Weekly Lectionary Reading

Here are this week’s readings from the Revised Common Lectionary. Instead of offering commentary, I’ll let the readings stand on their own.

Proper 20
September 23, 2007

Jeremiah 8:18-9:1

18 My grief is beyond healing; my heart is broken. 19 Listen to the weeping of my people; it can be heard all across the land. “Has the Lord abandoned Jerusalem?” the people ask. “Is her King no longer there?”
“Oh, why have they provoked my anger with their carved idols and their worthless foreign gods?” says the Lord.
20 “The harvest is finished, and the summer is gone,” the people cry, “yet we are not saved!”
21 I hurt with the hurt of my people. I mourn and am overcome with grief. 22 Is there no medicine in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why is there no healing for the wounds of my people?
1 If only my head were a pool of water and my eyes a fountain of tears, I would weep day and night for all my people who have been slaughtered.

Psalm 79:1-9

1 O God, pagan nations have conquered your land, your special possession. They have defiled your holy Temple and made Jerusalem a heap of ruins. 2 They have left the bodies of your servants as food for the birds of heaven. The flesh of your godly ones has become food for the wild animals. 3 Blood has flowed like water all around Jerusalem; no one is left to bury the dead. 4 We are mocked by our neighbors, an object of scorn and derision to those around us.
5 O Lord, how long will you be angry with us? Forever? How long will your jealousy burn like fire? 6 Pour out your wrath on the nations that refuse to acknowledge you—on kingdoms that do not call upon your name. 7 For they have devoured your people Israel, making the land a desolate wilderness. 8 Do not hold us guilty for the sins of our ancestors! Let your compassion quickly meet our needs, for we are on the brink of despair.
9 Help us, O God of our salvation! Help us for the glory of your name. Save us and forgive our sins for the honor of your name.

I Timothy 2:1-7
1 I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 2 Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. 5 For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. 6 He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time. 7 And I have been chosen as a preacher and apostle to teach the Gentiles this message about faith and truth. I’m not exaggerating—just telling the truth.

Luke 16:1-13

Jesus told this story to his disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a manager handling his affairs. One day a report came that the manager was wasting his employer’s money. 2 So the employer called him in and said, ‘What’s this I hear about you? Get your report in order, because you are going to be fired.’
3 “The manager thought to himself, ‘Now what? My boss has fired me. I don’t have the strength to dig ditches, and I’m too proud to beg. 4 Ah, I know how to ensure that I’ll have plenty of friends who will give me a home when I am fired.’
5 “So he invited each person who owed money to his employer to come and discuss the situation. He asked the first one, ‘How much do you owe him?’ 6 The man replied, ‘I owe him 800 gallons of olive oil.’ So the manager told him, ‘Take the bill and quickly change it to 400 gallons.’
7 “‘And how much do you owe my employer?’ he asked the next man. ‘I owe him 1,000 bushels of wheat,’ was the reply. ‘Here,’ the manager said, ‘take the bill and change it to 800 bushels.’
8 “The rich man had to admire the dishonest rascal for being so shrewd. And it is true that the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with the world around them than are the children of the light. 9 Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.
10 “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. 11 And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? 12 And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own?
13 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

All Scriptures from The Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Friday Fun

The following comes from Parchment and Pen via Monday Morning Insight.

Check out the full list at the above link, but here are some of my favorite

Top Ten Pickup Lines

  • “Paul said that it was better to marry than to burn. Therefore, I am under God’s mandate to marry you.”
  • ”Your name must be grace, because you are irresistible.”
  • “Until this moment, I thought I had the gift of singleness.”
  • “I noticed you crying during alter call, can I help?”
  • While giving her a TULIP say, ”This Totally depraved person has been Unconditionally drawn to you, Limiting himself to your Irresistible beauty that is Persevering beyond all others.”
  • “Well, gouge out my eyes and cut off my hands. If I hang around you much longer, I won’t have any limbs left.”
  • “You must have missed The Fall line, because you are lookin’ righteous.”
  • Sing this to the tune of George Strait’s “Chair”: “Excuse me, but I think you’ve got my rib.”
  • To paraphrase John Wesley: “When I saw you I felt my heart strangely warmed.”

Keeping it light this Friday.

On Reading Obits

Lindsay Goodier writes this article “On Reading Obits” for Relevant Magazine. When it comes down to the end of our life, what is important? The author has a great perspective on that.

In a sort of related article from Keith Drury on his students, Dr. Drury uses Jesus’ parable of the sower and says that many students are like those in the parable. It seemed to me that the ones who always had the flash and charisma got the “good positions.” I’ve never considered myself to posess those attributes. Drury points out that many of them have fallen by the wayside as well as those whose lives just got busy with other things.

I probably relate to the 30 or 60 fold. Drury refers to them as the steady plodders. Hey, I resemble that remark. He wrote a similar article last year In Praise of Mediocrity. The Lord has really been working on me over the last several years about this. God has called me to build His Kingdom. He has called me to Martinsville, a place that most people won’t think much about unless you’re talking NASCAR. It’s sort of like the starfish story. God has called me to do what I can do right here and right now. Gayle, one of my adult Mosaic leaders, gave me some great reports of what God is doing right here and right now in the lives of our students. Several of our students will be providing leadership at their school’s See You at the Pole next Wednesday. That is part of the legacy that God has already given us.

God has given each one of us a task, a calling (several in our congregation responded to that on Sunday) to fulfill in life. As Lindsay said my desire is to hear my Savior say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” I hope that is your desire as well.

A Little Fun

Today I was reminded by my daughter that she attends Southern Wesleyan University. She didn’t like me posting the clip the other day from rival Indiana Wesleyan’s Chorale. She is in the choir at SWU and they will be touring this fall. I’m hoping they’ll be close enough for us to go see them. So Rebecca, here’s a plug for SWU

Go Warriors!

And if I get a video clip that I can upload, I’ll show off your choir too. Love you!

Random Wednesday Thoughts

Where did the day go. Wednesday tends to be a bit on the wild side anyway, but today was just a bit crazier than usual.

I wanted to get a head start on a new project. Most of you know that we got a new laptop and projector and screen, but part of that was some new software as well. We purchased Microsoft Office for Small Business. We needed Publisher for our newsletter. The added bonus is that the most recent version also includes the ability to make PDF files, so now we can save money in the printing and mailing of newsletters by making them available via email.

In addition to Office, we purchased EasyWorship for our presentation software. Yes, it does have a bit of a learning curve, but my 16 year old daughter runs the software for Wednesday night Mosaic and does a great job. The nice part is that you can incorporate your PowerPoint slides right in the software and you can also mark DVD clips for playback. It’s all fairly seemless. We’ve had a few operator errors (mostly mine), but those are part of the learning curve. I’ve even been able to solve some tricky Vista/EasyWorship problems.

One additional piece of software we purchased was ServantKeeper. I was introduced to this Church Database software back in Flint and liked it then. It is all so user friendly. What is amazing is the company was just two or three years old then and it was user friendly then as well. I like the software. I spent a part of the day, entering the information. This is the first time we are attempting a concerted effort to consolidate the information in one place. It’s taking some time, but I’m convinced after that, it will be great. It’s probably much more than we need for now, but….

The way Mosaic is taking off, we just may need it. We had 31 students tonight along with 7 staff. This tied an all-time Wednesday night high day (at least during my tenure.) This is the third time we’ve had 38 on a Wednesday night. I’m still looking for that first 40. What’s amazing about that is that last Sunday we only had 33 for worship. That’s also the second time that’s happened. Having 30 or more students running around is crazy, but it sure beats the alternatives of a quiet church. This was one of the reasons we purchased the equipment.

How does Mosaic look? Most of our students are picked up via the church van or by various staff in their cars. Mosaic covers k through 12. We start with a time of corporate worship with all of the students led by myself on guitar, with presentation software. We have about a 25 to 30 minute teaching time in graded groups, then we take some time to feed them before we drive them home again.

What’s cool is that this is a God thing. Our church has been praying for young people and we now have them. There have been lots of good things happening. Several of our students (and this is a great surprise) are taking leadership at their schools for See You At The Pole. My daughter will be leading the students at her school. I received a report this afternoon about how our students responded at the See You At the Pole organizing rally this past Sunday. Keep praying for our students — God is about to break loose, I believe. I have been praying for a spiritual awakening among our students, and I think we are on the edge of that.

Wow! that’s the second time I’ve rambled for a while tonight. Go to go…

Music Monday

I’ve been grounded tonight (from bowling) with an ear infection. So today we return to a regular Monday feature, and since we are departing from normal, so will the video. This week’s clip comes to us from Indiana Wesleyan University. Dr. Todd Guy is the director of the University Chorale. He was my choral prof while I attended there. Enjoy!

Sunday Night Thoughts

All I can really say is Wow! I’m still waiting for our students to get home. They went to a See You at the Pole planning event. I’m glad they did and I’m glad they were excited to go. See You at the Pole is a student-led prayer event around the flagpole of their school. It’s good to see our students stand up and be counted and praying for their schools.

This morning’s service was great. The Spirit was there from the beginning and several adults and students made commitments at the altar this morning. The question I asked was, “Can You Give Your Life for the Cause?” This is a question that was asked by Adam Crooks over 150 years ago. Crooks was a Wesleyan Methodist pastor who founded the first Wesleyan Methodist Church in the South. He knew something about giving his life, because he was anti-slavery in the pre-Civil War south. He suffered much persecution for his beliefs as did the congregation he pastored. I finished with that question as well as a song from Keith Getty and Stuart Townend Hear the Call of the Kingdom. It was very cool.

This evening I taught from the first part of Ephesians 4 and we had a good Bible study while our students are at the SYATP Rally. I am thankful for what God did today and I look foward to more good things in the future.

Worship Boxscore

September 16, 2007
Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Welcome
Songs of Worship – We Want to See Jesus Lifted High (Horley); Shine, Jesus, Shine (Kendrick)
Invocation
Song of Worship – O, How I Love Jesus (Whitefield)
Special Music
Worship through Prayer
Worship through Giving
Song of Worship – Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus (Duffield,Webb)
Worship through God’s WordCan You Give Your Life for the Cause?
Commitment SongHear the Call of the Kingdom (Getty/Townend)
Benediction

Can You Give Your Life for the Cause?

Daniel is a great biblical example of someone who was willing to step up to the plate and give his life for the cause. In the book of Daniel, we are introduced to this man of God. This story comes to us during the time of the Babylonian Captivity. The Jewish people were being punished by God because of their disobedience. It’s during this period in Babylon that we find Daniel. Daniel had served in the royal court of King Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar and we pick up our story in the 6th chapter of Daniel.
Daniel was blessed by God with the gift of administration and quickly found himself in Darius’ advisory council. This did not please the rest of the council. They were quite jealous of Daniel and started scheming to try to get rid of him. The only trouble was that Daniel lived a life of integrity and the council couldn’t find any way to trip him up. Isn’t that an awesome way to live your life? Can you live your life in such a way that there are no cracks in your integrity armor and that it is just about impossible for people to find fault with the way you do business? That is the way the Daniel lived his life.
The council finally decided that the only way to trip Daniel up would be through his religion. They went to the king and said that there are some people in the land that worshiping others more than you. Would you like to sign a law (of the Medes and Persians – which meant it was irrevocable) that would make it illegal to pray to anyone but you? The king agreed. Unfortunately, he didn’t count the cost of such a law. A day later the council caught Daniel praying. They told the king about it and asked, “What are you going to do? Daniel is breaking your law and you can’t revoke it.” This didn’t make King Darius happy. He knew he had been tricked.
King Darius did what the law required and that was to throw Daniel into a den of lions. Daniel could have very well not prayed publically and saved himself from this law. He could have just blended into the landscape, but he didn’t. He served his God the way he always did. Nothing changed. So Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den. Darius couldn’t sleep a wink all night. Have you ever tossed and turned all night? Then you know how Darius felt. At daybreak, he ran outside to check on Daniel. “Are you ok Daniel?” he cried. Daniel replied, “Yes, I’m still alive. My God has shut the mouth of the lions.” Darius was relieved…He rescued Daniel from the lion’s pit and then threw the rest of the council and their families into the lion’s pit. The scriptures record that they were torn to pieces before they even hit the floor of the pit. Daniel was held in high honor because he obeyed God. Daniel was willing to give his life for the cause.
I want to fast forward a few thousand years and tell you about another who gave his life for the cause. In 1843, the Wesleyan Methodist Connection was organized. After Rev. Edward Smith, first president of the Allegheny Conference, published an antislavery speech entitled “Love Worketh No Ill to His Neighbor,” some copies fell into the hands of Methodists who lived not far from Micajah. A pastor, finding some of his parishioners reading the pamphlet, bitterly denounced it and unintentionally fanned their spark of interest into flame. Finally forty or fifty persons withdrew from the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. They wrote to the editor of The True Wesleyan asking for a Discipline and to the Allegheny Conference, asking for a preacher.
Rev. Adam Crooks, a young minister from Ohio, volunteered to follow up the request. He arrived in North Carolina in October of 1847 and began an evangelistic and church organizing ministry. Micajah McPherson and his family were among his converts. A log church was built that first winter nearby in Alamance County. Called “Freedom’s Hill,” it was ready for dedication by March, 1848. Micajah was one of the original trustees of the building.
By the end of Crook’s first year, he had established eight congregations in North Carolina and Virginia, with a total of 140 members. He was joined in 1849, by Rev. Jesse McBride. The growing work soon faced the threat of violent persecution. During the first year, Crooks saw his effigy tarred and feathered. Later each of the three young preachers was arrested and jailed, charged with disrupting the peace of the land. A mob attacked Freedom’s Hill, burying their bullets in its walls. Another mob dragged Crooks from the pulpit. By the end of 1851, all three preachers had had to return to the North to avoid injury, long-term imprisonment, or even death.
For six years after their departure, Micajah and his fellow Wesleyans were left alone among their hostile neighbors, but their antislavery convictions held true. Then Rev. Daniel Worth, a native North Carolinian living in Indiana and former president of the General Conference, came to encourage these isolated Wesleyans. Some had moved to Indiana and other free states, but Micajah and his associates had been so zealous that there were still twenty preaching points scattered across five counties.
Worth was left alone for awhile, but then he too was jailed and eventually had to return to the North on the eve of the Civil War. More Wesleyan families moved away, and all of the churches were closed except Freedom’s Hill and one other. Micajah and his wife and some fifty or more members remained. As the night of war closed in on this tiny fellowship and antislavery ideas became equated with treason in the eyes of their neighbors, one can only imagine the tension with which the lives of these precious people were filled.
One morning as Micajah was doing his chores near his barn; a number of men rode up and surrounded him. They notified him that he was to be hung because of his antislavery principles. His wife and grandson watched helplessly from the house as he was dragged across the creek toward the woods. They could only pray, and one tormentor shattered even their prayers with an intimidating rifle shot into the house near where they stood.
A few rods from the road, near a small creek, stood a leaning dogwood tree, with a fork some seven feet or more from the ground and slightly above a large rock. The mob lifted Micajah up, one crying, “A knotty dogwood is good enough to hang a Wesleyan on.” They fixed a noose improvised from a bridle-rein and shoved his body off the rock. He soon lost consciousness.
After awhile Micajah heard steps, then horses wading the creek. Someone rode up and cut him down, remarking that “the old rascal” was not quite dead but they needed the noose to hang another. Micajah dropped to the ground, too nearly dead to move or speak. Just before dark he regained sufficient strength to crawl back home, where his wife tenderly nursed him back to health.
Micajah continued his active role among the Wesleyans. After the Civil War, Wesleyan ministers returned to North Carolina. Freedom’s Hill was the lone survivor of the early period, but Micajah and his fellow sufferers had the comfort of seeing the work grow.
His spiritual life remained rich and contagious. He loved to testify in the church services. Micajah came to oppose the use of alcoholic beverages as strenuously as he had slavery. He fully supported the holiness revival among Wesleyans, commenting to a Christian friend during his last summer, “The doctrine of entire sanctification is the doctrine of the Bible.”
Just before his death he got the victory over the tobacco habit, “the last filthiness of the flesh,” saying, “I had rather die than to live and use it.” His Christian life was a battle–and a victory–to the very end.
The young preacher, Adam Crooks was responsible for the title of today’s message, “Can you give your life for the Cause?” I have to wonder what motivated these men (Daniel and Micajah) to stand up for what they believe. Why would they risk their life? What motivates me, your pastor and shepherd, to do what I do? What sets my agenda? This past two weeks there has been a particular passage running around in my head. This past weekend, one of the songs that we sang, alluded to this passage. Pam taught from it last Sunday evening. It comes from Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. Paul writes it this way:
16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

Micajah McPherson was a layperson; a person just like you. And while I have been a pastor for just over 9 years, I still remember what it was like. What motivated Micajah to do what he did? It was the love that was shown through Christ to him. Without giving you the details, let me share that last weekend, I was reintroduced to God’s amazing love, grace and mercy. The love that was showed to me over a 72 hour period was nothing short of amazing. Paul wrote that God loves us out of his unlimited resources. God’s love has no end…His grace has no measure, to quote an old gospel song. There is no way we can measure God’s love for us. My desire is to take that unlimited love that God has showered down on me and spread it to you. I love our God. I love our Christ. I love my family. I love God’s Kingdom. I love our church. I love our community. I have become aware that everything comes down to love. My desire is that everything I say, whether in private or publicly, comes out of love, a love for Christ that was shown to me.
And so I ask you, “Can you give your life for the Cause?” “What Cause?” you ask. The Cause is to love people and build God’s Kingdom. Thursday night I shared quite openly and honestly that if we really realized the sacrifice that was paid for us by Jesus Christ. If we realized the awesome amount of love that God has for us. If we realized God’s amazing grace, it would not be difficult…it would not be a hard job for us to build the Kingdom. Pam mentioned that this subject came up last Sunday night. What would happen if we would commit to being here every Sunday and commit to regularly inviting friends (and let’s go one step beyond, bringing our friends, not those who go to other churches, but our friends who don’t go to church.) Like Patti said, there’s no reason we couldn’t have 50 or more in attendance every Sunday morning. I want to encourage you this morning during our invitation time, to examine yourself. I won’t be singing. You won’t be singing. Here is the question. It should come as no surprise. Can you give your life for the Cause? What changes do you need to make in your life to live your life for the cause? The Kingdom is in need of us. This morning the altar is open for you to reflect on Christ’s great love for you. It’s a time for you to hear the call of the Kingdom. Can you give your life for the Cause?

Weekly Lectionary Readings

Proper 19 (24)

September 16, 2007

The words of God given to us in Jeremiah are harsh. God is through with his people. He is planning on sending destruction, no matter what. I believe the reason is given in Psalm 14; “A fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.'” The people of Israel forgot about God and therefore he was going to reign down destruction on them. In reality, the destruction God was planning on reigning down on them is the destruction that all of us deserve. Paul echoes those thoughts in I Timothy. “Jesus Christ came to save sinners — and I am the worst of all.” We don’t like to think it that way, but it is the truth. God’s love is really amazing. To think of what sinners we were and yet he still loved us that he went searching for us, like the shepherd in Luke or the woman who lost the coin. God loves us and he desires a relationship with us.