends, and flocks, pain. But there isn't. Paul is clear in his letter to the early Christian at Corinth that our mortal bodies ARE NOT EQUIPPED FOR IMMORTALITY. In plain English - our bodies are not built for the long haul! I have also learned that DEATH DOES NOT HAVE THE FINAL WORD--JESUS DOES--and that makes all the difference. Death is a door, not a sealed tomb. Death is a healing process for the injuries, diseases, and ravages of time that takes a toll on our mortal bodies. Death is part of God's plan and while I don't understand all the reasons, I trust Him. And because I trust Him, death is not a word I am afraid to talk about or an experience I am afraid to face. Amen & Amen.

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, "Butter", Rabbi, Turkey, Rev. Turkey", Son-in-Law, Rich, & Rev. Rich

May 22, 2020

MEMORIAL DAY MUSINGS:

We are heading into one of the more unusual Memorial Day weekends in our memory. You can go to the beach, the lake (?), or the Mountains, but there is "social distancing". You can’t go out to eat at a restaurant or even a fast food place. You have to drive through or cook where you are. BUT ONE THING THAT HAS NOT CHANGED IS THE REASON FOR THIS DAY.

Memorial Day is a day set aside to HONOR AND REMEMBER our fallen war dead. This day is for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and died defending our country and its ideals. There are other days to honor, remember, and celebrate those who served in all branches of our military. Days like Veterans Day, Armed Forces Day, even to an extent July 4th. But Memorial Day is a time for us to remember those who laid down their lives for us.

There are many powerful monuments in Washington, DC. Each one is unique and powerful in its own right. One of those monuments for me that invokes a somber, respectful, and honored response is a simple wall. Built in 1982, and known as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial or simply "The Wall". It has black granite panels inscribed with the names of all those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam. Originally it had 57,939 names, but today it has 58,320, including 8 women. It is not a complete list as some names were not added at the request of their families.

On Panel 38W on row 51 is the name CHARLES THOMAS NALLEY. "Tommy" was a high school classmate of mine. He died in a fire fight on November 24th, 1968 near Quang Nam, Vietnam. He was 19 years old and left behind a wife and a baby he never got to see. It was to be his last day "In Country". He was supposed to be heading home. THIS IS WHAT MEMORIAL DAY IS ALL ABOUT. Not beach trips, golf, cook outs, etc. Now please understand that there is nothing wrong with these things – As long as we take a moment and reflect and whisper a thanks for every man and woman who has laid down their life for our freedoms, including having this "holiday".

From the Revolutionary War to the wars of today, men and women continue to "SIGN A BLANK CHECK WITH THEIR LIVES" for you and I. Please take a moment to honor and remember the "Tommys" of our nation. And may the Tommy I knew and all the other men and women who rest eternally on hallowed ground, RIP.

Amen & Amen.

Agape,

Dad, Papaw, Uncle Rich, "Butter, Rabbi, Turkey, Rev. Turkey," Son-in-Law, Rich, & Rev. Rich

May 21, 2020

THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS:

One of the greatest archaeological finds in our lifetime occurred in 1946 with the discovery of 11 caves near Qumran (an ancient settlement near the Dead Sea) that contained fragments of ancient writings that dated back over 2000 years! Known as the DEAD SEA SCROLLS (DSS) they were an astounding collection of religious writings and secular writing (even including a divorce document from Masada dated to 71AD!). They mainly date from 408 BC(BCE) to 318 AD (CE) but some writings go as far back as the 8th century BC (BCE) and as late as the 11th century AD (CE). Written mostly in ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek the writings are recorded on Papyrus (20%; from Egypt), parchment (80%; leather from animal skins), and one copper scroll. About 40% are copied from the Old Testament, 30% from the Second Temple Period (586BC-70AD), and 30% secular writings. 972 manuscripts were found but most of the scrolls are in fragments. In cave 4 alone there were over 15,000 fragments from 500 different texts!

From Sunday through Thursday, I was privileged to sit in on a video seminar on recent information concerning the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS). Sunday the session went from 1-5 and the rest were from 9-3. Lead by experts on the DSS from around the world (including Dr. Jodi Magness from UNC, Chapel Hill!), they shared from their fields of study, shared slides, and had a Q&A period at the end of each presentation. It was fascinating (I had to skip part of Tuesday’s session due to our church staff meeting). There were some breaks throughout the time allowing me to work on other items. Now, I am not going to bore you at this point with a lot of details (like what temperature are the scrolls kept at to preserve them… Ok, if you must know, 20 C or 68 F.)

May 20, 2020

QUESTIONS YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO ASK, BUT WERE AFRAID TO!SO, WHAT DOES A PASTOR DO ANYWAY?

Did you ever wonder what a pastor does? I MEAN, BESIDES “COMFORT THE AFFICTED, AND AFFLICT THE COMFORTABLE!”

May 19, 2020

We had a staff meeting today. No, we were not all here at the church. It was (as it has been since March) a Zoom or video staff meeting. We still have a devotion and we still go over our prayer list and pray over that list. We continue to discuss the most effective way to stay in ministry for our children, youth, and adults. And yes, we discussed the Federal Judge’s ruling about churches being allowed to open in our state. HOWEVER, considering everything, we do not feel we are ready for that step yet. For the time being we will continue our recorded service that is available on Sunday mornings starting at 8:00AM and our Drive-In Worship Service at 10:00AM on Sunday mornings.

In some ways, it is amazing to see how Holland’s has evolved to continue to be a loving, caring church. We are still sharing the gospel and we are continuing to "visit" via phone calls, emails, and texts to our flock. Some Sunday Schools continue to meet through video chats. The Council is going to hold a meeting tonight and the SPRC committee is going to meet shortly through a video hookup as well. We are planning a communion service for the first Sunday in June (7th) as well as a recognition of our graduating high school and college seniors that same Sunday. WE ARE ALIVE AND WELL! :)

But, where does that leave us in our day to day walk with Jesus and our spiritual journey over all? When this pandemic first began there was a lot of talk about the Lord, about how we can use this to refresh the church and perhaps reach people who have not been involved in any way in churches before. Yet, as this situation continues to drag on, we have seen divisional politics raise its ugly head again as both sides try to politicize the virus. We have seen people getting more and more restless. We have seen the arguments between freedom of church and rules about health and social interaction clash. I was in a Lowes Hardware Store on Saturday and it was packed! About half of the customers were wearing masks and about half were not. That is a pretty good indication of where our nation is on this matter. As the economy continues to struggle and many jobs are cut back or dropped, where do we stand? We stand as the church. We stand as disciples, as followers of Jesus.

We need to remember that WE (you and me) are the church. We need to be strong in our spiritual discipline. We need to continue to worship together through a video or the Drive-In Service. We need to pray daily. We need to get familiar with our Bible. We don't have to watch TV all the time, or face-time, or text, Instagram, or be on the computer all the time. Initially we talked about the family time this was allowing. We need to remember that this is a blessing, not a curse. We need to keep the faith and we need to be active for the Lord wherever we find ourselves each day. This church is strong. This church is alive. This church is in mission. How about you?

Agape,

Dad, Papaw, Uncle Rich, "Butter, Rabbi, Turkey, Rev. Turkey," Son-in-Law, Rich, & Rev. Rich

May 15, 2020

JESUS

His name has been whispered softly and mentioned lovingly. His name has been used as a curse word and a healing word. Hymns have been written about him and back in the early 70’s even 2 rock operas, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR (taken from Judas’ point of view), and GODSPELL.

There is something special about Jesus. Christians for over 2000 years have followed Him. The New Testament (all 27 books) is completely focused on him. Atheists and agnostics wrestle with his life, ministry, and divinity. And yet for over 2000 years His story, and his teachings continue to be studied, challenged, questioned, and believed.

In the Strobel book “THE CASE FOR CHRIST” (that I mentioned yesterday), Lee Strobel, who was still an atheist at this moment, interviewed Craig L Blomberg PH.D. At the time he was considered to be one of the world’s foremost authorities on the biographies of Jesus. Mr. Strobel wasted no time as a tough investigative reporter. His first question to Dr. Blomberg was, “Is it really possible to be an intelligent, critically thinking person and still believe that the four Gospels were written by the people whose names have been attached to them?” Blomberg’s answer was a resounding YES. Space and time do not permit me to go into deep detail about how we know this, but you can find the rest of that interview starting on page 26 of the book. However, a taste of that interview is that Dr. Blomberg mentioned, with a grin on his face, that “Mark and Luke weren’t even among the 12 Disciples; Matthew and John were. But Matthew was a hated tax collector” (leaving John as the only “respected” writer in the lot). I am sure that quote in many eyes seems to damage the strength of the Gospels, but you have to understand the times. When people wrote things they wanted people to read, they normally chose the names of well-known and EXEMPLARY figures – Philip, Peter, Mary, James, Thomas, etc. “THERE WOULD BE NO REASON TO ATTRIBUTE AUTHORSHIP TO THESE THREE LESS RESPECTED PEOPLE IF IT WERE NOT TRURE.”

The same can be said for the women who go to the tomb first and share the news that “HE IS RISEN”. In Jesus’ day, women were not considered reliable witnesses. They were not even allowed to testify in court for that reason. So, if you are trying to fake the story of Jesus and his resurrection, why in heaven’s name would you say women were the first to see the risen Jesus? In Jesus’ world that would make no sense UNLESS IT WERE TRUE!

We will continue this on Monday. Until then dear family, friends, and flock, take care and be safe. Love to all and all have a blessed weekend!

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, “Butter, Rabbi, Turkey, Rev. Turkey”, Son-in-Law, Rich, & Rev. Rich

May 14, 2020

JESUS & THE TRINITY:

I wouldn’t hesitate to guess that of all the people who have ever walked on this earth, Jesus is the only one who completely understands the Trinity. In simple terms, this is what I mean: Jesus often spoke to God and understood that God was His father. So, Jesus understood God's roll in the Trinity. I have no reason to doubt that Jesus also understood His part in the Trinity. Which leaves us the Holy Spirit. Jesus also seems to have a clear understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit in the Trinity. "BUT THE HELPER, THE HOLY SPIRIT, WHOM THE FATHER WILL SEND IN MY NAME, HE WILL TEACH YOU ALL THINGS AND BRING TO YOUR REMEMBRANCE ALL THAT I HAVE SAID TO YOU" (John 14:26). Jesus said this nearing the end of His physical life and he is letting the disciples know that while they will not have the physical Jesus with them anymore, they will have a counselor, a guide, a teacher, and a power source that will 'HELP" them continue the mission and ministry. That pretty well sums up a "cliff note" version of Jesus understanding the Trinity.

EVIDENCE THAT JESUS IS WHO HE CLAIMS TO BE:

One of the best books is of course the BIBLE to prove who Jesus is. But one of the other good books, for those who are skeptics, have major doubts, are atheists, or just Christians wanting to learn more about Jesus, is a book by Lee Strobel called "THE CASE FOR CHRIST." One reason it is such a good book is Lee Strobel WAS AN ATHEISTS THAT BECAME A CHRISTIAN WHILE DOING RESEARCH FOR THE BOOK! He started the book to prove that Jesus was not who he said he was and by the end of the book he was not only a Christian but became a pastor! Strobel has a law degree from Yale Law School and was an award-winning investigative journalist at the Chicago Tribune, before this life changing book converted him to Christianity and set him on his path to becoming a teaching pastor at the Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago.

To my mind, he was the perfect atheist to tackle this subject. He had serious doubts about Jesus and he was a very good and serious investigative reporter. For you and I who believe Jesus is the Son of God, who better to write a book like this except a very smart, dedicated atheist? In his book he tackles such questions as: HOW RELIABLE IS THE NEW TESTAMENT? DOES EVIDENCE EXIST FOR JESUS OUTSIDE THE BIBLE? IS THERE ANY REASON TO BELIEVE THE RESURRECTION WAS AN ACTUAL EVENT? The answers he discovers in his research is - very reliable (NT), yes (outside the Bible records about Jesus), and yes, the Resurrection was an actual event.

Part of our journey as Christians requires faith. We are required to believe even when we cannot see clearly or hold something physically in our hands. To quote Hebrews 11:1, "NOW FAITH IS THE ASSURANCE OF THINGS HOPED FOR, THE CONVICTION 0F THINGS NOT SEEN." So, part of our faith is to believe what the Bible tells us. But when you begin to "dig", as Lee Strobel did, it is amazing how much evidence there is about Jesus' life, death, and even resurrection. Lee Strobel interviewed leading religious scholars ACROSS THE WORLD for his book. He talked to Hebrew and Greek scholars, religious experts with doctorates from schools like Cambridge, Princeton, and Brandeis Universities. So, for the next several devotionals we are going to combine HISTORY & FAITH to tell you why Jesus is who he says he is and why you should follow Him and believe in Him. Amen & Amen!

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, "Butter, Rabbi, Turkey, & Rev. Turkey", Rich, & Rev. Rich

May 13, 2020

IS JESUS GOD?

Finally, an easy question! The answer is Yes. End of devotion! :)

JUST KIDDING… This is a deep theological question that has challenged theologians over the centuries. How do we separate GOD, JESUS & THE HOLY SPIRIT? The issue of the Trinity is a difficult issue to tackle. I have heard many different examples try to simplify the concept for us. For instance, think of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit like 3 candles in a dark room. They all give off their own light, but together they also give off ONE LIGHT for the entire room. Therefore, separate yet one. Jesus is the first to mention the Trinity, doing so during the Great Commission found in Matthew, Chapter 28 verse 19. Early Christians struggled with the concept much as we do today, and two major church meetings, The First Council of Nicaea (325 AD) and the First Council of Constantinople (381 AD) wrestled with being able to clearly define the Trinity. Suffice it to say that today, in our limited understanding, we recognize that there are 3 important facets to our Christian faith: God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. How they work and are intertwined with each other I think is beyond our limited human brain power. I believe in God, in Jesus, and in the Holy Spirit. I have seen and felt their presence and their works. They are 3 in one. As “preachy” as that sounds, it’s the best explanation I can give you and the best this Pastor can offer. :)

WHAT DID JESUS SAY ABOUT THIS?

Again, a very interesting question. There are countless times we see in the Gospel accounts where Jesus talks to God. He often called God “ABBA” (literal translation – DADDY). Yet, when Jesus called himself “Son of God” He was using a Jewish phrase claiming to be God himself. I think Jesus understood the concept of the Trinity a lot better than any theologian or us! :)

Of course, anyone can claim to be God, but it doesn’t prove he is God. The great Christian writer, C.S. Lewis, in his book “Mere Christianity”, sums it up by saying that Jesus was either who he said he was, “or else a madman or something worse.” Billy Graham during his long and wonderful ministry used to say in his crusades that, “Jesus was either the greatest liar the world has ever seen, or HE WAS THE SON OF GOD.” C.S. Lewis was an atheist who became a devote Christian and Billy Graham became the greatest preacher of our time, so I guess you can figure out that both of those famous men came to the same I and many others have concluded, that Jesus was the Son of God!

So where does that leave us? A little confused? Maybe. But I hope a little more understanding of who Jesus is and how important it is to have Him in your life.

Over the next two devotionals we are going to talk about the powerful evidence that Jesus is who he claims to be and also how Jesus saw the Trinity working! Until tomorrow my family, friends, and flock. Stay safe, be well, and know that Jesus loves you! :)

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, “Butter, Rabbi, Turkey, Rev. Turkey”, Rich, & Rev. Rich

May 12, 2020

KNOWING JESUS

For many of us getting to know Jesus began at an early age. There were probably night-time prayers. Our parents and/or grandparents took us to church. Preschool and elementary school Sunday School teachers talked about this man named "Jesus". And our young minds began to have a sense of who Jesus is. As we grew older, and up to this very moment in our lives, we came to understand (hopefully) that to come to know Jesus even better required reading the Bible. It required studying Jesus' life. His birth, His ministry, and especially His death and resurrection.

David Jeremiah is a note Christian author and the lead pastor of Shadow Mountain Community church. That church is a mega church, in the suburbs of San Diego, California. Recently, in a devotional he wrote in "Turning Points", Rev. Jeremiah shared these thoughts about his constant journey to know Jesus: “Did you know that Jesus never apologized for anything, never asked forgiveness, never confessed a sin, and never sought advice from anyone?”

David Jeremiah's point is that we rarely "study" our Lord enough to notice those things. Now please understand, THE LIFE OF JESUS ISN’T MERELY TO BE AN ACADEMIC STUDY FOR US. Jesus’s life is to be an EXAMPLE for us, and we have to BE IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM. It is not just knowing ABOUT Jesus, but KNOWING Jesus. Every one of us know about famous people, but very few, if any, of us really KNOW a famous person.

Getting to know Jesus only happens over time. My childhood Jesus is now a much more powerful, grace-filled teacher and savior than when I was 5 or 6 or 10 years old. GETTING TO KNOW JESUS REQUIRES US TO HAVE A CONSISTENT RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM. IT REQUIRES READING AND STUDYING THE NEW TESTAMENT AND IT REQUIRES CONSTANT PRAYER.

I mean, if you want to know anyone you have to talk with them and listen - AND THAT IS WHAT PRAYER TRULY IS! So, in the words of the old gospel song, "LET'S HAVE A LITTLE TALK WITH JESUS". (By the way, one of my all-time favorite gospel songs and some of you are singing those words right now! Glory!)

Do you want a stronger relationship with Jesus? DO YOU WANT TO KNOW JESUS? It is not complicated. Talk with Him! Listen to Him! Read about Him! Amen? Amen!

TOMORROW - Is Jesus God?

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, "Butter, Rabbi, Turkey, Rev. Turkey", Son-in-Law, Rich, & Rev. Rich

May 11, 2020

THE QUESTION:

I am sure you have been asked some important questions in your life. Do you know how fast you were going (never a good question)? Would you be interested in a move/transfer? Would you like to go out (on a date)? Will you marry me? All of us have been asked some important questions in our life, but the most important question we will ever be asked is found in the Gospel of Mark, the 8th chapter and the 29th verse. It is asked by Jesus to his disciples and His question is: "BUT WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM?"

Notice it is a personal question. Jesus doesn't ask at this moment, who does the world say I am? He doesn't ask, who do your parents think I am or who do your friends think I am? No, Jesus is asking each disciple, and in reality, each one of us individually, who do YOU say I am? How we answer that determines what type of Christian, disciple, and even church we are.

Knowing who Jesus is, is not just about reading the Bible. It is about many things. One of those "many things" is opening your heart. How do you do that? The same way you come to know and love your child, your spouse, a dear friend, a "significant other". It is exactly the same process. But it is also a journey.

This August, Debbie and I will have been married for 49 years. We dated 5 years before our marriage (last year of high school and all 4 years of college/nursing school). I have known her for 54 years and loved her almost all that same time. In fact, for me it was really love at first sight. In spite of the fact that we have been together for 54 years, I still discover things about her I didn't know or didn't before understand. That fact helps me to understand what Paul, the Apostle, was saying when he wrote in Philippians about Jesus, "THAT I MIGHT KNOW HIM..." (3:10). Even though Paul now "knew" Jesus, Paul wanted to know so much more. He wanted to know Jesus at a deeper spiritual level. If that was true about the greatest Christian missionary of the Christian church, what does it say to us? The Amplified Bible Classic Version states Paul's desire this way: “For my determined purpose is that I may know Him, that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of his person more strongly and more clearly.”

That should be our quest as well.

I have been a Christian all my life. I have been a Pastor for the last 46 years. Yet there is still so much I want to learn about Jesus. EVEN IF YOU HAVE KNOWN JESUS ALL YOUR LIFE, THERE IS STILL MUCH TO LEARN. Over the next several days we are going to ponder that simple fact. Why? All of us may have gone to church and/or Sunday School all our life. We may have read the Bible cover to cover (maybe several times). These are all important for us to become and to grow as a follower of Jesus. But the most important moment by far, is how each one of us will answer the question when Jesus turns his eyes to us and asks us… “BUT WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM?"

AMEN & AMEN.

(Tomorrow - How we can come to know Jesus even better)

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, "Butter, Rabbi, Turkey, Rev. Turkey" (2 nicknames for me I'll explain later!), Son-in-Law, Rich, & Rev. Rich

May 8, 2020

A FINAL THOUGHT ABOUT PRAYER:

We have talked a lot about prayer this week so it seems fitting to wrap this week up with some final thoughts about prayer.

MY TOP TEN LESSONS I HAVE LEARNED ABOUT PRAYER:

1) I have learned it is very EASY TO LET YOUR PRAYER LIFE WANE unless you are diligent. Until a crisis comes that affects you, it is easy to go periods of time without praying. And a non-praying Christian and/or pastor is a lot weaker than a praying one.

2) I have learned that PRAYERS ARE ANSWERED. They are answered three ways. YES, NO, OR WAIT.

3) I have learned I am not too good with the last two!

4) I have learned NO is a lot harder to understand, accept, and trust, than YES OR WAIT.

5) I have learned that WAIT tests my patience but that God always has a reason why it was “WAIT”. He also always has a reason for NO but sometimes it is further down the road before I understand that answer. And of course, “YES” is pretty easy to claim and deal with!

6) I have learned that PRAYER IS POWERFUL and a SPIRITUAL TEACHING TOOL no matter what the answer to the prayer is.

7) I have learned there is NO SUCH THING AS TOO SMALL A PRAYER (request) OR TOO BIG A PRAYER.

8) I have learned there is NO WRONG TIME TO PRAY, anytime during a 24-hour day is a good time to pray.

9) I have learned that just SAYING GRACE before one eats is a great training tool to an active prayer life and also an appropriate time of prayer. In public, it can also be a POWERFUL FAITH STATEMENT.

10) I have learned that when I pray, I need to take time to LISTEN MORE OFTEN THAN I DO. Prayer is a two-way conversation and I think we all tend to forget that.

Family, friends, and flock I pray that you all find God’s blessings this day and that your prayer life will grow along with mine. Amen & Amen!

Agape,

Dad, Papaw, Uncle Rich, “Butter”, Son-in-Law, “Rabbi”, Rich, & Rev. Rich

May 7, 2020

NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER

Today is the National Day of Prayer. It is an annual event, always held on the first Thursday of May. But it has not always existed or been held in May. In January/February of 1952, during the Korean War, REV. BILLY GRAHAM publicly pushed for a National Day of Prayer (NDP). The ending of his statement promoting the establishing of this day said this, "What renewed hope and courage would grip the Americans at this hour of peril" (kind of ties in to this time, doesn't it?).

On April 17th, 1952 President Harry S. Truman signed a bill proclaiming a National Day of Prayer MUST BE PROCLAIMED BY EACH SUBSEQUENT PRESIDENT. In 1988 the law was amended so that the NDP would be held on the first Thursday of May. The NDP continues today, in spite of a legal challenge in 2008 from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) based in Wisconsin. On April 15th, 2010 the NDP was ruled UNCONSTITUTIONAL. However, the US Department of Justice filed an appeal on April 22nd, 2010 and a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals UNANIMOUSLY OVERTURNED the judge’s decision. They concluded their decision by citing Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural address which "referenced God seven times and prayer three times".

I have been active in the NDP for years. While I served Raeford UMC in Raeford, NC (1998-2003) and Camp UMC, in Shallotte NC (2003-2017) I chaired the National Day of Prayer for those respective towns. Since I was appointed to Holland's I have been a part of the NDP that has been held at our local YMCA (until this COVIV19 year). It is an important day! Don't take it for granted because we almost lost this National Day in 2010!

ALL ACROSS AMERICA TODAY, PEOPLE ARE PRAYING! Think about that for a moment! Join them! Lift up our leaders, lift up our schools, lift up our churches and everything else you want to pray about. Certainly, lift up this time of a pandemic, but take a moment to pray today. Many will pray at noon, but ANYTIME is great.

My final thought on this NDP today, is for each one of us to NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF PRAYER! ESPECIALLY IF A NATION CAN UNITE FOR THAT PRAYER!

Calling a nation to prayer dates back as far as the Old Testament times. America, beginning with the Revolutionary War, has been called to a National Day of Prayer (and sometimes fasting) throughout its history.

So, I invite you, my family, friends, & flock, to join with me in this National Day of Prayer today. May it be a landmark moment for each of us, for our churches, and for our nation.

In the name of the Father, Son, & Holy Ghost. Amen!

Agape,

Dad, Papaw, Uncle Rich, "Butter", Son-in-Law, "Rabbi", Rich, & Rev. Rich

May 6, 2020

I realized today as I was looking over so of my past devotionals that I forgot an issue I was going to address. So, here it goes:

HOW DO YOU PRAY FOR SOMEONE YOU REALLY DON'T LIKE?

That is a great question and a difficult issue. It has been a challenge for every Christian and Pastor probably since Jesus first told us that was part of what was expected of us as Disciples. It's an issue because I would like to be more like Peter I guess, or James & John. I wouldn't mind praying for someone that really had annoyed me, hurt me, or angered me if I could PRAY FOR THE FLEAS OF 1000 CAMELS TO INFEST THEIR HOME. Or as James and John requested, FOR FIRE TO COME DOWN AND CONSUME THEM! Of course, that is not what Jesus would do or expect of us.

I know what you are thinking - this is not realistic. I agree! There have been times in traffic I have wanted to call down "heavenly fire" on some of the "less-than-intelligent drivers" around me. So, what do we do? IS PRAYING FOR SOMEONE WHO PERSECUTES YOU, HURTS YOU, OR ANNOYS/ANGERS YOU EVEN POSSIBLE?

THE ANSWER IS YES.

How can I say that so emphatically?

A devotion I read today reminded me that was the answer. The devotion shared a story that was very powerful. During WW II, "liberators found the following prayer crumpled among the remains of the Ravensbruck concentration camp where the Nazis had exterminated nearly 50,000 women. The prayer said this: “O Lord, remember not only the men and women of goodwill, but also those of ill will. But do not remember the suffering they have inflicted upon us. Remember the fruits we brought thanks to the suffering – our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, the courage, the generosity, the greatness of heart which has grown out of this. And when they come to judgement, let all the fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness.”

A long deceased religious Jewish lady, who walked through a living Hell until the Nazis killed her, has reminded me of what it means to pray for someone you really do not like. Family, friends, and flock - we should reread the words of that prayer and remember them the next time we are angry, annoyed, or hurt by someone. I wonder if this wonderful Jewish woman was aware of Jesus' prayer that is often prayed every Sunday? The words, "FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES, AS WE FORGIVE OTHERS", should resound in our hearts - ESPECIALLY THE WORDS, "AS WE FORGIVE OTHERS".

SO HOW DO YOU PRAY FOR SOMEONE YOU DON'T REALLY LIKE? Often, from your heart, you pray a blessing on them, because the simple truth is THAT IS WHAT JESUS WOULD DO AND WE FOLLOW JESUS.

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, "Butter", Son-in-Law, "Rabbi", Rich, & Rev. Rich

May 5, 2020

THE CHURCH HATES CHANGE-- OR DOES IT?

It has been said for GENERATIONS, that the ONE WORD TO START A FIGHT in a church, is to mention the word, “CHANGE”. But I wonder if that is true anymore?

This morning, Holland's Church staff met. We meet every Tuesday at 10:30 AM. Now, during this pandemic, it has made it a little more challenging for us, but we "Zoom" (think video conference for those who don't know what Zoom is). So, this morning I "met" with my staff as I drove back from Winston-Salem… OK - maybe I should rephrase that! Debbie drove the car while I "zoomed" with my staff (Although Debbie was doing plenty of zooming on her own!). We met for over an hour and we continued to discuss how we can best minister during these unusual times. After we finished, I sat there for a minute and thought: I just saw my Staff face to face for over an hour as we held our meeting and I was riding in a car traveling on the interstate at a decent rate of speed! And I hardly thought a thing about it! If you had told me a year ago that I would be doing that in a staff meeting, I would have looked at you as if you had been into some fermented communion juice!

Today many of our Sunday School classes are meeting through Zoom. We are planning to have a "Council Meeting" on May 19th at 7:00PM the same way-- by Zoom. We have just started a "DRIVE-IN-CHURCH" experience that was well received and has shown us another potential way to worship! We have a virtual service on our Website (www.hollands.org) available every Sunday beginning at 8:00 AM for those who cannot, or do not feel the call to attend our live service on Sunday at the Holland's Drive In! Higher Ground service is available via Zoom on Thursday nights. (If you want to "attend" email, call, or text Jeremy). When the church is allowed to start to gather in small numbers, we are working on a CHANGE to our church's structure to maximize the minimum number of people we are allowed to have on site. (If the original number allowed back to church is say 50, how do we address that?) The Council will be looking at this with our church staff. How do we meet the needs of ALL of our people? In the Fall, if for some reason we are still not allowed to gather (Lord let that not be true!), we will look at ways to offer Bible Studies, including my early Monday morning men's Bible Study. DOES THE CHURCH HATE CHANGE? Well, there is no denying that has been its tradition since the church began.

But the church has shown that it CAN CHANGE IF IT MUST! It CAN change to share the gospel, to offer Christ’s love, to let the Holy Spirit move!

You know, if Satan thought he could use the virus to weaken the church—HE HAS BADLY MISJUDGED US! We are the church, not the building! The reality is that in many ways, the “church” across our land is more pro-active now than it has been for GENERATIONS!

Most of you know I love history. After the successful surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese on December 7th, 1941, the man in charge of the attack, Navel Marshal General Isoroku Yamamoto, uttered the immortal words, “I FEAR ALL WE HAVE DONE IS TO AWAKEN A SLEEPING GIANT AND FILL HIM WITH A TERRIBLE RESOLVE". History proved him right.

I hope as history looks back at this time it will say, "WHAT THIS MOMENT IN HISTORY DID WAS AWAKEN A SLEEPING CHURCH AND FILLED IT WITH SUCH POWER AND LOVE IT CHANGED THE WORLD". May we prove history right!

Amen & Amen.

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, "Butter", Son-in-Law, "Rabbi", Rich, & Rev. Rich

April 30, 2020

WHAT DO WE DO WITH ANGER?

There are many things that anger us. Injustice, cheating, hypocrisy, hurting someone--especially a child--the list can go on and on. So, how does a Christian handle anger? IS THERE SUCH A THING AS RIGHTEOUS ANGER? Certainly, Jesus indicates there is with HIS scene in the temple, when HE throws out the money changers. But how often is that acceptable? We rarely saw Jesus display anger, so what about us?

Does your perfect preacher get angry? YEP.

For heaven's sake, I read the news and I get angry. Someone creates a new email address VERY SIMILAR to mine and then tries to impersonate me needing money/gift cards to help people, and I get angry. You get the point.

SO, WHAT IS THE ANSWER?

If I think about Jesus, I don't like the answer! Except in a rare case, Jesus would treat each situation as he did the woman caught in adultery (John 8). He would address her issues, point out that no one is perfect, NOT CONDEMN HER, and then tell her in love, “GO ON YOUR WAY AND SIN NO MORE". So now I am mad at Jesus! - Relax...I'm kidding.

Jesus does not make it easy to follow Him, does He? I mean turn the other cheek, forgive and pray for those who persecute you? Really?! I want to pull a Rambo and Jesus asks me to be a Mister Rogers!

Of course, there is hope for me (and you). Peter, James, and John were famous for their anger. Peter cut off the ear of a slave, and James and John wanted to call fire down on a village that had not welcomed them! Yet, they became GREAT disciples, with Peter becoming the earthly foundation stone for the early church.

SO, WHAT DO WE DO WITH OUR ANGER?

We lay it at the foot of the cross. No, it is not easy. No, we are not perfect and yes, I am sure we will get angry again and again. Following Jesus is a marathon. He KNOWS we are not perfect, BUT HE EXPECTS US TO TRY AND FOLLOW HIS TEACHINGS AND WALK IN HIS FOOTSTEPS. So, saddle up my family, friends and flock. It is time to grow as Christians. AMEN? AMEN!

I will be out of the office tomorrow helping to build one of my sons a new back deck. So, my next devotional will not be until Monday, May 4th. I AM GOING TO TACKLE HOW WE PRAY FOR THOSE WE REALLY DO NOT LIKE!

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, "Butter", Son-in-Law, "Rabbi", Rich, & Rev. Rich

April 29, 2020

GOD SINGS!

I imagine (or at least I hope), I piqued your curiosity a little when I mentioned at the end of yesterday's devotion that God sang. Why is that so hard to imagine? We are created in HIS image and WE sing (true, some of us a little better than others)! Angels sing (Job 38:6-7). We know Jesus sang. The Gospel of Mark tell us that at the end of the Lord's Supper and before Jesus traveled to Gethsemane that, "when they had sung a hymn they went out to the Mount of Olives" (Mark 14:26). Most scholars believe that Jesus and his disciples sang the traditional hymns of Judaism at the temple and on the Last Supper night. The songs would have been led by Jesus.

With all that said, one of the most fascinating scriptures to me comes from the prophet Zephaniah. He is the one who tells us that God sings. HE IS THE ONLY PROPHET DESCENDED FROM ROYAL BLOOD, being able to trace his roots back 4 generations to King Hezekiah (715-686 BC). Hezekiah was one of the few GOOD KINGS of Israel. Zephaniah was a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah and prophesied from 635-625 BC. In the third chapter of his writings, Zephaniah writes:

"The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty

one who will save; He will rejoice over you

with gladness; He will quiet you by His love;

HE WILL EXULT OVER YOU WITH LOUD SINGING."

(Zephaniah 3:17)

Think about the last part of verse 17 for a minute...

God loves us so much He sings over us. Like a Mother or Father over their children, God sings over us. It is a song of peace, love, comfort, and joy. That is what the early part of verse 17 is telling us. I have heard scholars talk about this verse and one phrase has stuck in my heart. They say of God's singing that, "IT WILL BE LIKE NOTHING WE HAVE EVER HEARD". Think about that. The Creator who inspired the Handels, Mozarts, Bachs, and other great composers, the Lord who gave the great gift of singing voices to the likes of Luciano Pavarotti, Enrico Caruso, Andrea Bocelli, Cecilia Bartoli, Leontyne Price or to Elvis Presley, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Beyonce, the list goes on and on--God tops them all!

All of these great composers and singers pale in comparison to God singing for us!

Think about that.

It is said by those who have had a life after death experience that it is impossible to describe what they saw and experienced in Heaven. Our words are just so inadequate. The colors and the sounds (music) are unbelievable. I even find it fascinating that scientists in recent years have discovered that the STARS SING!

So, does God sing? ABSOLUTELY! So should we, in praise, joy, and hope. St. Augustine (354-430 AD), a famous early church theologian, said that, "TO SING IS TO PRAY TWICE". So, you can improve your prayer life (twice) and praise God all at the same time, if you will just sing. I don't care, and neither does the Lord, if you can carry a tune or not. Just sing. Sing old hymns, new hymns, or one you created, but lift your voice in song every day (that's why showers were created!).

Even our founding father, John Wesley (the founder of Methodism), understood the importance of singing. He had 7 rules for singing and in his 7th rule he said, "Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing". That is great advice for us today in 2020 during these unusual times.

SO, DOES GOD SING? YES! Don’t you think it is time for you and God to have a duet? He has been singing to you your whole life. Now it’s YOUR TURN to sing to HIM and then WITH Him!

Amen? Amen!

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, "Butter", Son-in-Law, "Rabbi", Rich, & Rev. Rich

April 28, 2020

DOES GOD SPEAK? We preach about that. Multiple devotions and study guides have been written on the subject. People say they hunger to hear HIS voice but rarely, if ever, feel they have heard it. Yet the whole Bible supports the idea that God speaks. NOT SPOKE...BUT SPEAKS; THAT GOD IS SPEAKING TODAY as much as He did in "Biblical Times". We even call the Bible "THE LIVING WORD OF GOD."

Every Sunday in our virtual worship, after the scripture reading, we say, 'THIS IS THE WORD OF GOD..." --An interesting side bar here: the great Christian writer, A.W. Tozer, writes in his book "The Pursuit of God" that “THE BIBLE WILL NEVER BE A LIVING BOOK TO US UNTIL WE ARE CONVINCED THAT GOD IS ARTICULATE (speaks) IN OUR UNIVERSE". p. 76--

SO, DOES GOD SPEAK? The answer is yes. So perhaps the better question is, do we listen? Listening is hard (ask any husband!). The truth is we should be hearing God more clearly now, than in a while. The pandemic has forced all of us to slow down. The world is not as noisy. But have we taken this time to pray AND LISTEN? I think we forget that PRAYER IS A TWO-WAY STREET. It is not just talking to God and/or praising God. It is also taking enough time to listen to God's response. The Psalmist was right on the button when he said "BE STILL & KNOW THAT I AM GOD" (Psalm 46:10). Elijah, the greatest of the prophets, understood the same thing following his cave experience when God was not in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire BUT IN THE STILL SMALL VOICE (I Kings 18:20-40).

Of course, God has also spoken through a "whirlwind" (Job 38:1). He also has spoken in a voice "like thunder" (I Samuel 2:10, Psalm 104:7, Psalm 77:18, John 12:29, etc.). Well, you get the idea.

THE POINT IS, GOD IS ALWAYS SPEAKING; WE ARE JUST NOT ALWAYS PAYING ATTENTION AND/OR LISTENING.

DO YOU REALLY WANT TO HEAR GOD SPEAK? Then take your Bible somewhere quiet and read the "LIVING WORD". Find stillness and listen. PRAY but after you lift up your concerns and your joys don't stop. Close your eyes and open your ears and listen. In the noise of life, the whirlwind or the thunder, stand and pay attention. because in the power of those moments, God is talking. Listen to a Christian song, old or new, because in the melody and in the words, God is speaking and singing. WHAT, GOD SINGS?! YES, HE DOES! And that my friends, family, and flock is a devotion for tomorrow! Have a blessed day!

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, "Butter", Son-in-Law, "Rabbi", Rich & Rev. Rich

April 27, 2020

One of my favorite Psalms is, 139. In verse 13 of that ancient Psalm, we find the words, "You made my whole being; you formed me in my mother's womb." The Christian writer Max Lucado talks about this same verse in his devotional book, "Grace for the Moment". In part of that devotion he says, "THINK ON THOSE WORDS. YOU WERE KNITTED TOGETHER. YOU ARE NOT AN ACCIDENT. YOU WEREN'T MASS PRODUCED. YOU AREN'T AN ASSEMBLY LINE PRODUCT. YOU WERE DELIBERATELY PLANNED, SPECIFICALLY GIFTED, AND LOVINGLY POSITIONED ON THIS EARTH BY THE MASTER CRAFTSMAN."

I know that we live in a world that seems to place the value of someone based on their salary or their physical appearance; BUT THAT IS NOT HOW GOD VALUES YOU!

On those days when you feel unloved, unappreciated, or just plain alone, remember the words of Psalm 139:13. YOU ARE A CHILD OF GOD! HE MADE YOU AND HE LOVES YOU! In HIS eyes you are unique and special. Each of your fingerprints is uniquely yours! He knows your name and the hairs on your head (I know he doesn't have to count too high on mine!). The point is, no matter how much money you make, no matter how tall or short, thin or heavy you are; YOU ARE SPECIAL. So, take a second today and just enjoy the fact that God sees you as talented, gifted, wonderful, and perfect just as you are.

AMEN & AMEN!

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, "Butter", Son-in-Law, "Rabbi", Rich, & Rev. Rich

April 23, 2020

In the current devotional book, "Mysterious Ways" there is a story that caught my attention. I had read about the story years ago in the BAR magazine (BAR stand for, Biblical Archeology Review. It comes out 6 times a year sharing major finds and/or updates about Biblical discoveries in the Holy Land). In 2006, in Nazareth, a very interesting discovery was made.

NAZARETH 2006

Remember, while Jesus was born in Bethlehem, HE WAS RAISED IN NAZARETH (hence JESUS being referred to often as the "Nazarene" or "Jesus of Nazareth").

In 2006 an archaeological team discovered the ruins of a first-century house underneath the SISTERS OF NAZARETH CONVENT. Limestone vessels unearthed during the excavation indicated that the structure had once housed a Jewish family. COULD THIS IN FACT BE JESUS' CHILDHOOD HOME?

Well, the timeline is right. The location is right, and the fact that CHRISTIAN CHURCHES WERE BUILT TIME AND TIME AGAIN OVER THIS SITE, IS ONE WAY ARCHAEOLOGISTS TRUST ORAL TRADITIONS. This constant rebuilding of churches would indicate that this was considered a very HOLY SITE THAT NEEDED TO BE PROTECTED. There is also the fact that a 7th-century (600's AD) Irish abbot who described a pilgrim's journey to a NAZARETH CHURCH SITUATED WHERE JESUS' CHILDHOOD HOME ONCE STOOD.

Now, like the Shroud of Turin, the reality is that until Jesus returns, we will never know for sure if this find in the Holy Land is Jesus' childhood home. HOWEVER, THE MORE IMPORTANT FACT AND QUESTION IS... DOES JESUS HAVE A PERMANENT HOME IN YOUR HEART?

I know, that is such a "PREACHY QUESTION"! But, in the sunset of my pastoral career, it is one I MUST CONTINUE TO ASK! HOW DO YOU LET JESUS IN? WELL, IT'S NOT COMPLICATED.

Do you remember the famous old painting based on the scripture from Revelation ("Behold, I stand at the door and knock")? The key in the painting is that the OUTSIDE DOOR DOES NOT HAVE A DOOR KNOB! YOU (YOU!) HAVE TO OPEN THE DOOR TO JESUS. And THAT IS THE ANSWER TO HOW YOU LET JESUS IN. Really! All you have to do is believe and ask. You don't have to understand Hebrew or read Greek. You don't have to pray like a great theologian. You don't have to be perfect or know every verse, chapter, and book in the Bible. All you have to do is say, HI JESUS! I LOVE YOU AND I WANT YOU IN MY HEART! If He is there, praise HIM today and share him however you can during this pandemic! If you haven't opened the door yet, well...what are you waiting for? He is standing there just waiting for your invitation. So, "GIT ‘ER DONE"! IT'S TIME and Jesus is looking for his permanent home - in your heart!

Amen? Amen.

PS: I will be at one of my son's tomorrow early to tear down an old deck so I may not have time to get to a Friday Devotion. I will try and do one, but I am not sure how long the project is going to take. So, if you don't see one tomorrow, check in Monday!

Miss all of you. Stay safe and love Jesus!

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, "Butter", Son-in-Law, "Rabbi", Rich & Rev. Rich

April 22, 2020

SO, HOW IS YOUR PRAYER LIFE? It is a good question as we continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. MINE HAS SLIPPED A LITTLE, and I don't like that. I don't like that for several reasons. You might think I am going to say that the number one reason is because I am a pastor. However, MY NUMBER ONE REASON is because I am a CHRISTIAN. Next, is because I am a pastor, and three, is because I should know better! I think part of the problem is the fact that we started out in our response to the COVID-19 virus like it was a sprint race. In reality, it is a marathon. I think we are getting a little more antsy and a little less understanding (are we over reacting to this event? I don't know. I have no medical knowledge. I know the survival rate for this virus is very good (98+%) but I also know it seems to be very contagious). SO, LET'S CONSIDER SOME QUESTIONS THAT SHOULD LEAD US BACK TO PRAYER.

Did God cause covid-19 to wake us up? NO. THE VIRUS ORIGINATED IN CHINA, IN A LAB. Is God working in this? YES!

Are WE continuing to see God at work in the virus? I WONDER… are we noticing/sensing God as much as when this first started? Are we becoming numb? Possibly.

Whatever the case, I am going to make a major effort to step up my prayer life again. It's easy for me to have a "Prayer Closet" at church (pretty quiet here these days!); It is harder at home due to distractions, TV, etc., but there is no reason I can't develop a prayer closet there as well. My bedroom or Debbie's walk-in closet would work (by the way, why do the ladies always seem to get the walk-in closets? Oh, that's right - THE AMOUNT OF SHOES!). Getting serious again:

I INVITE YOU TO JOIN ME IN A PRAYER TIME EVERY DAY!

I invite you to pray for your family, your church family, your church staff, and your country. I invite you to pray for all the people who are on the medical front lines, from those who clean the hospitals to the top of the chain in the medical field. I invite you to pray for our older members, particularly those who have little or no family nearby, or have recently lost a mate. Many of you know who they are, so go through your church directories and pick out a name or two to prayer for every day (and once in while just call them to talk!). Pray for those working in all the restaurants, banks, and stores that remain open so we can still maintain our normal lives, for the most part. Pray for the Truck drivers who continue to work all across America to keep us supplied. The list goes on and on. If this list is overwhelming to you, just pray for ONE group on this list each day. That should keep you busy for a little while! Add to the list. Pray for a revival in all our hearts and in our land. Pray for your neighbors (even if you don't like them!). Seems to me Jesus said something about that!

I AM GOING TO PRAY EVERY DAY AT NOON FOR 5 MINUTES (give or take). You can join me at that time or pick your own time. You can pray however long or short you want to...BUT PRAY. Continue to maintain your prayer life if it is going well for you right now, or step it back up if you are like me and it has slipped some over the course of time. PRAYER IS ONE OF THE GREATEST GIFTS THE LORD HAS GIVEN US - LET'S USE IT!

AMEN? AMEN.

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, "Butter", Son-in-Law, "Rabbi", Rich, & Rev. Rich

April 21, 2020

THE SHROUD OF TURIN - PART IV

The Wrap Up (No pun intended!)

In the early 90's I was blessed to meet Dr. Alan & Mary Whanger. A couple of scientists from Duke who would work on the Shroud whenever they were given permission. We became friends and they spoke at several of my churches before their passing. WHAT FOLLOWS IS SOME OF THEIR AMAZING DISCOVERIES CONCERNING THE SHROUD.

In 1981 THEY DEVELOPED a polarized image overlay technique in which 2 images are projected, one on top of the other. Without going completely into how the entire project was done (I have that information, if you’re ever curious), their technique revealed that the shroud face image was use EXTENSIVELY and ACCURATELY as the basis of artistic depictions of Jesus as early as the 3rd century AD (the 200’s), and CONSISTENTLY from the 6th century AD (500’s) onward. What does that mean? It means that as far back as the roots of the early church, the "memory of Jesus’ face" is like that on the Shroud. So what? Well, this technique also helped the Whangers discover evidence of ELECTRON CORONAL DISCHARGE RADIATION. In laymen terms, it means that there was a HUGE BURST OF HIGH ENERGY ELECTRONS THAT CAUSED A CHEMICAL AND PHYSICAL CHANGE IN THE SHROUD.

NEXT DISCOVERY:

The Whangers also discovered evidence of a large number of flowers banked around the body (Jewish burial custom). They were able to identify 28 species, 20 of which are in Jerusalem and 8 that grew within 12 miles of Jerusalem. The common blooming time of these flowers were March & April. THE POLLEN RECOVERED FROM THE SHROUD IS OF A KIND FOUND ONLY IN ANCIENT ISRAEL. It was also determined that the image on the Shroud occurred between 24-36 hours after the flowers were picked.

FINALLY:

In one of their interviews before their deaths, the Whangers shared some of what I shared above, PLUS THE FOLLOWING:

The image on the shroud was formed, in part, by SOFT X-RAYS EMANATING FROM THE BODY.

The radiation OCCURRED IN ONLY ONE DIRECTION. This type of radiation is unknown, apart from the shroud image, and is not reproducible.

The body disappeared from the shroud WITHOUT BEING UNWRAPPED (It is not possible to remove a blood-stained cloth from a body without disturbing the blood clots). THE BLOOD CLOTS ON THE SHROUD HAVE NOT BEEN DISTURBED.

I hope you have enjoyed this lesson on the Shroud. Is it a hoax? Is it real? To us of faith, it should not matter. We believe in a Risen Savior and the Bible. IF TOMORROW THERE WAS A HUGE DISCOVERY THAT PROVED, BEYOND A SHADOW OF A DOUBT, THAT THE SHROUD WAS JUST A VERY CLEVER HOAX - I WOULD STILL BELIEVE IN AND FOLLOW JESUS.

But the truth is, I DO BELIEVE THE SHROUD IS THE BURIAL LINEN OF MY JESUS. I think there is far too much scientific and historical evidence to believe anything else. HOWEVER, YOU EACH MAY BELIEVE AS YOUR UNDERSTANDING ALLOWS YOU. There is no way to know 100% who is right and who is wrong. Until Jesus returns, we will never know the correct answer. But until then, let us trust in Jesus, follow HIS teachings, practice HIS grace, and share HIS love.

Amen? Amen!

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, "Butter", Son-in-law, "Rabbi", Rich, & Rev. Rich

April 20, 2020

THE SHROUD OF TURIN - PART III

We have been discussing the Shroud of Turin (possible burial cloth of Jesus) for the last 2 days. The Shroud is secured in a vault in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, in Turin, Italy. It is only brought out once in a while for public viewing. As a refresher, the Shroud displays a finely detailed negative image, front and back, head to toe, of a 5’9" man who has been tortured, beaten, and crucified. Since it first appeared in 1389 it has been exhaustively studied and debated as to whether it is real or a hoax.

WHAT YOU FIND ON THE SHROUD:

On the back of the man on the Shroud, you find scourging marks. There are wounds in the WRIST and feet that appear to have been made by long spikes/nails. There are bruises on the face (beatings?), on his knees (falling down?) and on his shoulders (from carrying a heavy crossbeam - remember the crucifixion beam weighed 100 pounds). There is a large bloody mark on his side (spear?). THERE IS BLOOD FROM THE IMAGE THAT PENETRATED THE CLOTH...BEFORE THE IMAGE WAS EVER MADE UNTO THE SHROUD. In other words, the image appeared on the cloth hours to days AFTER the blood.

Two coins can be seen used to keep the eyes of the dead closed. After intense study they were able to date the coins to 29-36 AD. There are blood stains on the forehead where a crown of thorns would have been placed.

SPECIFICS:

IF the Shroud is a forgery, a hoax, it has several issues it must resolve. The Shroud clearly shows that the SPIKES/NAILS WERE DRIVEN THROUGH THE WRISTS...yet...until a scientist named Pierre Barbet in the 1930’s practiced on cadavers, no one knew spikes/nails through the hands could not hold a body up – ONLY THROUGH THE WRIST WHERE THE BONES ARE STRONG WOULD IT WORK FOR CRUCIFIXION! There is NO WAY a forger in the middle ages would know this.

SECOND:

Even with our great scientific advances since 1389...NO ONE KNOWS FOR SURE HOW THE IMAGE WAS FORMED. The image is scorch like, but not produced by heat. The image is only on the surface and does not penetrate down into the fibers. It has been proven it is not a painting. The image shows perfect photo-negatively AND 3 DIMENSIONALITIES.

THIRD:

The blood on the Shroud is real human blood. (AB) There is a high concentration of pigment bilirubin CONSISTENT WITH SOMEONE DYING UNDER GREAT STRESS OR TRAUMA.

FOURTH:

The wound in the side, seen on the image, is consistent with a Roman Hasta (Lance/Spear) It is a 4cm X 1cm wound like the spear head.

TOMORROW WE WILL CONCLUDE THIS STUDY OF THE SHROUD OF TURIN. I will be sharing some major and fascinating finds on the Shroud including some discoveries that my friends, the Whangers, made during their time working on the Shroud.

Until then, think about Jesus, think about the old hymn, "The Old Rugged Cross" and/or "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord", and use them as your devotion for today and to prepare us for tomorrow.

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, "Butter", Son-in-Law, Rich, Rev, Rich & "Rabbi" (for a friend of mine)

April 17, 2020

THE SHROUD OF TURIN - PART II

The Shroud Turin is actually a piece of fine linen, 3’7" wide by 14'3" long. Interestingly, that is exactly 2 by 8 cubits, which is consistent with loom technology of Jesus' time. It bears the detailed front and back images of a man who was crucified in the same manner that Jesus was crucified according to the Gospels. The last "public viewing" of the Shroud was 10 years ago (2010) when over 2.5 million people came to see it.

The Shroud has fascinated people since it first came to light in 1389. I said yesterday, it was one of the most studied artifacts in the history of the world. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that in 1988 permission was given to snipe a small piece off the Shroud for carbon 14 testing to date it. THE TEST CAME BACK DATING THE SHROUD TO THE TO THE MIDDLE AGES, THUS STRENGTHENING THE ARGUMENT THAT IT WAS A WELL DONE FORGERY. Those who believe the Shroud to be authentic were understandably unhappy! ESPECIALLY WHEN IT WAS DISCOVERED IN JANUARY 20, 2005 THAT THE PIECE OF CLOTH TESTED WAS TAKEN FROM THE RE-WOVEN SECTION OF THE SHROUD THAT WAS DAMAGED IN THE FIRE OF 1532. Three new tests were run on the Shroud, two chemical and one mechanical. These newer and very complicated tests DATED THE SHROUD TO THE TIME OF JESUS. So, the battle continued. In the public viewing in 2010 alone, over 1000 special tests were run on it and over 32,000 photographs were taken by scientists studying the Shroud. The test showed that the images on it were NOT DONE ARTISTICALLY. THE IMAGES ARE A RESULT OF PHYSICAL/CHEMICAL CHANGES IN THE LINEN FIBERS THEMSELVES. However, the test and photographs failed to explain how this occurred.

Where does that leave us today? Just getting started. There are so many fascinating twists and turns in this story that you’ll have to stay tuned! But, let me add a footnote ABOUT THE FIRE. In 1532 the Shroud was being stored in a church in Chambray, France. During the fire, part of the metal storage case melted and fell on the cloth, leaving burns and (during efforts to extinguish the blaze) water marks on the Shroud. YET THE IMAGE OF THE MAN ON THE SHROUD WAS HARDLY TOUCHED! (Coincidence? Miracle? You decide. I know what I believe.) In 1534, nuns sewed patches over the fire damaged areas and attached a full-size support cloth to the back of the Shroud. This is known as the "Holland" backing. This is why there has been so much discussion on the testing date of the Shroud.

FINAL THOUGHT TODAY:

In 2002, a team of experts did restoration work such as removing the 1534 patches and replacing the backing cloth. ONE OF THE EXPERTS WAS A SWISS TEXTILE HISTORIAN (Mechthild Flury-Lemberg); she was surprised to find a peculiar stitching pattern in the seam on one long side of the shroud. That pattern was… “THE WORK OF A PROFESSIONAL, AND IS QUITE SIMILAR TO THE HEM OF A CLOTH FOUND AT MASADA (ancient Jewish fortress) THAT DATES TO BETWEEN 40BC & 73AD.”

By the way: THAT KIND OF STITCH HAS NEVER BEEN FOUND IN MEDIEVAL EUROPE.

With all that said, on MONDAY, we will continue this journey by talking about the image itself on the shroud. Do we actually have, in a sense, a "photo" of Jesus? What exactly does the image show and does it support the theory of it being real, or the theory of it being a hoax? There will be more hints on MONDAY.

Until then family, friends, and flock: Think about Jesus and what HE means today to you. Think about your faith and no matter what the shroud ends up being, will it affect your faith? Most of all, tune in Sunday (any time after 8am) for Jeremy's sermon and our worship service. Spend this weekend strengthening your prayer life, trust the Lord, and I WOULD HEARTILY SUGGEST THAT EACH OF YOU reread the crucifixion stories in the Gospels so you are prepared for MONDAY!

AMEN & AMEN!

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, "Butter", Son-in-Law, Rich, & Rev. Rich

April 16, 2020

THE SHROUD OF TURIN

I was thinking about how I wanted to follow up my Easter theme devotional time (Relax, I AM GOING TO CONTINUE THE DEVOTIONS FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE. MAYBE EVEN AFTER I RETIRE!).

It got me thinking. With apologies to the Raiders of the Lost Ark Movies...we no longer have the Ark of the Covenant, we no longer have the Chalice from the last supper, or for that matter the crown of thorns, or the cross beam used for Jesus' crucifixion (the Romans probably reused that). BUT WE MAY HAVE THE LINEN CLOTH THAT JESUS WAS BURIED IN. Let me explain:

In the mid-14th century, a French knight by the name of Geoffrey de Charny, stunned the local world by announcing he had Christ's burial cloth. It was put on public display for the first time in 1389. It was immediately denounced as a forgery by religious leaders, and this period of time was noted for religious forgeries so that was completely understandable. Not a good beginning! The Shroud exchanged hands several times over the decades. It survived a fire in the building where it was housed in 1532 (THAT IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE IT WILL COME INTO PLAY IN OUR LIFETIME AS THE SHROUD IS STUDIED AND DATED). In 1578 it was moved to Turin, Italy where it remains today.

It is probably the most "studied" religious artifact in the history of the world. That really began in 1898 when a photographer named Secondo Pia took the first known pictures of the Shroud. When he developed his negative, he was STUNNED to find that HE HAD A POSITIVE IMAGE. In layman's terms that means that what we saw as shadows on the Shroud with our naked eyes, BECAME LIFELIKE IMAGES ON THE PHOTOGRAPHIC NEGATIVE. IT REVERSED THE PHOTO PROCESS! Somehow, the body on the Shroud had experienced some sort of force or aura that had impressed the IMAGE OF A CRUCIFIED MAN into the cloth of the Shroud (while this process can be duplicated today, it was unheard of in 1898). This began a major debate that still rages today. Some are convinced the Shroud is a 13 Century Hoax, others that it is the authentic burial Shroud of Jesus. I WAS FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO KNOW TWO PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY STUDIED AND WORKED ON THE SHROUD, over the years, when the Roman Catholic church (who "owns" the shroud) allowed teams of scientists to study it and take small samples of it. Their names were Dr. Alan & Mary Whanger. We became close enough I could call them. I even had them speak at several of my churches. By the way, THEY BELIEVED THE SHROUD WAS AUTHENTIC.

With this introduction, I hope I have you a little intrigued! Over the course of the next couple of days, we will discuss this including the 1988 Carbon- 14 Dating test. As for now, what has this fascinating subject have to do with our faith journey?

Great question! FIRST THING...whether the Shroud is an amazing fake or the actual burial cloth of Jesus, SHOULD NOT AFFECT OUR FAITH! Even if it is absolutely real, WE DO NOT WORSHIP THE SHROUD - WE WORSHIP JESUS! Always remember that. I will be the first to admit that if it is real, it is very hard not to just ponder the awe of the reality. However, if it is a fake, it does not take away from the RESURRECTION FACT OR ITS STORY. The Bible is a book of FAITH FIRST. It was never written as a history book although many of the stories in it have been proven to be historically accurate time and time again. In fact, as Billy Graham used to love to say, "WHILE EVERYTHING IN THE BIBLE HAS NOT BEEN PROVEN BY ARCHEOLOGISTS TO BE TRUE, NOTHING...NOTHING HAS EVER BEEN PROVEN TO BE FALSE!" So, our faith Lesson today is Jesus, Believing in Him, following Him, Worshiping Him, and trusting Him. I invite you today to grab your Bible and reread the Christmas story in Luke chapter 2, and then the Easter story found at the end of each of the Gospels, and rejoice that we serve a Risen Savior - HE LIVES! HE LIVES! AMEN & AMEN.

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, "Butter", Son-in-Law, Rich, & Rev Rich

TOMORROW: THE SHROUD PART II

April 15, 2020

Wrapping up the Easter Experience – A summary of the post-resurrection appearances

POST-EASTER - 33 AD

As far as I can tell from my own research, over the 40 days between the Resurrection to the Ascension, Jesus makes at least 14 POST-RESURRECTION APPEARANCES (The trick, as you count the appearances between the Gospel accounts and the Book of Acts, is not to count twice the same appearance recorded in different books). I also realized, during my research this morning, that Jesus may have appeared to more than 516 people after the Resurrection. I say that, because in the account in I Corinthians 15:6, it records, "then he appeared to more than 500 BROTHERS at one time". In Jesus’ day, when you numbered the crowd you NEVER COUNTED THE WOMEN OR THE CHILDREN. If this was a co-ed group with children, the 500 number is way too small a number; but I guess in reality that is neither here nor there. What really matters is that Jesus arose and plenty of people saw the POST-RESURRECTED JESUS!

MY FAVORITE POST-RESURRECTION STORY:

We all have favorites. For me, it is the POST-RESURRECTION story found at the end of the GOSPEL OF JOHN (Chapter 21).

The disciples have gone back to fishing. They were "about a hundred yards off shore", when they saw a lone figure on the beach. At first, they did not know who it was, but soon realize it is Jesus! While the rest of the disciples haul in the fishing nets, Peter jumps into the sea and swims to shore. This is the third time they have seen the resurrected Jesus. Jesus has built a fire and invites them to a breakfast of fish and bread. This is the famous story when Jesus will ask Peter three times, "PETER, DO YOU LOVE ME?" This story closes with Jesus telling Peter how he himself (Peter) will be crucified one day.

There are several things we need to note from this account that should call to us today. FIRST, did you notice that the disciples had returned to life as usual? They were not sharing the good news; they weren't planting seeds for the faith to grow. They were back DOING EXACTLY WHAT THEY HAD BEEN DOING BEFORE THEY HAD MET JESUS! That is my fear for you and I and the church. WE CANNOT GO BACK TO WHAT WE WERE DOING BEFORE COVID-19. We have to respond to God's call. To how He is bringing good out of bad. WE have to change and be more excited about Jesus, more involved in our church and outside the church walls. We have to remember what we have discovered during this time and build on it. The church is going to have to develop new visions. MY FEAR, IS THAT THE FIRST SUNDAY WE CAN GATHER AGAIN IN THE SANCTUARY, WE WILL BE PACKED AND AFTER THAT WE WILL BE BACK TO "NORMAL”. We need to be hearing God's words through songs, scriptures, and sermons EVERY SUNDAY and living what we are hearing. Our Bible studies, when they start back up, SHOULD BE PACKED. We need to be equipped to bring revival to our land.

SECOND, Jesus invites the disciples to breakfast. Our culture does not understand the MAJOR SIGNIFICANCE OF THAT ACT! In Jesus’ world (even today in the Middle East) being invited to a meal by someone is a sign of forgiveness. Anyone in Jesus’ time reading this story would know Jesus is telling the world that He has forgiven his disciples for abandoning Him, or denying Him, during the trail and the crucifixion. This part reminds us how important forgiveness is in our faith. Jesus has forgiven us; we are to forgive others. Every time we pray the Lord's prayer, we say that -BUT JESUS ACTUALLY EXPECTS US TO LIVE IT! Think about someone you need to forgive - and do it!

THIRD, and finally, there is the great "DO YOU LOVE ME" section. Jesus asks that question of Peter THREE TIMES. Anytime something in the Bible is shared/repeated three times, the writer is telling us THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. It is like he has UNDERLINED IT, HIGH LIGHTED IT, AND PUT IT IN BOLD PRINT! It was a great question for Peter, and all the disciples, to hear. It finally kicked them into action. IT IS A GOOD QUESTION FOR US TO HEAR: "RICHARD DO YOU LOVE ME?" FEED MY SHEEP, TEND MY LAMBS, FEED MY SHEEP. It is a question Jesus asks each of us. DO YOU LOVE ME [JESUS]? Only you can answer that question my dear family, friends, and flock. It is a question you must answer, and if you say YES...stop "fishing" and start sharing the Good News!

Amen? Amen!

Agape,

Dad,Papa, Uncle Rich, "Butter", Son-in-Law, Rich, & Rev. Rich

April 14, 2020

Jerusalem – Easter Afternoon, Sunday, April 5th, 33 AD. THE EMMAUS ROAD.

One of my favorite Post-Resurrection stories we have is found in the Gospel of Luke in the 24th chapter. It is known as "The Road to Emmaus". It is simply a story about 2 men walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus after Jesus' crucifixion. They are followers. They had believed Jesus was the Christ. Now they are confused, depressed, and filled with heartache and confusion.

THE REST OF THE STORY:

There are several great verses in this story that really stand out. One is JUST as Jesus joins them on the walk, but they don’t yet recognize him. The scripture says, "But their eyes were kept from recognizing him" (vs.16). How is that possible? There are two answers. One is that God simply intervened at this time. The other is while they were "followers" it is obvious that they were not in the group that traveled with Jesus. Perhaps, like us, they had never seen Jesus face to face. They had only heard of his teachings, his miracles, his message and they had believed. There were people like that in Jesus' time. Remember, Jesus told the disciple Thomas in one of his Post-Resurrection appearances, "Blessed are those who have not seen and believed" (John 20:29c). Whatever the case, they don't recognize Jesus at this moment. So, Jesus says, "what are you talking about?" That brings us to another great verse in this story. "AND THEY STOOD STILL LOOKING SAD" (Luke 24:17b). Then, they went on with the story they knew about Jesus… “BUT WE HAD HOPED”.

It seems clear that like many, they had hoped that Jesus was going to be an "earthly King". That he would take care of the Romans and restore Israel.

AFTER THEY FINISHED THEIR STORY, JESUS TEACHES THEM. "He interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." (Luke 24:27) JUST THINK HOW COOL IT WOULD BE TO HAVE JESUS AS YOUR SUNDAY SCHOOL TEACHER!

THE EMMAUS STORY ENDS.

Jesus breaks bread with the 2 travelers and it is at that moment when they recognize him! I love that they say, "Did our hearts not burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened the scriptures to us?" (Luke 24:32) KIND OF REMINDS YOU ABOUT JOHN WESLEY WRITING ABOUT HIS ALDERSGATE EXPERIENCE IN 1738... "AND MY HEART WAS STRANGELY WARMED", DOESN'T IT? As the Emmaus story ends, the 2 travelers return to Jerusalem to join with others in celebrating the Risen Christ.

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EPILOGUE

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OK family, friends, and flock. Do you realize how this ancient story speaks to us right now? To begin with, we are on a journey, and will be, until we draw our last physical breath. ARE YOU WALKING FROM JESUS, OR WITH JESUS? Because Jesus is walking with you on this journey. So, one question for us is: are we blind to his presence or are our eyes open to HIM? Another question is: did you notice that Jesus quotes scripture to the travelers? Have you opened your Bible lately? Have you allowed that "LIVING WORD" to interact in your life in this crazy time? Have you allowed the Bible to open your eyes to see Jesus in the midst of this time? A final question: Have you slowed down enough to allow your heart to be "strangely warmed" or to "burn within you"? My prayer is that we are reading our Bibles, walking with our Jesus, and that my heart and yours will be “HEARTS ON FIRE" for Jesus and HIS church so whenever this pandemic ends, we will be ready to heal, change, and bring revival to our land!

Amen & Amen!

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, "Butter", Son-in-Law, Rich, & Rev. Rich

April 13, 2020

CONTINUATION OF EASTER DAY:

Jerusalem, Sunday afternoon, April 6th, 33AD

It has been somewhere in the neighborhood of 6 hours since Easter began with Jesus walking out of the tomb. The disciples and Jesus' followers are excited, happy, and filled with amazement. The Romans, the High Priests, and their followers, not so much. Even before Pilate had turned Jesus' body over to be buried, he had called the Roman Centurion, who was in charge of the crucifixion to appear before him. Basically, Pilate asked him, "ARE YOU SURE HE IS DEAD"? One thing you may not be aware of is, if you were a member of the crucifixion detail, you had to be positive the crucified were all dead before you released the bodies to their families. If for some reason you released a body and it turned out later the person was still alive, YOU AND THE CRUCIFIXION DETAIL WERE CRUCIFIED. These were hard times so the Centurion would have made SURE that all 3 bodies that day were dead before releasing them.

THIS IS THE END FOR PILATE; this is not a situation he can recover from. A declared dead, "King of the Jews", has come back to life. Even if Rome does not believe, Pilate has to at least let the body be stolen and that will cause Rome more problems in a region already a political powder keg. According to historians, Pilate is ordered by the Roman emperor, Caligula, back to Rome to be executed or given the "opportunity" to take his own life. Other scholars say he was sent into exile where he committed suicide. Either way, Jesus is alive and Pilate is now dead.

FOR THE CHIEF PRIESTS AND THEIR FOLLOWERS, it is just as bad. It appears that they had framed and crucified the Lord's true Messiah! They are scrambling to do damage control. Worthy of modern-day politicians, they come up with a plan. In Matthew 28:11-15, that story unfolds. Essentially, they pay off the guards that had been guarding the tomb and tell them to tell everyone ("the people") that, "His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were sleeping". This might have worked except for one small detail. THE POST RESURRECTION APPEARANCES OF JESUS! PEOPLE KEPT SEEING THE RISEN CHRIST! The most reliable number is that over 500 (516) people saw the risen Jesus and 20 years later those who were still living were telling about their experience of seeing Him. The sightings of the resurrected Jesus began with Mary Magdalene in the garden, then the disciples (Thomas a little later since he was not in the room for the first appearance), then of course the 2 travelers on the Emmaus journey. Then others would see the risen Jesus.

Tomorrow, we will pick up with the Emmaus Journey as recorded in the Gospel of Luke (chapter 24). But for now, I would like to mention that there is a spiritual retreat known as the Emmaus Journey. I would highly recommend it to anyone who has never spent that weekend on that spiritual retreat. I have been on that retreat and I have also been a part of the leadership team at different times. There is a song you sing during your journey that has the line, “HAVE YOU SEEN JESUS MY LORD". Think about that question. Have you? I bet you have but in your rush through life you may not have noticed Jesus right then. Well, there is a different pace to life right now. So, count that as one of the blessings in this difficult time and look for Jesus. HE IS HERE!

As I wrap up this today, it is really a great question for each of us. The HIGH OF EASTER IS OVER, BUT THE JOURNEY OF EASTER HAS JUST BEGUN! So, look for Jesus, especially in these times. He IS here. Worship Him, praise Him, follow Him, and share Him; BECAUSE for you and I, who are his disciples, every day IS an Easter moment! LET'S ACT LIKE IT!

Amen & Amen!

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, Butter", Son-in-Law, Rich, & Rev. Rich

April 12, 2020

EASTER, 2020

It is early morning in JERUSALEM, SUNDAY, APRIL THE 5th, 33AD. It is the FIRST EASTER, but no one except Jesus knows it yet.

For Jesus’ followers, the horrors of the crucifixion, the profound grief of Saturday, combined with the reality of Jesus' death are painfully fresh. After his death on Friday there had hardly been enough time left to get Jesus' body down off of the cross, wait for the Romans to remove the nails (the Romans reused their crucifixion nails), and do any preparation of Jesus body before sundown and the start of Sabbath when everything stopped. All they could hastily do Friday was wipe some of the blood away from Jesus' face, put some coins on his eyes to keep his eyes closed (using hated Roman coins, but the only ones available), scatter some flowers around the body, wrap the linen cloth around Jesus, and get him to the tomb. The women would have to wait until after the sabbath to properly clean and prepare Jesus' body for its eternal rest (as was the custom, in a year they would plan to return to collect his bones and place them in an Ossuary --a bone box-- for permanent storage in the tomb).

BY DAWN’S EARLY LIGHT - the sun is just beginning to rise. The women have gathered together more flowers, ointments, and spices as well as water to lovingly clean and prepare Jesus' body for a proper burial. Their hearts are aching. They feel like they are in a nightmare that they just want to wake up from. At least they can share this one last loving and caring deed for Jesus. As they travel toward the tomb, they wonder how they are going to move the stone. In the midst of their grief it was the one item they had not remembered. They knew the stone was large, after putting Jesus body in the tomb they had watched several men roll the stone across the entrance. They also had watched, in almost disbelief, as the Temple Guards put ropes over the large stone and sealed it! What did they think; Jesus was going to wake up and roll the stone back by himself? This was adding insult to injury. Apparently, the Romans and the Jewish religious leaders were still scared of Jesus even in death! Perhaps they should have been. Jesus' message had been powerful and had resonated with the masses. It would take a long time for His parable, miracles, and love to fade away.

As they neared the tomb, they were hoping the Temple Guards, whom they had learned were ordered to guard the tomb all day and all night, might help them move the stone back. At least they understood Jewish burial customs, and being Jews, should honor their request. BUT NOW THEY STARED IN SHOCK. The guards were nowhere to be seen and the STONE HAD BEEN ROLLED BACK? What was going on? They rushed into the tomb - JESUS WAS GONE! The linen cloth they had wrapped him in was there, along with...AN ANGEL! They would be the first to hear the Easter affirmation. "Why look here? HE IS NOT HERE. HE IS RISEN!"

It took a second, but the words finally sank in; JESUS HAS RISEN! HE HAS BEATEN DEATH. GOD IS GREAT! And off they go running to find the disciples and tell them the news. At first the disciples just stare at them. In their deep grief have these women lost their minds? But their excitement--their joy--is overwhelming.

Peter and John go running out of the door toward the tomb. John reaches it first, but stops and just looks inside. Peter doesn't even slow down. He just runs right into the tomb and looks around in disbelief. Now John joins him and he also sees the burial linens empty. He looks around. The tomb is empty! "AND HE SAW AND HE BELIEVED" (John 20:8b).

AND SO BEGINS THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD! Without social media, without cell phones or telephones, without news channels or any real type of communication, the word begins to spread! THE GUY THE ROMANS CRUCIFIED ON FRIDAY? HE ROSE FROM THE DEAD! YEAH, JESUS! HE'S ALIVE! NO, I AM NOT PULLING YOUR LEG! THE NEWS IS ALL OVER JERUSALEM. THE ROMANS ARE GOING CRAZY AND THOSE CORRUPT JEWISH RELIGIOUS LEADERS ARE YELLING AT EACH OTHER! JESUS IS RISEN! HE REALLY IS.

YES SIR, HE IS RISEN INDEED!

AND THAT MY DEAR FAMILY, FRIENDS, AND FLOCK IS THE GOOD NEWS! HOW CAN WE NOT SHARE IT, PREACH IT, AND LIVE IT? THAT IS HOW WE SHOULD BE CELEBRATING EASTER...EVERYDAY!

AMEN & AMEN!

Tomorrow's devotion: What happens next? Plus, the attempted cover up by the chief priests ("Jesus body was stolen by his disciples"). Stay tuned. One event catches fire, one falls apart as reality sets in.

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, "Butter", Son-in-Law, Rich, & Rev. Rich

April 11, 2020

Holy Saturday...

CONTINUATION OF THE GOOD FRIDAY STORY.

APRIL 3, 33 AD - GOLGOTHA - A HILL JUST OUTSIDE JERUSALEM.

(PICKING UP WHERE WE LEFT OFF YESTERDAY) ...Jesus has been nailed to the cross. Crucifixion is a horrible way to die. It is said that it is still the worst form of capital punishment ever invented. It was invented by the Persians (400-300BC) but "refined" by the Romans. Jesus is nailed to the cross with 7-inch nails. Unlike most paintings, Jesus is not on a plus sign + cross. He has probably had his wrist nailed to the crossbeam and then lifted to one of several trees on Golgotha. The beam is attached to the tree. Then his feet would be placed one over the other and one nail would be used to attach them to the tree. The feet would be nailed so that his knees were bent at a 45-degree angle. Normally death would come within 24 hours. Between his exhaustion, scourging, and dehydration Jesus will last only 6 hours.

Crucifixion kills when the body becomes too weak to support itself and you die by suffocation. Jesus is not "towering" over the crowd on the cross. He is probably about 2 feet off the ground. This makes it easier for the Roman soldiers to put him on the tree and manage him while he and the 2 others die. Mary, Jesus mother, John (the only disciple to witness the crucifixion), and the other women are almost eye level with Jesus. John tells us there is a sign above Jesus' head in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew so that all can read it. It says, "JESUS THE NAZARENE, KING OF THE JEWS" (John 19:19). Often in paintings or on a crucifix you will see the initials INRA. these initials represent the Latin inscription.

Now I want to concentrate on 4 of Jesus’ 7 sayings (due to time and space). I will do a sermon later on all of Jesus' words from the cross. For now these 4 statements are what I want to share.

"MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME?" Almost every Christian has struggled with this phrase. Did Jesus lose his faith? Did he believe everything was in vain? NOT AT ALL! For any Jewish person at the cross that day knows JESUS IS QUOTING THE 22nd PSALM! A traditional Psalm a Jewish male would recite in times of deep distress. Look up this Psalm. It begins with those very words and it ends with these 2 verses. "POSTERITY WILL SERVE HIM: FUTURE GENERATIONS WILL BE TOLD ABOUT THE LORD, AND PROCLAIM HIS DELIVERANCE TO A PEOPLE YET UNBORN SAYING THAT HE HAS DONE IT" (vs. 30-31). Jesus simply cannot quote the entire Psalm. He is too weak, too exhausted, and his mouth is too dry.

"FATHER FORGIVE THEM FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO." If any statement summarizes Jesus’ heart, love, and grace it is these words. They are spoken to the Romans, and the crowd that day, but they are also spoken to those "yet unborn" when we "crucify" him with our thoughtless/hurtful words and actions.

"TRULY I SAY TO YOU TODAY YOU WILL BE WITH ME IN PARADISE" (In response to one of the 2 thieves being crucified with him that day). With one simple sentence Jesus seems to indicate that at our moment of death, we will be with God. We need a lot more time to discuss this as well as the differences in the 2 thieves’ belief in Jesus. Guess this will be another sermon!

FINALLY, "IT IS FINISHED"! This is the other most misunderstood statement made by Jesus from the cross. For most people, they visualize it with Jesus whispering it just before his head drops to his chest and he dies. BUT in the original language, and the way John witnessed it, IT IS A VICTORY SHOUT! Jesus IS TELLING THE WORLD THAT HE HAS COMPLETED HIS TASK. JESUS IS CELEBRATING HIS VICTORY!

The journey that began in a manger in Bethlehem is now complete. Jesus is dead. It is 3:00 PM Friday, 3rd, 33AD

There is so much more I want to say. I want to talk about the Curtain in the Temple that tears, the darken sky/storm, the earthquake, the breaking of the 2 thieves’ legs to hasten their deaths but not breaking Jesus' legs since he had already died.

But I don't have the space. So, let us finish WITH THE FIRST CONVERSION TO THE CHRISTIAN FAITH. When was that? At the foot of the cross when a battle hardens, used to death and executing men on a cross, Roman Centurion looks at the dead Jesus and says 'TRULY THIS WAS THE SON OF GOD’!

AMEN & AMEN!

TODAY IS HOLY SATURDAY, THE 7th DAY OF HOLY WEEK. IN JERUSALEM IT IS SATURDAY, APRIL 4th, 33AD. IT IS A TERRIBLE DAY FOR THOSE WHO HAVE LOVED AND BELIEVED IN JESUS. IT ALL SEEMS TO BE OVER. BUT THEY DON'T KNOW WHAT WE KNOW..........

EASTER IS COMING!!!

Tomorrow will be my Easter Devotional. Don't forget the Easter sermon will be posted Sunday at 8:00 AM AND YES THERE IS A YOUNG DISCIPLES MESSAGE AT THE VERY BEGINNING!

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, "Butter", Son-in-Law, Rich, & Rev. Rich

April 10, 2020

Holy Week: Day 6 - GOOD FRIDAY

*Have you ever wondered why the day Jesus dies is called "GOOD" Friday? There are two explanations. One is that a long time ago the word "good" meant "holy". The second explanation is that it is called "Good Friday" because it was "good for us". Jesus' death leads to the Resurrection and Easter, the victory over sin and death!*

(GOOD) FRIDAY, APRIL 3rd, 33 AD - JERUSALEM

Jesus has been up all night. He has more than likely been awake now for 24 hours. He has been teased, ridiculed, spat on, accused of blasphemy, and sentenced to death by the Sanhedrin (The Jewish supreme court). Technically the Jewish hierarchy cannot carry out a death sentence under Roman occupation. Therefore, Jesus is sent to the Roman Governor Pilate for sentencing. It is early in the morning (6:00 AM) and Jesus stands before Pilate. Jesus has 9 hours to live.

JUDAS IS DEAD. Many scholars think that Judas, who was a Zealot and therefore hated Rome, thought with the arrest that he had forced Jesus' hand. Now Jesus would become the warrior messiah that every zealot thought the messiah would be. A might messiah sent by God to lead the people in a victorious war to over throw the Romans. Judas has badly underestimated Jesus and Jesus' mission. He now realizes Jesus is not going to call down a legion of 1000 angels. Jesus is going to die and Judas cannot live with himself. He tries to return the 30 pieces of silver. THE CHIEF PRIESTS WILL NOT ACCEPT THE BLOOD MONEY. This only adds to Judas' guilt, shame, and despair. Judas finds a tree and hangs himself.

Meanwhile, Pilate has a problem and his name is Jesus. Pilate knows Jesus is an innocent man. He also knows he has a very hot political potato in his hand. If he releases Jesus the powerful Chief Priests and their followers will be furious and he may lose control of them. On the other hand, the masses love this Jesus and could revolt if he is killed. He does not have enough Roman soldiers to handle 100,000 angry Jewish people. So, he does what any good politician would do; he passes the buck. According to the Gospel of Luke, Pilate sends Jesus to see Herod, the puppet king of Israel. Who, while excited to finally meet "this Jesus", makes no political decision about him. Instead, he sends Jesus right back to Pilate. An interesting side bar to this is that Luke has a verse at the end of this story that says, "That same day Herod & Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies." (Luke 23:12)

Pilate now tries to offer the crowd a choice. Barabbas, a convicted murderer or Jesus. The crowd belongs to the High Priest's fraction. They have been bribed and know what to do. They yell, "Crucify Him" (Jesus). Pilate washes his hands of the mess (literally) and turns Jesus over to be crucified, but first he will be scourged. I will not go into the details of a scourging. Suffice it to say it is a whip with razor sharp bones and pieces of lead that destroys flesh. Jesus endures 39 lashes while draped over a post in the courtyard to expose more of his back. He then is forced to carry the crossbeam for his cross to Golgotha.

It is 9 AM. Jesus has been awake now for 27 hours. HE HAS 6 HOURS TO LIVE. The temperature is getting warmer. Jesus has walked to Pilate’s House, then Herod's Palace, back to Pilate's place, and now he must walk and carry the cross' beam (not an entire cross) to where he will die. He is exhausted, dehydrated, and losing blood from the scourging. The crossbeam weighs 100 pounds. Jesus has to walk a little over 1/2 a mile (.6 mi) to the place of his execution. During this walk Jesus collapses and Simon of Cyrene is chosen from the crowd to carry the beam the rest of the way.

Jesus is nailed to the cross. His feet are put one over top the other and 1 nail is used to fastened the feet to the cross. A nail is driven through each of his wrists. (Scholars realized some time ago that paintings depicting the nails in the hands were wrong; the hands cannot support the weight of a body on a cross but the wrist bones can). By 3 PM Jesus will be dead.

There are still more parts of this story to write about, but this article is getting too long, so I will continue it on Holy Saturday.

For now, simply ponder how much Jesus LOVES YOU by truly playing out these words in your mind and heart. May Good Friday enrich your love of, and your walk with, Jesus.

Amen & Amen.

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, "Butter", Son-in-Law, Rich, & Rev. Rich

April 9, 2020

Holy Week: Day 5

(MAUNDY THURSDAY- called "Maundy" from the Latin word "Mandatum" translated "command" in reference to the foot washing scene in John 13)

--By the way, the dates I am listing for 33AD are as accurate as we can tell based on the calendar of the time and ancient records--

April 2, 33 AD (Thursday)

Jesus wakes up in Bethany one final time. The next time he "wakes up" he will be walking out of a tomb on Easter morning.

Pretty much all 4 Gospels now agree with what occurs. After breakfast, JESUS DOES NOT IMMEDIATELY LEAVE FOR JERUSALEM. There are plans to eat in Bethany for lunch and in Jerusalem for supper, so the morning routine is a little different. More than likely, sometime in the late morning, Jesus and his Disciples head to the house of Simon the Leper (Scholars seem certain that Simon is someone Jesus had healed from Leprosy because active lepers where not allowed to live in towns or to socialize with people). There Jesus shares a meal, and is anointed by a woman with an "ALABASTER FLASK OF VERY EXPENSIVE OINTMENT”. John says it is Mary (of Martha, Mary, & Lazarus). There is no reason to doubt this. Also, don't confuse this with the account of the woman who anoints Jesus feet and dries them with her hair. These are two different stories that occur at different times. Jesus' disciples are outraged at the "waste" because a flask of alabaster ointment would cost a year’s salary. But Jesus tells them to be quiet, that "she has done it to prepare me for burial" (John 26:6-13).

After the meal, Jesus and his disciples take their last walk from Bethany to Jerusalem. THE PLOT TO KILL JESUS IS COMPLETE AND WILL BE PUT INTO ACTION SOON. Judas has met with the Chief Priests and Judas has his instructions and his 30 pieces of silver. In the remainder of what is left of the day, Jesus secures an "Upper Room" and prepares for the last meal/supper. The time is short now. During the meal Jesus reveals that one of His chosen disciples will betray him shortly. Many of the disciples wonder if they are the one. All of the disciples remain in Jerusalem (probably in the upper room) to sleep. It is too late to walk back to Bethany. Jesus and his inner circle of Peter, James, & John go to the Mount of Olives, to the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prays. The 3 disciples fight sleep but succumb and sleep while Jesus prays.

Jesus wrestles with the hours before Him. Is there another way? In the end, he simply puts his hand in His Father's (God) and says, "not my will but yours". Judas now arrives with a kiss on the cheek and a crowd to arrest Jesus. In the gospels of Matthew and Mark, Peter reacts by cutting off the ear of a high priest's slave. John says the slaves name was Malchus, and truthfully, Peter probably missed where he was aiming! Jesus heals the slave and tells Peter this is not the way.

Jesus is taken to the High Priest Caiaphas' home. Judas will hang himself this night and PETER WILL DENY HE KNOWS JESUS. Jesus will not have any sleep this night. A long night of interrogation, bullying, charges of blasphemy, and a mockery of a trail await. It will be long hard night before Jesus will be sent to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. Jesus has 16 hours to live.

Today for us, is simply a day of reflection. A day when instead of judging Judas, Peter, or actually any of the disciples, we look at ourselves. We ask ourselves how many times have we denied that we are a Disciple of HIS? How many times have we "cut" (hurt) someone, instead of doing what we know Jesus would expect? Today is a day to ponder our Lord and our lives.

So, I leave you with an old poem by G.A. Studdert Kennedy that I have had for years and that I always think about on this day:

"When Jesus came to Golgotha they hanged Him on a tree,

They drove great nails through hands and feet and made a Calvary;

They crowned Him with a crown of thorns; red were His wounds and deep,

For these were crude and cruel days and human flesh was cheap.

When Jesus came to Raleigh [Garner, etc.] they [we] simply passed Him by,

They [we] never hurt a hair on Him, they [we] only let Him die;

For men had grown more tender and they [we]

would not give Him pain,

They [we] only just passed down the street, and left Him in the rain.

Still Jesus cried, "Forgive them, for they know not what they do,"

And still it rained a wintry rain that drenched Him through and through;

The crowds went home and left the streets without a soul to see,

And Jesus crouched against a wall and cried for Calvary."

Lord Have Mercy, Christ have Mercy. Have a powerful HOLY THURSDAY.

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, "Butter", Son-in-law, Rich, & Rev. Rich

April 8, 2020

HOLY WEEK: Day 4

APRIL 1ST, 33 AD (If you were wondering, there is no April Fool's Day in Jesus time - it begins somewhere between 1392 and/or 1508 AD)

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 1, 33AD

Once again, Jesus has spent the night at Martha, Mary's and Lazarus'. Once again, He will eat a breakfast before He and his disciples begin their one-hour journey to Jerusalem. The city is even more packed as Passover is overtaking everything in Jerusalem. Now there are about 120,000 people swarming the city that is already crowded with its normal everyday population of 80,000. It is hard to maneuver the streets with all the people. The smells of street vendors and the people, the sounds of conversations and bargaining fill the air. By all accounts the final plans to get rid of Jesus are now being finalized. Does Jesus go to the Temple today? It is not clear that he does, however it would be the most logically place to go to teach, talk, and feel God's presence. My guess is Jesus returns to the Temple. I would want to be in a holy place at this time of turmoil and unrest in the city and the soul.

Wherever Jesus is, it is clear that he teaches some more parables, including explaining the cursing of the fig tree that occurred on Monday. There is some indication that Jesus repeats his warning of the coming destruction of the Temple (this will happen in 70 AD when Rome crushes a Jewish revolt). He also speaks about the end of the age (this is explained with the story of the fig. Just as a fig tree's leaves blooming indicates summer is close, so too will also be signs of the end of the age). Interestingly, in the Gospel of John this day is when Jesus washes his Disciples feet and speaks of his approaching betrayal and death. Is this the Last Supper as told by John? It appears to be so. Scholars have learned in the past 20 years from ancient records, that many people disliked how corrupt the Temple and the priest had become. Therefore, they chose to celebrate Seder on a different day than the one designated by the priests. It is possible there were 2 Seder meals - one that was real and one that was symbolic on the day designated by the priests; but this is just an educated guess.

Whatever the case on this Wednesday, Jesus is beginning to PUT HIS HOUSE IN ORDER. He will remind His disciples that HE IS THE WAY, THE TRUTH, & THE LIFE. He will tell His disciples that the world will "hate them" but that they are to "love one another". He will share with them that HE will be giving them a PEACE that will carrying them through their lives and a "HOLY COMFORTER" (Holy Spirit) that will lead them, empower them, and comfort them. Jesus returns to Bethany for the night. He has 37 hours to live.

For us, 2000+ years later, the lessons from Wednesday of Holy Week are many. We need to acknowledge that if we choose to follow Jesus, much of the world will not like us. We need to remember through normal times, and through pandemics, we are to love one another. We NEED to remember that each of us, and Holland’s, has the gift of the Holy Spirit to listen to and lean on. And always, we need to start each day remembering that JESUS IS THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE. It should not take COVID-19 to remind us of these truths!

Amen? Amen.

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, "Butter" Son-in-Law, Rich, & Rev. Rich

April 7, 2020

HOLY WEEK: Day 2

TUESDAY, MARCH 31, 33AD

Jesus has again spent the night at his friend’s home in Bethany, 4 miles outside of Jerusalem. This is going to be a tough day in many ways. Jesus knows it is a dangerous time. He knows that death awaits. Yet again, after breakfast, Jesus and His disciples begin the 4 mile walk into Jerusalem. About an hour later they arrive at the gate to enter the city. It remains packed with over 100,000 people gathering for the great Passover celebration. Again, Jesus goes to the Temple. I am sure there are people following Jesus to see if anything will happen today like it did yesterday. I am sure Jesus' Disciples are nervous. They too know it is a dangerous time for Jesus, and since they are His disciples, dangerous for them as well. According to most of the Gospel accounts, it is on this day that JESUS CALLS THE SCRIBES & PHARISEES OUT. Known as the 7 WOES TO SCRIBES & PHARISEES, Jesus points out emphatically their hypocrisy, how they make up the letter of religious laws but completely overlook the SPIRIT of those same laws. He points out their thirst for power, wealth, and privilege that separates them from God's people. He points out how they and their kind have murdered the prophets and those who speak the truth about God's power, love, and grace. By the time Jesus finishes he has a group of very angry religious leaders.

This will be a day of mostly sorrow for Jesus. This is the day he "laments" (cries) over Jerusalem, foretells the destruction of the Temple (occurs in 70AD), and talks about the end times (end of the age). According to Mark, this is also when he talks about loving God with everything and loving your neighbor as yourself. The highlight of Jesus' Tuesday comes when He is in the Temple and He sees the Widow put her 2 small coins into the Temple treasury (The Widow’s mite). From that simple act comes a powerful testimony that Jesus shares with Disciples of what it means to truly love & TRUST God. It is the best moment in Jesus' day.

In the late afternoon Jesus and his Disciples leave the crowded city and walk the hour back to the village of Bethany for supper and a time of rest. Tomorrow is Wednesday, April 1st, 33AD and things will continue to get more tense. Jesus now has only 2 & 1/2 days to live.

What does this history lessons mean for us today, April 7, 2020?

The message is simple for us today: Are we Disciples or are we hypocrites? Do we live our love for Jesus or do we just project a front? I didn't say are we perfect, but are we trying to live out our faith the best we are able? This time in the world may be the greatest test for we who call ourselves Christians. Do we hoard? Are we mean? Are we self-centered? Or are we the church "deployed" in action to a scared and hurting world? Do we have the faith of a poor widow? Do we trust God as much as she did? Only you can answer these questions family, friends, and flock. But HOW we answer those questions may determine what world we have when this pandemic comes to an end.

Amen? Amen.

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, "Butter", Son-in-law, Rich, Rev. Rich

April 6, 2020

HOLY WEEK: Day 1

Over these next 5 days I am going to try and write my devotionals based on what the scriptures appear to tell us about Jesus, and the events in His life in each day leading up to His crucifixion. The 4 gospels, as they tell the Holy Week story, have similarities but also some differences (expected when you have 4 different witnesses of the same event). I will do my best to cover each day and what Jesus was doing as I understand it. So, here we go:

MONDAY - JERUSALEM 33 AD.

Jesus awakes in the house he is staying. The home is the home of Martha, Mary, and the recently resurrected Lazarus. It is in the small village of Bethany, about 4 miles from Jerusalem. It is the day after what we call Palm Sunday. The day after joyous crowds had lined the streets to welcome Jesus. Now it is quiet and Jesus probably enjoys the quiet time for a little while.

Sometime during the day, probably after breakfast, He has a 4 mile walk into Jerusalem. Normally Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, is a city of 80,000 in 33 AD, but with Passover occurring this week it has swollen to a jam-packed city of over 100,000 to 120,000. The streets are crowded with people, peddlers, beggars and some Roman soldiers anxiously watching the crowd. Jesus and His disciples are walking to the Temple. It will be in the Temple where the action is today. This is the day that Jesus CLEANS THE TEMPLE to the shock of the merchants, priests, and probably even His disciples who have rarely seen Jesus mad. Jesus throws the money changers out of the temple and, quoting scripture, Jesus proclaims to all that can hear, "Is it not written that my house shall be a house of prayer for all the nations? But you have made it a den of robbers." I imagine all the average people that day whispered under their breaths, "Amen". Jesus certainly had everyone's attention at this time! The gospels indicate that this is when Jesus teaches some of his parables. Matthew specifies that this is where Jesus talks about the GREAT COMMANDMENT, "you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. You shall love your neighbor as yourself”. But Mark places it on Tuesday, and Luke places it earlier in Jesus' ministry in the telling of the parable of The Good Samaritan. John has it on Tuesday/Passover night (I'll explain that another day). All the Gospel's do agree that the cursing of the Fig tree was on Monday.

So, what does that mean for you and I on this Monday during the middle of a pandemic? Well, I think quiet time is something we all need to maintain our spiritual strength. So, my question for each of us today is have you developed a "prayer room" in your home during quarantine? If not, what are you waiting for? And if you have, are you using it? If not, why not? Second, there is nothing wrong with "Righteous Anger". Just make sure you are mad at something that would break the Lord's heart and not mad because someone didn't listen to you or didn't put something back, etc. Finally, some of Jesus' greatest parables seem to have been shared during this week. So, what part of Jesus can you share this week by email, face-time, Facebook, text, Instagram, etc. to make a difference in your family, friends, or communities’ lives? Think about it and act on it - just like our Lord did!

Amen & Amen!

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, "Butter", Son-in-Law, Rich, & Rev. Rich

April 3, 2020

It is hard to believe, and in some ways does not seem possible, but this Sunday is PALM SUNDAY. In our crazy, mixed up world that is what the calendar tells us. So, today's devotion is actually two words - PALM SUNDAY. Our associate, Rich Cooper, will be bringing the message for Palm Sunday, and to help prepare us for this day, I thought I would share a poem I wrote on April 6th, 1987 entitled, "PALM SUNDAY WHISPERS". With sincere apologies to all the great poets of history, here it is:

PALM SUNDAY WHISPERS

Lord, sometimes I sit and wonder

What made you do it, why did you ride?

Was it just to bring God - Yahweh

A little closer to our side?

What were you trying to tell us?

What whispers caress the wind?

What messages are there for us?

Are you quietly saying, you are a friend?

I guess that is what you are saying

In actions that speak louder than words,

In deeds that put thoughts into motions

And love into flight like God's birds.

It seems to be what you were saying

When you rode into Jerusalem that day,

That God was coming to all humankind,

And God had something to say.

Now those whispers seem all around me,

They softly speak my name,

They seem to be saying, "Child I ride

Because I love you - always and the same...

The same as I love all my children

Those who search high and low,

Those of my flock who are hurting,

Those of my flock who do not know....

Who do not know how to handle Palm Sunday,

And the whispers that caress the wind,

Whether to rejoice in the hope of ‘Hosanna’,

Or to cry for forgiveness again.

Remember my children you are forgiven,

Remember you are loved from above,

Remember the whispers you hear this day,

Are the whispers of MY ETERNAL LOVE”.

AMEN & AMEN

May you experience the power of this day and HIS love as Rich C. brings us God's word on Palm Sunday, April 5th. And, as we prepare to enter HOLY WEEK, may all our hearts be open to HIS voice and presence. Each of my devotions next week (starting Monday, April 6th) will deal with what we believe Jesus was doing on each day leading up to GOOD FRIDAY. Until then, stay safe, love one another, and praise God.

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, "Butter", Son-in-Law, Rich, & Rev. Rich

April 2, 2020

Day 15 Battle of the Beard:

The Alamo has fallen. The Red-haired Santa Anna swept in with a brilliant military tactic. The fatal blows came from the Red-haired Santa Anna's sword (isn't that what the Bible says is the mouth?) With two thrusts, "I don't like the beard & it makes you look older". Davey Crockett (AKA the beard) succumbed to his wounds. The defenders of the Alamo fought long and hard, but outnumbered (on Facebook), out gunned (by women), the final battle was swift and quick. But little does the Red-Haired Santa Anna know that Sam Houston (beard #2 or something else?) awaits down the road.

Now for today's devotion. The word today is "NORMAL". Strange choice isn't it? Particularly since nothing in our world, country, state, community, or life seems NORMAL right now. We can't go out to the “NORMAL" places we usually do. We can't physically hug our friends or go visit our family members who live some distance away. We wash our hands a lot more than we have ever done (for some this is a new experience that I am just not going to address!). Every time you sneeze everyone, including yourself, thinks, "plague or pollen"? NO, IN MANY WAYS THERE IS NOTHING "NORMAL" ABOUT THIS MOMENT IN TIME.

On the other hand, there are many things that are NORMAL. God's presence, God's love, Jesus’ teachings, and the Bible. THEY HAVE NEVER CHANGED and THEY are the same today as they were before we ever added the words "Pandemic”, “COVID-19”, or “social distancing" to our vocabulary. Other things, to just name a few, that have not changed is our love for family and friends. There is also the fact that you can still get the ESSENTIALS (notice I said essentials not luxuries) of life. You can still go out and get food; sure, you have to do a drive thru or pick it up, but you can still have food without cooking every meal! You can still get medicine. You can still get gasoline (yes, I know - you can't drive anywhere - not everything is perfect but the world has never been perfect!). The church is still active, alive, and in missions! In fact, it is perhaps more alive, active, and in missions beyond its walls, than it has been for years. We are even figuring out ways (well actually Jeremy is) for our Sunday School classes, the Morning Glory Bible Study, and even some of our committees to meet virtually during this time. Finally, I am still very happy that I am your lead pastor, that I have the staff our church has, and the fact is, I still love you! So, while there is much that has changed for us since March, there are still many things that are still very NORMAL. And for that, I praise God.

Amen? Amen!

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, "Butter", Son-Law, Rich & Rev. Rich

April 1, 2020

DAY 14 BATTLE OF THE BEARD

Major upset! During the cover of the middle of the night Davey Crockett slipped out of the Alamo and cut off all of Santa Anna's red hair; SANTA ANNA IS NOW BALD!! And if you believed that you just fell for an April fool's joke! There will be an update to the battle of the beard tomorrow but since today is April 1st hence APRIL FOOLS DAY, our devotion is going to deal with the word: FOOL.

To an older generation, they see the word “FOOL" and they probably think of the character Mr. T from the TV series, "The A Team". In the Bible the word appears more times than you might think. I have seen numbers that range from 62-112 depending on the translation. In the old Testament there are 5 different words that can be used in Hebrew to indicate a fool and in the New Testament Greek there are at least 2 words that I am aware of.

The general agreement of "FOOL" is a person with NO SENSE. Not necessarily non-intelligent, but someone who simply lacks sense. I guess Mr. T knew Hebrew and Greek since that is generally what he meant when he said that word!

One of the most familiar verses in the Bible with the word FOOL in it is: "The FOOL says in his heart, there is no God". That verse interestingly enough can be found in TWO DIFFERENT PSALMS - Psalm 14:1 & Psalm 53:1!

THE POINT IS THAT THE WORD FOOL DESCRIBES ONE WHO IS NOT DUMB, BUT SOMEONE WHO HAS NO SENSE. They look around and think creation happened without a master creator, they poo-poo life after death experiences. The idea of heaven or hell (or both) being real (even though EVERYTHING else has an opposite!) is ludicrous to them. They are looking around right now during this time in history and see nothing except this as a scary time and an inconvenience. I look around and see God working through the bad to bring good. I see the possibility of a spiritual awaking for the world and America. I see the potential for Revival in the church. I see prayer being more public and widely used, even to the point of a public prayer being said by Rev. T.J. Jakes OUT LOUD on MSNBC! I watched a CEO of a major business, during a national Coronavirus broadcast, calling America back to the Bible and God!

The FOOL says there is no God; but those of us who believe, who wrestle with doubts and fears but keep the faith, who believe in the Bible and prayer, who love our neighbor and our Lord... well in some ways we too are fools, "FOOLS FOR CHRIST". And what that verse means, my dear family, friends and flock, is that we are FOOLS IN THE EYES OF THE WORLD because we don't follow all that the world does but what Jesus asks us to do. So, if you are going to be a FOOL, MAKE SURE YOU ARE A FOOL FOR CHRIST!

Amen? Amen!

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, "Butter", Son-in-Law, Rich, & Rev. Rich

March 31, 2020

DAY 13 BATTLE OF THE BEARD.

(Interesting footnote: Day 13 of the true historical siege was the actual day that the real Alamo and its 185 defenders fell -March 6th, 1836)

The battle has raged now for 13 days. The red-haired Santa Anna has the upper hand. We (hairs of the beard) are totally surrounded and alone. Reinforcements (other male friends with beards) cannot get here in time. We are making our final stand; perhaps the beard will be remembered in (family) history as "one shining moment". Kind of like the Spartans in the battle of Thermopylae - wait a minute - they all died! (gulp)

Now on to today's devotion. The word for today is: CHOICE. Two pictures I saw today describe that word perfectly. They both relate to how we are handling this time in history and this virus. The first picture was a woman at a gas station. There is a gasoline hose running into her car and she has stepped away from it a little. Nothing out of the ordinary with that, most of us set the handle where it can pump gas into our car automatically until it cuts off when the tank is full. What caught my attention is what she was doing while the gasoline is being dispersed. There is a PUBLIC hand sanitizer container on the pillar near the gas pumps and SHE IS EMPTYING THAT PUBLIC CONTAINER INTO HER EMPTY PRIVATE HAND DISPENSER. Her choice was ME FIRST. She didn't care what anyone else needed, or that for the safety of all, everyone should have access to this public hand sanitizer after touching the screen that everyone else has touched and pumped gas from the same handle that everyone else has used. HER CHOICE WAS SELFISH. Actually, possibly life threatening to others and DEPRESSING for what it says about many people. I wonder how much toilet paper she has and if she professes to follow Jesus?

THE SECOND PICTURE is of a 90-year-old woman from Belgium, Suzanne Hoylaerts, who has COPID-19. When she was offered a life-saving respirator, she refused it saying, "save it for the young ones who need it most. I HAVE HAD A BEAUTIFUL LIFE."

Two choices: one reflects the world, one mirrors Jesus. Which would you choose? The answer tells us much about our faith, who we truly follow, and if we truly love one another in the way Jesus asks of us. Until tomorrow, peace, love, and good choices my family, friends, and flock.

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, "Butter", Son-in-Law, Rich & Rev. Rich

March 30, 2020

DAY 12 BATTLE OF THE BEARD.

Davey Crockett (AKA-the beard) still lives! The Red-Haired Santa Anna has been stopped at the Alamo's wall for the time being. Although it does appear that this red-haired general is pulling in more reinforcements (woman on Facebook plus some turncoat friends :)) for a final battle. Santa Anna is crafty and well trained in this type of battle. I am sure the red-haired general has some more moves prepared. The line has been drawn in the sand. No retreat and no surrender; we remain defiant until the last man (hair).

Now on to our devotion: Today's devotion is brought to you by the number 10. What follows is EVERYTHING I HAVE LEARNED FROM COVID-19 (so far), THE TOP 10 LESSONS FROM THE VIRUS:

10) The truly important people in the world and in the USA are not in Hollywood or athletics. They are not the wealthiest nor the most powerful, and they certainly are not the politicians. They are the front-line people, many not paid well, who do their job every day and are just now getting noticed.

9) When I retire (one of us - Deb or myself) will need a job outside the house!

8) You can only watch so many Hallmark movies in a row before you need a knock down all out, action film! In fact, you can only watch TV for so long!

7) Some things are essential, but a lot of things I thought were essential are not.

6) Family is so special and important; treasure every moment.

5) Face Time & Zoom are great inventions.

4) I/We have a great church staff, and I miss seeing them, but they continue to do a fantastic job helping the church be the church!

3) Faith is powerful.

2) Prayer is special.

AND NUMBER ONE!!!!!!!!

1) GOD IS WITH US though all things and HE is working right now. I see it in so many events and people! So, praise Him!

As I close, wash those hands and put them together in prayer. Take a moment and read from your Bible. It is called "the living Word of God" for a reason. Love your neighbor and check on them by phone, text, email, or talking from one yard to the next. And finally, ponder this word of God for us today: "In him was life and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness [virus?] and the darkness has not overcome it!" John 1:4-5. Amen? Amen!

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, "Butter", Son-in-law, Rich, & Rev. Rich

March 27, 2020

DAY 9 OF THE BATTLE OF THE BEARD.

The RED-HAIRED Santa Anna has reached the Alamo's wall, but my defenders (supporters on Facebook) are holding that wall for now. We are on day 9 of this powerful siege. Food (sugar treats) are being rationed, ammunition (defending scripture verses) are beginning to run low but Davey Crockett (AKA the Beard) is staying strong. As for now "Dequello" (bugle song-no quarter/no mercy) has been quieted. The Red-Haired Santa Anna seems to be pondering the next move. It is deadly quiet.

The calm before the storm? (All out charge?) Stay tuned and see if Davey Crockett and the Alamo are still standing on Monday. That will be the next time I can sneak a message out.

Now on to our devotion for today. The word for today is actually two words: “STEADFAST LOVE". The phrase that the Lord's "steadfast love endures forever" is repeated throughout the Bible. It occurs 196 times alone in the Old Testament and countless times the concept/theme is shared in the New Testament such as in John 3:16, I Corinthians 13, Romans 8:31-39, Hebrews 13, and even Revelation. You get the idea. You would think that the Lord is trying to make a point! Well yes, he is! For instance, I bet you did not know Psalm 118, which begins with, "Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for His steadfast love endures forever", is the most quoted Psalm in the New Testament thanks to that very theme. By the way, another interesting piece of information for all of us is that the word STEADFAST means, "NOT SUBJECT TO CHANGE". Did you see that? It means our Lord is not going to change. He is not going to change His view or His love based on which way the world is going. It's what our Bible has been trying to tell us all along when it says that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever!" (Hebrews 131:8)

Having a hard day? Tired of COVID 19 updates/news? Tired of hearing, “house bound”, “not sure how long”, or “social distancing”? Feeling worried, fearful, anxious or frustrated, angry, and defeated? Read Psalm 118. Remember two simple words, STEADFAST LOVE, and have faith that His love is real, powerful and steadfast! Take a moment, go outside and praise the Lord from whom all blessings flow, including HIS STEADFAST LOVE! Continue to wash those hands and stay safe. I miss all of you, but Blessings and Grace until we can hug again! AMEN & AMEN.

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, "Butter", Son-in-Law, Rich, & Rev. Rich

March 26, 2020

DAY 8 OF THE BATTLE OF THE BEARD

This could be my last message from my Alamo. I awoke early and swear I heard the sound of "Dequello" being hummed by the red-haired Santa Anna living at the parsonage. If you don't know, "dequello" is the bugle call for "NO QUARTER -NO MERCY". (Gulp) We (hairs of my beard) are surrounded by hostile forces (Debbie & women of the church). A shaving cream can (Red-haired Santa Anna's army) is being prominently displayed. Swords (razor) are being presented. The end could be near. We (the hairs of my beard and I) will go down fighting, but the red-haired Santa Anna is a formidable foe and seems to have the numbers and guns on her side. Is this siege reaching its conclusion? I'm not sure. I'm stubborn and tough but a man can only handle so much... Stay tuned.

Now on to the devotion... the word today is BLESSINGS. I will be addressing the blessings found in the Coronavirus in this Sundays sermon. It will be posted here, on our church website, as well as on our Facebook page (Facebook.com/HollandsUMC) Sunday morning, March 29th about 8:00AM. BUT FOR TODAY, let's reflect on what we think of when we say the word BLESSING. For most of us, BLESSINGS means good things concerning either health, family & friends, or material objects. But a famous Christian writer of a previous generation, AW. Tozer, in one of his most famous books, "The Pursuit of God", sees it differently. The 2nd chapter in that book is entitled, "The blessedness of Possessing Nothing". It is based on the Beatitude from Matthew 5:30, "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Tozer states that the "blessed poor" are those who are "no longer slaves to the tyranny of things". What he means is that when we reach a moment when so much is taken from us that all we seem to have left is the Lord, HE IS ENOUGH. This is what John Wesley was saying when he shared the "Covenant Prayer". The year was 1755, so excuse the old English, but I think you will understand the point.

"I am no longer my own but thine.

Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.

Put me to doing, put me to suffering.

Let me be employed by thee, or laid aside for thee

exalted for thee, or brought low for thee.

Let me be full, let me be empty.

Let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I FREELY AND HEARTILY YIELD ALL THINGS TO THY

PLEASURE AND DISPOSAL. [Caps mine]

And now, O glorious and blessed God,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.

And the covenant which I have made on earth,

let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

One of the BLESSINGS in our life right now is that for many God is returning to the center of our journey. Right now, we are remembering that devotional and prayer time is more important than the latest sports score or fashion trend. We are remembering what makes family time so special. Why a good book is fun to read, how interesting the Bible can be when we give it a chance. How much we cherish friends and neighbors.

We are a very BLESSED people, even in these times. So, claim those blessings and celebrate them, because the gospel truth remains the same; God is good all the time and all the time God is good - and his blessings come every day, even in the midst of a pandemic. Amen? Amen!

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, Son-in-Law, "Butter" (family joke between me and my sister), Rich, & Rev. Rich

March 25, 2020

DAY 7 OF NOT SHAVING.

An update on the "Battle of the Beard":

The battle is heating up. There have been casualties; my left and right flanks have been wiped out (left & right side of face). Have retreated to the Alamo (my office) for a last stand. Santa Anna, with curly red hair flowing, has had reinforcements arriving daily (posts from women on Facebook). I have sent out a call but my help can't get seem to get through. We are outnumbered. Ammunition running low. I have fired the cannon (Told the red-haired Santa Anna "Jesus had a beard" - Red haired general fired back, "I know Jesus and you are not Jesus".) We will fight to the last man (hair) but things are looking desperate…

OK...now that you have had your laugh today, let's talk FAITH. FAITH is easy to have when everything is going well. It's easy when the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the word “Coronavirus” or “pandemic” are not in our vocabulary. But this is not those times and now is when our FAITH should be at its strongest. So, let's remember: remember how the great faith chapter, Hebrews 11, begins with these words: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (HB. 1:1) The Living Bible paraphrases the same verse this way - "What is faith? It is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead."

In these times of uncertainty and quarantines, our FAITH will be the corner stone upon which we stand. It will be our witness of what type of Christian we are. It will be what brings us peace and hope. As the great Christian Affirmation of Faith states:

“I believe in God the Father Almighty...and in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord...I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic (universal) church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen."

May your day be filled with love and peace; may you continue to wash those hands and put them together in prayer. Until tomorrow, may the Lord bless and keep you.

Agape,

Dad, Uncle Rich, Papa, Son-in-Law, Rich, & Rev. Rich

March 24, 2020

DAY 6 OF NOT SHAVING (not sure how long I will be able to post those last words...starting to hear mumbling about divorce?!)

Today we are going to reflect on the word "NEVERTHELESS" in the Bible. Depending on where you look to research the word, it appears as much as 237 times (KJV) to as little as 27 times (modern translations).

I first started to ponder the word NEVERTHELESS after reading a book by Marion Bond West, a Christian writer. She wrote a book entitled "The Nevertheless Principal". She wrote this book after the death of her husband from brain cancer. In the book she relates to how many times the word can be found in the Bible (she used the KJV) and how many times in those verses it was saying that in spite of hard times, NEVERTHELESS, the Lord was with you. NEVERTHELESS, He loved you. NEVERTHELESS, His grace covered you. NEVERTHELESS, His peace was there. An example of that is Isaiah 9:1 where in the King James Version of the Bible, the verse begins, "Nevertheless", and it is telling the conquered and destroyed areas of Zebulun, Naphtali, & Galilee, that God would transform these dark and gloomy days into days of honor. In the Gospel of Luke in the 5th chapter (KJV) we also have a NEVERTHELESS moment. It is the story of Jesus calling his disciples. In this story the guys (future disciples) have had a lousy night of fishing and Jesus tells them to "put out into the deep and let your nets down for a catch". Even though they do not know Jesus at this time, and probably think he is crazy since they had fished all night and caught nothing, Simon (Peter) replies, "Master we toiled all night and caught nothing, NEVERTHELESS, at your word, I will put the nets down. Of course, trusting Jesus they caught so many fish the nets were almost breaking!

So, my hope and prayer for you today is this: if you start getting cabin fever, or you start feeling anxious, afraid, or becoming overwhelmed with the news and this Coronavirus event, you will remember the word NEVERTHELESS. It is a simple word, but it reminds us that we are the Lord's and He is with us through all of life; that He loves us and He is trustworthy. Think about His track record from Genesis through Revelation. And take a breath, wash those hands and remember, no matter what the day, week, months hold. God is here! Amen? Amen!

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, Son-in-law, Rich, & Rev. Rich

March 23, 2020

(Day 5 of not shaving and Debbie is starting to give me "the look"! )

I wanted to start this post by first thanking our worship team this past Sunday (Rev. Rich C., Donna West, & Kelly Irons) plus our sound crew (Doug Pedigo, David Kennedy, & Jeremy Absher) for their work. They were our pilot run; we threw them in the deep end of the pool and said swim! We learned some things and appreciate all that they did!

As we continue our journey through our "new normal" (is that really a phrase?), I found that I am growing spiritually. I guess it is one of the blessings in this time (More on that when I preach on March 29th. The sermon will be "The Blessings of the Coronavirus - Bringing Good out of Bad" - the scripture will be Romans 8:31-39).

The word for us today is JESUS. Pretty good word I would say!

Max Lucado wrote a devotional book that I use almost every day. It is entitled "Grace For The Moment". One of his writings in that book says this: "THERE IS NEVER A TIME WHEN JESUS IS NOT SPEAKING".

Please, reread that sentence.

Let it sink in. Do you understand the significance of that simple sentence? As Lucado would go on to say, "there is NEVER a place in which Jesus is not present. NEVER. There is NEVER a room so dark...etc." Well you get the point.

So, what is Jesus saying to your today? Is he saying "peace be still'? Is he saying, "be still and know that I am God"? Is he saying, take a moment in each day and enjoy your family, enjoy the time that has slowed down for you? Read, relax, turn off the TV, eat a meal together. If you are alone/single reconnect with a friend, neighbor, family member you have not talked to in a while. Pray for the truckers, the front-line workers from medical to grocery workers. Hebrews 13:5 reminds us that Jesus says, "NEVER will I leave you NEVER will I forsake you". Trust That!

By the way, isn't it amazing how often that word NEVER has popped up day? Do you think Jesus might actually be talking to us through this virus and on this day? I DO! Tomorrow we will talk about a similar word...NEVERTHELESS and how often you can find it in the Bible. Until then my family, friends, and flock. I love you; I am praying for you. Stay safe and continue to wash those hands! God's Blessing, Grace, & Peace to all of you.

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, Son-in-Law, Rich, & Rev. Rich

March 20, 2020

(Day 2 of not shaving--not sure how long Debbie will let that go!)

I will NOT BE POSTING Saturday or Sunday. However, Rich Cooper's sermon will be available for all of us online Sunday morning, March 22. Just go to the "Sermons" tab here on our website OR go to our church's Facebook page: Facebook.com/hollandsumc. I will be posting again starting Monday, March 23rd. With all that said, let's get to my devotional thought for today.

As we adjust to life under this pan-epidemic known as the Coronavirus, we have talked about "fear" and I have shared thoughts on what it is like to be part of the "at risk" generation. Today the word is WORRY. Something we are very good at and yet something our Lord asks us not to do. Of course, worry is just one of many things we seem to do that Jesus asks us not to do! More on that at a later time! :) As for now, you need to know that Rich Cooper's sermon Sunday is going to examine some of this and I wanted to speak to a little of it today. I think both Rich C. and I are doing that because Jeremy Absner did our staff devotion recently about this topic. He took his scripture from the Gospel of Matthew 6:25-34, entitled "Do not Worry". SO... FIRST OF ALL, STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING AND READ THIS SCRIPTURE! It will prepare you for Rich C.’s sermon and the rest of my devotional

........... (Jeopardy music playing....) :) ............. We're back....

Now one does not have to be an ordained pastor, or a Greek scholar, to understand what Jesus is saying here. But WHY is Jesus saying that? Think of the time Jesus lived and spoke in. A cloud of dust could be an invading army. A cut could become infected and there were no antibiotics. A famine could come at any time. A plague of disease or locust could be just around the corner. You could look at a Roman soldier wrong and be in serious trouble. Yet Jesus says, "do not worry about your life, what you eat or what you will drink ....". Jesus said that because He knew God was real and that God was a God of love. He knew that much of what we worry about never happens, and what does happen we rarely have control over. He knows that the bottom line is to Love God and each other, to keep the faith, and trust in the creator of the universe. Jesus is right, "each day has troubles", but it also has HIM and that my family, friends, and flock is all we really need. By the way, as Jeremy shared with us, in the Greek translation Jesus is really saying "Chill Out" :) so he who has ears let them hear what the Spirit is saying to the church! :)

Until Monday, be safe, use common sense, wash your hands, and remember Jesus and germs are everywhere. :)

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, Son in Law, Rich & Rev. Rich

March 19, 2020

Good morning family, friends, and flock:

As we continue our journey through this unusual time in our lives, I thought I would share the thoughts of someone who is in the "at risk" category for the Coronavirus. THAT WOULD BE ME! No one is more surprised than me that at some point in history I, and my beloved high school classmates and friends, reached a stage where society now considers us old. I don't feel old. I keep thinking that at the most I am in my 40's. I still have the same passion for ministry that I had coming out of seminary. But the truth is, very shortly I will be 71 and according to all statistics that puts me in the at-risk group. How does that make me feel?

Well, strange for one. Also, if I start to have a sore throat, or a cough, or feel funny it is obviously going to make me think - is this the virus, a cold, the flu, or just pollen? Of course, the virus would really make me ponder! How do I protect my family? How sick will I get? Am I looking at the end of this life? Those are natural questions and concerns. This is where my faith comes in.

NOW ALL OF YOU PAY ATTENTION HERE!

I am not trying to sound morbid, but I am being as honest as I can be on a Thursday morning where I am feeling fine. As I have aged, I have realized that I have lived far more of my physical life than I have left. I realize that I worry more about the heartache Debbie, the boys, my daughter-in-laws and granddaughters would experience in my death, than I am concerned about actually dying. In some ways that is good because it means I was loved and my faith is strong. But because I love them, I wish there was a way to spare them that experience. Short of Jesus' return there is not. What I am saying is that my faith and my experiences with so many of my flock who have walked through "the valley of death", plus working with Debbie as a chaplain in hospice, has allowed me to ponder my death without fear. NOW I KNOW THAT IS A LOT EASIER TO TYPE WHILE I AM FEELING GREAT AND HAVE NO SYMPTOMS OF ANYTHING. But I believe that will also be true whenever that moment comes be it in 20 years, 10 years or tomorrow. I don't want it to be soon. I'd like to hang around and aggravate Debbie and my boys and watch my grandchildren grow. But in the end, I trust Jesus. I trust His words, His love, and His grace. I believe John 3:16-17 and John 14:1-14. I believe in prayer and I believe in heaven, and for me in this time in history, that is all I need. Sorry this Epistle is so long today! May you have a great and wonderful day. Keep the faith and wash those hands, since Jesus and germs are everywhere!

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, Rich & Rev. Rich

March 18, 2020

Family, Friends, & Flock:

During this Coronavirus time I am going to try and share some daily Devotional thoughts for my friends, family, and flock. So welcome to "REV RICH'S RITTINGS"

Let's talk about fear today. As many of you know our oldest son, Richie, is now staying with us since his job has shut done for at least the next 2 weeks. Last night I made a quick run to the store to get some Quaker Oats (Richie loves oatmeal and we did not have any). I knew the store would be missing supplies like TP & paper towels, etc. I was really surprised though, to see the vegetable bins complete empty and most of the aisles with many empty spaces. In fact, there were only 3 Quaker Oats containers (I only took 1).

A large mass of people have panicked.

Fear has taken control of their life.

I just read today that ammunition sales have jumped 276%. Toilet Paper suppliers were shocked by the run. We are better than this! Especially if we love and follow Jesus. Do you remember how many times the Bible -- speaking though droughts, famines, plagues, invasions, deaths, and persecutions -- calls on us to "Fear Not!"? 365 times is the answer. Interesting number isn't it? One for each day of the year. I am not saying we should not be concerned; we are human, we worry. But we also need to trust Jesus. All my life I have believed HIS words and trusted His love. This valley in our world right now is not going to make me stop trusting Him or believing in Him and HIS grace and love. Amen? Amen!

Tomorrow will be a follow up on this devotional by sharing my thoughts about being in the "at risk group." Until tomorrow: Love the Lord and wash your hands!

Agape,

Dad, Papa, Uncle Rich, Rich, & Rev Rich