Monday, June 30, 2008

Anna and the Samaritan Woman

Here we are....two more extraordinary women of the Bible. Anna is seen in just a few short verses in the Jesus birth narrative in the Gospel of Luke. The Samaritan woman is found in chapter 4 of the Gospel of John. There is a strange symmetry between this two women. It can be found in their heritage and ancestry. Anna is part of a tribe of people who long ago abandoned the true followers of God. They were subsequently conquered around 722 bc by the Assyrians. The Samaritans were not supposed to associate with Jews because long ago they had intermarried with others outside of their religion. Both groups had left in some way the true path God has placed before them, and for years they suffered the consequences.
Where is your soul these days? Are you suffering because of some bad choices you made? Well here is the good news, WE ALL GET SECOND CHANCES. Anna, a widower living in the temple is a witness to a blessing from Simeon, and she chimes in...and in her old age is able to witness the Savior. The Samaritan Woman, even with all of her sin, is able to hear Jesus Christ reveal himself as the Savior. She then tells everyone she knows and encounters about this Jesus who knew all of her sins. We all get second chances. Those second chances come a lot quicker if we are seeking after the Lord.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Whoa....a little shocking

Hey friends...check out this ABC report. You might find it interesting.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hannah and Mary

Hannah's Story- Hannah was the mother of Samuel-a prophet, priest and judge . She was married to a guy with two wives, herself and Penninah. Penninah was not a very nice woman. She mocked Hannah because of her inability to have children. Of course her husband Elkanah was nowhere to be found and did not stop the bitterness and squabbling. Hannah is at the temple praying when she encounters Eli. Eli speaks with her and after some back and forth, he gives a blessing for her request of having a child. Samuel is born, and out of her great faith, she presents Samuel to be raised in the Temple. Eli and his two sons do not fair very well. Israel is attacked, the Ark of the Covenant is lost and there is Samuel, ready to lead as Eli and his sons die. Hannah is a striking figure in the history of Israel. She puts up with a lot, but she remains faithful and God finally blesses her with a child. Samuel is there to help Israel through a very difficult time. She was faithful to God and in time, received His blessing. Remember in your own cicumstances that God is constantly at work. You may feel if He has given up on you and the situation is hopeless. It is not. God blesses the faithful. It may be a different blessing than prayed for or expected, but know that God loves you and is with you.

Mary's story-Alright, first thing first....Catholics do not worship Mary. They honor her commitment, her sacrifice and her life as the mother of Jesus Christ, but they do not worship her. That is probably one of the most widely held misconceptions about Catholicism. There are volumes that have been written about Mary. For thousands of years the church has put forth views, ideas, decrees, etc about her. For our purposes, I want to keep it simple. Mary is of course the mother of Jesus. And the other day we discussed what she probably had to go through as an unwed pregnant girl. Her famliy, friends and the townspeople probably gossiped and carried on about her. Joseph had his own stuff to contend with as well. But all in all, they made it through and had a child together and raised him to become the Savior of humanity.
There is one verse that Mary utters that shows all of her faithfulness, obedience and sacrifice at once. It's from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1 vs. 38-- 38"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her. Has God called on you lately for a BIG task? Have you been called to ministry? What are you waiting on? The world needs faithful servants to carry out God's purposes.

Monday, June 16, 2008

12 Extraordinary Women (Eve and Sarah)

Welcome to our sermon series discussion for the summer. As you probably know, we started a new series a few weeks ago. Eve and Sarah were the first two Biblical characters we spoke about in church. They have simliarities and differences, but I felt there was a common theme running through both of them and that was- we all make mistakes and instead of making excuses for those mistakes, we should own up to them. In the garden with Adam, Eve and the serpent, we find Eve tempted to eat of the fruit by the serpent, and of course, she does. And Adam as well eats of the fruit. Then God walks in and asks where are they??? They are hiding. God questions them and Adam says that the woman gave him the fruit, and Eve blames the serpent. So here were are, probably the earliest record in history of people making excuses for their behavior. It's her fault, it's the serpents fault. I was tricked. It seems to me that these days there is a lot of excuses being made. People explain away their sin as being influenced by someone else, or they claim they are a victim and did not have a choice not to sin. Now I am not on a soapbox decrying all those who sin, because I of course am a fallen, broken and struggling being myself. Saved of course by the grace of God, but sin still invades my peaceful existence. But as we grow in God's love and grace, the more we spiritually mature, the easier it becomes to name and claim our sin and move forward. Many would disagree, but as I grow in my own faith, I begin to see those areas of work that are needed with greater ease these days.

And then there was Sarah (Sarai). The wife of Abram, a covenant made with him by God thrice listing out that his heirs would number in the stars. That is kinda difficult when your wife is barren. Sarai takes matters into her own hands instead of listening and trusting God. She asks her maidservant to provide an heir for them and Hagar has a child by Abram. Again, when we don't trust God and take matters into our own hands, the consequences are disastrous. Sarah becomes jealous, angry and hurt. She dispatches Hagar and the child. And still no child for Sarah. God comes again and speaks to Abraham and promises and heir and Sarah laughs in her heart. A tragic mistake, but does not stop the blessing. She has a child but showed a lack of faith, in the meantime, increased her own suffering with Abraham and their maidservant.

Many of us are rather impatient. Impatience brings stress and anger. I have been praying for a family in our church for 2 1/2 years. We have not seen God's actions to resolve the struggle, and yet I am still praying. I have also seen hundreds if not thousands of prayers answered. Take some time this week to pray for those things close to your heart. Ask for God's blessing and be sure to pray for those you know who are hurting. God will act in His time, not ours.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Chapter 12

Chapter 12- Positioning Ourselves for Explosive Growth
Well, this is that last chapter and it's rather sparse. Essentially, they are advertising their next book "Go Big with Small Groups". Not a bad book, but this one is much better. As many of you reflect on the Go Big discussion there are few cautions to us all. First, there can be a feeling for some that when we talk about numbers that we are taking our focus off of God's purposes and turning the church into a business. I have felt this way myself sometimes. It is a true caution that all of us must re-evaluate every now and then why we do what we do and how we go about the task of ministry. When we hear pastors discussing numbers and with a great focus on numbers and effectiveness in our conference, it can be unerving to feel that it's a numbers game. Folks, as for me and my house, and hopefully all our houses, there is something profound, holy and eternal behind all those numbers and that is the numerous changed lives of the lost and far from God. To focus on effectiveness and how to achieve our goals is Biblical. Paul's letters outline how to help struggling churches get back on the right track. Sometimes it was poor leadership, cultural problems, conflict between members or a number of other issues. Basically what it comes down to is trying to utilize the resources that God has given us to make the biggest impact possible to as many people as possible. We are told to go therefore to all nations (all people), not just some, not just the ones we know, not just enough to fill our sanctuary...ALL PEOPLE, everyone. Our passion for reaching the lost is built into the Christian DNA. Check your faith, see where you are struggling and get out there and if you are going to go, GO BIG!