Category: Meditations

Meditations – October 9, 2019

By Pastor Nathan Clements  American Lutheran Church, La Porte City
[Jesus] answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” ~ Matthew 4:4 (NRSV)
I have a bone to pick with Thomas Jefferson. When we meet in the great cloud of witnesses someday I’d like to sit down and have a good conversation with him. I’ll tell you why in just a moment.
As Christians I think it’s safe to say we each have an overview of the life and ministry of Jesus that comes to mind when we are asked the question, “Who was Jesus and what did he do?” Think about that for just a moment. “Who was Jesus and what did he do?” I would imagine that the story of his birth might come to mind. Born of a virgin, announced by angels to the shepherds of the fields, the visit of the Wise Men heralding him as a child king. The Easter story probably comes to mind as well. Welcomed into Jerusalem by crowds waving palm branches, celebrating the Passover with his disciples, betrayed by a friend who was secretly stealing from the common purse, put to trial based on charges that couldn’t be proven, demanded by the people to be put to death, and conquering death on the third day to defeat death and forgive sin once and for all. Maybe parables come to mind. The parable of the Prodigal Son; perhaps the parable of the Good Samaritan. Or, the story of the woman at the well. Or, the miracle of changing water into wine at the wedding in Cana. “Who was Jesus and what did he do?” Your answer to this question speaks volumes about your faith – your understanding of God’s work in your life and in the world. And, our answers will be at least slightly different from person to person.
There are strong, bonding commonalities in our shared understanding of faith, but ultimately, your faith is a very personal thing. It is a gift from God for you to understand, to live, and to share in constant conversation with God Himself. Your faith may not be easy, and honestly, it’s not meant to be easy. It’s meant to continually challenge you to live according to Christ’s ministry and mission, which very often stands in contrast to human desires and wishes. One of our greatest sins is our ability, our willingness even, to hear Christ’s teaching, but to not listen to it. This is where Thomas Jefferson comes in.
I mean no disrespect to our nation’s third President, but I do question his use of Scripture. Using a razor and a pot of glue, he literally cut out his favorite verses from the New Testament and pasted them together to create what he titled, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, later known as the “Jefferson Bible.” This collection of verses and themes represented, to Jefferson, his preferred understanding of Jesus and his ministry. It’s not necessarily that he was wrong. It’s not necessarily that he did something bad by compiling his favorite verses. Don’t we all do that in our own lives of faith? Instead, it’s that he didn’t have the whole picture. He didn’t tell the whole story. And when we are challenged by what Jesus says to us through his Word today, and we choose to hear, but not listen to him, aren’t we doing the same? I think this is pretty common among Christians today.
As Jesus said in the verse above, let us strive to live “by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” When we are challenged by Jesus’ words in Scripture, let that be an invitation to study, learn, and discuss our faith with one another. Yes, your faith is a very personal thing, a gift from God to you. But, as Christians together we must remember the whole picture, and embrace the complexities of God’s Word. We would be doing ourselves and God a disservice if we based our faith solely on our favorite verses or our preferred understanding of God’s work in our lives and our world. God’s love and work in our world always has been, and always will be, far greater than our limited human understanding.

Meditations – September 18, 2019

By Pastor Chad Adelmund  Heartland Community Church, La Porte City
God has given us a simple word. And if we learn it, share it, teach it, and live by it, then God is glorified, people benefit, and we fulfill the mission of the church! That’s why we do what we do. That’s the why behind the but. If your BUT is bigger than your WHY, then your BUT is too big!
This is nothing new. Even people in Jesus’ day had BIG BUTS, or big excuses as to why they couldn’t follow Jesus. The question we want to ask ourselves is: When it comes to my Christian life, do I have big buts?
Asking to be excused doesn’t EXCUSE. Like the one reclining at the table with Jesus on that day, we LOVE to celebrate God the Father’s great mercy, His great love, his wonderful invitation to all of us. However, if we’re not careful we can carry this great openness and acceptance into the realm of our obedience to God’s call in our lives. We think we’ll be easily excused. (Luke 14:19, 21 ‘Please have me excused.’ … So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry.”)
Don’t fool yourself into thinking, God will understand. This is a trap we can easily fall into. We never want to be guilty of taking advantage of God’s goodness and grace. We never want to take God for granted. Anytime we find ourselves explaining away our bad behavior to Christ’s CEO role in our life, because God will surely understand my priority with my family? We can read Luke 14:27 “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” This also may explain for some of us, our reluctance to enter into this daily walk with Christ, where we focus our attention on prayer and reading God’s Word. When we do this, we are continuously confronted with the difference between our own creation of God, and THE CREATOR GOD!
Thinking that God will understand and accept something or a priority different than what is explained in His Word is foolish. This is why Jesus asks us to consider the cost of being his follower, of being his disciple.
God’s Kingdom will be filled with a Misfit crew! Luke 14:21 “[The master] said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’” I like to joke sometimes about Heartland being filled with a misfit group of people. Really, I mean this as a compliment. I love our family here at Heartland because we truly love and accept everyone no matter where you are in life! We do church, for people that don’t do church, and that is because we remember where we were when Jesus found us, and the mess we were! We know we are far from perfect and we don’t need perfect people here, and just between me and you, there are none.
And we learn from the parable that God chooses to have his kingdom filled! And we learn that he chooses those who answer the invitation, over those who look good on the outside. Please note that it’s not just the poor and crippled and blind and lame, but it’s those who were brought in, who followed, who answered the invitation with obedience and presence, rather than with excuses.
When it comes to God’s kingdom, both here on earth, as well as heaven someday, we must constantly remind ourselves that God does not take into account human credentials! God has a whole different way of seeing people than you and I do. We see people and we judge people by what’s on the outside. We find ourselves naturally drawn to the gifted, the talented, the attractive, the successful. All that seems important to us, but not to God, “As for those who seemed to be important … God does not judge by external appearance.” Galatians 2:6. Don’t misunderstand this. It’s NOT that you have to be poor, or crippled, or blind, or lame or unacceptable to today’s society. The point here is that God looks on the inside of a man’s or woman’s heart to see if there is the desire to serve Him more than self.
Ask God to help us. This is a big job both seeing the real condition of our thoughts and then truly doing something about it. And honestly, this is not something that we can do without the power of God’s Holy Spirit working in us. We need to be honest about our desire to change and honest about our inability to make the changes. None of us on our own can take the very natural priority of work (for most men) or family (for most women) and REALLY change those priorities to the Lordship of Christ. We just make excuses to ourselves and to God. However, if we are honest with God about our own inabilities to change and ask Him for His help, He will gladly come in and begin to change us in ways we could never fathom.

Meditations – September 4, 2019

Pastor Chad Adelmund   Heartland Community Church, La Porte City
Big buts of the Bible
We will be exploring the before and after difference Jesus makes in a person’s life! We’re going to be talking about stories of people who were headed one direction, BUT then Jesus entered their story And they ended up going a completely different direction! Fact is, the Bible is full of big buts (B-U-T-S buts) So if you think that you are too far gone, or that there’s no way you can change, this series is going to show you how to get your Buts out of the way, and let Jesus do his work in you!
First, I want to tell you something about myself. Anyone close to me knows this. I have an incredible ability to not see things that are right in front of my face. I can look and look for something. And Never see it. When in reality it was so close to my face if it was a snake it would have bit me on the nose!
My problem is not with my eyes, it’s with my attentiveness. It’s not that I don’t pay attention to things, it’s that I pay attention to the wrong things! My wife, Tami can also attest to the fact that I’m often attentive to things, just not the pair of socks I’m trying to find (that happen to be right in front of me).
My mind is directed elsewhere, and as a result, I don’t see the socks I’m looking for. There is a kind of blindness that has nothing to do with your eyes yet it leads us to miss things that should be perfectly clear because, sometimes blindness has more to do with our heart… than it does our with eyes.
This blindness causes us to miss God, when he is right there before us. Here is a story about a man who is physically blind, who ironically was the only person in the story who could actually see. Everyone else had a form of blindness that was far worse than his! (John 9:1-5) As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
Now the first people to speak in this story are Jesus’ disciples. What they say reveals about a preconceived notion about God, that Jesus has to correct.
Religious blindness is what the disciples had, and this is when you have an idea about God and you’re so sure it’s right that you don’t see the truth right in front of you. The Disciples reveal their assumptions about what God is like by assuming that if someone has an affliction then surely it’s because God is punishing them. In this way, God is seen a little like karma; “Do something bad, something bad happens to you.” Let’s be clear about something, there are plenty of places in scripture where God controls nature and plenty of places that God does judge sin; those points are not an issue here.
The problem is when we read about what God does in the Bible in one situation and assume that’s what God must always do, all the time. “God sent a scorching wind in the book of Jonah, therefore every tornado must be God’s judgment on sin.” This is a leap in logic; the Bible doesn’t require us to make, yet this is what religious blindness does! It tries to force God into a system that makes sense.
Religious blindness thinks it has mastered God. Religious blindness means that sometimes it’s the ones who think they know the most who actually know the least. We all have preconceived notions about God and in a way, we all have religious blindness. The Disciples ask Jesus, “who sinned?” Clearly if he’s blind it must be God’s judgment on him They worked God into a system. That Jesus was just about to dismantle Jesus says to the disciples, “no.” You’ve got this all wrong. Neither this man nor his parents sinned, this happened so God’s works might be displayed! You think God is about punishing, but He’s really about healing! 6 As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man’s eyes with the clay, 7 saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
God likes to use the least likely of people for the most holy purposes. That’s just what God is like. He’s fun that way. This story shows us the moment we pronounce judgment on someone, may be the same moment God is calling that very same person. You simply cannot put this God in a box!
So this week let’s allow Jesus to open our eyes spiritually and get our buts out of the way and allow Him to do His work in and through us! It doesn’t matter where you are or where you have been, Jesus uses the most unqualified people to reach even more unqualified people! I know, I’m one of them.

Meditations – August 21, 2019

By Pastor Paul Wood   St. Paul United Methodist Church, La Porte City
Theirs is the Kingdom
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” ~ Matthew 5: 10
Lord, we are afraid of persecution, afraid of argument, afraid of looking a fool, afraid to stand and be counted a disciple. It is not a real fear, it is laziness. It is less trouble to be quiet, to say nothing; less trouble to be one of the crowd, even when we know that if the name of our God and everything He stands for is under attack, our silence is the loudest denial.
Lord, you taught your first disciples that they were the salt of the earth, told them not to hide their light under bushels, but to show that light, not only in words but in their lives; touch our tongues with the salt of courage, light our eyes with the lamp of truth, so that when righteousness is persecuted, we might, at whatever cost, bear witness to the love that opens the gates of the kingdom of heaven.
Show us how to delight in love, for love’s sake; how to be satisfied with giving, for its own sake; how to make sacrifices, for your sake; how to let our light shine, not on ourselves but on you, to whom we owe everything.
May those good works we are able to do be seen for what they are, reflections of your mercy, your love, your righteousness and your glory.
Blessings, Pastor Paul

Meditations – August 14, 2019

By Pastor Paul Wood   St. Paul United Methodist Church, La Porte City
“Honour your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord God is giving you.” ~ Exodus 20: verse 12
When God gave His commandments to Moses, he was setting in place a set of guidelines that would help the people of Israel a life without sin and to serve and love others. In the verse above God was not just saying to love one’s parents but to also honour authority and to understand obedience and service. Today we see a society that has lost its sense of values and what it is to serve others. Many answer the call to be EMT professionals, others are called to be firefighters and others are law enforcement officers. Yet many in this nation see their role to attack and punish the law officers. We are all human and at times the pressures of facing daily dangers cause some law officers to go beyond their guidelines. Yet we need the agitators, the troublemakers, those who have no respect for law and order, those who seek to attack and murder officers to be given a new awareness of the brutality of their actions. We, as a society, need to take a stand to protect all law officers and help society return to respecting and supporting all those who place their lives in danger each day to protect them.
There are many who are split by their political leanings or their obsession with political correctness as too how we should create society today. Those who are on the political left, those who are the “new generation” of the laissez faire approach to life that is anything goes and do not bother with the consequences. There are those on the right who seek a more authoritarian approach to treatment of law breakers. There is a need for all parties to come together and work to bring peace and reconciliation, instead of having the hate mongers spread their words of distrust and hate and violence.
With the rise in single parent families, parents who must work to the detriment to their children, parents who have no sense of right or wrong and allow their children to wander the streets at evening time. It is not unusual these days to see children as young as 8 and 9 on the streets at midnight. Daily we see parents allowing their children to vandalise, attack, bully and cause wanton mayhem and violence. Who have limited vocabulary with the use of the “f…” word as a norm? who condone the lawlessness of their families.
I am not saying this is true of all parents and there are so many who struggle with daily life yet show their children the rights and wrongs, who teach their children how to respect authority, how to have social skills.
Today we see the backlash from law enforcement saying in their minds “why should we do our duty when the PC brigade is eager to demonize us.” Why was it satisfactory for the unruly mobs to assault, shoot and even throw water over police officers, without any recourse? With a society that now is fast becoming dependant on the state, who say “why should I work or take pride in my community or my family.” Are we on a downward spiral into an anarchic society? It is time to take a stand and make a start in re-educating parents and children into what it is to have respect, honour and knowledge of right and wrong.
Blessings, Pastor Paul

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