The Spirit’s Wind and Fire

On Sunday, September 18, 2016, I had the opportunity to preach at Riverview Christian Fellowship in Reading, PA.

Are you willing to follow the direction of the Spirit’s wind?

The text is John 3:1-10. I pray that God’s Spirit challenges you as you listen. May Christ be with you.

Gideon’s 300 and God’s Victory

While Sparta’s 300 fell to the Persian army, God gave victory to Gideon and his 300 soldiers over the Midianite and Amalekite army.   The text for this sermon is Judges 7:1-23.  I pray that God’s Spirit challenges your heart as you listen.  Ask yourself, “How big is your God?”

Seeking the True Christ

There are many distractions in the world that take our attention away from the true Christ.   Paul warns of empty deceit and worldly philosophies that exist and take our attention away from the gospel.  Instead, we must always focus on serving our Messiah, Jesus Christ.

The text for this sermon is Colossians 2:8-15.  I pray that God’s Spirit moves in your heart as you listen.

May God bless you.  May the peace of Jesus Christ reign in your heart.  May the fruit of the Spirit be exhibited in your life.

Blood Worth More than Silver or Gold

The blood of Jesus Christ is precious.   It is worth more than all the treasures of silver or gold that the world could offer!   But Christ also calls us to live in a way worthy of his precious blood.  Do you desire this way of life?

The text for this sermon is 1 Peter 1:17-23.   I pray that these words will challenge you to seek after the precious blood of Christ.

Christ, the Way to God

I recently had an opportunity to preach to soldiers in the U.S. Army Reserve at a chapel service for WAREX in Ft. McCoy.   The text for this sermon is John 17:1-11.

I pray that this sermon challenges you to continue to place your faith in Christ.  I also pray that, if you are not a Christian, this sermon will encourage you to turn to Christ!

Crusades No More

God shattered Peter’s mindset when he received a vision of God; Peter realized, “God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.”

As a result, Peter reached out to the gentile Cornelius, one whom it was illegal for Peter to talk to, and spoke the truth of Christ to him.

Peter changed his mindset toward “them.”   What is your mindset toward “them,” “the others,” “the outsiders?”

The main text for this sermon is Acts 10:34-43.  I had the opportunity to preach this sermon at the West Chester Church of the Nazarene on January 12, 2014, during the Sunday morning service.

I pray that the Holy Spirit challenges you as you listen and may God bless you.

Understanding Salvation

Salvation has such incredible implications not only for us as individuals, but for the entire world, the way we live in it, and the hope we have for the salvation of all creation.

Here’s the audio from my sermon at the West Chester Church of the Nazarene on October 27, 2013.  The text is Romans 8:28-30.

I pray that you are challenged by the Spirit to live in a way that seeks after Christ in the knowledge of the deep significance of the entirety of salvation!


It’s been quite a busy summer for me.  As a result, unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to write many posts for my website.  I will try to post more articles this fall!

This morning I had a chance to preach at the church where I am an associate pastor, the West Chester Church of the Nazarene.  Here’s an audio copy of the sermon.  I pray that God will speak to you through it as you listen!



Epiphany Sunday: The Journey

Matthew 2:1-12 (NRSV)

 1 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,
2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”
3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him;
4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.
5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared.
8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”
9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.
10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.
11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Herod, the suspicious and cruel ruler of Israel who would do anything to keep his power, a power that was sometimes precarious considering the politics of the Roman Empire at the time, had just been visited by wise men from the East; they, in Herod’s eyes, had made some wild claim that a new king had just been born. Even when he had been installed as the ruler of this land under the advice of the Roman co-leaders Octavian and Mark Antony, and all the more the Roman Senate giving Herod the title “King of the Jews,” Herod’s power was still not solidified; Octavian and Mark Antony were on the verge of civil war in the Roman Empire. And more so, Herod was an Edomite; the Jewish people did not like him at all. The man was suspicious, sly, and cunning; he would have no problem eliminating any threats to his power.

Suddenly several wise men, some translations call them ‘magi,’ appeared on his doorstep in Jerusalem. Matthew is the only gospel which accounts for the wise men, and he only mentions ‘wise men from the East.’ Look carefully – he never specifies that there were three of them; in this passage we only have the mention of three different gifts. We can infer that with three gifts, there were three men who brought them. Regardless of the number of wise men, they arrived at Herod’s temple, catching the ruler off guard when they asked the man, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?” One can imagine the thoughts that were going through Herod’s mind: “A child? A child as the ‘king of the Jews?’ That is my proclaimed title! Who is this child that threatens my power!” Herod must have taken a quick breath. His heart must have started racing. He became scared. The sly and cunning, yet ruthless and cruel, Edomite king devised a plan to maintain his power and eliminate this threat.

He called the chief priests and the scribes together, and learned that this ‘king’ was supposed to be born in Bethlehem. And Herod lied through his teeth and told the wise men, who were completely in the dark regarding Herod’s secret plans: “…to bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” But before that, he learned from the magi exactly when the star appeared.

In Matthew 2:16, the ruthless ruler, desperate to keep his power, and enraged that the wise men snuck away, disappearing without bringing any word to Herod, had all the children under two years of age in Bethlehem murdered. This was according to when he had learned the star had originally appeared to the wise men in the East. It was a horrendous act by someone terrified yet desperate to hold on to his greed for power.

But it had been up to two years since the star appeared! It was two years after Jesus Christ had been born in a manger that the wise men finally completed their journey to Jerusalem. And Bethlehem was not far at all from Jerusalem! This is quite often a fact that escapes us as we celebrate Christmas. I am going to come right out and say it because it is a bit of a pet peeve of mine – portrayals of the birth of Christ with wise men present are not biblically accurate. I apologize if I have shaken anyone with that statement. All of December I have driven past nativity scene after nativity scene and saw wise man after wise man after wise man. Half the time I was tempted to leave a note on these nativity scenes that read, “Not biblically accurate. Remove wise men please.” But in the Christmas spirit, I took a breath, kept driving, and did not leave any notes on any nativity scenes.

It should also be noted that Matthew tells us here that they were no longer in a manger at this time; Matthew specifically says “house” in verse 11. Jesus was born in a manger in a stable, possibly a cave, two years earlier. The shepherds were there; the wise men were not there. Two years later, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were still in Bethlehem and had managed to find a house, or at least a room in a house, for their small family. This time though, with the two year old child and his mother, the wise men, more than likely three of them, came at night, following a star, and gave homage and gifts to the true savior and the rightful king of the Jews.

But again, it had been up to two years! I want to stress that, because considering this, it must have been quite the journey for these wise men. They did not show up the next day after seeing the star in the sky. They did not show up weeks or a month or two later. They arrived in Jerusalem, on Herod’s doorstep, then on Mary, Joseph, and Jesus’ doorstep, up to two years after they had seen the sign that a king had been born. It must have been quite the trip! For a moment, I almost wonder what the journey was like and what kind of adventures these wise men must have had as they trekked from the East and to the house of this child, who they recognized as a king. I am reminded of J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ and the adventures of Bilbo Baggins. Alas, I do not think the wise mens’ journey was quite like that.

We do not know exactly where the magi came from, or what religion these wise men considered themselves to be. All we know is that wise men, or magi, came from a distant land that was east of Israel. Some have suggested that they were Persians or Medes, coming from the area we know today as Iran. Some have suggested that they came from Babylon, in the area we know today as Iraq. Babylon was advanced in astronomy and would have been constantly studying the night sky. Some have suggested that they came from an area even further east or southeast of Persia. Some have suggested that one of the reasons these wise men even knew about this prophecy of a king being born in the first place was in fact because they were from the Babylonian part of the world.

Over 500 years earlier, the Israelites were exiled in Babylon; many Jewish prophets and scribes were in this part of the world. Still, many Jews stayed in the area around Babylon after the exile was over. A prophecy regarding the birth of a savior would have, more than likely, found its way into a Babylonian or Persian religion at the time; these empires had the habit of incorporating pieces of different religions into their own religion. And the Babylonian Empire was conquered by the Medes; the Medes, conquered by the Persian Empire. And if they were from somewhere in Persia, modern day Iran, which is further east than Babylon, modern day Iraq, a journey that would have lasted two years would make sense.

Nonetheless, whether they were from Babylon or from Persia, these wise men recognized a sign from God. They traveled across deserts and mountains, and contended with who knows what else – possibly wild animals and thieves – all the while carrying their treasure chests. They showed true determination to respond to God and travel such a long distance over several years – all to pay homage to a two year old child for a single night in a house in the small town of Bethlehem. Not only is this instance more than likely the human savior’s very first ministry to the gentiles, but it shows the devotion that these wise men and magi had to worship a savior. They were not Jewish by any standard. They were not one of God’s “chosen people.” They were gentiles in every definition of the word.

And these gentiles recognized a sign from God, and came to worship the Christ, giving a two year old child gold, frankincense, and myrrh. I am seriously impressed that these gentiles made this extremely long, arduous journey to worship and show such reverence to a king of the Jewish people when he was so young. Even when Christ grew up and began his ministry, so many Jewish leaders, priests, and scribes did not want to recognize him as the Messiah.

The wise men made a journey, but God also made a journey. Today is Epiphany Sunday. On December 25, the Western Church (Protestants and Roman Catholics) celebrates the birth of Christ. The Eastern Church (Orthodox Churches) celebrates Christmas a couple weeks later near January 7; the difference in dates is because the Western Church uses the Julian calendar, while the Eastern Church uses the Gregorian calendar. Regardless, for the 12 days following December 25 (including Christmas day), the Church actually celebrates Christmas. The carol “The 12 Days of Christmas” is not just a song; it has real significance. Christmas actually ended yesterday! It did not end at 11:59 p.m. on December 25; it is not just a single day deal and we are done. And we all know that the season of Advent is when we prepare for and anticipate the birth of Christ in the four weeks preceding Christmas.

January 6, the day after the 12 days of Christmas are over, is Epiphany. It is a day when the Church recognizes the manifestation of God in human form, specifically to the gentiles, such as the wise men, and it is also a day when the Church recognizes the baptism of Jesus by the John the Baptist; again, it is a day when the manifestation of God in human form is made known!

We have talked about the wise men’s journey, but God made a journey as well. God sent his son, Jesus Christ (who is also God – the trinity is a difficult concept to grasp; nonetheless it is a sermon for another time. But I would be happy to have a conversation about it at any time if you have questions), as a means of redeeming a broken creation from the devastating effects of sin. Sin, disobedience to God, separates us from God and disconnects us from his Spirit. There is no way to regain a true relationship with God, a relationship defined by a connection of holy love, and a relationship which was originally intended to exist unbroken between God and humanity, except through Christ. Sin is a result of the broken world we live in. Ever since the first disobedience of Adam and Eve to God in the garden, the world has been broken. Sin, greed, and selfishness have proliferated out of control and there is no escape, except through the Christ, this same king that the wise men visited when he was such a young child. Only through recognizing the life, death, and resurrection of Christ can we be restored to God in a relationship of love. And then the love of God can infiltrate and begin to fix the brokenness of this world.

As I think about God’s journey to this broken world in the form of a human, I believe the opening verses of John’s gospel offers the best summary. He writes:

John 1:1-14 (NRSV)

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was in the beginning with God.
3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being
4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.
8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.
9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.
11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.
12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God,
13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

God has sent his son, Jesus Christ, on a journey. It was a journey that began at the moment of creation, to make his son known to humanity, and a journey that was made complete with the manifestation of God in human form in the person of Jesus Christ, fully human and fully divine.

And the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior, the true King, made this journey so that the world, not just the Jewish people, but gentiles all over the world as well, like these wise men who trekked so far from the East, would know God. It was so that all the world would know the love of God. It was so that all of humanity would learn how to love God, love people, and love creation. It was so that this world, a world broken by sin, would take another major step in being restored and being fixed. This would come only through Jesus Christ.

The Christ, the Messiah, the Savior, the King – whose birth the Church has celebrated for the better part of the last two weeks, and who today we see that he has come for all people of the world to be restored to God – Jesus Christ came to rub mud in the blind man’s eyes and to bring sight to those who could not see (John 9:1-12). Jesus Christ made the journey so that the man paralyzed and lowered through a rooftop could be told to pick up his mat and walk (Mark 2:1-12). Jesus Christ made the journey for the bleeding woman who barely touched the edge of Jesus’ cloak on a crowded street so that she could finally know a true healing power (Matthew 9:18-26). Jesus Christ made the journey so that he could speak to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-42). Jesus Christ made the journey so that he could show love to the outcast leper when he cleansed him from his disease (Luke 5:12-16). Jesus Christ made the journey to raise the dead Lazarus to life (John 11:1-44) and to bring a father’s dead daughter, his only child, back to life (Luke 8:40-56). Jesus Christ made the journey to cast out the demons called Legion from the demoniac who was running wild in the countryside (Mark 5:1-20).

And Jesus Christ made the journey for the wise men, who made their own journey from so far away in the East to worship and pay homage to the true King.

And Jesus Christ made the journey so that he might die on a cross as an atoning sacrifice for the world and rise again three days later, conquering death and sin for all people.

And Jesus Christ made the journey for you and me. Jesus Christ made the journey for your family members. He made the journey for your sons and daughters, your fathers and mothers, your brothers and sisters, your friends, and your enemies. Jesus Christ made the journey because he loves you, and because he wants to love you with everything that he is, and because he wants each of us to love him with everything that we are. Jesus Christ made the journey because he wants to be in a relationship with every single one of us. Jesus Christ, the one who was there at the creation of the world, the Word who became flesh, the light who cannot be overcome by darkness, wants to offer us healing from our ailments, our sicknesses, and our sins. Jesus Christ wants to heal our blind; Jesus Christ wants us to see when we cannot. Jesus Christ wants us to walk when we cannot. Jesus Christ wants to raise you and me out of death and into life. Jesus Christ wants to give us hope and love, and to show us what that means in each of our lives. Jesus Christ wants to love us. Allow him to love you.

Each one of us is on our own journey in life. We may be on a trek like the wise men, to worship the Savior and the King who has made himself known to us. We may be on that journey, but might be discouraged or falling away. We may even be headed in the complete opposite direction of Jesus Christ, whether it is on purpose or whether it is because we feel that there are circumstances way beyond our control. We might be trying to trudge up a mountain that seems way too steep, or we may have lost our step and be falling down that same mountain. We might be crossing over what seems like a never ending desert. I do not where each one of us is today; only you can know where you are. It is a matter between each one of us and God.

But regardless of where each one of us is on that journey, or whatever direction we are headed in on that trek, God wants to meet us wherever we are. God sent his son, Jesus Christ, to meet the world where it is, broken in sin. Christ showed healing, love, and restoration to the blind and crippled where they were, and he desires to meet you where you are on your journey today. Christ ministered to the Jews and the gentiles; and here with the wise men we have the very first instance of God revealing himself to the outsiders – the gentiles.

Christ is the manifestation of God to all people, and he desires to meet us today, where we are on our journeys. Today is January 6 – Epiphany Sunday; allow Christ to be the manifestation of God and the manifestation of his unchanging and eternal love in your life.

Humid Forest Paths

I had the opportunity to share this message with the West Chester Church of the Nazarene this morning. I hope that as you read it, you will be challenged to be a “doer of the word.”

“It was not too long ago that in the hot, humid countryside of Central America, there were two small children walking along a forest path. The path was half in the shade, half in the sun. By now, the little girl was almost beginning to wish that it would rain again, just to give them some relief from the hot temperatures and the humidity. As they walked, a snake warming itself on the sunny part of the path was disturbed by the two humans’ presence and it slithered back into the forest, not wanting to be bothered by the two small, thin human-shaped creatures.

“The two children had nothing. Well, they almost had nothing except for the clothes on their backs and the pants that they were wearing, but even those were pretty tattered by now. And it was not too long before that that those two children had just a couple pieces of fruit to eat and a piece of bread between them; but those little kids devoured those two sweet, delicious pieces of fruit, along with the semi-stale bread, almost the second they had received them from the poor man in the village they had been walking through.

“Somewhere, either in the village the two small children had already passed through or the village that they were coming up upon, the little girl thought for a moment that she could smell the aroma of coffee, similar to the aroma of coffee that her mother and father used to make before… well… before…. The little girl did not want to think about it. She looked at her brother and grabbed his hand. The two were alone now. Their mother was gone. And they had not seen their father in years. Their mother never talked about it, but the little boy, who was just a few years older than his sister, and who was just old enough to start realizing what was happening in the world around him, had figured out that it was not too long ago that there had been some sort of violence in the area where his village was. People from the outside, modern world, might call it a civil war, or maybe a drug war, or something similar and along those lines, but the little boy did not know about all of those things quite yet. He just knew that it was some kind of act of violence that taken his father away. But his mother, she was crying as she sent the two children away from their home. He did not know why or how, but deep down he knew that it would just be him and his sister, and somehow they had to make it in this world.

“That man in the previous village had been so nice; even the boy could tell that the man was poor and did not have much, but as the two little children passed by on the path through the small town in the hot humid weather, even the old man who wore such ragged clothes took pity on the boy and the girl, and just before taking a bite out of the delicious fruit himself, and out of the corner of his eye, he had seen the two kids walking, barely smiling and thin, as if they themselves had not had much food to eat either; and he knew within his heart that he could not eat his small meager lunch while these two kids had nothing. The boy took the fruit and the bread from the man who so graciously offered it, and he and his sister scarfed them up almost immediately. It had satisfied their hunger for now, but it would not be long before the two of them would be hungry again as they continued to walk on the hot, humid, forest path, half covered by shade and half engulfed by the blazing tropical sun.

“Again, the girl noticed the aroma of coffee in the air, reminding her of her mother who had been so long gone. She tried to think just how long it had been, but could not tell exactly. Had it been weeks? Had it been months already? She squeezed her brother’s hand even harder. By now the boy had noticed the smell of the coffee in the air as well, and it too brought back memories that had not totally slipped away through the dreary days on the mountain paths. He did not know exactly what would happen, but at least for the sake of his sister, this little boy would pretend that he knew that everything would be fine.

“By now, they saw the village where the smell of the coffee was coming from. A slight smile crept across both the faces of the boy and the girl, brought to them unconsciously by the memories that were almost unknowingly being brought to the very backs of their minds, though hunger was still on the fronts of their minds. A small house came into view behind the trees. It had already been many hours since they last ate that small meager meal of a couple pieces of fruit and a piece of semi-stale bread, and both of their stomachs were beginning to tighten in their yearning to satisfy their hungry diets. The boy looked at his sister and squeezed her hand, now smiling. The boy started to walk faster towards the direction of the house, his sister almost directly on his heels. “Surely,” he thought, “surely they will give us something to eat.” The two got closer and closer to the house, the smell of coffee permeating the air, and the smell of bread and fruit and roasting meat growing stronger. Through a window he saw a woman, and as he looked toward her, the woman looked up, and caught the eyes of the two small children that were coming in her direction.

“Immediately she began to frown and yell something at them. The boy had heard it so many times before. The door opened and the woman and another man came out, both of them still yelling something, motioning with their hands and pointing away from the house as they yelled at the two small kids. The smile disappeared from the boys face, he looked to the ground and began to turn around. Another similar feeling, a sinking feeling, was beginning to rise within his stomach, but that feeling of heartache, it combined with hunger just long enough to make him forget about his and his sister’s hunger as the sadness welled within him, forcing a tear to form in the boy’s eye. He looked at his sister; she knew what was happening, for there were already tears in her eyes. There would be no food tonight. They had already eaten their meal for the day and that would be it. The next priority for the boy would simply be to find a somewhat safe place for the two to sleep, just like they had done for so many other countless nights as they wandered from forest village to forest village in the humid countryside.”

At this point please open your Bibles to James 1:19-27.

James 1:19-27 (NRSV)

19 You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger;
20 for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.
21 Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.
22 But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.
23 For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror;
24 for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like.
25 But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act – they will be blessed in their doing.
26 If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless.
27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unsustained by the world.

“It was at that point, that as the heat of the afternoon began to fade and the sun was just starting to make its descent in the hot, barren sky, and when the two children had walked a little bit further, that the boy saw another building; it was a somewhat vaguely familiar building, but it had been such a long time since the two kids had been in one like this, that they simply did not know what to expect if they were to knock on its door. The building was small and not fancy by any means, but to the outside wall it had a cross affixed to it. The boy and the girl did not know what to expect, but the boy realized that it may be their last hope for the evening. The two children thought to themselves that it would be so nice to not have to sleep outside anymore, but for just one night, be able to sleep under the shelter of a roof.

“And the two kids walked to the door of the small building with a cross affixed to the outside wall, the small boy holding the hand of his little sister, the two small children with rags for clothes who had barely eaten anything for days except for what the poor man gave them that morning. And the boy did not know if anyone would be inside or not, but he raised his hand, and knocked on the door of the church.”

Too often in the complicated and diverse branch of Christianity which we call Protestantism, a branch that we are a part of, we learn only half the picture. It is drilled into us (I’m speaking generally of Protestants now) that it is by faith alone which we are saved. That is certainly true; it is by a faith that responds to God’s abundant grace through which we enter into salvation, but that is just the beginning of the picture of this religion which we call Christianity. Salvation is entering into the kingdom of God; and now that we are part of the kingdom of God, salvation transforms into a vastly beautiful picture of love within the world. However it is a kingdom of love which we have entered into that demands action from its participants.

Sola fide; faith alone – the cause that Martin Luther championed almost exactly 500 years ago in response to the then corruption and abuses within the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. Again, there is no doubt in my mind that is truly by God’s grace and love alone that God would invite us to be part of his kingdom. Our response to that grace and love is to have faith in God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. We become one of God’s own through the work of Christ on the cross; we become, on both an individual and community basis as the Church, representatives of God’s kingdom of love to a world that is filled with desperate, hurting, hungry, and searching people. The Church is designed to be the earthly kingdom of God, comprised of you and me, and should be a bright light of active, holy, missional love on a hill, and a light visible for all the world to see, giving hope to all who need it as the world struggles in darkness.

That is a much richer concept of the full picture; it is a picture that compels those who are a part of this kingdom of holy love to act and do. It is a picture where salvation is the beginning of true life, and not necessarily the ends which we so often treat it as. It is a picture that is not simply content with merely hearing the word, but is only content with demonstrating this word of love to all people and all creation.

James challenges us, his fellow Christian brothers and sisters, we who claim to be a part of this kingdom which is based upon a foundation of an absolute, holy love that can only be found in both the Son of God and the Son of Humanity: Jesus Christ. James challenges us to not merely be hearers of the word, but be doers of the word. In fact, James says some challenging words in verses 22 through 24 which cannot be taken lightly: “But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in the mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like.” One who is only a hearer of the word forgets what the kingdom of God is like almost immediately; one can conclude that for someone who is only a hearer of the word and not a doer, their actions and their lives may not demonstrate who they claim to be.

There is power in this word – in what we call scripture. It is a power that brings us to life and gives the words on scripture’s pages application for our everyday lives; but it is a power given to it by God’s Holy Spirit, active and breathing this scripture to life every single day, both in the past and the present, and from now into eternity. And moreover, there is power in the Word, the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the incarnation of love and the incarnation of the ultimate message of this scripture: holy love. And by that power of holy love found in God and in scripture, there is power for our own lives to be changed. It is a change that is wrought in us so that we are no longer simply hearers of the word, but we become active doers of the word, living participants in the beautiful, loving kingdom of God. It is a change where we can become free from the bondage and death of sin, and become alive to the holy love that is so abundant within God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

James says in verses 19 through 21, “You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.” By the power of God’s Holy Spirit working within our lives, we can turn from evil and from sin; we can rid our lives of unrighteous anger. We can rid ourselves of the sordidness and rank growth of wickedness that is caused by sin. And we can be restored into the image of God – the image of holy love. By welcoming with meekness the implanted word, we can become “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” We can become doers of the word and not merely hearers of the word.

There is a hurting world out there; it is a world that is in pain and oftentimes filled with people who simply do not know where they can turn to. Some of us may encounter that world today, for others of us it may be later this week, but we will encounter it; in fact, the Church is called by God to go out and encounter it. Even today some of us may be a part of that hurting world, and some of us may be desperately seeking that hope and love which is found in the kingdom of God and which should be so abundant in the Church.

Those two little children, that boy and that girl who were hungry, tired, weary, wearing ragged clothing, and who did not have a place to sleep, they do not have to be found walking on a humid mountain path in Central America. Those children can be found in the beautiful cities of Europe, in the deserts of Africa, in the rural farms of Asia, in the islands of the Caribbean, in the mountains of South America, and in the outback of Australia. Those two little children can be found wandering the streets of our own North American cities, even as the United States is one of the wealthiest nations in the history of our planet. Those two kids can be found in the rural towns of the midwest, suffering through poverty. Those two little children can be found in the homeless and hungry beggar who we encounter at the train station, and even in the man or woman that we pass by as we walk down the streets of West Chester, Pennsylvania. No matter where we go, there is hunger, there are people who barely have enough clothes, and there is poverty. Whether it is the widow or the orphan, there are people who are in need of a helping hand. There are people seeking both hope and love.

I ask of us – of this congregation, of our denomination, the Church of the Nazarene, and of the global, universal, catholic Church which we are a part of – do not let our religion be worthless as James warns us. I pray that each one of us may not only be hearers of the word, but doers of the word and active participants in God’s kingdom of love, who live by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to not only effect changes within ourselves, but who go out and do the loving work of Jesus Christ which still needs to be done in our broken and hurting world.

As we leave here today and encounter those two small children in the world, what will be our response? Will we merely be hearers of the word with no change in our lives, deceiving ourselves, and rendering our religion worthless? Or will we be doers of the word, caring for orphans and widows in their distress, and keeping ourselves sustained not by the selfishness of the world, but by the loving kingdom of God, and inviting others into the presence of holy love? When we encounter the poor and hungry man or woman, and when we encounter the heart that is crying out in pain and simply asking for love, will we be doers of the word, helping those who are in need? Or will we merely be hearers of the word? When we see those who are being treated with injustice in the world, will we be doers of the word, standing up and demanding justice for those who cannot ask for it themselves? Or will we merely be hearers of the word? When we see those who are not being shown mercy, no matter who it is, will we be doers of the word, representatives of the kingdom of God, and ask for mercy on their behalf? Or will we merely be hearers of the word?

Will we be doers of the word and be a light for the kingdom of God? Or will we merely be hearers of the word, deceiving ourselves, and forgetting just exactly what the word is the moment we walk away?

When I think of our congregation at the West Chester Church of the Nazarene, I am encouraged. When I walk through our doors, I am confident that I will find a loving group of people. I see in this congregation a group of people who love God with everything that they are and who love each other with that same holy love. I see a group of people who are demonstrating this love to those two small children, those people who are in need. It is demonstrated with our goal to raise $1,000 for an Alabaster offering this month (a goal we can reach!), our continuing drive to bring goods in for the West Chester Food Cupboard, our food backpack drive last month for local school children, and our help with Safe Harbor in the recent months.

Let this passage be a reminder to us to not ever give up on being doers of the word; allow these words to remind us to not ever give up on being a people who act on the faith and the grace by which we enter salvation. Let us not forget the whole, beautiful picture that is the kingdom of God and the fulfilling gospel of Jesus Christ. Allow James’ words to be an encouragement to never be content with merely hearing the word. Let this passage remind us of the power of the Holy Spirit to work in our lives, ridding ourselves of any sordidness or rank growth of wickedness, and continuing to transform us in holiness and love for others.

“When those two hungry and tired children knocked upon the door of that small church building, seeking help in their hour of need after walking all day on a hot and humid forest path, the door opened. We, the people of the Church, answered, giving food and shelter and demonstrating the love of God to both the little boy and his sister.”

Do not ever be content in being merely a hearer of the word, but live welcoming with meekness the power of the word and the power of God to change our lives, continually caring for the orphans and the widows, and all others who are in need.