Monday, June 8, 2015

A Farewell to You

Greetings my friends,

In 2009, I started this blog as I began my time as your pastor as a tool for communication. In over 1000 posts I have shared with you all devotional thoughts, sermons, Bible readings and the minutia of church life.

Today is my last day as the pastor of Druid Hills United Methodist Church and I am retiring this blog. As I move to my next appointment I will be serving as the co-pastor of Community UMC in Fruitland Park alongside my wife Debbie. We will continue to write, but we will share a new blog site together as we enter this next chapter in ministry:

Blessings to you my friends,

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Bible Challenge 06/07 - 07/04

Greetings all!

This will be my final posting of the Bible schedule on this blog and the readings listed here will take you all the way through the first Saturday in July. I pray this has been a meaningful instrument for you to deepen your love of Scripture as well as your relationship with our Triune God.

Continuing our journey through the book of II Chronicles, chapters 6-9 concern themselves with Solomon's reign as king. Israel splits into two nations after his reign - Judah in the south with Jerusalem as its capital and Israel in the north with Samaria as its capital. Most of the rest of II Chronicles is concerned with the history of the kings of Judah with occasional references to the kingdom of Israel. In the last chapter, Judah is destroyed and the people taken into exile in Babylon. In the final verses, the Persian king Cyrus conquers Babylon and authorizes the restoration of Solomon's temple and apparently the return of the exiles, approximately 50 years after they were taken away.

7 - (Su) - II Chronicles 2-5

8 (M) -II Chronicles 6-9

9 (Tu)- II Chronicles 10-13

10 (W)- II Chronicles 14-17

11 (Th) - II Chronicles 18-21

12 (F) - II Chronicles 22-25

13 (Sa) - II Chronicles 26-29

The books of Ezra and Nehemiah used to be one book in the Hebrew Bible before being separated. Both of the books deal with the return of the Israelites from captivity in Babylon. The Book of Ezra consists of ten chapters. Chapters 1-6 cover the period from the decree of Cyrus the Great allowing the first return of exiles (about 538BC) to the completion and dedication of the new temple in Jerusalem (about 515BC). This part of the book is largely told in third person, as if someone is retelling what has been told to them. But chapters 7-10 are largely told in third person (presumably by Ezra himself), dealing with his mission to Jerusalem (about 465BC) and his struggle to purify the Jews from their inter-marriage with non-Jews.

Nehemiah is about 20 years after Ezra. He is the cupbearer to King Artaxerses of Cyrus and is sent to help build up the wall around the city of Jerusalem and reform the people according to the law of Moses. The first part of the book is all hard work - rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem, setting up guards along the wall and gates, taking a census of the people, having the law of Moses read to the people, leading the people in repenting for their sins and beginning a new covenant with God. After twelve years of hard work, Nehemiah returns to Susa. Later he comes back to Jersualem and finds that the people have backslid in his absence. So he takes measure to enforce his earlier reforms and asks for God's favor.

14 - (Su) - II Chronicles 30-33

15 (M) -II Chronicles 34-36; Ezra 1

16 (Tu)- Ezra 2-5

17 (W)- Ezra 6-9

18 (Th) - Ezra 10; Nehemiah 1-3

19 (F) - Nehemiah 4-7

20 (Sa) - Nehemiah 8-11

Next we turn to another book of the exile, Esther. The book of Esther is interesting because while the name of God is never explicitly mentioned in the book, God's action is certainly implied. Esther is a Jewish woman living in exile in Persia. When the Persian king Xerses banishes his wife, a contest starts to seek a new queen. Esther is one of the women presented and ultimately Xerses' choice. Tensions arise between Xerses' right hand man Haaman and Esther's uncle Mordecai until the life of all Jews are threatened. My favorite part of the book is Mordecai's question to Esther which spurs her to take a risk: "And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?"(Esther 4:14)

I love how we see God working things out among his people for a return after the exile..... prompting the leaders of foreign nations to help rebuild Jerusalem and provide native leaders for oversight. It reminds me of the truth of what Paul wrote centuries later in Romans 8:31: "If God is for us, who can be against us?"

21 - (Su) - Nehemiah 12-13; Esther 1-2

22 (M) - Esther 3-6

23 (Tu)- Esther 7-10

24 (W)- Job 1-4

25 (Th) - Job 5-8

26 (F) - Job 9-12

27 (Sa) - Job 13-16

This marks a shift from the books of history and now we enter the books of poetry (Job, Psalms, Proverbs and Eccelesiastes). In Jewish tradition, Job is understood to be the grandson of Abraham's brother. So chronologically we are going way back into the history of Israel. The book of Job appears to have been written to address the problem of evil and why the righteous suffer. The first two chapters act as a prologue to set the scene and then we move into cycles of speeches between Job and friends.

Cycle 1 (Chapters 3-11) - Job, Eliphaz, Job, Bildad, Job and Zophar Cycle 2 (Chapters 12-20) - Job, Eliphaz, Job, Bildad, Job and Zophar Cycle 3 (Chapters 21-31) - Job, Eliphaz, Job, Bildad, Job

Job's three friends never seem to waver from their belief that Job must have sinned to incite God's punishment. They continually berate him for refusing to confess his sins, even though they themselves are at a loss as to what Job has done wrong. In their theology, God always rewards good and punishes evil, with no exceptions. Job meanwhile maintains his innocence. He refuses to curse God or accuse God of injustice but wants an explanation as to why this is happening to him.

We get introduced to another person in chapters 3-37. Elihu almost takes a mediator's path - attempting to hold together an understanding of God's sovereign power and righteousness along with God's gracious mercy. He condemns the approach by Job's other three friends and argues that God's righteousness is being misrepresented and his loving character discredited. Elihu lifts up many of God's attributes: mighty, just, quick to warn and to forgive. He suggests that Job does need to repent - not from a particular sin - but from his arrogance in presuming to understand God.

When I read through the book of Job I realize that we still wrestle in today's society with these same issues - understanding evil and suffering and supposing to know how God operates. It's comforting in some part to realize that these are not new struggles. But they are definitely issues worth reflecting on.

28 - (Su) - Job 17-20

29 (M) - Job 21-24

30 (Tu)- Job 25-28

1 (W)- Job 29-32

2 (Th) - Job 33-36

3 (F) - Job 37-40

4 (Sa) - Job 41-42; Psalms 1-2

I pray your love of Scripture will  continue to grow, that your habit of spending time in the Word of God will remain steadfast, and that your appreciation of just how intimate our God truly is will never cease to amaze you!

So one last time, from me to you...

May God add His richest blessings to the reading, the hearing, the understanding and most importantly the living out of His holy word. Amen. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

A Friday Few

1. A Farewell Sunday - This Sunday will be my last worship service with you all. I am going to use this opportunity to reflect on all the wonderful things God has done through us over the last six years. It is just wonderful to look back and see the multitude of ways God has poured out his blessings upon us and I feel it is appropriate for us to name that. This week will also be the last time I get to celebrate Holy Communion with you as your pastor. Therefore, I will serve the entire congregation as my way of saying farewell and let you know how much I love you all. I hope to see you there!

2. Stop Hunger Now - As a response to us meeting our Advent Conspiracy Challenge in 2014 we are going to participate with Stop Hunger Now and hold a meal packaging event here at Druid Hills, TOMORROW! It will take place from 9am-12pm as we gather to package around 10,000 meals for starving children around the world and we need your help to make this happen. Please make plans to come and help and as an incentive know this, last year we had a whole lot of fun!

3. Name tags - Many people ask, what are some ways we can welcome our new pastor. One of the best ways we can welcome our new pastor is by wearing our name tags. This will give Pastor Brian, Faith and Abbey the opportunity to put names with faces and get to know you all that much faster.

Remember, while you all only have three names to remember they have an entire congregation. So please do them this kindness and wear your name tag every week in worship. If you do not have a name tag, please let the church office know and we will get you one made. Thanks in advance for you help!

4. Annual Conference - Next week begins Annual Conference in Daytona. I would humbly ask that you all please take a moment and pray for us. Pray that as we vote for delegates, conduct our business, and lay out our mission for the future, we will hear and heed the voice of the Holy Spirit and be obedient to all God asks of us. Thank you in advance for your prayers.

Have a great weekend and I will see you Sunday!