Water From the Rock

Proper 21 (26)

September 25, 2011

Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16; Philippians 2:1-13; Matthew 21:23-32

 1 At the Lord’s command, the whole community of Israel left the wilderness of Sin[a] 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.[b] 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?”

Two weeks ago, we looked at the Hebrews crossing the Red Sea.  Last week, God provided them manna.  This week again we have the people confronting Moses and questioning his motives and questioning God.  Did God really bring them out to the wilderness to die?  Perhaps that is what they thought.  But we have seen several times now, how God has brought them through whatever they were facing.  It again reminds me of the saying, “It God brought you to it – He will bring you through it.”  I think I can understand where the Hebrews are coming from even though I don’t want to.  How many times has God intervened on my or my family’s behalf and I just go back complaining to Him again when I come up against the next trial.  It is so crazy.  We know the Lord is working in our life and yet, just like the Hebrews, we forget time and time again.  It’s at times like that, we remember God’s great love for us.  Last night we were reading Psalm 136, which repeats the phrase over and over and over, “His love endures forever.”  God is so patience with us, even when we don’t deserve it.  I don’t think God minds questioning, but when He has provided over and over and over again, I think it gets old.  This place was named for what happened here – Massah/Meribah — Testing and arguing — I don’t think that’s a good thing.  Jesus warned the devil about unnecessarily testing God.  He said we should put God to a foolish test.  This is a good reminder to all of us about how we should respond in light of God’s great mercy and love toward us.


This past Saturday I went down to Roanoke for a District Missions Team meeting. The main purpose of this committee is to equip district churches to reach the world for Jesus.  It has people who have a love for missions and telling others about Jesus. The reason I am on this committee is because is I am the district Wesleyan Kids for Mission director and have an interest in the military. I am still trying to understand why I am the military champion when there are three military vets on the team and how I became the military person. J The director of our team gave each person a book entitled, “Radical – Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream” by David Platt. We were asked to read it and give some feedback.

This book was a great book and made me look how much stuff Dale and I have in our lives. Every time we move, we see the reality of how much stuff we have that we do not need.  When we moved from New York to Virginia, we found we had boxes that we never unpacked from our move from Michigan to New York. We decided to get rid of things we did not need. We packed our van four times with stuff to donate to a thrift store which used the money they made to help people in our community who were in need. We filled the van twice with toys to donate to a local Head Start. Some our other toys were given to our church for the nursery.  On top of all this we sent nine hundred pound of junk to the dump.  We even put some stuff out on the front lawn and let people take it.  David challenged the people who read this book to give away your stuff. He tells a couple of stories about people who gave away their stuff. He also encourages the reader to start living on less and give to those who are in need. He uses the John Wesley as example of a person who did this in his life.  We are encouraged to go out and look for those who are in need and help them as much as we can.  Every community has those who are in need — not only with physically but spiritually. They will not care what we know till if they truly see how much we care.  We need to see their world through God’s eyes.

In Acts 1:8 we are told, But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.  One of my firm beliefs is that missions start right in your Jerusalem.  Many times we mistakenly believe that missions is only over there – the ends of the earth, but missions include ministering in our own communities.  There is a reason Jesus put them in that order – a series of concentric circles – much like ripples in a pond, starting right where you are and spreading outward.

A second point was made in the book about a brand new church was built at the price of $23 million dollars, while many were suffering because of a crisis in Darfur.  At the same time the church was being built, this church’s denomination sent $5,000 to help with the crisis.  Sounds a little crazy, doesn’t it.  Its times like that are ouch moments to believers.  This is always a fine line.  Should we be more aware of what is going on in the world and how we can help?  Absolutely.  Should we consider the amount of resources we put in to our local churches?  Absolutely.  Our churches should reflect the communities in which we are ministering.

The third thing that I believe is important is that we minister with the gifts and abilities that God has given us, in the way that God has called us.  Not everyone has been called to go overseas to the missions field even on a short-term missions trip.  Due to with a problem I have with my foot, it would be almost impossible for me to go on a trip where I am “roughing it.”  I did that this past summer at campmeeting and I spent the next week nursing my foot, keeping it up.  God has given me a calling and ministry that I can do right here.

This book makes several good points.  As I have already mentioned, how much stuff do we really need.  God has really blessed the American church.  I believe the reason God has blessed us, is that He expects us to bless others.  We see that throughout the Old Testament.  God tells the Israelites to bless people the way He has blessed them.  This book is a must read for all Christians. Warning there will be some ouch moments when you read it.

Objective Worship

True worship is fundamentally objective, not subjective.  The object of our worship is God.  It begins with Him and it must end with Him.  And everything in between is of Him and for Him.

Ron Owens, Return to Worship: A God-Centered Approach

Sunday Night Thoughts

A Very Fall-Like Weekend

Friday morning we woke up with temps in the upper 30’s, which is way cold.  The record low was 37, so we were real close to breaking the record.  The rest of the weekend has been fairly cool – cool enough that we did our exercise in the evening yesterday and in the afternoon today.  I am looking forward to the temperatures returning to a more normal September temperature this week.

Running to Win

This week has been an amazing week running wise.  I was able to have to high-quality one hour runs, a high-quality slow, long distance run and today I got in a bonus 5.5 mile run.  The two one-hour runs were both over 6 miles.  The two hour run clocked in at 11.5 miles and today’s run was completed in just over 55 minutes.  I’ve run 29.3 miles this week, not including several good walks.  I wrote on my Facebook, that at the moment I almost feel super-human.  When I finished today’s run, there was no cramping and despite working out every day this week, it didn’t even feel like I ran – even though I ran at at blistering (for me) 10:08 mile pace.  What’s amazing is that pace seemed slow, which is what I had planned to run slower than the other runs this week.  Looking forward to see how this week goes.

Arrest These Merry Gentlemen

Tonight was rehearsal number 2 for our children and teen Christmas musical.  I love the music and the students are picking up on it very quickly.  I’m thinking we’ll start working on the speaking parts in a week or two, which should still give us a solid 10 to 11 weeks to work on the drama.  I am so proud of our students.  This morning we worked on a little intro to next week’s Mission Celebration.

Until the Whole World Hears

Speaking of our Missions Celebration, that is the focus of this next week.  We will be having Drs. Dan and Joan Jones from Zambia with us this weekend.  I am excited to learn about their mission at Zimba Mission Hospital.  On Saturday we are having a cookout at 5PM and then at 7PM we are having a worship rally with Pastor Paul Haithcock and the Jones.  Pastor Paul and his wife Heather are bringing their youth worship band to lead us in worship and then the Jones will be speaking to the teens.  While this event is targeted toward teens and young adults, everyone is invited and welcome.  If you are within an hour to two hour drive, I encourage you to be here.  Sunday morning, our missions celebration continues during both Sunday School and Worship.  It should be great.  The children are participating and we should have some great times of worship and listening to God’s Word.

Holy Is The Lord

This morning was a great morning.  The music was great and really set up the message this morning.  God is really speaking to us in a powerful way.  This week really set up our missions celebration this week.  Thanks to all who led in worship.  You are a vital part of the team.

Closing Thoughts

I am looking forward to see how God will use me this week and how God will use each of you.  We have a big job to do.  We have to tell the story of Jesus and His love and we have to do it until the whole world has heard. Seize the Day!

Sunday Set List

September 18, 2011

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Welcome and Announcements

Call to Worship and Invocation

Psalm 105:1-5

Songs of Worship

Holy Is the Lord

Revelation Song

Agnus Dei

Worship Through Prayer

Songs of Worship

I Love to Tell the Story

Missions Moment

Worship through Giving

Worship Through God’s Word

Radical Discipleship

Luke 14:26-27, 33

Song of Commitment

Send the Light


God Gives Manna

Proper 20 (25)
September 18, 2011

2 There, too, the whole community of Israel complained about Moses and Aaron.

 3 “If only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt,” they moaned. “There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.”

 4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Look, I’m going to rain down food from heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much food as they need for that day. I will test them in this to see whether or not they will follow my instructions. 5 On the sixth day they will gather food, and when they prepare it, there will be twice as much as usual.”

 6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel, “By evening you will realize it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt. 7 In the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaints, which are against him, not against us. What have we done that you should complain about us?” 8 Then Moses added, “The Lord will give you meat to eat in the evening and bread to satisfy you in the morning, for he has heard all your complaints against him. What have we done? Yes, your complaints are against the Lord, not against us.”

 9 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Announce this to the entire community of Israel: ‘Present yourselves before the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’” 10 And as Aaron spoke to the whole community of Israel, they looked out toward the wilderness. There they could see the awesome glory of the Lord in the cloud.

 11 Then the Lord said to Moses, 12 “I have heard the Israelites’ complaints. Now tell them, ‘In the evening you will have meat to eat, and in the morning you will have all the bread you want. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’”

 13 That evening vast numbers of quail flew in and covered the camp. And the next morning the area around the camp was wet with dew. 14 When the dew evaporated, a flaky substance as fine as frost blanketed the ground. 15 The Israelites were puzzled when they saw it. “What is it?” they asked each other. They had no idea what it was.

   And Moses told them, “It is the food the Lord has given you to eat.

This week I have been reminded over and over how God provided for the Hebrews as they left Egypt.  We have been reading through the Bible and we have finished two Psalms that recount the story of how God delivered the Hebrews from the hands of the Egyptians.  So here we find the Hebrews complaining to Moses that God brought them out to the desert to die.  They forgot that God had already delivered them from the Egyptians.  They were complaining that they had nothing to eat.  All they had to do was ask God and he was willing to provide.  The Lord then tells Moses that He will provide.  The Hebrews have a feast of quail, but they don’t know what that manna stuff was, but Moses did and said that is the answer to your prayer.  Sometimes our answers to prayer don’t come the way that we want them, but God does answer them.  On a side note and I’ll be writing more about this later — I received a major answer to prayer today.  I didn’t know quite how God was going to work something out, but He did and He deserves all the praise.

Are you complaining to God about what He is bringing you through?  As I’ve heard several times recently, “If God has brought you to it, He will bring you through it!”  How is God providing for you today?

Book It

Our family has always loved to read. One of the reasons is because I made a priority to read to my children when they were young, even when they were babies. When we lived in Marion, IN our girls started the summer reading contest at the library before they could read. When they were in Elementary school the children did the Book It contest at Pizza Hut. When we moved to Flint, MI the library did not have a summer reading contest so I started one for our children. Each year the children would pick a theme that they wanted to read about, each child had their own theme. Themes were varied from year to year.  When our oldest daughter Rebecca was in fourth grade, her teacher told that she had a problem with Rebecca reading too much because she would sneak in books to read in math class.

This summer Anna wanted to read some books she heard about in her classes last year at college. She is studying to be a high school teacher and she had never read some of the books that discussed in her classes. So we spent a lot of time at the library this summer. One day while we were there James saw that there was a reading contest for children and asked if there was one for teens. He found out that there was one for teens, but instead of counting how many books the teens were counting pages read. So James signed up for the reading contest. His goal was 5000 pages. He knew the first prize for the children was a $75 gift card for Target. James’s hobby is Legos and his dream is designing a Lego city (like men have trains and around them). So $75 gift card could really help get some of the sets that cost a lot. So this summer he read and read and read.  There were some times that Anna and I had to remind him of his goal. Well, at the end of the contest he read 7000 pages and won third prize which for the teen contest was a twenty dollar gift to Staples. A gift card from Staples is not what a normal teen boy would like to get as a prize.  Dale and I felt bad for him so we made a deal with him. We told him if he used his gift card for school supplies we would give him the twenty dollars in cash which would save us in school supplies.  I also decided that I have not been a good example of a reading in a lot time and I need to read more. So this fall I decided that if I pushed James to read 7000 pages, I needed to read that amount.  So far I have read 3475 pages this fall.

Here is a list of the books I have read so far this fall:

A Table in the Presence 241

Bad Girls of the Bible 258

The Odyssey 254

The Hobbit 271

The Preacher’s Daughter 349

God with Us 321

Sense and Sensibility 175

Come Thirsty   157

Really Bad Girls of the Bible 256

When God Whispers Your Name 200

Here I Stand 302

Pride and prejudice 187

She Who Laughs Last 224

The Church of Irresistible Influence 217

Emma 229

Who God Is In Christ

It does not take much more than a glance at the New Testament to realize that the heartbeat of worship under the New Covenant is Jesus Christ.  The early church’s worship was shaped by their understanding of who God was and what He did in Christ.  The worship of the New Covenant believers was and always will be through Christ, in Christ, and for Christ.  It is a response to the nature of God and His Self-revelation through His Son.  I don’t think we can state this too strongly.  New Testament worship is a response to who God is in Christ.  

Ron Owens, Return to Worship: A God-Centered Approach

Tuesday…Under a Clear Blue Sky

The year was 1986 — it was a Tuesday.  Outside in Pennsylvania, it was a crisp, late January day.  The sky was clear and blue.  I was working in the call center of Day-Timer’s Inc.  Our department took care of taking phone orders.  I was working there as a temporary employee.  I was part of an odd shift that started at 10:30am. That was so we could cover the calls coming in from the west coast.  Just an hour after I started, I heard these words come over the wall from the cubicle next to me: “The Challenger just blew up.”  We were stunned.  I remember getting home that evening and watching the news footage as it was played over and over again.  The images are hard to forget.  For my generation it was the first time we asked ourselves “Do you remember where you were when…?”

Ten years ago, it was another Tuesday — another clear, blue sky.  This time it was in September.  Again the day was cool and crisp, but not unseasonable for the first part of September in Upstate New York.  I can recount the details like it was yesterday.  The Sunday following was suppose to be a big Sunday.  I was working on a salvation message for a denominational-wide day of evangelism in our churches.  Being that I was bi-vocational at the time, I was scheduled to go to work at Radio Shack at noon—that would give me time to work on my sermon before I went to work.  I was in my office, typing away, when Pam came over to tell me that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers.  “How odd,” I thought.  It was a clear, blue sky with not a cloud in sight.  Thinking little of it, I went back to my typing.  Fifteen minutes later, Pam came back an told me a second plane had hit the other tower.  This peaked my interest.  Something was wrong—planes don’t crash into skyscrapers on beautiful, cloudless days.  I joined her in our living room and watched the rest of the morning unfold—it was so surreal—almost as if I was dreaming in the middle of the day.  Over and over we watched the images played out in front of us.  As the morning wore on, we became aware that we as a country had experienced something significant.  For a second time, my generation can answer the question “Do you remember where you were when…?”

In forced communion, we imagined the terror of those within the heart of the nightmare—within the heart of darkness—the confusion—the uncertainty—the choice—fall or burn. (How bad was it in those upper stories of the WTC that jumping 1000 feet to your death seemed like a better option?)  For some—for most, perhaps—the choice is made for them.

When the Challenger fell, we reached out to our loved ones.  As the events unfolded ten years ago, we grabbed our children to hug them.  We sought to make sense of the insanity.  We searched for some sliver of good from the ruin and wreckage before us.

Mark Wilson, pastor of Hayward Wesleyan Church, FLAME professor and a good friend of mine posted this Sunday from Psalm 91: 1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.

There are times when we just can’t make sense of it all.  We try and we try.  Sometimes our inclination is to blame God, but it is in those times—those trying times—that we need to make that 911 call to God—to find rest in the shadow of His wings—that He is our refuge—that He is our place of safety—that we can trust in Him, because He is God.