Sunday, May 29, 2011

Bishop Schnase's Plea

Here is the video from Bishop Robert Schnase where he shares a few words of encouragement and appeals to the churches in Missouri and across our country.  This is the video that I mentioned during our prayer time in worship this morning.  As you watch this I ask you for two things.  First and foremost, please keep the people of Joplin bathed in prayer.  Second, I encourage you to consider donating financially to help these people and the ministries of Joplin.

God's blessings on each of you!

The Three in One: Son – Hebrews 4:14-16 and Philippians 2:1-11

This week we are going to continue our preaching series focusing on our understanding of the nature and being of our Triune God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Who are they? How do you describe them? Is our understanding of them accurate and theologically correct? Last week we began with God as we explored ways to express our belief in God, talk about God, and who do we understand God to be.

Today, we turn our attention to Jesus. Jesus has many sides and has been referred to in many different ways. Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus the Christ, Jesus the Messiah, Jesus: descendant of David, Jesus: son of Joseph. Which one is correct? Is one more accurate than another? Are they all correct? So much controversy for just one man! Christians have been faced with this controversy for generations. How do we reconcile the historical Jesus, the Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Mary and Joseph, with the Messiah, the Savior, the Son of God. Which is more important? After all Jesus is simply the Son of God, right? This morning we are going to seek to illuminate this debate as we turn our attention to discuss the nature and being of Jesus. Specifically, what is the bond between Jesus and God, what is the relationship between Jesus and humanity, and how can we as disciples of Christ articulate those bonds to others.

Who Is Jesus?
Last week we spent time looking at the nature and being of God and how our understanding of God comes through God revealing God's self to us. We emphasized that spending daily, dedicated time with God was one way to place ourselves in a position to experience God. Today I want us to take that same approach and apply it Jesus. Therefore, let us look at the nature and being of Jesus. Our United Methodist Book of Discipline describes our understanding of Jesus like this:

We believe in Jesus Christ, truly God and truly man,
in whom the divine and human natures are perfectly
and inseparably united. He is the eternal Word made
flesh, the only begotten Son of the Father, born of the
Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. As ministering
Servant he lived, suffered and died on the cross. He
was buried, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven
to be with the Father, from whence he shall return. He is
eternal Savior and Mediator, who intercedes for us, and by
him all men will be judged.1

This description contains many aspects of the nature of Jesus. Attributes such as being both fully human and fully divine, eternal, incarnate, born of a virgin. It also speaks of Jesus' death and resurrection, as well as, the fact that Jesus now intercedes to the Father on our behalf. How can we know all of this is true? Scripture.

The Gospel of John attests that “in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:1, 14). As the “Word made flesh,” Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection hold great significance for us as believers. Most weeks, we recite the Apostles’ Creed during worship. In that creed we can gain an understanding of both the person and work of Jesus Christ. One aspect we learn is that Jesus Christ is God’s “only Son our Lord: who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.” This is the great mystery of the incarnation; that God would take on human form in the person of Jesus from Nazareth. All four Gospel writers address this relationship between God and Jesus. As we have already seen, John explains Jesus as the “Word made flesh,” while Mark speaks of Jesus’ adoption as God’s son during his baptism. Matthew and Luke refer to Jesus as being conceived by the Holy Spirit. But while Jesus as the Son of God is fully divine, Jesus is also fully human as the Son of Man, existing as a real living, breathing person. But how can Jesus be both? Scripture shows us repeatedly.

Jesus as Fully Human and Fully Divine
From our first Scripture lesson this morning, Hebrews 4:15: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.”

From Colossians 1:19: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him”

And from our second Scripture lesson this morning, Phillipians 2:6-11: who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (NRSV)

We find Jesus not grasping to be an equal with God but to be a servant made in human likeness. Theologian Tyron Inbody explains the significance of Jesus’ humanity as: “Jesus Christ is true humanity, humanity as it was created to be. Jesus Christ, not Adam and Eve, defines what it is to be the image of God… and reveals the love and mercy of God and through identification with us restores or completes our human being, which is now disfigured by sin as the likeness of God.”2

Christ was not seeking to come in a position of power but rather out of a desire to love and to bless. Jesus was not using his nature of being fully human as a tool to garner more for himself, but to lift us up so that we might better understand the love, grace, and mercy of his Father, of God. Jesus was modeling the the true nature of what it means to love. There were no longer just words to help us understand. There was action. There was Jesus.

But Why?
But why would Jesus need to come to us as fully human and fully divine? Why did he need to come and model for us what love really looked like? Because we needed a bridge. Humanity had been sought out by God time and time again. And we rejected God, time and time again. God needed a new way to reach us. A way that we could not ignore so easily. A way that would grab and hold our attention. Enter Jesus. Enter in the love and the very essence of God the Father. But in the flesh. Jesus emptying himself out for humanity.

Theologian Morna Hooker writes, Christ did not cease to be 'in the form of God' when he took the form of a slave, any more than he ceased to be the 'Son of God' when he was sent into the world. On the contrary, it is in his self-emptying and his humiliation that he reveals what God is like, and it is through his taking the form of a slave that we see 'the form of God.'”3

These acts, this model, are why Hebrews refers to Jesus as a “high priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses” (4:15). Jesus being both fully human and fully divine could connect us with God. He could be both human and divine for a world that desperately needed him.

Worship Worthy
Understanding these acts, understanding his nature as fully human and fully divine, understanding the love that was shown by this man to all he met, allows me to call him Lord of my life and to worship him.

When we proclaim “Jesus Christ is Lord” we acknowledge several things about the nature and work of the second person of our Triune God. The name Jesus reminds us that the love and grace of God was manifest in human form as the “Word made flesh” (John 1:14) in the person and work of Jesus from Nazareth. As Jesus himself explained to the disciples, “anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:6). But while Jesus was fully human in nature, he was also at the same time fully divine and the title of Christ reflects this divine nature and work as Savior. After the resurrection of Jesus, the early Christians proclaimed Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ (John 20:31, Acts 5:42, Romans 8:39), acknowledging him as the promised Messiah or God’s Anointed One. The title Lord is an expression of Jesus Christ’s “divine superiority, authority and power…over the world and the church”4 and reflects that Jesus “was appointed by the Father to have us under his power, to administer the Kingdom of God in heaven and earth.”5

In affirming the names Jesus and Christ, we come to understand the God who came to be with us. By professing Jesus Christ as kurios or Lord, we as believers personalize that understanding as we acknowledge Jesus’ kingdom rule not just in creation and the church, but also in our own hearts and lives. I have found this to be an ongoing process within my own faith journey for two reasons. One, it means acknowledging Jesus Christ as first priority in my life as I pray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done (Matthew 6:10). Two, it means daily letting go of selfish natures and desires and allowing myself to be shaped instead by Jesus’ values, attitudes, words and actions. Therefore, my relationship with Christ is ongoing as well, dynamic, and fluid.

This morning we have looked at who Jesus is, through his nature, through doctrine, and through our daily lives. The next step is up to you. Will you take this opportunity and empty yourself out for Jesus as he emptied himself out for you? Will you make your relationship with Christ more than just a formal admission and make it intimate? Will you go out and share with others what Jesus has done for you?

We have been restored by grace through faith. Now as part of that redemption we are called to live for Christ. To show others the love of Christ. Jesus the Christ lived and died so that we could have eternal life. Now we must live so that others can come to know salvation, salvation and atonement through Jesus.

1. Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 2008. p.67.
2. Inbody, Tyron. The Faith of the Christian Church. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005). p 187.
3. Hooker, Marna. Philippians: NIB, Vol XI. p 58.
4. Inbody, Tyron. The Faith of the Christian Church. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005). p 206.
5. Oden, Thomas C. The Word of Life, Systematic Theology: Vol. 2. (Peabody, MA: Prince Press, 1998). p 52.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Bible Challenge 05/29 - 06/04

Greetings Bible Challenge Readers!

In II Kings we finish up with the narrative of the lives of the kings from Judah (remember Israel has been captured by the Assyrians and most of the people sent off into exile). A few more wicked kings are described before we get to the interesting story of the boy king Josiah and all of his reforms (chapters 22-23). But even he isn't enough to turn the tide of sin and false idol worship. After him, three more evil kings follow before Jerusalem falls to the Babylonians (chapters 24-25).

Then our attention turns to another of the history books, I Chronicles, and we will make our way through 22 of its 29 chapters this week. In many ways it should sound familiar because it is largely a retelling of the material found in I and II Samuel as well as I and II Kings. The book of I Chronicles really falls into two broad segments. The first, in chapters 1-10, contains mostly genealogical lists, concluding with the house of Saul and Saul's rejection by God. This sets the stage for the rise of David. The second segment then, in chapters 11-29, contains a history of the reign of King David.

Why so many books telling the same stories? Well in the Jewish canon of Scripture, Chronicles appears last making it then a summary of everything that has gone before and most likely the reason why the genealogy goes all the way back to Adam. But one of the calls of the Old Testament is to remember. God asks the people to remember constantly in their rituals, offerings, and festivals the great work that he has done on their behalf. Certainly we can see what happens in the books of history when Israel (and Judah) do not keep this knowledge of God close at hand and forget! As they stray away from God, they wander into dangerous ground spiritually, as individuals as well as a nation. We would do well to remind ourselves continuously - to remember what God has done and what happens when we try to do things in our lives on our own without Him!

Here is the schedule:

29, Sunday - II Kings 20 - 23
30, Monday - II Kings 24 - I Chronicles 2
31, Tuesday - I Chronicles 3 - 6
01, Wednesday - I Chronicles 7 - 10
02, Thursday - I Chronicles 11 - 14
03, Friday - I Chronicles 15 - 18
04, Saturday - I Chronicles 19 - 22 

Stay safe and be blessed!

Friday, May 27, 2011

June Newsletter

Hot off the press!  Enjoy!


Friday Fives

1. Preaching Series - This week we will continue our preaching series, The Three in One, as we look at how we as believers can articulate to others our beliefs and understandings of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  I want to invite you to join us this week as we look to the second person of our Triune God, Jesus.  This Sunday at 10:30am, we will explore the bond between Jesus and God, what is the relationship between Jesus and humanity, and how can we as disciples of Christ articulate those bonds to others.  Invite and friend and I look forward to seeing all of you there.

2. Church Website - I am happy to announce the redesigned website for the church is up and running. I encourage you to take a tour of it and see all that it has to offer. We have menus across the top for our various fellowship, community outreach, and ministry areas. There are also links to the church calendar, the pastor's blog and even a place for the weekly bulletin and monthly newsletter.

Another great feature is the news feed that runs down the left hand side where we can update the news of the church instantly. The address is

I hope you enjoy it and find it informative.  Bookmark it and visit often!

3. Spring Storms - Recently this country has been hit with a number of devastating and deadly storms.  People have lost their homes, their lives have been turned upside down, and loved ones have died as a result.  As United Methodists we have an arm of our denomination called UMCOR, United Methodist Committee on Relief.  This organization puts people on the ground in these affected areas to lend assistance and bring hope. 

One way we here at Druid Hills can help these people affected by these storms is to financially donate to UMCOR.  Today UMCOR put out a release today outlining several ways we can help.
  • Contribute to the Joplin Disaster Relief Fund

Donations received will primarily go to help the congregations, people and families affected.  The Missouri Conference has established a fund to receive monies into the Disaster Response account #7465.  Simply mark you check, Joplin Disaster Relief Fund #7465, and we will take care of the rest.

  • Contribute to the UMCOR Spring Storms
These funds help the communities affected by the Joplin tornado, the Alabama storms, and the flooding of the Mississippi.  To donate to this fund mark your check, UMCOR Spring Storms #3021326, and we will take care of the rest.
  • Watch and Share Bishop Schnase's Appeal to our churches across America
Bishop Robert Schnase shares few words of encouragement and appeals to the churches in Missouri and across our country. Click here to watch his Joplin Relief fund appeal as well as his appeal for the UMCOR Spring Storms fund.

Please be in prayer for these people as they move through this time of grief, devastation, and loss.

4. GoodSearch - Here's a new easy way to raise money for our church. Just start using Yahoo! powered as your search engine and they'll donate about a penny to our church every time you do a search!

In addition, do all of your shopping through their online shopping mall,, where you can shop at more than 2,000 top online retailers and a percentage of your purchases will go to the church. You pay the same price as you normally would, but a donation goes to us!

Here's the web site — You can also read about GoodSearch in the NY Times, Oprah Magazine, CNN, ABC News and the Wall Street Journal.

And if you download the GoodSearch – Druid Hills United Methodist Church toolbar, our church will earn money every time you shop and search online - even if you forget to go to GoodShop or GoodSearch first! Add the Druid Hills United Methodist Church toolbar at

5. Got Grandkids? – The Florida United Methodist Youth Camp is hosting their annual Grandparents and Me Summer Camp this year on June 27-30 and July 18-21, at the Warren Willis Youth camp in Leesburg.  The theme this year is "Got Spirit?  WE DO!"  If you have grandkids and are looking for a fun and exciting way to spend some time together I encourage you to consider this.  You can find out more information by stopping by the office to pick up a registration form, visiting them online at, emailing Lori at, or calling Lori at 352-787-0313.

Have an incredible weekend and see you Sunday!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Midweek Moment

I have been watching the news lately concerning all of the storms and flooding that have been wreaking havoc across our country.  The damage and destruction has been wide spread; often times completely destroying cities and towns.  To compound matters, the destruction is not only physical, but emotional and spiritual as well.  Questions about God and God's involvement in these types of situations often come to the surface in times such as these.  Questions such as, "why did God do this?" and "how could God allow this to happen?".  These questions are coming from people searching for some sense of order in a place of complete and utter chaos.  Their entire worlds have been turned upside down and they are struggling.

So does God allow these things happen?  Is this all just part of God's master plan?  I do not believe so.  I do not believe that God wills or causes these types of horrific events.  But what I do believe, is that God will come in and guide us through them.  To say to another person, that these events happened because God willed it, is in my mind, cruel.  It also does not align with the loving, graceful, merciful, and compassionate God I know and worship.  However, what God will do is come in and be with us.  God will guide us through the pain, direct us in our grief, and lift us up in our weakness.  God will sweep through the chaos and bring order.  

We serve a God that has promised to walk with us even through the valley of the shadow of death.  The Apostle Paul reminds us in Acts 17, "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.  And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. him we have all things." 

But in the midst of the pain, such as these storms and floods, we have feelings of anger and betrayal that we have to deal with.  When we face these situations, and all of us will at some point, I encourage you to turn to God. God will take over the suffering and joy will eventually return. We have opportunity after opportunity to turn from God in the face of injustice and unfairness. But when we do that the injustice and unfairness are still there. The only thing missing is the One that will help you through it. The One that will restore your hope. The hope will return through the Holy Spirit, through the love and compassion of another human being, and sometimes through some of the most unexpected places and people.  Turn to God, turn everything over to God, trust in God, and God will see you through.

Blessings upon you,

New Feature - Midweek Moment

Greetings All!

I wanted to tell you about a new feature that I will be adding to this blog called the Midweek Moment.  My vision is to write a small reflection about some aspect of life.  I pray you will find it useful and uplifting.  The first installment will come today and I will post them each week around the middle of the week.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Three in One: Father – Exodus 3:13-15 and Psalm 23

This week we are going to begin a new preaching series focusing on our understanding of the nature and being of our Triune God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Who are they? How do you describe them? Is our understanding of them accurate and theologically correct? Over the next several weeks we will look at each member of the Triune God, one at a time, to develop better methods for articulating our belief and understanding of each of them. This week we are going to begin with God. Specifically, how do we as thoughtful people, express our belief in God, talk about God, and who do we understand God to be?

God is Gray?
When you want to understand something what is the first thing you do? Do you smell it? Taste it? Touch it? For most people you look at it. Have you ever gone to a museum and seen people just stare at something? They walk all around it, taking it in from various angles and points of view? Our vision and perception is generally our first line of examination.

Many years ago, in a children's Sunday School class, the teacher posed the question, “What does God look like?” The children's imagination immediately begin to create all sorts of images. One little boy said God is very tall and dresses in all white. Another little girl said, “yea and He has long white hair and a long white beard.” Another child piped up and said that God has a deep voice and that thunder is God laughing. One little girl raised her hand and very confidently told the teacher she knew exactly what God looked like. She said God was gray. “Gray?”, remarked the teacher. “Yes ma'am” replied the little girl. “We say it every day before we eat. God is gray, God is good. Let us thank Him for our food.”

It is amazing how many differing perceptions are out there about God. Movies and books have filled our heads with all sorts of images and ideas. But if someone came up to you and said, “Who is God?”, what would be your answer? Have you thought about that? That is the reason that I wanted us to focus on this topic. As professing disciples of Jesus Christ, we have all been charged with spreading the Good News of God's love. And in order for us to do that, it stands to reason that we need to be able to speak intelligently about it. Right? After all, when you try to show someone the truth of God's love and you stumble all over the place in your presentation, what kind of confidence and impact can you really have? So today let us look at some methods of understanding, a few definitions, and some ideals to better equip ourselves to answer the question, “Who is God?”.

The Accuracy of a Physical Description
This is the question that we have been asking ourselves for years. Theologians, professors, pastors, and laity alike have been trying to discern that answer. How do we describe a Being that most of us have been told our entire lives is “too big for our finite human minds to understand?” One of the first ways we describe most things is by a physical description. If you were to describe me to another person, you would use words like dark hair, goatee, medium build, bulbous nose, and egg shaped head. Thinking about God, are physical descriptions the best way to describe God? Probably not, since no human has ever seen God and God does have a physical body like we do. Therefore, physical description would not be the best option. What's next?

Who Is God?
Well, if physical description is out, then what about God's nature. Each of us have traits that describe our personality, our beliefs, and our values. These attributes will let most people know how we would react in most situations. These attributes could be traits like, patient, kind, loving, laid back, always eager to help, and compassionate, just to name a few. Following this logic, the natural question is does God have certain attributes? I am so glad you asked! This is how we as United Methodists describe God's character. In the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, God is described like this:

“We believe in the one true, holy and living God,
Eternal Spirit, who is Creator, Sovereign and Preserver
of all things visible and invisible. He is infinite in power,
wisdom, justice, goodness and love, and rules with
gracious regard for the well-being and salvation of men,
to the glory of his name. We believe the one God
reveals himself as the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy
Spirit, distinct but inseparable, eternally one in essence
and power ”1

This definition is artfully crafted and theologically accurate. However, it is not that easy to remember or effective to use in witnessing to another person. So how can we describe God using the character traits listed there? We read words like creator, sovereign, infinite. What this description tells us is that

  • God is the only God, eternal and living
  • God created everything there is; all that we can see and cannot see
  • God's character traits of wisdom, justice, goodness, and love are never ending
  • God's glory is the basis for how God rules with justice and mercy
  • God is part of the Trinity; individual but inseparable

God has always been and will always be, a trait confirmed by our first Scripture lesson. Listen again to Exodus 3:13-15, “Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation."

Not only has God, the great I AM, always been and always will be, God has always possessed the same character traits. God's love, God's mercy, God's patience, and all of God's other attributes will never change. Most of us as we age, we change. Our patience expands or contracts, our ability to love others grows or decreases, our words of grace to others increase or decrease. But not God. The incredible expanse of God's love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness will never change. God is the same loving, gracious, merciful, and forgiving God today, that God was at the beginning of time, and that God will be at the end of time. From generation to generation God is forever and we can take great comfort in that. This takes us to next step in our journey this morning; how can we be sure of all of this.

How Can We Understand God?
One word; revelation. Now I am not talking about the Scriptural book of Revelation found at the end of the New Testament. I am talking about revelation as in the act of revealing oneself to another. The way we know these truths to be accurate is through God revealing God's self to us.

United Methodist Bishop Will Willimon, in his book, United Methodist Beliefs, describes God by saying,”no merely human being, limited by the boundaries of human thought and experience, can say anything of substance about God unless God first says something to us.”2

We are incapable of knowing God outside of what God has revealed to us. These revelations come not only in Scripture, as recorded by our ancestors, but also in our daily lives today. You see it is not enough to know about God; we must know God.3

The best way I know of to come to that knowledge is through dedicated, daily time spent with God. This is the same practice each of us engage in when we get to know each other. If you want to get to know a person, you do not formally interview them and only get to know them intellectually. You experience life with them. You walk with them in good times and bad. You spend dedicated time with them. The same holds true for God.

You can spend daily, dedicated time with God in many ways. One is by reading Scripture. You can use that Bible Challenge that is on my blog and in the bulletin each week or you can any of the other reading plans that are out there. Recite Psalm 23 each day as you begin to read to help ready yourself. Read about God's presence and promise to be by our sides in every situation we face. You can also spend time with God in prayer. Talk to God and give God the time to talk to you. Conversation is paramount in the deepening of our relationship with God. Attend worship. Each and every Sunday we gather here to give God praise and thanks for who God is to and for us. Make being here a priority. This should be one of those non-negotiables in our lives. Worship within community is so much more effective than trying to do it alone. And then be a part of worship. Acolyte, be a liturgist, an usher, greeter. I will even welcome you to do the Young Disciple's Moment. Being in worship and a part of worship, will bring you a connection like no other. Worship is what you make it and you cannot experience this if you are not here and active within it. You can also serve; within the church and out in the community. When you are serving and being who God called you to be then you are connecting with God. God is coursing through you and in that instance you cannot help but be drawn closer. Read, pray, attend worship, serve others. Encourage others to read, pray, attend worship, and serve others. Hold each other accountable to these things, not only because you love God, but because you love them and want them to have incredible experiences with God. These are just a few of the ways, but important ways, for each of us to connect with God.

Folks, it is one thing for us to intellectually know God. But if we are going to be effective disciples we need to personally know God. There is no better witness, no better example that comes from a personal, active relationship with the Father. We need to be ready to answer the question, “Who is God” at any moment. You never know when you will be presented with the opportunity to introduce someone to God. You do not want to miss it. So I encourage you to practice answering that question. Think about, write down, lay out how you would explain God to another person. If you need guidance, I will help. If you want someone to bounce ideas off of, I will help. My prayer is that each of you, each of us, are ready at a moment's notice to change the life of another. That we are ready to be the final link in a chain that bring another soul into the Kingdom of God. God knows everything about you...I urge you to return the favor and get know all you can about God.

1. Book of Discipline, 2008. p. 66
2. Willimon, William H. United Methodist Beliefs. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2007), p.4.
3. Joyner, F. Belton. United Methodist Questions, United Methodists Answers. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2007), p.1

Bible Challenge 05/22 - 05/28

Greetings Fellow Bible Readers!

As we move from I Kings and most of the way through II Kings this week we continue our look at the history of Israel, this time going back and forth through the divided kingdoms. The northern kingdom is Israel, capital in the city of Samaria and is made up of the ten northern tribes. The southern kingdom is Judah, capital in the city of Jerusalem, and is made up of the two southern tribes (Benjamin and Judah). The Scripture becomes a narrative of the lives and reigns of the many different kings in the two kingdoms.

There are a few prominent people and stories. For example we get an extended look at evil King Ahab of Israel and his interactions with the prophet Elijah in I Kings chapters 17-22. By the 2nd chapter of II Kings, Elijah is taken up to heaven to be with God and the story continues through his successor Elisha as he ministers to the northern kingdom of Israel. Chapter 5 includes the fascinating story of Naaman's healing and chapter 9 marks the death of Ahab's widow Jezebel. In chapters 11-12, the focus shifts to a young boy king in Judah named Joash who spends much of his time trying to restore the temple. Elisha dies in chapter 13 and here you also have a rather interesting account of what happens when someone is thrown into his grave months after his death. Talk about the power of the Lord! The downward spiral continues though the kingdom of Israel as king after king fails to follow the Lord and by chapter 17 we see that the northern kingdom of Israel has fallen to the Assyrians, with many of the people being carried away into exile. The last two chapters of this week's reading deal with King Hezekiah of Judah as he struggles to maintain his kingdom in the wake of threats by the Assyrians as well and how he strives to be faithful to God.

It's disheartening to me to see so many leaders of both Israel and Judah who failed to follow God and led the people astray as well. Time and time again we see these kings more concerned with their personal wealth and reputations than in doing what the Lord desired. Despite warnings from prophets, many do not turn their hearts back and eventually Israel falls prey to its enemies. But even in the midst of this consequence, God shows mercy and grace in not allowing Israel to be destroyed completely. There is a remnant. There is hope.

There is always hope!

Here is the schedule:

22, Sunday - I Kings 14-17

23, Monday - I Kings 18-21

24, Tuesday - I Kings 22 - II Kings 3

25, Wednesday - II Kings 4-7

26, Thursday - II Kings 8-11

27, Friday - II Kings 12-15

28, Saturday - II Kings 16-19

Stay safe and be blessed!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Jesus Said: I Will Never Leave You - John 14:15:24 and 25-31

Today we are going to conclude our preaching series focusing on three pivotal sayings of Jesus Christ that are sources of great instruction, incredible wisdom, and lasting hope. These sayings are for us a way to draw closer to our Savior, while at the same time allow us to come to a deeper and more connected understanding of the nature of Jesus. We began the series with the saying, “I Am the vine and you are the branches” as we sought to better understand the importance of having Christ in our lives, of the fruitfulness that results from that, and the role our actions play in those endeavors. Last week we spent our time on the words, “I am the way and the truth and the life”, as we unpacked those words to explore what Christ is the way towards, what truth He is claiming to be, and what life He is calling us towards. Today we are going to look at the words, “I will not leave you” as we look to this promise from Christ, our responsibility because of this promise, and the hope that can be ours as a result of all of this.

Are You Obedient?
A young man was running hard for a second term as governor in his homestate. One day, after a busy morning chasing votes (and no lunch) he arrived at a church barbecue. It was late afternoon and he was famished. As he moved down the serving line, he held out his plate to the woman serving chicken. She put a piece on his plate and turned to the next person in line.

"Excuse me," the young man said, "do you mind if I have another piece of chicken?"

"Sorry," the woman told him. "I'm supposed to give one piece of chicken to each person."

"But I'm starved," the governor said.

"Sorry," the woman said again. "Only one to a customer."

This young man was a modest and unassuming man, but he decided that this time he would throw a little weight around. "Do you know who I am?" he said. "I am the governor of this state."

"Do you know who I am?" the woman said. "I'm the lady in charge of the chicken. Move along, mister."

This lady, this obedient lady, is modeling the behavior that I believe is at the heart of our Scripture lesson this morning. Jesus talks about many things in this passage. He talks about love, eternal life, about how He will interact with the world, the coming of the Holy Spirit, and His eventual return. I mean the theological nuggets in this passage are vast! But if we take time to look at this, really examine the underlying issues here, I think you see how obedience is paramount.

He starts out right in the beginning, verse 15, and says, “If you love me, keep my commands.” Right off the bat we see a call to obedience. Verse 21 we see it again, “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

He continues in verses 23-24, “Jesus replied, 'Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.”

And He is not done yet, verse 31, “but he [The Holy Spirit] comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.”

So why this focus on obedience? To some, this is God pulling out the dictator hat. To others this is infringing on our free will. But is it really either of those? Today we are focusing on the words, “I will never leave you.” And while that promise is true and wholly accurate, there is a caveat. We can decline it. We can refuse it. We can turn Christ down. So how can we accept this promise and claim it for ourselves?

If you love Him...obey Him
The best way is to love him. William Barclay writes, “First and foremost there is love. For John love is the basis of everything. God loves Jesus; Jesus loves God; God loves humanity; Jesus loves humanity; humanity loves God through Jesus; humanity loves each other; heaven and earth, humanity and God, person and person are all bound together by the bond of love.”1

Love is the connecting piece of this whole thing. Jesus tells us that if we love Him, we will obey him. Now this is not one of those 'if you loved me then you would do it' type of things. That mindset is centered in a control by guilt mode. There is no guilt in this. Jesus is not trying to guilt anyone into anything. It is quite the opposite. Jesus is trying to help us.

How many of you have been around a small child when they have been told that they cannot do something or go somewhere? Last week Wesley wanted to go outside, by himself, and ride his bike. He is at that age where his independence is really starting to exert itself. He wants to do everything by himself. Anyway I told him that he could not do it by himself. It was not because he was not capable of riding his bike alone, he rides very well. It was because he would be alone next to a busy road where a whole myraid of bad things could happen. Those were reasons that this three year old, who desperately wanted to ride his bike alone could not grasp. He was not happy. Can you see how this can play out in each of our lives?

Jesus tells us what to do. Jesus guides us on what not to do. And for whatever reason, we do not understand the big picture, we cannot see all of the factors, and we get upset and possible disobey. Christ is telling us here, listen to me. I know what is best for you. I am not telling you to listen to me out of some sense of ego or from a place of demanded respect. I am telling you, if you love Me, if you trust Me, then listen to Me. I know what is best and that is what I want for you.

For John, obedience was the only proof of love and I think there is great wisdom in that. After all if you love someone you seek to make them happy. You strive to gain their approval. You seek to live in harmony with that person. If you do not obey someone, does that make them happy? Does that encourage them to think highly of you? Does that create a sense of harmony between the two of you? No!

Therefore, if you love Jesus, you seek to listen, to trust, and to obey. As the ol' hymn goes, “Trust and obey, for there's no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

If you obey Him...He will live in you
Now that we see how obedience is sparked by love and how it is a direct result of love, what happens next? What happens next is that you have prepared a place for Jesus to dwell. Again we go back to verses 15-18, “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

This is the crux of our passage this morning, “I will not leave you.” This is the promise that Christ made not only to a group of stunned and scared disciples, but still holds true today. Jesus tells us that if we love Him and keep His commands, He will ask the Father to send the Advocate, the Spirit. If the Spirit is here, so is God, so is Christ. If God sends the Advocate, it is not for a time or an event. It is permanent for us.

“The Holy Spirit gate-crashes no man's heart; He waits to be received. So when we think of the wonderful things which the Holy Spirit can do, surely we will set apart some time amidst the bustle and the rush of life to wait in silence for his coming.”2

The Holy Spirit is the way God will communicate with us, teach us, urge us, love us. It is through the Holy Spirit that we can stay in touch with God, be transformed by God, feel loved by God. God was present and active in the lives of the people we read about in the Old Testament; Abraham, Noah, Jonah, and Job, just to name a few. Then God came as Jesus to be with us in another way. In a way that we could relate to and bond with. Now, with Jesus at God's right hand, we have the Holy Spirit. God has never, and will never leave our side. Trials...God is there. Pain...God is there. Fear...God is there. Celebration...God is there. God is there through everything, for everything, and all we have to do is allow it. Allow it through our obedience.

If He lives in you...others will then be able to see Him
Now here is our responsibility. If you obey God, and the Holy Spirit dwells in you, then you now have the responsibility of showing that to other people. If you are living with the wonderful gift of having God dwell within you then you have the responsibility of telling others about it. Why? Listen again to verses 19-21, “Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

Who did Jesus show Himself to after the resurrection? Pilate, the Pharisees, or was it Mary Magdalene and the disciples? He revealed Himself to those that loved Him and obeyed Him. Jesus says as much, “The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” If we love Christ, obey Christ, then Christ will show Himself to us. If we then teach others, witness to others about Jesus and we get them to love Christ and obey Christ, then Christ will live in them. It is a process. A process that we are called to be an active part of because Christ is reveled within believers, not non-believers.

Are you a Vessel?
So my question for all of us today is, are you a vessel? Have you poured yourself out so there is more room for Christ? Are you doing all you can to be so full of the Holy Spirit that people cannot help but see the love of Christ through you? That is our challenge. I know that none of us can be all those things at all times. The key is be those things more times than not. To be those things when Christ call us. To be those things when we are moved by the Holy Spirit. We do not know the time when Christ will need us to be His heart, His hands and His feet to another. But there will be a time. Do your best to be ready at a moments notice so you can be a vessel for Christ. Christ made a promise to never leave us and therefore we not only have a responsibility in that, we can find eternal hope in that.

If you love Him...obey Him, because if you obey Him...He will live in you, and if He lives in you...others will then be able to see Him.

This whole series was intended to show you the importance of having Jesus be the center of your life; reveal to you the hope that Jesus will lead you to life eternal; and give to you the peace that Jesus will never leave you. Do not hide these revelations. Do not bury that peace and hope. Go. Go and share with others, that this may not be a world of darkness but a world illuminated by the love of Christ that dwells within each of you.

1 Barclay, William. The Gospel of John, Volume 2. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press) p. 169.
2. ibid, p. 168.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Midweek Moment

Greetings All!

Tonight at 7pm, in the church sanctuary, Tucker O'neill will be presented with his Eagle Scout Award. The Eagle Scout award is the highest rank a young man can earn in Boy Scouts.  It represents many years of hard work, determination, and support.

As members of Druid Hills UMC, and part of that support, you are all invited to share in this prestigious event with Tucker and his family.  Please make plans to attend and I hope to see you there!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Jesus Said: I Am the Way – John 14:1-7 and 8-14

Today we are going to continue our preaching series focusing on three pivotal sayings of Jesus Christ that are sources of great instruction, incredible wisdom, and lasting hope. These sayings can be for us a way to draw closer to our Savior, while at the same time allow us to come to a deeper and more connected understanding of the nature of Jesus. Last week we began with the saying, “I Am the vine and you are the branches” as we sought to better understand the importance of having Christ in our lives, of the fruitfulness that results from that, and the role our actions play in those endeavors. Today we are going to spend our time on the words, “I am the way and the truth and the life”, as we unpack these words to see some of the lessons Christ is trying to convey to us.

This passage always invokes emotion in the reader. For me it has always been comfort and hope. But for others, especially those outside the church, it can be seen as narrow minded and demanding. Today I want us to take a slightly different approach to this passage, a break from the traditional exegesis, as we explore what Christ might be alluding too as He affirms Himself as the way, the truth, and the life. What is Christ the way towards, what truth is He claiming to be, and what life is He calling us towards.

A New Understanding of Heaven
As our lesson opens this morning we find Jesus giving an answer to a question posed to Him by Peter. Christ is spending some of his last moments on Earth doing something that He loved to do, teach. As we read through Scripture we see countless opportunities Christ seized to bring someone closer to His Father. In this passage, He is teaching the disciples, trying to bring them closer to His Father.

Christ is telling of His departure from Earth and how He is going to go to a place where His disciples cannot follow immediately. Peter is somewhat unnerved. He tells Christ that he will go anywhere with Him. In fact, he would even lay down his life for Jesus! Jesus looks directly at Peter and delivers a response that shakes Peter to his very core. “Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.” Can you imagine Peter's state of mind after that? However, Christ being the complete embodiment of love, quickly brings about hope. Listen to what He says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3). Christ tells them that no matter what happens, as bleak as it may seem, from now on they will never be alone.

As we look to Christ as the way, the truth, and the life, it is here Christ reveals one aspect of how He embodies the “way” that we read about. In Scripture, Christ has often been called the Way and His disciples were referred to as followers of “the Way”. But the way to what? Theologically we typically use this verse to speak about how Christ is the way to salvation. That is proper and that is absolutely true. But for our purposes this morning, I want to talk specifically about how Christ is the way to Heaven through our salvation. Most of us learn early on in our Christian walk, that the way to Heaven, to eternity, is through profession in Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior. When you believe, with all that you are, that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God; that He was born of a virgin; that He dwelled on Earth as fully human and fully divine; that He died by crucifixion; and that three days later He rose from the grave; then salvation is yours and as a result so is an eternity in Heaven. But what is this Heaven that we spend our lives pursuing?

Growing up I loved watching Bugs Bunny cartoons. And invariably a character would make a bad decision and we would see what Mel Blanc and Warner Brothers thought Heaven to be. You remember, up in the clouds, angles wearing halos on their heads and wings on their backs, playing a harp, looking peaceful and content. An idyllic place, complete in splendor, just waiting for us to get there. But is that correct?

In Christ's response to Peter's dedication, an understanding of Heaven is revealed to us. An understanding that Heaven is a place that is not completed, a place that Christ needed to go into, ahead of us, in order to prepare a place for us. We are told nothing of pearly gates, streets of gold, or harps. But we are told of a place where Jesus is, a place where Jesus is Lord and ruler. A place where the sense of community is overwhelming. A place where our connection not only to each other, but to God, is almost indescribable. A place that is not made by human hands, but by eternal ones. A place where The Way is the foundation, a foundation built on love.

Our Hope
And that love is the basis for the next phrase I want to discuss this morning; Jesus as the truth. Specifically the truth of hope. In verse six we come to the climax of this passage, the root that holds this all together. After Jesus speaks to them about preparing a place for them, Thomas airs his confusion. He asks if they do not know where Christ is going, how can they possibly know the way. Jesus responds, in verse six with the words, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

The Jewish people up to this point had a very difficult way to eternity with God. You earned it. You focus on the hundreds of laws you had to remember, on how to make temporary sacrifices so that your soul might be saved, and it almost seems pray that God honors your heart and not your actions. The Jewish people had the Hebrew Bible to refer to, the Old Testament, but even then, interpretation was still a major factor in how you lived it out. But now comes Christ a new truth for all people.

When I have to enter into something new, my preference is to have someone with me that has either been where I am going, or is an expert on the things I might encounter. Enter Christ. God Incarnate. The one person that can say, “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (John 14:11 NIV). Christ is the one that can be trusted above all others. Christ is the one truth that cannot be wrong. Christ is one that came to us, where we were, where we are, and continues to speak and work within us. Christ is the one that still sits at the Father's right hand as our advocate.

Christ made many declarations in His ministry on Earth. Declarations that at that time, in that culture, where hard to understand, and sometimes even harder to believe. However, everyone of them came true, everyone of them came to fruition. So when Christ says I am the way, that I am going to prepare a place for you, that I will return for you, that I am the truth, and through Me you will have life, even though that can seem a bit ambiguous, these words are true and can be trusted.

A New Life
This brings us to the final phrase, I am the life. To what life is Christ referring to? I believe Christ is referring to the aspect that He is the way to life eternal. That the life Christ is and offers is the path to an eternity involving a close personal relationship to the Triune God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

So what does that mean for us? I believe that it means we have a great opportunity for the Kingdom of God. How many of you have ever heard the term, senioritis? It basically means that as you end your time in school, as a senior, you begin to slack off or coast a bit. The underlying belief is that the 95% of the work you have done is enough to achieve your goal and nothing you do in that last little bit will truly matter. You basically are content to let your foot off the gas and ease across the finish line. If you any of you have ever watched the Daytona 500, what would happen if a driver had led 499 miles of that race, figured that was good enough and just coasted in that last mile? He would probably finish dead last.

The same applies to our Christian walk. Christ does not call us to simply do all we can for the majority of our lives. We are called to do all we call for all of our lives. Paul tells us in 2 Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” He does not say I did it really well for a while, and now at the end I will ease up a bit. No! He tells us to give it our all till we are here no more.

The Kingdom of God is a present reality and a future hope. It is present in the heart and mind of all believers. It is what we all agreed to support when we became Christians and took our membership vows, “According to the grace given to you, will you remain faithful members of Christ's holy church and serve as Christ's representatives in the world?” It is the foundational goal of all the ministries we participate and fund. It is what we pray for each and every Sunday, “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed by thy name, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.”

It is also a future hope. I believe that the kingdom of God will be realized in its fullness when “the reign of God’s peace, justice, and well-being” rules the world completely. Paul speaks of such a day in writing to the church at Philippi: when “at the name of Jesus every knee in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11 NIV). As believers, as the body of Christ in the world, we are called to participate in the kingdom of God and to help usher the Kingdom into its coming fullness.

That tells me that what we do now matters later. What we do now is important. What we do now helps to shape the coming Kingdom of God. Therefore, what we do in this life helps to build the reality of the next. Prominent biblical scholar N.T. Wright suggests, “...only when we grasp and celebrate the fact that Jesus has gone on ahead of us into God's space, God's new world, and is both already ruling the rebellious present world as its rightful Lord and also interceding for us at the Father's right hand–when we grasp and celebrate, in other words, what the ascension tells us about Jesus's continuing human work in the present–are we rescued from a wrong view of world history and equipped for the task of justice in the present.”1

Jesus lived a hard life. But is was not a lonely life. He was in Father and the Father was in Him. The same holds true for us. We are asked to do many things for the Kingdom of God. But we are never asked to do them alone. We are never asked to do things that God through the Holy Spirit cannot do through us. We are simply asked to be willing to show up and pay attention. Just as Jesus told His disciples then, he is telling us now, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me...Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:1, 12-14) NIV).

Jesus Is the Only Choice
Jesus is God Incarnate. The Word made flesh. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Commentator Merrill C. Tenny writes, “[Jesus] is the way to the Father because only he has an intimate knowledge of God unmarred by sin. He is the truth because he has the perfect power of making life one coherent experience irrespective of its ups and downs. He is the life because he was not subject to death but made it subject to him. He did not live with death as the ultimate end of his life; he died to demonstrate the power and continuity of his life. Because he is the way, the truth, and the life, his is the only means of reaching the Father.

If you want to know the way to eternity, follow the only One that truly knows the way. Listen to His instructions, abide in His ways, remain in His love. Jesus will not lead you astray. Jesus will lead you to a life like you cannot imagine. A life that while it has its challenges, is a life connected, a life transformed, a life of love. Trust Him. He is the only genuine way, the only infallible truth, and the only eternal life. In a world of many choices, make Him the one you choose.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Bible Challenge 05/08 - 05/14

Greetings All!

This week we venture into Saul's demise and David's rise. We read about David, whom loved and followed God, defeating Goliath, escaping the wrath of Saul, and befriending Jonathan, the son of Saul. We also see David look kindly on Saul, the deaths of Samuel and Saul, and David finally anointed as King of Israel.

There is a lot of humanity portrayed in these chapters. Feelings that we read about in Saul and Samuel and David and Jonathan we can still find today...good and bad. As you read these chapters I pray God speaks to you through them and that you are given a deeper understanding of what God would have you learn.

5/8, Sunday: 1 Samuel 13-16

5/9, Monday: 1 Samuel 17-20

5/10, Tuesday: 1 Samuel 21-24

5/11, Wednesday: 1 Samuel 25-28

5/12, Thursday: 1 Samuel 29 - 2 Samuel 1

5/13, Friday: 2 Samuel 2-5

5/14, Saturday: 2 Samuel 6-9

Be Blessed!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Fives

1. Preaching Series - This week we will continue our new preaching series on a few of the pivotal sayings of Christ.  This week we will examine the saying, “I Am the Way, the Truth, and The Life,” as we ask the questions, what is Christ the way towards, what truth is He claiming to be, and what life is He calling us towards.  Bring a friend and I hope to see you all there!

2. Spaghetti Dinner - Tomorrow, Saturday, May 14th from 3-7pm our Boy Scout Troop is having their Spaghetti Dinner here at the church.  The cost is $5 a person and tickets are available at the door.  You can either come and dine in the Fellowship Hall or you can come and get it to go.  Either way I am sure it will be delicious!

 Please make plans to come out and support our troop and get some good food to boot!

3. GoodSearch - Here's a new easy way to raise money for our church. Just start using Yahoo! powered as your search engine and they'll donate about a penny to our church every time you do a search!

In addition, do all of your shopping through their online shopping mall,, where you can shop at more than 2,000 top online retailers and a percentage of your purchases will go to the church. You pay the same price as you normally would, but a donation goes to us!

Here's the web site — You can also read about GoodSearch in the NY Times, Oprah Magazine, CNN, ABC News and the Wall Street Journal.

And if you download the GoodSearch – Druid Hills United Methodist Church toolbar, our church will earn money every time you shop and search online - even if you forget to go to GoodShop or GoodSearch first! Add the Druid Hills United Methodist Church toolbar at

4. Got Grandkids? – The Florida United Methodist Youth Camp is hosting their annual Grandparents and Me Summer Camp this year on June 27-30 and July 18-21, at the Warren Willis Youth camp in Leesburg.  The theme this year is "Got Spirit?  WE DO!"  If you have grandkids and are looking for a fun and exciting way to spend some time together I encourage you to consider this.  You can find out more information by stopping by the office to pick up a registration form, visiting them online at, emailing Lori at, or calling Lori at 352-787-0313.

5. Salty Service - A few months back I asked everyone to consider joining up together in groups to venture out and visit some of the residents in the many assisted living and rehab facilities around our church. There are many people there that get no visitors, and we are so good with fellowship, I see a need and a spiritual gift that can easily be paired up. I wanted to give everyone an update on how this budding ministry is progressing. We have three members that have reached out and began weekly visits to three different facilities. We also have a group of people that have formed to begin visits with a fifth facility. We have several contacts at area facilities, all we need is volunteers. Many people make light work. If you are willing to spend just a few hours a month visiting with people and sharing the love of Christ please contact the office and we can help you get connected. Please consider reaching out to the people in our area and let them know we care and in the name of Jesus Christ that they are loved.

Have an incredible weekend and see you Sunday!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Jesus Said: I Am the Vine – John 15:1-11 and 12-17

Today we are going to begin a new preaching series focusing on three pivotal sayings of Jesus Christ. These sayings are sources of great instruction, incredible wisdom, and lasting hope. These sayings can be for us a way to draw closer to our Savior, while at the same time allow us to come to a deeper and more connected understanding of the nature of Jesus. Over the next three weeks we will look at the sayings of, “I Am the vine and you are the branches,” “I Am the Way, the Truth, and The Life,” and “I will never leave you” as we seek to unpack the importance and meanings of these words. Today we will begin with the saying, “I Am the vine and you are the branches” as we, as a thoughtful people, seek to better the understand the importance of having Christ in our lives, of the fruitfulness that results from that, and the role our actions play in those endeavors.

Look Before You Leap
Many of you know that starting anything from scratch is a difficult endeavor. There are no systems in place that you can build on, there are no people in place to help you out, and there is no history that you can start upon. Everything needs to be started.

There was a young man in that very same position. He was beginning his life in ministry and had found a volunteer opportunity to establish a youth group at a church with a predominately older congregation. The only thing he had in which to begin this group was five kids. That was it.

So he set out by having a few gatherings to get to know these teens. They would gather on Sundays, have a Bible lesson, play outside, and have a snack. After about a month those five kids dwindled down to two, and those two were the choir directors children. This young man felt like a failure. He began to retrace his steps to see what went wrong. Why did this not work? He had the best curriculum, played the games the teens wanted to play, and offered great snacks. He had even taken them on a few mystery destination trips by piling them in his car. Yet this was not working, over half the kids quit coming.

Then it dawned on him. He was doing this alone. I do not mean physically alone. I mean spiritually alone. In all of this he had never asked God for help, for guidance, for blessing. He had been so wrapped up in trying to make this work, he forgot to pray for God's involvement. So right then and there he prayed. Prayed for God to bless this youth group, to grow it, to strengthen it, and to be the guiding force.

And that is where we find ourselves this morning with our Scripture lesson. We read about a lesson Christ was trying to teach the disciples about staying connected with Him using the metaphor of a vine and its branches.

A Vine's Nourishment
In the Gospel of John, Jesus shares this message with the disciples after his last meal with them in the Upper Room and before his arrest, trial, death, and resurrection. As I began looking at this passage, my first question was why a vine? Why this example rather than another agricultural metaphor? What I discovered was rich. I discovered that viticulture, the study of vines, was a prominent aspect of Palestinian life and this metaphor would have been familiar to the disciples. This would have been an example they could relate to and understand its nuances. But more than that, I learned about how a vine grows. A vine, as many of you have seen, grows horizontal to the ground stretching out along a trellis, a pergola, or a fence.

Now for a vine to be healthy is has to stay connected to its root. There is a vine that grows along my fence in the backyard. One day some animal chewed through on of the vines at the bottom and disconnected it from the root. For a few days it stayed green. If you had not known it was disconnected you could not tell from its appearance. However, it soon began to wither. I think about our life and existence within Christ and how often are we like that vine. How often do we sever our connection with God, purposefully or indirectly, and feel we can do it on our own? It is not long before we wither. Either from discouragement, disillusionment, or feelings of failure. Christ is the life that gives us energy. Christ is the source of our nourishment. Without which we cannot survive. For us our connection to Christ is as important for life as it is for the vine to be connected to the root.

The Benefits of Pruning
Another aspect of viticulture is pruning. I have a tree right outside my office window. This winter that tree was cut back to the trunk. I mean there was not a green anything on that tree anywhere. Now as Spring comes, there are green leaves everywhere and you can hardly see the brown trunk at all. Just like that tree, a vine needs to be pruned.

Pruning is that act whereby the live wood is cut back so that the energy of the vine is spent on producing fruit rather than wood. The wood of the vine is like our relationship with Christ. It is necessary for our survival, but it is not the only aspect that is important. I ask you, what would our lives look like if all our time was spent on cultivating our relationship with Christ? If that was all we did, is there any fruit there? No! We are called to go out and take what we learn to others. We are called to share our spiritual gifts with the community. We are called to be salt of the earth. That means, spend time with Christ, listen to Christ, be transformed by Christ, but then go out. Go out into the world telling others all that Christ has done for you. And that means all of us.

Here at Druid Hills we have begun that practice. We have reached out beyond our walls with the Food 4 Kids program. We sought out InterFaith and asked to be a part of that ministry that fills backpacks with food so children in Marion County, that are on the free and reduced breakfast and lunch programs at school, have food to eat over the weekend. We pick up the backpacks at the elementary school first part of the week, go to InterFaith to pack them, and return them the same day so those children can pick them up on Friday. Several of you have volunteered for this. Did you know that a couple of people that volunteered for this have branched out, like a vine, and adopted another school for the rest of the school year. Can you see the growth? What started out with us adopting one school has turned into two schools. We are focusing on not allowing the trunk to get too think and choke out the fruit.

Pruning allows a vine to remain healthy and productive. By cutting back and trimming away at the vine, all the growth efforts of the vine will be beneficial and not wasted on vines that will bear little or no fruit and stave off the act of us being completely fruitless.

The Real Killer: Dead Wood
In my research I discovered something else about vines. Dead wood is a real killer. Did you know dead wood is a sign of decay and rot and if left untreated can and will destroy a vine? It will spread until all the life and energy of the vine is consumed and there is nothing left.

As disciples of Jesus Christ we need to be careful of dead wood in our lives. We need to be careful of the decay and rot that comes in the form of passivity, apathy, or any other quality that hampers the growth and transformation of other believers. This month in my newsletter article I asked the question, “After all, what good does it do to try and bring people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, to bring them into our community, if we are inducting them into a community that does not obey everything Christ commanded us to do?” If we allow ourselves to become infected with dead wood, then we are not being everything Christ called us to be. Do not be afraid of being pruned. Do not be afraid of having your dead wood cut out. While it may not be easy, while it may not be painless, it will benefit us in the long run. Be mindful of those traits that cause you to be less than Christ called you to be. Be mindful of the dead wood that can stunt your transformation and your fruitfulness for the Kingdom of God.

As a teen, my parents had a grape vine along the west fence of our one acre backyard. As I was old enough it was my job to mow that yard. One of the things I loved to do, as I drove by that vine, no I did not push mow that acre, was grab grapes off that vine. The only caveat was there certain spots where the grapes were good and others...not so good. We never pruned that vine so the grapes were only good from the center and as the years passed the amount of grapes decreased. Now when I go home, that vine never produces fruit. It is just a woody vine that is not much to look at because it has decayed and become rotten. Do not let your pursuit of Christ, and His teachings grow stale or apathetic. Constantly pursue, be ever vigilant, and do not let dead wood take away from His teachings and righteousness in your life.

This far we have covered different aspects of vine growth, the benefits of pruning, and the dangers of dead wood. All of these aspects are important because of the fruit. If you do not prune a vine then the trunk will take away energy needed to produce a hearty crop of fruit. If you do not rid a vine of the dead wood, then the decay and rot within in it will infect the entire vine, chocking it out and eventually it will wither away. The reason the farmer does all of these things to their vine is so that the branches will reap a bountiful harvest. Folks, we are the branches on the vine of Christ. We are those arms that are called to produce fruit for the Kingdom of God. Matthew 7:20 tells us, “By their fruit you will recognize them” (NIV). People will know we have been transformed by God by how we act and how we engage with others.

The Hebrew word used here for fruit, karpo.n, or frouta, means fruit, grain or harvest. But it also means result, outcome, or action. The fruit we produce is more than just our relationship with Christ, it is what we do as a result of that relationship. Do I learn what Christ wants to teach me and then keep it to myself? What good is done if I take all Christ has taught me and done for me and I do not share it with others? Last week in worship we talked about Christ sending His disciples as God sent Christ. We are called to be fruit. To produce a positive result, outcome, or action for the Kingdom of God. The word for fruit is used 89 times in Scripture. 89! That in and of itself is significant.

This community that we are all a part of is incredible. They way you reach out to each other, support each other, love each other. I am honored to be your pastor and witness that type of fruit. I implore you to not stop there. Continue to reach out to others. Telling them of what Christ has done for you. Telling them of how Christ loves them and is waiting to be a part of their life. Keep bearing fruit and focusing on what Christ called you to be.

Remember that young man I told you about that began a youth group and forgot to ask God to be a part of it? Well after he prayed and invited God to be the driving force of that youth group, to bless it, grow it, and strengthen it.; God did just that very thing. It took several months but this young man stayed faithful. He stopped trying to tell these teens what he thought they wanted to hear, what he thought would make them like him, and began to tell them about what God had done in his life. He began to share with them all the ways God had been by his side, guiding him, teaching him, and loving him. He talked to them about the grace and mercy God had brought to his life. He also kept the mystery destination trips going, added some concerts, service projects, and lock-ins. After several months the group grew to 30, 6 times its original size, because the leader remained in Christ and taught the group the importance of that. And it stuck. You see several months ago, 10 years since this all took place, five of those kids looked up this young man because they wanted to stop by and see him. Those past 10 years they had all stayed a part of the branch, a part of each others lives, and focused on God. One is a personal trainer helping others keep their body, their temple healthy. One is a nurse helping to heal those that are sick and injured. Another one is getting his degree in music and has designs on becoming a worship music leader in a church upon graduation. This one man, who abided and remained in Christ, showed others how to do the same, and God is using them to make an impact because of that fruit.

These verses from John this morning are rich with meaning. They set the stage for our actions as a community of believes and disciples of Jesus Christ. Our challenge is this: remain in Christ; make Him the foundation for all that you are; bear fruit; so as to bring glory to God our Father; love each other; as you become friends and not servants. Friends, Christ has given us a wonderful metaphor but an even bigger truth. Remain in Christ, seek out Christ, and give Christ away. Be fruitful, be faithful, be Christ-full.