Monday, November 25, 2013

Thank You, Jesus!

Every year at this time folks gather around their Thanksgiving tables. Inevitably the question is asked, "For what are you thankful?" We can all rattle off a laundry list of things for which we give thanks. But all of the items we typically come up with on our list have one shortcoming, they are perishable. However, there is One who is eternal. He is the heart and soul of all the good and gracious gifts we enjoy. (James 1:17) His name is Jesus and the promise of His return is what I give thanks for this Thanksgiving Day!

Thank You, Jesus

Cry for the people struggling with sin,
Cry for the nations lying in ruin,
It seems like the world is in a tailspin,
Thank You, Jesus, You're coming again!

Children are dying out in the street,
They go unprotected with little to eat,
Death and destruction are closing in,
Thank You, Jesus, You're coming again!

Countries are warring for there is mistrust,
Desolate cities crumbling to dust,
Threats from the outside and fears from within,
Thank You, Jesus, You're coming again!

Our God will save us, this world He'll remake,
In the blink of an eye, one day we'll awake,
The Kingdom arrives and new life will begin,
Thank You, Jesus, You're coming again!

Remember this day that we call Thanksgiving,
And give praise to God in His grace we are living,
Celebrate! for in the end we will win,
Thank You, Jesus, You're coming again!

(Sheree A. Harrington, November 25, 2013)

May you enjoy a blessed Thanksgiving!
Pastor Sheree

Friday, November 8, 2013

A New Kind Of Slavery

In a few weeks we will be celebrating Thanksgiving. When I was growing up, I celebrated Thanksgiving the way most people did with turkey and all the fixings. When we gathered together with extended family members, the regular routine was to go around the table stating for what reason you were thankful. I also remember the stories from school and other media that told the Thanksgiving story about the Pilgrim's journey to America and that first Thanksgiving dinner with the Native American tribes. However as I grew older I began to realize that the classic Thanksgiving story was not my story. My ancestors did not sit down at a table with Native Americans. My ancestors were forcibly brought to America as slaves. Their journey across the ocean was inhumane and cost the lives of many of the slaves who died along the way. Furthermore, once the slaves arrived in America, many families were split up as slave owners bid at public auctions for men, women, and children. The Scriptures say a lot about slavery and it's awful consequences. The Israelites groaned under their slavery in Egypt. (Exodus 2:23); Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery. (Genesis 37:12-36); The wealthier Israelites like Abraham also had their servants to help them with whatever needed to be done, although not all servants were slaves; many were voluntarily employed. (Genesis 12:5) Nonetheless, God was very much aware of how people could be abused as slaves. He sent Moses to deliver the Israelites out of their bondage from Egypt. (Exodus 12:31-42) After years of suffering, Joseph through God's grace became second-in-command to Pharaoh and placed in charge of the land of Egypt. (Genesis 41:41-57) God was also mindful of those Israelites who chose to voluntarily become servants to their fellow Jews and God established the year of Jubilee where there was the opportunity to receive their freedom. (Leviticus 25:8-55) God so cared about servants that Moses, pointing back to Israel's former status, reminded them that all were to observe the Sabbath both slave and free alike "Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm." (Deuteronomy 5:15) Today there are many parts of the world where slavery continues to exist in various forms including the sex trafficking of young girls. Many people will off- handedly remark that they are "slaves" to their computers, jobs, or some other object. What is it about the nature of slavery that makes it so ugly? It's the bondage, the sense of not being free, subjugated under the power and authority of another person. However, there is a different kind of slavery some people readily embrace. This type of slavery does not mistreat the participants or see them as less than human. In fact the slaves of this master would be willing to do anything he asks them to do, even if it meant giving up their lives. In this type of slavery the servants are not in bondage (physically or emotionally) but rather enjoy complete freedom. This new kind of slavery is found in serving Jesus Christ. The type of bondage that Christ delivers us from is not material but spiritual. Our former slave master "sin" kept us from truly living in a way that would be pleasing to God. Peter puts it this way, "...for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him." (2 Peter 2:19b) However after Christ was crucified and resurrected He became the new Master, One who can be served without fear. Paul tells us, "For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin--because anyone who has died has been freed from sin." (Romans 6:6) "For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace." (Romans 6:14) "You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness." (Romans 6:18) In this new kind of slavery there is equality for all, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28) Paul took freedom in Christ so seriously that he even warned masters to be careful how they treated slaves. "And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that He who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him." (Ephesians 6:9) In fact Paul devotes a book in the New Testament, Philemon, to slavery. Paul pleads with slave owner, Philemon, to receive his runaway slave (Onesimus) back not as a slave but as a Christian brother who had become a believer through Paul's ministry. The Pilgrims came to America to be free from religious persecution, African slaves fought long and hard to finally win their freedom, and Jesus Christ died and was raised again to win freedom from sin for all humanity. Praise the Lord that although my ancestors were slaves in the worst way to unjust masters, I am a new kind of slave in the best way to a gracious and loving Master. "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty I'm free at last! " (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)
Glory to God!
Pastor Sheree