Sunday, March 27, 2016

He Lives!

Many guests and a lively spirit of celebration filled the sanctuary this morning as our church family assembled for worship. Brad welcomed us with a "Good morning! I'm grateful you're here to worship with us today." He went on to share that we would be looking at the passage in Luke 24 about the encounter with Jesus on the road to Emmaus.

Darlene ushered us into worship with an especially rousing "Christ the Lord is Risen Today!" This was followed by a having the congregation join in singing a variety of Easter hymns that have been inspired by this great day. The offering was taken with an accompaniment of Jesus Paid It All.

Kelly Smith read from Luke's account of the resurrection. Brad and Darlene's duet about the Lord's love poured out from the cross.

After a time of prayer, the women's choir came forward to sing the classic hymn "He Lives!" He is risen indeed.

He Lives!

Today is a day about life and death. Many of us grew up saying the prayer, "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, and if I die before I wake..." Pretty serious little prayer that we learned, and taught our kids.

At the end of Looney Toons cartoons, there was a character who said, "That's all, folks." But is it? Is death really the end?

Brad shared the story of Lazarus from the book of John. When Jesus learns that His friend is dying, He doesn't drop everything and go. He waits two days before hitting the road. Jesus does finally return, however, even though religious leaders tried to stone Him previously.

When Jesus finally arrived, Lazarus was already dead four days. Martha responds, "If only You had been here...."

Jesus says Lazarus will rise again. Martha says she believes it that he will rise someday. But Jesus goes further and says, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Do you believe this? That is a serious question. Martha says she does, but is she saying it because she believes or because this is supposedly the right answer.

There is a great tension in this scene, and ultimately Jesus wept.

He so wants to comfort them, and He weeps for this troubled world as well.

Jesus goes to where Lazarus lies in the tomb and instructs, "Roll away the stone."

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

Lazarus indeed came forth. This incident made such an impact that the religious leaders planned to kill Lazarus again because many people were coming to believe in Jesus because of this.

"Friends, death is not the end. It's just a change of address."

Jesus is still asking people, "Do you trust Me?"

Brad shared a story about two men in an art museum. One of these was very good at chess. They came upon a painting of a chess match, with two players, one of whom looks like Satan. The chess player studies it and realizes that the artist made a mistake, because the king still had one more move.

Many examples were then shared where it appeared the end was at hand, but the King still had one more move. Those who say "it's over" and "that's all, folks" don't see the way it really is. Well, the King still has one more move.

Whatever you face, there is hope. This is God's promise.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Palm Sunday -- An Undivided Heart

Blue skies and sunshine... the first day of Holy Week is this year also the first day of spring. Pastor Brad welcomed us warmly.

1. This Wednesday will be our last Family Night, though the youth will continue to meet.
2. Vacation Bible School will be June 13-16 this year and volunteers are needed....

Ed opened the service singing The Holy City. This was followed by the singing of Hosanna Loud Hosannas as the children marched in carrying palms. After the offering was taken, Susan then gave a children's message. With Easter next Sunday she had several of the children read a Jelly Bean Poem Prayer.

Brad led us in a time of prayer and then we sang "All Glory, Laud and Honor." Leonard was then asked to read from Luke 19:28-42 where Jesus enter into Jerusalem.

An Undivided Heart

Pastor Brad began by talking about loyalty. He noted that loyalty is a problem in our culture. We agreed. But we also don't always see our own disloyalty.

He then told a story about a humorous incident from his youth in which he chose loyalty to himself over loyalty to a friend. We think we're loyal until we're tested.

In Matthew 26 Jesus makes Peter aware that he will deny Jesus before dawn. Peter denies this, and absolutely claims his loyalty to Jesus even unto death. But when tested, he indeed fails. Loyalty is something we live, not declare.

The story of Absalom is another illustration of loyalty and disloyalty. David was loyal to Absalom despite his own disloyalty.

II Samuel 15 tells the story of Ittai the Gittite, how he not only declared his loyalty, he demonstrated it.

We all say we're loyal, but how loyal are we? 60% of spouses commit adultery. But even if we do not cheat, what about looking lustfully at other women. Maybe we don't do it with our eyes, we do it with our thoughts.

Another way we are disloyal is by demeaning our spouses in public, or in front of our kids. Sometimes we say we're just kidding, but it hurts. It is disrespectful and a form of disloyal. There are dozens of other ways we are disloyal by putting other things in front of out family and the spouse we vowed to love?

Friendships are based on loyalty, too. Sometimes we have a tiff with a friend and instead of working through it we walk away.

And in our relationship to the church, what does loyalty mean? Are we loyal only when it doesn't inconvenience us?

Disloyalty is difficult to see in our selves. Most of us are loyal only to ourselves.

Where does this come from? How did the people shift from singing "Hosanna" to Jesus at the beginning of the week to crucifying Him by week's end?

Brad says it's because the people had a divided heart. God does not want us to be divided.

The Book of James says, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom." (James 4:8-9)

If words like these do not drive us to tears and repentance, there's something wrong. We can't say, "I want God and I want what I want."

With God's help we can have a unified heart, a heart sold out to God. God is always faithful.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Healing, Part IV

Warm winds were blowing in from the South this morning. With a blue sky and sunshine accompaniment, there's a strong sense that spring is indeed in the air.

Pastor Brad strapped on a guitar and greeted us, noting that Darlene was home sick today. He quoted a passage about worship, that it is something ongoing throughout the week but celebrated in a special way corporately on Sunday.

After a time of worship, an offering was taken. Brad shared that our capital campaign will finish up in June, but that the exciting work initiated with the building project is but a beginning. We then spent a time in prayer for the various needs of our church family and the community.

Healing IV: Envy

Envy is a much bigger deal than we're aware of. So we will first turn to James 3:14-16. Envy is not earthly and unspiritual, it is of the devil. Wherever you find envy and selfish ambition you find disorder and every evil practice.

Envy is, in essence, resenting God's goodness in other people's lives while ignoring His blessings for us.

We see it in the office when people go on vacation and we envy the amount of time they had off. Sometimes it might be envy when a friend gets a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Sometimes we envy stages in life, people who are older than us or younger us. We envy things we don't have. Sometimes it's talent or money or whatever it is.

In Genesis 4 Cain's envy led to murder. In Genesis 31 Rachel envied Leah because Rachel couldn't have a baby. Later Joseph's brothers envied Joseph for his dreams and visions, and father's favor.

David was envied by Saul. Many other passages show the destruction of envy. In the New Testament the chief priests handed Jesus over to be crucified because they envied Him.

Envy rots the bones. It's a sickness. Who or what do you envy? How do we beat this?

1. Don't compare yourself to other people. Galatians 6:4

2. Celebrate when good things happen to other people. Romans 12:15
Story of Jonathan and David had insights along this line. Jonathan rejoiced with his friend who would be king.

3. Instead of ignoring God's goodness in our lives, start to embrace it. Ecclesiastes 6:9
Better to appreciate what God has given you than looking over at someone's greener grass. Keep in mind that if you think someone else's grass is greener, there's a lot you don't see. No one has an easy life.

Always be thankful, for this is God's will for those of you who belong to Jesus Christ.

Brad closed with a story about his dad's battle with cancer the last six months of his life, and the gratitude he exemplified because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was in his heart.