Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Family Church: Learning about Forgiveness

This is going to be a fabulous Sabbath! Family church is this week! It is one of my favorite ways to experience worship and learning because it is so hands on. I hope it will be a favorite for you as well.

You may ask, “What is family church?” Family Church is an exciting and interactive time of learning. This time Pastor Sherilyn O'Ffill the Potomac Conference Pathfinder and Adventurer Director is joining us. She invites you to join her in making indoor snow as we learn about forgiveness in Isaiah 1:18. Embark on this adventure Sabbath morning at 11:30am. Please dress casual. We will be moving and doing experiments, and I want you to be comfortable. So please choose jeans over suits.

To this service bring with you your creativity and sense of adventure. Molly is practicing her snowflake making skills in preparation for our prayer time. And Owen is putting on his scientist hat to help with that snow experiment. So invite your family of all ages to join my family in this learning experience.

The multi-purpose space is set up with tables and chairs, the snowflake making ingredients are in their kits, and the snow making experiment is ready to go! All it needs is you and your spirit of adventure for learning about forgiveness. Each family church teaches me something new as I watch my church family experience the learning exercises together and I want each of you to be a part of it.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Invitation to Communion

Let these words ring inside your mind and bring back memories. Focus on the familiar words of this scripture for a few minutes. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3:16-17

The words that I read over and over is the phrase, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world.” I need that reassurance and reminder that even when I falter and sin, there is still hope.

In the communion service we remember what it took for Jesus to extend this hope to us. For this hope to be given it took His death. Christ’s body was broken, His blood was spilled. And each time that we gather to partake of communion together we remember Him.

I invite you to prepare your heart to partake of the emblems of this service. To spend time talking to God about where you need his forgiveness, and where you have received forgiveness and hope. Prepare to take the bread and the grape juice as reminders of a Savior who died. Then in turn recommit your life to serving Him and Him alone.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Social Justice

The phrase strikes fear to my heart, because where do you begin? Social justice is standing up for the weak when they cannot stand up for themselves. But how do we address a world with so many problems? Turn one way and you see the refugees of Allepo. Look another way and trafficking victims demand release and justice. And yet there is more, from discrimination to treating humans as commodities, the unfair treatment demands confrontation.

It all begins with the value God places on humans in Genesis chapter one. He spends time creating the perfect world for his people. These people are to be his friends and companions. And simply because of their creation in the image of God, they have value.

At creation God breathes into this being the breath of life and he becomes a living soul. A soul with value, with dignity, not because of what he can do but because of who he is. Each human being still retains this value placed on them by the Creator.

This is social justice, to step in and fight for justice for all humans based on the value and dignity that God bestows on life. The value God places on the unborn, on the elderly. The value He sees in those with special needs, those displaced immigrants. On the trafficked and undervalued. We are to see in each of these people the value God puts on them.

When we recognize that intrinsic value the horror comes people are put down and their rights violated. Inside our heart is the tug to make a difference. I don’t claim to know all the answers, but I invite you to wrestle with this topic with me. Come on Sabbath morning to Journey with Jesus as we tackle the difficult topic of social justice.

Monday, February 13, 2017

God First

I remember the huge transition from full-time work to student labor upon returning to school to pursue my master’s degree. More specifically, the transition from a full paycheck to a piece of it. The conference I worked for felt it best I become fully trained for my calling, and I agreed. From a balanced budget with allotments for savings and discretionary income, I went to living off of $804 a month. With a rent payment of $350, you can start picturing what my life looked like to cover utilities, a car payment, and food. Not to mention a new coat with the move from Texas to Michigan. The temptation came to shorten God’s piece. On paper it just didn’t work, and so I gave in to the temptation. However, the month that I took courage and challenged God to stretch what was left because I wanted Him first, strange things happened. I remember a tube of toothpaste that seemed to keep producing. Simple things like the milk lasting longer in the fridge and a roll of toilet paper that seemed to keep unwinding. All these little things with no explanation but God’s blessings.

As you put God first in your finances, see what He will do for you. Step up into this calling to be a steward of your time, talents, and financial resources. Dare to risk returning to God first, and see what He will do to show His faithfulness.

As Christians we are in charge of His possessions. We are his stewards. When we recognize the source of all we have, our things come into the right focus. Suddenly our resources become tools to further His mission, not to horde for our own selfish purposes. We must employ our time, talent and resources for God’s work rather than to enrich our own life.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Elements of the Journey with Jesus

Praying the scriptures is a gentle devotional practice, where you slowly read the scriptures, waiting for the Word of God to comfort you in your situation. The scripture could gently nudge you forward after His calling or shift your heart into a deeper commitment to your Savior. This happens softly—as the still small voice speaks through the scriptures. This is relationship with God; time with Him is what changes us.

Start with a passage of encouragement for your relationship with God, like Ephesians 2:8-10. Perhaps you could use the passage from your devotional book or the memory verse you are preparing for Sabbath school to focus on.

Sometimes this affirmation comes through a phrase in the heart of your chosen scripture that speaks to your heart. It could be a reminder from 1 John 1:9 that God forgives and, even more, He cleanses. Maybe that phrase standing out will allow you to let go of the guilt for your past action and move forward in your life. Perhaps it is a word of challenge from James 2, that faith without works is dead. Perhaps this phrase pushes you to commit to your church family through service as a deacon or Sabbath School teacher. The goal is to be with God and let him lead your life through His scriptures.

Do not expect lightning to flash or the earth to shake. Expect the still, small voice of God reminding you He is here as you read. The experience itself is not life changing, but the God you seek is. Your goal is to immerse yourself in a scripture, pray it to God, and be present with your Lord.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Pray the Scriptures

This part of the Journey with Jesus allows the Bible to soak into your life as you pray the words of the scripture. Choose a passage and let it live in your life. The book of Psalms is full of encouragement, so they are a ready place to begin.

A precious passage in Psalm 121 begins with, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From when comes my help? My helps comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Read the words of the passage very slowly, one phrase at a time. Keep your heart attentive to God’s message for your life. When I spend time with this spiritual practice, I hear the word of God applied and living. Reading through a passage seeking to see God’s presence in your life lets these scriptures apply to your situation.

For example, when I read Psalm 121, seeking to pray the scriptures, my heart landed on verse 4. It says, “Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” During my time in ministry several concerns in my church kept me up late worrying. How would these seemly insurmountable obstacles be conquered? Opening my Bible, I started reading slowly through Psalm 121 and this verse struck me. No need to stay up late worrying over these things when God was already up. Why try to brain storm or plan my way through this problem? What I really needed to do was rest and let God stay up through the night working on these challenges. As this realization dawned, I wrote in the margins of my Bible, “I can sleep, because He does not.” After a time of talking over the situation with God, I was ready to rest. With this done I closed my Bible and turned out the light, trusting God to handle this problem like He had so many others.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Where to Begin?

Have you ever wondered where to start? You want to study the Bible, you truly do, but you’re not sure what verse to start with. Perhaps you listened intently on Sabbath as we looked through the power of Bible study. Then you felt a tug on your heart to add Bible study to your Journey with Jesus, and came up short with where to start.

Sometimes the starting point is the hardest part of doing a word study, or memorizing a verse, or conducting a verse comparison, or engaging in a topical study, or even articulating your personal beliefs. So here is my professional advice, just start.

Inspiration for a starting point for Bible study comes from many locations. Maybe your friend texted you a favorite Bible verse. Start there, look at the key word in the treasured text and start looking. How about when a favorite Bible reading app popped up a promise text for the day, choose to memorize it. There is inspiration all around us. From a billboard that quotes a text, to your Sabbath school lesson app, or even a foot note in a book you are reading. I even found inspiration on Facebook from a misquoted scripture. It leads me to dig deeper into that scripture’s true meaning.

The goal of Bible study is to Journey with Jesus, to know your Savior. By choosing one verse over another is to begin. Just begin by opening the precious words of the Holy Scripture and spending time reading them with their author.