Weekly theme August 31 through September 6

Bad Things Happen to Good People

 “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and
gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness “
Exodus 34:6b      
 Wouldn’t it be great if we could just buy something simple and everything would be okay? The trouble is that too many times we treat God like a genie or a magic wand. We think that if we have God in our pocket and we do good nothing bad will happen. Too many times when bad things happen we think that something is wrong and even question what we might have done wrong. This is one of the great misconceptions about our faith. The misconception that if we believe in God and trust in His love through Jesus Christ that nothing bad will ever happen to us leaves us in a bad place when bad things do happen. This misconception leads us to be disillusioned and disheartened when bad things do happen, and even leads us to question what we must have done wrong or possibly even the existence of God at all.
Too many times this comes from our own simple
statements like, “God is good.”  We think that if God is good and we are good, nothing bad will happen. The truth is that this statement should read, “God is love.” This is the witness that scripture tells us.  In fact the word in Hebrew often translated as “steadfast love” appears 247 times.  The trouble is that true love involves free will. If people have free will, bad things can happen to you even if you are a perfect person. What makes our God good is the steadfast love God shows us even in the midst of whatever trouble comes our way. This week we will look at the steadfast love of God so we can remind ourselves that although bad things may come we have the steadfast love of God.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Luke 9:1-6
1When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He told them: “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.

Our final reminder is that it is not just Southport UMC that is calling us to go into the world, but it is Jesus. Jesus wants you to share the good news of how he saved you and has changed your life with the world. How are you going to share this good news? If you have any worry or concern share it with the Lord.

Friday, August 29, 2014

John 4:4-14
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.”

Today we remember that we have to step outside our comfort zone to build new relationships. If we expect to meet new people in our normal patterns then we will be
disappointed. Where do you think you can go to step outside of your comfort zone to make a new relationship?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

John 1:35-42
35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”
37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”
They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”
39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”
So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.
40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus.
Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas”(which, when translated, is Peter[g]).

Today we remember that for people to make a relationship with the church we need to invite them. This is how Cephas (Peter) comes to know about Jesus. He is invited. Pastor Mark shared that on average a United Methodist invites someone to church once every thirty eight years. Do you have trouble inviting people to worship? Why?  When was the last time you invited someone to church?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Acts 2:42-47
42 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.

Today we remember that one of the ways we can make relationships is to practice our faith stories. We can do this in our small groups. The co-founder of the Methodist movement, John Wesley, asked all of his small groups to begin with the question, “How is it with you soul?” This was so that the group could practice noticing God’s grace in their lives. How is it with your soul today?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Acts 3:1-10
One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money.Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.
Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping,and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Today we remember that one of the ways we can establish relationships with people is through our service. Particularly when we are serving in the name of Jesus Christ in our world, we can share the reason why we do what we do. In what ways do you serve? How does this show the love of Jesus Christ and how can you share that with those you serve?

Monday, August 25, 2014

2 Timothy 1:6-10
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and I immortality to light through the gospel. 

Today we hear the phrase, “So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord.” The truth is that the best way to share the gospel is to tell how God has worked in your life. People do not want to hear scripture quotes or what your pastor said, but what they want to hear is what God has done in your life. What has God done in your life?

Weekly theme August 24 through 30

Relationships Matter

 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”
Hebrews 12:1-3

How many of you have ever had a moment or known someone in a situation where you just keep trying to reach out and it seems like there is no one there? This is why our relationships are especially important. Now do not get me wrong there will still be times when we feel alone. But so many times we have many acquaintances but few true relationships. That is why the church needs to be about building relationships. We need to be building relationships with those inside the church and also with those in our community.  The truth is that many of us needed a relationship to find Christ. Now that relationship might have been your parents dragging you to church. It could also have been a friend or a loved one sharing Christ’s love with you. It is different for all of us but very few people just stumble into a relationship with God. How many of you have your faith because of a relationship with someone? It is very important that we make it part of our culture to go out and be with people in real relationships. This is our last sermon in our series, Reaching Beyond
Ourselves. To help us remember how we can form new relationships we are going to review six central topics of this series to think about ways that we can build relationships to share the good news of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Acts 8:26-39
26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone
explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.32 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:
    “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
    and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
    Who can speak of his descendants?
    For his life was taken from the earth.”
34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about
Jesus.36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way

This is an amazing story. Can you imagine Phillip running alongside the carriage going, “Hey what are you reading?” Just like Phillip we cannot wait for people to come to know Christ on their own. We need to take the first step and God will work amazing change in the hearts we touch. It may not be chasing down a carriage, but what can you do to take the first step to form an intentional relationship?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Luke 19:1-10
1Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Today we hear the familiar story of Zacchaeus the tax
collector. Earlier this week we heard the story of Jesus with Levi the tax collector. Again, it is a reminder to intentionally befriend those who are different and even despised among us. Very few of us have friends that are despised by society. What would it mean to extend a relationship to someone who was despised by society? What would be some
challenges you would face?  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

John 3:1-15
Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?
 11Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

This is the first time we see the Pharisee Nicodemus. Nicodemus comes to Jesus in the night to question Jesus about being “born again.” He is the complete opposite of the sinners and tax collectors we saw Jesus meeting with in our other Scriptures. But from this one interaction with Jesus Nicodemus is completely changed. The two other times we see Nicodemus in the gospel is when he stands up for Jesus amongst the other Pharisees and when he is present at Jesus’ burial. Just one encounter with Jesus Christ changed Nicodemus’ life forever. If we live lives that reflect the love of Jesus Christ we can change lives like
Nicodemus’. This is because the people that we are inintentional relationships with will see the love of Jesus Christ in us. How do you think you can show the love of Jesus in your life?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

John 1:29-42
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon. 40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).

This Scripture is a really neat story. What would the church be like if Andrew had not gone and gotten his brother Simon Peter? It is interesting to think about since Peter later
becomes the rock upon which God builds His church. We never know what God is going to do through those who we are in an intentional relationship with. Of the list of five people you made on Monday pick one name and pray for that person and the things God will do through them.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Mark 2:13-17
Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth.  “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his
disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.

Luke 15:1-7
1Now the tax collectors and sinners were all
gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3 Then
Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open
country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 

I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

In today’s Scriptures we are reminded that Jesus did not hang out with the most respectable crowd. In the verse from  Mark, Jesus tells us exactly why he does this because He wants to have an intentional relationship with those who need the Lord. Who do you think is the modern day equivalent of the tax collector? How could you form an
intentional relationship with someone that you despised?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Ecclesiastes 4:8-12
There was a man all alone;
   he had neither son nor brother.
   There was no end to his toil,
   yet his eyes were not content with his wealth.
   “For whom am I toiling,” he asked,
   “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?”
   This too is meaningless—a miserable business!
Two are better than one,
   because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
   one can help the other up.
   But pity anyone who falls
   and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together,
   they will keep warm.
   But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
    A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

In this Scripture from the book of Ecclesiastes, we see evidence of our need for relationships. This Scripture reminds me of a statement that I heard Mother Theresa once give in an interview. They asked Mother Theresa why she was bringing her ministry to the United States because it is the richest nation in the world. She challenged the interviewer to show her a person that was alone, had no friends, and does not know the love of God and she would show them the poorest person in the world. We all need relationships. Make a list of five people who you could form an intentional relationship with. Pray about these names.

Weekly theme August 17 through 20

Moving from Acquaintance
to Authentic Relationship

 “Now the tax collectors and ‘sinners’ were all gathering around to hear him.  But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes
sinners and eats with them. “
Luke 15:1-2
How many of you have ever met a salesman or a door-to-door person that you could just tell was being disingenuous?  The sad thing is that too often this is what we should do as the church. We need butts in the seats so let’s go wrangle some unchurched people. The truth is that no one is fooled by that. Very few people will respond if we just go out and tell people that they need Jesus. Just like those people that think people will come to Christ while they are yelling on a megaphone. People will not respond to that. So to what will people respond? They will respond to authentic relationships. They will respond to you sharing your story in a real way. Not in you just sharing some
rehearsed trite invitation but from you actually trying to be a part of their life in a real way.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Matthew 22:34-40
Remember the wonders he has done,
    his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
you his servants, the descendants of Abraham,
    his chosen ones, the children of Jacob.
He is the Lord our God;
    his judgments are in all the earth.
He remembers his covenant forever,
    the promise he made, for a thousand
the covenant he made with Abraham,
    the oath he swore to Isaac.
10 He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree,
    to Israel as an everlasting covenant:
11 “To you I will give the land of Canaan
    as the portion you will inherit.”

The last step is to look back. We need to look back at where we have come from, in order to remember and reflect on what God has done. Looking back brings encouragement to our hearts and ignites courage for the future. What things has God done in your life? Make a list and keep it somewhere to help you reflect on what God can do. Use this list to give yourself courage to continue to take risks in your life. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Hebrews 10:23-25
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 approaching.

Step four is to look out. Can you hold on to the dream even through the potential of failure? This is the faith question we need to answer. We have to be able to see the possibility as we trust Christ and to rely on His promise to us to experience the dream come true. How do think remembering that God is faithful will help us in the midst of failure? How do you think we can share this promise with one another to spur one another on to victory?  

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Hebrews 12:1-3
1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Step three is to look around. You are not on this journey alone. As our scripture describes, we have a great cloud of witnesses that walk with us on this journey of faith. Who is around you that will serve with you and share the vision God has put within your heart? And who has helped bring you this far? Take time to write names here and offer God a prayer of thanksgiving for these people.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Romans 15:13
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The second step is to look inside. Today’s scripture talks about God’s power inside of us. We all have that “one thing” inside of us that defines our choices and decisions. What is it for you? And how do you think this can help you when
dealing with failure?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Isaiah 40:28-31
28 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

As we take risks, we will fail. Moving through failure to
victory is a journey of faith and trust. This week we will look at five steps that we can take to move through failure and on to victory. The first step is to look up. When we look up we see God, and as we focus our eyes on who God is we gain fresh perspective on our circumstances. How do you think looking to God in the midst of failure can help you move forward?