Being Used by the Master Carpenter by PASTOR DICK RILEY Rockford United Methodist Church Once upon a time, some tools at a carpenter’s bench were having a conference. Someone complained that Mr. Hammer was making too much noise and ought to leave. “Well!” said Mr. Hammer. “If I have to leave, then Mr. Screwdriver should leave, too, because all he does is turn things around and around!” “At least I try to go into some depth,” said Mr. Screwdriver. “On the other hand, Miss Plane is only concerned with superficial appearances.” “Excuse me!” Miss Plane retorted. “I may be concerned with appearances, but at least I’m not like Sister Ruler who is always making judgments—as if she were the only one who is right, or like Brother Sandpaper who is always so rough and can rub you the wrong way!” As the discussion grew more and more heated, the Carpenter from Nazareth walked in. Putting on his apron, He went to work making a pulpit from which God’s Word could be shared. He used the hammer, the screwdriver, the plane, the ruler, and the sandpaper. And under His guidance and authority, the tools began to turn very rough pieces of wood into a most beautiful work. When everything was done, Mr. Saw remarked, “Friends, I see that we are all made perfect in the hands of the Carpenter.” And, humbly, everyone agreed. Or, as the Apostle Paul shared, “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.” (I Corinthians 12:4-6) Question: Are you letting the Master Carpenter use you and your gifts? I encourage you to go to a church of your choice this week, and see how our Lord can use you!
Pastor Dick Riley
Giving thanks for freedom! by PASTOR DICK RILEY Rockford United Methodist Church Once upon a time, a man found the barn where Satan kept all his seeds of sin stored. In bag after bag, seeds were stored that were destined to grow in the hearts of people everywhere. There were seeds of envy and greed, seeds of hatred and lust, and seeds of bitterness and idolatry. In row after row, the man found all the different seeds of sin, and then, suddenly, Satan himself entered the barn. The man looked at Satan and then looked at the many bags of seed—the seeds of sin. “So, what do you think of my bags of seed?” Satan asked. “Tell me,” the man asked. “Will these terrible seeds—will they grow anywhere?” Reluctantly, Satan frowned and admitted that there was one place in which his seeds of sin would not grow. “And where is that?” asked the man. “My seeds of sin,” said Satan, “will never grow in the heart of a grateful person.” This coming week, we will celebrate our nation’s 236th birthday! What a blessing! What a gift! What a time to celebrate all of the freedoms that we enjoy in this great land of ours! And what a wonderful time to pause and, with grateful hearts, thank the Lord our God, worshiping Him in the church of your choice, and, as the Apostle Paul reminds us, “giving Him thanks and praise” (I Thess. 5). Have a great and grateful Fourth of July week!
Our Easter Attitudes by PASTOR DICK RILEY Rockford United Methodist Church The day of Easter came and went this past Sunday, but the celebration of Easter is something that can happen all year long! Easter, you see, is an historical even, but it’s even more than that. Easter is also a celebration of Christ’s victory over sin and death, but it’s even more than that! Easter is really about an attitude. In fact, it’s about four different attitudes: 1. Easter is an attitude toward life. The disciples were convinced, following the resurrection, that they could turn the world upside-down—that nothing could stop them. Why? Because they knew—they had experienced—that Jesus Christ was alive—risen from the dead—and because that was true, nothing that they proposed would be impossible. Easter is the conviction that, because Christ lives, I too, through faith in Him, shall also live! What a great attitude toward life! 2. Easter is also an attitude toward death. We all know that death is real, but the Bible teaches us—and in Easter, we celebrate—that death is not final; it is not the Last Word in our lives. Life, true and abundant life, is available to all through our faith in Him who rose from the dead on that Easter morning. What a great attitude toward death! 3. Easter is also an attitude toward the future. Christians know that Easter is a foretaste of what the world ought to be—a foretaste of the Final Victory over death and despair, over hatred and hostility, over pain and poverty, and over sin and sadness. What a great attitude toward the future! 4. Easter is, finally, an attitude toward God, being aware, as Mary was in the Garden that Easter morning, of that Unseen Presence—that Holy Presence—in our lives, and knowing that He will always be there, with us and for us! What a great attitude to have toward God! I encourage you to worship this week in the church of your choice, and continue celebrating our Easter attitudes!
Forgetting the past, looking forward by PASTOR DICK RILEY Rockford United Methodist Church A pastor from Atlanta once said that it always bothered him in a track meet when the runners were running the hurdles and would knock one or two of the hurdles down. He said that he felt as if they should go back and straighten up the hurdles they had knocked over. He said that if his mother were coaching the team, she would certainly make the runners go back and straighten up the knocked-over hurdles! It was important to her, you see, that the runners leave things “neat and in order” for the next runners. “But,” said the pastor, “hurdlers who win the gold medals don’t look back. They ignore the fallen hurdles and just keep on running to the finish line.” I don’t know if the Apostle Paul ever ran the hurdles in a race, but I do know that he understood one of the basic principles of Christian living. He wrote: “I am still not all that I should be, but I am focusing all of my energies on this one thing: forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us,” (Phil. 3:13-14). As Christians, we are called to continually grow in our personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and the only way that that is possible is for us to accept the grace of God’s holy forgiveness which He offers us through our faith in Christ our Lord. This will set us free from all of our failures of the past. As we begin this new year of 2011, my prayer for all of us is that we will accept the grace that Christ provides so that we can quit worrying about our mistakes and failures, and, instead, focus on our growing and personal relationship with Him. You see, when grace and growth are the driving forces of our lives, we can be sure that we will truly have a happy new year!
Christmas: a more joyous occasion by PASTOR DICK RILEY Rockford United Methodist Church Once upon a time, just a few days before Christmas, two men who were neighbors decided to go sailing while their wives went Christmas shopping. While the two men were out on the water, a storm arose. The water became very rough and both men struggled to keep the sailboat under control. As they maneuvered their way toward land, they suddenly hit a sandbar and the boat became grounded. Both men jumped overboard and began to push and shove with all their strength, trying to get the boat into deeper water. With his legs almost knee-deep in the sandy mud, the waves bouncing him hard against the side of the boat, the wind ripping into his face, and the water chilling his bones, the one man turned to his buddy and said with a knowing grin, “This sure beats Christmas shopping, doesn’t it?” I can’t help but think how often, not only Christmas shopping, but also the whole Christmas season becomes an experience in frustration, exhaustion and depression. Too often, the joy of Christmas is lost because our focus becomes centered, not on the Christ whose birth we celebrate, but rather on our desire to have joy—whatever it costs us! As we move closer and closer to the Christmas celebration, perhaps if we made a more conscious effort to put Christ first—to put Christ above everything else—Christmas might become the most joyous occasion in our lives and in the lives of those around us. It might actually become that most joyous occasion that God intended. Let’s try it! Go to the church of your choice this weekend, and begin to get in the spirit!