In the parable of Jesus, from Mark 4: 26-29, the Lord makes an analogy of something that grows without the slightest human effort (a seed). This seed represents the amazing word of the gospel of Jesus Christ.– and it grows not only in the summer, but all throughout the year. Not just near you, but throughout the world.
Has your faith ever moved you to get out of line?
Has the Holy Spirit ever propelled you beyond the role you are supposed to play in your life? Beyond being satisfied with a comfortable, predictable, balanced life? Beyond the carefully calculated, risk-averse, “everything in moderation” sort of living…where you avoid the highs and the lows and settle for the boring, muddled, middle? Beyond what other “people your age” are supposed to be doing?
What happens when the Holy Spirit gets out of hand in a person’s life?
Today's Memorial Day means a lot of things: the end of the school year, the beginning of summer, the opening of beaches and swimming pools, picnics, cook-outs, and graduation celebrations. And a day off from work. But it's origins are about remembering the cost of being "one nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all."
Families are God's gift for how the next generation is shaped.
Families are also messy, filled with ambiguity, and have indeterminate outcomes.
In this complex and messy set of relationships, we find that the amazing milestones, the tragically broken places, the best intentions, and the unintended mistakes are all held within the redeeming grace of God.
Whatever your family situation today, God is not done yet.
Which means you are not done yet.
Thanks be to God!
When it comes to the Jesus Mission, the equation is not how little can I get by with or what's the minimum requirement. The commitment we make before God and one another is that our prayers, our presence, our finances, our time, and our abilities are available for the work of God through this specific congregation. There is no such thing as wishful thinking when it comes to following Jesus. Our faith is worthless unless it is shown by our behavior, our actions, and our priorities.
Generosity is a practice in which our faith in God's goodness, the opportunity for making something happen in God's name, and our financial resources all come together to express my faith and bless the community.
Today we bring our attention to a portion of Scripture that many find deeply unsettling. Jesus is addressing our penchant to accumulate more and more stuff along with our desire to accumulate more and more money.The Gospel of Matthew, chapters 5-7, often referred to as The Sermon on the Mount, tells us, “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.
Jesus knows the fears and apprehensions of the human heart. He knows what you and I worry about. And one of the things that has been ingrained in most of us since our childhood is a fear that we will not have enough. Hence, our oversized worry about money. Money provides limited security, but unlimited opportunity for making things happen in God’s name. That’s why we’re beginning a four week focus called Taking the Next Step. Yes, it’s about money. But, more importantly, it’s about our spiritual development as individuals and households.
We often think of Thomas as the Doubter.
His encounter with Jesus in John 20 invites us to question our own doubts.
This message reviews the “facts” of the resurrection of Jesus and highlights the reasonableness of faith in Christ based on the evidence.
Christ's journey to the cross is filled with images of His sacrificial love for us: the Palms, the Cup and the Bread, the Nails, the Crown of Thorns, and more. These images form the centerpiece of "Come to the Cross and Remember", a moving musical tableau of choruses and hymns that enrich this Good Friday worship experience.
Today, we look back and remember that earth-shaking day of the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection of Jesus was and is the signal of an insurrection against the ways of this world and the dawning of hope for the new heaven and new earth God has promised.
Jesus’ journey to the Cross left the cheering crowd behind because he did not come to be a celebrity. He took the way of the Cross because it was the only way to save you, and me, and whosoever will believe in him.
Amazing love, the love of a God who would die to rescue me!
Did Jesus have to die in order for his mission to be carried on after his death? Yes! As John said in his Gospel:
23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and
dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
God wants our surrender, not our success; don’t think that you have to reach perfection in your journey. You can’t fix anything. God can and God wants to help us. Just surrender.
So, today, accept the challenge, strive for intimacy and a personal relationship with God the Father, reconnect with Jesus Christ and listen the voice of the Holy Spirit.
Whether we know it or not, we are perishing; God's love offers us rescue and redemption through the death and resurrection of Christ. Jesus explains that we are made up of body and spirit; a physical birth is one kind of "life", but it culminates in death. There is another kind of birth, a spiritual birth, a work of the power of God within the soul of a person, that leads to life not only abundant in quality but eternal in duration.
On the second Sunday of Lent we learn that there are No Shortcuts for following Jesus. It’s not enough to:
As our nation faces another tragedy with the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, we realize that First Church and our community are not immune to the same horror as the families of those deceased children and adults are facing today.
And now we are in the season of Lent and we realize that life is very serious and evil is very real. And it isn’t just out there somewhere else, it’s with us also.
How did Jesus remain connected to God and receive God’s direction, empowering, and assurance of love? Prayer was the heartbeat of the relationship between Jesus and his Heavenly Father. For the past few weeks the sermon series, "The Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ", has taught us how to center our lives with Prayer. Most all of the ways we have learned to connect with God have something in common: they are a form or a pattern or gateway to prayer. But prayer takes practice, and this week's sermon will give us patterns for finding a more meaningful way to Pray.
Welcoming Jesus into our lives opens the door to the extraordinary in the midst of the ordinary. And that is important for us today. We might be wondering, in the world of conflict, evil, injustice, and oppression in which we find ourselves, in a country so riven with political, social, and economic division, that we should just give up. It is too, too much.
Many of us as followers of Jesus affirm things like the virginal conception of Jesus, the accounts of him multiplying the loaves and fishes, walking on the water, and being raised from the dead, but for whatever reason, we balk at the possibility of an evil spirit, a devil, or the impact of demonic activity in our lives and our world. The presence of personal and systemic evil, the devil, often called Satan, a name meaning The Accuser or The Liar, or The Deceiver, is part of how the Bible describes our world which Jesus has come to save, deliver, rescue, and res
It isn’t unusual for significant events to make people open to the message of the gospel. Sometimes they are tragic events, times of loss or unwelcome change. Other times they are new opportunities and times of unexpected abundance or opportunity. And still other times, they are when something happens that seems to indicate it is time to come close to God instead of holding God at arm’s length.
In worship for these several weeks, we're camping out in the first chapter of the first-written gospel in the Bible: The Gospel According to Mark. Mark is going to introduce us to the good news in the context of or against the backdrop of the bad news. One of those ways of describing the "bad news" is that we are caught in a lifetime of futility and meaninglessness. We can cope with the "bad news"
No matter what we are up to or what situation we are facing, we should face the new upcoming year without fear knowing that God, our Redeemer, our Savior, our Friend, and our Companion, will protect us wherever we go. God will provide in those moments where we feel there is nowhere to go. God’s plan for us is amazing, God’s plans are great and God’s blessings for each of us will be abundant.
Isaiah 9:6-7 New King James Version
6 For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
Christmas is awkward for a whole lot of people. All of this awkwardness leads to keeping "God at arm's length" or "God on the back-burner" or "I'm too busy for God right now" syndrome. Whether it is our alternate devotion, our sense that we have outgrown the faith of our childhood, our sadness and disappointment with life, or our questions about Jesus, God, life, death, heaven, hell, and all the rest, we come to the conclusion that if this is important, it will have to wait because we are currently occupied with other things.
There are cultural conventions and expectations that come to us from our families, our friends, our work associates, the whole machinery of marketing. Even our religious upbringing. We are part of a web of expectations that inform us, shape us, threaten to exclude and shame us if we step off of the path of conformity.
For most of us, “content and calm” don’t seem to go in the same sentence as “Christmas”. In fact, “content and calm” doesn’t seem to fit many of us anytime of the year, let alone during the holiday season. How can we experience God’s peace in the midst of our hectic lives?
You and I can go from "how will I ever get through this?" to "May it be to me as you have determined, God", with this simple and profound trust. Nothing is impossible with God.
From the example of Zechariah, Elizabeth, and the message of the angel Gabriel, we overhear the God-given hope that breaks through the common experiences of disappointment, depression, and despair.
We are messengers of hope to others struggling with disappointment, depression, and despair..
Christ’s resurrection guarantees our victory at the time of death; his promised return guides our decisions throughout our lives.Christ’s resurrection guarantees our victory at the time of death; his promised return guides our decisions throughout our lives. Thus, we can ive in the joy of his victory
The U.S. may be on the edge of a spiritual revival! The evidence is somewhat anecdotal. We know that (social) stress has spiked. As a response, many people are looking for larger meaning in their lives — or at least a psychological shelter from the storm. It is a regular occurrence in the history of the Christian movement: in challenging times believers take courage, dig deep in their faith, and extend themselves for the sake of the gospel.
Today we celebrate the Saints who have gone before us. We honor the ones who have marked the trail, established the path, launched us in one way or another. Some may ask what difference do "saints" make to you and me in today's world.
In today's Scripture from Matthew 22:32-40 we learn God's greatest commandment:
In the Scripture of Matthew 22: 15-22 we find the Herodians and Pharisees trying to discredit Jesus by asking him a series of questions. They assumed his answers would trap him. They chose taxes as the temptation for their trap. It appeared that no matter which side Jesus took, He would create problems for Himself and His ministry. If He opposed the tax, He would be in trouble with Rome. If He approved the tax, He would be in trouble with the Jews.
The outline of the story is pretty simple; the meaning is pretty clear. A king is preparing a wedding feast for his son. The king much earlier honored his guest list with the invitation, and the people appropriately responded with a promise to come; the second invitation in the parable is merely to inform them that the feast is now ready and it is time to come. But then, the plot takes an unexpected turn. Amazingly, when the dinner party is ready, and everyone on the invitation list contacted, nobody comes to the party. They all make excuses.
Matthew 21:23-32 is the Parable Jesus tells his disciples about the Two Sons. A father asks his two sons to work in the vineyard. The older son declines but later changes his mind and works in the vineyard; the other son agrees, but doesn't follow through. Which son obeyed his father; the first son!
The parables of Jesus are highly-relatable stories tied to our own experiences which open a window to God’s thoughts and God’s ways. This parable is worth our full attention.
In this second in a series on the parables of Jesus we see that Practicing the Kingdom means treating all with grace and respect. The parable use familiar language and images to give us a peek into God’s thoughts and God’s ways.
Sometimes reconciliation is impossible. What if the effort at reconciliation is ignored or rebuffed or dismissed? Even more, what if the offense is so great or so prolonged, that there is simply no way to restore the balance?
The church is a mission. A movement. A cause. Missions is not a program of the church. The church is a program of God’s mission in the world. Jesus didn’t gather his disciples together except to train, mentor, coach, equip, and empower them to be sent out. Church is the community of believers in which we practice our faith SO THAT we can share the faith we’ve been practicing in words and actions. Committing ourselves to the practices of spiritual growth is a key to being an effective partner in the Jesus Mission – there is no doubt.
The Twelve Minor Prophets, carry a similar theme: the unfathomable and infinitely faithful love of God that offers to rescue us from our faithlessness. What follows in Malachi, however, is a sometimes contentious dialogue: “You love me, God? Show me your love!”