A Man of God

2 Kings 1:1-12 (NRSV)

By John Grimm

What could we do if we had the Spirit of the Lord upon us like Elijah did?

Three groups of fifty men, along with their captains, came to Elijah.  Each time these groups approached Elijah, he said to them: “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.”  Each time he said these words, fire came down from heaven.

Maybe we are like the captains and their groups of fifty men.  We follow orders from the rulers.  Following orders is not all that we can do in our lives.  Instead of seeking other gods, we can seek the God of Israel, the Father of Jesus, the Giver of the Holy Spirit. 

Elijah listened to the messenger of God.  That is what a man of God does.  Can we have men and women of God today who listen to the messengers of God?  God will show that we are men and women of God so that the world around us knows whose we are.

Lord God, you have given us your Holy Spirit.  Therefore, we are men and women of God.  However, we do not think that we are like Elijah, who had your Spirit upon him.  Work in us, please, so that we are known in our communities to be men and women of God.  We ask for this assurance through the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

For Such a Time as This, Pt. 2

2 Corinthians 13:5-10

By Chuck Griffin

Tuesday, I began moving toward Sunday’s sermon with an exhortation: Theologically conservative Methodists positioned by God to lead should do just that in our current environment, employing a little creativity and a lot of grace in the process.

I am not naïve. Once people become entrenched in institutional power and lucrative privilege, they very often will place their own interests above scriptural principles. (Another exhortation in Philippians 2:4-5 comes to mind.) So I exhort with only faint hope of a real response from anyone already positioned to make a difference.

That failure at the top continues to reverberate throughout the United Methodist Church, as it has done for decades now. Basic biblical concepts long preached and taught by Methodists have fallen by the wayside as the people once most able to encourage them grew silent in the face of secular pressure.

You can test how heavily your particular church has been affected by all of this. Look at today’s text from 2 Corinthians and ask yourself if it sounds like something anyone has taught or preached there.

The church at Corinth had very modern problems, the people immersed in “impurity, sexual immorality, and eagerness for lustful pleasure.” Paul expected that when he arrived, he would find quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorderly behavior among them, too. (Read chapter 12 for the context I am citing here.)

Paul did not dance around those problems. He did not accommodate the social trends of the day. Instead, he relied on his humble subservience to God, letting God speak through him, employing the Scripture of his day and his direct encounters with the Holy Spirit to define right and wrong.

“Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.”

If you’re unfamiliar with such language in church, you are in a congregation that has lost sight of what once was a basic Methodist concept, the pursuit of holiness. In church, this is a group effort to create an environment where people can, with the help of God, find their actions more closely aligned with God’s will each passing day.

Missing that in your church? Well, here’s the good news. Unworthy leaders can be ignored and even replaced. Paul ultimately aimed his message at all the Christians in the Corinthian church, giving everyone an opportunity to respond, and we can consider his words a message to us, too.

Know God’s word. Seek the presence of God’s Spirit through prayer, fasting and worship. As more of us do so, we will begin to recover what was once a bright, vibrant form of Methodism, a kind of Christianity that changed lives for the better.

Lord, we give thanks for the leaders who will arise among us, and we pray that they be graced with a double portion of your Spirit. Amen.

By the River Chebar

Ezekiel 3:12-21 (NRSV)

By John Grimm

The Holy Spirit will do as the Holy Spirit does.  We cannot control what the Spirit of God does.  Ezekiel learned this truth!  What a situation he was in!  We cannot imagine the transportation used to move Ezekiel to be by the river Chebar, in Assyria.

After those seven days of sitting stunned upon landing by the river Chebar, Ezekiel received a word from God.  It is at this point that we become stunned.  The word of the Lord that came to Ezekiel is powerful.  It is given clearly for Ezekiel.  We ask ourselves, is it spoken clearly for us?

Are we truly our brother’s keeper?  Are we responsible for anyone else?  Do we really want to become involved in someone else’s life?  These are questions we ask ourselves as we see how Ezekiel is to be a sentinel for Israel.  If he warns them, then the people and Ezekiel will be able to live on.  If Ezekiel does not warn them when he sees their iniquities, then the people will die, and their blood will be on Ezekiel’s hands. 

As disciples of Jesus Christ, will we be judged like Ezekiel?  If we fail to correctly give the word of the Lord to the people regarding their iniquities, will their blood be on our hands?  If we do correctly give the word of the Lord to the people regarding their iniquities, then will our life be saved?  Our salvation is tied to the salvation of others.  We may not be prophets or by the river Chebar, but we are able to speak the word the Lord gives us.

Lord, your Spirit moves us today in ways we do not expect.  When your Spirit moves us to speak your word, then may the people hear and turn to you.  Thank you for helping us to see how serious our obedience to you is.  In the name of Jesus Christ, we ask for you to give us words to speak that will warn people to turn to you.  Amen.

God in Art: The Spirit Descends

Pentecost is this coming Sunday, June 5. The story of Pentecost is found in Acts 2. We at Methodist Life encourage everyone to begin meditating this week on the role of the Holy Spirit in our personal lives and in the lives of our churches. In terms of importance, this Sunday ranks right up there with Easter. After all, it is through the Holy Spirit that we experience God directly in the time we now live. How will you honor that great truth this Sunday?

Mosaic depiction of Pentecost, photographed in a basilica in Trier, Germany. Image by Holger Schué via Pixabay.

Building Plan

1 Corinthians 3:10-17 (NLT)

Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ.

Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.

Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

By Chuck Griffin

Every church I have pastored has either been planning a building expansion, in the midst of a building expansion, or paying off a building expansion. The need for additional facilities means that at some point the church has been healthy, serving more people than it ever has served before.

We like to measure churches by their buildings. Structures are easy to see. Paul points us toward a more spiritual understanding of church expansion, however, writing at a time when Christians might have had difficulty imagining the kinds of facilities congregations construct today.

As we are reminded in one of our great hymns, “The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord.” A church is strong when its people sink themselves into the core truths about Jesus Christ: That he is the promised Messiah; that he is the Son of God, divinity in flesh among us; that he died on the cross for our sins and was resurrected from the dead; that he rules over all creation and will return in full one day to set this broken world aright.

We lay a solid foundation in what we preach, teach and practice. The Holy Bible, the Holy Spirit-inspired word of God, acts as our blueprint. In terms of programs, worship style, dress, decor and architecture, we may look different from congregation to congregation, but that’s okay, as long as our churches remain rooted in who Jesus is.

Take Jesus out of the plans, and we are quickly in danger of being some sort of club rather than a church. As we work to adapt to a rapidly changing society, it’s okay, perhaps even essential, that we shift in our outward appearance. But we must offer the world Jesus and the values that naturally flow from a relationship with him.

Heavenly Father, help us to build well for the future. Whatever the church becomes, may it always be so holy that it stands beautifully in your refining fire. Amen.

Confusing to Satan

Philippians 1:12-19 (NRSV)

I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ; and most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear.

Some proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. These proclaim Christ out of love, knowing that I have been put here for the defense of the gospel; the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but intending to increase my suffering in my imprisonment. What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice.

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance.

By Chuck Griffin

The words of Paul we find in Romans 8:28, “All things work together for good for those who love God,” were more than just an idea to the apostle. He saw them come true in his own tribulations.

Paul suffered mightily during his service to the Lord, and by the time he was writing to the church at Philippi, he was in prison. And yet, he was able to observe the effect his faithfulness continued to have on those around him, even those charged with keeping him imprisoned.

It’s a story repeated throughout the history of the church. Some who are against Christ attack those who stand for Christ, and the faith exhibited by those brave, Spirit-filled Christians makes strong disciples out of weak ones and believers out of skeptics. Somewhere in their minds, these witnesses to the suffering look at those under attack and think to themselves, “I want what they have.”

These moments surely send Satan into a frenzy. Just when he thinks he has those Christians where he wants them—just when they should be in despair—the Holy Spirit works through them, and he loses more of his minions to the dawning Kingdom of Heaven.

Even those who preach Christ with wrongheaded motives can end up doing good. The growing presence of the kingdom is inexorable. It will not be stopped, and it continues to creep into the world in the oddest ways.

Well, Jesus did tell us the kingdom would be like yeast, eventually permeating the whole loaf.

Lord and Savior, work your way more deeply into our lives so we may withstand any time of trial and draw others to you. Amen.

Living a Lie

Revelation 22:12-16 (NRSV)

“See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

“It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”


By Chuck Griffin

If you were in church last Sunday, you probably picked up on the fact that we are now in the season of Advent, which begins a new church year. With our minds on Christmas, Advent can seem like an odd church season.

For one thing, we begin the church year like people who read the last few pages of a novel before starting the first chapter. Advent is about the end of a great story, one we will spend the rest of the church year hearing and exploring through its cycle of readings.

The ending is pretty straightforward: Jesus Christ will return. Justice will become a visible reality, and the Messiah who died for all will reward those who stand with him and reject those who rejected him.

Today’s text from Revelation references “everyone who loves and practices falsehood,” saying they will be excluded from God’s presence, where the gift of eternal life awaits. Another translation, the New Living Translation, describes these people as those “who love to live a lie.”

Christians do occasionally stray from living as true disciples. We forget what Jesus Christ did to restore us as children of God. We live as if there is no truth to the story.

Usually, we snap back to reality as defined by God, the maker of all that is real. We resume that effort to live as he would have us live. We conform our lives to God’s will out of gratitude for the great gift we have been given.

Like Lent, the church season preceding Easter, Advent is a good time to ask ourselves what lies we might be living and how we can return to the truth. Recognizing our errors and turning from them amount to what we call repentance; growing in truth and love then becomes a powerful work God’s Spirit can perform in us.

Eventually, we may be so blessed that we can show the truth to those who have never known anything but life as a lie.

Lord, reveal where we lie to ourselves, and show us how the truth really does set us and others free. Amen.

A Josiah Moment

2 Kings 22:11-20 (NLT)

By Chuck Griffin

It’s always a shock to discover we’ve strayed from the Lord’s plan.

In today’s Bible passage, we hear how a young, good king, King Josiah, was introduced to the basics of how his people were supposed to be living, via a rediscovered Book of the Law. A proper understanding of how God was to be worshiped had been lost during the reign of prior evil kings, men who allowed paganism to creep into the land.

When Josiah realized how far his flock had strayed from their very reason to exist, he grieved so powerfully that he tore his clothes. Disaster loomed large. Fortunately, there still were priests and prophets in the land, and the king learned that God’s just response to the rampant unholiness would be delayed until Josiah’s righteous reign had ended.

We live under an expanded, improved version of the plan, of course. Strict adherence to the law was the closest the Israelites could come to establishing a relationship with God. We live in the time after Jesus Christ, knowing that his willingness to die in our place for our sins now makes that relationship possible. All we have to do is believe, allowing God’s Spirit to go to work in our lives.

And yet, we stray.

In many ways, we can be like those ancient children of God, called to serve and worship but distracted to the point of forgetting who God is. One generation fails to adequately tell great truths to the next generation. The shiny things of the world and the worries of the world begin to dominate our thinking.

God’s call on us is powerful, though. It breaks through, and we can have a Josiah moment, grieving for ourselves individually and the people around us collectively. Dawning awareness of how wonderful it is to be in communion with God is an exciting and wonderful experience to have.

I have experienced such a moment in a big way in my life, and I continue to experience similar little moments as I exist with one foot in a time-bound world and the other in eternity. Let’s grieve over what we lose when we take our eyes off God, but let’s rejoice at how God offers to restore us when we lock our eyes on the throne once again.

Lord, help us to keep our eyes eternally fixed on you, and with your guidance and strength, may our lives be conformed to your will. Amen.

Someone Please Burn Dinner

This Sunday’s sermon at Holston View UMC in Weber City, Va., will be “Seeking Signs,” based on Judges 6:36-40. If you want to view the sermon but cannot be present, the entire worship service will be available through Holston View UMC’s web page.

Today’s preparatory text: Judges 6:17-22 (NRSV)

Then [Gideon said to the angel], “If now I have found favor with you, then show me a sign that it is you who speak with me. Do not depart from here until I come to you, and bring out my present, and set it before you.” And he said, “I will stay until you return.”

So Gideon went into his house and prepared a kid, and unleavened cakes from an ephah of flour; the meat he put in a basket, and the broth he put in a pot, and brought them to him under the oak and presented them. The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened cakes, and put them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And he did so. Then the angel of the Lord reached out the tip of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the meat and the unleavened cakes; and fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened cakes; and the angel of the Lord vanished from his sight. Then Gideon perceived that it was the angel of the Lord; and Gideon said, “Help me, Lord God! For I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.”


By Chuck Griffin

Gideon, the character at the heart of my sermon this Sunday, had reason to be frustrated by his circumstances and doubt God. When Gideon first encountered God, life was not good for the Israelites, and Gideon was certain he was one of those little people who could do nothing to change their situation.

In fact, when the angel of the Lord found Gideon, he was threshing wheat in a winepress rather than out in the open, trying to hide his father’s harvest from raiding Midianites. They were one of the nomadic bands regularly harassing and robbing the Israelites.

It’s not hard to figure out the source of the Israelites’ woes. Chapter 6 begins, “The Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian seven years.”

As you read the full story of Gideon, it also becomes clear his family was part of the problem, maintaining an altar to the god Baal and its accompanying pole, a symbol of the fertility goddess Asherah. Gideon’s first task was to tear down these affronts to God and replace them with a proper altar to the Lord. He did this at night, fearing his father and neighbors.

Gideon’s situation makes it easier to understand his repeated need for signs of assurance from God, despite our being told in 6:34 that “the spirit of the Lord took possession of Gideon.”

In fact, I suspect this story enlightens us as to why we as Christians sometimes struggle with discernment, even while we know the Holy Spirit is at work in our church community and our lives. The anxieties and uncertainties of life, particularly the ones rooted in how we relate to our family and neighbors, generate a lot of background noise in our heads. It becomes harder to tune in to what God is telling us.

It would help if an angel would arrive and torch the dinner we just offered. Signs are wonderful gifts from God, and they do focus our attention. Hey, at least for a time, it seems Gideon began hearing from God very directly after receiving a few holy demonstrations.

Never forget the advantage we have, however. We live in the time after Christ. In going to the cross, Jesus Christ tore down the barriers sin had erected between us and God. Preachers say it over and over, but I’ll say it again, for my benefit if for no one else’s.

Stop. Listen. Pray. Listen.

Lord, may the thoughts and images that spring into our minds be gifts from you. May we search your holy word to test what is revealed. And then may we be as bold as Gideon when he was at his best. Amen.