Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Help of the Holy Spirit – Romans 5:1-5 and John 16:12-15

Last week in worship we celebrated Pentecost. And to add emphasis to that celebration most of us wore red as a reminder of the flames that descended like tongues of fire upon the apostles. That fire was the visible sign that accompanied the audible “sound like the rush of a violent wind”, and all of this was to mark the arrival of the Advocate, the Helper, the Holy Spirit. Today we are going to spend our time together trying to gain a deeper understanding of the nature of the Holy Spirit as well as the role the Holy Spirit can play in our lives.

Do You Have Enough Fuel?
Several years ago in the Rose Bowl parade in Pasadena, a float stalled. Frustrations quickly increased because the other floats could not move and this event was being televised around the world. Mechanics quickly descended upon the stalled float, searching all over for the problem. Finally, someone had the presence of mind to check on the fuel level of the vehicle. It was empty, out of gas. Even more embarrassing was when the crowd realized that the float’s sponsor was one of the major oil companies.

Well just as that float ran out of fuel, we as Christians can run out of fuel too. This life can overtake us through stress, temptation, weakness, grief, and loneliness. And this state is not reserved for the marginal believers, or the new believers, or the un-churched. It happens to all of us; pastors, Sunday School teachers, pillars of the church...everyone. However, we have access to a renewable source of energy, a never ending well spring of help, the Holy Spirit.

What is the Holy Spirit?
So what exactly is the Holy Spirit? Is the Holy Spirit some sort of paranormal phenomenon? When I was a child we referred to the Holy Spirit as the Holy Ghost. And I can tell you there were not too many of us kids that really wanted to get to know the Holy Ghost. Is the Holy Spirit an entirely different entity from God and Jesus Christ? For years humanity has been trying to find a way to explain this part of the Trinity.

One thing we did to better our understanding was to change the name we use to try and make it more apropos. We went from Holy Ghost to Holy Spirit so as not to encourage people to associate the Holy Spirit with any kind of paranormal apparitions or use a name that might cause fear. Some people went the visual route and artists have painted pictures to try and capture the essence or person of the Holy Spirit. One of my professors from seminary had a picture hanging in his office of a gazebo in a garden. At first glance you just saw this large white figure in the middle of the gazebo. But if you looked closer you could tell it was three distinct entities holding hands going around in a circle. That picture was trying to capture the three in one perspective. And yet others rely on certain adjectives or descriptive terms, based on theology or ancient language, to deepen and broaden their understanding; terms like Advocate or Helper.

But whatever method you use, whatever theology or term you feel comfortable with, there is one aspect that I think is the most important to understand. And that is the role of the Holy Spirit. Names are going to come and go over time, pictures and new insights are going to rise up as new people come on the scene, new and “hot” terms will be used as our culture changes and transforms. But the one thing that will not change, the one thing that will stay constant forever, is the role of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit was sent to be many things for us as believers; our connection to God, our helper from on high, our advocate when relating to God. Bottom line, the Holy Spirit is here to help. “In fact 'The Helper' was one of Jesus' favorite names for the Holy Spirit. Jesus used the term Paraclete, meaning 'Helper,' to describe the Holy Spirit to His disciples. Perhaps more than any other, this name consistently describes the character of the Holy Spirit in His relationship to us prior to our conversion, at the time of our conversion and following our conversion.”

In the beginning the Holy Spirit was there, when Christ came to earth, fully human and fully divine, the Spirit was there. When Christ left this earth and ascended into Heaven, the Holy Spirit came in His place. The Spirit is there before you know you need help, is there the second you need help, and is there when life is calm to remind you of God's love. The Holy Spirit is our constant companion, sent from the Father, spoken of by the Son, and ever present in His own right.

Role > Definition
Folks. Our quest, our thirst for knowledge, is a powerful draw. But we cannot allow it to shift our primary focus from the role of the Holy Spirit to a definition of the Holy Spirit. The role is primary, the role is center stage, the role is paramount. Mike Anders once wrote, “John Wesley once said, 'Show me a worm that can comprehend a human being, and then I will show you a human being that can comprehend the Triune God.' Luther's comment was even more to the point. 'To try to comprehend the Trinity endangers your sanity.' I tend to agree with Justo Gonzalez who once said, 'Trinity is a mystery, not a puzzle. You try to solve the puzzle, you stand in awe before a mystery.' "

One of the biggest challenges we face today is ourselves. You see we have extraordinary power and influence. God created us with an incredibly complex intellect, allows us to have the power of free will, and leaves the relationship He has with each of us in our control. That's power! And times I fear too much. But God's love for us is not to be undersold. We have The Helper. We have the Advocate. We have the Holy Spirit.

I want to leave you with a few words from Luke Bouman's book, Difficult Things, that help to describe and put a point on the Holy Spirit as our helper. “But in the context of God's loving action in the world, the Trinity describes a God with characteristics that go far beyond our knowledge and sight: a God who gives his life for his creation; a God who uses love, not force, to change that creation from within; a God whose Spirit moved through that creation from before the dawn of time, and moves through that creation now; a God that is not observing us from a distance, but is present and active in all of life; a God that does not exist only in the powerful and the beautiful things of this world, but also in the weak, the outcast, the ugly and the failed things. The Trinity is the story of an unexpected God, in relationship with us in unexpected places and unexpected ways.

Expect the unexpected, seek out the Holy Spirit in new ways, allow God through the Spirit to lead you into a new encounter, a deeper relationship. The Helper is here!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Bible Challenge 5/30 - 6/5

Greetings All!

This week we finish up 2 Kings and move into 1 Chronicles. It is my prayer that all of you that are participation are being blessed to the fullest measure. I would to hear from you how you have been blessed by this challenge and spending this dedicated time in God's Word!

Here is the schedule:

5/30, Sunday: 2 Kings 24 - 1 Chronicles 2

5/31, Monday: 1 Chronicles 3-6

6/1, Tuesday: 1 Chronicles 7-10

6/2, Wednesday: 1 Chronicles 11-14

6/3, Thursday: 1 Chronicles 15-18

6/4, Friday: 1 Chronicles 19-22

6/5, Saturday: 1 Chronicles 23-26

Be Blessed!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday Fives

1. Vacation Bible School - I would like to see us host a week of Vacation Bible School this year here at Druid Hills. If you are interested in helping out in any way, teaching a class, serving snack, organizing the programs, please let me know or contact the church office so we can get this organized and going. So far I have three volunteers.

2. June Newsletters – are available in the Narthex.

3. New Member Gathering - If you have been attending for a while and are thinking about joining our church there will be a New Member Gathering in the Pastor's Office on Sunday, June 13th, at 1 pm. We will discuss what it means to be a member and get to know one another as we discuss our role as Christians. If you would like to attend please call the church office to sign up.

4. Facebook and Blog – If you would like some help with finding the church's Facebook page, I will have an internet-ready computer available in Fellowship Hall to help you Sunday after lunch. Just stop by my table and I will help you find that page and show you how to maneuver around it and this blog. This is a perfect time to ask questions and get them answered!

5. Children's Home Sunday – This Sunday is Children's Home Sunday. There will be envelopes available for you to place your contributions in for us to donate to the Children's Home.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Branches United Methodist Church

Last week I lifted up Branches United Methodist Church and their pastor, Audrey Warren. At 1am last Sunday morning their sanctuary, and part of their playground, was burned to the ground.

I have been in contact with some friends of mine in that area and I have some information that I would like to pass on to all of you. First, as many of you know, we are a connectional system, meaning we are all part of one body. So I am asking you to consider helping Branches UMC, it's staff, congregation, and its ministry in any way you can. And we do have a few options.

One way to help is monetarily. If you have the ability we can do several things. One, you can put your donation in the offering plate on Sunday, two, you can drop it by the office, three, if you want to donate online, see me and I will show you how. Any money we gather I will make sure it gets to them.

Another opportunity to help is through prayer and the church has asked for prayer in several areas.
  • Prayer for help in sorting out all the information concerning the fire and for favor with the investigators.
  • Prayer for strength for Pastor Audrey and Kim Torres. Not only do they have to deal with the logistics that comes with a disaster, they still have programming for the community that starts at 2pm and does not end each night until 10pm.
  • Prayer for this community of faith who has suffered so much.
  • Prayer for insurance, investigations, adjusters, church and community leaders to stand with this sweet and powerful mission!
  • Prayer against discouragement and the spiritual forces of evil that are prevalent after a devastation like this!
This church fills an incredible need in Florida City, for children, the homeless, the poor. This church was a refuge for many, and a source of strength for all. Please be in genuine prayer for how you can help this church and its people. Thank you!

For more information about this church and the fire, you can click here

Monday, May 24, 2010

Heroes of the Old Testament - Moses

If you would like to hear the audio from this sermon just click on the link below.

I hope you like it!

Click Here

Sunday, May 23, 2010

We Are Not Alone! - Acts 2:1-12 and Acts 2:13-21

Today is Pentecost, the day we commemorate and celebrate as the day the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus' Apostles. This day is extremely significant for Christians and is held by most as one of the three most important days in the Christian year, with Easter and Christmas. Today we are going to spend our time together talking about that event and what our response should be to the infusion of the Holy Spirit in our own lives.

Did You Hear That?
A few months ago there was a bad storm here in Ocala, with lightning and thunder, dark skies, and pounding rain. I was down here at a meeting and when it was done I dodged the raindrops up the backyard on my way home. I did not think much about it but as soon I walked in the door I was met by Wesley. Do any of you remember the Flintstone's cartoon where as soon as Dino saw Fred he would run into him and knock him over and start licking his face. Well Wesley did not start licking my face but he ran into me with all the force he could muster. While in the midst of his running start he was hollering, “Daddy's home, Daddy's home!” I just thought he was happy to see me but I would soon find out it was more relief than happiness. Once he had my attention, he proceeded to tell me that it was raining outside and that there was a terrible noise. He said, “Daddy, loud noise!” and then he did this type of flex pose. I guess he did it so well he scared himself because as soon as he did it he wrapped his arms around my neck, stuck out his bottom lip, and said, “it scared me!”. That noise was a very real event for my two year old, that conjured up some serious emotions within him.

Our Scripture lesson today speaks of another noise that conjured up some very real emotions within some other people soon after Jesus ascended into Heaven. That noise is why we celebrate Pentecost. That noise forever changed this world and the followers of The Way.

What is Pentecost?
So what is Pentecost and why do we as United Methodists make such a fuss about it? Pentecost is the day when we celebrate the sound that came like the rush of a violent wind and descended on the believers where they sat. Pentecost (or "the 50th day" in ancient Greek) is a holiday of Christianity commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, fifty days after the resurrection. Pentecost is when we remember the third person of the Trinity being revealed to us. And in today's age, we as a church also celebrate Pentecost as a time to commission people into new ministries with our support and prayer for the Spirit’s power.

As a denomination, Pentecost is so important to the United Methodist Church that the flame that accompanied that sound is part of our denomination's logo and we have emphasized it on the front cover of our bulletin this morning. So as you can see there is an extreme amount of importance associated with this event.

Our Scripture lesson this morning paints the picture for how this foundational event unfolded. However, in order to gain a better understanding we need to dip back, just a bit, to the beginning of the book of Acts where Jesus' ascension to Heaven is recorded. We are told that after Christ's ascension, the Apostles begin to make their way back to Jerusalem. I cannot imagine what they must of have been feeling and thinking about. They have just watched their Master ascend into Heaven and everything is changing. They are now the ones responsible for instructing people about Jesus' teachings. They are the ones that are now responsible for starting this new movement for Jews and Gentiles alike, modeled by and entrenched in the love of Christ. They are now the ones that the Romans and other religious leaders will seek out for retribution and attack. Their response to all of this change...prayer. Acts 1:14 tells us they constantly devoted themselves to prayer.

And as we open up in chapter 2 they are sitting in a house together when the sound like the rush of violent wind comes upon them. All of them are immediately filled with the Holy Spirit and all of them begin to speak in different languages. Languages that they themselves did not previously know, but were familiar to the other people in Jerusalem at that time. And they were all speaking about God's power. Now some people figured they were drunk but Peter explained that they were not and what they were witnessing was actually prophecy being fulfilled.

What Does This Mean For Us Now?
So what does all this mean for us today, in 2010? I think it means several things.

One thing is means is that we need to make sure we are constantly practicing the discipline of prayer. Remember what the disciples were doing? They were all joined together constantly in prayer. The benefits for this are immense! Prayer is where we speak with God. Prayer is where God speaks to us. Prayer is what enables us to be in tune with God. Prayer is what joins us together as one united body. Prayer is where the power of the Holy Spirit can be unleashed! Do you know where the church is growing the fastest? It is not in the United States. It is in Korea, Africa, and Latin America. For some years now there have been massive revivals taking place in these southern countries. Ask the Korean Methodist ministers and they will tell you that the cornerstone of this revival is prayer.

And those churches are not alone in this thought. I want to read to you what the President said about our nation and the power and importance of prayer:

“We have been the recipients of the greatest blessings of heaven. We have been preserved in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand, which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.

Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to God that made us. We should be moved then to humble ourselves before the God, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”

These words were said on April 30...1863, by Abraham Lincoln as he proclaimed a National Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer. Prayer is just as vital today as it was in 1863. We need to constantly devote ourselves to prayer so that the power of the Holy Spirit can run rampant in our lives, so that we can be infused with His power to carry out the will of God.

Another aspect that we can learn from Pentecost is that the coming of the Holy Spirit also fulfills the promise Christ made that when He left, that we as His followers would not be alone. In John 14:25-27, Jesus tells the disciples, “ All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Christ loves us so much that a way was created for us to always feels His presence. And that way was the Holy Spirit. When we pray we are connected with Christ. When we are connected that is the work of the Holy Spirit creating and maintaining our connection with our Savior.

So, working with the understanding that prayer and companionship are the ways in which the Holy Spirit works through and in us, now comes our part. The Holy Spirit was sent for more that just as a constant connection with one another and with Christ. The Holy Spirit was also sent so that we could be equipped to build the Kingdom of God. We have work to do. We have people to reach. We have people to love. That can be done with active evangelism, where we are speaking directly about God and the impact God will have in a believer's life, or it can be done with passive evangelism, where we teach by example rather than direct words. But it needs to be done. Stepping out for Christ can be daunting. It can be terrifying. But the Holy Spirit is here.

When Wesley was scared about the lightning and the thunder outside, being able to wrap his arms around my neck brought him comfort. Wesley knowing that daddy was there to physically protect him from the scary outside noises was all he needed to feel safe. When we are scared about the outside evangelism that we are asked to do, you can wrap your arms around the Holy Spirit and feel the peace and calmness that comes from that.

We Christians are called to a special life, a set apart type of life. A life that God did not intend for us to live alone. All of us here derive some pleasure from being part of this church body. Some of us derive some sort of energy from having a close group of friends that we can share our lives with. Fellowship is vital, at church and in life.

Just as we are charged up in those settings, the Holy Spirit, when called upon through prayer, will do the same thing within us. All we have to do is make that call. I encourage you to make that call today!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Bible Challenge 5/23 - 5/29

Hello All!

Here is the schedule for next week's readings. We are wrapping up 1 Kings and diving into 2 Kings.

5/23, Sunday - 1 Kings 18-21

5/24, Monday - 1 Kings 22 - 2 Kings 3

5/25, Tuesday - 2 Kings 4-7

5/26, Wednesday - 2 Kings 8-11

5/27, Thursday - 2 Kings 12-15

5/28, Friday - 2 Kings 16-19

5/29, Saturday - 2 Kings 20-23

Be Blessed!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Heroes of the Faith: Job – Job 42:1-6 and Job 42:7-17

Today we are concluding our preaching series entitled, Heroes of the Faith where each week we focused on one significant person from our faith history and explored not only why they are now considered a hero of our faith, but what we can learn from them. The first week we looked at Noah and his incredible, and thought of at the time, outlandish faith in God and how his actions can be a model for us today. Next up was Abraham and how he navigated several crossroads in his life and did not let fear or uncertainty deter him. Following Abraham was Joseph and we focused on how our timing is not necessarily God's timing and the solace we can have in that fact. Last week we looked at one of our most famous heroes, Moses, and saw how God used and transformed an ordinary person for extraordinary tasks and how with faith God will do the same with us. Today we are looking at one of our most misunderstood heroes, Job. And we are going to focus on how no matter how bleak things look, and they looked bleak for Job, we can count on God's sufficiency.

The Agony of the Cup
One morning a little girl sat at a kitchen table to eat breakfast with her mother and father. As she listened to the prayer her father prayed before the meal, she was especially intrigued that he thanked God for God's presence everywhere.

After the father finished his prayer the little girl asked him, "Father, is it really true that God is everywhere?" "Yes," said her father. "Is God in this house?" she asked. "Yes," her father said. "Is God in this kitchen?" "Yes," her father said. "Is God on this table?" she asked. "Yes," her father said. The little girl hesitated and then asked, "Is God in this cup?" Her father said, "Yes." Upon hearing this the little girl quickly covered the cup with her hand and exclaimed, "I've got Him!"

We all know that God cannot be confined to a cup. But how often do we try to confine God by our own intellect, our own understanding, our own limitations? Our hero for today went that route. Job tried to make sense of his life and of God's role in it, by his own limitations than by God's greatness. A mistake that he eventually learned from and corrected.

Talk About Misfortune!
Job was a wealthy landowner that lived in Uz. Scripture records for us the large family he had, the thousands of animals he possessed, and even goes as far as to say he was the greatest man in all the East. But this prosperity would not last. As it is recorded Satan and God have a conversation and God begins to brag on Job. God says “there is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8). Satan replies that anyone could fit that role while under God's protection, but take that protection away and the loyalty goes away as well. God counters by turning everything Job has over to Satan, but tells Satan he cannot harm Job's person. Satan, without hesitation, immediately conspires to have all of Job's animals and servants stolen or killed, and then goes as far as to kill Job's children. But Job did not blame God.

Satan returns to God and God begins to brag about Job again, saying everything he did before but adding that even with all the terrible things you did to him, he maintained his integrity. Satan says well sure, but strike Job himself and that integrity will disappear. God, confident in Job, says fine, do as you will to Job, but you cannot kill him. So Satan afflicts Job with painful sores from his head to his feet. In fact, he is in such a bad state that his wife takes pity upon him and tells him to curse God so he can die and be put out of this misery. But Job did not blame God.

Following this is 28 chapters of “counseling” from three of Job's friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. These three men, in trying to comfort Job, fall woefully short. They try to convince Job that all of this misfortune is because Job has sinned and is being punished. They all tell him in different ways, that he needs to repent and humble himself before God to make up for his enormous sins. I feel for Job right here. First, Job has to endure incredible loss and personal suffering, and now he has to endure terrible theology. What Job is being forced to endure is obscene because the kicker is, none of this is his fault. He is completely innocent. He knows in his heart what is being done to him is unjust. And this causes many feelings within Job. As one scholar puts it, “Job has second thoughts; he wrestles with God, challenges God, and sinks into depths of despair, with moments of trust and confidence, only to fall again into despair.” But in all of this, he never fulfills Satan premise, he never curses God to God's face.

Now, Job does get a bit self-righteous in chapters 29-31, but he also has bouts of blaming the Lord for tormenting him, at other times he wants God to leave him alone, and yet at other times he wants God to talk to him. Job is searching...Job is confused. All he truly wants is to understand what is going on. He truly wants an audience with God to plead his case. Job is certain of his own vindication, if God will only hear him.

Well God does hear him and God answers him out of a storm. And what an answer it is. God begins by telling him , “brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me” (38:3). God begins to describe all of the wonders that God created and each time asks Job what his role was in that creation. God describes the creation of the Earth's foundation, the unleashing of the sea, the orders given to the morning, the location of the light and the dark, and list goes on and on. All things that Job has no answer for and had no role in. And when God finally pauses, it is only to ask if Job sees anywhere that God needs to be corrected. Job apologizes and says he is unworthy and will put his hand over his mouth. But that is not the end. God again says, “brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me” (40:7). God this time talks about moral order, wickedness, the behemoth, and the leviathan and God's rule over all of them. Job, poor, sore, confused, and embarrassed begins to humble himself.

He apologizes and this is how The Message version records it, “Job answered God: "I'm convinced: You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plans. You asked, 'Who is this muddying the water, ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?' I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me, made small talk about wonders way over my head. You told me, 'Listen, and let me do the talking. Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.' I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all first hand — from my own eyes and ears!
I'm sorry — forgive me. I'll never do that again, I promise! I'll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor" (42:1-6).

God becomes moved by Job's apology and so angry with those 'counselors' that God acts. First to those counselors God tells them to sacrifice burnt offerings and have Job pray for them because they need forgiveness and that is the only they are going to get it. And for Job, God not only restores Job, but does it two fold.

Worthy of Heroic Status?
So with that in mind, does Job display heroic faith? Remember that the beginning of Hebrews chapter 11 speaks a great deal about what constitutes heroic faith. It tells us that faith, heroic faith, has three main components: First you have to be FOCUSED, grounded in God alone. Next you have to be CONFIDENT, certain of what we do not see. Finally, you have to be OBEDIENT, as demonstrated in our actions. But before we get to that I want to mention that each of the previous weeks we have been discussing heroes that were specifically mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11. But Job is not, and I thought it important to use this litmus test on Job and see what happens.

So with all that Job went through, can we consider him focused, confident, and obedient?

Focused. This whole book shows Job constantly looking for God, yearning for God, speaking about God, even wresting with God and challenging God. But never turning away from God. Job has every reason in the world to abandon God. Job is described as upright and blameless. He is also a pretty nice guy to boot. He says in one of his speeches that no one has ever left his house hungry and no one has ever had to spend the night outside because his door was always open. Job looked out for the less fortunate and shared his great wealth will everyone. And despite all this, everything is taken from him. But he never loses focus on God or curses him. To me that is a model of what it means to be focused on God.

Confident. Is Job confident in that which he cannot see? Job is enduring horrific events in his life but he never loses his faith. He never loses his belief that God is there. In fact he is constantly searching for God to vindicate him and ease his suffering. And I think that is because Job understood the sufficiency of God's grace. We need to understand that everything we go through can be used for God's glory if we let it. Everything. The lessons we can learn through our trials, the tools we can gain from our failures, all of it can be of benefit for the Kingdom. Job taught us that everyone will suffer, but it is how we endure it and look to God that is important. Job could not see God, and up till the very end, did not talk to God, but his confidence was shown not only in God's presence but also God's grace.

Obedient. Was Job obedient? Satan makes two hypotheses in 1:11 and 2:5, that if you take protection and health away from someone, even someone as blameless as Job, they will curse God. God gives permission for Satan to test these theories of his. And on Job they backfire. Even though Job wrestles and challenges God, he never curses God and to me that shows obedience, especially considering all that Job had to face.

Don't Limit God
We crave understanding. We want answers. Questions drive us nuts. Especially when it comes to the aspect of our suffering. There are things that we are going to face in this life that are unjust, that make no sense, and that we do not deserve. Things that we find it impossible to wrap our minds around. Things that we desperately want answers to.

My challenge for all of us this week is to work on living in God's grace rather than our own understandings. We serve a God that created all things, understands all things, and knows all things. And the great thing about that, is God loves you! We have as our guide and our shepherd, the only person that knows it all. Let God work with you and place your trust in his provisions. He will not steer you wrong.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Bible Challenge 5/16 - 5/22

Greetings All!

Here is next week's Bible Challenge reading schedule. We are finishing up 2 Samuel and moving into 1 Kings.

5/16, Sunday - 2 Samuel 14-17

5/17, Monday - 2 Samuel 18-21

5/18, Tuesday - 2 Samuel 22 - 1 Kings 1

5/19, Wednesday - 1 Kings 2-5

5/20, Thursday - 1 Kings 6-9

5/21, Friday - 1 Kings 10-13

5/22, Saturday - 1 Kings 14-17

Be Blessed!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday Fives

Greetings All!

Here are a few things that I wanted to bring to everyone's attention.

1. Vacation Bible School
- I would like to see us host a week of Vacation Bible School this year here at Druid Hills. If you are interested in helping out in any way, teaching a class, serving snack, organizing the programs, please let me know or contact the church office so we can get this organized and going. So far I have three volunteers.

2. June Newsletters – If you would like to submit an article for the June edition of the Sunshine Herald, it needs to be in by Sunday, May 16th.

3. We Need Your Participation - We have two events coming up in worship and need your participation.
  • The first event is Pentecost. On May 23rd we are celebrating the point in which the Holy Spirit came upon the believers and we are asking everyone to wear red or white that Sunday to worship.
  • The second event is May 30th where we will observe Memorial Day. We are asking all people to bring red, white, and/or blue flowers to worship so we can decorate the cross outside the sanctuary.
We look forward to seeing how colorful these events will be with everyone's participation!

4. Meeting Day – Next Wednesday, 5/19, is our monthly meeting day: Trustees at 5pm, Finance at 6pm, and Church Council at 7pm. If you are a member of any of these committees please make plans to attend.

5. Personal Care Sunday – Next Sunday is Personal Care Sunday, so any personal care items that you can bring in for us to donate to Interfaith will be greatly appreciated. There will be a wicker basket on the front pew for you to place these items in.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Heroes of the Faith: Moses – Hebrews 11:23-29 and Exodus 3:10-14; 4:1-13

Today we are continuing our preaching series entitled, Heroes of the Faith where each week we will focus on one significant person from our faith history and explore not only why they are now considered a hero of our faith, but what we can learn from them. Three weeks ago we looked at Noah and his incredible, and thought of at the time, outlandish faith he had in God and how his actions can be a model for us today. Two weeks ago we focused on Abraham to see how he navigated several crossroads in his life and how he did did not let fear or uncertainty deter him. Last week we looked at Joseph to see how our timing is not necessarily God's timing and how we can find solace in that fact. Today we are going to look at one of our most famous heroes, Moses, and see how God use and transform ordinary people for extraordinary tasks.

Are you like Alice?
Debbie and I went to see the new Alice in Wonderland movie several weeks ago and as I am waiting for the story to really get going to see all the special effects, we went to see it in 3D by the way, I became enthralled at the differences between Alice and her mother. Her mother is this no nonsense, extremely logical personality. Do only what you are sure of, base everything in fact, and by all means there is no room for silliness. Alice on the other hand is this imaginative, star eyed person, that at one point in the movie exclaims, “Why, sometimes I've thought of as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” These two relatives were polar opposites. And what struck me the most was where do we fall in this personality spectrum when expressing our faith. Are we only dealing in what we know we can do, what is logical, affordable, easy. Or do we say with God all things are possible and set out to believe in impossible things. Our Old Testament character for today, Moses operated on all ends of this spectrum.

Excuses, Excuses
I’m sure that many of you are familiar with the story of Moses, but this morning let’s review his life a little to see how we’ve gotten to this point. In the time between the life of Joseph and the life of Moses, about 400 years has passed. All of Joseph’s family had moved into Egypt for protection, but during this time, Joseph had died and new pharaohs had risen to power who did not remember all the wonderful things Joseph had done for the country. The new pharaohs became scared of the Israelites because they were growing so large in number, about half a million people, and they were afraid that the Israelites might decide to overthrow the country. So they made the Israelites their slaves, making them do hard labor outside. Moses was born to one of the Israelite slave families.

About the time of his birth, the Pharaoh gave an order to have all male Hebrew babies killed. But Moses’ parents felt their baby was a special gift from God destined to do great things. And so they hid him, risking their own lives in the process. Eventually though, they had to put their little baby in a basket, waterproof it with tar, and set him out to float in the Nile River. The currents in the water carried the baby to where Pharaoh's daughter went for her daily swim. She discovered the little baby in the basket among the bullrushes, and would raise him as her own – Moses grew up as an Egyptian in Pharaoh’s own palace.

We are not told when or how Moses learned that he was really a Hebrew. But Scripture tells us that one day, when Moses was probably about 40 years old, Moses saw a Hebrew being mistreated by an Egyptian, and in defense of the Hebrew he struck the Egyptian and killed him. He knew Pharaoh would be very angry with him and so he fled for his life to the wilderness of Midian. There he met a woman named Zipporah, got married, had children and spent the next forty years tending flocks as a shepherd in the wilderness of the Sinai desert.

One day while Moses is out tending the sheep, he sees a bush that suddenly bursts into flame, continues to burn and is not consumed. Very strange! So he approached the bush to see what is going on. And out of the bush comes the voice of God saying, "Moses, take off your sandals because you are standing on holy ground." So Moses took off his sandals and knelt before God, who was speaking from that burning bush. And God tells Moses that he is God’s chosen representative to go back to Egypt and free the Israelites from their suffering. Rather than being thrilled at this honor and privilege, Moses begins to argue with God, listing off one excuse after another as to why he could not go for God.

First of all, Moses believed himself to be unworthy. He asks, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?” At this point in his life he is 80 years old and a desert shepherd. Plus he is still a fugitive who had run from Pharaoh’s punishment. But God answered this excuse by saying that he would be with Moses.

Still Moses wasn’t satisfied. Next he pleaded ignorance. He didn’t know what to say about God, he didn’t even know what God’s name was. And so God supplied Moses with the answers that he was seeking – he told him that “I Am Who I Am” and that he was the God of his ancestors, of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.

No Authority
But again, Moses had another excuse. He didn’t have authority over the Israelites. “Lord who do you think I am? I don’t have any credibility with the Hebrews. If I go and announce that I am their deliverer, they won’t believe me, they won’t listen to me, they’ll say I’m lying about what you have said.” God answered this excuse by enabling Moses to perform signs and wonders in order to prove that God had given Moses authority. Following God’s directions, Moses’ shepherd staff was turned into a snake and then back into a shepherd’ staff. And Moses’ own hand was turned leprous and then healed.

Not A Good Public Speaker
Still Moses had another excuse. This time he appealed to a personal handicap, thinking that might stop God. He was unable to go and speak for God because he “slow of speech and tongue.” God answered Moses by reminding him that God had created his mouth and that he would be his mouth and teach him what to say.

Anybody but Me!
At this point Moses had made several excuses, and God had an answer for every single one of them. But Moses was desperate and still unwilling to go. He basically tells God in 4:13 to “Send anybody but me!” God tells Moses that he would receive help from his brother Aaron who could speak well and whom God already prompted to travel to see Moses. And God promised Moses that he would help both of them speak and teach them what to do. And he reminded Moses to take the staff in his hand with him, with which he would perform God’s signs and wonders.

Finally, Moses decided it was time to say “Yes,” and he started off in faith to obey God. And as we know, God indeed was with him and the results were extraordinary – after the plagues of Egypt, Pharaoh allowed Moses to leave with the Israelites. And God enabled Moses to part the Red Sea to enable the Israelites to escape. And God continued to be with Moses and guide him as he led the people of Israel through the desert for 40 years to the Promised Land.

Worthy of Heroic Status?
Remember that the beginning of Hebrews chapter 11 speaks a great deal about what constitutes heroic faith. It tells us that faith, heroic faith, has three main components: First you have to be FOCUSED, grounded in God alone. Next you have to be CONFIDENT, certain of what we do not see. Finally, you have to be OBEDIENT, as demonstrated in our actions.

So with all of Moses' excuses and self-doubt, can we consider him focused, confident, and obedient?

Concerning his focus on God, God does not seem to be an afterthought for Moses. Moses has many, many conversations with God over the course of his life. Moses is one of the few people that Scripture records that has physical encounters with God. Encounters that leave his face radiant, shining so bright that eventually begins to wear a veil when he speaks to the Israelites. God was a very real and very present aspect of Moses' adult life. The numerous conversations show us that Moses recognized God and was focused upon Him.

Next is to look at his confidence in that which he cannot see. Moses was charged with leading his people, the Israelites, out of Egypt into the Promised Land that was going to be given to them by God. This journey was going to require leading many people through land they were unfamiliar with, on a trek that was hastily prepared for, and with provisions that were no where near adequate. There was significant amounts of uncertainty but they went and Moses led them. Moses, constantly affirmed by God, left his life as a shepherd, and followed God. All of this was done on the basis of promise by God for land, provision, and security. None of which could be seen or held. For me that shows incredible confidence in that which he cannot see.

Finally we move to whether or not Moses was obedient as demonstrated by his actions. The first thought that came to my mind was how in the world can we consider him obedient after all the excuses we just read about? How can we consider Moses obedient when he offered up so many excuses? In the beginning you can't. But look at Moses' life and how God continually worked through him and with him. Constantly pushing him, using him, transforming him. As the story of Moses goes on we see him change and we see this bold servant emerge. A servant that holds his people accountable to God. That never sways in the purpose of his mission, and eventually becomes God's mouthpiece for the law given to them from God. He even became the Israelites advocate when God said he was going to destroy them. As his life progressed his obedience strengthen. Moses gave everything up to follow God; his life in Midian, his no pressure job as a shepherd, and the security of Jethro's family. Looking at all of that I would consider him extremely obedient.

Moses was a man that went through incredible changes over the span of his lifetime. He went from a fearful, calculating person to one that accomplished incredible, unbelievable, and by human standards, impossible things for God. But this was not an easy transformation for Moses, nor was it was one that could have happened without God. Moses succumbed, eventually, to God. Gave up his own passions and desires, understanding that God's were better. He learned that his small picture view of life was inadequate and gave himself over to God. Remember Alice's quote from the movie, “Why, sometimes I've thought of as many as six impossible things before breakfast”?

My challenge for you is follow suit. Can you think of six impossible things that God can do through you? I encourage you to spend time this week giving yourself up to God. Moses did not do overnight, but he kept working at it till it was a way of life. And God did amazing things through this willing vessel. No one is expecting overnight submission but go a step at a time. God wants do amazing things through you...all you have to do is let him.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Bible Challenge 5/9 - 5/15

Hello All!

Here is the schedule for next week. We will finish up 1 Samuel and get into 2 Samuel. Just out of curiosity if you are participating in this please drop me a quick line and let me know how you like it!

5/9, Sunday - 1 Samuel 17-20

5/10, Monday - 1 Samuel 21-24

5/11, Tuesday - 1 Samuel 25-28

5/12, Wednesday - 1 Samuel 29 - 2 Samuel 1

5/13, Thursday - 2 Samuel 2-5

5/14, Friday - 2 Samuel 6-9

5/15, Saturday - 2 Samuel 10-13

Be Blessed!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Friday Fives

Greetings Friends!

Here are a few things that I wanted to bring to your attention this week:

1. Preaching Series - We are continuing our preaching series this Sunday, Heroes of the Faith. We are looking at the examples of faith lived out by some of our Biblical Heroes and what we can learn from them. This week we will focus on Moses.

2. Vacation Bible School - I would like to see us host a week of Vacation Bible School this year, here at Druid Hills. If you are interested in helping out in any way, teaching a class, serving snack, organizing the programs, please contact either the church office or myself so we can get this organized and going. So far two people have come forward. We need more, so if you are interested please let us know.

3. Open Invitation - I would like to call you attention to an invitation issued by John Clayton. It reads as follows:

To those who love God & Druid Hills UMC & believe in the power of prayer. Come & meet with me at 9:45am on Sunday mornings for group prayer. We will be lifting up our Pastor Daryl & the body of Christ as known here at Druid Hills. We will meet in the Educational Building in the room designated, "Together Class", at the end of the hall. May God look with favor on our efforts to seek His guidance & wisdom.

4. We Need Your Participation - We have two events coming up in worship and need your participation.
  • The first event is Pentecost. On May 23rd we are celebrating the point in which the Holy Spirit came upon the believers and we are asking everyone to wear red or white that Sunday to worship.
  • The second event is May 30th where we will observe Memorial Day. We are asking all people to bring red, white, and/or blue flowers to worship so we can decorate the cross outside the sanctuary.
We look forward to seeing how colorful these events will be with all of your participation!

5. Canned Food Sunday - This Sunday is Canned Food Sunday so please bring your canned food to help fill our 2 x 4 boxes. There will be wicker baskets on the front pew for you to drop these items off.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Heroes of the Faith: Joseph – Hebrews 11:22 and Genesis 37:15-28; 50:22-26

Today we are continuing our preaching series entitled, Heroes of the Faith where each week we will focus on one significant person from our faith history and explore not only why they are now considered a hero of our faith, but what we can learn from them. Two weeks ago we looked at Noah and his incredible, and thought of at the time, outlandish faith he had in God and how his actions can be a model for us today. Last week we focused on Abraham to see how he navigated several crossroads in his life and how he did did not let fear or uncertainty deter him. Today we are going look at Joseph to see how our timing is not necessarily God's timing and how we can find solace in that fact.

God's Daytimer
I have an organizer that I write everything down in. I have my appointments, my tasks that have to be done, my thoughts on future things I would like to get done, my calendar, everything. If I lost this it would take a great deal of time for me to re-create all of this and whoever opened it could find out a great deal about my plans. With that in mind I have a question for all of you. Have you ever wanted to get your hands on God's organizer? Have you ever wanted to see what God has planned for you...or maybe rearrange a bit of it to suit your ambitions and ideas.

One of my favorite bumper stickers says, “Attention all 18 year olds, move out now while you still know everything!” When I was in high school, by the end of my junior year, I had my life planned out. I was going to graduate high school, finish college in four years, become an accountant, marry my high school sweetheart, have two children, a boy and girl, boy first, make a lot of money, and live happily ever after. I was also confident that this plan was written in God's Daytimer. But as you all can tell, that is not quite what happened. My timing, my ambitions, were not exactly in line with God's. And the situation I am in now, is far better than what it could have been if I had my own way, back when I was a teenager.

I think we all have had the thought at one time or another that we have it all figured out. That all God needs to do is simply listen to us and obey our wishes. But our hero for today, Joseph, understood God's plan and God's timing was far better than anything we could create.

The Story of Joe
I have always been fascinated by Joseph, especially after I learned that this Joseph was not the carpenter that was Jesus' earthly daddy. You see Joseph lived a truly remarkable life, that many of us today probably would not wish our our worst enemy. Joseph, the son of Jacob, spent a good portion of his life enslaved, in prison, or in service to another. Eventually he rose to become Pharaoh’s second-in-command in Egypt.

So how did Joseph get his great confidence and understanding in God’s timing and perfect plan? To understand that we need to go back and explore several episodes from Joseph’s life where God’s perfect timing was made known to him. This lesson was one that he had learned well, starting at a fairly young age.

Brother Sell Him Into Slavery
Joseph was the great-grandson of Abraham, and the child of Jacob and his wife Rachel. Although he had ten older half-brothers and one younger full brother, Joseph was his father’s favorite. Whereas all his older brothers had to work in the fields, Joseph was allowed to stay home. Whereas all his older brothers wore the traditional plain sleeveless tunic of the day, Jacob had a special full-length colorful robe made for Joseph. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Joseph had a special gift from God for dreams and dream interpretation. He had two dreams as a teenager about all his older brothers bowing down to him, and he told them about it. So one day when Jacob sent Joseph out into the fields to check up on his older brothers, the brothers decided they had had enough. They took Joseph and stripped him of his colorful robe. Then they threw him down into an empty cistern. Some of them wanted to kill him, but his brother Reuben spoke up for him. So instead when a caravan of traders came by, the brothers sold Joseph into slavery. Then they took his robe, smeared it with animal blood and returned home to tell their father that his beloved Joseph had been killed by a wild animal.

Jailed on a False Charge
Well if that was not enough, when the slave caravan ended up in Egypt, Joseph was sold once again. This time to one of Pharaoh’s officials, Potiphar, captain of the royal guard. However, God blessed Joseph in Potiphar’s house, and eventually Potiphar was so pleased with Joseph that he made the young Israelite his personal assistant, putting Joseph in charge of the entire household and the rest of Potiphar’s slaves. But this would not last. You see Joseph was an attractive young man and eventually he caught the eye of Potiphar’s wife. Several times she tried to seduce the young man, and several times he denied her. This angered her and as revenge she made false accusations against him and Joseph ended up in the royal prison.

Dream Interpretation Nets New Role
But again, God was with Joseph and blessed him, even in jail. The prison warden was so pleased with how Joseph carried himself that he eventually made Joseph his personal assistant, putting Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison and everything that happened there. In the prison were two of Pharaoh’s own servants who had offended their master – his chief cupbearer whose job it was to taste his food, and his chief baker. While in prison they each had a dream, and Joseph was able to interpret them. In time, the baker was executed and the cupbearer was restored to his position. He promised Joseph that he would put in a good word for him, but he forgot. Two years later Pharaoh begins to have some strange dreams about 7 skinny cows eating 7 fat cows and 7 skinny heads of grain devouring 7 healthy heads of grain. None of Pharaoh’s people could interpret his dreams. Finally the cupbearer remembered how Joseph had interpreted his dream in prison and his promise of putting in a good word about Joseph to Pharaoh, and he speaks up and tells Pharaoh about Joseph and his ability. So Pharaoh sends for Joseph. God enables Joseph to interpret the dreams – there will be seven good plentiful years of crops followed by seven horrible years of drought and famine. Pharaoh is so pleased with Joseph that he elevates him to second-in-command in Egypt and puts him in charge of a plan to store up surplus food during the good years so there will be food to ration out during the years of famine.

Family Reunion
The seven prosperous years go by and Joseph has the Egyptians store up plenty of food in warehouses. Then during the famine he is in charge of rationing out the food to the Egyptians and those desperate and hungry from nearby lands who come in search of food. Some of those who travel in looking for food are Joseph’s own family – the brothers who had so many years ago sold him into slavery. At first they don’t recognize him, but when it is revealed who Joseph is, they are greatly afraid for their lives. But instead of taking revenge, Joseph forgives them. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20). Joseph is reunited with all his brothers and his father, and has the entire family come and live under his protection in Egypt.

Is Joseph Heroic?
Remember that the beginning of Hebrews chapter 11 speaks a great deal about what constitutes heroic faith. It tells us that faith, heroic faith, has three main components: First you have to be FOCUSED, grounded in God alone. Next you have to be CONFIDENT, certain of what we do not see. Finally, you have to be OBEDIENT, as demonstrated in our actions.

So with all that Joseph went through, was he focused, confident, and obedient?

No matter what Joseph faced, God was with him and blessed him. Time after time Scripture tells us that God prospered Joseph or blessed him. Through slavery, imprisonment, or in leadership. That fact that God was a constant force in his life tells us that Joseph was always looking to God. When Pharaoh tried to give him the credit for interpreting his dreams, Joseph said God allowed him to do it. When Joseph and his brothers were reconciling, all those years later, he tells them, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is not being done, the saving of many lives” (Gen 50:20). Joseph never turned his focus from God, not in slavery, prison, or treatment of those who wronged him. God was always at the front of Joseph's mind, he was very focused.

Now let's look at his confidence. Joseph's confidence in that which he could not see came to a head at the end of his life. Earlier we read from Hebrews 11:22, the only verse in this chapter about Joseph, “By faith Joseph, when his end was near, he spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones.” Joseph was so confident in God’s timing and perfect plan, that he knew God would eventually lead the Israelites up out of the land of Egypt. And he didn’t want to get left behind. He made his brothers swear an oath that when God came to their aid, they would carry his bones up from Egypt and back to the land promised to their ancestors. Joseph was so confident in events that had not yet happened he made plans around them. To me that is a wonderful statement of confidence in that he could not see.

Finally, how is his obedience. Well, Joseph's obedience was found in his conduct. Joseph went through some terrible ordeals in his life. But instead of asking “why?” or becoming pessimistic, he asked “What shall I do now?”. With his slavery, imprisonment, and servitude periods he could have rebelled, left God, and done things his way. But he didn't. Rather he used those situations for God's glory rather than his own gain. That shows great obedience.

Joseph is a great hero of the faith. His life was full of ups and downs. But he never said woe is me. He never doubted God's plan. He understood that God's wisdom, God's timing, and God's plan were perfect. He understood that no matter what he was facing that God was there to lead him and guide him.

My prayer for all of us today is that we are given the strength to stayed focused on the One who created us, the One who guides us, the One who loves us. I am here today to tell you to lean on God, stay focused on God, and allow God to be your guide, He has been where you are going and will never lead you astray.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Bible Challenge 5/2 - 5/8

Greetings Fellow Bible Readers! Here is the schedule for next week. I would love to hear from some of you that are participating. You can email me or tell me at worship. I am eager to hear how many of you are doing this and being blessed by it! This week we finish up Judges, move through Ruth, and move into 1 Samuel.

5/2, Sunday - Judges 14-17

5/3, Monday - Judges 18-21

5/4, Tuesday - Ruth 1-4

5/5, Wednesday - 1 Samuel 1-4

5/6, Thursday - 1 Samuel 5-8

5/7, Friday - 1 Samuel 9-12

5/8, Saturday - 1 Samuel 13-16

Be Blessed