Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Re-post from Bishop Johnson’s Blog: “Standing our ground: ‘We are all accountable’”

I am reposting an entry from Bishop Johnson’s Blog. The original is posted here: Click ME

On August 9 18-year-old Michael Brown, an unarmed African American youth in Ferguson, Mo., was fatally shot multiple times by police officer Darren Wilson. Bishop Minerva Carcaño, president of our General Commission on Race and Religion, responded in a public statement that, “We are all accountable for his death and accountable to the African American young people in our communities everywhere.”

That is so true. Michael was our child. So were Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, two other teenagers killed by gun shots in 2012, their assailants acquitted of their deaths by Florida’s notorious Stand Your Ground law. 

Nine-year-old Antonio Davis of Chicago was slain just last Wednesday, August 21, by gun shots that tore through his young, innocent body as he likely sought to escape gang violence. He too was our child. And so were too many others taken from us in recent years in Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore and other cities and towns across our nation.

The quaking ground on which we must stand is our accountability to children and yes, adults, of African American and other races, who are victims of violence-random and senseless or premeditated and prejudicial, by law-breakers and law-keepers. We must assert clearly, loudly that every life has value and promise, especially every young life, even in the most unpromising circumstances. 

And the loss of each life, no matter how distant or disparate from us, diminishes us nonetheless. In the course of our prayers and anxious discourse, or even in our bewildered silence, that undeniable truth must strike a deep, solemn, reverberating chord in each of us.

We live in a society that is full of terrible violence, racism and socio-economic inequities. We as individuals and as members of our churches and communities need to do all we can to squarely face and address these daunting tragedies in and beyond our churches, in our families, communities, schools, workplaces and our personal lives. 

We are all vulnerable when any one of us is vulnerable. There is no us and them. There is only us. We claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, who crosses boundaries and “has broken down the dividing wall of hostility.” (Ephesians 2:14) Well, he not only teaches us to do likewise; he demands it.

Hip-hop singer Lauryn Hill recently reprised her song “Black Rage” in response to the racism, poverty, disrespect and disregard faced by many in Ferguson and similar communities around our nation. She cites “blatant denial, squeezed economics, subsistent survival” as some of the reasons for this continued cycle of violence and distrust that too often erupt in upheaval. The pain felt there must be our pain too, wherever we are. We must see it, hear it, feel it and speak it from our hearts. And the dire need for serious, creative remedies must be our common quest.

How can you help? Well, where do you see or hear about these same struggles happening around you, in your community or other communities near or far? Poor schools and substandard education, rampant unemployment and poverty, growing hunger, dilapidated homes, unsafe streets, inadequate municipal services, distrust and conflicts between residents and police, high rates of incarceration, racial bias and mistreatment.

How can you help? Through joining local and state advocacy efforts; providing  tutoring and higher education assistance; offering preparatory employment training and job search help; supporting community gardens and healthy food stores; getting involved in sweat equity ministries like Habitat for Humanity to provide affordable housing; starting recreation, arts and crafts and other activities for youth after school; holding community forums and gatherings for relationship building and dialogue; and generating citizen education, research, documentation, legal help, negotiation and advocacy to reduce and respond to mistreatment by police. 

That’s just a start. Some churches can do more; but every church can do something, especially through church and community partnerships.

Actually, the way we start is to look and listen to our communities and get to know residents, schools, businesses, organizations and other participants from all walks of life. And then we must demonstrate the outreaching, redemptive love of Christ, as John Wesley reminds us, in all the ways we can, to all the people we can, in all the places we can, at all the times we can.

“This past week I’ve watched an American city become something akin to a war zone,” says popular actor Orlando Jones in a recent online video. He then borrows from the also popular ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, where people are accepting the challenge to pour ice or cold water over their heads and make contributions to help find a cure for ALS, also known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” 

Jones, a lifetime member of the NRA, pours instead a bucket of bullets over his head. He then tells viewers, “I’m challenging myself to listen without prejudice, to love without limits and to reverse the hate. That’s my challenge to me and hopefully you will accept this challenge too.”

I accept Jones’ challenge wholeheartedly, and I urge each of you to do the same: Listen without prejudice, love without limits and reverse the hate.”

Dear members and churches of our two conferences in the Philadelphia Episcopal Area, I ask you to seek ways to help balance the scales of justice in this world so that everyone gets what they need, everyone is treated with respect and no one is seen as “less than” or undeserving of the blessings of life.

Christ tells us to “watch and pray always.” So let us watch keenly and not be blind or deaf to what is happening in our midst. Let us not be mute or immobile and thus fail in our calling to be active witnesses to God’s transforming love, mercy and justice in our world.

Please join me in watching, praying and working for a nation–and indeed, a world–that is free from using violence as a misguided, tragic solution to life’s struggles. Together we must see it, hear it, feel it, speak it and then do it “until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like an overflowing stream.” (Amos 5:24)

Dramatic Reading of Ezekiel 37:1-14 and Matthew 9:35-38; written for joint service with Christ, First and Worton UMCs on August 31, 2014

Reader # 1

We are living in days and times that call all of us, the sisters and brothers in Christ, to be filled with integrity and to stand shoulder to shoulder.

Reader # 2

We live in a culture where we are isolated and it is easy to feel alone. We live in a culture that squelches the voice of God. Our challenge, as part of the Church and as individual churches, is to find the strength and the courage to discern the voice of God amid all the noise and tumult of life and to follow that voice.

Reader # 4

We are living in days and times that call all of us, the sisters and brothers in Christ, to live lives that are holy and just, and to stand up for God. We need to stand shoulder to shoulder just like Moses, Aaron, Miriam and Joshua did. Righteousness and integrity are important in all of our attitudes and in everything that we do. In one of his sermons the Prophet Micah asked, “…what does the Lord require of you?” And the reply was, “To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

Reader # 3

Righteousness that comes by our shared Christian faith always points to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, a relationship with Jesus and the recognition of God’s presence in our lives.

Reader # 2

Indeed, we live in days of great trial. Look at all the problems that we face as the human race: climate change, disease, starvation, epidemics, drugs addiction, violence, parents sending their children across the border in Texas in hopes that these children find a better life as orphans.

Indeed, we live in days of darkness and sword. Look at all the wars brewing around the globe: Israel, Syria, ISIS in Iraq and Syria, Central America, Ukraine.

Reader # 1

Indeed, we live in days when thousands of people die every day from starvation, malnutrition and war. That does not only happen in faraway places. Less than two months ago, our neighbor and brother, a citizen of Kent County, died in Fountain Square. That man could have been any one of us if things turned out just a little differently in our lives.

Reader # 4

Nothing is impossible with God. God is with us, God is among us, we can feel God’s Spirit move in our midst. “The joy of the Lord is our strength!” (Psalm 28:7, Nehemiah 8:10) If and when we fail to find the joy of the Lord in our midst, we cannot find any strength to walk the Christian walk.

Ezekiel 37 NIV2010 The Valley of Dry Bones – Scripture Reader from FUMC

1 The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”

4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.

11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”

Days Of Elijah  – Song

Performed by singers from Christ and First UMCs

Reader # 4

As the people whose identity is rooted in their relationship with Jesus, as sisters and brothers united by the Love of Jesus and united by his precious blood spilled on the Cross, we are called to make a declaration of what and who we believe in. It does not matter what denomination we are, it does not matter whether some of us are white or black, it does not matter whether some of us have hair or not, it does not matter whether some of us have grits or croissants for breakfast, it does not matter what differences divide us BECAUSE what divides and separates us from each other is not as MEANINGFUL or even as powerful as what unites us.

All of us have experienced the love of Jesus at one time or another in our lives; that love and that presence changed us and challenged us to be the best of what God created us to be.

Reader # 5

In Matthew 9, we hear,

35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’”

Reader # 4

“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37).

We are called to go outside the walls of our church buildings declaring righteousness, demonstrating unity, worshiping God and to live holy lives. Jesus sends us to preach the word and to be God’s hands and feet in our communities. Jesus calls us to carry God’s love not only to each other BUT ALSO/ ESPECIALLY to the last, the lost and the least. That is what our churches have done in the past. That is how the Church is called to serve God – by serving the world in which we live.

Melody “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” – Song

Performed by singers from Christ and First UMCs

Verse 1

Will the circle be unbroken

By and by, Lord, by and by

There’s a better way to live now,

We can have it if we try.

Verse 2

I was singing with my sisters,

I was singing with my friends

And we all can sing together,

’cause the circle never ends.

Verse 3

We all share same great story

And relationship with God

Let us find then strength and courage

Tell our neighbors ‘bout that love

Verse 4

I was born down in the valley

Where the sun refused to shine

But I’m climbing up to the highland,

Gonna make that mountain mine!

Verse 5

Will we find the strength and courage

To break the walls that separate

To come together in Christian mission

Sharing love and grace of God

\\\\\\\\\\ PAUSE ///////////

Verse 6

I was singing with my brothers,

I was singing with my friends

And we all can sing together,

’cause the circle never ends.

Tag

Will the circle be unbroken

By and by, Lord, by and by

There’s a better way to live now,

We can have it if we try.

 

Reader # 5

Do we have the courage to organize a joint mission, something that we can do together, something that will make a statement that our differences pale next to our common mission, our common identity in Christ and our common understanding of God’s Grace. We already gather for worship together. Can we get some dirt under our nails together?

We are called to make a declaration of what and who we believe in because if we do nothing, we will watch the world that we know and love turn into “a valley of dry bones” (Ezekiel 37:1-14). If we find the courage to set our differences aside and work together, if we dare to become a united church rising up in unity and purpose, we can make a difference.

Reader # 4

The truth is that no matter how hard we try we will not resolve all the problems. We will not be able to eradicate hunger. We will not be able to stop all the wars and broker peace in all the areas of armed conflict. We will not be able to eradicate drugs and alcohol addiction and we will not be able to completely reverse or fix the effects of climate change. We CAN however do something. We can work together to make our corner of the world a better place.

Jesus calls us to be the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14).

Do we dare to work towards making the Greater Chestertown area a “City on a hill that cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14) again? My hope and prayer is that by working together, we will be able to prepare the way (Mark 1:8) for the Holy Spirit to swoop into Chestertown, and Fairlee, and Worton and Rock Hall and every other nook and cranny of our county.

This is our corner of the Garden of Eden, the spot where God planted us. It is here that God trusted us to “till the soil,” (KJV) to “work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15 NIV2010).

When we are with God, all things are possible! The joy of the Lord is our strength!

My Lord And I – Song

Performed by singers from Christ and First UMCs

On A Clear Day You Can See Forever…

Panorama

How far does your vision allow you to see? Do you only see what is right in front of you or are you blessed to see far down the road? Can you see what is coming towards you and where you are going so that you can make conscious choices about the direction of your life? Our lives depend upon being able to see clearly.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish…” (Proverbs 29:18 KJV)

The vision of purpose that the members of a church have collectively and as individuals determines whether their community thrives or dies. The vision, the purpose, gives us the clarity we need to step out in faith and trust that God will work through us so that we may be a blessing to others. I mean the faith that our discipleship, the way we love and serve Christ, will help other people to know Christ and experience a new life.

“What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”

(Micah 6:8 NIV2010).

The question becomes, what is God’s guidance for us as we seek God’s purpose for our lives. What do we need to do today to be more effective at making disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world?

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

(Proverbs 19:21 NIV2010)

Huge THANX!!!!

Huge THANX!!!! to everyone who took the time out of their Saturday to come out for church clean-up this morning.

Church looks, feels and smells great!

See you all tomorrow in worship!

Chester River Chorale needs you! Yes…. YOU!

WANTED!

By the Chester River Chorale

Sopranos, Altos, Tenors, Bases

To Sing the Holidays In

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Join us in Heron Point’s Wesley Room at 6 p.m. Monday, September 8, for our new season, and help make the Chester River Chorale even better. No auditions. We provide the music. All you need to bring is a $40 check for dues (students free), and the desire to sing for the joy of it.

More info at: http://chesterriverchorale.org

Approximate Notes and Outline for the Sunday Message; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; 24 August 2014

Scriptures for this Sunday: 1 Corinthians 13: 1-13

You can read these Scriptures here:  NIV and CEB

Hymns:

UMH 549 – Where Charity and Love Prevail
              Use melody UMH 57

UMH 349 – Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus (2X)

UMH 261 – Lord of the Dance

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Today we will continue with the sermon series about commitment. Commitment to God is what keeps us connected to each other through our individual commitment to God. God is the common denominator in this relationship. Our commitment to God is what translates into action: our common Christian mission, evangelism and outreach. That is why, as we try to figure out what our church will become in the future and how we will continue making disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world, we need to look at examples of commitment in the Holy Scriptures.

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So far on this journey, as we have talked about commitment, as we have talked about what commitment is and what it is not, we have spent time with Lazarus, Rahab, Joseph, the Four Lepers, and Jonah.

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We saw that Rahab discerned that the Lord “…is God in heaven above and on the earth below” (Joshua 2:11) and enlightened with this understanding she took steps that led to her family being spared during the siege and fall of Jericho.

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Her wisdom, her discernment, and her ability to see and recognize God’s presence and actions in God’s world is what makes her a role model when we talk about commitment.

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Then we looked at the life of Joseph the Patriarch. We saw that as a young man, Joseph’s understanding of God was in the term of “I.” He had a prophetic vision (which I really think was his call to ministry) in his early teens. That angered his brothers, because the way that Joseph understood that call was “Joseph”-centric [“I saw a dream and God put me – Joseph - above you, you were bowing down to me” {Genesis 37:1-11}]

Because of that anger and because Joseph acted as an arrogant so-and-so, his brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt. The Bible explicitly states that “The Lord was with Joseph” (Genesis 39:2), and because of Joseph’s recognition of God’s presence, he was an able administrator and a conscientious servant. Joseph started learning that God is not about “I”; Joseph started learning that God is about “we,” or “team,” or “group.”

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In terms of commitment to God, the lesson that we can learn from Joseph is that growth in commitment goes from “I” to “We.”

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Then we met the four lepers; their story is found in 2 Kings, chapter 7. King Ben-Hadad of Syria besiged the capital city of Samaria in the Northern Kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 6:24). The result was severe famine. It is in this context that we met the four outcasts, four men who had some kind of skin disease and had to figure out how to survive.

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Their story drives home a point that faith is not about making rational decisions. Faith is about stepping out when we see and feel God’s presence. Commitment to God boils down to being willing to make sure that when God reveals something wonderful to us, we spread the Good News. From a rational point of view it made absolutely no sense for them to return to the city to spread the news to people who had shunned them and left them to starve, but from the point of view of faith and commitment to God it made all the sense in the world. They chose to stay true to their God because they knew who God was in THEIR lives; each of them had a first-hand relationship with God.

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Then last week we talked about Jonah. His story makes it clear that we can run from God but we cannot hide from God. We cannot hide from God because all of us are created with a special place in our souls that is reserved for God, that only God can fill. We can try to fill it with various toys (pleasure, travel, electronics, hobbies, ideas, collections [movie “The Best Offer”]) but until we put God into our souls we will feel unsettled, we will feel dissatisfied and we will lack inner peace. That lack of peace, that feeling of being off-kilter, is the {“} “belly of the fish” that Jonah experienced first-hand. Even when we do “the right thing,” unless we do it to the glory of God, we may end up bitter, angry and broken just like Jonah did.

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What differentiates Jonah from Rahab, Joseph and the Four Lepers is that Jonah was not a loving person. Jonah had very little empathy for the people that he was sent to reach and to serve. By contrast, the Four Lepers had very few tender feelings for their neighbors but they understood their plight and struggle and were willing to help by sharing the good news (that’s all that they were able to do).

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That brings us to Lazarus.

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All of us face problems in our daily lives. Rahab had to make really difficult choices, Joseph had to learn and persevere, the Four Lepers had no idea how they would survive the next hour, Jonah was asked to do something that seemed like an insurmountable task, and Lazarus was dead.

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God established the Church (big C) so that we can be a community for each other and to help our neighbors find their way to God. God established the Church (big C) so that we can be a hospital for the broken, so that when we break we have a place to go to where everybody knows our name and is willing to hold our hand.

The Church has received a lot of negative press in the last twenty years or so, but the reality and the truth is that we are not (repeat NOT) a huge failure. We are sinners just like everyone else, and sometimes we fail and sometimes we stand with our heads held high. We have been short-sighted, arrogant and selfish over the years. We have also been the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

We give more to charitable causes than our secular counterparts. Christians run countless soup kitchens, food pantries, homeless shelters, and rescue missions.

Christians operate orphanages, staff clinics, dig wells, raise crops, teach children, and fight AIDS and other diseases around the globe.

While we can always do more and may be blind to the needs around us at times (we are not perfect), as a group we do more for our neighbors than any other group on the face of this planet. We do it because we are committed to God and because we want to live out that commitment and that devotion to God in tangible and concrete ways.

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So let’s talk about commitment and about commitment levels.

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The truth is that we aren’t much, but we are all we have.

When we give ourselves to God with our assorted weaknesses, limitations, mental instabilities, inspirations and shticks, God makes us channels of grace, agents of reconciliation, and bearers of hope wherever we may be at the time. God’s strength is in our diversity, it’s in our differences, it is in our willingness to work together.

That is what commitment to God is about. That commitment translates into Christian mission, outreach and evangelism. That commitment takes everyone of us with our assorted differences and makes us a community and a church.

Interesting quote from movie “The Best Offer”

“There is always something authentic concealed in every forgery.

In simulating another person’s work, the forger cannot resist the temptation to put in something of himself. Often it is just a trifle, a detail of no interest…. One unsuspected brushstroke by which the forger inevitably ends up betraying himself and revealing his own utterly authentic sensibilities….”

 

~~ Character of Virgil Oldman from the movie The Best Offer (found around minute 119-120 of the movie)

 

(For the Wikipedia page for this movie click here)

(For IMDB page for this movie click here)

Working Towards Sunday; 24 August 2014

Scriptures for this Sunday: 1 Corinthians 13: 1-13

You can read these Scriptures here:  NIV and CEB

Hymns

UMH 549 – Where Charity and Love Prevail

              Use melody UMH 57

UMH 349 – Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus (2X)

UMH 261 – Lord of the Dance

Announcing a Bible Study coming this fall

This fall Pastor Tonya and I will co-lead a new Bible Study titled Fearless Conversations designed by Group Curriculums. Fearless Conversations is designed to give all participants an opportunity to ask tough questions, to engage, and to grapple with all aspects of their faith and spirituality. We chose this curriculum because all believers, no matter where we are in our individual faith journeys, grapple with difficult questions of faith. It is our hope that in the process and as a result of sharing, relationships will deepen, we will see God in our lives and in the lives of others, and also find ways to be in mission of making disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world together.

Examples of grappling questions that we will discuss during our time together are:

  • If God is so loving, why are the stories in the Bible so violent?

  • How do I handle betrayal and disappointment?

  • What if God wants more than what I can give?

  • Can we really beat temptation?

  • What does it mean to have a ‘good Christmas’?

  • How can I be fully faithful when I am a truly flawed human being?

  • What does my story look like in God’s eyes?

This Bible Study will meet on Mondays at 7 pm and on Thursdays at 1 pm starting in mid-September on a date to be announced . Both sessions will be identical in content. Both Pastor Tonya and I are hoping to see a good many of you take part in this Bible Study.

The Latest Lamplighter is on-line

You can see the latest edition of our church newsletter online at this link

Approximate Notes for Sunday Message; 17 August 2014; Jonah 3:1-5,10

This week’s Scripture: Jonah 3:1-5,10

You can read these Scriptures here: NIV and ESV

Hymns for this Sunday:

UMH 348 – Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling

UMH 171 – There is Something About that Name

UMH 378 – Amazing Grace

This Sunday we will continue with the series of messages on Commitment and what it mean to live lives of commitment to God and to each other and what it means to be in a covenant relationship with each other.

{Click Me} Message # 1 From July 13 based on John 11:1-3, 17, 38-44

{Click Me} Message #2 from July 27 based on Joshua 2:1-24

{Click Me} Message # 3 from August 3 based on Genesis 39:2-5

{Click Me} Message # 4 from August 10 based on 2 Kings 7:3-9

 

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Today we will continue with the sermon series about commitment. Commitment to God is what keeps us connected to God and to each other. Commitment is what translates into action. That is why, as we try to figure out what our church will become in the future and how we will continue making disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world, we need to look at examples of commitment in the Holy Scriptures.

image

Last week we met the four lepers; their story is found in 2 Kings, chapter 7. King Ben-Hadad of Syria besiged the capital city of Samaria in the Northern Kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 6:24). The result was severe famine.

image

It is in this context that we meet four outcasts, four men who had some kind of skin disease that resulted in them being cast out of the city.

{Reitterate the story: 2 Kings 7:3-9}

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The story of these four men drives home a point that faith is not about making rational decisions. Faith is about stepping out when we see and feel God’s presence. Commitment to God boils down to being willing to make sure that when God reveals something wonderful to us, we spread the Good News. From a rational point of view it made absolutely no sense for them to return to the city to spread the news to people who had shunned them and left them to starve, but from the point of view of faith and commitment to God it made all the sense in the world. They chose to stay true to their God because they knew who God was in THEIR lives; each of them had a first-hand relationship with God.

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Today we will look at the story of Jonah. Jonah, son of Amittai, was a pastor or a priest in the village of Gath-Hepher (2 Kings 14:25). He lived during the reign of Jeroboam II (c.786–746 BC). It was the time when Jeroboam was able to win back some of the territories captured by Assyrians in earlier battles.

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Jonah was commanded by God to go to the city of Nineveh to prophesy against it “for their great wickedness is come up before me” (Jonah 1:2) Instead of obeying God, Jonah chose to flee (Jonah 1:3) from “the presence of the Lord” by going to the port of Jaffa and boarding a boat to Tarshish.

{some of the reasons why Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh}

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Shortly after they sailed, a huge storm endangered everyone on the boat that Jonah was on. The sailors figured out that it was not an ordinary storm, and they also figured out that Jonah had something to do with it. An interesting detail; as the storm was raging, Jonah was asleep in the hold of the ship (Jonah 1:5); I hope that reminds you of the story about Jesus sleeping on a boat while the disciples were scared by a storm on the sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41).

The sailors woke Jonah up and he told them about God, and he suggested that the storm would calm down if he was thrown overboard (Jonah 1:12).

A few other things happened. The sailors tried to save Jonah’s life but to no avail.

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So they finally threw him overboard where he was swallowed by a large fish or a whale. Instantly the sea calmed down. As a result the sailors came to faith in God (Jonah 1:16).

Jonah spent three days inside the animal (Jonah 1:17). That was a time for Jonah to think about what he had done and not done, and what it meant to him to ignore God’s call on his life. I am convinced that God speaks in the silence of our heart; silence so deep that we are not distracted by anything else around us. Being “in the belly of the fish” provided Jonah with a time out and an opportunity to spend time thinking about his life and about his relationship with God. Listening for and hearing God’s voice is the beginning of prayer… Listening and hearing God’s voice requires discipline and a relationship with God because we need to know what God’s voice sounds and feels like.

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His prayer is recorded in chapter 2 of the scroll. It starts by saying, “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 heard my voice.”

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We know the rest of the story. Miraculously, Jonah was released from captivity and told again to go to Nineveh, which he obeyed this time. He delivered a message, and a great revival broke out in the city. People believed in God, people repented, people changed their ways.

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Listen to verse 8 of chapter 3, “Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.”

As a result, “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 3:10).

The only person that was unhappy with the way things turned out was Jonah. He was angry at God, he was angry at the inhabitants of Nineveh and at the end of the scroll we find him a broken and bitter man (but that is a topic of a different sermon).

We are in the midst of a series about commitment. So what can we learn about commitment to God from Jonah.

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The most important lesson from Jonah is that although it may appear that we can run or hide from God, we are only fooling ourselves. Our stories may not be as dramatic as Jonah’s, but we have a duty to God to carry out our call to the best of our ability.

When we run or hide from God we end up in the “belly of a fish” (Jonah 1:17). Today I want to ask you, what does your “belly of a fish” look like? When was the last time that you called to the Lord in your distress, and because you recognized your own inabilities and inadequacies at the time, you had no choice but to rely on God and the presence of God became real to you.

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The way Jonah describes it, “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 heard my cry” (Jonah 2:2). When was the last time that you felt that you were on the threshold of the “realm of the dead?” When was the last time that you did not know what to do next and things looked bleak, and God carried you through? When was the last time you allowed yourself to be vulnerable and allowed God to touch your soul?

In the last few weeks we looked at examples of commitment to God in the lives of Lazarus, Rahab, Joseph the Patriarch, the Four Lepers from 2 Kings chapter 7, and today at Jonah.

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Next week we will look at different levels of commitment and talk about our own involvement in God’s mission in the world around us.

Thinking Towards Sunday; 17 August 2014

Scripture: Jonah 3:1-5,10

You can read these Scriptures here: NIV and ESV

Hymns for this Sunday:

UMH 348 – Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling

UMH 171 – There is Something About that Name

UMH 378 – Amazing Grace

Approximate Notes For Sunday’s Message; 10 August 2014; 2 Kings 7:3-9

Sunday, August, 10, 2014 the Scriptures will be 2 Kings 7:3-9

You can read these Scriptures here: NIV and ESV

Hymns

UMH 557 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

UMH 395 “Take Time To Be Holy” verses 1 & 3

UMH 546 “The Church’s One Foundation”

This Sunday we will continue with the series of messages on Commitment and what it mean to live lives of commitment to God and to each other and what it means to be in a covenant relationship with each other.

{Click Me} Message # 1 From July 13 based on John 11:1-3, 17, 38-44

{Click Me} Message #2 from July 27 based on Joshua 2:1-24

{Click Me} Message # 3 from August 3 based on Genesis 39:2-5

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Today we will continue with the sermon series about commitment. Commitment to God is what keeps us connected to God and to each other. Commitment is what translates into action. That is why, as we try to figure out what our church will become in the future and how we will continue making disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world, we need to look at examples of commitment in the Holy Scriptures.

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Last week we took a look at the life of Joseph, the Patriarch. His life is fertile ground for many sermons with many different lessons. Some day I hope to write a whole series of messages based on the lives of the Patriarchs, and “Joseph” sermons would get the lion share of time.

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Last week we looked at Joseph’s life from the point of view of commitment to God, and we learned that as a young man, Joseph’s understanding of God was in the term of “I.” He had a prophetic vision (which I really think was his call to ministry) in his early teens. That angered his brothers, because the way that Joseph understood that call was “Joseph”-centric [“I saw a dream and God put me – Joseph - above you, you were bowing down to me” {Genesis 37:1-11}]

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Because of that anger and because Joseph acted as an arrogant so-and-so, his brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt. God was with Joseph through this ordeal, and because of Joseph’s recognition of God, he was an able administrator and a conscientious servant. The Bible explicitly states that this was because “The Lord was with Joseph” (Genesis 39:2). Joseph started learning that God is not about “I”; Joseph started learning that God is about “we,” or “team,” or “group.”

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In terms of commitment to God, the lesson that we can learn from Joseph is that growth in commitment goes from “I” to “We.”

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Today we will look at the story of four lepers found in Second Kings. King Ben-Hadad of Assyria besiged the capital city of Samaria in the Northern Kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 6:24). The result was severe famine.

It is in this context that we meet four outcasts, four men who had some kind of skin disease that resulted in them being cast out of the city. {EXPLAINATION of Biblical Term “Leprosy”}

The were forced to live in a “no-man’s land” because their own people were scared of infection. Today we have a similar scare with the Ebola Virus.

These four pariahs/outcasts could not escape into the countryside because of the Assyrian army that surrounded the city.

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So they did something interesting. They had a “summit” or a “conference” or a “meeting of the minds” and looked at their options. From their perspective they saw three options (2 Kings 7:3-4):

1) Enter the city, be shunned and humiliated, and starve

2) Sit at the gate and starve

3) Go the camp of the enemy on the slim chance that the Arameans would spare their lives for fear of contact and infection, and let them pass into the open country.

You have to admit, these are pretty bad options. Only the third option gave them a glimmer of hope. So they waited until sunset and then walked into the enemy’s camp.

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They found an empty camp. God spooked the Assyrians and they ran away leaving everything behind (2 Kings 7:6-7). The four men took care of their most pressing needs first: they got some food. After eating, they looted and hid valuables that they could pick up at a later date (2 Kings 7:8); they made sure that they had a means of survival in the future.

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And that brings us to the most important lesson that we can learn from them. That lesson has to do with commitment to God. Look at their words found in verse 2 Kings 7:9:

9 Then they said to each other, “What we’re doing is not right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. Let’s go at once and report this to the royal palace.”

Even though they did not harbor any warm feelings towards the people inside the city walls, even though they were outcasts, shunned and humiliated for something that they had no control over, they recognized God’s presence in the situation. They also recognized that they had a responsibility to share the good news. Commitment to God went from “I” to “WE.”

Today I want to suggest that although they had some sort of skin disorder that kept them separated from their own people, they did not have an emotional “leprosy” which kept them separated from God.

Today I want to leave all of us with one question: do we have emotional leprosy that separates us from God. When God tugs on our sleeve, do we put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign? Are we keeping the Good News to ourselves? How willing are we to respond to God’s call as individuals and as a community?

Thinking Towards Sunday; 10 August 2014

Sunday, August, 10, 2014 the Scriptures will be 2 Kings 7:3-9

You can read these Scriptures here: NIV and ESV

Hymns

UMH 557 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

UMH 395 “Take Time To Be Holy” 

                                  verses 1 & 3

UMH 546 “The Church’s One Foundation”

Approximate Notes for Sunday Message; 3 August 2014; Genesis 39:2-5

Scriptures for this week: Genesis 39:2-5

You can read these Scriptures here: NIV and ESV

Hymns:

UMH 383 – This Is a Day of New Beginnings

       verses 1, 3 and 5

UMH 57 – O For a Thousand Tongues To Sing

         verses 1, 5

UMH 451 – Be Thou My Vision

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Today we will continue with the sermon series about commitment. Commitment to God is what keeps us connected to God and to each other. Commitment is what translates into action. That is why, as we try to figure out what our church will become in the future and how we will continue making disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world, we need to look at examples of commitment in the Holy Scriptures.

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Last week we looked at the story of Rahab, a woman who lived in Jericho. Her story is woven into the narrative of the conquest of Canaan in the scroll of Joshua. From the genealogy of Jesus presented in Matthew 1, we know that Salmon (one of Joshua’s spies whom she protected) and Rahab had a son named Boaz. Boaz married Ruth, and they had a son Obed. We know that Obed was the father of Jesse and grandfather of King David. That information is found in Matthew 1:5-6.

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Rahab discerned that the Lord “…is God in heaven above and on the earth below” (Joshua 2:11) and armed with this understanding she took the steps that led to her family being spared during the siege and fall of Jericho. Her wisdom, her discernment, and her ability to see and recognize God’s actions and presence in God’s world is what makes her a role model when we talk about commitment.

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Today we will look at the life of Joseph. When we think of Joseph, we think of the musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Coat.” In reality, the life of Joseph is fertile ground for many sermons with many different lessons. It is tempting, and it would be easy, to write a whole series of messages based on his life because he lived such a colorful life.

Today I want to look at his life from the point of view of commitment to God.

First of all, most of us know his name but really do not know how he fits into the picture.

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Abraham had two sons: Ishmael (by Hagar) and Isaac (by Sarah). As Christians and theological descendants from ancient Judaism, we are mostly focused and interested in the life of Isaac.

Isaac and his wife Rebeccah had two sons: Essau and Jacob. Again, as Christians and theological descendants from ancient Judaism, we are mostly focused and interested in the life of Jacob.

Jacob had two wives: Rachel and Leah (and their two servants). Rachel gave him two sons: Joseph and Benjamin. Another ten sons and one daughter came from Leah and the two maidservants.

Because Rachel was Jacob’s favorite (that would also make a great sermon), Joseph was Jacob’s favorite, and this caused much anger and jealousy with his siblings.

Let’s take a moment and look at what it meant to grow in Jacob’s household. First of all, education happened at home. All that Joseph and his siblings knew about God came from Jacob, who in turn learned from Isaac and Rebeccah, who in turn learned from Abraham and Sarah.

For Jacob, every day was Sunday School day. He absorbed the stories of God interacting with Abraham and his discendents with his mother’s milk.

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It is safe to say that Joseph was called to ministry early in life. We know that as a kid he had a vision from God that angered his brothers (Genesis 37:1-11 – sheaves of wheat and also the sun and the moon and the stars).

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When opportunity presented itself, his brothers sold Joseph into slavery in Egypt where he rose in prominence until he became what is equivalent to Prime Minister or Chairman of the Fed. When famine struck the region, he was able to help his family weather the famine and to resettle them in Egypt, which eventually led to the enslavement of the Hebrews 150 or so years later, and the subsequent Exodus narrative.

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Today we are talking about commitment, and Joseph’s life is a prime example of how we grow in our commitment. As we live our lives, we grow in our commitment to God, which in turn strengthens our connection and commitment to each other. That commitment to God and to each other is what translates into action, into evangelism and into outreach.

As a young man, Joseph’s understanding of God was in the term of “I.” The prophetic vision that angered his brothers was “Joseph”-centric [“I saw a dream and I was put above you, you were bowing to me” {Genesis 37:1-11}]

After being sold into slavery and arriving to Egypt, we learn that Joseph was an able administrator and a conscientious servant. The Bible explicitly states that this was because “The Lord was with Joseph” (Genesis 39:2). Joseph started learning that God is not about “I”; Joseph started learning that God is about “we,” or “team,” or “group.”

A few years went by. This is how Joseph revealed himself to his family after he became the Prime Minister of Egypt, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you” (Genesis 45:4-5).

What Joseph learned out of his enslavement is that God is doing something, and that all of us are in it together. No longer do we hear him say, “bow down to me.” Instead we hear, “God brought me here to serve and to help and I will help you because I can.”

Growth in commitment goes from “I” to “We”.

{Q&A}

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