Youth Officers

July 20, 2011 at 1:11 pm by  
Filed under Youth Group

Our 2011-2012 Youth Officers for the Elm Springs United Methodist Youth

President – Zoe Keller

Vice President – Sarah Zimmerman

12th Grade Representative – open

11th Grade Representative – Carley McGaugh

10th Grade Representative -Avery Hodson

9th Grade Representative – Catrina Taylor

8th Grade Representative – Fu Xin Keller

7th Grade Representative – Matthew Burgin (waiting confirmation)

6th Grade Representative – Gretchen Palmer


Wednesday Night Schedule

July 20, 2011 at 10:57 am by  
Filed under Youth Group

August 17, 6pm-8pm – One Night

Games, food, fun as we start back to school.  Prizes to the person who brings the most people, and the grade who brings the most canned goods for missions.  Dinner is served from 6:00 to 6:30 p.m.

August 24, 6pm-8pm – Elbow Grease

Finish off the youth space; bring a small item from home that represents you that will be added to the room.  Dinner is served from 6:00 to 6:30 p.m.

August 31, 6pm-8pm – Elm Spring’s Got Talent

Come and share in fun; take the stage if you want to share your talent!  Dinner is served from 6:00 to 6:30 p.m.

September 7, 6pm-8pm – Mission Trip Information Night

All youth who are interested in going on the mission trip next year and their parents/guardians need to attend.  Even if you don’t think you are going, come and see how you can support our teams.  Dinner is served from 6:00 to 6:30 p.m.

September 14, 6pm-8pm – Canned Food Scavenger Hunt

We will be collecting canned foods for Bread of Life at First United Methodist Springdale.  Consent forms required.   Dinner is served from 6:00 to 6:30 p.m.

September 21, 6pm-8pm – Retro Night

We are bringing back former youth group eras to share about their experiences and do some games.  Dinner is served from 6:00 to 6:30 p.m.

September 28, 6pm-8pm – Dime Store Dance

why not have a dance on a Wednesday?  If you feel you want to wear something new, then make sure nothing is more than $10 from a local thrift store.  Dinner is served from 6:00 to 6:30 p.m.


Youth Group Events and Forms

July 20, 2011 at 10:36 am by  
Filed under Youth Group

YOUTH WHO’S WHO 2011-2012You can download and print these forms for upcoming youth events.  They are in .pdf form.  Forms are also available at the church.  For any event offsite, youth must have the Annual Participation Form plus the consent form(s) for that activity.

Annual Participation Form 2011-2012

Youth Who’s Who 2011-2012

Consent Form Wild River CountryEvent



BEARING FRUIT – In Dependence John 15: 1 – 17 July 3, 2011

July 3, 2011 at 1:35 pm by  
Filed under Sunday Sermons

Imagine a scene with me:  Jesus is walking with his disciples.  They happen to be passing by a vineyard.  In that vineyard, they see someone, we can only assume is the owner of the vineyard, pruning some branches, and cutting some at the root and throwing them on a pile to be burned.  Jesus makes note of that vineyard, and later, when they are gathered around the table, he begins to speak: (read John 15:1 – 11)

Back then, a vineyard was a common thing.  A majority of liquid beverage at that time came either from fermented or unfermented grape juice, called either “wine” or “new wine”.  It was also common knowledge that in order to produce the most fruit, the vinedressers had to prune the runners and leaves way back, almost to the vine itself.

When I was in Albania, I saw a vineyard very closely cropped; almost no leaves, almost no runners.  I thought it had been a poor growing season.  But they explained to me:  a vineyard with a lot of leafy growth is pretty, but it doesn’t produce much fruit.  In order to get the best yield, the vines have to be cropped back very close to the vine.”

For just like a bunch of children or a bunch of sheep, a vine is an unruly thing.  If left to its own devices, a vine would grow all over the place, but produce very little fruit.  The process of pruning, then was often referred to as “training” the vine.  In other words, the vine needed to remain ordered, and not allowed to grow wildly.  If allowed to grow wildly, the vine would often expend most of its energy toward growing runners and leaves, and not expend its energy on its purpose:  bearing fruit.

There are many things the Bible may be ambiguous on, but this one thing is decidedly unambiguous:  undeniably, Jesus expects His disciples to bear FRUIT.

  • the first commandment was to “be fruitful and multiply”

Now, I don’t know about you, but the church that I have experienced is often expending a lot of energy in areas it believes is important, but those actions are not fruit-bearing!  The result of this is a decreasing mission to the lost and the needy. Likewise, I see Christians all the time that have forgotten or ignored their own call to fruitfulness and expend their time and energies in selfish activities that produce no fruit.  And Jesus is clear about what happens to the unfruitful;  they are cut and thrown into the fire.

If we are serious about fruit-bearing, we can expect PRUNING

Now, pruning can come in a lot of different ways, but one of the primary ways is through difficulty; through hardship. God cuts away those things that, while they may have brought comfort, were inhibiting our fruit-bearing capacity. I once dated a young woman I thought I was going to marry, and when she broke up with me – a painful pruning – I remarked to a friend, “where am I going to find the right person?”  To which she replied, “why don’t you focus on BECOMING the right person?” It was then I began to realize that this was a pruning, and that God was shaping me and training me for greater fruit. Where has God pruned you? Where might God be pruning you right now?

Jesus uses an interesting phrase in this story:  he says, “you have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.”  So, then, we discover one of the primary ways God prunes us for greater fruit-bearing:  God PRUNES us by His WORD.   it cuts away those things that are not fruit-bearing, in order to produce more fruit.

Hebrews 4:12  For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.

When we commend ourselves to God’s care and control; when we pray sincerely, “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done”; we submit ourselves to God’s pruning. And we invite Him to use that sharp-edged sword, with the skill of a surgeon’s scalpel, to cut between our soul and spirit, joint and marrow, and prune away those things that inhibit fruit-bearing:  things like coarse joking, unloving self-talk, anxieties and fears, selfishness, a harsh tongue, impure and lustful thoughts and deeds.  Paul gives us a list of things contrary to the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5: 19-21:  sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures,  idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. It is right after this list that we find the other list, our memory verse, with the fruit of the Spirit:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control.

In case you are wondering if God’s pruning is a random thing, it is not:  God prunes us for very specific reasons:

God PRUNES us for greater FRUIT-BEARING

There are two main types of fruit, which we will be looking at the rest of this month on the topic of fruit-bearing: there is the inward, spiritual fruit; and then there is the outward, more measurable fruit.  I’m not going to say much about these now; just suffice to say that God’s pruning is to increase these fruits in our lives.

God PRUNES us to show His GLORY

The non- and nominally Christian watch with great scrutiny when a professing Christian encounters difficulty; the one question they want to know is, “what difference does the life of faith make?”  For if we handle our pruning the same way as the unbelieving world: with anger, bitterness, withdrawl, unhealthy distractions, that is what the unbelieving world finds so unbelievable. But it is possible, even likely, that God is pruning us to make space in our lives for God to SHOW UP!  For God to reveal more of Himself to you and to the world!

God PRUNES us to give us greater JOY

  • James 1:2  Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.

Think of the things we endure if we know there is a greater joy ahead:  we go to school in order to pursue our dream job.  We build a house, knowing it will bring a lifetime of shelter. Women, one word: childbirth!

Hebrews 12:2 Because of the joy awaiting Jesus, he endured the cross…(!) We can know that God’s pruning will bring us greater JOY if we simply remain in Him!

Which brings us back to our Scripture for today, in John 15, there is a very telling phrase in verse 5, and it tells us the most important part of bearing fruit:  staying closely, intimately connected to the VINE:  “…apart from me, you can do NOTHING.” On this weekend, INDEPENDENCE Day, we celebrate our freedom, the birth of our country; but while we are free, we are not remotely INDPENDENT.  As fruit-bearing followers of Christ, we are told that we must stay completely and utterly dependent on Him. We must trust Christ for our EVERY need, just as the branch is dependent upon the vine. When we try to fulfill those needs outside of our relationship with Christ, we separate ourselves from the vine. And apart from Christ, we can do NOTHING.

In our culture, we draw so much of our identity from our work and our possessions, when God is pruning us and takes something away, we identify more with that part that is taken away than the part that is still connected to the vine!  We say, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

But I want you to think of pruning in a different way:  when you feel the edge of the pruning shears, when God closes one door; when a chapter of our life comes to a close, instead of screaming out, “My God, my God…why?”, ask:

  1. What new opportunities for fruit-bearing are you presenting to me?
  2. How are you preparing to GLORIFY YOURSELF through this?
  3. reveal to me the GREATER JOY you have for me

If you are traveling in wine country out of season and see a vineyard which is overrun with branches and some weeds, then it is clear tat the master of the vineyard assumes no more fruit will come from these plants.  But, if you see a vineyard that looks almost bare, if it is pruned, cleaned, trained, then the master still expects fruit to come from them.  It may not be now, but it will be sometime.  Therefore, as you experience the pruning in your own life, know that the Master still expects fruit to come in your life.  It may not be now, but it will be sometime.  But in the MEANTIME, stay connected, stay utterly dependent, day by day, on Christ, the True Vine.



Growing Shoots Thru Using Your GIFTS 1 Cor 12: 12-31a June 12, 2011

July 3, 2011 at 1:32 pm by  
Filed under Sunday Sermons

I want you to think with me for a moment, about your morning:  some of us woke up this morning, and immediately entered into the internal debate of whether or not to go to church.  Is it worth the hassle of getting the kids up, getting ourselves and them ready, shoveling in some breakfast, going out the door, finding a place to park, getting them in, grabbing a cup of coffee, getting a bulletin and a nametag, and finding a seat (not too close to the front!). After all, there is grass to be mowed, golf to be played, fish to be caught, crafts to be crafted, you name it. But you are here! If that is your story this morning, I salute you.

But let me tell you about some others’ mornings.  Someone was here early to make the coffee; someone else put together the hospitality cart complete with coffee and cookies and put them out.  Someone came early to make sure the lights and heat were on, and that the sound and video were working properly. Yesterday, someone was here cleaning the church so you could have a clean place to sit, to put your kids, etc.  People were here earlier this week to print and fold the bulletins, and print and post the nametags.  There was a group here to practice the music you have enjoyed this morning.  For Sunday School, teachers have worked diligently to prepare a lesson.  Still others have made sure that there are teachers, curriculum, and supplies to carry out those lessons. Others this week made sure the light and heat bills were paid, and that the building was in good repair.   Still others, last week and for weeks and months prior, have given faithfully to make sure there was money available to keep the light and heat on.  Earlier this week, groups have met at the church, of all ages, enjoying fellowship, study, and encouragement.  Regarding staff, the Staff-Parish met last week, making sure we keep our staff accountable and adequate for the ministry needs of the church.  Several people met to assure these things.  Still another group met last week to oversee the ministry, maintenance, and mission of the church.

There are those who are working to minister to the women and men of this church. Still others this week have visited hospitals, sent cards, and made phone calls to those who are ill or shut-in.  Some have prayed for you, for me, for the church, and for the community. Some have prayerfully volunteered to help with new recovery and support ministries.  Still others have dedicated their time and talents to the future mission and vision of the church.

In all, I would say about 100 people this week have stepped out in faith, using their gifts, and representing Christ to you and to the surrounding community, exercising gifts of Administration, Apostleship, compassion, discernment, evangelism, exhortation,  faith, giving/generosity, healing, helping, knowledge, leadership, miracles, pastoral gifts, prophecy, servanthood, shepherding, teaching, wisdom, just to name a few.  All are not only important, but completely necessary for this body of Christ to function effectively.

There was a juggler, caught speeding going up to Branson to do a show, and officer asked him to prove it.  “I sent all my equipment ahead and I don’t have anything to juggle.”  Officer offers some flares he has in the trunk, lights flares, and man proceeds to juggle them.  Immediately, a car, driving erratically, pulls up behind the trooper’s squad car, a man, obviously drunk, staggers out and puts himself in the back seat of the squad car.  When the officer inquires, he says, “you may as well just cart me off to jail, cuz there’s no way I’m going to be able to pass that sobriety test!”

Each of us who calls ourselves Christian are given spiritual gifts, and while juggling is not one of them, today we are going to briefly look at spiritual gifts what they are, and how we understand them:

  1. They are easily misunderstood –Paul writes to the Corinthian church specifically for this reason; they have confused the use of spiritual gifts with magic, they have confused the activity of the Holy Spirit in their lives with the perceived actions of the “speechless idols” they used to worship.  They have misused or ignored other gifts because they didn’t understand them
  • that’s a lot like the modern-day church.  We easily confuse, misuse, and ignore our spiritual gifts because quite honestly we don’t know what they are, what are ours specifically; we don’t understand what they’re for, or the proper use and scope of them.  And we’re especially scared of that one “speaking in tongues” because we don’t want to be confused with those charismatic churches.  After all, we’re United Methodist!
  1. They are spiritual abilities – not like a natural talent; not kicking or throwing or hitting a ball;  when we talk about athletes, we call them ‘gifted’ or say they ‘have a gift’; these are not like that.  True, some people are simply born with the potential to throw or kick or jump higher and faster, but they have also had training and opportunity to highlight those gifts.
  2. They are to be developed and practiced; do not often come fully formed.  If you have the gift of evangelism, for example, it takes practice talking to others about your faith.  If you have the gift of wisdom, giving wise advice, it takes courage and sensitivity to give advice when and how it is needed; otherwise, you may come off bossy or a know-it-all.  And when it comes to speaking in tongues, or other languages (translated – removing the barrier of language to communicating the Good News of Jesus) it can come through an immediate gift, but I have seen it work best in a person that is adept at picking up foreign languages, and that requires study and skill.
  3. They are from the Holy Spirit, and they are for those who are born again.  In order to receive your spiritual gifts, you MUST be born again. And let me say this:  if you are not born again, the Holy Spirit does not live in you, and you have not received any spiritual gifts.  Jesus is very clear:  you must be born again.
  4. They are given differently – the Spirit enables us differently.  There are different gifts, for different purposes, but all work together.  In fact, most of the gifts can be paired, and often a person finds the complement gift in another believer (again, the need for the body of Christ)
  5. They are given to build the Body of Christ – A spiritual gift is given as a means of helping the entire church – the gifts are designed specifically for the benefit of the BODY!

Today is the day we celebrate the birthday of the church; the day of Pentecost. We hear the story of how the wind of the Spirit blew into the room the Disciples were praying in, and enabled them with the gift of speaking in different languages. And each spilled out into the street, telling everyone, in their native language, about the Good News of the Resurrected Christ.  And what was the result? What was the result of their being faithful and using their spirit-given gift?  3,000 people came to know Christ as their savior that day!  3,000 people joined the church!  THAT, my friends, is BODY Building!  And I will tell you this, if you use your spirit-given gifts, the church will grow!  Whether it is teaching, giving, leadership, administration, and the list goes on.

Some questions:

  1. Do you know what your gifts are?  If not, what are you doing to find out?
  2. Are you putting your gifts to good use?  (person as teacher who is more gifted in administration) There is no shame in denying what you are ASKED to do in order to fulfill what you are CALLED to do:  a short-term “no” is ok as long as it is for a greater long-term YES
  3. Are your gifts being used for the good of the church?

Now, some notes about the distribution and use of gifts:

  • Just because you are not gifted in that area, does not mean you cannot operate in it.  For example, we are all told to “be ready at all times to give an account for the hope that you have” (evangelism) and all of us are called to witness by our words and our actions.  Just because you don’t have the ‘gift’ of evangelism, doesn’t mean you are absolved from that command
  • We may not all have the gift of giving, but each of us is called to tithe 1/10th of our income for God’s service
  • Above all things, we are to exercise our gifts in a loving manner; for if it is not done in love, it is done in vain.
  • Last and most, we are to USE our gifts

-my grandmother loved to knit.  And for Christmas and birthdays, we would always receive some of her handiwork.  She made afghans, wool hats, mittens, sweaters, you name it.  But whether we liked them or not, or whether they fit us or not, every time Grandma would come and visit, we were told to go put on the item she had made us.  Now, it didn’t matter if it was January or July, we had to parade our gifts so that Grandma could see that our gifts were being used.  And I do remember, regardless of the way it made me feel, it always brought a smile to Grandma’s face.

Friends, God has given us these gifts, and we are to use them.  If you want help identifying your gifts, talk to me and we can figure it out together.  Starting in July, my Sunday School class will be going through a study on spiritual gifts: identifying them, developing them, and above all, USING them.  I will repeat that study in the fall during an evening study (probably Wednesdays if that works for those interested).  If you know what your gifts are and don’t know how to best use them, talk to me and we will figure it out together.

Let me pray for us as we close.


Growing Shoots through Presence Hebrews 10: 21 – 32 June 5, 2011

July 3, 2011 at 1:30 pm by  
Filed under Sunday Sermons

In sub-Saharan Africa, a very strange thing occurs on a fairly regular basis.  In the plains, a delicate ecosystem exists that is made up of predators, prey, and scavengers.  Two of those who exist in the predator category are lions and hyenas.  And they do not get along, primarily because they compete for the same food source.  But here is the interesting part:  if a whole pack of hyenas has killed a wildebeest or a gazelle or another prey animal, and just one lion lets out a roar to challenge them, they scatter.  Not so with a pride of lions.  If a pride of lions is feasting after the hunt, no one challenges them.  But a pride of lions may be no more than 6 to 10; while a pack of hyenas may number 40 or 50.  And yet those 40 or 50 will lose out and go hungry if just one lion elbows in.  Why?  Because a pack of hyenas does not operate as a pack; it’s an individualistic free-for-all, and their thinking is that one lion can do a variety of damage to one hyena.  But I believe if just once, that pack of hyenas joined together as one; if that pack-as-one would just show up, the lion would be overwhelmed.

I say this today because the church is known almost world-wide as the Sleeping Giant.  We’ve somehow believed the lie that Christianity is both “too big to fail (reminiscent of the banking crisis of a few years ago) and an individual choice, or at least a private matter.  If it is too big to fail, we can easily excuse our individual participation as unimportant or unnecessary; the church can go on without me, so I can wind the leash out as far as possible and still think I’m connected.  And if we err on the side of individual choice or being a “private matter”, we miss the boat entirely.  Look throughout Biblical history; read the Biblical witness. Biblical faith has NEVER been a private matter; it has ALWAYS been a cooperative, community matter!

And the Enemy Satan is a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  And when he roars, often the church scatters.  But if the church would join together as one; if the church would just show up; Satan would have no choice but to flee!

The quote “half of life is just showing up” is greatly attributed to author/actor/director Woody Allen.  I’m going to borrow it today, and say “half of the Christian life is just showing up.”

First, Half of the Christian life is just showing up because the Christian life was never intended to be lived alone. Denni reminded us of that just a few weeks ago; we are NOT Lone Rangers. Jesus started it when he chose a dozen followers to be on his team.  Even when he sent them out, he sent them in groups.  He designed the entire plan for transforming the world around relationships together among believers. And Jesus called this team “the church.”

Unfortunately, we have come to think of the church in ways that God never intended.  In Scripture, the Church is always a gathering of people, not a building. Even the greek word for church, ekklesia, means “the people who are called.”  We do this because the church is meant to be a movement, not a monument.  But far too many monuments exist today where movements once existed.  If this building today were destroyed, the church would still exist, because the church is YOU.  The church was not intended to be some complicated organization with layers and layers of bureaucracy and denominational labels; it was intended to be a gathering of people for worship and growth in discipleship. And because of the church’s identity (a people) and intent (worship and growth), being an active part of a Bible-believing fellowship of believers is not an option.

The number one reason for Christians to show up for church is Jesus Christ Himself.  Matthew 16:18, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it.”  Jesus set out to build his church out of his followers.  Paul calls it the “body of Christ.”  He promised that the power and authority of Satan himself could not overcome a gathering of faithful believers.  As Christians, we are devoted to Jesus.  We are on his side.  We have consented to make his priorities our priorities.  If Jesus wants, then, to build his church, then we should want to build his church.

  • Some say churches have problems.  I agree.  Churches have people they don’t like.  Some churches fail to faithfully obey the Bible.  If we think about it, churches have lots of things we could pick apart:  the music, the sermons, the offerings, and most especially the people.  Some try to justify their divorce from the church because it doesn’t measure up to their expectations.
  • Well, I agree.  Churches do fall short; churches have problems, and churches fail.  But so does my body.  It doesn’t look the way I would like it to look.  It doesn’t always work the way I want it to.  It doesn’t always feel the way I would like it to feel.  But that doesn’t mean I give up and move out!  I do the best with the body I have, and that goes for the church as well.  We do the best we can with the Body of Christ we have.

The second reason for Christians to show up for church is because we participate in the body of Christ for Jesus’ sake. Let’s look again at the passage for this morning:  Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another.

  • Isn’t that interesting? The reason Christians come to church is to encourage and help others. We don’t do it for ourselves; we do it to bless others. Romans 15:1 tells us, “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” We go to church to strengthen others. We go to church to help those who are hurting and failing. We go to church to bear witness to our neighbors and to build them up.
  • John Kennedy’s most famous line from his inauguration speech was, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” That’s the way the church, the Body of Christ, functions. We go to church to be a blessing more than to be blessed. We go to give more than to receive. We go to serve more than to be served.  We benefit when we are able to serve others.

Now there is a third reason to show up at church, but it must be the last reason.  We share in the life of the church for ourselves. First for Christ, second for others, lastly for ourselves

  • It is well documented the benefits of regularly attending church.  Regular church attenders live longer, are happier and healthier; they have better social development, a sense of purpose and well-being; less anxiety over the future; and lower blood pressure,
  • Now, some may want to argue the point that someone they know goes to church and is miserable.  You know, chronically unhappy, always criticizing, always complaining, always finding fault with church life and church people.  The person who, if they have the joy of the Lord in their heart, they forgot to inform their face!  Does this disprove the research?  No, absolutely not.  This is a person who has gotten their priorities out of whack.  They are either coming to church to satisify their own agenda, or to appease someone else (you know the type:  those who come to church just to see who didn’t?)

So, if half of life is just showing up, what’s the other half?  I want to tell you, it is the difference between being present in CHURCH, and being PRESENT in church.  How did your morning go today? Did you wake up well-rested, get up quietly, get your cup of coffee and spend time in your devotional reading;  your children woke up quietly and got dressed, coming down to breakfast as a family, where you shared a moment of peace and tranquility?  Everyone got to church with several minutes to spare, visited with friends, greeted newcomers, and quieted your spirit as worship began, eagerly anticipating a word from God today?

Or did your morning go like this:  you woke up too early to the noise of children quarrelling in the bathroom, nudged your significant other, debated whether you would go to church, decided to avoid the guilt and go, ran through the shower, gulped a cup of coffee and had a few bites of toast, trying to keep your cool as the children came out in what-were-they-thinking clothes, marched them back in to change, threw some food at them, looked at the clock, “we’re going to be late!”  ran to the car, forgot your Bible, ran back to the car, forgot your keys, ran to the car, head count: one is missing!  Yell back in the door, “if you don’t come RIGHT NOW, I’m going to leave you here!”  Pulled into the church lot on two wheels, had to park all the way in the back, knew you were late, wanting to sneak into the back but DRAT the back rows are all full!  Slink to the 3rd row from the front as the first song is ending, and try to look composed and ready to worship.

I can tell you ours went more like the latter!  So how do you make being PRESENT in church happen?  First, I’ll tell you, it’s not easy! It must be intentional; if it means arriving a few minutes early to breathe, and to center yourself, make it a priority and do it.  If it means getting up an extra 15 minutes early (but it’s the only day I can sleep in!  Tell it to Jesus!)  Being PRESENT in worship means bringing all of your person: body, mind, and spirit, into the presence of the Almighty;  it means, as the first commandment says, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and all your strength.  Are you present this morning?

For the record, I expect to report to Jesus when my course on earth is finished.  And when I do, I am sure he won’t ask me about what schools I attended or my GPA;  how many books I’ve written, or how many I’ve read; how many TV broadcasts we aired.  I expect him to ask me about his church.  I expect him to ask me if I was faithful in doing my part within the Body of Christ, and I expect him to ask how I lived my life as a faithful disciple within the Body of Christ.  If we were intentional about being present in CHURCH, and PRESENT in worship; giving our hearts, minds, and strength to His worthy name. That’s what He will be asking of me. And I wouldn’t be surprised if He asked you the same things.

Thanks for showing up today.  Amen.


GROWING SHOOTS through Prayer 2 Chron 7: 11 – 16 May 29, 2011

July 3, 2011 at 1:28 pm by  
Filed under Sunday Sermons

In the epic movie of ten years ago, “The Perfect Storm”  the story is told of a fishing boat that is caught in the worst storm of the century.  100 foot swells, torrential rain, howling wind, and the boat is in serious peril.  They decide they need to turn around. Here is the scene:

My question is this:  Why did they wait so long?  Why did they leave prayer as a last resort?  Perhaps if they had prayed before they left, God would have done like he did in the days of Noah:  revealed that he was sending a great storm, and they would have stayed home!  Why did they wait so long?

Why do we?  Why do we wait to pray?

Reasons we don’t pray:

  1. Pride – prayer is first and most a recognition that there is a God, and we are not him!
  2. Lack of faith – we don’t pray because we don’t believe God can or will do what we ask
  3. Fear of a conversation with God – distance in relationship
  4. Unconfessed sin in our lives – a barrier to prayer.  A holy God cannot even be in the presence of sin, so we are barred at the door when we attempt to carry sin into his presence.

Reasons we don’t pray as often as we ought (without ceasing)

  1. Same as above, plus an unwillingness to pray the big prayers, expecting big things mainly because of the consequences – what if God really does what we ask?
  2. Unwillingness to pray the hard prayers – story of Amy in Ohio: “Amy, hit hard and fast, …”

“The one concern of the Devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.” Samuel Chadwick

The Bible gives us several reasons we are TO pray: here they are:
-for healing – James 5:13 – 16 13Are any among you suffering? They should keep on praying about it. And those who have reason to be thankful should continually sing praises to the Lord.14Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord.15And their prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make them well. And anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.16Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.

-for demon possession – Mk 9:29 “these kind only come out by prayer”

-for God’s intervention – the Psalms are full of intercessory prayers – “Lord, deliver me from the hands of mine enemies” etc.

-confession 1 John 1:8-98If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth.9But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong

-for spiritual gifts (ex. Wisdom – James 1:5) ”5If you need wisdom–if you want to know what God wants you to do–ask him, and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking.6But when you ask him, be sure that you really expect him to answer, for a doubtful mind is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.7People like that should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.”

  • Pay close attention to the warning as well!  There was a preacher in a drought and all the people asked him to pray for rain.  So they had a special prayer service scheduled to pray for rain.  As the people began to arrive, the pastor was on the front steps of the church, and began yelling at them.  “You faithless people!  Have you no faith in God?  Have you no comfort in the Spirit?  Have you no confidence in your prayers?”  One of the church members, bewildered, asked what was wrong.  The pastor replied, “You came to pray for rain, didn’t you?  And not one of you brought an umbrella!”

-for the filling of the Holy Spirit

ex:  On the day of Pentecost, where were the disciples?  In a room, PRAYING

-in fact, in almost every case, great moves of God were preceded not by pious acts, or by diligent study of Scripture, or by faithful living, but by PRAYER

So why do we pray?

  1. it is a natural tendency to pray – prayer expresses our search for meaning, our longing for relationship, our need to grow; it is our expression of our hunger for God
  2. It is a Disciplined practice – Though it is a natural tendency, there is a difference between a tendency and a practice – how do we make a tendency a practice?  Through discipline (the root of discipleship)
  3. It is God’s chosen means of communication:  We pray to communicate with God – that means communication with God is possible! And not just one-way; prayer is not so that we can give our wish-list to some cosmic Santa Claus; prayer is a two-way communication
    1. Far too often, we visit the throne of grace, and excuse ourselves before God can get a word in edgewise!  We need to take a minute to see if God has something to say to us!
    2. What does that mean about prayer?  It means, plain and simple, that prayer doesn’t change THINGS; prayer certainly doesn’t change GOD;  prayer changes US.
  • We pray to experience the presence of God – God is present when we pray, but here is the nugget:  each time we enter into the presence of God, we are transformed; renewed, made pure and holy

Look at your neighbor.  Look them up and down.  Check them out.  Now, did you notice their knees?  Were they worn?  If they have shorts or a skirt, do they have callouses on their knees?  St. James the Less was nicknamed “Camel Knees.”  He had big ugly callouses on his knees because whenever he felt the urge to pray, he knelt and prayed, and he felt the urge a lot.  What is probably more true is that he desired to be in the presence of God as much as he could.  May you have that same desire, and may it drive you to your knees often.

Let us pray – God, give to us the desire to pray.  While it is a natural tendency for a Christian to pray, we are unnatural beings.  Forgive us for the many times we fail you.  Forgive us for the times we have counted our own abilities above yours, and have come to you only in our most desperate hour.  Restore in us that desire, that need to be in your presence.  This we pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen.


Taking Root: Going DEEP Ephesians 3.14-21 May 22, 2011

July 3, 2011 at 1:24 pm by  
Filed under Sunday Sermons

When I was playing football in High School, our field was known as one of the best in the conference.  The grass was soft and lush and green; you almost didn’t mind getting driven into it.  But it was not that way by accident; it was watered and fertilized regularly, and well-cared for by the grounds crew.  After each game, they would go out and replace any divots, re-seed and patch where it was needed, and generally bring the grass back to where it needed to be for the next game.

One summer, though, disaster struck.  The sprinkler system failed on the field, and was not repaired for several weeks.  It was a particularly hot and dry summer as well, and the field took a severe beating.  The grass, once plush and green, grew tough and dry.  They tried to keep it watered with hoses and sprinklers, but it was a losing battle.  After July passed into August, they finally got it repaired.  The grass again was green, but we noticed as we began to play that the turf didn’t come up so easily in our cleats.  We had better traction even in rain games.  The field required less time to recover after a game, and a more relaxed schedule by the grounds crew.  We even won more games that year (I won’t give all the credit to the field, though).

Later we found out the reason for the change:  with a lack of water the summer before, the grass had to send its roots deep to find water.  And, the deep roots anchored the grass more firmly to the soil.  It wasn’t as easily torn up when we ran over it, and was able to recover more quickly after being pounded by so many cleated feet on Friday night.

Why do we need deep roots?  Why, as our passage today says, do we need to be deeply rooted and grounded in love? Why have we discussed the different things we must be rooted in:  rooted in God’s love, rooted in God’s Word, and last week Denni shared with us the need to be rooted in God’s community?

Jesus told a parable to his disciples about a farmer scattering seed. I mentioned it two weeks ago, and invite you to revisit it with me again:

“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. 4 As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. 5 Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. 8 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!

Did you notice verse 6?  “but the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died.”

Jesus knew his disciples, and knows us, and knows that without deep roots, plants die. Without roots in God’s Love, God’s Word, and God’s community, WE die.

So, in order for us to live, to produce the fruit God desires, and has even purposed for us, we have to have deep roots.

Deep roots make for  FIRM FOOTING

As in the story from the beginning of this message, when the roots grew deep, we found the field to be firmer, but faster. We were able to maximize our abilities because the rooted grass made for firm footing.  And in the times when we really had to dig deep for all we had, we were able to sustain because our feet were firmly grounded.

Jeremiah 17: 5-8   5 This is what the Lord says:    “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength  and turn their hearts away from the Lord.
6 They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land.

7 “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. 8 They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought.    Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.

Deep roots make for UNFALTERING FAITH

When the hard times come, when we face trouble or calamity or persecution or hardship or depression, or when the Hogs lose, or you get laid off, or the bills run late, or the baby is crying, or the electric goes out in an ice storm, or we don’t have money for food, does it mean that God does not love you any more?  Does it mean you are a loser?  Does it mean you’re no good?  Does it mean God has abandoned you?  Does it mean you’ve done something so terrible even God won’t forgive you?

Not if your roots go DEEP.  The apostle Paul wrote similar words from prison (in fact, where he is writing the Ephesians letter);  in 2 Corinthians 11: 24 Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. 26 I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not.[c] 27 I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.

But because of his unfaltering faith in God, because he had been planted firmly in the Love of God, the Word of God, and the Community of God, he did not falter. He persisted until he could truly say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.”

Now I don’t know about you, but I haven’t been beaten, tortured, imprisoned, stoned, flogged or shipwrecked (and no, running out of gas on your fishing boat doesn’t count) and I would bet you haven’t been either.  So what does it take to convince us of the depth of the love of God?

Deep roots make for a FRUITFUL FUTURE

If there is one thing I am certain of, from the Biblical witness, it is that God expects us to bear fruit.  God expects a return on His investment. God has planted His seed within you, and expects fruit. And we are charged with the fruit-bearing task.

Jesus himself said, John 15:5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.

With the advent of the computer generation, many new words have found their way into the English language, like WYSIWYG.  It stands for “What You See Is What You Get.”  We have followed the linguistic trend in our society, and we have become WYSIWYG’s.  We have said, “It doesn’t get any better than this.  What you see is what you get.”

Consider the oak tree now.  If it were a WYSIWYG, a mighty oak would fall at the slightest wind; at the slightest adversity. The oak is a large and majestic tree, but did you know you only see about half of it?  The oak, and most other trees, have a root system underground that is roughly equal to its size above ground.  Its root system is where it gets its strength, its stability, and its majesty.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be a WYSIWYG Christian.  I want to continue to explore the great and wonderful things Christ has done for me.  I want to let Christ change and remake me, giving me a strong root system, so that when adversity comes, I will be able to stand.  I want there to be more to me than meets the eye; I want to have strong roots in God’s word that hold firm.  Don’t be a WYSIWYG; be an OAK!

So let your roots grow deep:  deep in God’s love, deep in God’s WORD, and deep in God’s Community.  You will find firm footing when life’s trials confront you;  you will find unfaltering faith when you need it most, and you will bear fruit for the Kingdom, just as God purposed for you.


Taking Root: Our Spiritual DNA 2 Timothy 1: 3 – 14 May 8, 2011

July 3, 2011 at 1:21 pm by  
Filed under Sunday Sermons

Key Verse – 2 Timothy 1:5

I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you.

DNA – DNA consists of two long polymers of simple units called nucleotides, with backbones made of sugars and phosphate groups joined by ester bonds. These two strands run in opposite directions to each other and are therefore anti-parallel. Attached to each sugar is one of four types of molecules called bases. It is the sequence of these four bases along the backbone that encodes information. This information is read using the genetic code, which specifies the sequence of the amino acids within proteins.

Within cells, DNA is organized into long structures called chromosomes. These chromosomes are duplicated before cells divide, in a process called DNA replication. Most living organisms store most of their DNA inside the cell nucleus and some of their DNA in the mitochondria or cloroplasts.

The double-helix model of DNA was first discovered and described by As first discovered by James D. Watson and Francis Crick.  Their mothers must have been proud.

Can you imagine that conversation? “Mom, I discovered a part of every living cell that codes its replication complete with genetic strands that determine characteristics like eye color, behavior patterns, and intelligence!”

“That’s nice, dear.”  Said only as a mom can!

I remember when I sat down with my parents to tell them I was going to pursue God’s call for me to be a minister; I sat them down at the kitchen table and said, “I have decided what I’m going to do with my life.”  To which my mom replied, “Oh, you have…” as if I had just bought a new shirt or finished my pinewood derby car!

And when I said I was going to go to seminary, I remember a period of silence, and then my dad saying, “Well, you’ll only have to buy one book!”

Now you know where I get my warped sense of humor from!

The fact is, we get a lot of things transmitted to us through genetic means: eye and hair color, height, weight, etc.

But there are some things we receive by nurture; by our upbringing. Things like our temperament, our coping skills, and even our spiritual lives. While no double-helix model exists, I would suggest we have two primary strands that anchor our spiritual DNA:  our father and mother.

In fact, psychologists say that the way we view God is directly related to how we view our parents;  we get our sense of justice and authority from our fathers, and we get our sense of nurture and care from our mothers.   My dad was an electrician, so I thought of God as a big man in the sky that wired everything together. “Let there be light” was a real event for me!  Similarly, I saw my mother holding together a house of 7 children, complete with ALL the drama, while still working, providing food, clean clothes, and kissing our boo-boos.  I came to view God as a nurturing being, flowing in and through every thing, providing my every need.

I can only hope to pass down an accurate image of God to my children!

Turning to our Scripture this morning, we hear just a few words of this type of spiritual heritage; this spiritual DNA.  Paul reminds his protégé Timothy of his own spiritual DNA:  2 Timothy 1:5 “I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you.”

As male-dominated as the Jewish faith was in Paul’s day, it is amazing that he would attribute this GENUINE faith to the two WOMEN in Timothy’s life!  And he calls it, rightly so, a GENUINE faith;  in other translations, it is said it is a SINCERE faith, an UNFEIGNED faith; a faith without hypocrisy or dilution.

And, having called to mind the heritage of genuine faith he received, he then gives these words of instruction:  the passing on of the spiritual DNA entrusted to him:

DO NOT be ashamed of your faith

2 Timothy 1:8 -

NIGHT and DAY give thanks

2 Timothy 1:3 -

ALWAYS guard the TRUTH

2 Timothy 1:14 -

This passing on of the gift is not something that happens passively;  Paul exhorts Timothy to “fan into flames” the gift he has been given

Question for Reflection:

Who are your spiritual parents? Who has guided you along your spiritual journey?

Who looks to you as their spiritual parent?