Monday, November 30, 2015

READ IT! - Gentle in Our Time (week 12)

There is an enemy at work against us whose desire is to pull us away from union with God out into the void of nothingness. How has the enemy been working against you? Who are the people in your life who help you fight him? In what specific ways has God delivered you from the enemy? What does freedom look like in your life?

From the Torah: Genesis 3:1-24
From the Former Prophets: Judges 5:19-31
From the Latter Prophets: Zechariah 3:1-10
From the Books of Wisdom and Poetry: Job 1:1-22
From the Late Books: Daniel 2:26-45
From the Gospels: Mark 4:1-20
From the Epistles/Revelation: Revelation 20:1-21:5

From the Torah

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman.  “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

“Cursed are you above all livestock
    and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
    and you will eat dust
    all the days of your life.
And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel.”

To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
    with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
    and he will rule over you.”

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
    through painful toil you will eat food from it
    all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
    and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
    and to dust you will return.”

Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

Genesis 3:1-24

From the Former Prophets

“Kings came, they fought,
    the kings of Canaan fought.
At Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo,
    they took no plunder of silver.
From the heavens the stars fought,
    from their courses they fought against Sisera.
The river Kishon swept them away,
    the age-old river, the river Kishon.
    March on, my soul; be strong!
Then thundered the horses’ hooves—
    galloping, galloping go his mighty steeds.
‘Curse Meroz,’ said the angel of the Lord.
    ‘Curse its people bitterly,
because they did not come to help the Lord,
    to help the Lord against the mighty.’

“Most blessed of women be Jael,
    the wife of Heber the Kenite,
    most blessed of tent-dwelling women.
He asked for water, and she gave him milk;
    in a bowl fit for nobles she brought him curdled milk.
Her hand reached for the tent peg,
    her right hand for the workman’s hammer.
She struck Sisera, she crushed his head,
    she shattered and pierced his temple.
At her feet he sank,
    he fell; there he lay.
At her feet he sank, he fell;
    where he sank, there he fell—dead.

“Through the window peered Sisera’s mother;
    behind the lattice she cried out,
‘Why is his chariot so long in coming?
    Why is the clatter of his chariots delayed?’
The wisest of her ladies answer her;
    indeed, she keeps saying to herself,
‘Are they not finding and dividing the spoils:
    a woman or two for each man,
colorful garments as plunder for Sisera,
    colorful garments embroidered,
highly embroidered garments for my neck—
    all this as plunder?’

“So may all your enemies perish, Lord!
    But may all who love you be like the sun
    when it rises in its strength.”

Judges 5:19-31

From the Latter Prophets

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?”

Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.”

Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you.”

Then I said, “Put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the Lord stood by.

The angel of the Lord gave this charge to Joshua: “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘If you will walk in obedience to me and keep my requirements, then you will govern my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you a place among these standing here.

“‘Listen, High Priest Joshua, you and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch. See, the stone I have set in front of Joshua! There are seven eyes on that one stone, and I will engrave an inscription on it,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.

“‘In that day each of you will invite your neighbor to sit under your vine and fig tree,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”

Zechariah 3:1-10

From the Books of Wisdom and Poetry

In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.

His sons used to hold feasts in their homes on their birthdays, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom.

One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”

Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”

“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”

Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, and the Sabeans attacked and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the heavens and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
    and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
    may the name of the Lord be praised.”

In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

Job 1:1-22

From the Late Books

The king asked Daniel (also called Belteshazzar), “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?”

Daniel replied, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. Your dream and the visions that passed through your mind as you were lying in bed are these:

“As Your Majesty was lying there, your mind turned to things to come, and the revealer of mysteries showed you what is going to happen. As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than anyone else alive, but so that Your Majesty may know the interpretation and that you may understand what went through your mind.

“Your Majesty looked, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.

“This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king. Your Majesty, you are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; in your hands he has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds in the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.

“After you, another kingdom will arise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others. Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.

“In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands—a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces.

“The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy.”

Daniel 2:26-45

From the Gospels

Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”

Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables.  He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that,

“‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
    and ever hearing but never understanding;
otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’”

Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”

Mark 4:1-20

From the Epistles/Revelation

And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.

I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.

When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—and to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Revelation 20:1-21:5

Saturday, November 28, 2015

HOPE! - The Marks of the New Birth

Are you at peace or are you at war with those around you? What evidence do you have that you have been born again? That you have new life? Is your faith active or theoretical? Do you have a present hope or only a distant hope? Is God’s love within you transformative? Since Jesus lives in you, how do you think Jesus would live with the people you live with?

Within John Wesley’s sermon “The Marks of the New Birth” he claims that the first of the marks of the new birth which are evident in the life of the believer is that of faith. He says that faith is the foundation of all the rest. There are two other that are mentioned by Wesley in this sermon. Besides faith, there is hope and there is love. These are the marks of the new birth.

Faith. Hope. Love.

Wesley also claims that the “immediate and constant fruit of the faith whereby we are born of God” is also a power over sin. He claims that the fruit of faith is power over every sin – every outward sin, every inward sin, every “evil word and work,” every “unholy desire and temper.” And that this results in another fruit of faith that we experience – that of peace. We find that we are content and joyful in God.

Furthermore, the necessary fruit of the love of God, according to Wesley, “is the love of our neighbor.” This includes all people... even our enemies. He also claims that a resulting additional fruit of the love of God is that we become universally obedient to Him in our love for Him and that we live in “conformity to His will.” Wesley claims that all of us – the worst and the best of us the same – deserve no less than hell. But that it is by God’s transformative grace and mercy that we are saved – born again into God’s family through the Spirit of Adoption.

And so what do your relationships look like? Do you value your family the way Jesus does? How about your co-workers? Your customers? Your employers? Your neighbors?

What evidence do you have that you have been born again? Are you loving? Or are you at war with everybody?

Friday, November 27, 2015

Living on Mission – Gentleness in our Closest Relationships

Living on Mission – Gentleness in our Closest Relationships

This week we are focusing on gentleness in our closest relationships: our family and our workplace. Most of us spend the bulk of our time with these people. Conflict can arise easily in close proximity. Familiarity can sometimes breed contempt. We may forget to show appropriate respect toward people we’re very close to. But this is not the gentle way of Jesus.

Paul gives us specific instructions for how to treat one another. We can easily see that obedience, honoring, instruction, serving, pleasing, and working with enthusiasm all require gentleness and align with the gentle ways of Jesus. How can we put these instructions into practice this week?

“Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. ‘Honor your father and mother.’ This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, ‘things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.’ Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free. Masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Don’t threaten them; remember, you both have the same Master in heaven, and he has no favorites.” (Ephesians 6:1-9)

Let’s practice Living on Mission and practice gentleness in our closest relationships.

Pastor Angela

Thursday, November 26, 2015

pray it! gentle in our time - ephesians 6:1-9

Question:  What are some hang-ups or hold-ups you have when it comes to prayer?

Confession:  Okay, I'll answer my own question.  Sometimes I am fearful to be vulnerable in prayer and talk to God about what I'm really thinking, feeling, needing, or wanting because once it's out there... once it's out of my mouth... I can't take it back.  And the "what-if's" of the vulnerable begin to flutter about my head, whispering doubt and panic, either in myself or in my (more than capable) God.  What if God thinks my request is stupid?  What if God doesn't answer my prayer like I want Him to?  Or in the time frame I want?  What if I don't like that?  What does that say about me?  Or what does that say about God? 

If I am vulnerable in prayer, it's like I have tossed the ball into God's court.  I have surrendered control and have bounced this trust to God, hoping he will respond and bounce something back.  I have to trust and wait. 

This week's "pray it" challenge is to be vulnerable in prayer as we continue to ask the Lord to make us gentle in our homes, in our world, and in our time. 

Vulnerable - some synonyms include helpless, defenseless, powerless, impotent, weak, and susceptible. 

Sign.  Me.  Up.  [Insert sarcasm here.]

This is so counter-intuitive and counter-cultural.  Yet, that's kind of how things are with Jesus.  So, we're on the right track.  Fruit is different than Fruit of the Spirit.  Likewise, vulnerability with God is different than the world's vulnerability. 

What if in positioning ourselves in this transparent dependence let's God power and strength (which far exceeds mine) shine through in the most effectively way? 

1 Corinthians 1:24-25 But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.  (NLT)

If we are to truly be gentle in our time, gentle in our homes... gentle in our work places... gentle at school... gentle in our world... gentle wherever God has placed us and in whatever season... we need to be willing to entertain the notion of being vulnerable with each other, and forever letting people know where our true power and strength comes from (God!).  It is going to be challenging to do that if we are not first vulnerable with God and in our prayer life.

Let's pray it, vulnerably!

No PoC|Coverage tonight - Happy Thanksgiving!  Praying for you all and so thankful for you as we get to walk with God and each other.  We truly are blessed.  Love you all.

Pastor Celia

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

FAMILY IT! — Wednesday Family Devotional — “Gentle in Our Time”

Can you believe that you and your family are sitting down to your twelfth discussion about gentleness in this amazing series, “Gentle in Our Time”?  We’ve been able to cover a lot of areas about how our families can be a gentle force in our communities.  I know God’s been moving in great ways through you all.

Today, we’re going to shift gears a little and focus exclusively on gentleness in our homes.  (Yikes!)  There are a lot of wonderful adjectives I could use to describe my home—loving, silly, crazy—but I’m not sure gentle is one of them.

In this week’s passage in Ephesians, Paul shines a spotlight on the most prominent relationships we have, including parents and children.  Have someone read Ephesians 6:1-4.  
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.  (ESV)

So there it is: God’s plan for your family.  Paul’s written your job descriptions just about as simply as he possibly could.

Kids—Obey and honor.  Do what your parents say and treat them with loving respect.  I hope you don’t do it just because “the Bible tells you so.”  I hope you believe, like Paul does, that it’s the right thing to do.  The cool part of your responsibilities is that they come with a bonus: a promise!  Your obedience and honor leads to blessings.  It will “go well with you”—sweet!

Ok, ‘rents,  now it’s your turn—Raise your kids with Jesus.  Teach them how to lead holy, God-honoring lives, to be disciples.  That will require discipline at times, discipline for you (it’s a tough job) and discipline from you (they are kids, after all).  But be careful with that discipline.  Don’t go over the edge, because that can have some long-lasting repercussions.  Think “gentleness.”

So that’s the standard, the goal we’re aiming for.  If we fill our roles well, we will likely have a happy, gentle home.  Parents will lead their children, children will obey and honor what’s being taught, parents won’t lecture just for fun.  It sounds like a wonderful environment for peace and gentleness to blossom.  

But how’s it really going?  This may be what we’re striving for, but if your family is anything like mine, ya ain’t there yet.  If we’re serious about reaching this point, however, we need to figure out where we’re at and identify some things we can do to be better.  Take some time right now to have an honest conversation around the table.  (If now isn’t a good time, schedule when this conversation will take place.)  Be honest with each other, but remember to also be gentle.  

Kids, give one or two ways mom and dad can be more like the parents Paul writes about in these verses.  Parents, give one or two ways your kids could be more obedient or respectful.  Try and be specific.  This is not the time to pull out your list of every mistake your kids or your parents are making.  The goal is to help our families become more gentle, so let’s practice that even while we’re trying to improve it.

After you’ve each had a chance to share, be sure to pray about what you heard.  This could be the Holy Spirit talking to you!  How can you respond to this information in a way that will help you be a better parent, son or daughter?  

End your time together by rereading the passage and personalize it.

Kids (read in unison): Mom and Dad, I/we want to obey you in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor my/our father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with me/us and that I/we may live long in the land.” 

Parents (read in unison):  Kid/s, I/we will not provoke you to anger, but bring you up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

All (in unison): God, help us as we strive to be the family you want us to be.  Help us to be gentle in our home, so that we may also be gentle in your world.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.