September 5, 2010 – Make Yourself Useful

text: Philemon 4-21
click on the link above to read the text at www.biblestudytools.com

Onesimus was a slave who once belonged to Philemon. For one reason or another Onesimus has left Philemon to be with Paul and is now returning. Paul writes to Philemon from prison to ask that he receive Onesimus back into his household.

It is not clear why Onesimus has left Philemon. Some commentators have come to the conclusion that Onesimus has run away—perhaps in an attempt to gain his freedom or perhaps to escape harsh treatment by Philemon. There is a suggestion that Onesimus may have harmed Philemon in some way—perhaps by stealing or perhaps causing destruction of property. Another possibility is that Philemon has loaned out Onesimus to Paul to assist him in his journeys. Whatever the case may be, now that Paul is a prisoner he no longer has need for Onisemus and wants Philemon to take him back.

It must be said that this letter to Philemon is in no way an argument for or against slavery. Continue reading

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August 22, 2010 – Shaken, Not Stirred

text: Hebrews 12:18-29
click on the link above to read the text at www.biblestudytools.com

When God’s people gathered with Moses at the foot of Mount Sinai about 50 days after crossing the Red Sea, it was quite a show. There was smoke and fire, clouds and lightning, and the blast of the trumpet that grew louder and louder. The people were witnessing the presence of God—a presence that covered the mountain—a presence so powerful that the ground quaked beneath their feet. And when they heard the voice of God speaking to them, they were shaken with terror and they thought they would die. For these people of God, the presence of God was something to be felt, but not touched. It could not be touched because it was both sacred and frightening at the same time.

Hebrews reminds us of another way to experience the presence of God. Continue reading

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August 8, 2010 – Stands to Reason

text: Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
click on the link above to read the text at www.biblegateway.com

The relationship between faith and reason often eludes us. Faith can be so fleeting and is often subjective. Reason, on the other hand, depends on observable, repeatable facts. There are many things in the life of the church that rely on faith—things like the existence of God, the incarnation of the Son, the presence of the Holy Spirit, the authority of scripture. There really is not much physical evidence to support many of the beliefs or claims that we make as Christians. It stands to reason that if something is true we should be able to verify it through objective measurements and tests.

Is faith reasonable? Continue reading

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July 25, 2010 – Service Changes Things

text: Deuteronomy 10:12-19 / Matthew 25:31-40
click on the link above to read the text at www.biblestudytools.com

The least of these.

I keep thinking about the least of these. I know Jesus is referring to the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the incarcerated. But I keep wondering what is it that makes them “the least.” I think some translations of the Bible try to soften the implication by using the phrase, “no matter how unimportant they seem.” Although “they seem” is really an interpretive addition not found in the Greek text.

So why are the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the incarcerated considered to be least or unimportant? Continue reading

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July 18, 2010 – Prayer Changes Things

text: Jeremiah 29:11-14 / Matthew 6:5-15
click on the link above to read the text at www.biblestudytools.com

These words of the prophet Jeremiah were spoken in the 6th century BC to God’s people living in exile in Babylon—people longing to return to their home in Judah. Jeremiah reminds us, as the Hebrew scriptures often do, that God listens to us when we pray [see Exodus 3:7 and Psalm 40:1 just to point out a couple].

God listens to our praise and our cries, our thanksgivings and our laments, our confessions, and even our requests. Continue reading

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Jubilee Worship & Picnic

Our 50th Anniversary Jubilee celebration began on Sunday, July 4, 2010 with open air worship and a church picnic. About 100 people attended with another couple of dozen of our LDS neighbors joining us for lunch after worship. If you weren’t there [or even if you were] you may be interested in these photos from the day provided by Fred Schneider:

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Many thanks to everyone who worked to make this day possible.

Grace & Peace, Pastor Rik

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July 11, 2010 – Worship Changes Things

text: Isaiah 6:1-8
click on the link above to read the text at www.biblestudytools.com

You have probably heard me say before that the time we spend as a community of faith in worship on Sunday mornings is the most important hour of the week in the life of the church. That’s not because of the scripture that is read, or the preaching, or the prayers, or the music that is sung by the choir or the congregation. These are important parts of our worship, but these are not the things that make our time of worship important. Worship is the most important hour of the week in the life of the church because this is the time that we intentionally gather as a community of faith to encounter God. Worship is important because God is here.

The order of worship itself is designed to help us move into and experience the presence of God. Continue reading

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God Changes Things

I believe that when we encounter God, God transforms our lives—not just once—every time. Our lives of faith are not intended to be stagnant, but rather moving, growing, changing as we learn to live as Christ taught us to live—to love God and love each other completely. That is what John Wesley called sanctification—an ongoing journey as we grow in our relationship with God reaching for perfection.

For the next several weeks we will be looking at a few of the ways we intentionally encounter God in our lives. We will reflect on the potential that these encounters hold for us and our lives of faith as the Spirit works in us to make us the people and the community God wants us to be.

July 11 – Isaiah 6:1-8/Colossians 3:12-17 – Worship Changes Things
July 18 – Jeremiah 29:11-14/Matthew 6:5-15 – Prayer Changes Things
July 25 – Deuteronomy 10:12-19/Matthew 25:31-40 – Service Changes Things

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July 4, 2010 – Jubilee

text: Leviticus 25:1-12
click on the link above to read the text at www.biblestudytools.com

I am sorry to be posting this week’s blog at the last minute. Along with many others in the congregation who are helping out this week, I have been caught up with preparations for our very special Jubilee celebration this Sunday. As a result, I have not had time to give this site much attention. Perhaps you will have time to read this before tomorrow, or perhaps it will be of some help after tomorrow as well. I hope you are planning to be with us on Sunday for our open-air worship and picnic. I am confident that it will be an outstanding celebration. Now on to the text . . .

Levititcus 25 describes the ancient biblical practice of Sabbath years. Continue reading

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June 27, 2010 – Characteristics of a Christian Life – Part 4: Free

text: Galatians 5:13-25
click on the link above to read the text at www.biblestudytools.com

Paul says we are called to be free. That’s just great. That is what we long for—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That’s the American way, right?

But wait—Paul also reminds us that we are supposed to love each other as we love ourselves. So whose life, liberty, and happiness are we really pursuing? Continue reading

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