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What the Lord Wants

Micah 6: 6-8 “6 With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, wi...

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Worship in Spirit and in Truth


Exodus 37: 17-22

“17 They made the lampstand of pure gold. They hammered out its base and shaft, and made its flowerlike cups, buds and blossoms of one piece with them. 18 Six branches extended from the sides of the lampstand—three on one side and three on the other. 19 Three cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms were on one branch, three on the next branch and the same for all six branches extending from the lampstand. 20 And on the lampstand were four cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms. 21 One bud was under the first pair of branches extending from the lampstand, a second bud under the second pair, and a third bud under the third pair—six branches in all. 22 The buds and the branches were all of one piece with the lampstand, hammered out of pure gold. 23 They made its seven lamps, as well as its wick trimmers and trays, of pure gold. 24 They made the lampstand and all its accessories from one talent of pure gold.”

The Israelites, living in the wilderness, were decorating the Tabernacle with very elaborate and ornate furnishings.  This would be where God would live, they thought; where they would worship.

Jesus told the Samaritan woman in John 4 that “a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem... Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

God can be worshiped in any place at any time, as the Jews discovered in exile; as the people who listened to Jesus preach on the hilltops, and on the seashores discovered; as John Wesley discovered when he was barred from preaching in churches; as we have discovered during this pandemic.

Going to church is a good thing, but not having a church is not an excuse for not worshiping God.  We do not need gold furnishing to worship God.  We don’t need a specific place or location. 

All we need is a willing spirit and a desire for God.


May the love of Christ be with you,

Rev. Eric Lanier (Retired)


Monday, October 30, 2023

Radiance

Exodus 34: 33-35

“33 When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. 34 But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35 they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord.”

The Israelites knew that Moses had been with God when they saw that his face shown with the glory of God’s presence.  They knew that what he told them had been told to him by God.

Our radiance, as Christians, is not a glowing face so bright that we have to cover it with a veil.  Our radiance is a life lived in imitation of Christ; a life of love;  a life of service to others; a life of lifting others up.

When such a person speaks, there is no question that they have been with God.


May the love of Christ be with you,

Rev. Eric Lanier (Retired)


Saturday, October 28, 2023

Worship


Exodus 31: 12-14

“12 Then the Lord said to Moses, 13 “Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy. 14 “‘Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it is to be put to death; those who do any work on that day must be cut off from their people.”

Going to church is the most common way we observe the Lord’s Day.  Why do we go to church?  Is it because our parents went to church?  Is it because we feel guilty when we do not?

The Israelites were told that they would be put to death or at the very least ostracized if they did not observe the Sabbath.  There was great societal pressure for them to make the Lord’s Day holy.

The New Covenant, sealed with the blood of Christ, is written on our hearts.  We worship God, read scripture, fellowship with other Christians, perform acts of kindness and service, and sacrifice our time and resources, not from any sense of obligation, but because of our love of God and Christ; because we want to know and have a deeper relationship with them.

For Christians, the threat of death or social isolation are not needed in order for us to set aside time for God.  God’s Holy Spirit dwells within us.


May the love of Christ be with you,

Rev. Eric Lanier (Retired)


Friday, October 27, 2023

The Search


Exodus 28: 30

“Also put the Urim and the Thummim in the breastpiece, so they may be over Aaron’s heart whenever he enters the presence of the Lord. Thus Aaron will always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the Lord.”

Remember the Magic 8-Ball that you had growing up in the 60’s?  If you wanted to know if he or she loved you, or if your team would win the game, you shook it up and an answer would appear in the magic window.  Sometimes it would say “yes”, sometimes it would say “no” and often it would say “maybe” or “answer unknown”.  Many times you shook the 8-ball until the answer you wanted appeared in the window.

Scholars are not sure what the Urim and Thummim were, but they are pretty sure that they were used to answer whether a person was guilty or innocent, and to answer yes or no questions.  The answers yielded by the Urim and Thummim were thought to be from God.

God is not a Magic 8-Ball.   His answers are rarely yes or no.  People on the spiritual path know that there are hardly any simple answers to spiritual questions.  God wants us to work and dig and scratch our heads, and study sometimes for years before we understand even part of the answer.

Our spiritual journey as Christians does not end when we find Christ.  Our journey, our search, to know Christ and to know God actually begins with finding Christ, and is not over until the day we die.

And, at the end of the journey, when we meet God, we will know that it was not so much the answers to our questions, but it was the search that was important.


May the love of Christ be with you,

Rev. Eric Lanier (Retired)


Thursday, October 26, 2023

Servant for Life

Exodus 21: 5-6

5 “But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ 6 then his master must take him before the judges.  He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.”

In biblical times, some people became indentured servants in order to pay off some sort of debt that they owed.  After a period of time, their period of servitude ended, their debt was paid, and they were free to go.  Some, however, chose to remain with their master and as a sign of this agreement their ear was pierced with an awl. 

I grew up in the church, but the faith that I thought I had was not mine, it was my mother’s and the faith of the church that I attended.  I was in the church involuntarily, serving involuntarily.

It was not until I was an adult that the faith became mine.  It is then that I voluntarily submitted myself to the Lord and began to serve with my whole heart.  I serve now from a spirit of love and not from a spirit of indebtedness.

In Psalm 100:2 we read that we are to “Serve the Lord with gladness.  Come before him with joyful songs.”  This joy of service is the sign of a servant of Christ.


May the love of Christ be with you,

Rev. Eric Lanier (Retired)


Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Mentors


Exodus 18: 24-26

“24 Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. 25 He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 26 They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves.”

I had a good father-in-law.  He taught me about flowers and plants, and showed me how to garden.  Most importantly, he showed me what Christianity is all about.  I didn’t always listen to him, but I should have.

Moses had a good father-in-law.  He taught Moses the benefits of delegation.  Through Jethro, Moses learned that he didn’t have to do everything himself. 

God leads us to people that we need in order to grow spiritually, and, in turn, He leads people to us. God led Moses to Jethro so that Moses would grow into the leader that He needed him to be.  Moses later became a mentor to Joshua.  

Who is it that mentored you in your Christian life?  Who is God leading into your life so that you can show them the way?


May the love of Christ be with you,

Rev. Eric Lanier (Retired)


Tuesday, October 24, 2023

The Remnant


Leviticus 26: 44-45

“44 Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them or abhor them so as to destroy them completely, breaking my covenant with them. I am the Lord their God. 45 But for their sake I will remember the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be their God. I am the Lord.”

God began His work with Israel through a covenant with one person, a man named Abraham. From Abraham a nation was born.  And these people were to be God’s people, the light shining in the darkness showing other nations the path to God.

Reading through the Old Testament, you find that the Israelites had a history of turning away from God, suffering, turning back to God, prospering, and beginning the cycle over again, and again.  

Each time, a remnant of them survived, and God renewed His covenant with them.  Eventually, Christ was born from such a remnant.

Christ’s ministry began with just twelve disciples.  They traveled to small villages and towns, healing, preaching, performing acts of kindness.

The work of God begins with small things; small groups, small gestures, small actions.  Eventually these small things have great results.  

God uses the small, the remnant, for the good of the whole world.


May the love of Christ be with you,

Rev. Eric Lanier (Retired)


Monday, October 23, 2023

Each Day a Jubilee

Leviticus 25: 10-12

“10 Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan. 11 The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines. 12 For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields.”

The Israelite jubilee was a year of liberation, freedom, and rest; a time when things were set right. Jubilee redeemed slaves and restored them to their families, redeemed family land that had been sold to pay debts, and restored fertility to the soil through a much needed rest from planting.  

Sadly, the Jewish law could legislate material freedom and rest but not spiritual freedom or rest.  Christ came into this world to give us spiritual rest; freedom from sin and death, a thing that no law could ever do.

Rest in the fact that through Christ we are redeemed.  Through Christ our relationship with God is restored.  Through Christ we have eternal life.  

With Christ, each day is a jubilee. 


May the love of Christ be with you,

Rev. Eric Lanier (Retired)


Saturday, October 21, 2023

Forgiveness


Leviticus 24: 10-16

“10 Now the son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father went out among the Israelites, and a fight broke out in the camp between him and an Israelite. 11 The son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the Name with a curse; so they brought him to Moses. (His mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri the Danite.) 12 They put him in custody until the will of the Lord should be made clear to them. 13 Then the Lord said to Moses: 14 “Take the blasphemer outside the camp. All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him. 15 Say to the Israelites: ‘Anyone who curses their God will be held responsible; 16 anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord is to be put to death. The entire assembly must stone them. Whether foreigner or native-born, when they blaspheme the Name they are to be put to death.”

Well...this seems a bit harsh, doesn’t it, especially in light of the New Testament”s emphasis on love, forgiveness and mercy.  Why is it that Moses cannot say to this brash young man, “Go and sin no more”?  Could it possibly be that the circumstances of the world, and specifically the Israelites, at that time were different and such actions were required for their identity and survival?

The Israelites were to be the chosen people; the chosen nation; the light of the world to other nations.  As the chosen people they were to live lives that were set apart, lives that would show other people the one true God.  Thus, God was to be their focus, the center of their identity, without whom they would not survive either as a people or as a nation.

In those circumstances, great reverence was to be shown to God.  Showing disrespect to God in any way threatened the very existence of their nation.  And, in the end, it was this disrespect and disregard that led to their nation’s dissolution.

With the coming of Christ, all who believe are the children of God, Jews and gentiles alike.  The New Covenant is written on our hearts and not on stone.  Forgiveness, mercy and second chances are a large part of Christ’s message to the world and of the New Covenant.  Our love for God is the center of our faith. Our respect and reverence for God flows from our love rather than from our fear. 

And if someone were to disrespect God, we would say to him or her, “Now, go and sin no more.” (John 8:11).


Rev. Eric Lanier (Retired)

Memorial United Methodist Church


Friday, October 20, 2023

Pausing


Leviticus 23:3

 “‘There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a sabbath to the Lord.”

The Israelites tried to interpret and live according to this command in a literal way, but there were always exceptions to be made or loopholes that could be found.  

Sunday, for Christians, is not really the biblical sabbath day, but is the day we set aside to remember God’s grace and mercy, Christ’s sacrifice, the resurrection, salvation, and eternal life.  We do this by gathering in churches on the day we have designated as the day of the resurrection.

Church is important and being there is important.  But, there are always people who have jobs that require them to work on Sunday, or people who have to be away or who are traveling..  The important thing in these cases, then, is to remember to set aside some time each week for God, as much time as if you went to church.  

Take a pause.  Remember Christ’s sacrifice.  Remember that you are a forgiven child of God. Read scripture.  Pray.  And give God the glory. 

May the Love of Christ Be With You

Rev. Eric Lanier (Retired)


Thursday, October 19, 2023

The Perfect Lamb

Leviticus 16: 6-10

“6 “Aaron is to offer the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household. 7 Then he is to take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 8 He is to cast lots for the two goats—one lot for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat. 9 Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the Lord and sacrifice it for a sin offering. 10 But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement by sending it into the wilderness as a scapegoat.”

Have you ever felt that people were blaming you for something someone else did?  Were you ever asked to take the blame for someone else?

By casting lots, Aaron, the High Priest, had to select one goat for sacrifice as a sin offering, and one goat, the “scapegoat, on whose head the priest laid all the sins of the people.  Afterward, the scapegoat was sent into the wilderness where it presumably died.

Christ died for our sins.  All our sins were laid upon him.  The time he spent on the cross was the wilderness for him.  The first time he faced the wilderness he overcame it by refusing to be tempted.  He overcame the wilderness of the cross by forgiving those who crucified him.

The scapegoat of the High Priest was in reality God’s perfect lamb.  The lamb was resurrected. And sin and death were defeated once and for all.  


May the Love of 'Christ Be With You,

Rev. Eric Lanier (Retired)


Wednesday, October 18, 2023

The Transformation


Genesis 33

Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men; so he divided the children among Leah, Rachel and the two female servants. 2 He put the female servants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear.3 He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother.  4 But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.”

Jacob and Esau could never have reconciled without the transforming hand of God.

Esau had sworn to kill Jacob.  Jacob had hidden himself from Esau for 20 years.  During that span, God had worked in both of their hearts, giving Esau the ability to put aside his pride, anger, and his quest for vengeance, and giving Jacob the courage to accept responsibility for his actions and the vulnerability to seek to be reconciled with his brother.

God is a transforming God who can transform us despite the things that have transpired in our pasts.  God can use our past to inform our future. He can take something tragic, such as a broken relationship, and use it for His good purpose.

 May the love of Christ be with you

Rev. Eric Lanier (Retired)



Tuesday, October 17, 2023

The Spiritual Struggle


Genesis 32: 22-26

22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. 28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”


We all want things to go smoothly in our lives.  We don’t like problems and there are times when we ask God, “Why?”

Jacob had a large problem in front of him by the name of Esau.  This is a problem he created and now Esau was coming to meet him with 400 men.  Jacob of course was worried that he and his loved ones would be killed (as Esau had sworn to do).  

The struggle between Jacob and the stranger all during that long night symbolizes, in many ways ,Jacob’s struggle with Esau, his struggle with himself, and his struggle with God.  Jacob’s hip was injured and he walked with a limp.  But I am sure each time he felt a twinge of pain, he remembered that fateful night.

Our wounds from our spiritual struggles can serve as reminders that God was present during our darkest times; reminders of our times of deepest need and deepest fear and of finding God even in those depths.


May the love of Christ be with you

Rev. Eric Lanier (Retired)


Monday, October 16, 2023

The Spiritual Path


Genesis 27: 41

41 Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”

Have you ever wondered what would have happened if Esau had killed his brother, Jacob?  Would that have solved Esau’s problems or would it have compounded them?

As it turned out, Esau, over the course of time, found it in his heart to forgive Jacob.  Both lived productive, prosperous lives.  Both founded nations.  Would any of this have been possible if Esau had exacted his revenge?

Forgiveness is the spiritual path.  Revenge is the material, earthly path.  One path leads to God.  The other path leads away from God. 

The choice is ours.  


May the love of Christ be with you

Rev. Eric Lanier (Retired)


Saturday, October 14, 2023

God Never Deserts Us


Genesis 27: 18-24

18 He went to his father and said, “My father.”  “Yes, my son,” he answered. “Who is it?”19 Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau, your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.”20 Isaac asked his son, “How did you find it so quickly, my son?”“The Lord your God gave me success,” he replied. 21 Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Come near so I can touch you, my son, to know whether you really are my son Esau or not.” 22 Jacob went close to his father Isaac, who touched him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” 23 He did not recognize him, for his hands were hairy like those of his brother Esau; so he proceeded to bless him. 24 “Are you really my son Esau?” he asked. “I am,” he replied.”

Even though Jacob’s mother hatched the plan to deprive Esau of his blessing, as soon as Jacob said, “ I am Esau your firstborn” Jacob was as guilty as his mother in this lie.  Before he uttered those words, Jacob had a choice, to walk the path of truth or to walk the path of the lie.  He chose to lie.  

As a result, he had to flee; to leave his mother and his possessions behind; to journey to a foreign land that he had never seen.  Jacob met God on this journey and his life changed. He was transformed from a conniving mama's boy to a man who walked with God.

We may think that our sins cause God to desert us, or that they make us beyond the reach of God.  Neither of these is true.  

God touched Jacob’s heart.  He can touch ours.  


May the love of Christ be with you

Rev. Eric Lanier (Retired)


Friday, October 13, 2023

The Material Struggle


Genesis 25:29-34

29 Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country,famished. 30 He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.)  31 Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”32 “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?” 33 But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright.”

Have you ever been so hungry that you thought you would die?  Have you ever smelled a stew that you would sell your future possessions to eat?  Esau walked into the perfect storm, and walked away a poorer man.  Jacob, knowing that Esau would be hungry, had the stew waiting and used the opportunity for his personal gain.

Esau was a man who was led by his passions and was focused only on the moment.   Jacob was a man who was led by his cunning and scheming and was willing to exploit the weaknesses of others, even his brother and Father.   Esau does not seem to regret what he lost and Jacob does not seem to regret his ill-gotten gain.

Both Esau and Jacob are lost and only concerned with the material struggle.  But it is only through the  spiritual struggle that they will find salvation.

And so it is with us.


May the love of Christ be with you

Rev. Eric Lanier (Retired)


Thursday, October 12, 2023

God Knows No Favorites


Genesis 25: 24-28

“24 When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. 25 The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.” 27 The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. 28 Isaac, who had a taste for wild game,loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.”

Seeing and holding your child for the first time is quite an experience.  For nine months you have thought about that moment.  But, nothing can prepare you for the unconditional love that comes pouring forth from your heart when you hold your child to your breast.  

Rebeckah, Isaac’s wife, gave birth to twins who were vastly different in appearance and in personality. As they grew, Esau became more like his father and Jacob became more like his mother and, as a result, Esau was Isaac’s favorite child and Jacob was Rebecca’s favorite child.  Jacob and Esau struggled and fought for love and recognition for most of their early lives. 

God’s love is not like human love.  Scripture tells us that God loved us before we were born. God’s love knows no favorites, and  extends to all people in all countries, of all races and ethnicities.

We are all worthy of God’s love, and all are invited to become members of His kingdom.


May the love of Christ be with you

Rev. Eric Lanier (Retired)


Wednesday, October 11, 2023

God Knows No Favorites

Genesis 25: 24-28

“24 When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. 25 The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.” 27 The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. 28 Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.”

Seeing and holding your child for the first time is quite an experience.  For nine months you have thought about that moment.  But, nothing can prepare you for the unconditional love that comes pouring forth from your heart when you hold your child to your breast.  

Rebeckah, Isaac’s wife, gave birth to twins who were vastly different in appearance and in personality. As they grew, Esau became more like his father and Jacob became more like his mother and, as a result, Esau was Isaac’s favorite child and Jacob was Rebecca’s favorite child.  Jacob and Esau struggled and fought for love and recognition for most of their early lives. 

God’s love is not like human love.  Scripture tells us that God loved us before we were born. God’s love knows no favorites, and  extends to all people in all countries, of all races and ethnicities.

We are all worthy of God’s love, and all are invited to become members of His kingdom.


May the love of Christ be with you

Rev. Eric Lanier (Retired)