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

More updates on the ramp for the church

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Check out the size of these boulders excavated near the door to the church

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Another perspective

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Joe standing next to the boulders so we can gauge the size (and weight) of them

 

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It is hot.

 

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Latest updates from Ramp Construction

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One of the workers (Mike) taking a break

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Our Church Secretary.

 

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Check out the size of the concrete piece that they dug out. That used to be support for the old ramp.

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These will be filled with concrete and house supports for the new ramp.

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; July 23, 2017; Hebrews 6:1-12, 10:19-25

Scriptures for this coming Sunday: Hebrews 6:1-12, 10:19-25

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV and ESV}

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We live in the age of 140-character tweets. Call it pop-psychology, pop-theology, pop-anything, but the reality remains that feel-good platitudes are somewhat important in our society.

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I often hear that optimism is an important quality for a leader. Intuitively it makes sense; nobody wants to hear Eeyore deliver Sunday’s message in church in 140-character increments.

Unfortunately, all that pop-theology and pop-psychology forces our pastors to project positivity.

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As I watch the news about armed conflicts around the world (Korea, Syria, Afghanistan), as I learn about climate change, and monitor the national debate about affordable health care, I struggle with my own sense of optimism.

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As I recognize that struggle with optimism within, I must make a choice:

  1. I can either stand in front of God and lie and pretend that everything is okay, or

  2. I can acknowledge these uncertainties and doubts and embrace the deep grief that I am feeling – “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

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The point that I am trying to make is that it would be dishonest of me to be perpetually optimistic, to preach that everything will work out when it comes to our world, our denomination and our individual church communities. We don’t know whether things will work out in our lives. “Happily ever after” is not guaranteed.

As the United Methodist Church, we face incredible institutional inertia. Our churches have faced and will have to face unending bureaucracy, raging poverty, drugs, children who are ignored and abused, fractured families.

That is why I am coming to the realization that optimism is not what any Christian (whether ordained or not), or any honest person for that matter, should model for their followers or neighbors. The fiscal and spiritual poverty will never go away. Tragedies will not stop happening. There will always be those among us who choose bureaucracy over community, status quo over change, individual power over love, and cynicism over hope.

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So far today’s message is a major downer, but it brings us to a couple of questions:

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  1. What do we have to offer to each other and to our neighbors? In other words, why would anybody in their right mind want to come to church?

  2. · How do we prepare for the inevitable emotional wounds and disappointments that we encounter on our journeys, while at the same time believing that the struggle is worthwhile and is glorious?

The answers to these questions lie in the differences between optimism and hope. Whether we are aware of these differences, they have sustained generations of Christians before us, they sustain us today, and they will sustain generations of Christians for years to come.

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NIV2010 Hebrews 6: 1Therefore let us move BEYOND the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2 instructions about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so.

Optimism claims that everything will be all right no matter what the realities of life are.

However, hope accepts {1} the realities, {2} the poverty of spirit that underlies fear and instigates tragedies, {3} bureaucracy, and {4} institutional inertia, etc…. Hope then takes the capacity of our hearts, the place where Jesus lives if we invite him there, and turns it into solutions. There is a saying that sacred cows make gourmet burgers; hope is the process that turn sacred cows into burgers.

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NIV2010 Hebrews 10: 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

There is no reality that God shall not overcome. This is the foundation of our hope.

Optimism will get shattered by reality and come to a standstill because optimism is rooted in us.

Hope will go toe-to-toe with reality because Jesus never quits.

Optimism depends on external realities relenting and working themselves out; given to their own devices they will not. Hope, does not ignore external realities; it simply takes into consideration our hearts’ capacity to withstand those realities, and it trusts in the inexhaustible power of our Jesus-powered-hearts to choose love over fear, or bureaucracy, or inertia, or anything else for that matter.

As Christians, we are called to be filled with hope; we are not called to be purveyors of plastic smiles and platitudes offering a lame optimism. As Christians, we are called to take seriously the challenges of bringing Jesus to the world around us.

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Matthew 28: 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

If you want to catch fish, go to the river. If I want to hide my head in the sand, I go to the movies and watch the musical “La La Land.” If I need hope, I look for the presence of the Holy in the world around me because only God can fill my heart with hope.

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NIV2010 Hebrews 6: 11 We want each of you to show {this same} diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. 12 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

Hymn 368 – My Hope is Built verse 3 in our hymnal talks about this.

His oath, his covenant, his blood

supports me in the whelming flood.

When all around my soul gives way,

he then is all my hope and stay.

(Refrain)

Youth Rally 2018

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Work Began on our Handicapped Ramp at Kingswood UMC

Here are the pictures from the demolition day.

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Workers removed the old ramp and start chipping at concrete.

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One of the workers is doing measurements for new concrete.

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The old ramp in the dumpster.

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Check out the texture of the wood on old ramp’s supports.

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This is how construction site looked like on Wednesday, July 20, 2017

Thinking Towards Sunday; July 23, 2017

Scriptures for this coming Sunday: Hebrews 6:1-12, 10:19-25

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV and ESV}

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; Sunday, June 16, 2017, Numbers 22:21-34

This coming Sunday we will continue to talk about Testimonies and how to recognize God’s presence among us.

Scripture for this coming Sunday is Numbers 22:21-34. You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV2010}

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When was the last time that things did not go the way you wanted them to go? You thought things through, everything was ready, you were prepared, and something unexpected happened. Nobody starts their day by saying, “today I will burn my toast, spill my coffee, drop my cell phone into a toilet, and have a car accident.”

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Balaam intrigues me. He lived during the time when the Israelites were getting ready to cross the Jordan River into Israel after forty years of wandering, shortly before the death of Moses. The Israelites have already defeated two nations in Transjordan:

  • the Amorites led by king Sihon, and

  • Bashanights led by king Og.

Balak, the king of Moab, was understandably worried because the Children of Israel were a formidable, unified force and they meant business.

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From the context of the readings, we learn that Balaam was a religious leader, serving the polytheistic pagan population in the region. That is why king Balak sent elders of Midian and his Moabite messengers to Balaam, with a request to curse the advancing forces of Israel.

Meanwhile, God appeared to Balaam in his dreams, and Balaam refused to curse the Children of Israel. King Balak tried to bribe Balaam with money and titles to convince him to do what he wanted done. The temptation of prestige and money was too good to turn down, and Balaam agreed to curse advancing army of Israel.

That is where we find Balaam in today’s reading. He was on his way to meet Balak, and he was NOT having a good day.

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We just heard the story. The donkey that he was riding saw an angel with a drawn sword and changed direction. That happened three times. The second time, Balaam’s foot was crushed against a stone and he started beating the donkey. The third time, the donkey laid on the ground and refused to move. After more beatings, “the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth” (verse 28) and Balaam was forced to face the uncomfortable truth of what was happening. How often do we take out our frustrations on those who are trying to help, just because we don’t know what else to do?

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The truth is that Balaam was frustrated with the whole situation and he was taking out his frustration on the donkey by beating it, even though the donkey was trying to help him. In the context of the “Take the Flag” Bible study, the donkey was waiving a “Yellow Flag” in front of Balaam, and Balaam just ignored the warnings.

The Bible does not tell us how Balaam justified his services to Balak after experiencing God. All we know is that Balaam managed to convince himself that it was OK to curse the advancing Israelites. We also know that God sent an angel to stand in Balaam’s path with a drawn sword. If it were not for the donkey that kept dodging the angel in the road, Balaam would have been killed.

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All of us have been there, justifying our actions to do what we want. Have you ever had to do something that you thought was important or profitable and did not feel good about doing it? Have you ever been so wrapped up in what you were doing that you ignored clear warning signs? If that happened to you, say hello to your inner Balaam.

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The movie Leap of Faith with Steve Martin was released in 1992. In this movie, Steve Martin played a traveling “evangelist” who would go from place to place and set up “revivals.” From the get go we know that the character is a fake, he is no more an evangelist than I am a ballerina, he has no idea who God is and he does not believe in God. He treats religion as a money-making enterprise, not a disciple-making or God-serving endeavor. We see him stage healings and fake miracles; we see him putting on elaborate shows with smoke and mirrors. And then during one of his performances a genuine physical healing happened right in front of his eyes. Someone who had no use of his legs, someone who had been told that he would never walk again, got out of his wheelchair, dropped his crutches, and took an unsteady step. And then he took another, and another. It was not a steady walk, watching him we know that this kid would need a lot of physical therapy, but we saw the healing happening right before our eyes. No smoke, no mirrors – just God’s grace and healing.

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Balaam gets a bad rap because he was determined to do something he knew was against the will of God.  All of us are guilty of that to some extent.  We can use enlightened skepticism against the Bible so that we deem portions of the book unreliable or even inapplicable to our day and age. Instead of unpacking Bible texts, we misuse modern scholarship to make a passage say what we want it to say, not what the original meaning of the passage was.  We can make ourselves feel okay with what we want to do just as Balaam did. For example, have you ever drowned out the small voice of God when you felt led to something you did not want to do? 

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Because of that tendency to justify our wants, we pray “… and lead us not into temptation… .

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In James 1:13-14 we read, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.”

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In Matthew 26:41, we hear something similar, “Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

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Balaam intrigues me. He started as a pagan and he experienced the Living God first hand. God warned him that he would only be able to say words that God himself put into his mouth (Numbers 22:38). Instead of allowing the Spirit of the Living God to set him free, he was lured and enticed by his own desires for prestige and fortune. Instead of sharing a powerful testimony, his life was defined by three attempts to testify against God and not able to do so.

  • Kiriath Huzoth (Numbers 22:39-23:13)

  • Pisgah (Numbers 23:14-26)

  • Peor (Numbers 23:27 – 24:14)

We know the rest of the story. Joshua 13:22 records that Balaam died “by the sword” during a battle when the tribe of Reuben was taking possession of Moabite lands.

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Earlier I used an illustration from the movie “Leap of Faith.” The morning after the real healing, the “evangelist” left everything behind (all the equipment, all his staff – the people who were helping him to defraud believers and to fake healings and miracles), and he left. He experienced God and he was a changed man. That “evangelist” is a modern-day Balaam with one major difference.

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Unlike Balaam, he allowed God to mold him into a new creation. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 we hear, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, that person is a new creation: The old has gone, the new is here!” That movie is an example of a testimony. It could be summarized as, “God caused something to happen so that the traveling revival was stuck in the middle of nowhere. God granted a healing in the midst of smoke and mirrors so that anyone who had eyes could see, and anyone who had ears could hear. Some of those who witnessed that healing turned to God and their lives were changed.”

Thinking Towards Sunday; July16, 2017

This coming Sunday we will continue to talk about Testimonies and how to recognize God’s presence among us.

Scripture for this coming Sunday is Numbers 22:21-34. You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV2010}

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; 2nd Message in a Series about Testimonies and Testifying About our Faith

This coming Sunday we will talk about recognizing God’s presence and guidance in our daily activities.

Scripture for this Sunday is Luke 24:13-32. You can read it at this link {Click Me}

An interesting article about experiences of God can be found on this page on CNN blog: {A page on CNN blog titled, My Take: If you hear God speak audibly, you (usually) aren’t crazy}.
I stumbled on this while doing my research for Sunday Message.

 

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Testimony is a recounting of a religious experience to others; it is a profession of our experience of God.

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Ideally a testimony begins with God, describes how we are changed through that interaction and how we have grown closer to God because of that experience. A testimony begins with God, and points towards God.

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Before we can share a testimony, it only makes sense that we ourselves experience and recognize an encounter with God. I know that all of us encounter God in our daily lives; I also know that most of us do not recognize these experiences because we live in a culture that is immersed in rational explanations for everything.

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We are preprogrammed to seek scientific and psychological answers, and by and large we distrust claims of a religious or spiritual nature. That makes it difficult to discern whether we are experiencing God or reacting to our own expectations and predictions.

{Illustration}

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To begin with, experiences of God are rarely what we imagine them to be. We hope for a booming voice, or a hair-raising miracle, or, my personal favorite, a quick and painless solution to all of life’s problems. We base these on a cursory reading of Jesus’ healings and miracles, Moses parting the Red Sea, Jesus’ resuscitations of Tabitha and Lazarus, Daniel surviving the lions’ den, or Paul being freed from jail by an earthquake. Most of us do not experience anything like that.

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What we experience is that God typically touches our lives in a way that is personal and very often private.

NIV2010 1 Kings 19: 11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

So let’s unpack all that. First of all, what fills your heart and soul?

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NIV2010 Matthew 6: 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. …

24No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

God will not break in on your text message conversation or Facebook account. If you constantly fill your head with noise, God will not compete with that noise. If you fill your soul with trash, God does not want to live in a pile of trash.

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In Proverbs we are instructed to approach God with respectful awe:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10, NIV)

The word “fear” in this verse is not used as in “I am quaking in my boots” but in a sense of respect and reverence.

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God is not a genie, or a butler, or our personal customer service department. For me to hear God, I must give God the glory, honor, and respect that God deserves. To recognize God’s presence, I need an open and receptive mind. For God to speak to us we must give God opportunities to speak, and then we must be prepared to listen and to discern. That happens mostly through prayer, but can also happen through other means.

Just as we would not expect an intimate conversation with someone we just met, we should not expect God to speak with us until we have established a meaningful relationship with God in the person of Jesus.

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In my experience, the voice of God is unmistakable. God speaks with power and authority. When I experience God, that experience fills every nook and cranny of my soul; it feels genuine, personal and authoritative. But this is not the same for everyone, God speaks to each of us differently.

I KNOW that there are other ways of experiencing God: through people and through circumstances. God often uses people as messengers or instruments, which is a common theme in the Bible. Throughout your life God will move others to help you, to encourage you, and draw you closer to him.

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God does not micromanage our lives. While it’s true that God is concerned about the minor details of our lives, it is somewhat silly to believe that getting a free hamburger from Red Robin or a Dilly Bar from Dairy Queen is a sure sign of God’s favor. Sometimes good things just happen.

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And then there are events that have no logical explanation. Do you know anyone who managed to walk away from a terrible traffic accident without a scratch? Do you know someone who got a job against incredible odds? Do you know of someone who was physically cured of an illness after family and friends prayed for them? Do you know someone who did not get physically cured, but found God’s Grace and was able to die peacefully?

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Often God has a vision for our lives that is much better than anything that we can even imagine. Do you know someone whose prayers went unanswered and only in hindsight did they recognized that God was working in their lives doing something different?

Experiencing God is an intimate and personal process that requires patience and takes time. The more you and I surrender ourselves to God, the stronger is our relationship with Jesus, the more the Holy Spirit will move in each of our lives. We cannot force this process. God works in God’s own time and in God’s own way.

I said earlier that God is active in all of our lives. I also said that we are preconditioned to try to explain our interactions with God as coincidences or with natural laws. But once we start recognizing how God feels, and how God interacts in our lives, we will see him everywhere. You will be stunned at the depth of God’s love for you, and your life will never, ever be the same.

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Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest and the founder and director of Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico, said once that, “God comes to us disguised as our life.”

When the two men from the Road to Emmaus story recognized their companion was Jesus, they immediately dropped everything and went back to Jerusalem to tell the Disciples about their experience. God came into their lives in the midst of loss, pain, fear, frustration, anger, anxiety. God redeemed all these emotions into hope, understanding and vision.

It is such experiences in our lives that result in powerful testimonies: your ability to say, “God did this in my life…” Powerful testimonies are not about what we do, or how smart we are, or how dedicated we are. Powerful testimonies are about how God has changed our lives. Powerful testimonies bring hope and encouragement, to us and to others. Powerful testimonies are about building up lives and character.

Thinking Towards Sunday; July 9, 2017

This coming Sunday we will talk about recognizing God’s presence and guidance in our daily activities.

Scripture for this Sunday is Luke 24:13-32. You can read it at this link {Click Me}

An interesting article about experiences of God can be found on this page on CNN blog: {A page on CNN blog titled, My Take: If you hear God speak audibly, you (usually) aren’t crazy}. I stumbled on this while doing my research for Sunday Message.

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; Independence Day; July 4, 2017

July 2 is the closest Sunday to United States’ Independence Day. Our worship service will reflect this National Holy Day.  We will also celebrate the Sacrament of the Holy Communion.

Scriptures for this Sunday: Galatians 5:1, 13-15, with supporting text from 1 Peter 2:11-17

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV and ESV}

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The American Revolution, its events and its ethos has become part of our national and cultural DNA.

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The textbook answer as to why the American Revolution happened is:

  1. The cultural and economic differences between the Colonists and the British reached critical mass.

  2. Unequal Mercantile Laws meant colonists had to pay much more for the same products that the British could get fairly cheaply.

  3. Taxes were oppressive from the Colonists’ point of view because they were forced to fund and house British troops, who viewed them with contempt and, by and large, did not want to be stationed in the colonies (The Massacre of 1770 and the Boston Tea Party).

This list describes some of the socio-economic and political reasons for why the revolution happened, and why the thirteen colonies declared their independence from England.

This list can be found in any American history textbook, it is parochial in nature and it does not even come close to explaining why the Revolution, Declaration of Independence and Revolutionary War took place.

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We tend to romanticize the past. The movie The Patriot is 2 hours and 45 mins long. Very few Americans can watch the movie without feeling emotions stir deep within our souls. In 2 hours and 45 minutes we relive the events of the revolution, we witness the epic personal struggles, the story of loss, resilience and personal renewal and reinvention. Years of struggle are compressed into 2 hours and 45 minutes.

What we DO NOT experience watching the movie is the horrors of war, the smell of burned buildings and burned flesh, the smell of rotting flesh on battlefields, we do not feel the flea and bug bites on our bodies, we do not live through hunger, cold winters, and hot summers. We do not live through monotony, the ups and downs of war.

When the colonists took up arms and made a decision to fight for independence, I suspect that the cultural and socio-economic differences between them and their British cousins were not the deciding factor. Nobody would willingly put themselves in harm’s way because of unfair mercantile laws.

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That brings me to the question, “Why do Revolutions happen?”

  1. Have you ever seen your friends, neighbors and loved ones humiliated and treated as second class citizens, powerless to do anything about it?

  2. Have you ever gone to bed knowing that the person whom you said goodnight to may not be there in the morning because they could be arrested on a whim, their lives destroyed?

  3. Have you ever faced the possibility of losing everyone and everything that you love and believe to be right, true and beatiful, because you have no rights and no say in what happens to you.

I think that revolutions happen when these conditions become a reality of life, when people lose hope and have nothing else to lose. Revolutions do not happen because some intellectuals decide to make few changes. Revolutions do not happen because of “Thomas Jeffersons,” or “Benjamin Franklins,” or “George Washingtons.” (note the quotes).

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On Tuesday, our country will celebrate Independence Day. The truth is that it is easy to wave a flag in the air and call yourself a patriot. It is easy to put a bumper sticker on your bumper. It is easy to put your hand over your heart and pledge allegiance to the flag. Those are outward manifestations of our feelings towards our country.

America is more than just a catchphrase on a bumper sticker. Being an American is more than enjoying an Independence Day Parade. Being an American is about liberty. Being an American is about freedom. Being an American is not just a political slogan, it is a way of life. Being an American is about personal responsibility. Being an American is about coming together under the guidance of God, recognizing what is not working, and then figuring out what needs to be done to fix it.

As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day 2017, our nation is divided. But I have no doubt in my mind that we will get through this. Our nation has done it before and we will do it again. When push comes to shove, we know how to come together, work together, how to put our minds and souls together and solve problems. It is in our DNA.

This Independence Day I want to encourage all of us to take the time to thank God for the freedom we have in this country. I also want to encourage you to step back and consider the freedom that Jesus has given you through the example of his life, his death on the Cross, and his resurrection. Let us all thank God together for this amazing freedom and promise.

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NIV2010 Galatians 5: 1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

NIV2010 Galatians 5: 13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

May God bless each and every one of us,

and

May God bless the United States of America!

Thinking Towards Sunday; July 2, 2017

July 2 is the closest Sunday to United States’ Independence Day. Our worship service will reflect this National Holy Day.  We will also celebrate the Sacrament of the Holy Communion.

Scriptures for this Sunday: Galatians 5:1, 13-15, with supporting text from 1 Peter 2:11-17

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV and ESV}

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; 2 Kings 7:3-9

Scripture for this coming Sunday: 2 Kings 7:3-9

You can read this Scripture here: {NIV2010 and ESV}

This Sunday we will start a new series of sermons that will deal with our Christian testimony.

Hope you can join us. Our services are at 9:30 am.

Kingswood UMC, 300 Marrows Rd, Newark,  DE  19713

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The word “photobomb” was officially added to the English dictionary in 2015. It is a verb, and it means, “To spoil a photograph by appearing in the camera’s field of view as the picture is taken.”

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Today we heard the story of four lepers from Second Kings chapter 7. King Ben-Hadad of Syria besieged 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.

They were forced to live in a “no-man’s land” because their own people were scared of the disease. Today we have a similar scare with the Zika Virus, the Avian and Swine flu, and various strains of Staph infections.

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 to 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 even a slight glimmer of hope. So they waited until sunset and then walked into the enemy’s camp.

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 topic that I want to discuss. 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.”

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These words are a testimony. Testimony is a recounting of a religious conversion or experience to others; it is a profession of experience of God.

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 recognized that they had experienced God in action, they had a testimony and they had a responsibility to share that testimony.

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In Luke 12:48 we hear, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

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It is our human condition to photobomb Jesus. We hope and pray that our neighbors find Jesus, but we hope that they will find Jesus because of OUR actions not someone else’s. We want our neighbors to be encouraged and we want to be the instruments of that edification. We want everybody to know how great our God is, but we also hope that others see a little bit of that greatness in us.

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In his book The Gulag Archipelago, Alexander Solzhenitsin (1918-2008) wrote that “the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” That line exists because we live in a fallen world. That is why there is a tug-of-war between wanting God to use us for God’s glory and wanting everyone to know it.

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That reality of the fallenness infuses our thoughts and actions. The only way around it is to recognize it for what it is, and ask God to protect us from ourselves. That is why we pray, “lead us not into temptation.”

The four lepers recognized the line between good and evil in their thoughts and actions. That is why instead of quietly disappearing into the abyss, they went back to the city with their testimony.

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1) Their statement begins with God, “This is a day of good news ….”

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2) The four of them recognized that God was doing something wonderful in their lives, and that by blessing them, God was blessing others as well (Luke 12:48).

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3) They acknowledge that the news is too wonderful to keep to themselves, “This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves.” In Proverbs 9:10 we hear, “The fear of God is beginning of wisdom.” This verse makes us think of fear in terms of “I am quaking in my boots.” I think that a better translation would be, “Recognizing our connection, inter-dependence, and responsibility to God is the beginning of wisdom.”

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4) They feel that they are stewards of this news and they feel compelled to share it, “If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. Let’s go at once and report this to the royal palace.”

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Their story is a testimony because it begins with God, and points towards God.

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Thinking Towards Sunday; June 25, 2017

Scripture for this coming Sunday: 2 Kings 7:3-9

You can read this Scripture here: {NIV2010 and ESV}

This Sunday we will start a new series of sermons that will deal with our Christian testimony.

Hope you can join us. Our services are at 9:30 am.

Kingswood UMC

300 Marrows Rd

Newark,  DE  19713

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; June 18, 2017; Father’s Day

Scripture for June 18, 2017, Father’s Day is the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It is found in Luke 15:11-32. You can read it here {Click Me}

In either case we will celebrate the role of Fathers in our lives.

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I have yet to meet a young person who does not have a sense of adventure, who does not have dreams and hopes. In the musical The Fantasticks there is a song titled “I Can See.”

That song superimposes two points of view:

1. A young man (Matt) who is pining for adventure and independence.

2. A bandit (El Gallo) who has been broken by adventure and would like to live a “boring” life, but does not know how to reinvent himself.

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Matt: Beyond that road lies a shining world.

El Gallo: Beyond that road lies despair.

Matt: Beyond that road lies a world that’s gleaming.

El Gallo: People who are scheming.

Matt: Beauty! El Gallo: Hunger!

Matt: Glory! El Gallo: Sorrow!

Matt: Never a pain or care.

El Gallo: He’s liable to find a couple of surprises there.

El Gallo: There’s a song he must sing; It’s a well-known song. But the tune is bitter And it doesn’t take long to learn!

Matt: I can learn!

That pretty little world that beams so bright.

That pretty little world that seems delightful

El Gallo: Can burn! Burn! Burn!

Matt: Let me learn! Let me learn!

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Today is Father’s Day.

As I was praying in preparation for today, the Parable of the Prodigal Son came to mind. One interpretation of this parable parallels the Father’s love and acceptance to God’s Grace for his human children.

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It is also a story that contrasts productive and unproductive behaviors, appropriate and inappropriate attitudes and actions. It is also a story that asserts that theory without personal experience results in a polarized view of the world, it results in a worldview that thrives on extremes, it sees black and white and totally misses the shades of gray in between.

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As I felt God tugging on my soul, a different question gelled in my mind, “In what ways would the two brothers from today’s parable be different as fathers and mentors?” Or to put it another way, “What are the personal traits of character that the father possesses that produce a lasting positive effect in future generations of his family?”

There is a TV show Who Do You Think You Are? on TLC. It guides some well-known names in American popular culture as they research their ancestry and discover unknown details about their family history.

Watching this show we learn a lot about history, and we discover fascinating real-life stories and eye-opening, impactful revelations from generations back. We see how our familial history affects who we are today.

Episode after episode shows how a particular man or woman instilled a sense of what is right, true and beautiful into their children, and how these values traveled through generations into the present day. We see examples of perseverance, optimism, faith, devotion, working towards a better education, hardship, travel across the oceans into the new world, travel across the continent to settle the wild-wild-west, just to name a few.

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What would a person learn if he or she were to discover that they are a descendant of the Prodigal Son? What would a person learn if he or she were to discover that they are a descendant of the other brother? How would their perspectives change on their lives in the present?

The Prodigal Son started in a place of selfish egotism, but through hardship he eventually learned the values of hard work, perseverance, resilience, and humility. The Prodigal Son’s journey (assuming that he learned from it) is truly a Journey Towards Perfection and his parenting style would reflect this journey.

In the Fantasticks, the character of Matt started out hoping to find a “shining world that is gleaming,” looking for beauty and glory. Instead he found despair, people who were using him, he was hungry, he was homeless, and he discovered that listening to his good old Dad may not have been such a bad idea. We watched Matt grow up.

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Our world is full of young men and women who want to see a “shiny world that is gleaming.” They hope that their lives will reflect beauty and glory of the Creation. It is called optimism, and it is a good thing because without it nothing would happen, and all young people would live in their parents’ basements forever.

Luckily they have an older generation that moderates their sharp edges by reminding them to be careful, helping them to regroup and process what they have learned after making mistakes. And that is where fathers and father-figures have a chance to shine.

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I am very aware that there is a reason why God made it necessary to have both a male and a female to create and nurture a new life. Fathers offer a unique and irreplaceable contribution to the development of their children. While single moms are capable of successfully raising their children (I am an illustration of that), we know that life works best when there is also a male role model, preferably fulfilled by the father present in the life of a child, as they grow, mature and discover their place in the world.

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Being a parent is a complicated business. It balances intimacy and distance, it involves order and chaos, it includes instilling safety and teaching how to take calculated and appropriate risks. Being a father means a need for immediacy, and patience to wait an extra moment to intervene or respond to a cry in a time of need. Being a parent involves appropriate distance so that children can learn problem-solving, patience, and self-reliance for themselves.

A huge part of being a father is about mirroring God’s movements in their life, as well as nurturing a child’s experiences and uniqueness. It is about the intimacy of care and mentoring, privacy and space for self-reflection (“have you thought about…”), self-reinvention (“what do you think you should do….”), and emotional growth. A huge part of being a father is helping children to imagine what they are capable of accomplishing and encouraging them to do that.

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Today, as we celebrate Father’s Day, I thank God for fathers and father-figures who persevered, changed diapers at 2 am, lived through their children’s rebellious phases, sat through recitals and school plays, slept with bugs during camping trips, who stood by their families and stood their ground under harsh circumstances and did a million other things to fulfill the office of fatherhood. I thank God for fathers who made a choice to love their families and their children. I thank God for fathers who made a choice and an effort to lovingly impart wisdom and the knowledge of God, teach the value of work, the need for integrity, the courage to hope and to dream, and who did it selflessly and with love.

So, Happy Father’s Day!

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