First Sunday In Lent
February 21, 2010
Deuteronomy 26:1-11 * Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16 * Romans 10:8b-13 * Luke 4:1-13
“When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you as a special possession and you have conquered it and settled there, 2 put some of the first produce from each crop you harvest into a basket and bring it to the designated place of worship—the place the Lord your God chooses for his name to be honored. 3 Go to the priest in charge at that time and say to him, ‘With this gift I acknowledge to the Lord your God that I have entered the land he swore to our ancestors he would give us.’ 4 The priest will then take the basket from your hand and set it before the altar of the Lord your God.
5 “You must then say in the presence of the Lord your God, ‘My ancestor Jacob was a wandering Aramean who went to live as a foreigner in Egypt. His family arrived few in number, but in Egypt they became a large and mighty nation. 6 When the Egyptians oppressed and humiliated us by making us their slaves, 7 we cried out to the Lord, the God of our ancestors. He heard our cries and saw our hardship, toil, and oppression. 8 So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand and powerful arm, with overwhelming terror, and with miraculous signs and wonders. 9 He brought us to this place and gave us this land flowing with milk and honey! 10 And now, O Lord, I have brought you the first portion of the harvest you have given me from the ground.’ Then place the produce before the Lord your God, and bow to the ground in worship before him. 11 Afterward you may go and celebrate because of all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household. Remember to include the Levites and the foreigners living among you in the celebration.
This morning’s passage comes to us from the last book of the law. One of the things that I appreciate about the book of Deuteronomy is that in many ways it is a book of remembrance. Many times in this book, the Lord reminds the people of Israel to remember where they came from – to remember the mighty acts of the Lord – to remember that God brought them out of Egypt. This passage is telling the people what they need to do once they enter the promised land. This is the land that was promised all the way back in Abraham’s time. We are beginning to come to the end of Moses’ time with the people and soon they will have a new leader, Joshua. He will lead them into the land that God had promised. The people are told that when they receive the first crops from the new land, that those will be an offering to God, reminding them of God’s mighty acts in leading the people to this promised land. We are reminded in this passage to constantly remember the good things the Lord our God has given to us and our household. We are to do this with celebration. In part, that is what we do each Sunday – we celebrate the good things God has done over the past week. We can do that with singing, preaching, taking the offering, praying, and reading God’s Word. So today is a day of celebration – of the good things the Lord has given to us!
A Great Cloud of Witnesses
The weather has warmed up quite a bit here in the Shenandoah Valley. For the first time in weeks the temperature is over 32 degrees before 10:00 AM. As I began my run, I noticed that there was melting snow already. Spring is coming. This morning’s run was very encouraging. I ran 3.1 miles in 39:30. This means I ran a 12:44 mile. Almost 16 seconds faster per mile than Thursday.
As most of you know, I run in our city park. On the park property there is also a National Guard Armory. This morning must have been a reservist weekend. I ran past the armory and up the hill into the main part of the park. On the downhill I started passing several runners with Army t-shirts on. When I reached the bottom of the hill, there was quite a group of Army personnel. They had most of the path blocked, but their leader yelled, “make a hole.” Magically like Moses parting the Red Sea a path opened up for me to run through. That was cool. What was even cooler is that several encouraged me to continue on, shouting “keep up the good work.”
A little later I passed a man walking in the opposite direction. He encouraged me as well. “Keep it up. You’re doing a great job!” This can really make your day. I passed him again and he told me to “keep going and have a great day!” This man didn’t know me. Neither did the Army people. But they were willing to encourage someone along the way. How cool is that! I encourage you to do the same. Pressing On!
Back in the Saddle Again
The sun is shining and the snow is melting and it was a warm (relative to the last week or two) day. I figured it was time to get back out and do some running. Like the last time I restarted, I started out slow. For the next few times out, my plan is to run 3 miles. Today I did 3 miles in 40:23 seconds, which gave me a 13:01 mile. Not too bad considering that I’ve been off for three weeks. The good news is that I was able to run three miles without stopping even though the hills were a problem. I’m hoping by sometime next week to stretch out my run to 4 miles and then the next week be back to 5. Pressing On!
While we are getting ready in the morning, Dale and I listen to our local Christian radio station. Dave and Linda host the morning show and can be very funny. Each winter the two DJ’s put up their respective walls. This is a wall that describes their perfect winter. Linda is from Canada and puts many “snow” things on her wall in hopes that will bring snow to south central Virginia. Dave is from Arizona and puts up “sun” things to keep the winter away. Over the past few years, we have had much more sun winters than snow winters, but all of that has changed with the current winter. Our cozy neck of the woods has set a record for snowfall in a season. The “walls” are a source of conversation during the morning show. This week they took a poll on Facebook asking if the snow wall should come down because of all the snow we have had this winter. Again all of this is done in fun. As Dave and Linda conversed about the results of the poll this morning, they told about some who were upset that they would even dare to put up a snow wall or sun wall. These joy-suckers (as H. B. London likes to call them) tried to remind them that God is sovereign and doesn’t need silly things like snow walls and sun walls and polls because God was in control of what was happening – God is in control. Of course, God is in control of the weather and God is still in control of the world. We can’t change the weather. Dale is quite the weather fan and enjoys making observations about the weather, but he can’t change it. But sometimes it helps to laugh and joke about what we might be able to do if we could. I think that was the whole point of the snow and sun walls. Sure there are times to be serious and we need to know the difference. God gave us a sense of humor and wants us to be joyful.
Speaking of being joyful, enjoy this video that we found via one of our friends, which is a great way to teach the Ten Commandments. We had never heard of these guys until today. Enjoy!
February 17, 2010
Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 * Psalm 51:1-17 * 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:10 * Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
12 That is why the Lord says,
“Turn to me now, while there is time.
Give me your hearts.
Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning.
13 Don’t tear your clothing in your grief,
but tear your hearts instead.”
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is merciful and compassionate,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He is eager to relent and not punish.
14 Who knows? Perhaps he will give you a reprieve,
sending you a blessing instead of this curse.
Perhaps you will be able to offer grain and wine
to the Lord your God as before.
Today is Ash Wednesday. For years I had no idea what this day was about. In our Wesleyan tradition, we don’t follow much of the church year, except for Christmas and Easter. Many churches now observe Advent and we are observing Lent here at Parkway with its emphasis on prayer and fasting. Today we remember our humanity — our sinfulness — the fall of Adam. Just like Adam we have sinned. Today reminds us that short of a Savior — short of the cross — we would have no hope. It is a day of confession before God – a solemn assembly. Many will receive ashes today and those ashes are in the shadowy form of a cross. It reminds us that we are in need of the cross to save us from our sins. We need this reminder of what we were saved from. I will be leading our teens through a service tonight of confession and communion. Today we mark the beginning of our forty day journey.
Today is the last day before we enter the season of Lent (a season of prayer and fasting.) As I was reading through the blogs that I read regularly I came across this post on the significance of Fat Tuesday. Where I grew up, we always had Fastnachts (or fatty doughnuts.) Mark Roberts writes a great post that can be found [here].
In case you don’t want to follow the link, here’s the part I liked:
Notice also the rationale for the party: “This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” (8:10). In my tradition, holiness is usually associated with somberness and seriousness. This isn’t wrong, but it can lead to a lack of balance in our experience of God. Sometimes on a sacred day it is absolutely right to celebrate and to experience the joy of the Lord.
Nehemiah 8, therefore, stands as a corrective to two opposing views of life that battle our allegiance. On the one hand, some would argue that the only way to enjoy life is to live excessively, engaging in behavior that is beyond the parameters of decency, not to mention God’s Word. Others, by contrast, would contend that godly living always demands austerity and solemnity. In fact, the Bible reveals that God created the good things in this life to be enjoyed . . . within limits. There is a time to “eat the fat” in celebration even as there is a time to fast in repentance, and plenty of times in between.
So if you’re going to eat pancakes today, or some other equivalent delicacy, enjoy your feast because this day is holy to the Lord. Celebrate his goodness with delight because the joy of the Lord is your strength!
The single highest call for all humanity is to a relationship with God, their creator.
Well, it’s that time for a random collection of thoughts from this past week. I’ve been doing this on Sunday night, but we have been having great fellowship following choir practice, so it’s a bit difficult to get to this on Sunday night. Here we go!
- Yesterday, Pam and I celebrated 23 years together! I am a lucky man.
- The weather has been crazy in the Shenandoah Valley. Any snow that we get today will break the record for snow in the Valley.
- James has been off of school for two weeks. Today we have a two-hour delay. Hopefully they get a day of school in today
- I have shoveled many times in the past week. I’m looking forward to not shoveling and being able to get back out and run safely.
- We had a great time with our teens at Valley Mission this past Saturday. The really cool thing is that our teens brought their friends to help. Thanks to all the teens and adult volunteers.
- This Saturday we go to Winterjam in Charlottesville. Looking forward to going to a concert with our teens. It’s been many years since I’ve been to anything like this.
- In the middle of last week, we had a great time with one of our missionaries. I met Matt at Indiana Wesleyan and served on staff with him. He was the youth pastor and I was the worship pastor. It was great to catch up and also to listen to what God is doing in he and his families life and to hear about where God is calling them.
- We had an awesome time of worship on Sunday morning. This was the first time in three weeks that our congregation had gathered on Sunday. I really missed them. The singing was great.
- We also tried out our new technology. We have added confidence monitors for the praise team. This way we can get rid of music stands. We also just purchased EasyWorship 2009.
- The choir is coming along nicely. I am really looking forward to presenting this musical on Palm Sunday.
- This week we begin our Forty Days of Prayer and Fasting. We are calling it “Extreme Makeover: Holiness Edition.” I am really looking forward to this meaningful time of preparation for Easter.
That’s about it. Have a great week and remember to Seize The Day!
Here is a great song from Keith and Kristyn Getty called “Hear All Creation.” I love the Celtic feel of this song.
February 14, 2010
Welcome and Announcements
Call to Worship and Invocation
*Songs of Praise and Worship
Ancient of Days (Harvill/Sadler)
God of Wonders (Byrd/Hindalong)
Here I Am to Worship (Hughes)
*Connecting in Prayer
Song of Praise and Worship
The Church’s One Foundation (Stone/Wesley)
Lord, Be Glorified (Kilpatrick)
Giving Back to God
Worship through God’s Word
Listen Up Church!
Sardis: The Dead Church
Song of Commitment
Spirit of the Living God (Iverson)