Mosaic Update

Tonight’s update will be short.  We had a good night again.  It seems the students are really beginning to enjoy the worship, rather than just enduring it.  It’s been a two year journey though.  We had some technical difficulties with the projection software, but when I rebooted at home everything worked fine.  We had twenty students and seven staff, which is a little above our current average and a little behind our yearly average.  Rebecca taught the high school tonight for the first time.  Tonight was one of those nights I hoped something that I taught sunk in.  The middle schoolers were a little wired.  The hit of the night was the pigs-in-a-blanket and potato chips and dip.  Unlike two weeks ago, the ride home was uneventful.  Thank you Lord, for letting us minister to the students of Martinsville and Henry County.

A New Milestone

Pam and I are getting ready to enter a new phase in our life.  Tonight, we took James (and the two girls) to Middle School for a getting to know you night.  When James enters Middle School this fall, this will be the first time since Rebecca has been in school that we will not have an elementary student in our family.  It looks like James will be in the band next year.  6th grade band is for beginners and since you have to play a wind instrument first, we’re hoping he will play trumpet (and follow in dad’s footsteps.)  Hopefully, he will be a much better player than I ever was.

The interesting part of the evening is when we were led on a tour of the school by Middle School guides.  It was one of the most disorganized tours, but we did actually learn something from it.  This will also be the first time we have a middle school student (Rebecca and Anna when to Junior High while we were in New York.)  So look out, here comes Middle School

What I am Learning

Several weeks ago I was reading the book Reformers and Revivalists, I was thinking what the founding fathers of the Wesleyan Methodist and the Pilgrim Holiness Churches would think about the churches they founded.  Would they be surprised that women would have difficulty becoming pastors?  I know that I have faced some opposition and so has Rebecca as we work toward ordination.  There are several young men who go to college with Rebecca who dislike the Wesleyan’s view of women in the ministry.  Interestingly enough, they are from a non-Wesleyan background.  They would also like to see us Wesleyans change our viewpoint.  From my perspective, it’s also interesting to note that on the local level the most opposition comes from those of the same gender.  Which is interesting because some of these ladies hold high-level positions in their companies that at one time would have only been held by a man.  Dale has spoke on the great legacy of “Wesleyans” like Orange Scott, Luther Lee, Adam Crooks, and others.  They believed that all humans were created equal.  Paul writes in Galatians 3:28:

28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile,[a] slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.

“True” Wesleyans fought for against slavery in the 1800’s.  These same Wesleyans also hosted the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, NY.  In addition, these early Wesleyans fought other civil injustice.

Yes, I know the slippery slope arguments, but we are not going there.  Wesleyans have been ordaining women since our inception.  In fact, 40% of the clergy in the Pilgrim Holiness Church in the early part of the 20th century were women.  Wesleyans are not “Johnny-come-lately’s” to the ordination of women.  This has been part of our heritage from the beginning.  While there is opposition, the tide is turning.  Why do I say so?  It appears to be a real possibility that we will elect our first woman General Superintendent this summer.  I know there is underground support for it and even some above ground support.

There are also encouraging signs elsewhere.  The Wesleyan Women WILD conferences are highlighting women in ministry and  is teaching women in the local church the history of women in ministry. The religion departments at our various colleges are helping to educate in this area.  In our district we have a woman on the DBMD (District Board of Ministerial Development.  This board supervises the education and development of potential pastors in our denomination.  It is great to have another woman in the room with me.  Then there is FLAME, which also supports women in the ministry.  It is a safe place for women to talk about their experiences.  Houghton College has recently appointed a woman to serve as its president. We to continue to see doors opened which were closed to female pastors in the Wesleyan Church.  Maybe, there will be a time when this will no longer be an issue.

Monday Night Bowling

Yes, it’s been several weeks and I bowled like it had been several weeks.  Everything was out of sync.  I ended up with a 333 set, which works out to a 111 average.  That was the worst I have bowled since I started on a regular basis almost three years ago.  The team lost 5 and won 2.  Looks like we’ll drop at least to 5th place.  I think it would have been better if I hadn’t even shown up…but you have days like that.

Farewell, Larry Norman

larry-norman-only-visiting.jpgThis morning as I was checking my regular blogs, I learned of the passing of Larry Norman. For those of you new to Christian music, Larry was a pioneer. Anyone who plays or sings contemporary gospel music owes a debt of gratitude to Larry. Some of the songs he wrote are “I’d Wish We’d All Been Ready,” “Sweet Song of Salvation” and a whole lot of others. Even though it’s been years since he’s been in the limelight, he will be missed. Here is Larry’s farewell to all of us who are “only visiting this planet.”

I feel like a prize in a box of cracker jacks with God’s hand reaching down to pick me up. I have been under medical care for months. My wounds are getting bigger. I have trouble breathing. I am ready to fly home.

My brother Charles is right, I won’t be here much longer. I can’t do anything about it. My heart is too weak. I want to say goodbye to everyone. In the past you have generously supported me with prayer and finance and we will probably still need financial help.

My plan is to be buried in a simple pine box with some flowers inside. But still it will be costly because of funeral arrangement, transportation to the gravesite, entombment, coordination, legal papers etc. However money is not really what I need, I want to say I love you.

I’d like to push back the darkness with my bravest effort. There will be a funeral posted here on the website, in case some of you want to attend. We are not sure of the date when I will die. Goodbye, farewell, we will meet again.

Goodbye, farewell, we’ll meet again
Somewhere beyond the sky.
I pray that you will stay with God
Goodbye, my friends, goodbye.

Larry

Sunday Night Thoughts

Today was a good day.  Last night, the family drove to Roanoke (When we picked up Rebecca on Friday night, she dropped her cell phone in the parking lot Ruby Tuesday’s.  So we had to return to pick it up.)  In addition, we went to see the Southern Wesleyan University Jazz Ensemble.  They were really good and we enjoyed the concert. 

Today, we had a good service and I preached with everything I had.  I was so into preaching today, at one point I really slipped in a southern phrase, “All Y’all.”  The congregation really enjoyed it.  I preached on the importance of having a soft spiritual heart. 

This afternoon, we lifted our services in support of a Singspiration at one of our community churches.  It was in honor of their pastor who has resigned and taken another church.  Again, we enjoyed some great music of all different genres.  After that they had a hot dog supper, in which the ladies of the church did a great job.

Following that, we had a choir practice for Easter.  The group is sounding great and I’m looking forward to a great Easter Sunday Celebration.  There was a particular line that I thought I would leave you with tonight.  It’s from the hymn “My Heart is Filled” which is part of our Easter Celebration.

For ev’ry day I have on earth
Is given by the King;
So I will give my life, my all,
To love and follow him.

I hope that is your prayer today.

Worship Boxscore

February 24, 2008
3rd Sunday in Lent

Welcome
Call to Worship
Songs of Worship
To God Be the Glory (Crosby/Doane)
Invocation
Song of Worship
O Worship The King (Grant/Haydn)
Worship through Prayer
Worship through Giving
Ministry In Music
Installation of Members
Worship through God’s Word
The Cure for a Hardened Heart
Song of CommitmentI Am Thine, O Lord (Crosby/Doane)
Benediction

The Cure for a Hardened Heart

One of the things we hear a lot about in our culture is how to take good care of your heart. We want to make sure that we eat right and that we are physically fit. The doctors poke and prod us to make sure it all sounds, looks, and feels right. They check our cholesterol. They give us stress tests. This is to make sure that our hearts are working properly. But just as important in my mind is the condition of your spiritual heart. Over the last year, I have become more and more aware of what I would term spiritual hardening of the heart. It can happen to anyone of us. I can vouch for that because it has happened to me. This series is part of our SpringLife emphasis. Spring is a wonderful time of the year as the flowers start their blooming. Our daffodils have begun to stick their heads up out of the ground. Wouldn’t be great if we could move our spiritual lives out of dormancy into life in Christ?
We want to take a look at that. What exactly is the cure for spiritual hardening of the heart? Before we get into all of that, let’s go back to the account of Moses and the children of Israel out in the desert.

1 At the Lord’s command, the whole community of Israel left the wilderness of Sin and moved from place to place. Eventually they camped at Rephidim, but there was no water there for the people to drink. 2 So once more the people complained against Moses. “Give us water to drink!” they demanded.
“Quiet!” Moses replied. “Why are you complaining against me? And why are you testing the Lord?”
3 But tormented by thirst, they continued to argue with Moses. “Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Are you trying to kill us, our children, and our livestock with thirst?”
4 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What should I do with these people? They are ready to stone me!”
5 The Lord said to Moses, “Walk out in front of the people. Take your staff, the one you used when you struck the water of the Nile, and call some of the elders of Israel to join you. 6 I will stand before you on the rock at Mount Sinai, Strike the rock, and water will come gushing out. Then the people will be able to drink.” So Moses struck the rock as he was told, and water gushed out as the elders looked on.
7 Moses named the place Massah (which means “test”) and Meribah (which means “arguing”) because the people of Israel argued with Moses and tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord here with us or not?”

This account is pretty amazing when you think of it. God had done so much for the children of Israel and yet here they were complaining to God again. Let’s take a look at how God helped them.
First, God delivered them from slavery in Egypt. I think we need to be reminded once again that the children of Israel did not receive any of the plagues that the Egyptians received, even though they were in the same land. God miraculously saved them from all ten plagues. After the tenth plague, he delivered them out of Egypt. Not only did they escape, but they plundered the land of its riches on the way out.
Second, there is the account of the crossing of the sea. At one point there was water in front of them and Egyptians behind them. They were between a rock and a hard place. There was nowhere to go. First, God stopped the Egyptians and then he opened up the water in front of them and they crossed on dry ground. As soon as they crossed, God released the Egyptians. They tried to pursue, but as they did, the sea came back into place, drowning them. Miriam and Moses even compose a song about how God has delivered them.
Right after that, the Israelites complain about having no water (the first time) and God provides for them. God promised them if they obeyed Him, they would not suffer the fate of the Egyptians.
Next, they start complaining that there is no food to eat and once again, God provides. He provides them with manna and quail. The manna will always be enough and never too much. God is like that. I can be a witness to that. That stops them from complaining…until they don’t have water again. Don’t you think they would have learned the lesson that God truly cares for them and will provide for them? Well they didn’t and so once again as we just read, God provides. The children of Israel appear to have hard hearts. I can’t say that we aren’t just like them. God provides for us over and over again and yet, we complain, “Don’t you care about us? Where are you God?” when we go through a little difficulty.
Look what Paul writes to the church at Rome, in chapter 5:

1 Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. 2 Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.
3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
6 When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. 7 Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. 8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. 9 And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

This is a continuation of last week’s thought. Did you catch verse two? “Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege (that’s grace) where we now stand…looking forward to sharing God’s glory. Paul goes on to acknowledge that the life of faith is full of trials and difficulties. That’s just part of life. But do you see how going through the trials and difficulties helps us? It does not hinder us. What happens? Problems and trials produce endurance, endurance develops strength of character, character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. That is a great thing. Yes, these past few weeks have been incredibly draining, but God is building Pam and I up. He desires to do that to you. We are so quick to dismiss (and I’m guilty) trials and difficulties of being from Satan, but maybe, just maybe, they are designed to make you a better follower of Christ. Paul goes on to remind us how much God loved us again picking up on the theme from last week. God loves us. He desires for each one of us to be his friend. This is the passage that Pam and I have leaned on. God’s grace is sufficient.
The original question I asked is “What is the cure for a spiritually hard heart?” It is God’s grace. Church we need to realize from what God has saved us. We were sinners – we were enemies of God. Christ’s blood was shed to save us – he went to the cross to make restitution. He didn’t have to do it. It was because of his love for us that he did it. That’s God’s grace. You might be here this morning and never experienced the grace of God. Maybe you’ve never experienced God’s love for you. My prayer is that before we leave this place, God would show you, maybe even through this congregation that He loves you. You might even be a believer and not fully comprehend (I don’t even fully comprehend) God’s grace – Let his love flow down to you this morning. What is the cure for a spiritually hard heart? Listen once again to the words of David:
1 Come, let us sing to the Lord!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come to him with thanksgiving.
Let us sing psalms of praise to him.
3 For the Lord is a great God,
a great King above all gods.
4 He holds in his hands the depths of the earth
and the mightiest mountains. 5 The sea belongs to him, for he made it.
His hands formed the dry land, too.
6 Come, let us worship and bow down.

Let us kneel before the Lord our maker,
7 for he is our God.
We are the people he watches over,
the flock under his care.
If only you would listen to his voice today!

8 The Lord says, “Don’t harden your hearts as Israel did at Meribah,
as they did at Massah in the wilderness.
9 For there your ancestors tested and tried my patience,
even though they saw everything I did. 10 For forty years I was angry with them, and I said,
‘They are a people whose hearts turn away from me.
They refuse to do what I tell them.’ 11 So in my anger I took an oath:
‘They will never enter my place of rest.’”

Church, the cure for a spiritually hard heart is to remember what God has done for you. Christ has died for you to save you from your sins, even though you didn’t deserve it. God loves you. God cares for you. Just as hardening of the arteries will kill you physically, so will spiritual hardening of the arteries. Perhaps you have a hard heart this morning. Let God knock away the crust and renew your heart today.