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February 24, 2015, 5:34 AM

Ready for Spring

For those of us blessed to live in North Carolina, this year's winter has been more of an annoyance than anything else. A few inches of snow overall; some ice and freezing rain - but all in all, we have nothing to complain about. And if you think you do, think about the poor folk of New England that have been hard-hit by feet of snow, not inches! Thankful for what we have not had to face, we can put up with what we have had.

Anyone send you one of those pictures circulating on Facebook? You know the one: a dog (wolf, or even a cat) is patting its tummy with the line, "The groundhog said six more weeks of winter, so I ate him!" Yea, that one... Pretty well sums up our feelings toward winter. What makes me laugh, however, is that the very people complaining about how "cold" it is in winter are the same people who often complain about how "hot" it is during the summer. We are a fickle lot, aren't we?

Which takes me to the topic at hand: Are you ready for spring? I am. While I'm not complaining about winter (especially when compared from whence we came), I am still ready for spring. I am ready to see green leaves on the trees, flowers blooming in the gardens, and ready to pull out my golf clubs and get a few rounds in. I am tired of wearing coats, jackets, sweaters and sweatshirts. I want to feel the warmth of the sun on my face. I am ready to sit in the backyard, listen to the birds (and the traffic and the trains) as they go by while drinking a cool drink and read a good book. I am ready for spring!

But today there is snow on the grass and our cars. Today the schools have been closed for a "snow day." And today is "the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!"


February 21, 2015, 12:36 PM

Dying for the Cause

The headline said it all: "Coptic Christians in Libya Beheaded for their faith by ISIS."

Sadly, it doesn't seem that the media saw that as important as individual hostages being beheaded by ISIS for it seemed short-lived in our attention span. Quickly the subject changed to Russian-supported rebels in Ukraine and Greece's desire to extend its credit from the Eurozone nations. Maybe journalists just deserve more coverage in the eyes of the media; per chance, Christians somehow "deserve" what they get in view of what "they" did during the Crusades. Whatever the case, whatever the reason, dying for the cause of Christ just isn't interesting to many.

The Christian Church has been persecuted through much of its existence. First it was the Romans who feared this mysterious sect and its weird rituals and treasonous proclivity (after all, they refused to worship Caesar...the audacity of it all). Then the Barbarians burned the churches and the monasteries and convents while the Muslims raided through Spain and Eastern Europe (bet people forgot that one). In England it was the Vikings who raised and plundered and pillaged and the churches that were often their victims. And the list goes on and on... The ISIS events are only the most current religious persecutions against Christians and the Church. People have often died for the cause, and today is no different.

Wouldn't it be easier (safer) to keep one's Christianity to oneself? Well, the Coptic Church has quietly maintained its presence in the lands that were conquered by Isalm in the northern African continent. People forget that long before Cairo and Alexandria were Muslim capitals, they were home to early Christians and centers of theology in the life of the early Church. Then Isalm bloodily captured the area, murdered some Christians, and have held others by ransom (they call it "tax") and oppress any attempts to share the Gospel in their lands. Being in the Church's "secret service" hasn't worked for the Coptics. They still die for the cause.

So we pray for those who undergo persecution; we speak out in rallies against religious persecution in foreign lands; and thank God that we do not face "dying for the cause" in this country...yet.

Or should there be more to the "cause of Christ" in the lives of His people?

February 10, 2015, 12:47 PM

Preparing for LENT

Next Wednesday, February 18, we will begin our Lenten journey at Bethel congregation.

The season of Lent is the forty day period (excluding Sundays) prior to Easter. It is a season for repentance and reflection, where Christians seek greater understanding of the heighth, depth and breadth of Christ's love which moved Him to sacrifice Himself upon the cross in order to provide salvation for sinful mankind. The liturgical color is purple; the liturgy of the church often excluded all "Alleluias" and "Glorias" in recognition of the sober spirit of this season.

In the Cajun culture, one prepares for Lent by enjoying every moment of every day up to "Shrove Tuesday." This period prior to Lent is known to the world as "Mardi Gras" and is usually observed in a most rambunctious manner. Back in the day, "Shrove Tuesday" was the height of the "Mardi Gras," because at midnight all partying and drinking ceased until after Easter Sunday. Among some believers, it is not uncommon for people to "give up" things for Lent - such as eating meat, drinking alcohol, or creature comforts.

This year the Bethel congregation will be obsercing 40 DAYS OF DISCOVERY where, on Wednesdays we will look at the seven churches of Revelation and learn about what the Church is meant to BE while on Sundays we will be looking at the Epistle readings to discover what the Church is meant to DO in our world. Additionally, a special book of devotions has been prepared for your daily meditation as well as a small group study for the small groups of the congregation.

February 5, 2015, 3:00 PM

Am I My Brother's Keeper?

"Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak."  1 Corinthians 8:9, NIV

Reinforcing last week's sermon (see "Sermon" page, Februayary 1, 2015), we have a responsibility to and for one another in the household of God. On the one hand I have to responsibility to love, support and encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ, just as they have resposibility to me. On the other hand, I have responsibility for my actions that could cause confusion among the brethren or (God forbid) out-right contradict what God teaches in His holy Word.

What Paul is getting at - and what I (and you) need to understand - is that matters of faith are not private, they are matters for the whole family of faith (i.e., the Church) to be mindful of, supportive and encouraging toward, and accountable toward one another. When I see a brother in trouble or doubt or disillusioned, he needs more than a mere, "Well I'll pray for you." Yes, praying for one another is important, but there's more we can do and, hence, there is more we should do. Later on, Paul says, "...if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall" (v.13). It's not all about me...and it's not all about me and's all about Jesus and the rest of the family of faith.

St. James, the half-brother of Jesus, challenges believers this way: "Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead" (James 2:15-17, NIV). The "actions" which we take toward one another are in response to God's acts of grace - most especially the love He shows us through His Son's coming, living, suffering, dying, and resurrecting presence on earth. God loved us and as beloved children of God (a favorite phrase of St. John) we now love in the manner in which we have been loved.

While we do not need to go about advertising or proclaiming what is going in the lives of our fellow believers in Christ, we are to be mindful, prayerful and, when opportunity presents itself to us, active in supporting and encouraging them as their brother or sister within the household of God.

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