From the Well - 10/17/2019

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Colossians 1:21-23 (NRSV)
21 And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him- 23 provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.

Did you know that some 7,000 automobiles a year collide with trains at level grade crossings? 650 people a years are killed. Why does this happen? Trains are huge. How could anyone miss seeing a train? Research indicates that the larger an object is, the slower it appears to move. When a train and car are on a collision course, the driver of the car does not perceive the train as moving at a high rate of speed. This illusion often causes the car and train to arrive at the crossing at the same time. The driver’s eye is off the crossing and on the train in a kind of fatal hypnotism that leads to ultimate disaster.

This is a complicated world we live in. So many things pull our eyes and hearts away from following Christ. Life will run you over if you are not careful. The only way to navigate it successfully is by focusing on Jesus.

Paul tells us that keeping the faith is key. We must trust God to be with us through every good fight, every tough race, every illness, every tragedy, conflict and crisis. Paul reminds us in 2 Timothy 4:17 that “The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it.” It is the Lord who gives us our strength. With that strength we are to proclaim that it is our faith in Christ that brings us through and carries us to the promised land. Think about it.

Matthew

From the Well - 10/10/2019

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Colossians 1:15-20 (NRSV)
15  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16  for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17  He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18  He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19  For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20  and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

Record producer Sam Phillips is famous for the following quote which can be found in Ted Harrison’s book Elvis People: The Cult of the King:

The two most important events in American history were the birth of Jesus and the birth of Elvis Presley.

Elvis Aaron Presley is to this day still known as Rock and Roll’s first and probably only king.

It is said that Elvis was reading a book on the Shroud of Turin when he died. The book was titled A Scientific Search for the Face of Jesus. The story may be true and it may be urban legend. I’ve looked and I cannot find a definitive answer. As I consider Elvis’s ongoing popularity and sometimes equal status with Jesus, I’m left wondering, who is in charge of people’s lives? Who do we look to for guidance? Who shepherds us in the everyday decisions of life? For some people it is Elvis. For others it may be an athlete, popular guru, or self-help expert. I wonder who or what was in charge of Elvis’s life? I wonder if he was looking for answers as he read A Scientific Search for the Face of Jesus.

In the Colossians text, Paul asserts that Christ is “First place in everything.” I guess that begs the question, is Christ first in your life? Is Christ a part of everything that you say and do? Is Christ the main thing? Can people tell by the things that you say and do that Christ is the most important thing? Can people see Christ in you?

Anthony De Melo says it well in his book Song of the Bird, a collection of stories from around the world:

“So you have been converted to Christ?”

“Yes.”

“Then you must know a great deal about Him? Tell me: What country was He born in?”

“I don’t know.”

“What was his age when He died?”

“I don’t know.”

“How many sermons did He preach?”

“I don’t know.”

“You certainly know very little for a man who claims to be converted to Christ!”

“You are right. I am ashamed at how little I know about Him. But this much I do know: Three years ago I was a drunkard. I was in debt. My family was falling to pieces. My wife and children would dread my return home each evening. But now I have given up drink; we are out of debt; ours is now a happy home. All this Christ has done for me. This much I know of Him!”

To really know Christ as King of your life is to be transformed by Christ. So, who is in charge of your life? Think about it.

Matthew

 

 

From the Well - 9/19/2019

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Philippians 4:14-23 (NRSV)

14 In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress. 15 You Philippians indeed know that in the early days of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you alone. 16 For even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me help for my needs more than once. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the profit that accumulates to your account. 18 I have been paid in full and have more than enough; I am fully satisfied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. 19 And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. 21 Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The friends who are with me greet you. 22 All the saints greet you, especially those of the emperor's household. 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

There were two travelers on a train. The train was crowded and there were no seats so they could sit together and prepare for their important meeting. As they looked around they noticed an old man in tattered clothing. He looked like a beggar. They told the beggar that he should sit on the floor and allow them to share the seat so they could discuss things of importance. The old man quickly moved to the floor and the two men were seated.

Upon arrival at the city, the two men were astounded at the crowd. They seemed to be waiting on someone important. The two quickly asked someone in the crowd who they were waiting for. They were told that a renowned and beloved rabbi was returning home with a special word for their city. As the two turned to see this great man, they were shocked to see the man who they thought was a beggar. The two were cut to the heart and quickly went to ask the rabbi for forgiveness. The rabbi turned to them and said, "You do not need my forgiveness but that of the beggars for it is they that you have offended."

Mark Twain wrote, "Life does not consist mainly in or even largely of facts and happenings. It consists mainly of the storms of thought that are forever blowing through one's mind." The Rabbi refused to allow the travelers' rude behavior to affect his attitude. His thought was to show grace and peace.

Throughout his ministry Paul had been treated poorly. He was beaten, stoned, arrested, and thrown out of town. You can only imagine the "storms of thought" that might have flowed through his mind.

And, yet, as we can see from his correspondence with the Philippians, he was grateful and content. Paul's attitude was remarkable considering all that had happened to him, even more remarkable when you consider that he is writing to his friends from prison while awaiting possible execution. Paul tells the Christians at Philippi that he is grateful and content and able to do all things because of Christ. May we be as grateful and content. Think about it.

Matthew

From the Well - 9/12/2019

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Philippians 4:10-13 (NRSV)
10 I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. 11 Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Paul is telling the Philippians that he has learned to be content no matter what his situation. Good words for a culture that seems to be discontent. We are unhappy with our jobs, our friends, our teachers, our church, our neighbor, our spouse, and our status. We just can’t seem to rejoice, as Paul would say, in what we have and what we have received. The wealthy John D. Rockefeller was once asked, “How much does it take to satisfy a man? His reply, “A little bit more than he has.”How true!

It reminds me of something I observed many years ago when I was the pastor of Central UMC in Canton, North Carolina. One morning I stopped to observe the preschool children playing. I noticed two boys, one was on a tricycle and the other boy wanted to ride it. Before they came to blows, a teacher stepped in and told the boy on the tricycle that he needed to let the other boy have a turn. The young boy reluctantly gave up the tricycle and the other boy rode off with a look of triumph on his face.

I noticed that as soon as the first boy got busy doing something else and no longer desired having the tricycle to himself, the other boy lost interest in the tricycle also. He hadn’t been on the tricycle two minutes before he was on to something else more interesting. The young boy got what he wanted but quickly discovered that it didn’t bring the satisfaction that he thought it would.

This seems to be the underlying pattern for many people’s lives. We pursue things and goals and do whatever it takes to get what we want and then after arriving at our goal, we discover that we are still not content. Paul says that he has learned to be content with whatever he has. He’s had much and he’s had nothing. He’s had a belly full of food and he’s been hungry. Whatever his circumstances he’s learned to rejoice and do all things because of his faith in Christ. Good words. Think about it.

Matthew

From the Well - 9/5/2019

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Philippians 4:2-9 (NRSV)
2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. 4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Some years ago in Paris, a handsome young aristocrat went to see a psychiatrist. From all appearances, the young man had everything going for him and the psychiatrist wondered why he was there. When the young man sat down, he revealed his inner distress and said to the doctor, "Please help me. I feel so empty inside. My life is going nowhere. I am bored to death, depressed and miserable. Please help me."

The psychiatrist was impressed with the client's obvious station in life and even a bit envious of his good looks and wealth. For that reason, he did not hear the intensity of the man's plea. All the doctor could think about was the notorious playboy of Paris, Grimaldi. And so the doctor said to the young man, "I know what you need. You need to talk to Grimaldi. He will show you how to enjoy life and find happiness. He has all the money a person would ever need and seems to enjoy life. Yes, you need to talk to Grimaldi." "But sir," said the young man, "I am Grimaldi!"

Who we are is not determined by our status or superficial badges of success. Paul would say that who we are is determined by Whose we are. Whose we are is evident by our integrity, moral courage, and by our capacity to cope with adversity. Our identity is confirmed in our capacity to love others, to make choices that don't always benefit us personally, and to move through life's reversals with honor and a grateful heart. Think about it.

Matthew