Thursday, July 31, 2014

John 4:16-24
16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 17 “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem. 21 “Woman,”  Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people,29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 

Today we hear the second half of Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus says we should worship in spirit and truth.  Worship in spirit is defined by worship that comes from the innermost part of our hearts—hearts that are filled with awe and appreciation that can only come from our personal and intimate encounter with the Lord. Worship in truth occurs as we worship with an understanding of who God truly is and who we are in comparison. God and all His attributes are fully revealed in Jesus Christ, who is Truth.  What does it mean in your own words to worship in spirit and truth?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

John 4:4-15
Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 
Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living
water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” 13 Jesus
answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water
welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw

Today we read the first part of Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well. This half of the story reminds us that other pursuits, those things we so often put as more important in our lives than God, are like Jacob’s well. The gratification we receive from them is only temporary, but what we find in the worship of Jesus Christ is Living Water. It supplies what we need so that we will never be thirsty again. When we focus worship on the things we want, we may get a worship buzz but that feeling seldom lasts. But, if our worship is rooted in Jesus and His amazing grace the excitement of worship can carry us through our week and bring us back the next week with excitement for what God will do through our worship. Have you ever had a time when worship seemed to not fill you? Or a time when you loved worship but the feeling faded quickly? Tell God about it.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Hebrews 9:1-3, 6-7, 10:19-25
Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand and the table with its consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place,  When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. But only the high priest entered the inner room,
and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. 19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold
unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day

Yesterday we talked about Moses, the Israelites, and the golden calf. From Moses’ time until the time of Jesus there were rules and rituals around being in the presence of God. Only the High Priest could enter the Most Holy Place. But when Jesus cries, ”It is finished,” from the cross instantly the temple curtain is torn. Because of the work of God in Jesus Christ, we have access to the Most Holy Place, the very presence of God. This is why our worship needs to be all about Jesus because it is Jesus that opened the way for us to worship in the very presence of God. When we make worship all about us and what we want, we ignore and betray the price that God paid in giving His only Son so that we may enter into His presence. In what ways do we make worship all about us and not about Jesus?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Exodus 32:1-7
When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’

The Israelites were so desperate to have a tangible experience with God that even while Moses was on Mount Sinai meeting with the great I AM they crafted a counterfeit image to worship. In this act of disobedience, they demonstrated not only their very deep, human need to experience the presence of God but also mankind’s natural inclination to meet that need in an illegitimate manner. It is easy for us to point blame at the Israelites for creating an idol, but we make idols everyday whenever we put something else ahead of our relationship with God. What idols do you have in your life that receive the thanks and praise God deserves?

Weekly Theme July 27 through August 2

Extend an Invitation

 “For where two or three gather in my name,
there am I with them.”
Matthew  18:20
This idea of invitation when it comes to the church is very interesting.  Did you know that a study was done in the United Methodist Church and it was discovered that people in our
denomination extend an invitation to someone to come to worship, on average, once every thirty-eight years.  Really!  I’m not kidding.  No wonder we have lost several million members over the past fifty years.  We aren’t inviting anybody to come and experience the grace and love of Jesus Christ through the ministry of our churches.

Maybe you can relate to this. Some of you are just afraid to extend an invitation to someone else to come and experience a worship service.  One of the reasons we are scared to extend an invitation is because we might get a response from the one we have invited that goes something like this: “Thank you for inviting me to come to worship.  But WHY should I come with you to worship?  Why do you go to worship?”  We then fumble and stumble around and we realize we have no answer. If we regularly share our faith in our small groups then it provides us the competence and confidence to share our faith and to answer other people’s questions honestly.  If someone practices sharing their faith in a small group, that person is much more likely to invite someone to come to worship with them.

Part of the reason we would struggle to answer this is we do not often think, “Why do I worship?” So this week, we will look at scriptures that  help us begin to think about why we
worship and what worship means to each of us.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Mark 12:41-44
41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts.42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

Today, we hear the story of the widow who gave everything. There are many people who do not understand this story. They say things like, “I give my widow’s mite,” to describe their offering to God. The point of this story is not the amount but the proportion. The widow gives all that she has not just what is left over but everything. We remember that in community we should be taken, blessed, and broken. Today, just like Communion, we should be given. Our greatest fulfillment lies in giving ourselves to others. This giving is about more than money. We need to give of ourselves by sharing our faith, loving one another, and
spurring one another on in the faith of Jesus Christ. How can you give of yourself to help our community of faith? 

Friday, July 25, 2014

2 Corinthians 4:7-18
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.13 It is written: “I
believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself.15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen,
since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

In our verse today, we remember that we are all human. We have the great inheritance of God in these earthly bodies. Today, let us remember that we are broken. Pain, death, and struggles will come to us all. It is not a matter of if but when. But through Jesus Christ, we have hope that this is not all there is to life. And we have an even greater gift in a family in Christ that reminds us of that promise. In community we share each others struggles and burdens so that we can walk as broken people together. Pray for
someone in your life who is struggling. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Matthew 3:1-6, 13-17
1In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:“ A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’
John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness. ”Then John consented.16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Today we see John baptize Jesus in the Jordan. Look at verse 17. God through the Holy Spirit affirms that Jesus is God’s Son that He loves. In fact another translation calls
Jesus God’s beloved. Because of God’s work in Jesus Christ, we also receive this same blessing from God that we are sons and daughters of God and we are His beloved. Yesterday, we learned that we are all taken by virtue of being God’s  chosen. Today we should remember that we are blessed by God because we are all God’s beloved. This blessing we are given is not to be kept to ourselves. We are blessed so we can be a blessing. How are you recognizing others’ status as God’s beloved? How are you a blessing to them? 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Colossians 3:5-17
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, 
circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. 12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body
you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all
wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Yesterday, we learned that we should look to Communion for insights as to how to be in community. For the rest of the week, we will look at how we can grow in that
understanding through a concept presented by Henri Nouwen in his book, Life of the Beloved, that he wrote for his friends in Christ. He uses Communion as an illustration of how we can live together in this world as the body of Christ. He says that we are all taken, blessed, broken, and given. Today we will focus on being taken which is that we are all chosen by God to be God’s beloved children.  What does it mean to you to be God’s chosen and that you are holy and dearly loved? How do we look at other people knowing they are God’s chosen people no matter what we think of them?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Acts 2:42-47
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

1 Corinthians 10:14-17
14 So, my dear friends, flee from the worship of idols. 15 You are reasonable people. Decide for yourselves if what I am saying is true. 16 When we bless the cup at the Lord’s Table, aren’t we sharing in the blood of Christ? And when we break the bread, aren’t we sharing in the body of Christ? 17 And though we are many, we all eat from one loaf of bread, showing that we are one body.

In today’s readings we hear again the story of the early church. We also see Paul describing Communion to the Christians in Corinth. There are several words that are bold and underlined. Despite how they are translated, they are all the same word in Greek (Koinonia) meaning communion or fellowship. It is quite appropriate for Paul to associate
Communion with our fellowship together as Christians. Paul even says, “And though we are many, we all eat from one loaf of bread, showing that we are one body.” Through this intimate act of remembrance of the mighty works of God in Jesus Christ we are united as a body. This unity creates a bond which builds trust and overcomes two of humanity’s deepest fears and insecurities: being betrayed and being demeaned. Have you ever been betrayed or demeaned? Give that pain to God and begin to think about how a Christian community through love and trust can create unity among us. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Romans 1:1-13
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— the gospel he promised beforehand through his
prophets in the Holy Scripturesregarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake. And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you 10 in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.11 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong—12 that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles

Today we have the opening of Paul’s letter to the Romans.  Paul writes about the reason he wishes to visit with the Romans in verse twelve saying, “that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” As a transformational church, we need to be mutually
encouraged by each other’s faith. This is the reason that Grow is an important part of our mission and vision at Southport UMC. How are you growing in your faith in Jesus Christ?  

Weekly Theme July 20 through 26

Sharing Our Faith Story in Small Groups

 “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the day approaching.”
Hebrews 10:25
One of the reasons that we, who have been a part of a mainline Christian church for many years, have trouble being able to articulate and talk about our faith experience and what God is doing in our lives is because we don’t create places where people are able to share their experiences.  Obviously in a church this size not everyone can be given time to share their faith journey during a worship service.  That just wouldn’t work primarily because there just would not be enough time.
For many years a lot of Christians thought that the only involvement in the church that was necessary was to attend worship.  Since worship is not a good place to share our stories we began to forget our stories.  It isn’t that we don’t have faith stories.  It isn’t that God is not working in our lives on a daily basis.  It is that we have forgotten how to take those experiences and articulate them in words and share them with others.

We need to find a place where we can practice the telling of our faith stories.  We need a group of people who will be patient and kind as they listen to our stories and we re-acquire the ability to share with others what Jesus has done and is doing in our lives.  The organization of Alcoholics Anonymous has discovered that when people gather in smaller groups it is much easier for them to learn and to take the risk to share about themselves as well as about what is going on in their lives.  When we gather in small groups such as in a Bible study, a share group, or a book study. Then we are in a setting where we can share about our journey and share about our faith experiences.  In this kind of setting we can re-claim our faith story and become comfortable in sharing that story with others.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Philippians 2:1-11

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—   even death on a cross!Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The key to our life together is humility. The gospel of Jesus Christ is our first priority and it is greater than all of us. So we must mirror the very humility of Jesus Christ that is outlined here in the second chapter of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. We need to consistently be reminded of Paul’s advice here. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” How can you begin to practice humility in service to God?