Thursday, June 30, 2016

Pear is in the Air, Sunday's Message by Thursday June 30, 2016

In his message Sunday, Pastor Stephen spoke of going in the right direction. Reading from Matthew 7:13-14 and Galatians 5:1, 13-25, he distinguished between trying to save ourselves by good works and submitting to God's will for us.
He told of a minister, who in his early years, was a bit sharp. The minister was a little hard to take, and after church one Sunday, three sisters made sport of him in imitation and fun. Their father heard the girls and asked them to follow him. He took the girls to a nearby pear tree and instructed them to pick one to eat. It was early in the season and the pears weren't ripe.
"But Dad," one girl argued. "They will be hard and maybe even sour."
"Exactly," the father said. "But they are going in the right direction."
Pastor Stephen built on this metaphor describing the narrow gate as the right direction. He followed up with the Fruit of the Spirit as evidence of that right direction.
The message called me to reflect on the sweetness of a life in Christ and the bitterness of separation from Him that is our living water.
As trouble hits us globally, and markets crash and rise again, as politics cover the media with scorn and bile, it is good to taste the sweetness of Scripture today. Romans 8:28 tells us that all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose. Occasionally I see the Fruit of the Holy Spirit in myself, often I see it in others. When I see the Fruit, I taste the sweetness of life in Christ.
Yesterday a woman asked that I have a blessed day, simple really, but the instruction was a call to stay the path, live in right direction and its sweetness flooded me.
Thanks for reading. BEV

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Fiction University: Three Easy Edits for Better Emotional Descriptions...

Fiction University: Three Easy Edits for Better Emotional Descriptions...: By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy The right word can mean the difference between connecting emotionally with a reader and having them forge...
It's already Wednesday. I should be posting, but my huge readership will have to wait. I do have a correction, which I will edit, in the June 23rd post, Who's My Neighbor, I stated that it was the February 2016 Presbytery that provoked thought on neighbor-ness. However, it was actually the fall 2015 meeting of the Presbytery. Hum. That means I've been on this subject for a while and likely to remain.
All is well here, except my garden is full of weeds again. There's probably a superb metaphor in that, but I'm resisting it.

Okay, it's not as bad as this earlier photo.
A friend and mentor sent this article today from the Aquila Report. It examines the future of PCA, but is relevant to most mainline denominations in the US.
I am sad and praying for Istanbul, and Orlando. What are your prayers?  Posts to follow soon. Thanks for reading BEV

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Fruit of the Spirit
Galatians 5: 22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self‑control; against such things there is no law.
Session Three
Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, O righteous. Shout for joy all you upright in heart.

Papaya Song (I Like Bananas)
I like bananas, I know that mangoes are sweet
I like papayas (PAPAYAS!), but nothing can beat
The sweet love of God

I was walking round in circles five miles an hour
Tryin' to find my way back to the Heavenly Father
The world tasted sweet, but soon it turned sour
And then I asked Him in and received His power (1,2,3!)

You can search for the tropics to find a fruit that's new
You can swim in the ocean, until your face turns blue
But look no further, I'll tell you what to do
Just open your bible to Galatians 5:22

The fruit of the spirit, from love to self‑control
If you plant it in your heart it'll strengthen your soul
So guard your fruit for also we are told
That you fruit will rot if it's left out in the cold (1,2,3!)

Paul tells us that one of the ways the Spirit shows up in us is our joy. We can read about joy in the Bible in many places. Hannah sings a prayer when she learns she is pregnant after trying for many years. It is in 1 Samuel 2:1-10, but let’s just look at a few verses.
And Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord.
My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation. “There is none holy like the Lord: for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.

Think about it. What is your favorite place in the whole wide world? What was your favorite gift? Think of someone you really enjoy being around. What do you feel like when you are around them?
These things give us a tiny vision of what it’s like to belong to the Lord and know the joy of His salvation.
Let us pray using Psalm 16:7-11
I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore, my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.  For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

I have one more Scripture for you to consider Luke 2:10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
Great joy that will be for all people, the news of Jesus, the good news, the Gospel.

Our final song is, I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy
Lets sing.

I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy
Down in my heart (Where?)
Down in my heart (Where?)
Down in my heart
I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy
Down in my heart
Down in my heart to stay
And I'm so happy
So very happy
I have the love of Jesus in my heart (down in my heart)
And I'm so happy

So very happy
I have the love of Jesus in my heart

Final prayer
Lord may we be Your children. May we know the joy of Your salvation. Thank you for our parents, teachers and care givers. Thank you for our country. Be with us this week. Amen.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Hagerman Bible Study

Last Monday we listened to Submission Through Prayer, by James MacDonald. You can read part of the message here titled Honest Prayer. He spoke about four basics of enhancing or quickening your relationship to God through prayer (my words not his), focusing on Matthew 26:36-46.
Using the example of Jesus praying at Gethsemane, he spoke of honest prayer. In Matthew 26:39 Jesus asks, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” We read Jesus' honest prayer.
Considering the surface a full cup, we not only see what's in it but ourselves peering back, or, at least I imagine we do. I've reflected on this notion in my morning coffee and afternoon tea. What is in my cup? Who am I in Christ? These questions are honest questions. After-all, why would you be dishonest with a cup?
The second concept MacDonald elaborated was submissive prayer. Jesus says in Matthew 26:40, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may Your will be done.” MacDonald suggests that the cup not only represents the pain of dying on a cross and being betrayed by disciples, but the agony of separation from the Father. Though Jesus saw in that cup, himself being made sin, and with that remaking he would necessarily be separate from the Father, He prays God's will be done. He prays in complete submission to God.
When we cry out to God, "but Father I don't want to," God already knows. It is honest, and then we add, "Your will not mine." The second part is submissive prayer.
MacDonald moves to persistent prayer as the third idea, noting that Jesus, after checking on the disciples again, returns to pray; Matthew 26:43-44. MacDonald spoke of persisting in prayer until the prayer of submission gets from your head to your heart.
I reflected that it is the same for forgiveness. That we forgive seventy times seven, often the same offense, persisting until the forgiveness gets from our head to our hearts.
MacDonald went on to say that persistent prayer may change our circumstances, but always changes us. So too, with persistent forgiveness.
Finally, he spoke of victory through prayer, not victory in worldly things, though that is also possible, but as the Holy Spirit fills us in persistent prayer, He changes us into servants confident that God is leading and He will provide.
Thank you for reading. BEV

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Who are My Neighbors?

This is the first of four excerpts from last Sunday's message. Thank you for reading.

I’ve been asking these four questions of myself for several long bits and I’m going to go through them one by one.
One: Who is my neighbor and what does it mean to love them?
Two: What does it mean to bear fruit, the fruit of the Holy Spirit?
Three: How do I quicken, strengthen or increase my relationship to God?
Four: What is the evidence of my salvation?

I ask these questions because in the end, knowing peace is knowing my salvation and trusting in our Heavenly Father in a sure relationship, so that I may meet the fallen world as someone transformed in Christ, being remade in His likeness.

I’ve been asking who is my neighbor since attending Presbytery of the West in the fall of 2015. It was the topic for that Presbytery meeting. In light of the massacre in Orlando and the contentious, if entertaining, Presidential Primaries, I am shaken. Who is my neighbor? Is a candidate for office my neighbor? Omar Mateen was someone’s neighbor. The fifty slain were neighbors. Are Muslims my neighbors? What about my enemies?

Plough Quarterly, in their spring edition (coincidentally titled Who is my neighbor?), published Navid Kermani'Peace Prize of the German Booksellers acceptance speech. He for  spoke of an interview with Father Jacques Mourad who served in the Catholic Qaryatain's Catholic Parish in Syria and belonged to the order of Mar Musa founded on the idea of and dedicated to an encounter between Christianity and Islam and to love for Muslims. Kermani recounts how after being abducted by ISIS and held, Father Jacques was rescued by Muslims from the small Syrian town he served. He quoted Father Jacques as follows, "'The threat from ISIS, this sect of terrorists who present such a ghastly image of Islam, has arrived in our region,’ Father Jacques wrote to a French friend a few days before his abduction. ‘It is difficult to decide what we should do. Should we leave our homes? To us that seems very hard. The realization that we have been abandoned is dreadful – abandoned especially by the Christian world, which has decided to keep its distance so that the danger will stay far away. We mean nothing to them.’"

Have we abandoned our neighbors in war-torn Syria?

As I read through the names and photos of the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting I saw one man, Miguel Angel Honorato, a father of three, an active volunteer in the community someone who wore the cross of Christ in his photo. I caught myself thinking, I should pray for him and his family. But then, I wondered what about the others, the trendy hip clearly homosexual photos, some self-indulgent, some so bright and beguiling I had to smile, some tender and young, some hardened, but mostly just human. They are all gone now. Were they my neighbors? What would I look like to them?

I knew a municipal judge in Snyder Texas. He was a wry-witted man, a bachelor with the mark of many years at the bench and at life. He spoke of an older woman who tried to change him. He said, she was an old pinch-faced woman. Is that who I am?

Paul tells us in Galatians 5:13-15, 'For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.'

I think about the current Presidential Campaign. Are we biting and devouring one another? I think about terrorism and the victims of the Pulse nightclub and San Bernardino and the Paris attacks. Are we any closer to our neighbors? Where do we start? How do we go forward loving God and loving our neighbor?

Friday, June 17, 2016

Bible Study
Notes and observations
From June 6th

Francis Chan's message
When God Doesn't Listen

Francis Chan looked at Isaiah 58:1-9 among other Scriptures in his message entitled, When God Doesn’t Listen. I found the message challenging because I believe God always listens and I should be aware that He is my sovereign when I pray.

Chan suggested that he wanted a do-over, (my words, not his.) That he wanted to start over with God, that he hadn’t been taking God as seriously as God does. That hit home. I too take short cuts with worship, prayer and Children's Church, even this Bible study. As a consequence I feel myself further from God than I would like, and the Peace of my Savior lives as a too distant memory.

He spoke about how we will go to church, worship, pray and participate if all the elements are just right, if there is something good for the children at the church of our choice, if the music suits our ears, if the preacher doesn't go on forever.

I've heard the same complaints, I've even spoken a few demands myself, but I have been in the position of fighting for my church, in a sense owning it. Once when I felt myself particularly un-favored in the congregation, due in large part to my singular talent and taste for argument, I told my pastor that this was my church and I wasn't leaving. Let everyone else leave, I was staying. I believed then and still believe that a church works though troubles in relationships and it is called to do so. As we are with each other so we are with God. He reveals. We confess, ask for mercy from Him and one-another, we give and receive and for this poor living heart donor, we may in this way, actually love each other. I think that the church I belong to is much smaller than the one Francis Chan speaks of.

He went on to discuss our relationship, not only to our church, but to God and concentrated on how we pray. He spoke of a man who was leaving his wife and family just because he didn’t think things were going so well and the man wanted prayers for blessings on a new start. Francis Chan wondered aloud why the man would even pray for that, why after such great sin would he want to drag Chan with him into prayer to keep sinning. Good question. I have to believe there is much more to the story.

Isaiah 58:6-11 rights us when we begin to think prayer is our own free candy shop.

6“Is not this the fast that I choose:
    to loose the bonds of wickedness,
    to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed
 go free,
    and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
    and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
    and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
    the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
    you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
    the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry
    and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
    and your gloom be as the noonday.
11 And the Lord will guide you continually
    and satisfy your desire in scorched places
    and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
    like a spring of water,
    whose waters do not fail.

Thanks for reading and thank you Karen for causing me to look further into Isaiah 58. BEV

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Sunday’s Message by Thursday
Matthew 6:1-15
Luke 11:1-10
Neil filled the pulpit this week as Pastor Stephen was traveling.
Neil spoke on prayer citing Matthew 6, the Sermon on the Mount. He spoke about the hypocrites who make a big show of prayer and the about praying quietly in your own private place.
It made me think of times when I was younger, how I would go outside because the house was always full, full of life to be sure, but also nosy brothers, a mother with commands like practice your piano or run the dust mop. The house was full of noise. I would go to a great cottonwood tree and sit under it or climb into it. Sometimes I wouldn’t pray so much as sit. Once my prayer turned into a conversation with an imaginary friend. A nearby irrigator heard my conversation and shook his head. He gave me a wide berth.
God called me into a relationship early in my life, He called through prayer. I never worried about the content of my prayers only that I was praying to the One person who could do something about every problem, joy and heartache. He could also lead me in a different path. He could lead me according to His will.
I never thought of prayer as something showy. We prayed as a family at meal times and I surprised myself one year by asking not to join in. My father raised an eyebrow and asked why. I told him I thought it was a rote prayer and it didn’t feel like God was present. He laughed and said God was present, but I could pray silently. In the same way I always had a bit of trouble in the unison prayer of confession during the Sunday service. I’m over that now. Sitting on the pew next to the faithful made mince-meat of that particular arrogance.
Earlier in the week our Bible study listened to a message by Francis Chan. He spoke also of hypocrites and our lukewarm prayers. He spoke on Isaiah 58 and other passages, but what stuck me was that God hears my words, even mine.
Thank you Neil and Francis Chan.
More on Bible study tomorrow.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Children’s Church
Dexter First Presbyterian Church
June 12, 2016

The Fruit of the Spirit
Galatians 5: 22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Session Two
Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

Paul tells us what the fruits of the Spirit are in Galatians 5. The first result of the Holy Spirit is love. We will begin and end with this fruit of the Spirit. Last session we talked about our neighbor. We looked at who might be our neighbor and decided that even our enemy might be our neighbor.

Let’s open with our fruity song.
Papaya Song (I Like Bananas)
I like bananas, I know that mangoes are sweet
I like papayas (PAPAYAS!), but nothing can beat
The sweet love of God

I was walking round in circles five miles an hour
Tryin' to find my way back to the Heavenly Father
The world tasted sweet, but soon it turned sour
And then I asked Him in and received His power (1,2,3!)
You can search for the tropics to find a fruit that's new
You can swim in the ocean, until your face turns blue
But look no further, I'll tell you what to do
Just open your bible to Galatians 5:22

The fruit of the spirit, from love to self-control
If you plant it in your heart it'll strengthen your soul
So guard your fruit for also we are told
That you fruit will rot if it's left out in the cold (1,2,3!)
So, God loves us very much. How does He show that love?
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. Let us turn to Psalm 8 prayer.
O Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
    to still the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
    whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Jesus, speaking in Matthew 22:37-39 said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a
second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
John repeats Jesus’ words in First John 4:21, saying, “And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
How does God show His love?
He gave His Son. He forgives us. He give us peace. He shows mercy.
Can we do all of these things also?

The Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we re born to eternal life.
We pray these things in Jesus’ name Who taught us to pray saying:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.”

A Song about the Love of God
The love of God is greater far
  Than tongue or pen can ever tell.
It goes beyond the highest star
  And reaches to the lowest hell.
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
  God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled
  And pardoned from his sin.
 O love of God, how rich and pure!
  How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
    The saints’ and angels’ song.

When hoary time shall pass away,
  And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall;
When men who here refuse to pray,
  On rocks and hills and mountains call;
God’s love, so sure, shall still endure,
  All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
  The saints’ and angels’ song.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
  And were the skies of parchment made;
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
  And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
  Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
  Though stretched from sky to sky.
Final prayer
Lord may we be Your children. May we love our neighbors. Thank you for our parents, teachers and care givers. Amen.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Sunday's Message by Thursday
Scripture Galatians 1:1-24
Just a few notes before I forget.

Sunday morning I popped in an audio message on the way to church. I didn't listen to all of the sermon, but I was shaken by the initial understanding that God wasn't listening to my prayers, that I was a sinner and He didn't listen to sinners. (By the way, I since listened to the entire message and will write about it tomorrow. My initial impression was incorrect.)
Imagine my relief when I arrived at church and heard There's no such thing as Gospel plus. We do not and could not save ourselves by any amount of correct praying, thinking, working or even confessing. Much like Timothy Keller in Galatians for You, Pastor Stephen illustrated how the 'Gospel Plus' message perverts the Gospel and denies Jesus' all-sufficient grace. Pastor Stephen went on to speak about how the Law causes you to see yourself clearly, how it is a mirror by which we judge ourselves. We can never follow it completely or even well. The Gospel frees us from the Law.
Pastor Stephen spoke of a college course entitled, Life Worth Living offered at Yale University's Center for Faith and Culture. One of the key elements in the course was examining the truth claims of each faith and then asking, if the claims were true how would your life have to change.
In paring that to Galatians we see that we are no longer under the Law, but under Christ. If the Gospel message is true then everything in our lives should change. We would be transformed by the Gospel message and the Holy Spirit's in-dwelling, no longer burdened by fear and failure, but free to follow Christ.
Stephen closed with the notion that following Christ is a high standard, but Jesus does the work for us. It is not for us to add to the Gospel but to submit to Christ. James 2:14-26 states that faith without works is dead, but a closer reading reconciles Paul and James. The works James speaks of is the product or fruit of true faith, that is the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is not for us to profess our faith and then turn from Jesus, but to follow Him. Paul states in Galatians 5:13-15 just before defining the fruits of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit, that we were called to freedom, but asks us to use that freedom to serve one another and to love our neighbors s ourselves. This is the high standard, how grievous, though, not to try.
Thanks for reading BEV