Archive | January 2015

Our Rest and Our Refuge

January 25, 2015
Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church
Worship Theme: God is our resting place
Psalm 62:1-2, 5-12 NIV

“Rest and Refuge…”

Prayer for God’s word to come from my mouth and that His word would be heard through me or in spite of me…

Read Scripture…Psalm 62:1-2, 5-12 NIV

Truly He is my Rock and my Salvation; He is my Fortress, I will never be shaken…
Have you ever had something happen in your life that it just shakes you to the core? I mean something that may even have you think about your belief in God. Sometimes life just throws you a curve ball that kind of makes you rethink all that you believe. In those times you may just need to find a place to rest and regroup…so to speak. You need a place of refuge where you know that you are safe while you figure things out.

Over the past few days I have been in that place…I have been walking through the valley of the shadow of death. But there is one thing that keeps running through my mind. There has been one thing that keeps cropping up every time I sit and contemplate on the things that have happened over the past few days. Come and rest a while in my presence. When you are at your weakest, I am strong…I will strengthen you for each and every moment that you walk through this season of the soul…

Truly He is my Rock and my Salvation; He is my Fortress, I will never be shaken…
Last week… I read from Psalm 139…I read about how David was pondering, meditating, about God and His goodness and there was no sadness or disappointment within his meditating… and how he realized the amazing fact that God was always with him…that God knew everything about him right down to how he was formed in his mother’s womb. David had found a place of rest and refuge in God…and we too are invited to have that same relationship with God.

Truly He is my Rock and my Salvation; He is my Fortress, I will never be shaken…
This week God has brought us to another one of David’s payers found in the Psalms…the 62nd Psalm to be exact. David is being pursued by Saul’s men and his life is in danger. So in this time of need David turns to a place of safety and refuge. It is not a cave or a hiding place amongst the rocks. David turns not to a place but a person. David turns to God. How many times in our lives that when we need a stronghold we turn to what is temporal and not to what is eternal? How many times do we try to find a sanctuary that is not made of human hands but one made by God Himself…?

Truly He is my Rock and my Salvation; He is my Fortress, I will not be shaken…
In this Psalm, David gives three good reasons why he feels that God is that resting place…that place of refuge. God is strong, God is loving and God rewards those who are faithful to Him…

1. God is strong…David…and we…calls Gs a matter of fat, God is the rock upon which salvation is found. It doesn’t depend on us or our circumstances…it is fact. He will always deliver us from our enemies, you see…our salvation is God Himself…His earthly king has betrayed him…his friends have deserted him and turned against him but God has remained the same. He is the “Rock of Ages”…our firm foundation that will stand through any storm of life. David calls God his fortress in verses two and six. We can have faith that God will surround us and keep us safe from anything that is not His will. God has purpose in all that we go through… When we walk through those challenging times on our journey of faith we can stand firm on the rock of our Salvation and know that if He brought us to it He will bring us through it…
Truly He is my Rock and my Salvation; He is my Fortress, I will never be shaken…

2. God is loving…In Psalm 86:6, David exclaims that God’s love is merciful and that God answers those who cry out for mercy. God showed David…and He shows us…time and time again how loving and merciful God is. He didn’t have to wonder because God showed His love and mercy to him many times…we too have that same hope and trust that David did. How many times have we cried out for mercy from “dark of Daniels Den” and our God has delivered us and set us high upon a rock? How many times have we endured the pain of life and God provided a place to rest and be healed by His love and grace? David and we can know that because of love and purpose we can find rest and refuge in Him and Him alone…
Truly He is our Rock and our Salvation; He is our Fortress, we will never be shaken…

3. God rewards His people…Ok…rewards are pretty nice but it is not something we should focus on. The Rewards that David is talking about aren’t the rewards of this world…things like riches, power and position. Our God’s rewards are so much more than that. The rewards of the world will pass but the rewards of our God are eternal… So what are the rewards of obedience to God?
a. For the people of Israel the rewards were freedom from slavery, protection from their enemies, and rest and hope for their nation. How many times have we been surrounded by our “enemies and have been delivered by God? How many times have we too called out from captivity and have been saved through God’s mercy and grace and power?
b. For us…for you and me…the rewards are heavenly rewards. The reward for us is eternal life…a life that ensures us a place in Heaven…a life that ensures us a place in the Kingdom of God, both now as we walk this world and for eternity. That hope…that Kingdom alone is the reward…the prize…we receive. This Kingdom is a place where God is our refuge, God is our strength, God is our help in time of need. It is in God that we truly find rest for our weary souls. We too can experience the God of David and have the same joy as we are obedient to the God of history.
Truly He is our Rock and our Salvation; He is our Fortress, we will never be shaken…

Life throws us curve balls from time to time. We aren’t promised a life without pain and suffering. We are not promised a life that will be “smooth sailing” until we reach the shores of our heavenly home. We are not promised that we will not fall or stumble as we live out our faith.

But perhaps as we are traveling on this journey we can look back on the things that have been and have hope for the things to come as we look through the eyes of grace and love. Perhaps we can give courage and hope to those who may need a light for the journey. Maybe…just maybe…as we trust in the One who “knit us together in our mother’s womb”…the One who knows everything about us…we too can find that resting place…we too can find that Rock on which to stand …we too can say as David did…
Truly He is my Rock and my Salvation; He is my Fortress, I will never be shaken…
Just sayin….

Amen!

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God’s Standards…

No Condemnation (John 3:17)
We often go through the day feeling as if someone is looking over our shoulder ready to judge our actions. My husband probably wonders why I bought that dress . . . My boss is thinking I’m taking too long with that project . . . The elders don’t understand why I can’t take on that committee . . . This isn’t how Mom would have done it . . . And perhaps the voice we hear the most is our own: Why aren’t you good enough?

Even if others praise us, the pressure we put on ourselves can drown out the latest acclaim. We put pressure on ourselves to do more—and do it better and quicker. How could God be pleased with us, we wonder, when we feel so weak?

Listen to the words in this chapter of John’s Gospel. God wants a relationship with us—not to condemn us, but to free us. He offers redemption through Jesus—not because we have done something to deserve it, but because he loves us.

Though we may read those words again and again, they can be hard to believe. But try to wrap your brain around this truth: God does not condemn you. None of the pressure you feel throughout the day is from God. In truth, you may be trying to please others or achieve your own goals more than you are trying to please God. You may feel guilty because you keep changing the standard.

Richard Foster writes, “The less we are manipulated by the expectations of others, the more we are open to the expectations of God.” Yes, we are weak. Yes, we often fail to meet our own expectations. But what does God expect of us today? To believe in his Son who set us free from sin. To believe that he is stronger than our doubts, fears, pride and ambition. To believe that he does not condemn us for who we were before we met his Son. To discover who we are in the light of his love, freedom and grace.

We may not feel “qualified” but…our God “qualifies the called…”

Dream As David Did

January 18, 2015
Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church
Worship Theme: David’s Dream
Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 NIV
Psalm 34:8 NIV

“Dream As David Did…”

Prayer for God’s word to come from my mouth and that His word would be heard through me or in spite of me…

When I awake…I am still with you…
Have you ever woken up from a dream…a nightmare…and was so happy that it was only a dream? It is such a relief that it was only a dream. There are those dreams that we have that seem all too real to us. But there are those other dreams that are so wonderful that when we wake we are a little disappointed because it was only a dream. We wake up to a real world with all its dysfunction and chaos…

I remember one dream I had when I had surg. once. I had dreamed that someone was hurting my friend and cat Fiona. It was horrible. I remember waking and screaming that someone had hurt her. I was so relieved when Ray ushered her into the bedroom and she was well and fine, not hurt at all. It was so real… I was so glad that it was a dream and not a reality.

In the verses I read from Psalm 139…David had the same feeling of it only being a dream but when he woke he realized it was not a dream but reality. Well…David really wasn’t sleeping but hidden…pondering…meditating…about God and His goodness and there was no sadness or disappointment within his meditating…

So…why was there no disappointment in his musing? Well because he realized some amazingly awesome facts about his God’s character and love. We too can feel the same amazement because it is not how God feels about…cares for…knows about…David but it is also for all of God’s creation…

1. He and we are known by God. (vv. 1-6) God searched him and us. God cares enough to know us, to be interested enough to want to get to know who we are and what we are. We are not some kind of “unknown creature”. We don’t have to be afraid of being known by God. He already knows us and loves us any way. He knows our fears and failures…our struggles and afflictions… We can trust God because of His compassion and forgiveness. I know you by name and you are mine… God knows our comings and goings. He knows all about us because He cares enough to search us and know all about our intricacy’s and design. David was careful to do God’s will and knew God would see his devotion to Him…the love he had for Him. We too can rest assured that God sees our love and devotion to Him as He searches our innermost parts… God knows our thoughts…even those that may not be quite according to His will but praise God He is patient with us and is willing to allow us to grow in grace, faith and trust in Him. As we grow and ask God to show us our “growing areas” God is happy to oblige. He wants us to grow…He wants us to learn…and He is more than happy to help in the process because it really is a process…isn’t it…? God loved us into being by breathing the breath of life into us…
2. We are created by God. (vv. 13-16) God not only is aware of where we go, what we do and what we think, He also knows us creatively. We are part of His creation….His creative order…part of His plan since the beginning of time. There is a purpose for everything and everyone one. Everything created is of sacred worth. We may not see it at first but that doesn’t matter. God never makes mistakes and never creates “junk”. We may go through our “dark night of the soul” but we can trust that God is working out His plan as He was in the beginning and is now and forevermore shall be… We can not only trust the God of knowledge and insight but we can trust the Creator of all we see…all that was…all that is …and all that will ever be. God loved us into purpose by ordaining the days of our lives…The Good News for David and for us is that it was not…is not…a dream. Time and time again…if we really think about it…God has shown Himself reliable…God has “proven Himself” to be worthy of our trust and praise. We don’t have to wake from the dream…we can live the dream of David. As sure as the sun will shine…as sure as the world revolves…as sure as time goes on…God is there. Just think about that for a moment. The only sure thing we have is God’s love and providence…the only sure thing we have is that God will never leave of forsake us…the only sure thing we have is the forgiveness we receive from God. God loved us into relationship and forgiveness by the work He did on the cross so long ago…

Are you dreaming the dream as David did or are you still waiting for the nightmare to end? Do you trust in the One who knows every detail of your life or do you trust in the world around you full of chaos and uncertainty? Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

Amen!

New Season of Faith

Loving and gracious God,full of compassion and peace…thank you that You are always with me. Thank you that I am alive in Christ and sealed with Your Spirit. Thank you that I am part of a “royal priesthood” through Christ who is my all in all. May I hear You still small voice as I enter into a new season of my faith journey. I look forward to what You have in store for me. I know that as I walk on “new territory” You are there paving the way for me. Empty me of myself and fill this earthen vessel with more of You…

Wade In the Water

January 11, 2015
Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church
Worship Theme: Our Baptism
Baptism of the Lord Sunday
Mark 1:4-11 NIV
Acts 19:1-7 NIV

Wade In the Water
Prayer for God’s word to come from my mouth and that His word would be heard through me or in spite of me…

A Reading From the Book of Acts, Chapter 19, verses 1-7…listen for a Word from God to you me the people of God…(Read Scripture)

(Wade in the water…wade in the water children…wade in the water…God’s gonna trouble the water…)
(Start pouring the water) Water…it has a various usages in our lives. It can be life giving but it also can be life taking. Water has so much power. When it is held back, we have ponds where ducks can swim in the summer and we can skate on it in the winter. When it is held back, we can have water to drink from our faucets at home. But when it is let loose…then…then we can see its awesome power. When it is let loose we see how a rain storm can cause flooding and damage to our homes. How can something that is so life giving also be devastating? It is definitely a force to be reckoned with…
(Wade in the water…wade in the water children…wade in the water…God’s gonna trouble the water…)

We use water to help us. Some use water to make machinery work as in mill with a water wheel to work its machinery. We especially use water to put out fires. This may be one of the most important ways we use water. Without it…a fire could burn out of control…we need to quench the fire to save lives.
But there is one instance where water and fire work together. It’s when the water of our baptism works with the flame…the fire…of the Holy Spirit. You need both in baptism, both fire and water. In our baptism of water…our rebirth…we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit…the flame within us. We are re-created into a new person. God, through Christ, recreates us into a new creation. God loves to create. In Genesis we hear about how God created light over the waters. God created…the earth was birth, out of the waters that covered the earth. Something new was created out of the water. But in our baptism there is yet another element that is added to the creation. Fire is added…the Holy Spirit…to complete the new creation.
(Wade in the water…wade in the water children…wade in the water…God’s gonna trouble the water)

There are many stories in the bible about water, some good and some not so good. Out of the water God created the dry land in the Book of Genesis. Through water, the Israelites were saved from the Egyptian’s in the Exodus story. Out of a rock Moses was able to find life giving water for a thirsty nation. Through the waters of the Jordon River the Israelites entered into the new land. But…but…out of water also came the flood that wiped away almost all of humanity in Noah’s day. Out of water the Israelites enemies, the Egyptians, were drowned in the Red Sea. There are many more stories about water in the bible. It has an important place in God’s grand design. Water is a holy and powerful thing. Water…at times we can’t live with it but more often we can’t live without it.
(Wade in the water…wade in the water children…wade in the water…God’s gonna trouble the water…)

Today is Baptism of the Lord Sunday in the Christian calendar. It is a day when we remember that baptism that changed all other baptisms to come. It is a day that through water a new era emerged. Through water we are saved. Through water we are adopted. Through water we are claimed. And through water we are freed. Water has many images for me. In today’s readings, I had many different images come to mind.
(Wade in the water…wade in the water children…wade in the water…God’s gonna trouble the water…)

In the Acts Scripture this morning, we heard about how Paul was to some disciples. He asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit at their baptism. Now…this question that Paul asked them makes me wonder. What was it about these disciples that Paul had to ask this question? He knew they were disciples but there must have been something wrong about them, something missing that made Paul question them. What was missing was that one baptism that is in and through Jesus. What was missing is that fire of the Spirit that we receive at our baptism. They had the repentance part but not the fire that was needed. Praise God that when we are baptized in Jesus’ name we receive both…
(Wade in the water…wade in the water children…wade in the water…God’s gonna trouble the water…)

And then we have the baptism of Jesus. John knew who Jesus was and that He would bring about a new baptism. It would not be a baptism that just cleanses you with water from your sins but a baptism above all baptisms. This baptism will be one that has never been seen before…A baptism of the Spirit and fire…A baptism that God comes and lives within the baptized person through the Spirit…a baptism that would change all other baptisms. John knew you need both the water of repentance and the “fire” of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately in these days, there are many who have one…not both. They have their baptism of repentance but no “fire”. They are very lukewarm and they are happy just the way they are. But as I read the passage, the most exciting piece for me is the part when the voice says… (I like how the Message Bible puts it…) “You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life.” In our baptism we too here…You are my son…you are my daughter, you are chosen and marked…I have claimed you and you are mine…the pride of my life…through this water I have marked you with the seal of my Spirit.
(Wade in the water…wade in the water children…wade in the water…God’s gonna trouble the water…)
Today is the Baptism of the Lord Sunday, the day when we remember not only his life changing baptism but ours as well. Through water we are saved. Through water we are redeemed. Through water we are given a new life. In just a moment we are going to share the joy of baptism with Wanda. How awesome it is that she is going to wade in the water of grace…of love…of peace…of redemption.
Let us pray over the water of grace:
Let us pray: Almighty God, the life you birthed in us by baptism into Jesus Christ will never die. Your justice never fails. Your mercy is everlasting. Your healing river flows. Your Spirit blows where you will. We cannot stop you, God!
We are dry and thirsty, O God. Come, refresh us!
Come upon us, Holy Spirit!
Come upon these waters.
Let these waters be to us drops of your mercy.
Let these waters remind us of your righteousness and justice.
Let these waters renew in us the resurrection power of Jesus.
Let these waters make us long for your coming reign.
Most Holy God, Father! Full of Truth and Grace! Glory to you!
Jesus Christ, Savior, Lord! Glory to you!
Spirit of fire, Spirit over the waters, Spirit of holiness! Glory to you!
Eternal God, One in Three and Three in One! All glory is yours, now and forever. Amen!

So you have heard me talk a lot about our baptism this morning, but there is one thing that I want you to take home this morning. That one thing is that within our baptism we have a promise of love…a promise of joy…and a promise of hope. So when the waters of life seem as if they are about to overtake you…remember your baptism…God’s promise is…when you walk through the waters they will not over take you. When you feel as if you have no one who really cares in your life…remember your baptism…God says…I have claimed you and you are mine. When you feel like an outcast in this journey of life…remember your baptism… Through the waters of baptism we are included in the family of God. You have been sealed with love…you have been sealed with power…you have been sealed with grace…you have been sealed by the Spirit. Remember your baptism…

Let us pray…Pray about our baptism…

I Could Have Had A V8…

January 4, 2015
Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church
Worship Theme: Epiphany Sunday
Matthew 2:1-12 NIV
Luke 2:22-40 NIV
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/epiphany

A Reading From the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2, verses 22-40…listen for a Word from God to you me the people of God…(Read Scripture)

Epiphany→ noun, plural epiphanies.
1. (initial capital letter) a Christian festival, observed on January 6, commemorating the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles in the persons of the Magi; Twelfth-day.
2. an appearance or manifestation, especially of a deity.
3. a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.
4. a literary work or section of a work presenting, usually symbolically, such a moment of revelation and insight.

Good morning to all of you and Happy New Year. I can’t believe that we are at a new year already. Have you all made your New Year’s resolution yet? I have made a couple but we’ll see how that goes… I pray this New Year brings you blessings, hope and joy and that you have a renewed vision of Jesus and who He is in your lives.

In the Christian calendar the first Sunday of the year is known as “Epiphany Sunday”. “Epiphany” is a very interesting word to me…so much so that I decided to look up the definition which I just read. This definition kind of reminds me of those old V8 commercials… you know what I’m talking about, the ones that the person has just discovered that what they were drinking had no real nutritional value and they could have had a V8 instead that would have given them nutritional value. That sudden realization that there was something more out there than what you are living with or doing.

From the Matthew Scripture form this morning we see the Magi…these Wise Men…they had their “epiphany”, their V8 moment, before they ever came to visit the babe born in a manger. These Magi…these scholars of the stars…they knew who this child was that they waited for a long time to come into the world. They knew the path that He would travel. Look at the gifts that they presented this new born king.

 Gold →The meaning of this gift represents Kingship on earth. They knew that Jesus was a king. But not just any king…He was the King of King’s and Lord of Lord’s.
 Frankincense →This incense that they offered represented priest ship…priesthood. They knew that Jesus was the High Priest. They knew that He was the one who would lead…would be king of…the Jews.
 Myrrh →This was an anointing oil…an embalming oil and was the symbol of death.
All three gifts were ordinary offerings and gifts to a king. These gifts are also sometimes described more generally as gold symbolizing virtue, frankincense symbolizing prayer and myrrh symbolizing suffering.

These Magi “fell to their knees” when they entered the house where Jesus was. This falling to the knees represented great respect and was typically used when venerating a king. These Magi had it right…they knew who and what Jesus really was. They knew that this infant born in Bethlehem was the true king that would bring justice to the poor and save the lives of the needy.

But in this story of the Magi, there is another epiphany, so to speak… the epiphany of King Herod himself. Remember what happened when Herod heard of the Magi coming to visit the newborn King? He was terrified. Now I am sure that there were other kings around and Herod was not afraid of them but this one king, this king of the Jews…well this was a different kind of king and Herod knew it. This would be a king that would turn the world that he knew upside down. As a matter of fact, when Herod called his priest and scholars together, he didn’t ask where this new king was supposed to be born. Oh no…he asked where the “Messiah” was suppose to be born. He knew…he had his V8 moment…his epiphany of what was to be. He knew that the prophecy was being fulfilled…the prophecy of the prophet Micah that was told so long ago. And he was afraid…

God’s people were waiting for that Messiah…the new King that would free them of the oppression they were feeling from the Romans. They knew that God had promised them a Savior and that God kept His promises…but they didn’t get the type of Savior they were looking for. They didn’t get one that would take Rome by storm but one that we gentle and mild and the salvation that He would offer was pretty radical…

The reaction of two such people is found in the Luke scripture from this morning…the reaction of Simeon and Anna. They worked in the temple and I am sure they prayed daily for the savior that was much needed for God’s people. They could look around and see how things were not getting better but worse for their people. They may have even resolved that they would never see the “salvation of God’s people” in their own time…in their life time. But God had another plan and they would see the “salvation of the Lord” before they went home to rest in the arms of God. Oh what an epiphany they received when Mary and Joseph brought their child to the temple so they could offer their first born to the Lord and bring an offering. They had their Epiphany of who this child was…they had their Epiphany of what this child would do…they had their Epiphany of the goodness and mercy of God. What a glorious day for them…what a glorious day for us as we have our own epiphany of who God is…of who Jesus is…of how good our God is…of how merciful and gracious of Creator is to the created…

I think we all have epiphanies in some shape or form. We are looking for our car keys and then all of the sudden a thought comes to mind of where they are. We may be reading scripture and all of the sudden we have that “ah ha” moment and it all makes perfect sense. We may see or be in a situation and all of the sudden it is like “light dawning on the horizon” we understand why it is all happening…we see it through the eyes of God instead of our own eyes. Whatever our epiphany may be at times it may rock our world…kind of what happened to Herod…with a sudden realization of something.

My prayer for us as individuals and as a church is that we all will have that epiphany that will bring us ever closer to our Lord Jesus Christ this year…That we will have a revelation of who Christ is to us and who we are to Him…That we will embark on new journeys that will lead us to a new and exciting place where we will encounter our Redeemer in new ways. Let us go into the new year with our eyes wide open looking for and following the Star. As the saying goes “Wise men and women still seek Him.” Let us seek Him in all that we say and do and rejoicing as Simeon and Anna did when we find Him in the world in which we live. Let us lead others to their own Epiphany of our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ.

Let us pray…
We have seen your star, O God, shining brightly over us and all the peoples of the earth. Teach us to trust your light. Help us take risks that we might step out in faith into the unknown. Guide us to the place where you abide, that we may be overwhelmed with joy like the magi before us. Guide us to the stable of your love, that we may offer you the gifts of our lives. Give us that Epiphany moment that draws us closer to you. (Abingdon Worship 2010)
Amen.