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We’re so glad you found our website. Whether you’re visiting us from another part of the world, or from right here in the Huntersville, North Carolina area — welcome!

Pastor Paul's Blog

Daily Devotions For Lent - March 9

Isaiah 58:9b–14
 
If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places, 
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water, 
whose waters never fail.
Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to live in.
If you refrain from trampling the sabbath,
from pursuing your own interests on my holy day;
if you call the sabbath a delight
and the holy day of the Lord honorable;
if you honor it, not going your own ways,
serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs;
then you shall take delight in the Lord,
and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth;
I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
 
John Wesley, the founder of the movement called Methodism, called people to a “holiness of heart and life.” I understand that to mean that not only were we called to a holiness that manifested itself in the personal devotions, such as prayer, fasting, giving to God and his church, and a refraining from vices, but also contained a sense that how we treated each other, especially the poor and the disenfranchised, was fundamental to the faith. It was not an either/or, it was a both/and. Live a faithful life in private and public affairs.
 
This passage from Isaiah is a perfect example of what that means. In this passage, the prophet is exhorting the people to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. The call is to be kind in our words, not to speak evil, but to be people of peace. It also calls us to offer food to the hungry, to help the afflicted. This “blend” of personal and social holiness then comes with promises of fullness, light and blessing.
 
How are you doing with these expressions of the faith? Are you more likely to express your faith in prayer, daily devotions and giving to the church? Or, are you more likely to help someone who is in need, someone who is impoverished, or sick? The promise is for the person who remembers both that we will indeed be people of light, riding upon the heights and finding our connection to the ancient word of God. 

Daily Devotions for Lent - March 8

Matthew 9:10–17
As Jesus sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”
 
 
Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak, for the patch pulls away from the cloak, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”
 
 
Are you familiar with the following axioms? “We are known by the company we keep.” “If you get into bed with dogs, you get fleas.” These commonly accepted statements are generally recognized as true. We teach them to our children. We follow the sentiment of these statements as adults. So how do we reconcile these statements with this passage from the Gospel of Matthew, in which Jesus makes it clear that he fully intends to reach out in love and acceptance to those whom others would deem unacceptable?
 
 
As Matthew communicates to his primarily Jewish audience in this Gospel, there is an undercurrent of tension that we discern. Whom does God extend an invitation to relationship? The undercurrent of exclusivity is evident. In their minds, the Jewish readers would have immediately excluded any possibility that God would extend an offer of relationship to a tax collector, or to a broad category of “low-life's” called here “sinners”. Yet Jesus pushes back and with a bit of irony (sarcasm?), says that those who are well (or think they are well) don’t think they need him, but those who are sick are aware of their need for a healing physician. He tells them to contemplate that “mercy, not sacrifice” is what he desires.
 
 
The metaphor Jesus uses, of wine and wineskins, is a metaphor that is helpful. In the Kingdom of God, he is revealing a new way of being. The Gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be contained in the structures that these readers would have known. God is doing the once unthinkable in that he is including a plea to anyone who will receive it. The only condition is that you recognize your condition! Sinners are invited to find forgiveness and reconciliation with God. If you think somehow that you are well, you won’t hear the invitation. 
 
 
Who are the “tax collectors” and “sinners” of our day? Maybe we need to reintroduce ourselves to them so that we might be able to hear the invitation to “mercy, not sacrifice.” 
 
 
Paul B. Thompson

Daily Devotions For Lent - March 7

March 7, 2019
Luke 9:18–25
Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They answered, “John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.”
 
He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone, saying, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
 
Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?”
 
Maybe the question that really matters in the big picture is the one that Jesus asks here, “Who do you say that I am?” Who is Jesus for you? Is he just another great prophet, a key historical figure that enlightens us, or something else? 
 
It is possible to say the right answer, and still not get it right. Peter did. He correctly stated that Jesus was, and is, the “Messiah of God.” Messiah and Christ are the same word, one Hebrew (Messiah) and the other Greek (Christ), both meaning the “Anointed One.” It is an ancient term, and had been applied to others in the Old Testament, even a King who didn’t even believe in Israel’s one God. Peter said Jesus was and is the Messiah, God’s own Son, but had no idea what that really meant. 
 
Jesus tells Peter, and us, that for him to be the Messiah of God means that he is going to Jerusalem to die, and then be raised on the third day. Then, he says that if we understand him to be the Messiah, we too must follow him, even if it means taking up a cross as he did. His promise to us is that as we do, we will find life. If we refuse, we forfeit life.
 
The cross was a form of death penalty, a sign of taking life away. What takes life away from you? Is it an addiction? Is it an unhealthy relationship? Is it shame or guilt? Is it an over reliance on self? Whatever it is, Jesus invites us to take it up and follow after him. He will give life by taking those things on and helping us overcome them! Seems ironic, doesn’t it, that the cross is the symbol that both represents death, and yet a love that can overcome death.
 
So, how will we answer the central question? Is Jesus the Messiah/Christ? If you make that correct confession and affirm that he is, then certainly understand what ramifications come with that statement. The good news is that you will find life as you do. Like Peter, it may not come immediately. But, it will come. Trust him, he is who he says he is.

Daily Devotions For Lent - Ash Wednesday, March 6

Ash Wednesday, March 6, 2019
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10 (New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the USA)
We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, "At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you. "See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see-- we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
 
What would it mean for you to be “reconciled to God”? Paul pleads with us in this passage to be “reconciled to God” on behalf of Christ. If the word reconcile means to “restore friendly relations, to cause to coexist in harmony, or to settle a disagreement,” what will it take for you to be reconciled to God? Paul is saying that God has done his part in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. What is keeping you from that offer of reconciliation?
 
The answer for me is my sin and brokenness. I want things my way. I want God to serve me, and not me to serve him. I tend to interpret the challenges of life as obstacles to peace, rather than paths to peace. Paul argues something quite differently. He says that the things like afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings and the other items he lists are not God’s way of punishing us. Rather, righteousness (living in the right relationship with God), is often a journey through these difficulties. 
 
Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent (a season of preparation for Easter). People often mark this season by giving up stuff, a time of self-denial. We may give up sweets, alcohol, or social media. Instead, could I offer that we focus our efforts on being reconciled to God by reflecting on what God has already done in Jesus? Maybe our time could best be spent cooperating with the grace of God and living in harmony with the love we have found in Jesus. What will it take for you to be reconciled to God? Maybe you already have been and you just need to celebrate it!