Martin Luther’s Prayer

Martin Luther’s Prayer:

Behold, Lord,
An empty vessel that needs to be filled. My Lord, fill it.
I am weak in faith; Strengthen thou me.
I am cold in love; Warm me and make me fervent,
that my love may go out to my neighbour.
I do not have a strong and firm faith;
At times I doubt and am unable to trust thee altogether.
O Lord, help me. Strengthen my faith and trust in thee.
In thee I have sealed the treasures of all I have.
I am poor; Thou art rich and didst come to be merciful to the poor.
I am a sinner; Thou art upright.
With me there is an abundance of sin; In thee is the fullness of righteousness.
Therefore, I will remain with thee of who I can receive but to whom I may not give.
Amen.
The month of October marks the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, with churches around the world recognizing this important date in the history of the Christianity.  The anniversary marks the time when an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther posted what we today known as the 95 Theses on the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther’s desire was to reaffirm for all Christians the truth that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. This act, along with others, led to churches breaking away from the Roman Catholic Church and forming new groups and denominations.

New Sermon Series: Who’s Got Your Back?

Who has made you who you are today? Parents are usually high on the list, but also teachers, bosses, spouses, children, Sunday school teachers, among others. People have a huge impact on who we are and are becoming, so we will spend these next weeks studying some of these essential relationships in our lives through the relationships in King David’s life.  Join us for the next 5 weeks as we explore these God-given relationships that are meant to strengthen us in our Christian walk.

New Heritage Preschool Director Hired

We are very happy to announce that we have hired a new Heritage Preschool Director.  Cindy Ensey is a lifelong Christian, with a calling to children’s ministry since the age of 16.  She has over 25 years of experience as a children’s pastor and has been running a daycare out of her home until now.  In that time, she has organized many community events and sees reaching out to her community as an important part of her ministry.  This is what Cindy told us in her application:

“I would love the opportunity to be involved in a place where the love of Jesus is shared with children through learning, play, and social networking with parents and the community. With the help of God, I believe Heritage Preschool could be that place.”

Cindy currently lives in Farmington, MO, but will be relocating to Harrisonville in the coming weeks.  We look forward to having her join us and begin to work with our Heritage kids and their families.

New Lenten Sermon Series: Living in the Chaos

Merely hearing the word “Chaos” spoken will raise the blood pressure of many people. We do not like chaos. We like order. But as much as we do not want to live in the chaos of life the book of Psalms reminds us, chaos is part of life. Join us this Lenten Season as we study these sometimes difficult to read Psalms which bring us face to face with the gritty reality of life on this earth. In the journey, we will learn that the Good News of the Gospel is this: just as God is close to his people when life is full of Awe, so God is close to his people when life is full of Chaos.

A Guide to Reading and Praying the Psalms

“Be Brave. Be Strong. Don’t Give Up. Expect GOD to Get Here Soon.”  ~Psalm 31:24 (MSG)

The Book of Psalms has been an invaluable resource to Jews and Christians for learning about God, ourselves, and this world for thousands of years.  Psalms are prayers, and are therefore the words of humans to God.  However, because they are in our Bible, they are invaluable to us as not just words to God, but they also teach us as words about God.  They reveal to us who God is, how God acts, and how we are to respond to God’s work in this world.  Most importantly, the Psalms are words from God to all humanity.  As Scripture, God speaks to us through the Psalms to develop us into mature Children of God.

The Psalms contain the whole range of human emotions and experiences – from joy to grief, birth to death, hope to despair.  The Psalms can be brutally honest and express great anger with God when God does not act as the Psalmist expects.  While this brutal honesty can sometimes be shocking, it is a powerful reminder of this fundamental fact: nothing we experience in this life is outside the concern and interest of our Creator.

The key theme of the Book of Psalm is: The Lord Reigns!  God reigns over creation and all nations, including his people Israel.  This declaration is great news, because the Lord is good, faithful, the keeper of promises, and the giver of good gifts.  God is just, in contrast to the wicked, and watches over those who are faithful.  God’s plan is for Israel to be a light to the nations, causing them to turn to the Lord and live out God’s will for them.

The Book of Psalms is a collection of 150 Psalms, essentially an anthology, divided into five “Books”  (Book 1: Psalms 1-41; Book 2: Psalms 42-72; Book 3: Psalms 73-89; Book 4: Psalm 90-106; Book 5: Psalm 107-150). These five books are analogous to the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible (Genesis-Deuteronomy).   The final Psalm in each of these books ends with a similar-sounding doxology (Psalm 41:13; 72:18-19; 89:52; 106:48; all of 150).

 

Psalm Titles

Most Psalms (116 of the 150) include a short title at the beginning of the Psalm.  While these are very early additions to the Psalms, it is not believed they were part of the original Psalm itself.  These titles sometimes include the author’s name.  King David is the author most often cited (73 times), though Solomon, Moses, and others are also listed as authors.  Also included in these titles are directions for how the Psalm was first used, directions for the music leader, and musical notations as to the tune to be used when the Psalm was sung.  There are also sometimes historical references to when the Psalm was used, or why it was written.


Categorizing the Psalms

The Book of Psalms is filled with many different kinds of Psalms.  These include Psalms of lament, worship, thanksgiving, teaching (Torah), history, to name just a few.  Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann has developed a very helpful method for categorizing all these various types of Psalms.  He uses three groups that represent the three places humans regularly find themselves: Orientation, Disorientation, and New Orientation.

  • Psalms of Orientation: are where followers of God most often find themselves.  Life makes sense.  We have confidence in God and God’s creation.  We recognize this world has been built by God, and God reigns over this world.  Psalms of Orientation are wonderful declarations of God’s great power and faithfulness.  For examples, see Psalms 1, 8, 14, 111, 131, 133, 145.
  • Psalms of Disorientation: reflect those crisis moments in our life when the world, or at least our life, seems to collapse.  We are drawn down into a dark pit.  We cannot see the hand of God at work in this world, and we are tempted to believe we have been abandoned.  This is a terrifying place for the Child of God, and many of these Psalms have been of great help as they express with brutal honesty the doubts, questions, and accusations that result from life falling apart.  For examples, see Psalms 13, 22, 32, 50, 74, 88, 143.
  • Psalms of New Orientation: reflect the surprise of the pit not being the end of God’s story.  God has in fact heard our cries for help and in a surprise of grace, rescued us from our trouble.  We are filled with amazement, awe, and gratitude as we experience a transformed life.  For examples, see Psalms 23, 30, 34, 91, 103, 135, 150.

 

Fundamentals of Hebrew Poetry

Parallelism.  Unlike English poetry, which most often uses the rhyming of sounds, Hebrew poetry uses the rhyming of ideas.  This is called parallelism.  The vast majority of verses in the Psalms are made up of two lines, the second of which will either repeat the idea of the first line (synonymous parallelism), complete the thought of the first line (synthetic parallelism) or make a contrast to the first line (antithetical parallelism).

  • For example, Psalm 1:3 uses synonymous parallelism to say essentially the same thing twice:

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season

and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.

  • Psalm 1:4 uses synthetic parallelism, the second two lines complete the thought of the first:

Not so the wicked!

They are like chaff

that the wind blows away.

  • While Psalm 1:6 uses antithetical parallelism, contrasting the righteous to the wicked:

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

Acrostics.  Hebrew poetry also uses acrostics, in which each line begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet (Psalms 9-10 together, 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119, 145).  The significance of this form is to show how complete (from A-Z) is the law of the Lord.  This form also helped in the memorization of Psalms.

Figurative Language.  Because the Psalms are poetry, they use many literary devices to drive home their message.  These devices include metaphors, similes, figurative and emotional language.

 

A Christian Use of the Psalms

The Book of Psalms is the most quoted Old Testament book by New Testament authors.  There are 79 quotations from the Psalms, along with over 300 allusions and parallels.  Jesus directly quotes from the Psalms 11 times, often times to explain his ministry or opposition to his ministry (for example: Matthew 21:16; 27:46; John 13:18).

  • The very fact of Jesus knowing the Psalms so well and applying them to his own life and ministry should be a very strong encouragement for Christians to also know the Psalms well.
  • However, there are many troubling passages in the Psalms that can offend, or at least confuse Christians.  For example, there are a group of Psalms known as the Imprecatory Psalms (7, 35, 58, 59, 69, 79, 109, 137, and 139) in which the psalmist calls upon God to curse and/or punish the psalmist’s enemies. “Let death take my enemies by surprise; let them go down alive to the grave.” Psalm 55:15 This, of course, is the direct opposite of what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:43-48).  We must keep in mind these Psalms are spoken from the heart, and before the ministry of Jesus.  As such, they do not reflect the perfect will of God lived out in a person, but the deepest cries of that person who does not yet know the full salvation of God.  Also, the psalmist is calling for and trusting in God’s justice, rather than acting out in revenge.
  • The writer of the New Testament book of Hebrews cites five different Psalms as referring to Jesus in just the first chapter of Hebrews.  There is therefore much we can learn about Jesus from the Psalms.  However, we must not seek to read the Psalms only for finding Jesus.  There is a great wealth of knowledge, wisdom, and guidance for Christians in the Psalms, whether or not they can be directly related to Jesus.

 

How To Use the Psalms to Grow Closer to God

  1. Begin with Prayer.  Ask God to speak to you through your reading and reflection upon               Scripture.
  2. Keep in Mind Before Reading a Psalm:
  • A Psalm is Poetry – the authors often use metaphorical and intense language, not literal language.
  • A Psalm is Prayer –  The Psalms are first spoken to God, not about God.  The language will be honest and from the heart.
  1. Ask While Reading a Psalm:
  • What does this Psalm say about God?
  • What does the Psalm say about humanity?
  • Why was this Psalm prayed?
  • How does the author use the fundamentals of Hebrew poetry to make his point?
  1. Ask After Reading a Psalm:
  • What is the most important point in this Psalm?
  • What is God wanting to teach me about himself, myself, and/or this world through this Psalm?
  • Who can I apply this Psalm to my daily life?
  • How can I use what I have learned today to be a blessing to others?
  1. Close in Prayer. Spend time in silence, reflecting on what you have read and asking God to speak to you.

Your Beliefs Run Your Life

“Who do people say I am?”

– Jesus (Mark 8:27)

 

“Most Americans believe in God, the Bible, and a few heresies,” so began a recent article I was reading.  In case “heresy” is an unfamiliar word for you, it basically means: a belief contrary to orthodox religion.  

So what’s the harm in a little heresy?  Well, while it might sound good to hear 53% of Americans believe the Bible alone is the Word of God, the same survey reports 51% also believe the Bible was written for each person to interpret as he or she chooses.  So, basically half of Americans say, on the one hand they believe the Bible, but on the other hand they also believe they can pick and choose what they want to believe within in the Bible.

Or another example, 66% of Americans believe God answers prayer.  Amen!  But that same percentage also believe while everyone sins a little, people are by nature good.  To believe everyone is by nature good means you can safely read Genesis chapter 1, but then have to ignore everything else written from Genesis 2 all the way through Revelation 22!  It also means the death, and resurrection of Jesus was meaningless – who needs a Savior if we’re all basically good?  

Here’s the danger: Your beliefs run your life.  How you look at this world, how you understand God, and how you see yourself determine how you live, how you relate to others, and how you see this world.  If you believe you are free to pick and choose what parts of the Bible you want to believe, you then also believe you can pick and choose which commands of God you live out, and which ones you ignore.  Do you think choosing not to believe the command “do not bear false witness” might have some impact on your relationships with others?

For the next four weeks of January we are having a special series at church called Core Beliefs.  This series will run during our regular Sunday School hour (9:30-10:45 am), and we will meet in the Sanctuary (for those of you who love your coffee don’t worry – we’ll have the coffee machines set up in the foyer, and you’re welcome to bring the drinks into the sanctuary with you).  We will study over these weeks the Core Beliefs of Christianity, as well as the Church of the Nazarene.  

Everyone is invited!  Whether you already regularly attend Sunday School, a Small Group or neither.  Start this New Year reflecting on what you believe, and you might be surprised to discover how those beliefs shape they way you live your life.  

See You Sunday!

Pastor Bill

Faith In Action – Spiritual Hunger

“Inside of me there are two dogs. One is mean and evil and the other is good and they fight each other all the time. When asked which one wins I answer, the one I feed the most.”

~ Sitting Bull

“SPIRITUAL HUNGER”

Lent - RenewalAsh Wednesday begins our journey toward the empty tomb of Easter.  For centuries Christians have set aside this special season of the Christian year we call Lent as a time for self- reflection and special attention to our spiritual health.  As we reflect on the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we ask ourselves, “how is Jesus’ life and sacrifice reflected in my life?”

However, the goal of this season of Lent is not self-condemnation or self-hatred, as we try and compare ourselves to the incomparable Jesus.  Instead, the goal is to feed the spiritual hunger within our heart.  Feeding that spiritual hunger does not come naturally or easily, it comes from paying close attention to prayer, scriptures, and worship.  The goal in feeling this spiritual hunger is knowing Jesus more deeply so we can serve him more faithfully.

We invite you this Lenten season to feed the spiritual hunger within you by giving special attention to your spiritual health.  We begin our journey on Wednesday night, with an Ash Wednesday service.  Sunday we begin a new sermon Series, “Chosen for Training,” in which we will explore how to become a strong and mature follower of Jesus Christ.

Which “dog” are you feeding, and how are you feeding him?

 

Blessings,

Pastor Bill

Your Most Important Choice This Year…

ts_131018_road_sign_200x151We make dozens upon dozens of choices every day.  We choose which outfit to wear, which food to eat, which road to take to work, which television shows to watch, which websites to visit, which attitudes to embrace. Most all of these daily choices have become so habitual we do not not even think twice about most choices we make.  

However, in a lifetime, there are a handful of choices that can be literally life-altering – for our life and for the lives of others.  Who we will marry is one example.  How we will parent our children is another.  The most important choice we will make in this life though, is in whom we will place our trust.  

The vast majority of people in this world, and throughout history, have placed their trust in themselves.  Convinced they know best how to direct their lives, as well as how to direct the lives of other, they leave a path of destruction along the way.  For ultimately, choosing ourselves, is choosing selfishness.  Can you think of a time in which you chose selfishness, and it worked out great for you and for everyone else?  

There is another option, a much better option.  We can place our trust in the One who has not only created us, but chosen to love us, bless us, and forgive us.  When we choose to place our trust in the One who has first chosen us, we are choosing love over selfishness, generosity over greed, forgiveness over bitterness, joy over short-term pleasures, and hope for the future over regret for the past.  This is a choice we make once in our lives, but then must choose each decade, each year, each month, each day, if we will live it out or not.  

As we begin a New Year, in whom are you placing your trust?  We have no way of knowing what 2016 holds for any of us, but if we accept God’s love for us, and live our lives according to Jesus’ example and teachings, we have already made the most important decision we will make this entire year.  For it is only in making this decision we will experience all the joy, peace, love, and hope God has planned for our lives.  

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.  (Ephesians 1:3-4)

New Year’s Blessings,

Pastor Bill

Not Again Charlie Brown!

22
Charlie Brown, how do you know how to make the right decision? Do you simply look at the nice smile on Lucy’s face and simply believe her when she says this time, she will not pull the football a way? Do you listen to the conviction in her voice, and trust that anyone who believes so strongly about something must be right?
If you know the Peanuts comic strip at all, you know, Charlie Brown always makes the wrong decision when Lucy is holding the football.
We laugh at Charlie Brown’s predictably bad decision knowing he will soon be flat on his back. However, what is not at all funny are all the Charlie Browns in our lives whose bad decisions have led to deep pain and regret.
This past Sunday morning the sermon focused on the call to live a life of discernment. To be discerning means we live and make decisions wisely. As Christians, we believe the principles and values that will help us make wise decisions are found in our Bible. They may take study to find, we may need to consult others when seeking to understand the Bible, they may not be the principles and values that we were hoping to find. However, we believe that the scriptures contain for us everything we need for life and salvation.
My challenge to you Sunday morning was simple – create habits and practices in your life that will develop this God-given wisdom in your life. Specifically, I challenged the church to three of these practices and habits –
Make weekly worship a priority in your schedule, regularly setting aside time for the worship of God, hearing of his word proclaimed, and fellowship with fellow Christians.
Invest yourself into a small group or Sunday School class to learn through scripture study and dialogue with others how God is calling you to live your life.
Nurture your own personal devotional life. If you do not know where to begin in this step, or struggle to find a devotional guide that helps, begin with the Discipleship Helps that are printed on the back of the sermon outline in the weekly bulletin.
If you are not already part of a Small Group or Sunday School class, information about these will be in our weekly worship bulletin. Try some out, see what fits for you, and invest yourself into growing more deeply in your Christian life with your brothers and sisters in Christ. As I pointed out Sunday morning, we are beginning a brand new Adult Sunday School class on September 20th – a new class is a great time to begin a new spiritual practice in your life. See the worship bulletin for more information about this new class.

charlie-brown-football
If you invest yourself into these three spiritual practices you will be able to see much more clearly than Charlie Brown does, what are good, healthy, and right decisions for your life. And you will avoid all kinds of “WUMP,” the pains and regrets that result from bad decisions.

Faith in Action – Really? It’s Better to be Spiritually Dead than Lukewarm?

 

Join us for our July sermon series...

Join us for our July sermon series…

We began our new study of the book of Revelation Sunday by looking at God’s message to the Church of Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22).  One of the disturbing parts of this message to this Church that has accommodated itself to the sinful society around it is the complaint:  I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm– neither hot nor cold– I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

I confessed to you Sunday morning this is a really hard message to hear.  We in the American Church are often thrilled to find someone just half-committed to Christianity.  We think being half-committed is far better than being not committed at all.  Is it really worse to be a half-hearted Christian than a complete heathen?

Proving that your pastor does not have all the answers (as if you needed any more proof of that), as I was greeting everyone after service, one church member came up to me to share their take on this passage.  In their thinking, (I’m summarizing here) being half-committed is worse than not being committed at all, because the uncommitted person is still able to be confronted by God.

I think there is a lot of truth to that insight. The half-committed person knows just enough about religion to know how to ignore the hard teachings of God, how to avoid the deep sacrifices required, how to decide what the bare minimum they have to believe in order to feel good about themselves. In other words, they have learned how to not take God too seriously.

The spiritually cold person on the other hand, because they have only been oblivious to God and not boxing-in God, still has the opportunity to be amazed by the mighty love and majesty of God when God breaks into their lives.  Untrained in manipulating God, they are still able to one day take God seriously when they recognize there has to be more to life than just themselves.

Have you lost the ability to be amazed at the great love and majesty of God?  Have you forgotten the great joy and peace God brought into your heart when you first surrendered your life to him?

Lukewarm Christians are in grave danger, because they do not even recognize what great spiritual peril in which they live. I invite you today, to block off some time with God, and ask him to search your heart and mind.  Ask him to reveal your spiritual “temperature.”  Ask him, to bring his fire and passion into your life, that you might know true joy and peace with God.