Spring is in the air! We hear birds chirping, the air is fresh and crisp, and the flowers are blooming. Spring is in the air, inviting us to the new life that God offers. For those of us who stayed indoors throughout the winter, we are being beckoned to step out into the new season.
For us Christians, new life is very noticeable during Easter. We celebrate the Risen Christ, who burst forth with new life 2,000 years ago. The season of Easter is God’s invitation to trust in the new life God offers. This is what the Bible calls “eternal life.” It begins here and now but it is also a future where we live in the presence of God forever. Spring is God’s transforming power allowing new life to burst forth from the ground when daffodils bloom and all the other flowers like the lilies, tulips and hyacinths blossom. It is the new life God offers through Jesus Christ. It is the belief that all things can be made new in the springtime.
By the time you read this, Lent will be almost over, and Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter will be on the horizon.
For every Christian, the Resurrection is the most important miracle in our faith. Paul says without the Resurrection, Christians have no hope and they are to be pitied.
So, what difference does the Resurrection make? Well, the Resurrection gives us the hope for a future with God. The Resurrection is the one assurance that our sins are forgiven and that Jesus paid the price for our sins on the cross, and He was raised up from the dead. The Resurrection assures us that God will be with us in this life and the one to come. This is the promise of Easter.
However, we cannot go to Easter without Holy Week. The victory of Easter starts from Holy Week when Jesus went through the agony of pain and suffering and death to bring us this hope.
The Season of Lent is upon us again. Lent is the season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. It is a time during which we remember when Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights in the wilderness. Lent is a time of repentance, fasting, and preparation for Easter.
It is also a time of self-reflection and spiritual examination. During the Season of Lent Christians are called upon to give up something for Lent. It is a way for all of us to learn to live without some of the comforts of life as we draw closer to God. So, many Christians fast during Lent. Fasting is a spiritual practice of giving up food or any other basic necessities like money to support good causes.
Here in our church we use our Lenten Folders, which allow us to save up some funds during Lent to help the church continue its ministry to the poor and needy in our society. It helps us to see how blessed we are and allow God to bless other people through our kind and generous acts.
Nowadays we not only give up something for Lent but we take something up for Lent. This is a reminder for us to go back and engage in the spiritual disciplines that have fallen by the wayside. We are encouraged to take up spiritual disciplines such as daily prayer and devotion, Bible reading and a genuine activity such as volunteering in the church or community. It is also a time for those who are not active in the church to return to weekly worship and fellowship.
We Need Love - 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
One of the famous scripture passages in the Bible is 1 Corinthians 13. It is what we call “The Love Passage.” When I get the opportunity to do weddings even those who are not believers often have an idea about this passage, and they request it for their reading. Since it is very popular I made sure I have a sermon crafted just in case I have to give one. Here is how the scripture passage goes:
“Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, and it does not boast, it is not proud, it is not self- seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrong. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always preserves, love never fails.” It ends by saying, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Some pastors have recommended an exercise for all of us to do. Instead of “love,” put in your name. For example, “Kofi is patient, he does not boast, he is not proud. He is not rude, he is not selfseeking, he is not easily angered, and he keeps no record of wrongs. Kofi does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. He always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always and preserves. Kofi never fails.” Most of us cannot get past the first statement. When I did the exercise I realized I have to work hard to live up to the life of love as the scripture suggests.
The Bible says God is love and Jesus Christ is the epitome of Love. He demonstrated his love in every turn and event in his life.
It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord. The reason being God has been very good to us throughout the past year and has now given us something special: a brand new year. A new year is a gift of time to do some wonderful things. Whatever we choose to do with this wonderful time is up to us. For some of us, we have to resolve to do better: to be better husbands, better wives, better fathers, better role models, better parents, better stewards and so on and so forth. For some of us, we will resolve to have a better lifestyle: plan good healthy habits like eating well, exercising and having an overall balanced life.
For some, we will resolve to have a closer relationship with God and improve our spiritual life. For example, we may resolve to pray more, attend church regularly and be involved in what God is doing in our world.
The most important thing for all of us is to resolve to make this new year better than the past years. How are we going to live our lives with this new gift that God has given to us? The answer is God is the One who holds the future. In Jeremiah 31:17 the Bible says, “ ‘There is hope for your future,’ says the Lord.”
I would like to thank all of you for your prayers and financial support this past year. Your support allowed us to continue sharing the love of Christ with people far and near. I want to thank all of you for helping us do our part of the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ here in Mt. Pocono.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) We all love this verse because it talks about God‘s gift to us.
Wow, where did 2016 go? As the year comes to a close I am sure all of us have written new chapters in our life story. We have added new pages to the complex lives we have had in 2016. Each time a year comes to a close we should all reflect on how time flies. Time is made up of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years. However, it is the special moments that make the difference so we all have to cherish those moments we have because they are precious. When we observe this, we notice how fast time flies and I am told it flies even faster as we grow older.
That is why I want to stay young for a long time! When we are young we never understand this, because we have no concept of time. For young people the days seem to drag on for a long time especially when you are waiting for that special occasion to celebrate a birthday or to take a trip.
The truth about time is we have to make the most of every opportunity we get in our life. God continues to speak to us through the scriptures to use our time and treasures we have been given to make a difference with the time we have been given on this earth. We are to use our time and talents to make a difference in our own lives, in our own families, and in our communities.
The Christmas season is a great time of the year to remember Christ in the midst of all the busyness and hustle and bustle. We must remember the fact that Jesus came to earth to save us. He was God’s gift to us. So as we think about giving gifts this Christmas season we should not forget that the greatest gift is the salvation Jesus Christ brings us. He is the reason for the season.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 - “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God concerning you.”
This verse can be a little tricky because it says no matter what is going on in my life that I am to give thanks, not “for” my circumstances, but “in” my circumstances. Why? Because God will help me get through it. Giving thanks is not only good for the soul of the person giving it but it is good for the soul of the person receiving it.
I have often commented that America is a wonderful country just for the fact that the nation reminds us by our calendar to give thanks in November. Thanksgiving should first be expressed to God for all the blessings we have received. Giving thanks is an outpouring of love and joy to God. When we give thanks we honor God and acknowledge that every good and perfect gift comes from the Lord.
Paul also reminds us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 that life does not always go according to plan. Things don’t always turn out the way they are supposed to or the way we believe they should. And Paul says even in that circumstance we should learn to give thanks because God is with us—in the good times and in the bad times— and God will help us even in our time of trouble.
“This is My Father’s World” is the United Methodist Hymn No. 144. The first verse says, “This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears, all nature sings all around me rings the music of the spheres. This is my Father’s world; I rest me in the thought of rocks and trees of skies and sears; his hand the wonders wrought.”
I love this hymn because it expresses the wonder of God’s creation. There is surely something special about creation. After all, when God created it He said it was good. Nature has a way of changing from one season to another. Just the other night I was listening to the weatherman on TV and he said, “Bye, summer; autumn/fall is here.” Then I stepped out of the house and true to form my body felt a little chilly, even though it has been a very warm summer–one for the record books.