April 21, 2017

Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense…  (Acts 22:1)
 
For Paul, this is the end of his missionary travels. The arrest in Jerusalem will ensure that he will be imprisoned for the rest of his natural life and put to death. The arrest in the previous chapter would seem almost funny if it wasn’t so heartbreaking – a case of mistaken assumption from both the Jews and the Roman soldiers. Whether through human ingenuity or the work of the Holy Spirit, Paul even during this impossible situation is given an opportunity to speak. And the words that Paul speaks are in defense of his life, his calling and ministry.
 
How do you estimate and judge Paul’s life? Thumbs up or thumbs down? Would you like it on your Facebook page? Care to comment?  Perhaps even share on your own timeline?
 
This Sunday, we are celebrating eight youths who have completed their Confirmation journey (16 plus weeks; one will not be able to join us). And all of them will have some part in this week’s worship service. I have met with each of them individually this week to talk about their experience, their life and faith. I am so incredibly proud of each one of them. But as I shared with them, this is not the end but really only the beginning of their lives as a Christian. And I cannot wait to see the amazing and wonderful things that God will do through their lives and the kind of people they will become. And we as a church family have a role to play in their development. This is a very important part of being a church – to nurture the lives of those who have been entrusted into our care.
 
What are your hopes and dreams for our children? How far will our imaginations carry us when it comes to the kind of person we would like for them to become? To become doctors and lawyers, teachers and firemen/women? For good health, to find love and start a family, to be happy? Do we dare for them to become like the Apostle Paul who was persecuted and beaten, arrested and imprisoned over and over again? Why not? His life is one of the greatest examples of faith in the Bible. In the end, when we have to give a defense for the life we’ve lived, I pray that it will be a life filled with love and laughter, joys as well as sorrows, a life full of passion, meaning and adventure! Through it all, may God be your guide.
 
Pastor David


April 14, 2017

The Spirit of the Lord was moving powerfully during those early years of the Church. We witnessed the Spirt come down like a mighty wind in chapter two. Then in chapter eight, the Spirit drives the disciples from Jerusalem and into the world. By chapter eleven, we read about this wonderful Church in Antioch where Jews and Gentiles worship together. And they are first called Christians there. Seemingly, nothing can stop the advancement of the Gospel into all of the world.
 
Then comes chapter fifteen and all of that is threatened to come to a screeching halt. And what is the reason? Circumcision. Not only circumcision, but all of the Jewish practices of faith tied onto the Gospel message. The question the Early Christians wrestled with was, “Do Gentile believers have to become Jews as well as Christian?” This issue will come up again later in Paul’s Letters so I won’t go into other details here.
 
The question may seem silly to the modern Church, but I believe the tension and the temptation to add onto the Gospel is still alive and well. What practices or ways of being a Christian/church member are we unwittingly burdening newcomers and new believers with? Are there customs and traditions that we have come to see as sacred and yet are really beyond the Gospel requirements for salvation? What might some of these examples be? I for one thank God and lean towards the judgment of that first Council meeting:
 
“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for those Gentiles who are turning to God.”
Acts 15:19
 
In Christ's Love,
Pastor David


April 7, 2017

... a certain man named Simon had practiced sorcery in that city and baffled the people of Samaria. He claimed to be a great person… and [people] referred to him as “the power of God called Great.”
(Acts. 8:9,11)
 
In reading about Simon, I can’t help but think of Jonas Nightingale, Steve Martin’s character, in the movie, “Leap of Faith.” Jonas is a fake faith healer who travels around the country holding revival tent meetings, and he uses every trick in the book to con the audience out of their money. The movie takes an unexpected turn begging the question: When you’ve been faking it for so long, what happens when you come up against something real?
 
I think we all fake it to a certain degree… in different areas of our lives and act as if we have it all under control and got it all together. But what happens when we come up against something real and encounter God in some real way? And the idea of being something or someone that we’re not loses its grip on us. Rather than continuing the charade, we can choose to simply come, be still, be ourselves, and just lay it all before God. I think this is something like what God offers us in Jesus Christ when we confess our sins, ask for forgiveness, and we are restored into a new relationship with God and others. This is a chance at a new life, a real life, a life that is fully lived in this world with the good and the bad. Through it all, doesn’t God promise to be with us every step of the way.
 
In Christ's Love,
Pastor David


March 31, 2017

Introduction to the Book of Acts:
The story of Jesus doesn’t end with Jesus. It continues in the lives of those who believe in him. The supernatural does not stop with Jesus. Luke makes it clear that these Christians he wrote about were no more spectators of Jesus than Jesus was a spectator of God –they are in on the action of God, God acting in them, God living in them. Which also means, of course, in us. 
[Eugene Peterson]
 
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  [Acts 1:8, NIV].
 
With these last words to his disciples, Jesus was taken up to the right hand of God. The adventure of the Jesus story now takes off with his disciples in the Early Church. Try to imagine as you read, what life would have been like during those days. And tell me all about it. God speed.


March 28, 2018

“I speak to them in parables” (Matt. 13:13)
 
During Jesus’ earthly ministry, one of the primary ways He would instruct His disciples was through parables. People would gather from far and wide in order to listen to what Jesus said about the kingdom of God, and the most common way He would explain the kingdom was in parables. What does God want us to learn from these parables?
 
As you’ve been reading in the Gospels, what are some of your favorite parables? Which ones do you have questions about? This summer we’ll be doing a sermon series on the Parables of Jesus, and I would love to hear from you as I prepare.


March 24, 2017

I am the vine; you are the branches.
If you remain in me and I in you,
Then you will bear much fruit.
Without me, you can’t do anything.
John 15:5
 
I’m more city than I am country. I tried gardening once and it didn’t really take. Despite my lack of a green thumb, I still get what Jesus is putting down through this horticultural analogy. This passage is all about abiding, remaining and staying connected with Jesus. If the branches want any chance of survival, let alone bearing fruit, it must stay connected with the vine.
 
Here are some questions that I have for us: Do we see our life and participation in the church as helping us abide in Christ? Do we know or think about what abiding in Christ would even look like? Do we feel connected like branches to a vine as to Jesus, our congregation or, for that matter, to anything at all? I would love to hear your responses and thoughts.


March 17, 2017

John 8:11
Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on, don’t sin anymore.
 
Many questions come to mind as I read this passage:
• Where is the man that was caught in adultery?
• Why were the legal experts and Pharisees out to get Jesus? 
• What did Jesus write with his finger on the ground? (First and only recorded account of Jesus having written anything down)
• Does this woman know who it that stands before her?
 
Maybe she’s heard him teach before or even witness him doing a miracle, but she can’t know that the one person on the planet who could condemn her is the one extending forgiveness to her. We cannot know if she fully grasped intellectually or theologically what was happening to her at that moment. But in her heart, her spirit, in her bones, she must have experienced true forgiveness, acceptance, a new lease on life. And isn’t this what Christ offers each one of us when we truly receive forgiveness and accept him as our Lord? Take time today to know and receive that forgiveness offered to you and your life will never be the same.
 
In Christ’s Love,
Pastor David


March 10, 2017

Intro to the Gospel of John from the Wesley Study Bible
 
“The Gospel of John has been called the ‘spiritual Gospel’ and the ‘Gospel of Life.’ It tells the saving story of Jesus as ‘the Son of God dwelling among [humans] (Wesley, Notes, John, 1), sent to bring God’s love, light, and life. Jesus’ ministry and death give life to those who receive him, making them God’s children and recipients of God’s Spirit. They in turn are commissioned to direct others to Jesus.”
 
John’s Gospel is definitely different from the other three Gospels. Matthew, Mark and Luke are often called the Synoptic Gospels meaning one eye or one view because they share a common timeline. John’s Gospel was probably the last of the Gospels written and is considered to be more spiritual or mature, or even mystical. But there is no doubt that it is a faithful rendering of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I would love to hear your thoughts and observations as you read John’s Gospel in the coming weeks.
 
In Christ,
Pastor David


March 3, 2017

Luke 18
Story of the Widow and the Unjust Judge (vs. 1-8)
 
Jesus is encouraging his disciples to pray, to keep praying continuously and not be discouraged. Consider this story: a widow keeps coming to the judge (prayer) demanding justice, but he keeps refusing her. Finally, he says to himself, “I don’t fear God or respect people, but I will give this widow justice because she keeps bothering me.” 
 
Jesus is saying, even an unjust judge will eventually give justice to those who keep asking, so how much more will God, our loving Heavenly Father, give justice to his people who cry out to him day and night (prayer), and quickly. [Note: the widow was asking for justice not special favor or favoritism. God is not Santa Claus]. Translation: our God is faithful and you can be confident in coming to God with your prayers knowing that God will answer. BUT, Jesus turns it around on us and asks, will he find faithfulness on earth? (v.8) God is faithful, but what about you?
 
We observed Ash Wednesday (March 1) this week which begins the Season of Lent all the way to Easter (April 16). Our Confirmands did an amazing job of leading worship for both Center UMC and Peace Summerfield UMC. For centuries in the Church, this has been the time of year when believers prepared themselves for self-reflection and assessment, to re-align ourselves back to God, by turning our eyes gradually away from ourselves to Jesus and the new life we have with him. God’s grace comes first, but how will you respond this year to God’s call?
 
*If you have questions on how you can prepare or what you can do during this Lenten Season, please let me or office know via email. 
 
In Christ's Love!
Pastor David


February 24, 2017

Luke 11:1, 2-4
 
“Lord, teach us to pray… Jesus told them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, uphold the holiness of your name. Bring in your kingdom. Give us the bread we need for today. Forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who has wronged us. And don’t lead us into temptation.’”
 
I find it interesting that the disciples didn’t ask Jesus to teach them how to give great sermons or put on successful revivals. Jesus did a lot of amazing things during his ministry: miracles, healings, casting out demons. But this is the only time they asked Jesus to teach them something, and it was to pray. We know that Jesus went away often to pray by himself.
 
And later when Jesus asked his disciples to do something for him in the Garden of Gethsemane, it was to pray and to keep watch.
 
How is your prayer life? If Jesus thought it was important enough for him to get away on a regular basis to pray, how much more us? Let’s make prayer a regular practice in our faith lives.
 
In Christ's Love!
Pastor David



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