Being Plumb

Sunday July 14


Psalm 82

A Plea for Justice

God has taken his place in the divine council;
    in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
“How long will you judge unjustly
    and show partiality to the wicked?
Give justice to the weak and the orphan;
    maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
    deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
    they walk around in darkness;
    all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

I say, “You are gods,
    children of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, you shall die like mortals,
    and fall like any prince.”

Rise up, O God, judge the earth;
    for all the nations belong to you!

Amos 7:7-17

This is what he showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. And the Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said,

“See, I am setting a plumb line
    in the midst of my people Israel;
    I will never again pass them by;
the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate,
    and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste,
    and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”

 “Being Plumb”

I like Jesus am the son of a carpenter.  This does not add to my sense of righteousness, only my understanding of many of the illustrations in the Word.  This is because I am familiar with the tools and terminologies within that ancient born trade.  One of those tools which always fascinated me is the plumb bob.  I am fascinated by it because of its funny name and its simple construction.  It is perhaps one of the simplest yet important building tools in the ancient world and therefore human history.  Often called a plumb line, as it is here in Amos, it consists of a pointed weight tied to the end of long string which can be lowered beside a structure, typically a wall, to measure whether it is true vertical.  This was important; especially in the integrity of tall walls like those in fortresses and temples.  The plumb line could also be used to determine center and, when attached to a triangle, the angle of a slope.  Though it was and still is a simple tool, it is also very versatile.

Because of the plumb line’s ability to check for trueness, it is very fitting that God uses it as an illustration of His ability to measure the “trueness” of the people of Israel.  The people under a corrupt king had strayed from the straight path of righteousness and were heeding false prophesy and practicing idolatry; among other unrighteous behaviors and practices.  This is why Amos was sent in.  He was not a traditional prophet or even a professional one; he was simply a faithful, practical, and plainspoken farmer who had the courage to follow God’s call on his life.  Instead of God sending a “suit and tie” preacher from First Church to carry His message, God sent an overall wearing farmer from the local country store to do it.  Of course, Amos being a practical man would have a better understanding of the message he was carrying than any well-bred clergyman.  God needed a simple man to carry a simple message; straighten up or perish.

If one reads Amos, they quickly realize it is perhaps the first real treatise on social holiness and justice.  The people of Israel, especially its capital Samaria, were corrupt and sinful.  If they had the verses of Psalm 82 before them, they were not heeding their warning.  They favored wealth and fame over hard work and honesty.  They were not unlike many in America today who seem to think those with money and power are better than those without.  They would feel right at home in today’s society where pro athletes and media types are emulated and the “everyman type” is often ignored.  Of course, as you might imagine, it was even worse than this.  The wealthy and powerful were mistreating the poor in very uncivilized ways and God had had enough of their behavior.  This is why God sent Amos to chastise them and worn them to change their “crooked” ways.

This is an important message for us today as we see the way our society works.  The “American Dream” can quickly become a nightmare as we are drawn in by the lure of wealth and power.  This can lead to “crooked” ways which destroy lives and futures of both the victims and the perpetrators.  Our prisons are full of those who not only committed street crimes but so-called “white-collar” crimes all in pursuit of a “better” life filled with wealth and privilege.  Don’t think for a moment that Martha Stewart and Bernie Madoff aren’t on the same list as our local drug dealers and thieves.  The nature of different crimes does not separate them in spirit; theft is theft and destroying lives is destroying lives, no matter the method or social class of the offender.  

This brings us to the point of this discussion; how do we measure up when God holds the plumb line beside of us?  Are we straight or do we have crooked walls and/or leaning towers in our lives?  God tests us and measures us by the same standards He used on Ancient Israel and on everyone else.  This is not to say we spend our time stealing, cheating, or participating in other illegal behaviors.  However, it does beg the question of how we stack up morally in our personal lives?  Our public lives?  Are we straight, moral, righteous; or are our ways crooked and leaning?  Do we “give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute;
Rescue the weak and the needy?”  Are we “being plumb” in our thoughts and deeds?

Pastor Mark Templeton


Sunday May 26 Memorial Sunday

Scriptures: Psalm 67

May God be gracious to us and bless us
    and make his face to shine upon us,
that your way may be known upon earth,
    your saving power among all nations.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
    let all the peoples praise you.

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
    for you judge the peoples with equity
    and guide the nations upon earth.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
    let all the peoples praise you.

The earth has yielded its increase;
    God, our God, has blessed us.
May God continue to bless us;
    let all the ends of the earth revere him.

John 14:23-29

23 Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.

25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.


“Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you; Jesus Christ and the American G. I. One died for your soul; the other for your freedom.” 

This is a quote often found on service related monuments and plagues all over the country.  In fact, it can be found on the monument outside our very own local VFW Post.  It was not written to elevate service personnel to the level of our LORD and Savior, but to remind us that it takes a special person with a special type of love to defend us to the death.  Jesus did what He did because of His love of all humanity.  Servicepersons do what they do because of their love of family and country.  However, there is one other thing which the American serviceperson has in common with Jesus; the willingness to sacrifice their life so to an act of violence so others might experience a life of peace.

According to one set of research, America has been at war 226 our 243 years as a declared and independent country.  Of course, this includes the multiple “Indian Wars” fought during the 19th Century.  What an alarming statistic to look at.  When one also considers the 17 years of peace were not consecutive years and six of them were during the Great Depression (those being 1935-1940), this is an even more troubling statistic.  It goes to show how much we as human beings love to fight.

Therefore peace is a term not to be taken lightly.  Also it would seem that physical/socio-political peace is near impossible to attain; much less maintain.  So, what hope do we have of peace?  Our hope is for inner/spiritual peace, which can only be truly delivered through prayer and devotion to our Father in heaven for only God is the source of the type of love needed to bring peace and order to our lives.  

It is held as a central Christian belief that one day the world will know peace; a time when the “lamb will lay down with the lion.”  This is a time which will be brought about by the Second Coming of Christ and the arrival of the New Heaven and New Earth.  And though this could take place tomorrow, it is not our current reality.  We live in a time when counties are at war, people are oppressed, children are hungry, and the next deadly disease seems just around the corner.  We are a broken people living in a broken world where “peace” seems like a pipedream for many.  However, peace is exactly what Jesus gave His life for.  The peace He offers comes with salvation and salvation is not just a future promise, but can be experienced in this time by those freed from the bonds of despair and sin by the love and power of Jesus the Christ. 

Peace is also what our service men and women have been giving their lives for all these many generations.  They fight with the hope that they are fighting the last battle of the last war.  During its time, World War 1 was called the “war to end all wars” by our nations President because he and many others believed it was so horrific and so devastating it would break the cycle of war and turn people against it forever.  Of course, this was not to be the case as twenty years later World War 2 began on the same ground. 

Despite our historical inability to maintain peace and order, many go off to war with the same hope of their ancestors; that they will be fighting in the last war.  Because of this hope, a sense of duty, and love of family and country; many young men and women have marched, rode, sailed, or flown into the heat of battle.  Many of them have returned, though not unchanged, at least alive.  However, many have not.  This Memorial Day and the Sunday which precedes it, let us take time to remember and honor those who have fallen in that name of hope and peace.

At the same time, let us also remember He who died not just for our families, but for all families.  He died so all could have the opportunity for salvation along with the hope and peace which come with it. 

Pastor Mark

A New Commandment

Sunday May 19 Native American Sunday


Revelation 21:1-6

21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”

And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.

John 13:31-35

31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”


“A New Commandment” 

As I study this week’s scriptures in light of this being when we honor Native American Sunday, I am reminded of one stark reality: we as human can be incredibly cruel to one another.  Though it should not come as a surprise, I am never the less often left in disgust at the level of violence and hatred which one group of humans can bring to bear on another group of humans.  Oh, we have a myriad of excuses; they are a different color, religion, political affiliation, national origin, etc.  It is so obvious that we as a race (and yes there is only one race) are innately inclined to hate those different than us.  We even go as far as to spend time and energy looking for said differences so we have an excuse to hate.   

When European settlers came to the New World, it was most often in a quest for riches or at least self betterment.  What they found was a land filled with natural resources and precious metals.  Unfortunately, they also found a land already inhabited.  But of course these natives were savages who had less worth and rights than civilized Europeans.  Therefore it must be God’s will that we subvert them and tame the land they were too stupid to use correctly.  Thus began what many have called a “holocaust” and some almost genocide.  Though we have no way of knowing the exact population of the Americas when Columbus arrived in 1492, we do know that millions died due to disease, military action, civilian violence, and other reason over the next 500 years.  Of those left in the US, many were forced to live out their existence on reservations.  Many in other countries have fared better, but not much.  I believe it is safe to say that white Europeans simply looked upon Native Americans as nothing more than a nuisance species for much of our country’s history.  It is alarming to think that when the British/Australian government was looking for a way to deal with their “nuisance species”, the proud Aboriginal people, they studied how we in the US dealt with our native population.   

Of course, it perhaps even more alarming to know that when Hitler and his cronies were looking for a solution to their Jewish problem, they simply cast a gaze across the Atlantic to look at how we dealt with our freed black population under the Jim Crow laws.  Of course, this type of legal control did not satisfy Hitler’s blood lust, but it did get the ball rolling in that direction.  These are not facts we should be proud of.  They are also facts which prove humanities capability for violence and hatred.   

History is filled with similar stories of hatred.  And of course the Church is not immune.  Thousands of Protestant Christians and Jews were tortured and killed during the Spanish Inquisition.  Many of the atrocities committed over the centuries against so called “savages” have been either sponsored or at least indorsed by the Church.  Divine right, manifest destiny, and even evangelism have served as adequate excuses for many wars and massacres throughout the history of the Church.  Each of these were touted by popes, bishops, monks, priests, and other “men of God” as viable reasons for one group to usurp the political, religious, and even basic human rights of other human beings.  

When we hear the words of Jesus from the above passage in John read, how do we validate our past behaviors?  How do we look others in the eyes and proclaim the Gospel?  Is it any wonder why many in the world see the Church as a group of hypocrites hiding behind a disguise of divine love?  Jesus made a difference not because of what he said, but because how he lived out His words.  It is only when we practice what we preach and say we believe that we too can make a real difference in the live of those so many times hurt by the very institution we support.   

No, we cannot undo the sins of the past.  But we can refuse to commit like sins in the future.  We can do this by living into our vows as Christians, living into our faith, and living into the example of Jesus.  IT can begin with us.  We cannot erase the mistakes of the past, but we can seek to not repeat them.  Only then can we say we are hearing and obeying the New Commandment.

Pastor Mark Templeton


Sunday March 31 4th Lent

Scriptures:Joshua 5:9-12

The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.” And so that place is called Gilgalto this day.

10 While the Israelites were camped in Gilgal they kept the passover in the evening on the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho. 11 On the day after the passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. 12 The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year.

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.


We often think of Jesus coming to Earth in human form for the purpose of saving us from sin by dying for our sins.  Therefore, his sacrifice provided for our salvation.  Though this is for the most part true, there is much more to the story.  Salvation is more than a future promise of everlasting life with God in Heaven.  Salvation is also a current reality of spiritual freedom in this life.  With this being the case, Jesus’ ministry was and is not just about dying on the cross; it is also about regeneration and reconciliation. 

We are all created in God’s image or imago dei.  We are told thisin Genesis 1:26 when God says “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness…”  This means God’s original intension was to create a near, if not completely, perfect creature to live in a near perfect paradise.  However, because of the Fall by Adam and Eve, our perfect relationship with the Creator was fractured.  This means two things for us.  First, our spiritual nature was/is damaged.  We are born broken and missing a part of our true selves.  Second, our relationship with God was/is damaged beyond our capability to fix. 

Because we are born missing something of ourselves, something which was there in the original plan, we need it to be added to us to make us whole again.  As an example of this in the natural world, let us look at the common blue-tailed skink.  We have all seen these little lizards scurrying around our houses, out buildings, and lawns.  They are easily seen and recognized because of their bright blue tails.  We also all know that when threatened and attacked by a predator, these little lizard have the capability to break of their tails so the rest of them can escape.  Over time, they will re-grow their missing tails by a process called regeneration.  The same is true for our missing spiritual pieces.  Through the power and grace of God and the ministry of Jesus the Christ, we can and do experience a re-growth of our broken parts.  In this way, we become spiritual whole as we were originally designed and created to be.

Of course, becoming whole is important, but this does not finish the work of Jesus the Christ, because we are still in an improper relationship with our Creator.  This means reconciliation needs to take place.  This is accomplished by the power and grace of God as well, but is mediated through Jesus the Christ.  When we answer the call to follow Jesus, HE become not only our LORD and Savior, he also becomes our intercessory.  In this role, the Son come before the Father on our behalf and restores our relationship with the Creator to the state it was originally. 

Neither of these processes can happen by our own power.  They must originate with God and be powered by God.  It is only through the Father’s grace, the divine ministry of the Son, and in-dwelling power of the Holy Spirit, that any of this can take place.  Every day, God is at work in the lives of followers of Jesus.  Just as with the tail of the blue-tailed skink, regeneration takes time and relationships are not mended overnight.  These are processes which take time; mostly because they rely on us to respond and submit. This means we must be faithful and obedient to the work of the LORD in our lives, if we are to be fully RESTORED

Pastor Mark

Shelf Life

Sunday March 24   3rd Lent

Scriptures:Psalm 63:1-8

O God, you are my God, I seek you,
    my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
    beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
    my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
    I will lift up my hands and call on your name.

My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,
    and my mouth praises you with joyful lips
when I think of you on my bed,
    and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
    and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
    your right hand upholds me.

Luke 13:1-9

13 At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’


“Shelf Life”


As I get older and my years of working with my hands begin to catch up with me, I am getting more aches and pains.  If I add to this the fact that each year more of my contemporaries are showing up on the obituary pages in the local papers, I am brought to one simple conclusion: we all have a “shelf life”.  Now I am not saying we are predestined to die a certain day; we are not like a jug of milk with a perish date printed on our foreheads.  However, we can, like that jug of milk, do thing to hasten our demise.  Each time a jug of milk is left out just a little too long, it hastens the perishing process.  Each time we do something which compromises our health, we do the same time.  On the other hand, unlike the milk, we can heal our bodies to some extent and through healthy practice tack so time back on.  We are not as fragile as a jug of milk, but we are also not impervious.

No we do not know the day and time of our passing, but we do know that we cannot live forever.  In fact, the Holy Scriptures leads us to believe that 120 yrs. is the cut off point for all born after the Flood.  This seems to pan out when looking at the life of even great Bible heroes as Abraham and Moses.  Yes someone occasionally reaches and even surpasses this amount, but it is so rare that it can truly be considered a fluke or perhaps a special blessing from God. 

So, we do have a maximum shelf life.  It varies from person to person and can be somewhat controlled based on lifestyle choices, but it cannot be overridden completely.  The question then becomes “what do we do about it?”  Firstly, we can live each day to its fullest, or at least as well as we can.  Secondly, we can refuse to worry about it for Jesus tells us in Luke 12,

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”

Thirdly, we can give our hearts to God.  In this week’s scripture, Jesus makes it abundantly clear that we will all meet our earthly end at some point, whether by accident, natural causes, or otherwise.  Therefore it is very important that we seek the LORD.  In what was essentially a recruiting campaign for his Methodist Societies and the Christian Faith as a whole, John Wesley made clear his belief on who must come to the Faith with the following statement, …all who desire to flee from the wrath to come and be saved from their sins.”  That may seem a bit bold and even harsh by today’s standards, but it is also very true and in the spirit of that which Jesus proclaims above. 

This means we now have that which we need to make an informed decision.  We know we have a limited amount of time to be on this earth.  We know that we cannot know the day of our passing and that it can happen at any time; which should add some urgency to this.  We also know that there are dire consequences for our indecisions and/or poor decisions.  We also know to whom we must turn to avoid those dire consequences. 

This information should make our decision easier.  Unfortunately, many still hesitate.  Perhaps they are unwilling to relinquish control of their lives.  Perhaps they are just not interested in the message.  Or perhaps they simply are afraid or unwilling to admit they are mortal and will someday pass from this life.  Many people have trouble dealing with their eventual death.  For those who live for the LORD, we should not be troubled by this because we should have the confidence that we are not perishing, but passing into a better and everlasting life.  Yes, our bodies have a shelf life, but our souls belong to the LORD and will someday be in everlasting paradise.

Pastor Mark

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