Mid-Week Devotion

03.23.17

Do not our hearts ache at the news of death all around us?
A 7 year old boy dies after being trapped under ice.
A young man starting his college life dies at a fraternity party.
A couple charged in the death of their 16 year old boy
Terrorist attack in the city of London, 4 dead, many injured.
I’m sure I can scan the Internet to find many more stories of death and hurt and pain across our state, our country, the world.
Not to give anything away but in the movie “The Shack” one of the main characters asked the aged old question, why does God allow such pain to happen if he is good and loving?”
It is a question that has sought an answer since the beginning of time.
Job asked the question in his pain.
Many of the psalms are laments asking where are you, O God, in the midst of their pain and crying out?
Mary and Martha asked the same thing of Jesus when he showed up after their brother Lazarus died believing that if he showed up sooner Jesus could have prevented Lazarus from dying.
The idea of there being a God who does allow evil and pain in the world is such a roadblock for many that they have no desire of ever seeking a relationship with such a God.
What say you? What do those of us who do profess a faith in God say to those who demand an answer to the pain and evil in this world?
I think what a cruel God He is if this is all there is to life. If there is nothing beyond this, we are to be most pitied for we are all touched by the tragedies of this world either directly or indirectly; for the news gives us a reminder that we do not live in a world of peace, love and freedom for all, but in a world of having to be aware of your surroundings and anticipating that next bad news and the realty that not everyone you see has your best interest in mind for you or your loved ones.
I think that is why so many go to the false anchors of the world…the drugs, the alcohol, the pornography, and on and on…..they see the pain the hurt and this is their escape route from the pain, only to bring on a different pain into their life and the life of their family and friends that live through the consequences of addiction.
A couple of Sunday’s ago the choir sang Ray Boltz song, “The Anchor.”  Where, what or whom is your anchor?  Knowing your anchor is knowing how you will react when the storms of life come knocking on your door.  None of the above remedies of the world can answer or support when the pain and hurt of life arrive. Our country looks to the government, military, popularity, money, and power as tools of success to fight against the evil, but these also have shown over and over that they are weak substitutes to stand up against the reality of life that there is pain and hurt and evil and death and that none of us are immune from it.
I believe Christianity is the worldview that holds the answers to life’s questions and that Jesus is the epicenter of it all.
Jesus is the Living Water  (John 4:10, 14).
Jesus is the Bread of Life (John 6:35)
Jesus is the Savior of the World (John 3:16)
This is why I profess myself to be a Christian and seek to live for Jesus, not because I’m a pastor, I would still go to church every Sunday and seek to be involved in church just as much if I was not a pastor because I have seen the change Jesus has made in my life and the life of so many and my faith tells me that even in the midst of the pain and hurt that God is present and God is love, and that God is faithful to who He is and what He promises, and God will sustain us through the storms and pain of life for God is not a cruel God that has left us to defend and fight for our life as in some survival of the fittest theology, but God is working even through the evil He allows because of the sin of humanity and free will to bring healing and redemption and life even through evil events for God already has defeated sin and death through the death and resurrection of Jesus and we are just waiting for God to give (sin and death) their final walking papers. Until that day live in the hope that Jesus is the hope of the world and have peace that God is in control, trust Him, worship Him, serve Him, and tell others of the Living Hope that resides within you so others may not find their hope through the false substitutes of the world, but through the only true fountain that will sustain them for all eternity, Jesus Christ!
God is Good—All the Time—All the Time—God is Good
Pastor Eric
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Mid-week Devotion 05.13.15

Greetings Sisters and Brothers of Calvary UMC!
Here is my mid-week devotion to remind us all of God’s faithfulness in our day-to-day life.
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me–everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you”–(Philippians 4:6-9 NLT).
Do you find yourself speaking these statements often:
“I can’t….”
“I fear….”
“I worry…”
“I doubt…”
These statements often come from the human nature that is inside of us that sees no possibility, no hope, no chance, and we speak in the narrowness of what our eyes see and what our mind and heart feel….However, what if we changed the theme of our thoughts from the flesh of negativity to a faith-based mode of hope in the One that calls and challenges us to step out in faith.
We often come up with many reasons of why we can’t give more of our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness in our daily walk with the Lord. What if in regards to your daily walk all of your “No’s” were turned to “Yes!” What if we started to really take God at His Word and lived out of faith, trust, and hope, and not in doubt, worry, and fear?
A few years ago at a Bishops Conference, Rev. Mike Slaughter stated that in his first year the Ad-Council was not allowed to say no to anything that Jesus would say yes to. Is there something that Jesus is challenging you to say yes to?
We can go through scripture of the people chosen and used by God and we will not find any of those individuals speaking negative statements into their circumstances for they realized that they were serving an Almighty, All-Powerful God, and that they need not walk in fear of what laid ahead of them as they trusted in the One that was leading and guiding them.
I have heard more than once that there are 365 verses in the bible that state “do not fear.” I have never checked that for accuracy of that statement but it is clear that God does not want us to walk in fear. It is clear that God does not want us to live in a state of worry, anxiety and doubt, but to live a life of and through Him in faith, trust, peace, hope, and joy.
Change your fears into faith-affirming Yes and watch what God can do.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8.37 ESV).
God is Able!
Pastor Eric

 

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Mid-week Devotion

Mid-week devotion 01.14.15
Greetings Sisters and Brothers of Calvary UMC!
Praying that you are all well and finding warmth and comfort from the frigid temperatures of the last few days. This is my mid-week devotion to remind us of the love and grace of God that knows no limits and has no boundaries but is ever searching and seeking His children out that we might know the love of God found in His Son, Jesus Christ!
Last week one of the great gospel singers and writers of our era, Andrae Crouch passed away. His music was instrumental in the gospel field and many gospel and contemporary Christian singers are singing today because of the music of Andrea Crouch. His music touched a generation and beyond. Andrae had talent and ability in singing and writing and playing and most likely could have had a very successful career as a secular singer and songwriter but he knew who gave him the talent and ability and he knew who to play for and thank through his music and life. So Andrae life and music was a life of ministry, worship, and devotion to God.
One of Andrae most loved songs was “My Tribute.” A song that spoke of God’s faithfulness in his life and his desire for all the praise and glory to be returned to God. If you were to write of God’s faithfulness in your life what would you write? What would be created on paper? You may be amazed if you took pen to paper and connected with the Spirit and just started writing your feelings out and see where the Spirit leads you to write. Often through prayer and exercises like writing thoughts on paper new revelations come forth on God and faith and His involvement in our life and ways we can make our life a tribute to God in response to the wonderful blessings God has given us.
“Just let me live my life. Let it be pleasing God to thee. And should I gain any praise, let it go to Calvary. To God be the glory, to God be the glory, to God be the glory for the things He has done. With His blood He has saved me; with His power He has raised me; to God be the glory for the things He has done” “My Tribute” by Andrae Crouch
May we all seek to live our lives in ways that bring honor and glory to God for the wonderful gifts and blessings that God has bestowed on us.
May your life be a tribute to the God who loves you with an everlasting love!
In Jesus, we find the love and acceptance we have been searching for our whole life,
Pastor Eric
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Greetings Sisters and Brothers of Calvary UMC!
Hope you are all finding warmth through the cold spell. This is my mid-week devotion to remind us that even in the beginning of a New Year and cold temps that freeze everything around us that God is present and active in our day-to-day walk of life.
What adjectives would you use to describe God at work in your life? Luke often used the word translated “amazed” to describe the emotional reactions to the events in the life of Jesus Christ. When his birth was announced, the shepherds were at first terrified at what they had experienced on the Judean hillside. Later, they shared what they had witnessed in Bethlehem, and Luke recorded that “all who heard it were amazed” (Luke 2.48).
This emotional reaction continued as Jesus revealed who He really was and is:
“The people in His hometown, Nazareth, were initially ‘amazed by the gracious words that came from his mouth’ (Luke 4.22).
After he calmed the storm, Jesus disciples were both “fearful and amazed” (8.25).
When Jesus healed the demon-possessed man, ‘everyone was amazed at all the things he was doing’ (9.43).
A Pharisee “was amazed” that Jesus didn’t “perform the ritual washing before dinner(11.38).
The religious leaders were “amazed” at Jesus answers to the questions that were designed to trap him (20.26).
Peter was “amazed” when he saw the empty tomb (24.12).
The disciples were “amazed” when they saw the scars in his hands and feet after the resurrection (24.4-41).
The ways of God truly does amaze us. The list of those things in life that “amaze” us is unending: life, a birth of a baby, this planet, the galaxy, the ocean depth, and all the creatures that inhabit the land, the sea, and the air…and the list could go on and on. But there is none more amazing than the love and grace of God brought to us through His Son, Jesus Christ. We are amazed at such a love that knows no boundaries and is eternal.
I pray this year you may all be amazed by the love of God through Jesus Christ for you that it will move you into a deeper and fuller relationship with the God that loves you all so much and desires nothing more than to have a intimate relationship with you for the rest of your life….That is Amazing!
“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see” (Amazing Grace, John Newton).
In Jesus, we find “Amazing Grace!”
Pastor Eric
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Good Friday Meditation

 

Greetings!

April 18, 2014                                        Good Friday Meditation

 

We wish the story did not have to turn out like this.

We wish there was another way.

There is a question that continually pops up this time of year is, “Why did Jesus have to die, and if he did, why in such a gruesome and violent death?

It is hard to grasp the thought in our minds that the very Son of God had to actually die to appease God, the Heavenly Father.

We say, “Why?”

Why do we call this day, “Good Friday?” For this day ends in a death and brings us into a time filled no hope, no joy, no peace, no light, no love.

No Hope

No Joy

No Peace

No Love

No Life

That is what a world full of sin and death does to a soul and a world. It destroys hope. It robs us of joy. It eliminates peace. It conquers love, and brings death instead of life.

Who will save us from this death sentence on our life?

We all have to come to the cross…You cannot truly celebrate the Joy and Promise of Easter until you have fully recognized your place at the cross.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53.5).

 

The scene is different today than that time at Golgotha some 2,000 years ago.

The people have all changed.

But the actions of people are still the same.

There are still those who profess Jesus in name but are nowhere to be found this night fleeing to tasks and activities that keeps them away from having to confront their own sinfulness and lack of relationship with the Lord so they don’t look and gather, but turn and run.

There are those who still mock Jesus today believing the lie that man has all the tools he needs to save himself. “Don’t need you, Lord. I am doing fine, over here, thank you.”

Then there are those believers who watch from a distance but when confronted of their allegiance to Jesus they deny they ever knew him or believed in him or followed him. “I don’t know him.” “ I never followed the man.” “I don’t believe him.”

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one to his own way and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). A night like this brings out a wide range of human emotions and they are not all good and positive.

Yet in all of this there was the One who was judged and condemned and nailed to a cross and spat and ridiculed and mocked and beaten, but had no words of hate, rebuke, judgment, but words of love and forgiveness and hope.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t’ know what they are doing” (Luke 23:24).

Jesus replied, “I promise you that today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

Jesus said, “It is finished, “ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit (John 19:30).

And we hear the words of the criminal to the other criminal as they were to the left and right of Jesus, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong” (Luke 23:40-41).

We should be up there between the two criminals. We should be the one’s beaten, mocked, ridiculed, spat upon, judged, and condemned.

“Greater love has no man than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

It is not easy to come to the cross at Calvary and witness such a display of love for us to cover our sin, to cover our iniquities, to cover our human failings.

Yet Easter is empty if you do not understand the significance of this day. And until you do, Easter is just another day filled with no special meaning or purpose for your life or the life of others. We can only call this day “Good” when we understand what is being transpired here on that cross for all of eternity.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Eric

 

 

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A Season of Worship

“Hail the heaven born Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness! Light and life to all he brings, risen with healing in his wings. Mild he lays his glory by, born that we no more may die, born to raise us from the earth, born to give us second birth, Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born King!” (Hark! the Herald Angles Sing, by Charles Wesley). In three short verses, Charles Wesley gives us a vivid description of the Incarnation of the divine and the wonders of his birth for all humanity and what our rightful response should be upon receiving such good news, “of the new-born King.”

But lest I fall short of my desire in this letter, I can go to many more carols that announce loud and clear that we should be in an attitude of joyful worship and humble adoration, “O Come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.” (O Come, All Ye Faithful). This is the most joyous time of the year because of what happened that night in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King; let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing” (Joy to the World).

The carols call us to worship him for that is what happened on the night of the Savior’s birth; it was a night of worship. The shepherds came to bow and worship him. The angels worship him in the heavens and later Wise Men came “and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him” (Matthew 2:11).

The proper response has not changed we are still called to fall down and worship the new-born King! In the midst of the hustle and bustle have you took time to worship the Lord this Advent season? Lay aside all the baggage of the season and find space and time to be in worship with the Lord of Lords and King of Kings.

The reality is that on December 26, the world will move on to prepare for New Years Day, but for us, we still have the wonderful opportunity and privilege and calling to be vessels of worship throughout the coming New Year and seek to proclaim the message, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

May you all have a Christ-Filled Christmas!

Rev. Eric Jensen

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Freedom

I was moved last week watching Michelle Knight stand up in court and start the process of taking her life back. The words of power and forgiveness and hope that she spoke filled the courtroom that day. I was moved to tears to see her stand up to the man that took eleven years of her life and claim her life back from the demons of the past.

Witnessing redemption and hearing someone proclaim that they are free is a powerful thing to see and feel. Don’t we love to hear when others proclaim victory over habits, addictions and other obstacles of life?

“I have lost 60 pounds!”

“I have been sober for 6 months!”

“Smoke-free for a year!”

“I passed the exam for my _________license!”

“The surgery was a success!”

“Cancer free!”

“No drugs in my system for three months!”

I believe God rejoices at these announcements of victory and celebration of the dedication and hard-work, perseverance and commitment that is necessary for these victories to be achieved. But they do not happen alone. Each person in the above statements would have a list of people to thank for encouragement and support and love and direction to help them achieve their goals.,

God hates anything that holds us in bondage and takes away the freedom that is offered us through His Son, Jesus Christ. God’s desire is for us to experience freedom and abundant life in and through His Son.

“So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36 NRSV).

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10 NRSV).

God loves to rescue us from the things in this world that try to hold us captive. God loves to hear the cry of the “Redeemed!” In fact, Scripture states that, “there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7 NRSV).

I pray that you may be one of those who can stand and say, “I am Redeemed! I have been set free!”

May the Joy and Freedom of the Lord be your hearts song and strength!

In Christ,

Pastor Eric

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Life In the Spirit

Can we even begin to imagine what the 3 woman (that were held in captivity in a run-down house in Cleveland, Ohio) were feeling that moment they found freedom after 10 plus years of living in bondage and fear to emotional, physical, and sexual abuse?

My mind cannot wrap around the thought of what it would be like to be a made a prisoner at the  hand’s of another for ten plus years. Did they have moments where they found some peace, some humor, some strength and hope? I hope so. My prayers are with these women as they begin the long road of healing and finding renewal of their life once again.

Imagine living for ten years and finding very little hope that things would change anytime soon. There are a lot of people walking the streets, living in our neighborhood, working in our office, or even sitting next to us in church that ask every day, are things ever going to change for my life? Is there ever going to be a day that I feel that I have broken free from the chains of bondage in my life?

The answer from scripture is a resounding “Yes!”

Yes, there is freedom from the bondage of sins and the regrets of yesterday found in the Lord Jesus Christ.

After the ascension of Jesus, the disciples were still lurking behind locked doors and trying to digest all of what had occurred with the death and resurrection of Jesus along with feelings of their betrayal and rejection, when all of a sudden “there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability” (Acts 2:2-4 NRSV).

The Holy Spirit awakened to new life a group of men and women that prior to this were unsure and afraid of what might happen to them, and after the arrival of the Holy Spirit, there was no longer fear but a burning passion and desire to spread the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ into the world. These disciples were transformed and they transformed the world as they brought into the world the church of Jesus Christ, the active Body-of-Christ living in the world to share the love and grace of God.

May these words from the prophet Isaiah echo our call out in the world to free others from the bondages of the world. “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring the good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners…to comfort all who mourn” (Isaiah 61:1-2 NRSV).

Christ is All,

Pastor Eric

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Simon Peter

Simon Peter showed up at Calvary United Methodist Church last night. For those that attended, we were blessed with Jim Greer taking us back to the thoughts and feelings of Simon Peter, as he walked with Jesus as a disciple. Jim’s great performance, combined with the beautiful singing voice of Mary, enriched and brought to life more vivid the words and action before us. At the end of the presentation,  I had to stand and give the blessing, but I just wanted to stay in the pew and soak in and mediate on what I had seen. To a person, everyone was touched by the music and words that brought Simon Peter before us.

One of the lines that stuck out to me was when Simon Peter was in the courtyard and someone said to Peter, “Are you one of his disciples?” Then as if planned, there was a pause in the play as if that line was meant as a question to those of us watching, “Are you one of his disciples?” The quick reply answer for many of us would be, “Yes!” But do we show that in our day-to-day life that we are one of his disciples? Without confirming my faith, would others be able to tell solely by my words and behavior? Certainly something to grabble with as I go through my days this week how might my words and the things I do reflect to others the person of Jesus Christ?

I loved the ending of the play, for it ended with the message of the redemptive grace of God in restoring and forgiving Peter for his denials of Jesus earlier in the week. Is that so great of God that even in those days and weeks when we seem to be all flesh and very little Spirit, that God’s grace is there to restore, renew, and forgive; and to help us back on the road of redemption!

So this is my prayer; that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of; bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11 THE MESSAGE).

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Eric

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Living with Hope

Let us join in prayer with others throughout our nation and the world for the people of Boston. We are not those who live with no hope and only gloom, but we are those who live with the assurance that God is alive and present, and that one day, God will right the wrongs and restore our fallen world to His perfect kingdom.

Let us be carriers of God’s love and grace in our world today!

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