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How Does God Feel About Feelings? – Commanded to Feel

Commanded to FeelKey Bible Verse:  Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.  Romans 12:15

Dig Deeper:  John 16:20-24

A careful reader of the Bible will conclude as indefensible any view that says, “The emotions are off-limits.” Our emotions are a part of our humanity that needs to be sanctified and brought under the authority of God’s Word.

John Piper has accurately pointed out that the Bible commands all kinds of emotions.  There is the divine imperative to be joyful or to rejoice.  Phil. 4:4 There is the command to “forgive your brother from the heart”  Matt. 18:35, ESV, et al.

Anyone who has dealt with forgiveness (who hasn’t?) often says something to this effect: “I don’t feel like I can forgive him yet.” Forgiveness is more than an emotion, but whether we like it or not, it has an emotional element to it.

We are also commanded to love.  But “love is not a feeling,” say a few Christian pop songs and teachers.  This will not do.  We are told to “love one another with brotherly affection” Romans 12:10.   Love may be more than a feeling, but never less.

What about the command to mourn?  “Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom” (James 4:9).  God commands us to mourn, which engages the emotions.

—Brian Borgman in Feelings and Faith

 

My Response: Of those emotions commanded in today’s devotional, which one or ones do I find most difficult to express? Easiest?

          Adapted from Feelings and Faith (Crossway, 2009)

 

Prayer for the Week:  Dear Father, thank you that you are a God who feels deeply and that you created me with deep feelings, too.  Help me to own my feelings and learn to express them in ways that bring honor to you.

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How Does God Feel About Feelings? – God Feels. You Feel.

God Care for UsWho Said It … Pete Scazzero

Pete Scazzero is author of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, a groundbreaking book on the integration of emotional health and spirituality.

Pete is the founder and senior pastor of New Life Fellowship Church in Queens, New York City, a multiracial, international church representing over 65 countries.

Pete and his wife, Geri, are co-founders of a ministry called Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (emotionallyhealthy.org).

 

What He Said … God Feels.  You Feel.

Scripture reveals God as an emotional being who feels—a Person. Consider the following (emphasis added; all verses from the NIV):

  •         “The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.Genesis 6:6

 

  •         “‘My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused.‘” Hosea 11:8

 

  •         “[Jesus] began to be sorrowful and troubled.  Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.'” Matthew 26: 37-38

 

  •         “[Jesus] looked around them in anger and, deeply distressed.Mark 3:5

 

  •          “Jesus [was] full of joy through the Holy Spirit.” Luke 10:21

 

Reflect on the implications of our God feeling.  You are made in his image.  God feels.  You feel.

At the very least, the call of discipleship includes experiencing our feelings, reflecting on our feelings, and then thoughtfully responding to our feelings under the Lordship of Jesus.

          Adapted from Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (Integrity, 2006).

 

Prayer for the Week:  Dear Father, thank you that you are a God who feels deeply and that you created me with deep feelings, too.  Help me to own my feelings and learn to express them in ways that bring honor to you.

Help by Bucketsful in Colorado Flood Relief

Flooding caused massive damage in Lyons, Colo. A UMNS photo courtesy of Emily Flemming.

Flooding caused massive damage in Lyons, Colo. A UMNS photo courtesy of Emily Flemming.

“What they’re asking is, `Will you go with us as we go out and volunteer in the community.’ That’s probably the dominant message from churches in the affected areas.” —Laurie Day, Rocky Mountain Annual Conference assistant director of mission and ministry.

As soon as television news coverage made clear just how bad some communities were getting hit by the recent, historic flooding in Colorado, the Rev. Bradley Laurvick began planning how his church, Highlands United Methodist of Denver, could help.

He first checked the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) website for what goes in a cleaning bucket. Then he sent an email blast to church members and posted on Facebook and two neighborhood websites, asking for those items.

Highlands is small, averaging around 90 in worship. But with nearly all of those contributing — as well as others in the neighborhood — the church assembled 50 buckets. Laurvick called it a “loaves and fishes” result, nearly doubling the original goal.

With a transportation assist from Park Hill United Methodist Church of Denver, the buckets had arrived at the Red Cross center in hard-hit Estes Park by last Saturday morning.

Members of Highlands United Methodist Church in Denver assemble cleaning buckets for those affected by the Colorado floods, while toddler Emma, daughter of two of the volunteers (not pictured) plays amid the cleaning supplies. A UMNS photo by the Rev. Bradley Laurvick.

Members of Highlands United Methodist Church in Denver assemble cleaning buckets for those affected by the Colorado floods, while toddler Emma, daughter of two of the volunteers (not pictured) plays amid the cleaning supplies. A UMNS photo by the Rev. Bradley Laurvick.

Members of Highlands United Methodist Church in Denver assemble cleaning buckets for those affected by the Colorado floods, while toddler Emma, daughter of two of the volunteers (not pictured) plays amid the cleaning supplies. A UMNS photo by the Rev. Bradley Laurvick.

“The idea of going to serve and tending to people’s needs is what I hear Jesus asking of us,” Laurvick said. “I also find great motivation in the words of Paul, that when one part of the body suffers, all suffer.”

The United Methodist Church is preparing for a long-term effort in disaster relief in Colorado, including sending in emergency response teams to help with debris removal. Already, individuals and churches are on the case.

UMCOR has moved in two shipments of supplies, providing 900 cleaning buckets and 2,000 health kits, and given a $10,000 grant for Rocky Mountain Annual (regional) Conference flood relief efforts.

One United Methodist church, Longs Peak in Longmont – a town which had its share of damage – has become a dispatch point for buckets that individual churches have assembled.

“They go out as fast as they come in,” said the Rev. Stephanie Kidwell, pastor at Longs Peak.

Longs Peak staff member Emily Kintzel and her family have been helping with the church efforts, though they were evacuated from their Longmont home for a time and still face replacing ruined carpeting and drywall on their first floor.

“There’s always a need to respond to, and as a church it’s our responsibility to do that,” said Kintzel, director of youth and young adult ministries at Longs Peak.

Members of Highlands United Methodist Church in Denver pose with cleaning buckets they prepared for those affected by the Colorado floods. A UMNS photo by the Rev. Bradley Laurvick.

Members of Highlands United Methodist Church in Denver pose with cleaning buckets they prepared for those affected by the Colorado floods. A UMNS photo by the Rev. Bradley Laurvick.

 

Members of Highlands United Methodist Church in Denver pose with cleaning buckets they prepared for those affected by the Colorado floods. A UMNS photo by the Rev. Bradley Laurvick.


Hope United Methodist Church of Greenwood Village, has joined the bucket brigade, delivering about 75 to Longs Peak, including 33 prepared by young people.

“We are grateful to be in a position to journey with those in need,” said the Rev. Don Bird, lead pastor at Hope.

Meanwhile, Columbine United Church in Columbine, affiliated with the United Methodist Church as well as the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and United Church of Christ, delivered more than 80 buckets and 200 hygiene kits to Estes Park. The congregation followed up the next day by taking 40 cleaning buckets to Longs Peak.

“We had so many people bringing things,” said Barbara Rudolf, the church’s volunteer coordinator. “People were so awesome.”

The power of love

Four United Methodist clergywomen arranged to be in Lyons, on Thursday, Sept. 19 to counsel with residents who were returning after evacuation to get a first look at how badly damaged their homes were.

“Seeing their lives upside down and the river literally moved…was a humbling reminder of the ways our lives are never our own…nothing is guaranteed except God’s love shown through the power of how we love one another, especially when life is hard,” said the Rev. Pam Everhart of Niwot United Methodist Church in Longmont, one of the pastors visiting in Lyons.

Emily Flemming, recently-appointed local pastor of Lyons Community (United Methodist) Church, also was part of the team.

“We stayed together in groups of two, wading through water, slushing through mud and traversing unstable bridges,” emailed Flemming, who with her family was evacuated from Lyons. “I saw two of my parishioners wading through knee-deep, swift-rushing water (which used to be a street) in order to get to their home, assess damages and remove their personal items.”

Ambassadors of Love

Here is the list of churches involved in the Ambassadors of Love program:

  1. Ambassador for St. Paul’s UMC of Boulder is Good Shepherd UMC of Thornton
  2. Ambassador for Frasier Meadows Manor is Arvada UMC
  3. Ambassador for Evans UMC is Northglenn UMC
  4. Ambassador for Estes Park UMC is Trinity UMC of Denver
  5. Ambassador for Lyons UMC is Parker UMC
  6. Ambassador for Mountain View UMC of Boulder is St. Luke’s UMC of Highlands Ranch,
  7. Ambassador for Rinn UMC is First UMC of Cheyenne, Wyoming.
  8. Ambassador for CU Boulder Wesley Foundation is First UMC of Laramie, Wyoming

She said Lyons Community Church will have services in its building Sunday morning for the first time since the floods.

“Say a little prayer for us.”

A church `buddy system’

The Rocky Mountain Annual (regional) Conference of the United Methodist Church has created what it is calling an Ambassadors of Love program, pairing United Methodist churches in badly affected areas with those in areas that came through relatively unscathed.

“It’s a buddy system,” said Youngsook Kang, conference director of mission and ministry.

The better-off churches are encouraged to pray for and visit their partners, but the real goal is more outward focused.

“What they’re asking is, `Will you go with us as we go out and volunteer in the community,’” said Laurie Day, conference assistant director of mission and ministry. “That’s probably the dominant message from churches in the affected areas.”

The Rev. Elizabeth McVicker, congregational care pastor of First United Methodist in Cheyenne, Wyo., said one of the church’s members was particularly excited to be partnering with Rinn United Methodist in Frederick, Colo.

“One of older members told me that in 1977 his mother died and on the way to make the arrangements, he hit a major snowstorm,” she said. “The roads were closed and he was stranded. The Rinn UMC opened its doors and he stayed the night. Every time he drives by, he reminds his wife of their hospitality. What a joy to be able to return the grace.”

The Rev. Gary Haddock assesses flood damage at Frasier Meadows, a United Methodist-related Health Care Center in Boulder, Colo. A UMNS photo by Christi Turner.

The Rev. Gary Haddock assesses flood damage at Frasier Meadows, a United Methodist-related Health Care Center in Boulder, Colo. A UMNS photo by Christi Turner.

 

The Rev. Gary Haddock assesses flood damage at Frasier Meadows, a United Methodist-related Health Care Center in Boulder, Colo. A UMNS photo by Christi Turner.

One institution that’s part of the Ambassadors program is not a church. Frasier Meadows is a United Methodist-affiliated retirement community in Boulder that was badly damaged in the floods and had to relocate 74 residents.

Arvada United Methodist is Frasier Meadows partner in the program. But Frasier has turned for help to nearby Mountain View United Methodist Church, itself badly damaged in the floods. Frasier Meadows staff members are parking at Mountain View, since Frasier’s parking lots are out of commission.

“The Methodist church, being right across the street, has been able to provide us with a lot of that (parking) assistance,” said Tim Johnson, who is the Frasier Meadows top executive.

`Sense of connectedness’

The Rev. Gary Haddock, who leads disaster response for the Rocky Mountain Conference, toured both Mountain View and Frasier Meadows last Friday as well as other affected Methodist sites.

Want to be involved?

The Rocky Mountain Conference is providing regular updates on its response to the flooding.

If you would like to donate to the Conference Disaster Response Fund, click here and select “Disaster Response Fund” in the drop-down menu under Designated Giving. Or send checks payable to Rocky Mountain Conference, Colorado Floods, 6110 Greenwood Plaza Boulevard, Greenwood Village, CO 80111.

If you would like to donate to UMCOR, here are options:

  • Text RESPONSE to 80888 from your cell phone to donate $10
  • Call (800) 554-8583
  • Send check payable to UMCOR, P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087
  • Donate online at UMCOR.org

He said many of the people he spoke with still are shook up, given how unexpected, fast and far-reaching the flooding was. But he also witnessed resolve among United Methodists to be in the thick of the recovery.

“It’s just amazing the way people have responded,” he said. “They want to help, and they’re going out of their way to help. There’s a great sense of connectedness and a great desire to be of service in God’s honor.”

Haddock said a meeting Friday, Sept. 27 should establish when United Methodist emergency response teams can start helping with debris removal in badly affected areas.

He said the Rev. Nancy Boswell, pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in Fort Collins, will be working fulltime on relief coordination for two weeks beginning Monday.

Haddock will take over for her Oct. 13, doing his own two-week stint. His congregation at Community United Methodist Church in Ogden, Utah, supported giving him that time in the Denver area.

“I’m very proud of them for being willing to loan me out,” he said.

* Sam Hodges, a United Methodist News Service writer, lives in Dallas. Contact him at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

United Methodist Annual Conferences Join to Fight Malaria

Imagine No Malaria 3

When the Rev. Kathy Crozier and her husband, Jim, traveled on a mission trip to Liberia in 2008, she expected the trip to change her life.

The Rev. Kathy Crozier poses with children at Bishop Judith Craig Children’s Village in Duahzon, Liberia. Crozier, who contracted malaria during a 2008 mission trip to Liberia, and her husband Jim helped raise more than $323,000 to help fight the disease. A UMNS photo courtesy of Kathy Crozier.

The Rev. Kathy Crozier poses with children at Bishop Judith Craig Children’s Village in Duahzon, Liberia. Crozier, who contracted malaria during a 2008 mission trip to Liberia, and her husband Jim helped raise more than $323,000 to help fight the disease. A UMNS photo courtesy of Kathy Crozier.

It did, in many ways.

Although she took an anti-malaria drug, Kathy became very ill. Six months after she returned home, doctors at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta diagnosed her with malaria.

The disease damaged Kathy’s gall bladder and continues to cause extended periods of memory dissociation. She likened her symptoms to the familiar experience of going into a room to get something and forgetting why you went there. For her, she said, “it happens for longer periods of time and more frequently.” Her rescue dog, Cooper, is now her service dog, alerting her when a seizure-like episode is about to occur.

Despite — or perhaps because of — her own experience, Kathy is one of the biggest boosters for Imagine No Malaria in the Illinois Great Rivers Annual (regional) Conference. In Prophetstown, Kathy, a deacon in full connection, and Jim, a part-time local pastor, serve the 165-member Loraine United Methodist Church.

They were among the leadership in the conference’s Spoon River District, which has raised more than $323,000 toward the conference’s goal.  At publication time, The United Methodist Church worldwide had raised more than $53 million in cash and pledges toward the $75-million goal.

“I would never have thought I’d be involved in this until after our trip to Africa,” Jim said. “I’d given money to (purchase insecticide-treated bed nets) and that sort of support, but meeting people for whom malaria is a part of their lives convicted me.”

Kathy said that if she had known how a relatively simple trip to Africa would, ultimately, threaten her survival and transform her daily life, she still would have gone. “I would have said, without hesitation, ‘Send me.’” And she would go again “in a heartbeat.”

The Croziers remain committed to Imagine No Malaria.

“We can do this,” Jim replied. “We need to do this. Our sisters and brothers — and our little sisters and little brothers — need what we can provide. Malaria is one of the things that we really can fix. And victory over this will put us in place to work on AIDS and TB.”

 ‘Push back the darkness’

A new Christian is baptized in Salala, Liberia, in 2010. “As the church grows, it reaches people in remote areas who are most vulnerable to malaria,” says the Rev. Roger Ross, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Springfield, Ill. A UMNS photo by Roger Ross.

A new Christian is baptized in Salala, Liberia, in 2010. “As the church grows, it reaches people in remote areas who are most vulnerable to malaria,” says the Rev. Roger Ross, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Springfield, Ill. A UMNS photo by Roger Ross.

A new Christian is baptized in Salala, Liberia, in 2010. “As the church grows, it reaches people in remote areas who are most vulnerable to malaria,” says the Rev. Roger Ross, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Springfield, Ill. A UMNS photo by Roger Ross.

Reducing the number of preventable deaths from malaria is high on the list of several United Methodist annual (regional) conferences, and two — Illinois Great Rivers and Minnesota — have already raised more than $2 million each for the Imagine No Malaria campaign.

Three hours south of the Croziers’ church is the 1,900-member Springfield First United Methodist Church. That congregation pledged $208,000 – the tithe from a building expansion. As of July 31, they had paid $120,000, with a balance of $88,000.

“Our conference has a strong relationship with the Liberia Annual Conference,” said the Rev. Roger S. Ross. “Hundreds of people, pastors and laypersons, have been to Liberia and witnessed firsthand the needless deaths that occur from this preventable and treatable disease.

“When you look into the eyes of a young mother who worries every night whether a mosquito bite will kill one of her children, you cannot go home and do nothing. Imagine No Malaria is one way to push back the darkness and bring life.”

As of May 31 this year, 720 of the conference’s 860 congregations had contributed to Imagine No Malaria – an 84 percent participation rate. Several superintendents provided leadership within their districts, resulting in 100-percent participation by their churches.

“I think what has motivated the Illinois Great Rivers Conference,” said Paul Black, director of communication ministries, “is that this is something that we CAN do. Malaria is preventable, it is treatable and it can be eradicated. Many of our older members remember when malaria was an issue in the United States.

“When Imagine No Malaria was able to report that the problem (deaths from malaria) had been cut in half — moving the clock hands from every 30 seconds to every minute,” he added, “that was significant in letting people know that we were making a difference. Our message then became, ‘We have malaria on the run; let’s finish the job!’”

A global thrust

Other conferences have stepped up their efforts.

A longtime leader in the campaign, the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference has raised more than $1.5 million, followed by the Southwest Texas and Texas conferences, surpassing a million dollars each.

Collecting more than $500,000 each are the Arkansas, Baltimore-Washington and North Texas annual conferences. And tumbling over the $250,000 mark are the Central Texas, Iowa, New Mexico, New York and Northwest Texas conferences.

Supporters of Imagine No Malaria take part in a 5k run/walk along the Peoria River during the 2012 Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference. A UMNS file photo by Natalie Rowe, Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference.

Supporters of Imagine No Malaria take part in a 5k run/walk along the Peoria River during the 2012 Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference. A UMNS file photo by Natalie Rowe, Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference.

Supporters of Imagine No Malaria take part in a 5k run/walk along the Peoria River during the 2012 Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference. A UMNS file photo by Natalie Rowe, Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference.

Eighteen annual conferences, including two listed above, are aiming toward the $1 million goal: Arkansas, California-Nevada, Desert Southwest, Detroit, Greater New Jersey, Holston, Iowa, Kansas East, Kansas West, Missouri, Nebraska, New England, North Alabama, Northern Illinois, Rocky Mountain, West Michigan, West Ohio and Yellowstone.

Participation goes beyond the U.S. annual conferences, with United Methodists in Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Puerto Rico, Russia, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe West conferences joining the effort.

“Imagine No Malaria is connectionalism at its best,” Black said. “We join together to achieve something that, individually, our churches or annual conferences couldn’t achieve by ourselves. Further, we have invited those that are not a part of us to join in the effort, and they have responded.”

The Rev. Larry Hollon, United Methodist Communications’ top staff executive, wrote in a July 18 blog, “The fight against this disease is challenging, but what is at stake are human lives. We have seen many places around the world, the United States and Panama for example, where malaria once claimed lives with impunity but is now under control.

“This is not the time to let the challenges cause us to hesitate. It’s time to redouble our efforts to enjoin the fight.”

Contributions toward Imagine No Malaria may be made to Central United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 311, Beaver Falls, PA 15010 (please designate “Imagine No Malaria” on your check).

 

Rediscovering the Huge Heart of God – Jonah and Nineveh

Jonah and NinevehAny kid who’s been to Sunday school knows about Jonah and the big fish.  Yet amid that colorful story, we easily miss the point: God goes to great lengths to extend his mercy to the most depraved people.  And this is the Old Testament.

All too often we tuck the God of Love into the New Testament and forget that, amid all the talk of Old Testament holiness and wrath, “the faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease” (Lam. 3:22).

Interact with God’s Word:

Jonah 1-4:

1.      Read Jonah’s four short chapters and then write down three to five big ideas that come to mind.

 

2.      In chapter 1, why does Jonah run from God?  (For the prophet’s answer, look ahead to 4:1-2.)

 

3.      What does chapter 2 reveal about Jonah’s understanding of who God is and what he is like?

 

4.      In chapter 3, why do you think the people of Nineveh chose to repent?  Why did God change his mind about destroying Nineveh?

 

5.      In the final chapter, what is God trying to teach Jonah?  What do you think he wants to teach you about himself?  About how his people should treat lost and sinful people?

Spend Time in Prayer:

Thank God for his love and mercy that comes to you without any worthiness or merit on your part; ask him to help you extend his love and mercy to those you feel deserve it the least.

Jonah 1-4:  New International Version (NIV)

Jonah Flees From the Lord

1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.

Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.

But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”

Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”

He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)

11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”

12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”

13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.

Jonah’s Prayer

17 Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. 2 1 [a]From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said:

“In my distress I called to the Lord,
and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
and you listened to my cry.
You hurled me into the depths,
into the very heart of the seas,
and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
swept over me.
I said, ‘I have been banished
from your sight;
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.’
The engulfing waters threatened me,[b]
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, Lord my God,
brought my life up from the pit.

“When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.

“Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”

10 And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

Jonah Goes to Nineveh

3 Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”

Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.

When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:

“By the decree of the king and his nobles:

Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

Jonah’s Anger at the Lord’s Compassion

4 But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant[c] and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”

But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”

“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”

10 But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”

Footnotes:

  1. Jonah 2:1 In Hebrew texts 2:1 is numbered 1:17, and 2:1-10 is numbered 2:2-11.
  2. Jonah 2:5 Or waters were at my throat
  3. Jonah 4:6 The precise identification of this plant is uncertain; also in verses 7, 9 and 10.

Church Signs

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Helping hands and comfort reach out to Coloradoans through actions and messages of hope

UMC Colorado Flood Help - 9-19-2013The United Methodist Church is using advertising to send a word of hope and healing to Coloradans coping with damage from historic flooding last week.

The messages will reach residents even as United Methodists are gearing up for short- and long-term relief efforts.

 This ad from the United Methodist denomination will appear in Sunday print editions of the Denver Post, Fort Collins Coloradoan, Loveland Reporter-Herald, Canon City Daily Record, Boulder Daily Camera, Longmont Times-Call and Colorado Springs Gazette.

“The people of The United Methodist Church consistently reach out to provide a helping hand, comfort and other forms of support during times such as this,” said the Rev. Larry Hollon, chief executive of United Methodist Communications. “It’s important to express our concern in personal and public ways. These ads express our personal concern through public media.

“United Methodist local churches in Colorado and United Methodist people around the world are concerned for those affected by the floodwaters, and we want to communicate our concern in as many ways as possible.”

The denomination will have advertisements in Sunday print editions of the Denver Post, Fort Collins Coloradoan, Loveland Reporter-Herald, Canon City Daily Record, Boulder Daily Camera, Longmont Times-Call and Colorado Springs Gazette.

A version of the advertisement — which asks for donations to the United Methodist Committee of Relief and notes that 100 percent of all such donations for relief work — began to appear Thursday on those newspaper’s websites.

Meanwhile, United Methodists are responding in various ways.

A team of United Methodist pastors planned to be on hand Thursday as residents who had been evacuated were allowed back in to check on flood-damaged homes. The Rev. Emily Flemming, pastor of Lyons Community (United Methodist) Church, said she and other pastors would be offering prayers and counseling.

Longs Peak United Methodist in hard-hit Longmont, Colo., has been collecting and distributing cleaning buckets. Churches within the Rocky Mountain Annual (Regional) Conference have been sending the buckets to that church.

UMCOR has already shipped in 900 cleaning buckets and 2,000 health kits, which will be distributed through relief stations set up by the American Red Cross and Salvation Army.

“It’s our connectional system at its best when we care for people in need who may not be right in our own backyard,” said the Rev. Denise Honeycutt, the head of UMCOR.

The Rev. Gary Haddock, disaster relief coordinator for the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference, plans Friday to tour area United Methodist churches that have been damaged, meeting with pastors and assessing needs.

The Rocky Mountain Annual Conference has 55 emergency response team volunteers ready to do debris removal, once they get an assignment from local authorities. That may be a few days off, said Don Falvey, an UMCOR field advisor, Rocky Mountain Conference disaster response committee member and United Methodist representative to Colorado Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster.

Falvey said at least two other United Methodist conferences have offered to send emergency response teams.

*For further information, please contact Sam Hodges, a United Methodist News Service writer, lives in Dallas. Contact him at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

Rediscovering the Huge Heart of God – “What Did You Say?”

I Love You, DadKey Bible Verse:  But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.  Romans 5:8

Dig Deeper:  Romans 5: 1-11

The simple knowledge that you are loved and accepted by God can break into your life with startling luminosity.  It reminds me of a day I was in the gym with my son, working out with weights.  

As I loaded the bench-press bar for my son, I heard him mutter something that got lost in the din.  I shouted, “What did you say?”  He blushed and muttered it again.  I shouted as I adjusted the weights, “Speak up, I can’t hear you!”  He blushed again, and spoke just loud enough to be heard: “I said, ‘I love you, Dad.'”

Time seemed to stop and the music and commotion of the gym faded into the background as I realized that my son had been watching me and loving me.  It took my breath away.  

I don’t remember anything else that happened that day, whether good or bad.  But whatever the day had been, those four words spoken amid the clatter of the gym were enough to set everything right and put the world back into perspective.

It wasn’t just the words; it was who said them that made them matter.  My beloved son said them, and it was enough.

It is enough to believe that our glorious God has spoken his love to us and said, “I accept you and forgive you.”

—Ben Patterson in He Has Made Me Glad

 

My Response:  In my everyday experiences this week, I will look for ways that God speaks to me and seeks to show his love for me.

Adapted from He Has Made Me Glad (IVP, 2005)

 

 

Prayer for the Week:  Dear Father, help me to reflect on your love this week so that I might not only rediscover your love for me but also your great love for each and every person on the planet.

Rediscovering the Huge Heart of God – A Dad Who Loves Me

A Dad Who Loves MeKey Bible Verse: For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.  Romans 8:14, ESV

Dig Deeper:  Romans 8: 14-17; Ephesians 1: 1-8

I grew up near the site of Mills Home Orphanage.  This Southern Baptist-operated children’s home had an idyllic campus.  Some of my best friends in school were young men who lived there.  

My parents would frequently invite one of them to spend the weekend with us.  Sometimes, as we would drive one of the boys back to the Mills Home campus, I would feel a little jealousy.  My eyes danced across the ball fields, all the way to the Olympic-sized swimming pool.  I thought this was about as close to heaven as a child could ever want to be.  

But when I once expressed this jealous thought to one of my orphan friends, he quickly replied that he would gladly trade it all for one thing.  “For what?” I asked.

“A dad who loves me.”

We do indeed have a heavenly Father who loves us—a distinctive privilege of sonship, which Paul immediately contrasted (in the verse following today’s Key Bible Verse) with the “spirit of slavery.”

Slavery (then as now) always leads to bondage and fear.  Sonship, however, enables us to address God personally.  As children of God, we have been given the privilege of intimate daily access to the Father.

—Ken Hemphill in We Are

 

My Response: I will thank God for adopting me as his son; I will reflect on what it means to call him my heavenly Father.

 

Thought to Apply: It is God’s will that we see him as the Father, and the great fountain and reservoir of all grace and love.  This is what Christ came to reveal.—John Owen (theologian)

Adapted from We Are (B&H, 2006)

 

Prayer for the Week:  Dear Father, help me to reflect on your love this week so that I might not only rediscover your love for me but also your great love for each and every person on the planet.

New 13th Street Cement Curbs – The Work Begins

Dick Klugh has been busy during the last 2 weeks, preparing our existing curbs along 13th Street with a weedwhacker and a pressure washer!

 Central - New 13th Street Cement Curbs - Cement Poured - 9-18-2013

In addition, since cement curbs would seal better and last longer than asphalt, Dick has prepared wooden forms and driven rebar into the ground to anchor the new cement.  The rebar and the open space along the edge of the sidewalk should ensure that the cement gets a good grip and stays in place.

Today, Dick, along with several helpers from Tiger Pause, mixed up several bags of cement from Home Depot and troweled it into place about halfway along 13th Street.

A BIG thank you to Dick and his helpers from Tiger Pause on helping to restore our curbs!

Rediscovering the Huge Heart of God – Love Broke Through

Castle DoorKey Bible Verse:  God is love.  1 John 4:8

Dig Deeper:  1 John 4: 7-21

In St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin stands the “Door of Reconciliation.”  

Back in 1492 this door was all that separated two feuding Irish families as the Butlers of Ormond sought sanctuary from the Fitzgeralds of Kildare.  Realizing that the fighting was out of control, Gerald Fitzgerald pleaded with “Black James” Butler to accept a truce.  But suspecting treachery, Black James refused to open the door.

In response Gerald proceeded to hack a hole in it and thrust his arm through as a pledge of his goodwill.  This daring gesture proved enough.  The door was opened and peace was achieved.

It is this type of persistence that runs through the center of God’s love for us as he endlessly works to keep the door of peace and reconciliation open to us.

The Bible never defines God as anything other than love.  However else God may have revealed himself, and in whatever way he interacts with the world, everything is to be tempered, interpreted, understood, and seen through the one, primary lens of God’s love.  We should never speak of any other attribute of God outside of the context of his love.

—Steve Chalke in The Lost Message of Jesus

 

My Response:  How do I feel about the idea that God is defined by love?

Thought to Apply:  God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.—St. Augustine (early church leader, theologian)

Adapted from The Lost Message of Jesus (Zondervan, 2003).

 

 

Prayer for the Week:  Dear Father, help me to reflect on your love this week so that I might not only rediscover your love for me but also your great love for each and every person on the planet.

Rediscovering the Huge Heart of God – Grace for Fugitives

JonahKey Bible Verses:  The faithful love of the LORD never ends!  His mercies never cease.  Great is his faithfulness.  Lamentations 3:22-23

Dig Deeper:  Jonah 1-4

God’s grace is more expansive than our sin.  The whole story of Jonah is God going after depraved, fallen fugitives.  [See Dig Deeper.]

We basically understand why God pursues Jonah, since he was a prophet and a part of God’s people Israel, and he cared about God—at some level anyway.  Jonah’s prayer [in chapter 2] revealed that he was basically a friend of God, not an enemy.

Yet God also goes after Nineveh.  Jonah was pathetic in many ways, but Nineveh was violently wicked—perverse and sadistic.  It makes me wonder why God didn’t just do away with the whole nasty place.  That would have spared God so much effort.

But the good news is that God’s ability to clean things up is infinitely greater than our ability to mess things up.  God’s grace is so massive, so expansive, so wide-ranging, that it tracks down both kinds of runners from God—those who try to rescue themselves by breaking the rules, and those who try by keeping them.

There’s no place where you might be now, or where you might have been in the past, or where you might go in the future, that will ever be beyond the reach of God’s grace—nowhere.

—Tullian Tchividjian in Surprised by Grace

 

My Response:  How do I feel about God extending his grace to people who are “violently wicked—perverse and sadistic”?

 

Thought to Apply:  Grace means the free, unmerited, unexpected love of God, and all the benefits, delights, and comforts which flow from it. It means that while we were sinners and enemies we have been treated as sons and heirs.—R. P. C. Hanson (Irish church leader)

Adapted from Surprised by Grace (Crossway, 2010).

 

 

Prayer for the Week:  Dear Father, help me to reflect on your love this week so that I might not only rediscover your love for me but also your great love for each and every person on the planet.

Rediscovering the Huge Heart of God – What Is God’s Passion?

Heaven 2Who Said It … Jim Burns

Jim Burns founded the ministry HomeWord in 1985 with the goal of bringing help and hope to struggling families.  

HomeWord has been assisting parents and churches worldwide through radio, resources, seminars, and the web (homeword.com).

Jim’s many books include Devotions to Draw Couples Together and Devotions on the Run—the book for which today’s Food for Thought devotional is adapted.

Jim and his wife, Cathy, have three daughters.

 

What he Said … What’s God’s Passion?

I often think about passion.  No, not the kind of passion that is available on movie screens.  I’m thinking about the kind of passion my surfer friend Rick has for the perfect wave.  Up at 4:30 in the morning, he drives to the beach, looking for the best swell.

Personally, I have a passion for Italian food, vacations, my wife, my daughters, a walk on the beach, snorkeling, Häagen-Dazs cookies-and-cream ice cream, youth ministry, and God.

What’s your passion?  What do you think about during the day and dream about at night?  What are you willing to love deeply and sacrificially?

I wonder for a moment: What is the passion of God?

Then the answer comes to me.  You and I are the passion of God.  

God has a one-track mind.  He loves us.  He created us.  He gives us life and breath.  He brings us new life through the sacrificial death of Jesus.

With his love and his Holy Spirit, he passionately pursues us.

Isn’t it nice to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are loved with the passion of God?

Adapted from Devotions on the Run (Regal, 2004)

 

Prayer for the Week:  Dear Father, help me to reflect on your love this week so that I might not only rediscover your love for me but also your great love for each and every person on the planet.

Embracing My Less than Spectacular Church

Ministry doesn’t have to be mega to matter.

          Daniel Darling

 DSC05489

This insightful article on the value of a small church appeared in one of the recent Christianity Today family of publications.

For nearly nine years I was on senior staff at one of the largest evangelical churches in the suburbs of Chicago. We were highly organized, and prided ourselves on excellence in all of our ministry outreaches.

My drive to work every day was about 30 minutes, a commute that took me past many small churches, churches I then considered insignificant. As their tiny, sometimes run-down buildings sailed by, I would think, What’s the point of these churches? Is anything even happening there?

Turns out God had a way of shaking me loose of my mega church arrogance. In a poetic justice kind of way, I found myself pastoring one of “those churches,” the seemingly insignificant, small congregations where God, in my view, wasn’t at work.

It’s been five years and I’m still the senior pastor of a small church, a congregation that may never be profiled in leading evangelical publications, one that will probably never be held up as a model ministry for church planters and revitalizers. However, I don’t consider churches such as ours as insignificant anymore. Though God is still chiseling off my big-church pride, I realize just how important all churches are to Kingdom work.

Ministry jealousy

Some have a bias against mega-churches. They see them as a symbol of everything that is wrong with today’s modern evangelical church. I don’t subscribe to this theory. And yet I have also disabused myself of the notion that unless a church is huge, the Spirit of God is absent.

I recently spoke to a longtime pastor in our area. He’s pastored large churches and small churches. Today he leads a midsize congregation. Among the valuable pieces of advice he gave me was this surprising caution. “Dan,” he said, “Watch yourself for ministry jealousy. If you read too many of the leading church growth and leadership books, you’ll slowly begin to feel that the work you are currently called to is somehow insignificant and even unworthy of God.”

This is sage advice, because I do find I have a tendency to grow discouraged after I’ve returned from a popular conference or after I’ve read the latest bestselling ministry tome. I think the discouragement comes from the knowledge that the church I now lead is not what it should be. In some ways this is healthy. Pastors must constantly be setting vision and moving their people beyond their level of comfort in fulfilling the Great Commission. On the other hand, too much exposure to the “successful” church models can breed a deep and paralyzing sense of jealousy. I think it fuels the wanderlust in pastors who, after a few difficult years, start searching for a more success-rich environment.

I’ve even been lectured by my wife, who after seeing my downcast spirit after a visit to a large church or after a conference will say to me, “If these events are going to get you more discouraged, you need to stop going.” In this way I’m tempted by ministry success like my children are tempted by things in the store they cannot have. I’ve learned, as a parent, that the more I parade my children up and down the aisles of stores whose shelves are lined with toys they cannot have, the more I have to fight their discontentment and envy. Small church pastors like me can make an idol of what we think ministry success looks like.

Where God dwells

Ultimately, ministry jealousy stems from a faulty view of God. During my time on staff at a large church, I mistakenly thought that God only worked through the most cutting edge, organized, streamlined ministries. It’s the same misguided view I carried into my experience pastoring a small church.

But Scripture tells us something far different. As Paul reminded the Corinthians, God often works through the “foolish” and “weak” things of this world. Abraham was an impotent pagan whom God raised up to father the nation of Israel. David was the least likely to succeed in his family and yet became King of Israel. Gideon was trembling in fear when the angel of the Lord called him a “mighty warrior.” Moses was well past his prime when he led the Israelites out of Egypt. The list goes on.

This is not to say we shouldn’t pray for big things to happen in our small churches. But the question is this: what do we consider big? For instance, this year we baptized eight people. For some mega churches, that’s the conversion rate of one small group in one weekend. But for these eight people in our congregation, it was a mighty work of God. Heaven’s chorus is no less triumphant over one soul than it is over thousands.

I think of the man who stumbled into our humble church a few months ago. His life had fallen apart. One of our elders led him to faith in Christ and this man’s faith has grown tremendously. Nowhere in his story will you hear anything about how streamlined our programs were or how slick our Sunday morning presentations are (because they are not). What he found in our church was a relationship with Jesus Christ. He found community. He is receiving the vital words of life from Scripture that are empowering his transformation.

God is still teaching me many things as a pastor, but perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned these last few years is a simple one. God isn’t only present at the churches that get all the headlines. He’s also present at the little, seeming insignificant, less-than-spectacular churches. And I’m OK with that.

          Daniel Darling is pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Visit him at DanielDarling.com

How Can You Help Reach the Most Unreached?

By Joining a Global Vision to Fulfill the Great Commission

Gospel for Asia 1

Gospel for Asia’s ministry is twofold.  First, the Lord has called us to establish and grow thousands of new fellowships in unreached villages throughout Asia.  Second, we aim to impact the body of Christ to live with eternity in mind.

 

The Need: A Land of Nightmares

Gospel for Asia 2The tales from South Asia are as numerous as they are heartbreaking:

  • One mother throws her newborn daughter out of a second story window and watches her fall to her death. The reason? She wasn’t a boy.
  • Jyoti—23 years old and four months pregnant at the time—is doused with kerosene and set on fire. Her attackers? Her mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Their motive? Jyoti’s insufficient dowry.
  • A teenage girl is kidnapped at the train station and placed in a human trafficking ring. Her family never hears from her again.
  • Bina is five years old. She works at a brick factory, her hands burned from the exposure. If she falls behind, she receives beatings from the factory owner.
  • Most tragic of all, every time your heart beats, another human being in Asia dies without ever hearing Christ’s name.

The numbers are startling:

Gospel for Asia 3

  • Nearly 3 billion people on this earth have never heard the name of Jesus.
  • 500,000 villages in India alone have never had a Gospel witness.
  • 80,000 people die daily in South Asia without ever hearing the name of Christ.

These stories are just a microcosm of the reality for millions who live under oppressive spiritual darkness. Founded in 1979, Gospel for Asia exists to bring hope to men, women and children who have never known hope. And you can help achieve that goal.

What can you do?

.Gifts to Gospel for Asia can be made at:   http://www.gfa.org/donation/

The Olive Mountain Traditional Bluegrass Gospel Band – October 6!

Olive Mountain Band

Everyday Ways to Love Your Neighbor – Imagine the Possibilities

Community VolunteersWho Said It … Richard Land

Richard Land has served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission since 1988.  During his tenure, Richard has represented Southern Baptist and other Evangelicals’ concerns in the halls of Congress, before presidents, and in the media.

In 2005, Richard was featured in Time magazine as one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America.

What He Said … Imagine the Possibilities

What if just half of those Americans who claim to be evangelical Christians were truly to practice their faith in their local communities as responsible citizens?

Every volunteer social organization in the country seeking to meet the needs of less fortunate people would be transformed overnight.  There’d be so many volunteers they’d have to be put on waiting lists.

The databases of crisis pregnancy centers and prison transition ministries and foster-care agencies would be crammed with the names and numbers of families ready to take in young women and ex-cons and children who need hospitality, practical help, and loving care.  Food pantry shelves would overflow.  Homebound senior citizens would never be isolated.  School children would have mentors for literacy programs and reading enrichment, and adults committed to staying involved in their lives.  Nursing-home residents wouldn’t pass time in empty days, neglected by family and ignored by society.

Even those not influenced to accept Christ by such radical, positive changes in society would live better lives.

Adapted from Imagine! A God-Blessed America (Broadman & Holman, 2005).

 

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, open my eyes to the needs of my neighbors; move my heart to reach out, serve, and share your love in everyday ways.

Thoughts from Our Pastor

Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. 10 So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.  Galations 6:7-10

 

 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Eph 1:2 It is hard to believe that it is already almost Autumn.  This is a time of the year that means many different (and good) things to so many of us.  Some of those include: cooler weather, a return to the “normalcy” of routine (the kid’s go back to school), the church calendar begins to return to a more familiar pace and though our schedules seem to be busier, they give us the comfort of order compared to the carefree mood of summertime. 

Perhaps it’s the colors that begin to show up that are your favorite.  Or the foods, like apples and warm cider on a cool evening. Though there are certain colors that excite more than others particularly around these parts.  We cannot escape or ignore the fact that here in the heart of western PA for just about everyone Fall can only mean one thing-you know what I am about to say right?!  Especially in Beaver Falls and Pittsburgh-IT’S FOOTBALL SEASON and we bleed green and gold or orange and black or blue and white or gold and blue or whatever the color combo is for your school or team!!!

Football FansIn football country and especially in the Steeler nation we are nothing if not fans, right? I’m told we’re some of the best fans in the world.  World travelers report the existence of Steeler fans in almost every major country.  Most sports fans and especially Steeler fans would define themselves at the very least as an “enthusiastic admirer”, a definition  used by Christian author and Pastor Kyle Idleman to describe what a fan is in his book entitled, “Not A Fan”.  We will be using this resource as part of a six week sermon series and Thursday evening study beginning on Sept. 19 at 7 pm  at Riverview UMC as we continue our theme of discipleship and being disciples (followers) who are made or transformed to make disciples.

Perhaps you are not particularly fond of football, though I’d be careful admitting that openly around here.  However, most of us do have something or someone we admire that we might consider ourselves fans of.  What about Jesus?  How would we describe our relationship with him?  The “Not A Fan” series will have us examining that question closely and learning about how we might describe ourselves right now. If you had to define your relationship with Christ right now through this lens of fan or follower what would you say?  You might wonder, “What’s the difference and how the heck does that have anything to do with us and Jesus?”

You will be seeing many signs of this journey toward deeper relationship–literally, as we begin. There will be activities and visuals in worship that bid each of us to unpack this question and what impact it might have on us individually and as a worshipping community.  I’m sure that along the way we will be challenged but especially loved, comforted and supported in discovering together just what is required as we open ourselves to hear the call of Christ to our hearts-beckoning to us to take that next step deeper into the heart of God through intimacy with Christ.

All summer through this time, this liturgical season-if you prefer the technical terminology- of “ordinary time”, we have stayed with and studied the subject of what it means to be invited and called into God’s heart and so we continue on the journey and ask some important, life changing perhaps life challenging questions. What might be involved in answering that call to participate in the Kingdom of God?  What will it mean to follow and to allow ourselves to be made into fishers of people, people who go therefore and make disciples of all nations-all places?

We have already discovered that discipleship is not instant and that minds and hearts and hands are all needed.  All of these will be transformed in the process as Jesus invites us into intimate relationship with Him.  We learned that with the life of Christ as our example and how through the power Christ through the Holy Spirit we may be transformed by the teaching and love of Christ. We are not only invited into the process, but we are commanded to participate in God’s Kingdom so that others may hear the call of Jesus Christ and accept the invitation of Christ to all people into God’s heart. This may be accomplished when we choose to allow the Spirit to work in us and through our words and our actions towards others. The fruit such service is apparent (or not) in our obedience to the teaching and commands of Christ to go to all people and all nations, making disciples and making room for each child of God as Jesus Christ was so careful to do for each one of us, paying the ultimate price.

In the coming weeks and months the focus of your leadership and our ministry will be finding ways to continue to “make room” for God’s children of all ages right here at Central as well as finding ways to thrive and do the things we love to do-serving our community.  The days have been difficult for a while now and most are saddened and frightened about the level of decline our church continues to experience.  Yet the Centralian Christian spirit is alive and well and we are excited for the wealth of possibilities that wait even as we struggle financially as a church and a charge.

As we search for what will save us, we can and do rely on the one who will save us, and we remember that we are not limited, as people of faith in Christ, by our own abilities and resources.  Faith calls us beyond what is visible (2 Cor. 4:18).

Recently, a large projection screen was donated and placed in our sanctuary so that we may use multimedia presentations and videos to better minister to those who worship with us now and to prepare for those who we expect to come.   Future plans include the possibility of having movie nights.  We also plan to complete another Natural Church Development survey so that we can evaluate and improve our ministries. This is good news because we are intentionally entering the process of holy conversation together. 

As we begin to work through this transformative process, we are confident that we will become closer to God and to one another.  The way will not be easy or quick and it has not been, nor will it be, painless.  We are going to have to be willing to seek out the best selves in each other, the ones that God has created us to be and the ones claimed by Christ.  This will require grace.  Not because we deserve it, but because while we were yet sinners we received such grace from Christ (Rom 5:8). We all will need to be disciplined in using the routes we have been given by our church to communicate with one another.  These are routes that your leadership is dedicated to assessing and refining over the next weeks and months. 

      9     And I will put this third into the fire, refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested.

They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, “They are my people”; and they will say, “The Lord is our God.” Zec 13:9

 

Moving forward in ministry together with Christ and through this season of uncertainty and refinement is what your Pastor and church leadership are dedicated to doing.    As followers of Christ we must recognize that a life of discipleship does require a cost to be counted, a cost not unlike that paid by Jesus Christ for each of us (Lk 14:27).  In Christ’s loving example, as those who call ourselves disciples, we must be willing to take up our crosses, dying daily to self (Lk 9:23), bearing with one another in love (Gal 6:2) and sacrificing self in service to others so that all may be included and given room in God’s Kingdom (Jn 13:14). 

I firmly believe that we stand in a hopeful time of possibilities and a turning point for the life of our faith and our congregations. What once was hidden i.e., our hurts, our fears, etc… have been brought out into the light where the love and healing grace of Christ has victory (2 Cor 4:6). We have God’s promise that we are never alone (Heb 13:5) and the assurance that Christ can do far more than we can ask or imagine (Eph 3:20-21). What could be more hopeful for the people of God than that?

I invite and encourage everyone who can be there to participate in the upcoming Charge Conference on September 15 at Riverview UMC at 7 pm.  Let us demonstrate our love for one another as we continue the conversation about the future of our church.

Your Fellow Servant in Christ,

 

Pastor Heidi

Everyday Ways to Love Your Neighbor – Meeting the Need

Women's ShelterKey Bible Verse:  Seeing the people, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited.  – Matthew 9:36, NASB

Dig Deeper:  Matthew 9: 35-38

A Sunday school class planned a ministry activity to sort and organize items donated to a shelter for battered women.  The shelter is a secret location where women and children stay, temporarily when they have escaped dangerous living situations.  They often bring few items with them—and have nothing with which to care for themselves or their children.  People from the community donate clothing and useful items, but the shelter staff was too busy to organize them and use them.

So the Sunday school class from a local Church sorted and rearranged the sheds and listed what was available.  They found many items the shelter and its residents needed immediately.

As they worked, some of them talked with women who were staying at the shelter.  Others talked with the children.  At the end of the day, they joined hands and prayed with the supervisor of the center.  To follow up, one person from the class found donated Bibles for the women to read at the shelter and take with them as they leave.

—Bob Moffitt in If Jesus Were Mayor

 

My Response: What needs similar to the one above could my Sunday school class or men’s group help meet? How could I motivate others to join in this act of service?

 

Thought to Apply: Only a life lived in service to others is worth living.—Albert Einstein (theoretical physicist)

Adapted from If Jesus Were Mayor (Monarch, 2006).

 

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, open my eyes to the needs of my neighbors; move my heart to reach out, serve, and share your love in everyday ways.

Everyday Ways to Love Your Neighbor – Dishing Out Service

DishwasherKey Bible Verse:  “Let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”  Matthew 5:16

Dig Deeper:  Matthew 5: 13-16

The group Ken leads [from his church went] to Bob’s Big Boy restaurant for dessert one evening.  As they ate, they couldn’t help but notice the harried look on their waitress’s face.

“Are you okay?” someone asked as she whizzed by.

“I’m okay, it’s just that our dishwasher quit tonight and all the servers are now serving and washing.  It’s a little overwhelming. …”

That was all the information Ken’s group needed.  As soon as they finished their pie, they sprang into action.  Two took on the dishwasher, several toted plastic dish containers.

The waitress walked past the head volunteer dishwasher in the kitchen and with a startled look on her face asked, “Aren’t you the guy at table 10?  Why are you back here, doing dishes?”

“Because you needed some help!  We believe God’s love is better shown than just talked about.”

“But I don’t think we can let you just do the dishes like this.  I’d better check with the boss.”

Within a few minutes that waitress had begun gossiping the gospel to all the other servers: “They’re doing it to show us God’s love. …”

—Steve Sjogran in Changing the World Through Kindness

 

My Response: Opportunities to serve in small ways surround me every day. What could I do about it?

 

Thought to Apply: Kindness has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, or learning.—Frederick W. Faber (British priest, hymn writer)

Adapted from Changing the World Through Kindness (Regal, 2005).

 

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, open my eyes to the needs of my neighbors; move my heart to reach out, serve, and share your love in everyday ways.

Everyday Ways to Love Your Neighbor – Everybody Knows Zack

Backyard BarbequeKey Bible Verse:  When we have the opportunity to help anyone, we should do it.  Galatians 6:10, NCV

Dig Deeper:  1 Thessalonians 2:8

If you were to walk the streets with Zack, you’d be convinced that he knows everyone in his neighborhood.  He’s never too busy to stop and say hello.  After his MBA, Zack purposely looked for a job that would put him in daily contact with the people in his neighborhood.  All of the regular shoppers at the neighborhood grocery store he manages know Zack.

Zack is known for his willingness to help.  He regularly takes care of his neighbor’s boxer—doing so allows him to be engaged in the life of the career-driven couple who live next door.  He’s also become a surrogate son to the elderly lady down the street.  Without Zack, her sidewalks would never be shoveled in the winter, and he regularly delivers her groceries.

In the summers, Zack does everything he can to make his deck barbeque central, inviting someone to have a meal with him almost every weekend.  Zack is a natural evangelist, but not in a forced, button-holing way.  By the time Zack begins to talk about his relationship with Christ, the people around him are already attracted to who he is, and they already wonder what makes him tick.

—Paul Tripp in A Quest for More

My Response:  If I wanted to be known for my “willingness to help,” what changes might I need to make in the way I use my time?

Adapted from A Quest for More (New Growth, 2007).

 

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, open my eyes to the needs of my neighbors; move my heart to reach out, serve, and share your love in everyday ways.

Everyday Ways to Love Your Neighbor – A League of Their Own

Little League BaseballKey Bible Verse:  “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'”  Matthew 25:40

Dig Deeper:  Matthew 25: 31-46

On his way to work one day, Chicago insurance broker Bob Muzikowski saw a derelict ball field full of trash in a gang-infested neighborhood.  The kids there could use a real Little League to play in, he thought.  He teamed up with a friend to create the Near North Little League.  

In “pretty wild” early practice sessions, coaches dealt with 250 boys long on enthusiasm but short on fundamentals.  Each game began with a prayer.  Cursing was strictly forbidden.

“While I had no illusions that I’d change the world, I had no doubt that God wanted me to play baseball with these kids,” said Muzikowski, converted not long before.  “My faith had taught me that being a Christian means truly believing what Jesus said about loving my neighbor.”

The next year, 400 kids joined the league.  Today 900 fatherless kids in 100 Little League teams are learning self-respect and community values.  Reporters wonder why a wealthy businessman lives among the poor, coaching other people’s kids.  Muzikowski answers, “Jesus didn’t say, ‘When you’ve paid someone to do it unto the least of these. …’  What he said was, ‘when you have done it. …'”

—Charles Colson in How Now Shall We Live?

 

My Response: I will take time to reflect on today’s Key Bible Verse, prayerfully considering how the verse applies to me and my own neighborhood.

 

Thought to Apply: I never knew how to worship until I knew how to love.—Henry Ward Beecher(preacher, orator, writer)

Adapted from How Now Shall We Live? (Tyndale, 2004).

 

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, open my eyes to the needs of my neighbors; move my heart to reach out, serve, and share your love in everyday ways.

Everyday Ways to Love Your Neighbor – Eyes Wide Open

Kindness 1Key Bible Verse: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”   Luke 10:27

Dig Deeper:  Luke 10: 25-37

Shayne and Corey Earley were born with a rare genetic condition that practically guarantees they’ll never see their fifth birthday.  They have to be fed intravenously and must be aspirated frequently to help them breathe.  

The cost of caring for Shayne and Corey has been astronomical.  Before long, the Earleys found almost all of their income going to the boys’ care and were unable to pay their bills and their mortgage.

As neighbors learned of the Earleys’ plight, they started to help out.  One resident dealt with their creditors and got them off the Earleys’ backs.  Another resident organized fund-raising events for the Earleys, and a local garage fixed their cars for free.

Love your neighbor as yourself.  Let’s keep our eyes open for those who may be in need.  It could be a homeless person, a lonely senior citizen struggling to get by, or a young person who has trouble fitting in.  

Let’s teach our kids the value of helping someone out, as well.  Serve in a soup kitchen as a family, take meals to a shut-in, invite a lonely person over for dinner, or just put an arm around a hurting child.

Let’s use the example of the people in this story as an inspiration to extend a hand of friendship to someone in need.

—Bill McCartney in 4th and Goal

 

My Response: I will keep my eyes wide open for opportunities to serve.

 

Thought to Apply: Your neighbor is the man who needs you.—Elbert Hubbard (writer, publisher)

Adapted from 4th and Goal (Tyndale, 2002).

 

Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father, open my eyes to the needs of my neighbors; move my heart to reach out, serve, and share your love in everyday ways.