Thursday, August 4, 2016
I've been preaching a sermon series on the fruit of the Spirit based on Galatians 5:22 "By contrast (to the vices) the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."
Each week I pray for and seek the Spirit's guidance and move into and out from that text on the various topic, this week happens to be 'goodness' which causes me to pause and reflect with you.
Have you considered 'goodness' lately? Your 'goodness'? God's 'goodness'? I'm using a Call to Worship Sunday that I would like for you to read. It combines the themes of the sermon series/of Pentecost (by the way this happens to the twelfth Sunday)/and goodness.
L: Great is the Lord!
P: God's greatness is beyond our understanding.
L: Yet God has revealed God's self in Jesus Christ.
P: Through Jesus we have come to know the absolute love of God.
L: Lift up your hearts and praise the Lord!
P: May God continue to bless God's people with peace.
L: Though many places in the world are bound in war.
P: The peace of God is poured out for all people.
L: Though discord and struggle have become factors in the lives of the people.
P: The love of God is lavished on all people.
L: Let us praise the God of love and peace.
P: Let us experience God's freedom offered as peace and justice for all people.
Truly Let Us,
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Sunday morning Church began as usual. The Sunday school groups were in session and all seemed to be in routine mode. As the Scriptures were being read, discussed, and as folks were contemplating deep spiritual insights the loudest boom came out of nowhere from behind the Church! Now everyone was certain that canons are illegal to fire within the city limits so the nearest class ran out to investigate.
Upon inspection a few Church members discover a large Oak tree limb had fallen onto a power line immediately behind the sanctuary. When the limb fell it caused a fuse to blow (we don't think it was the transformer?). The electricity and the explosion of the fuse (sorry I'm not an electrician) caused the limb to catch fire. Now understand this is a huge Oak tree that extends onto our neighbors yard and over the Church sanctuary. I joined in and began to pray a hip pocket prayer out loud while a call was made to the fire department.
As the fire slowly began to engulf the limb the Church was also slowly filling up with worshippers. I went inside to greet folks when shortly thereafter I was informed that the fire department had arrived and we were told that they would need to call the power company and for us to expect the power to go out at some point so they could work on the line. Once the service began we made the announcements beginning with information as to what all the excitement was about (not that there usually isn't a great deal of excitement stirring) and for folks not to worry if at some point during the service the power goes out that this would be expected and all will be fine.
The Service began just fine and we made it about a quarter of the way when it happened---the power went out. Now of course this isn't that big of a deal, it was day time so we had enough light coming through the windows to see. It was hot but we have fans in the pews and my sermon only needed about 50 minutes, (just kidding, only 45). I have a loud mouth so I just turned the volume up. The big deal is that I believe this predicament that we found ourselves in was no accident. You see my sermon was prepared earlier that week and the topic--Being connected to the Power of God! What an illustration! Pastors have books on illustrations, we keep journals, etc. etc. in the attempt to connect the Scriptures to our lives. Nothing in my experience compares to showing up at Church and the illustration actually physically coming to life in your presence for you to use.
We were in our second Sunday studying John 15. First we looked at the section on the vine and the branches. Christ is the vine and we the branches. Disciples of Christ are to be connected to Christ where we receive the Spirit, the nourishing sap that flows throughout the vine to produce fruit. We then transitioned into Christ's command to love one another, and we best do this as we remain in His love. I encouraged the Church by pointing out how valuable each one is and that we need Christ and we need one another, and that we must remain connected to Christ. We must remain in His love. We must remain connected to the power source. (this is a quick synopsis, I encourage you to go back and read John 15)
I am happy to report that the fire was quickly extinguished and the power eventually came back on some time after the service ended. Although the electricity went out, the power of God did not. The power of God lives on in each of us as we remain in christ and bear His fruit. This is an illustration that I won't soon forget.
Friday, April 22, 2016
Prayer is such a gift! Prayer connects us to the Father, helps us to know our purpose, and moves God's grace to work in our lives. I need God. I need God's grace. I need purpose. I need prayer. I would guess you do too. If your life is anything like mine then you are in need of prayer too, especially prayers for healing. Most of my ministry includes praying with and for others, especially for healing. So I thought I would pray this prayer and leave it as a template for you and your loved ones in need of prayer:
Compassionate and All-Powerful God,
I pray for your loved one, ____ who is ill, I commend their body, mind, and soul to your care.
Be powerfully present and comfort them in their sickness, and ease their suffering. I pray for deliverance, knowing that nothing is too hard for our Lord.
Lord I pray for, _____ , your Word calls me to pray for healing. I believe you hear this earnest prayer that comes from my heart. I thank you that you have proven to be faithful and your promises are true. I have faith in you Lord, to heal, _______, and I also trust in the plan you have for their life.
Lord I don't need to understand your ways, I trust that your ways are not my ways, and that your thoughts are not my thoughts. I ask you to look with mercy and grace toward, _____ nourish their mind, body, Soul, and Spirit in this time of suffering, comfort and renew them with your grace.
I pray that they feel your presence and that you bless them with your care. Renew their strength, and heal, _____ ailments that they may be restored to full health: mind, body, and soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
May,_____ know and feel your healing presence now and throughout this process of care. Grant your strength, your peace, your love. And may you, through this difficulty be glorified in their life and also all who join me in prayer for, ______.
In Christ our healer, redeemer, I pray
Monday, April 11, 2016
I have a question for you. Do you have questions? I'm certain that you do. I believe it's human to question things. As we seek answers we are some how becoming more satisfied with who we are, and more satisfied within our context. Of course this assumes that you don't go deeper and deeper into some sort of philosophical black hole.
I want to approach this topic from a Christian perspective. We are all probably familiar with the adage, "questions are good they lead to answers." Well... I think the assumption is that this will lead one to the truths of God and ultimately into a relationship with God, done deal. I am convinced that for many it is not that easy. I remember working with youth, many were churched but a great many were unchurched. Most of their questions didn't concern the existence of God, nor did they deal with God's abilities/inabilities but were usually questions concerning why humans behave the way they do? Of course you get the, "Did Adam have a belly button?" sort of questions for fun but from some place within we want to understand ourselves, and our purpose. I interpreted this concern as their desire to make a difference in this world.
When I went to seminary I was reintroduced to questions from a much deeper Christian perspective that was great for comparing with and arguing against the philosophies that I and others encounter in undergraduate studies. I appreciate the things I learned, the many notes I acquired, books read, fascination with the brilliance of my professors, and the tools acquired for arguing from a Christian perspective for The Truth. As good as this field of studies is and useful especially for believers I remember a simple comment that a professor made. The professor said something to effect of, "having all of the answers may be great for some (thank God for Christian apologetics-reasoned arguments for the faith, essentially) but usually what it boils down to is that those who need an answer for every argument and every question usually have a faith issue." Meaning, they lack faith and are on a personal search for answers.
I am currently preaching a sermon series on questions that we need answered as Christians. The first Sunday I released the pressure by revealing that our heroes in the faith all had questions, doubts, and struggled for answers,(and even some current celebrity Christians). I am excited for the possibilities this series holds. We will be offered the opportunity to move on beyond personal hang-ups, and invited to allow room for the Spirit of God to a deeper work in us, and put us to work in making a difference in this world as the Church we are created to be.
Monday, March 21, 2016
Greeting fellow Easter people,
Today, Monday, marks the beginning of Holy Week, our final week of Lent leading up to Easter. This has been an especially meaningful season of Lent for me as several folks in the Church and I devoted ourselves to fasting, studying the scriptures, and prayer. The Spirit of God has stirred us as disciples to grow in our faith and seek unique ways for service in our community.
Many question the meaning of Holy Week? Even the majority of faithful Christians need a review of the events leading up to the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For Christians, the purpose of Holy Week is to relive and retell the passion of Jesus Christ. I know when you hear "passion of Jesus Christ" your mind runs to the movie 'The Passion' which captures and highlights the suffering and death of Christ, (no comments on that).
This week is celebrated all over the world in many different ways. In my hometown of Madison, Fl. the whole community gathers at noon at various Churches throughout the week for ecumenical worship and lunch. Druid Hill UMC where i currently serve will host their annual 'Easter Tableau' on Thursday and Friday where participants will drive through to witness a live retelling of Christ's Passion. Many Churches will hold Sonrise services early Sunday morning at sunrise to celebrate the resurrection.
So I would like to use this post as an opportunity to review Holy Week as it first occurred.
The events of Holy Week (just a minimal outline):
Palm Sunday (Passion Sunday): Jesus humbly, yet triumphantly enters Jerusalem.
Monday: Jesus and His disciples leave Bethany for Jerusalem. During this time Jesus will teach, weep over Jerusalem, cleanse the Temple, leave, and spend the night in Bethany.
Tuesday: Leaves Bethany, teaches, upon leaving Jerusalem gives 'Olivet discourse' on way back to Bethany. Judas bargains with the Sanhedrin. Overnight in Bethany.
Wednesday: SILENT DAY. The scriptures record very little concerning this day.
Holy Thursday: (Maundy Thursday): Peter and John prepare for the Passover meal for Jesus and the other disciples. Jesus shares Passover with His disciples/"The Last Supper." Jesus washes the feet of the disciples. Jesus and His disciples leave for the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested by the Sanhedrin/religious leaders, and many soldiers. Taken to the house of Caiaphas and place beneath in a dungeon. Peter denies Christ. (Churches on this day will strip the Church--remove items from the Altar to symbolize what Christ experienced).
Good Friday: Trials begin (six total). Jesus is beaten and mocked. Judas hangs himself. Jesus carries his cross through the city, is crucified, gives His "Seven last sayings" and dies on the cross. (Churches on this day will drape the Cross with a black cloth)
Saturday: Jesus' body lay in the tomb. Pilate seals the tomb and orders guards to watch over it.
Sunday: The first day of the week, the third day of Jesus' death He rose from the dead! Jesus makes five appearances on this day: to Mary Magdalene, other women, two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Peter, the other disciples.
May you enter into this week once again to relive and retell the story of your risen Lord who lives and reigns in our hearts, and in our world, and in the world to come.
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Or should I say Sholom? During the season of Lent some members of the Church, their friends, and I have been meeting at Sholom park here in Ocala, Fl. This park is a welcomed place of peace and tranquility amid the hustle and bustle of life. Today was a much needed day for us as we discussed the process of hope. We were encouraged from the Apostle Paul's letter to the Christians at Rome. Paul wrote to them that Christians should rejoice in their sufferings because suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope, and hope doesn't disappoint because God's Spirit pours love into our hearts, (my paraphrase of Romans 5:1-6).
We began our study a few weeks ago as the season of Lent began by immersing ourselves in Jesus' story so you can imagine how tough life gets as you enter into the last week of His life. We have all experienced suffering/trials, or are in the middle of one now, or soon will be. So as you study the scriptures you begin to see that the human condition hasn't changed and we still need God, we still need a savior, we still need to develop our character after the life and teachings of Christ.
Praise God for the life and work of Christ! Praise God for His gift of salvation! Praise God for His Spirit that pours love into our hearts, guides the Church, and gives us HOPE--HOPE that will see us through and offer encouragement to a lost and dying world.
Saturday, March 5, 2016
I want to express my enthusiasm for a new study that I've been leading on Wednesday nights, 'John: The Gospel of Light and Life'. This is a new study produced by Adam Hamilton that highlights the deeply spiritual aspects of the Gospel of John. The study can be completed in six weeks but can be stretched a couple of weeks due to the many layers within each week's study.
I've enjoyed seeing my group learn new things about the Gospels, mostly how John is very different from the synoptics (Matthew, Mark, and Luke-you knew that already i'm sure), and to have so many great questions. Each week we are personally challenged to consider our walk with the Lord, the Church, and Christ's mission in the word.
Bible studies the incorporate a video component have tended to be my favorites. During these videos Adam teaches in front of a group each week and they too are allowed to ask questions which helps us as well. As many have come to learn Adam is a great teacher and presenter (he does speak a lil' fast for my country ears) and this is just one of many great resources that he has made available for individuals and Churches.
'John' is one resource of many that we are using during this season of Lent to be with our Lord. As a Church we are studying daily together, 'Living Lent: as people of the Resurrection,' there are other small groups meeting together using resources focused around Lent, and the sermons each Sunday are all themed so as to unite us as One people within God's story.
May you be richly blessed as you journey with God toward Easter,
check out the video link below for Adam's study. Perhaps you and your small group/study group would benefit?