Dr. Dennis R. Sheppard, Pastor Audio Sermons/Bible Study
Daily Thoughts from Pastor Dennis R. Sheppard
The Thought of the Day – April 26, 2017
“So you see, faith by itself isn't enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” (James 2:17)
James’ rather stark pronouncement leaves us scratching our heads with confusion over how he could say such a thing. Isn’t faith, in and of itself, dynamic and alive? Didn’t Jesus say that “faith the size of a mustard seed could move mountains?” Well yes Jesus did say that about faith. The truth is however that Jesus is not talking about faith in and of itself, but faith that is put into practice, lived out, demonstrated in the lives of those who profess it.
There is an old story about a Church that gathered to pray for a member whose home burned. They were waiting for old John, the elder of the Church to arrive. He arrived in his wagon loaded with flower, bacon, beans, and other staples. The people asked him what he was doing. He explained that it was not enough to show up with words of faith but that they needed a wagon load of action if they wanted to help the needy family. Faith must issue in works or else it issues in meaningless words.
Blessings, Dennis R. Sheppard
The Daily Thought - April 25, 2017
"I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God; who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty." (Revelation 1:8 ESV)
Whatever else John was going to see and hear in his time of Revelation, he was certain that he was the presence of the eternal. It strikes me that God is described in three ways in this one verse. This is a powerful theological statement. There is no question but that God is and that God reveals God's self.
How do you see God. Some people think of God as a Spirit floating around out there somewhere. Some people think God is an old gray haired man sitting on a throne. Interesting Jesus said that if we look at him we can see what God looks like. God is love and God loves us. Whatever else you may think please remember, the one who is called Almighty and Eternal does not come to us in thunderous judgement but in solemn gentleness offering us grace with nail scarred hands.
The Daily Thought – April 22, 2017
“Do not love the world or the things in the world.” (1 John 2:15 NRSV)
Of all the things that John says in his Epistle this is one of the most confusing. If God created the world and called it good and gave it to us then why shouldn’t we love it? Well the truth is that John’s meaning is somehow lost in the bluntness of his statement. We are to love God above all things and we are to love the world only as gift of God that has been entrusted to us. We are never to love the world for its own sake. That causes us to fall into the trap of loving the creation more than we love the creator.
That said, we are to care for the creation as loving trustees. It is a gift after all and not one to squander. However, we are to root our lives only in the eternal love of God. That great mystic, St. John of the Cross said it this way, “Live in the world as if only God and your soul were in it; then your heart will never be made captive by any earthly thing.” That is what John the Apostle was talking about in this verse and that is the real way to live.
The Daily Thought – April 21, 2017
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though
the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and
foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.” (Psalms 46:1-2
It seems that we are besieged with potential disasters. There are ongoing terrorist attacks in many places. Potential conflicts in Iran, Syria, and North Korea headline the news daily. All of these things could be added together to make this era of time aptly be called the “Age of Uncertainty.” Yes we face both natural and human-made disasters. The world has shifted and along with the natural storms and political storms we are in the middle of a moral storm. People have their homes destroyed and looters show up with the emergency crews. Identity theft is a national crisis and College and University Students are rioting to prevent any conservative speaker from having the opportunity to speak on their campus.
Yet in the midst of all of these storms the Psalmist reminds us that we can trust in the God who stands fast and faithful through all of the stormy blast. We can trust God when the whole world is falling apart As the Psalmist also reminds us “Lord you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Psalm 90:1-2 NRSV)
The Daily Thought – April 20, 2017
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father!” (John 14:8-9 NLT)
Philip asked Jesus the ultimate question of longing, “Just show us God and we will be satisfied.” The problem was Jesus had been showing them God all along they were just too blinded by zeal to see him. So Jesus removed the cataracts of doubt and stubbornness from their eyes so that they could see God. It is remarkable to us that these men spent three years with Jesus, hearing every word he spoke, watching every miracle he performed, and praying with him daily and yet they had not yet really grasped who he was.
Even as they become to realize that he was the Messiah they had not grasped what that meant for them. Indeed in Christ they could see God face to face. This was the most intimate of encounters and they almost missed it. How close do we come to God each day and miss it because we are blinded by doubt, pain, betrayal, grief, or anger. Let me invite you to look again at Jesus Christ with eyes of faith and see for yourselves who he is and what he reveals to us. Philosopher Blaise Pascal said it best I think, “Not only do we not know God except through Jesus Christ; we do not even know ourselves except through Jesus Christ.”
The Daily Thought – April 19, 2017
“He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:15 NRSV)
Jesus had gathered with his disciples to share the Passover. There are four cups that are used in the ceremony of the Passover. The first is the Cup of Sanctification, the second is the Cup of Deliverance, the third is the Cup of Redemption, and the fourth is the Cup of Restoration. It was this last cup that Jesus did not drink and could not drink until the world is restored into perfect harmony with God.
When we come to receive Holy Communion there is only one cup but all four meanings are contained in the one cup. Christ sanctifies us (sets us apart), Christ delivers us (sets us free from sin and death) Christ redeems us, (suffers for our sins) and Christ restores us (reconciles us with God). All of this Christ does for us out of his love for us. Just imagine a love so great it is offered freely all the while knowing that some people will reject it. What will you do with the love that has been so freely poured out on you?
The Daily Thought – April 18, 2017
“By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the Gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.” (Matthew 26:12-13 NRSV)
It was on Wednesday that Jesus went to eat with Simon the Leper who had been healed. It was a great celebration, the sound of music and laughter and the smell of delicious food filled the house. Somewhere in the midst of the revelry a woman slipped past everybody and got to Jesus. She took an alabaster jar of expensive ointment and poured it on Jesus. Suddenly the room was filled with the sweet aroma of the ointment. Someone scolded her for such extravagance but Jesus scolded them and honored her. She has anointed me for my burial and what she has done will be remembered wherever the Gospel is preached. An act of adoration, in the middle of a celebration, launched an unknown woman into immortal renown and turned a jar of sweet smelling ointment into embalming fluid.
What acts of ours will be remembered? It could be an act of generosity, a testimony of how Christ touched our life, a kind word to someone who is hurting. One never knows what will be remembered or why. However what we do know is that while no one else on the face of the earth may remember the good things we do – God will remember the things done in his name for the least of these. So you see it not just an act of generosity, or a testimony, or a kind word, it is an extension of God’s goodness to the world. That is why we are called to be his hands and feet, his mouth and words, his presence and his compassion. Grab your alabaster jar and get busy.
The Daily Thought – April 15, 2017
He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” (Ezekiel 37:3 NASB)
The prophet Ezekiel was given the ultimate conundrum, can dead bones live? He gave the only appropriate answer that he could think of, “O Lord, only you know that.” Yes only God can make dead bones live again. Only God can put bone to bone and restore muscle and tissue and organs. Only God can send his breath from the four winds and breathe life into the hopelessly dead. That whole story was to give hope to Israel in exile and to us in the devastations of our lives.
On a beautiful September morning in 2001 America was sent into a national state of mourning, devastation, suffering, and sorrow. It is amazing all that we have can be gone, that which is most precious can be taken away in only seconds. Yet, in the face of the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and in a field in Pennsylvania, lives were lost and thousands were affected. The Good News is that even in the middle of such tragedy we can hold on to the promises of a God who can restore life even to dry bones. We have a hope that cannot die and that cannot be taken away. “Can these bones live?” Because Jesus Christ defeated sin and death those bones can live, oh how they can live.
The Daily Thought – April 13, 2017
“For every time, you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again.” (1 Corinthians 11:26 NLT)
I remember when I was growing up and my family went to Church. I always knew when we walked in and saw the white cloth covering the Elements of Communion that the attendance that day would be lower. Many people would not stay for Church because Holy Communion extended the time for worship and they did not want to be there that long. For me though, it was such a powerful experience that I never wanted to miss it.
Paul reminds us that something happens every time we receive communion. Every time we receive the bread and the cup we are remembering all that Christ did for us. We are remembering his sacrifice, that his body was broken and that his blood was shed. We are remembering that he loved us enough to take the sins of the world upon himself. We are remembering that he died to defeat sin and death and was raised from the dead to proclaim the victory. No matter how often we celebrate Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper, or Eucharist, it is a profound moment in which we remember the ultimate picture of grace, and we are proclaiming it to the world. To tell the truth, you can’t do that too often, now can you?
The Daily Thought – April 12, 2017“As a father has compassion for his children, so the LORD has compassion for those who fear him. For he knows how we were made; he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13-14)
The Psalmist says that God loves us. Moreover God remembers how we are made. That does not mean that God looks past our humanness but rather that God understands it and is patient with us. That does not however give us license to do what we want. Even God has a limit to his patience and He will not keep us from dealing with the consequences of bad choices.
Instead let us learn from those who came before us and live according to God’s will for our lives so that we do not flirt with disaster or stubbornly walk ourselves into suffering because we think what we want is best. To live in God’ will requires an attitude of humility and that begins with the clear acknowledgment that God is God and we are not. This is the kind of God who turns dust into people and people who are dust can’t challenge the wisdom of that kind of God.
The Daily Thought – April 11, 2017
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:6)
The big problem for believers, according to Paul, is that we all have a tendency to fall away from the faith. Paul is clear in saying that the corrective for that all too human tendency is to be rooted in Christ so that we are continuously nurtured, strengthened and guided by Christ.
Paul also says we need to have a continual attitude of thankfulness. You see if we are living thankful lives they will also be obedient and faithful lives. What do you give God thanks for today? We can be thankful for our homes, families, work, and all those things. However, it is far more important that we thank God every day for God’s love toward us. We owe God a debt of gratitude we can never repay. We can however live thankfully.
The Daily Thought – April 10, 2017
“And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this down: Blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, they are blessed indeed, for they will rest from their hard work; for their good deeds follow them!” (Revelation 14:13 NLT)
This is the second blessing in Revelation and at first glance it seems so strange to see any blessing in death. Please note however that the blessing comes from dying in the Lord. What that means is that those who are living in a relationship with Jesus will be blessed when they die because they will live again. How else can your deeds follow you unless you live again? The blessing is that death will come for us but it cannot keep us – we belong to God and God will get the last word even over death.
The good news is that we have a hope that is unshakable, a promise that is unbreakable, and a peace that is unwavering. We are indeed blessed when our lives are rooted in the one who defeated sin and death and who has prepared a place for us. Without faith in the promises and the actions of Christ then we are left with only the notion that this life is all there is. Paul says if we subscribe to that theory we are to be pitied because God has so much more for those who are willing to have faith in him.
The Daily Thought – April 8, 2017
“The Mighty One, God, the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets.” (Psalm 50:1)
The Psalmist repeatedly extols the sovereignty of God. What he realized was that one of the most important ways to keep ourselves in perspective, that is to stay humble, is to be reminded continually that God is God and we aren’t. Moreover, this isn’t just any God either. This God is the only one who can summon the earth.
A big part of our human problem is that we want God to act when and how we want him to. We want God to explain the cause of suffering and to answer the mysteries that we doggedly want to unravel. We want to fix everything based on our sense of justice. Just as God had to remind Job (Job 38) since God is God we don’t get to call the shots – God is in charge. The comfort in that for me is in knowing that while human beings may louse some things up in this world the world is still in the hands of a sovereign God. I believe that this world is far safer in the hands of the God who created this world (and the whole universe) than it could ever be in our hands.
The Daily Thought –
“Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is.” (Amos )
Amos was a farmer before God called him to be a prophet and that probably explains his bluntness in this statement. However, there is a greater truth that we may not see at first glance. There is a way that leads to life and there is a way to leads to death. The way to life is the way of goodness which means the way of God’s will. The way of death is the way of evil which is going against the will of God.
Jesus and Paul taught us that living in God’s will means that we love God and that we love our neighbor. It means that we walk in the way that builds community, that values life, and that focuses on the spiritual life. The way of evil focuses only on the self, what I want, what I need, what matters to me. Mohandas Ghandi once said, “If every Christian lived the way that Jesus taught them to live the whole world would be Christian by now.” You know old Amos was really on to something because it really does make a difference how you live.
The Daily Thought –
“So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above.” (Colossians 3:1)
Paul calls all who come to Christ to a new focus, a new orientation for life. Paul makes it clear that when we come to Christ the old life in us dies and a new life begins. That new life has a decidedly new orientation. Christians are to focus on the things that are above. That means that we focus on the Spiritual things not on the carnal things. That is not to say that we stop loving our spouses or children or friends. On the contrary, it means that we love them all the more because we now see them as a spiritual person should see them – as children of God.
We value what really matters and we no longer submit ourselves to the slavery of this world and all of its glittering temptations. On one occasion, St. Augustine, the first great theologian of the Church, was walking down the street. Prior to his conversion he had lived a very sin filled life. On this day he met an old girl-friend who was a prostitute. She called out, “Augustine it is I!” Augustine heard her and turned to walk away saying, “Yes – but I am no longer me.” Let Jesus be the compass and he will put your life on a new heading.
The Daily Thought – April 4, 2017
“I am the vine, you are the branches.” (John 15:5)
As I reflect on Jesus’ teaching here in John I cannot help but think about the vines I have dealt with. If you have ever had to cut down vines like grapevines, kudzu, or wisteria, you know how they wrap around and cling to other things. However, if you cut a vine it will soon die because it is separated from its roots which supply the food and water that it needs. In same way we must be connected to our roots in God in order for us to be spiritually nourished.
You can take that cut vine and pour water on it but it will not survive because it is disconnected. You can come to church once in a while but that will not sustain you because you are disconnected. I am firmly convinced that real spiritual nourishment happens in small groups where we can encourage one another, study and grow together, and benefit from the fellowship of fellow pilgrims on the faith journey. The sad thing is that without being connected we either suffer from malnutrition, which is a slow death, or from depravation which usually is faster but masked by rationalizations, bitterness, or lethargy. Hook-up and hang on and thrive in God’s goodness today.
The Daily Thought – April 03, 2017
“Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples.” (John 18:2)
Do you have a favorite place to be alone with God? I remember on one occasion being up in the mountains in the Nantahala National Forest. I sat down in a place where the trees opened up to the sky. I could actually hear the silence. What a great place to be alone with God. I have had that same experience watching the sun rise over the Ocean, in the late afternoon quiet of Duke Chapel, and in many other places.
Wherever we may go it is important to spend time with God. You can go into the sanctuary of a church or you may go into the quiet of your bed room. It does not really matter as long as you make yourself available for renewal. Jesus met with his disciples in a garden on many occasions for rest and renewal. It was the last place they would be together until his resurrection. I am sure that they never visited that garden again without that memory being awakened in them. Find some time today to be alone with God – it will be life-changing.
The Daily Thought – April 1, 2017“For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-19 NRSV
April 1 is often called “April Fool’ Day.” It is a fun day when people play jokes on each other. People like to have fun after all and if it is harmless then there is no problem. In some places if you get taken in a practical joke they give you a hat to wear for the day with the word “Fool” written on it. That could be real embarrassing. Paul says that the message of the cross is foolishness and those who believe in it are therefore fools. They believed that no self-respecting savior, no omnipotent god, would allow themselves to suffer and die, especially on a cross. That was the cruelest form of capital punishment the ancient world knew. Yet this foolish message is saving those who believe it.
The answer to the puzzle here is the 19th verse. God was destroying the wisdom of the wise. That is, God was using a different way to redeem and reconcile the world from the way the world would do things. He is the Lord God after all, and can therefore choose the way of deliverance. That cross stands today, not as a symbol of capital punished but as a sign of the depth of God’s love for his creation. As Elizabeth Clephane put it, “Upon that cross of Jesus, mine eyes at times can see, the very dying form of one who suffered there for me; and from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess: the wonder of redeeming love and my unworthiness.”
The Daily Thought – March 31, 2017
“The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.” (Habakkuk 3:19 NLT)
I must admit this is a verse that has always intrigued me. It is the conclusion of a prayer of trust. (Read the whole third chapter). The Prophet has professed his faith in God even if everything falls apart (vs. 17). Then he concludes with this verse. When your strength comes from God you can face any adversity and overcome it. You can scale the heights of extreme difficulty as surefooted as a deer. I remember watching deer scale a mountain in West Virginia right behind the hotel we stayed in. They did it with no difficulty.
We too can overcome the seeming obstacles of life because with God all things are possible. In these unsettling times in which we live we would do well to follow the prophet’s example and put our trust in the strength of God. Throughout the history of the Church there are many examples of people who did just that and they found triumphs in the face of certain defeat. Lean on Christ, and you will not stumble or fall and the mountains won’t seem so daunting after all.
The Daily Thought – March 30, 2017“We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.” (Matthew 11:17 NASB)
Jesus was comparing the leaders of Israel with children who were pouting and refusing to participate with their playmates. They would not follow John the Baptist because he was too strict in his practice of the faith and they would not follow Jesus because he was too liberal in his. It was proof positive of the human inclination (really our sin) of wanting to be in charge, to have it our way, rather than God’s way.
If our generation will be known for anything it will be our narcissistic compulsion to want to be in control of everything. Even Nations play the game – you do it our way or we don’t participate. The truth is that we need to let go and let God. As author Larry Eisenberg has so eloquently put it, “For peace of mind, resign as general manager of the universe.” Jesus does not need generals; he needs servants who surrender control of their lives to him because they believe he knows far better than we do how to lead the Church and transform the world.
The Daily Thought – March 29, 2017
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)
Paul clearly wanted us to understand that living in Christian community, being the body of Christ, means that we intimately share each other’s joys and sorrows. This is far more than just some general kind of empathy or understanding; this is actually caring enough to be a part of other people’s lives and allowing them to be a part of our lives.
You see the cement that holds this community together is love, that kind of love that puts another’s feelings and needs above our own. Jesus and Paul called it Agape, self-giving, sacrificial love. This is the kind of love that is lived out in forgiveness, compassion, and generosity. That is what the Church of Jesus Christ is supposed to be about and that is how Christ’s followers are supposed to live.
The Daily Thought – March 28, 2017
“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18 KJV)
Vision is an extraordinary thing. With vision people can make dreams become reality. With vision people can start with only an idea and achieve great things. However without vision great ideas never get off the ground or out of someone’s head if you prefer. It was vision that drove inventors like Edison and Bell. It was a lack of vision that led the man who invented Gatorade to put it on a shelf because he did not think it would sell. Another man with vision bought the formula and became quite wealthy.
All of this is to say that the Church began with a vision of taking the Gospel to the whole world. The Methodist Movement began with a vision of changing the lives of people in England. Vision has driven the Church and a lack of vision has constrained the Church. What vision do you have for our Church? What vision fills your heart that could become a reality for God? Remember that all things are possible with God. Millard Fuller had a vision for simple affordable housing for the poor and millions of Habitat for Humanity Houses have been built. Just give God your vision and your faith and watch what happens.
The Daily Thought – March 27, 2017
The very first thing that all Jews are taught about their faith is these two verses. They constitute the heart and soul of the Jewish Faith and reflect the perfect summary of the Covenant that God made with Israel. Jesus went so far to say that these two verses, along with Leviticus 19:18 (You shall love your neighbor as yourself) were the heart of the Law.
It reminds us that God is God. As Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “The greatest act of faith is when man decides he is not God.” There is only one God and in order to relate to the God who created us and who has come to redeem us we are to respond with all of the love in our hearts, souls, and minds. This verse also reminds that there is only one God; there can be no room in our lives for idols. But hey, with a God as big, as powerful, as relentless, and as loving as the God described here who needs idols anyway!
The Daily Thought – March 24, 2017
“Be imitators of me as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)
This verse strikes me as an interesting invitation by Paul to Christian living. Paul is not being arrogant here; he is offering the only example for Christian living that was available to those people in Corinth and believe me the Church at Corinth needed an example badly. They were missing the mark of Christian living (Did you know that the Greek word for sin, “harmartia” means, “missing the mark?”) by a mile. So what Paul is saying in effect is, “If you model your life after me you are modeling Christ.”
I wonder if we realize how many people look to us to model Christ in our own lives. That is why we have to watch what we say and do. Our behaviors, our words, even out attitudes confirm that we are either modeling Christ in our lives or we are not. One of the most troublesome and chafing charges leveled against Christians is hypocrisy, saying one thing but doing another. Moreover, many people are looking at us to see if our lives have integrity between what we claim and how we live. Perhaps we need to take a good long look at ourselves today and make sure that the Christ we claim to follow can really be seen in our lives.
The Daily Thought – March 23, 2017
“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24 NKJV
Karl Wallenda strung a high wire over Niagara Falls and walked across to the fascination and joy of a large crowd of spectators. Then he pushed a wheelbarrow across and back. He asked, “How many of you think that I can push this wheelbarrow across the high wire with someone in it?” All of them raised their hands, He called out, “Who will be the first to ride?” People backed up and some even ran away.
Doubts are nothing new. We can intellectually believe something but yet still have doubts. We can believe that a medicine can make us better but have doubts about its safety. We can believe that a politician is sincere but have doubts about their character. We can believe that God loves us but have doubts about whether or not he really cares about our problems.
The man in this Scripture did the right thing – he took his doubts to Jesus. That is what we must all do – take our doubts to Jesus. You see Jesus is not troubled by our doubts, what bothers Jesus are people who do not bring their doubts to him and give him a chance to deal with them. Some people would rather drown clinging to doubt than to reach out in faith and be saved. There is nothing wrong with bringing your doubts to the Lord and saying to him, “Lord I believe but would you help me with my unbelief?”
The Daily Thought – March 22, 2017
“Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” (Ezekiel 37:9)
I remember once, standing in the old historic cemetery in Savannah Georgia when I was only about 7 years old. I stood with my father in front of a monument that honored the soldiers from the Civil War, that were buried there. On that monument was inscribed these very words from Ezekiel, “Come from the fours, O breath, and breath on these slain, that they might rise again!” Those words have stuck with me ever since.
The prophet’s experience in the valley of dry bones was a very compelling one. Where he saw only bones, death, hopelessness, God saw a new beginning. If you read the rest of the story you will see that those dry bones did live. I don’t know why Ezekiel should have been so surprised, God started with only dirt when he made Adam and only one bone when he made Eve. At any rate this is a story of hope.
All of us have those places and times where we need to start over; to be begin again. Where do you need a new beginning in your own life? Is it in a relationship that is broken? Perhaps it is in something you have had planned but never really got around to? Could it be in your relationship with God, where you need to repent and start over? Whatever your need may be we have a God of new beginnings, even if all you got to work with is a bunch of old dry bones!
The Daily Thought – March 21, 2017
“God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
The Apostle Paul had a way with words. This is one of the most packed verses in all of the New Testament. Whole volumes of theology have been written on just this one verse. Although this is very theologically powerful verse it is also very comforting. It reminds us that while God recognized that we were all sinners he loved us in spite of our sin and was willing to send his own son to die for us. God was willing to make so an incredible sacrifice for us so that he could have the kind of relationship with us that he wanted to have and so that we could have the quality of life that he intended for us to live.
In all of the issues that plague our lives in this world we want and need to feel loved. I believe that the reason so many people are hurting these days is that they don’t feel loved by anyone. Yet the Scriptures teach us that we are all loved by God. The problem is that we get so wrapped up in our pain, or hurt, or anger that we cannot see the out-stretched arms of Jesus being extended to us. Close your eyes today and feel yourself wrapped in the loving arms of one who was willing to die to show us how much he loved us.
The Daily Thought – March 20, 2017The Apostle Paul once said, “You know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize. So run to win!” (1 Corinthians 9:24 NCV)
Paul must have been watching the Olympic Athletes train as he was composing this letter to the Corinthian Church. It struck Paul that all of the runners run the race but only one wins the prize. Therefore, we should run to win. Hall of Fame Coach Vince Lombardi once said, “Winning isn’t everything; wanting to win is.” I think Paul is talking about attitude in this passage. He understood that attitude is 99.99% of anything we want to accomplish.
I think all of those teams competing in the NCAA College Basketball Tournament want to win the championship but only one can win it. It will be the team that puts together the most desire, the hardest effort, and the smartest game plan. In the same way we need the desire, the passion to follow Jesus. We need to make every effort to serve him. As for the game plan – Jesus has given us the perfect game plan and that is to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength and love our neighbors as ourselves. If we do that we will all be winners because we will all have a winning attitude!
The Daily Thought – March 18, 2017
“For surely, I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Jeremiah proclaims God’s word of hope for Israel. They found themselves in the throes of bondage in Babylon. The world they knew had been destroyed; their homes, their city, and their Temple was in ruins. Jeremiah comes to speak a word to them in the midst of this despair, when all seemed lost. Jeremiah tells them that God has a plan for them. They have a future with hope.
Do you have a plan for your life? There is an old adage that goes, “If you do not plan, you plan to fail.” God has a plan for our lives. God’s plan is for us to be a part of his Kingdom. God’s plan is for us to serve him and thereby find the most fulfillment and joy that this life has to offer. It’s true that living this way with God is risky, but I would rather risk life with God than risk life without God. I am glad God has a plan for my life – how about you?
Blessings, Dennis Daily Thoughts posted on Facebook
The Daily Thought – March 16, 2017
“Blow the trumpet in Zion.” (Joel 2:1)
Joel’s clarion call to Israel to turn to God contains some powerfully descriptive language. They were to blow the trumpet (shofar or Ram’s horn) to signal that the people were to come together for a solemn (a very serious) meeting. This would be a time of fasting and prayer. This was a matter of such urgency that he called for the elderly and the nursing mothers to come (vs. 16) Israel had failed to listen and that was her ultimate downfall in 587 B.C. The prophets preached their hearts out trying to get the people to listen.
Most people today are listening to CNN, MSNBC, or FOX News. We hear a sense of urgency from all of them because they believe and are invested in the erroneous notion that politics and political leaders are source of salvation. However, we need to be listening urgently to the Word of God for our lives; God is the real source of our salvation. During this season of Lent take some time to listen. Joel is right – it is urgent matter for everyone to pay attention to it. Are you willing to listen? Can you hear the trumpet blowing in Zion?
The Daily Thought – March 15, 2017“Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” (Proverbs 3:5 NLT)
Solomon spoke from experience. When God asked the young king what he most wanted, he replied, “Wisdom that I might govern my people wisely.” He became known as the wisest man on earth. Do you know the difference between knowledge and wisdom? Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in fruit salad
In our arrogance we think we are smart enough to find our own way until we get lost, or the walls cave in, or we discover that we are not really in control of the world. The antidote to the pervasive narcissistic attitude of our contemporary culture is to trust in God and rely on God’s wisdom to guide our lives. Teacher and writer Minnie Louise Harkins once wrote, I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year, “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.” And he replied, “Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God, that shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way!”
The Daily Thought – March 14, 2017
“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well." (Julian of Norwich)Julian of Norwich was an English Mystic in the late 14th and early 15 centuries. She was venerated because of her visions of God and her belief in the grace of God. She had a way putting her thoughts in pithy (short but loaded) sayings like the one quoted here. This one expresses her belief that if we trust in God, if we put our lives in God’s hands, then all shall be well. This is not some kind of naïve optimism, it is rather the insightful faith of a woman who survived a terrible illness. Like the Apostle Paul she had learned to trust God in all things and to be at peace in his never failing love.
Life is tough and can throw some hard things our way. As a Pastor I have walked with many people through the toughest things in their lives and have been through some myself. The suffering of life can either make us bitter or it can make it better. We can either grow closer to God through our experiences or we can grow farther away from God. That does not mean that we take things stoically, but rather as we work through our hurt and anger, which we are entitled to feel) then we let God bring healing to our hearts and lives. When we can surrender the struggles of our lives to God then, as Julian reminds us, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”Blessings, Dennis
The Daily Thought – March 13, 2017“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death -- that is, the devil.” (Hebrews 2:14)
The writer of Hebrews cuts to the chase with this powerful theological statement of the mission of Jesus. Along with coming to redeem humanity Jesus also came to deliver us from Satan’s power. You see Satan held the power of sin and death; he is the ruler of darkness, the father of lies. However, Jesus changed all of that when he defeated sin at the cross and death at the tomb. He won the battle on all fronts. That means that we are forgiven of our sins and that we need not fear death anymore.
There is a reason that Christians have historically embraced a military metaphor for the Christian life (Onward Christian Soldiers) in this world. They knew and we should too that there is a war going on and it is a battle for human souls. While there have been many casualties in the war the good news the victory has already been won. We therefore continue to battle using only love, obedience, and a cross as our weapons in the sure and certain knowledge that if we wage this battle alongside Jesus, and battle his way, then we cannot lose.
The Daily Thought – March 11, 2017
Mark tells us that from the beginning Jesus was inaugurating a movement, a new community of faith. He called people to participate in the movement and to carry it forward. (Please note that they were not called Apostles until later). These disciples were equal in their responsibilities and in their service. The two most important activities for the movement in those early days was preaching (proclaiming the message so others will believe) and casting out demons (removing anything that hindered others from joining the movement).
This movement we now know is the Church. However, it never stopped being a movement or a mission. That means that it is always about being active. Jesus taught that love and service were verbs not nouns and therefore they imply action. We need to realize that Church is not so much about place as it is about movement, action, activity. The passivity of the Church in the 20th Century is why the Church lost its influence. There is a clarion call for the Christian Church to turn back to its roots and get busy. Now there are roles and responsibilities for everyone. Come find your place – I promise you that there is one.
The Daily Thought – March 10, 2017
“The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.” (Psalm 121:8}
It is both comforting and unsettling to know that our lives are lived out under the watchful eye of God. However, the Psalmist makes it clear that God not only watches us he protects us. This means that God is intimately involved in our lives even when we do not notice. That is the nature of God, loving, caring, and attentive. A loving father who watches over his children.
Many people deny God, reject God, or do not invite God into their lives but that does not mean that God stops loving them. On the contrary, God never stops loving us. He gives us every chance to come to him and live with him. The difference is that God never forces us or compels us. We would do well to pause and consider in this Lenten season whether we want to walk intimately with the true guardian of our souls or whether we want to walk without him. I much prefer to walk with the Shepherd; it is always safer that way. Besides, the arrogance of a self-willed life always leads to destruction.
The Daily Thought – March 9, 2017
“You are the people of God; he loved you and chose you for his own. So then, you must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” (Colossians 3:12 TEV)
One day I was making hospital visits and inadvertently forgot to take off my hospital issued Clergy Identification Card, which I wear on a lanyard around my neck. When I got home my son saw it and called to my attention. Later on it occurred to me that there I was with my name and the word Clergy in large letters right out in the open for all to see. If I had said or done anything that was unbecoming for a member of the Clergy what an embarrassment I would have been to God and to the Church. (I am not perfect by the way – but I did have a real good day!)
Paul reminds us that when we remember whose we are, we will we remember who we are. The fact that we belong to God means that our lives should be characterized by compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Think about it; what should the children of God look like? Shouldn’t they look different from the world? If you need any motivation for living this way then consider that Paul gives it to us when he reminds us that we are chosen and loved by God. What other inspiration would you need to live as God’s children?
The Daily Thought – March 8, 2017“I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Philippians 3:7-8)
The Apostle Paul gives us the theological litmus test of whether anything has ultimate value in our lives. If we think it has more value than knowing Jesus Christ then it is worthless. For Paul, our relationship with Jesus Christ has got to be the ultimate value of our lives. That means that there must be an enduring but unwavering standard that takes first place in our lives above all else. Otherwise we will find ourselves on a roller-coaster ride of going down with guilt and shame and coming up with grace and mercy.
Having the one standard makes it easy to deal with all of the allurements, opportunities, and questions of life. It is not that everything else is bad, it might be quite good and beneficial, but nothing else in life should take the place of God as the priority of our lives. We don’t really intend for it to happen – but when other things start taking hold of our lives, family, work, leisure activities, social clubs, it becomes easy for them to slip into first place. That is why we must make an intentional effort to realign our priorities every day so that we keep God first. The only thing we have that is eternal is our relationship with God. Everything else either gets passed down, since we cannot take it with us, or goes in the land-field.
The Daily Thought – March 7, 2017
“The LORD will keep you from all harm - he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” (Psalm 121:7-8)
David spent his early life as a shepherd who looked after his father’s flocks of sheep. He understood the importance of protecting the sheep at all times. The shepherd risked his life to protect the sheep against all predators. That meant that the shepherd had to face all kinds of dangerous animals that threatened the sheep and the shepherd. The shepherd had to lead the flocks to water and to grass to graze.
In the same way David envisions God’s care over us. We
can live within the protective watch of God’s attentive love or we can go it
alone. Writer Mary Gardiner Brainard once said, “I would rather walk with God
in the dark than go alone in the light.” It really is our choice. I want to
live in God’s flock because he alone can lead us to green pastures and still
waters. I want to be in God’s flock because even when I have to face all of the
dangers in this world, and that includes the valley of the shadow of death, I
have a Good Shepherd who will go with me. Remember, this is the Good Shepherd
who has already defeated evil and overcome death. That is the way to find that
peace that passes all human understanding.
The Daily Thought – March 6, 2017
“For by him [Jesus] all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.” (1 Corinthians 1:16
I think the thing that strikes me most in Paul’s incredible comment in Colossians 1 is not that Jesus created all things, as powerful as that is, but that all things he created he created for himself. That means that all things in creation have a purpose beyond just existing. That includes you and me by the way. That Jesus created us means that we matter to Jesus and that we have an intrinsic worth way beyond what we can imagine.
It also means that since we were created for a purpose then we have a purpose outside of ourselves. Our purpose is to serve our creator by loving him, glorifying him, and caring for all of his creation. In order to care for God’s creation, we have to care for land, for the air, for the water, for the animals, and for each other. Moreover, it means that we have a purpose that gives meaning and definition to our lives. We do not just exist on this earth, we have been entrusted with it and therefore we are all in this together – together that is – with God.
The Daily Thought – March 4, 2017
“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?” (1 John 3:16-17)
The Church is all about mission; it is how we live out our faith in the world. John gives us the basis for all of our mission endeavors. Whether we are helping people in the US or in Rwanda, it is for the same reason. We are inspired, motivated, compelled to live out the love of God that is in us. For Christians love is always a verb. It denotes actions not feelings. It means that we are about serving God not being served
Perhaps like no other time since the days of the Apostles has the world been in such need of people living out a genuine, heartfelt, self-sacrificial love. It really is what defines us and it is what sets the Church apart in this world. In Chicago a little boy walked a long distance to a particular Church. He had to pass several others Churches. When he was asked why he walked all the way to that one Church he replied, “Because they really love a fellow over there.” Friends, let us pray that people say that about the Church once more – “They really love you over there.Blessings, Dennis
The Daily Thought – March 3, 2017
“It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to
be hasty and miss the way.” (Proverbs
What are you passionate about? Jesus said that those
who choose to follow him will be passionate about sharing the story of his
passion for sinners, for the outcast, the broken, the sick, the poor, for
widows and orphans, and those possessed by demons and for reaching out to them
in love. They will be passionate about working to make a difference in the
lives of others. The followers of Christ are passionate about living out their
faith in such a way that others can see the passion of Christ coming through
them. Jesus said it this way, “You shall love the Lord your God with all
your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your
mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27 ESV) Now there is something to get passionate
The Daily Thought – March 2, 2017“In those days John the Baptist came ... saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matthew 3:1-2)
The season of Lent is always about repentance. Unfortunately repentance has gotten a bad rap in recent years. Obviously if we talk about repentance we have to admit that there are things we need to repent of. We all know what they are (if we are honest with ourselves). Repentance does not mean that we have to stand up and read a whole list of our sins. It is enough that we honestly face them and confess them to God in an act of repentance. To come to terms with our sins means that we also recognize that we need to repent and to recognize that God forgives sins and redeems us.
The other side of this is that repentance is good news. If God did not forgive sins then it would do us no good to repent of them. Jesus came to deliver us out of sin into new life. Remember, “Jesus did not come to make good people better; he came to make dead people alive.” (Ravi Zacharias) What is there in your life that you need to repent to God for? Take some time to look deep within your own hearts and get those things out in the open so God can wash them away. Our sins may cause us to cry tears of sorrow, but God will transform them into tears of joy. Blessings, Dennis
The Daily Thought – March 1, 2017 – Ash Wednesday
“For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”.” (Genesis 3:19 ESV)
Lent always begins with Ash Wednesday. Traditionally on this day Services are held and worshippers are marked with the ashes made from Palms from Palm Sunday a year ago, which are usually applied in the shape of a cross on the foreheads of worshippers as the Minister says,“Remember, you are dust and to dust you shall return; repent and believe the Gospel. It is a powerful and moving service of worship.
It is also a startling moment to remember our mortality. However, this moment is not meant to cast us into a well of depression. On the contrary it is meant to remind us that we need to look deep within ourselves, repent of where we are failing to live faithfully with God, and to really experience the overwhelming joy of Easter. I hope that you will pause to consider your mortality and your sinfulness. I also hope that you will experience fresh and new the wonderfully transforming grace of God. May this be the Lent that forever change your lives.
Rev. Dennis R. Sheppard's Daily Thoughts for today on Facebook here.......
Bible Study with Rev. Dr. Dennis R. Sheppard is held weekly on Wed. at 6:30pm at First UMC Denton NC Sound tracks Here..
Why Would We Trade ,Psalm 81:1, 10-16: Jeremiah 2: 4-13, Message by Rev.Dennis Sheppard
"You Cannot Stop God", Jeremiah 1:4-10 , Luke 13: 10-17, Aug.21st. 2016 on YouTube
" The Crisis We Face" , Scripture: Isaiah 5: 1-7, Luke 12: 49-56, message on YouTube by Dennis Sheppard Aug. 14th.2016