Sunday, January 30, 2011

Success: Will of God 3

Psalm 118 (call to worship)
Nehemiah 1 (children)
3 John 1-8; 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 (read for the message)

Eki & orienteering

We want to know the will of God because we’d like to have some direction for our life, a map and compass, and we have this idea that God’s plan must be a good one, must include some sense of success. When we talk about success, it is important to define terms.

And, when we talk about direction for our life, it is important to understand what we said in our first week – the world God designed is open to possibility (among them, our choices) and all these options are somehow, mysteriously, enfolded into God’s promised destiny. In orienteering terms, there is more than one way to get from point A to point B. You may arrive late and face deduction to your score, but at least you can arrive – hopefully! It is a reminder that the journey itself is important, not just the destination.

And, here we return to success. We tend to define success in terms of destination – a certain point in life (married, kids); a certain point in our careers (education, salary, promotion). We miss out on the dimension of journey, on success as progress and process, rather than on success only as achievement and completion. What does the journey do to us? What do we learn along the way? Are we becoming better human beings, more reflective of the unique image of God in us – or are we only becoming better consumers, better employees, better soccer coaches? And for all who define success as destination, there is the big question of what do I do once I’ve succeeded? It is one root of what we know as “mid life crisis”: We’ve done everything we set out to do, so what’s next? . . . And am I really satisfied by all this? Define the terms of your success. The apostle Paul said it this way:

Philippians 3:12-14 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

Keeping this in mind – a goal that is larger than life, a sense of progress that is intentional and focused, a devotion to Jesus Christ – what do we learn about success from the Scriptures before us today?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

4 Spiritual Secrets

From my old pastor, Dick Woodward:

I’m not, but He is.
And I am in Him, and He is in me.

I can’t, but He can.
And I am in Him, and He is in me.

I don’t want to, but He wants to.
And I am in Him, and He is in me.

I didn’t, but He did.
Because I was in Him and He was in me.

For more, check out his site.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Music Theater -- Narnia

Time Sunday, June 26 at 2:00pm - July 2 at 11:00am
Location Greene Hills, Alexandria, PA
Created By Michelle Jones Whitlock, Bob Kilmer

Join us for a week of exploring C.S. Lewis' imaginative theological masterpiece, "The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe," through music, theater, scripture, and worship. What are the parallels between Aslan and Christ? How are we all a little like Edmund? How can we help wipe away the frosty darkness around us and bring a little spring back into the world?

Register or get info on many other summer camps today at

The Will of God: Abundance

Psalm 132 (call to worship)

John 10:1-18 (children)
Philippians 4:4-20 (message)

There is an interesting map that was on display in the British Museum in London. It’s an old mariner’s chart, drawn in 1525, outlining the North American coastline and adjacent waters. The cartographer made some intriguing notations on areas of the map that represented regions not yet explored. He wrote: “Here be giants,” “Here be fiery scorpions,” and “Here be dragons.” Eventually, the map came into the possession of Sir John Franklin, a British explorer in the early 1800s. Scratching out the fearful inscriptions, he wrote these words across the map: “Here is God." (Courtesy of Rev. Tom Salsgiver in the Lewisburg District Newsletter)

Today’s theme, Abundance, takes us into that realm of giants, scorpions, dragons and, yes, God. It is a theme that often confuses us. Typically, we would understand the word in terms of resources – an abundance of food, of money, of time, of clothing – anything we can measure. And, the Bible uses the term in that way. However, most of us have experienced lean times – and those who have gone through recent periods of unemployment may be living those lean times now. And, we know that there is a spiritual dimension to abundance. So, we tend to slide between reading it as a material, measurable thing and reading it as a spiritual thing (as if matter isn’t spiritual and spirit doesn’t “matter”).

I include Abundance in our series on the Will of God because it is clear, biblically, that abundance is God’s will in our lives. And, because we struggle to understand it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Christ in His Poor

Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, wrote, "We want no revolution; we want the brotherhood of men. We want men to love one another. We want all men to have what is sufficient for their needs. But when we meet people who deny Christ in His poor, we feel, 'Here are the athiests.' They turned first from Christ crucified because he was a poor worker, buffeted and spat upon and beaten. And now - strange thought - the devil has so maneuvered that the people turn from Him because those who profess Him are clothed in soft raiment and sit at well-spread tables and deny the poor."

- from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, 2010, by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro, page 110 (January 18). Published by Zondervan for The Simple Way and School for Conversion.

Newsletter for February

In my weekly breakfast group, we are reading in Exodus. It includes the account of the call of Moses and the deliverance of Israel from Egypt through plagues and sea. Aside from all the miracles, I have been impressed in this reading with God’s tenderness toward Israel. The LORD tells Moses, “I have heard their cry and I have come down to deliver” (3:7-8). After the Pharoah (king) ups the pressure on God’s people, the text tells us that “they would not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and their cruel slavery” (6:9). The Passover night “was for the LORD a night of vigil” (12:42) . . . language that could also describe a worried parent. Israel traveled the longer route because “if the people face war, they may change their minds and return to Egypt” (13:17). And, it was to a nation of freed slaves that God gave the gift of Sabbath, a day of rest EVERY WEEK!

If you are not in a Sunday School class or other group, please let me know of your interest. Groups are central to our growth as disciples of Jesus Christ, and we are working to start new ones whenever we can.

On the first weekend of February, we have two exciting events. On Saturday the 5th, we have our next quarterly Team Training Camp, with our district superintendent, Rev. Mark Webb, leading us on “The Heart of a Leader”. And on Sunday the 6th we will have an Open House for our Safe Access Campaign, with a breakfast (9:15 a.m.) and combined worship service (10:30 a.m.). Please plan to be here for both important days.

Enjoying the adventure,
Pastor JP

Our Mission: Bethany Church exists to honor God by making more disciples for Jesus Christ.
Our Vision: 500 new disciples in 5 years

The Will of God: Discernment

Matthew 21:28-32 (children)
Romans 12:1-21 (message)

There is so much in this passage, and our focus is on introducing one theme – the Will of God – and exploring in general terms how we might discern it in our own lives:
NIV Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-- his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Ravens vs Steelers ... the “will of God”? From the very beginning, God designed human beings, the universe, and history, to be open to possibility, to participate in shaping the future by our choices and actions. At the same time, we are given the promise that all of history, and all of creation, are headed toward the great day in which all God’s purposes for the world and history are realized in redemption and judgment. So, we are given this great mystery – open to possibility, destined for God’s purposes.

Of all the themes in salvation history, in Christian theology explained and applied in declaration and argument, in the text of the letter to the Romans up to this point, this final theme of possibility and purpose is what Paul has spent the last three chapters describing in Israel’s history. Out of all of that, he urges God’s people to choose the possibility of God’s purpose. The forces at work in the world conform us to its own mold, not to the purpose of God. Sometimes, we feel that knowing God’s purpose is impossible, never mind actually living God’s purpose. Because the world will one day be wrapped up in the purpose of God, we can have confidence that among the possibilities open to us is living in the will of God today:

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-- his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Lord Nelson and the two weevils (a scene from Master and Commander)

As we intro the theme of the Will of God on Sundays, check out the story of the two weevils toward the end of this clip.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Funny Prayer about Getting Old at the Caregiver of the Year Dinner

Thanks to Curvin for sharing this with me.

New Year's Resolution and Christmas' Word and Flesh

From a wonderful message by Nadia Bolz-Weber:

As we enter the new year full of optimism and resolution let us remember that there is a reality beyond our individual self-improvement. The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we were given grace upon grace to become children of God and perhaps in doing so we are now flesh become Word. Word for a hurt and broken and beautiful world. You as Christ’s body are no longer about the fear or the denial of death but about life and life abundant. You as Christ’s body are becoming flesh made Word, being made into God’s loving intention for the world God created. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Covenant Service

(Adapted from The United Methodist Book of Worship and The United Methodist Hymnal)
Commit yourselves to Christ.
Give yourselves to him, that you may belong to him.
Christ has many services to be done.
Some are more easy and honorable,
others are more difficult and disgraceful.
Some are suitable to our inclinations and interests,
others are contrary to both.
In some we may please Christ and please ourselves.
But then there are other works where we cannot please Christ,
cannot love Christ,
except by denying ourselves.

Let us, therefore, go to Christ, and pray:

I am no longer mine, but yours.
Put me to what you will,
rank me with whom you will.
Put me to doing,
put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for you
or laid aside for you,
exalted for you
or brought low for you.
Let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing.
I freely and with a willing heart
give it all to your pleasure and disposal.

Christ will be the Savior of his servants.
Christ will have no servants except by consent;
Christ will not accept anything except full consent to all he requires.
Christ will be all in all, or he will be nothing.

God requires that you shall put away all your idols.

From the bottom of my heart, I renounce them all,
covenanting with you that no known sin shall be allowed in my life.

Through Christ, God offers to be your God again.

Before all heaven and earth,
I choose you as my Lord and my God.
I take you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for my portion,
and vow to give up myself, body and soul, as your child,
to follow you in love and faithfulness all the days of my life.

Historical Note:
The Covenant Service goes back to the writing of Richard Alleine, a Puritan, whose work was included by John Wesley (the father figure of the Methodist movement) in his reference collection, A Christian Library. Wesley adapted it for use in worship in 1755 and used the covenant service as he visited the Methodist Societies across the British Isles. He wrote in his journal that it was regularly “an occasion for a variety of spiritual experiences” including “a sense of pardon,” “full salvation,” and “a fresh manifestation of [God’s] graces.” While the language is updated and abridged, it remains a series of dramatic and demanding prayers offering total devotion to God in Christ.

Worship with the Wise Men

Matthew 2:1-12, Epiphany observed

Among my brother’s youthful adventures was time spent cris-crossing the country with a traveling carnival. For me, that’s just NOT my scene. I don’t like rides anyway, and the traveling variety scare me much more than the theme park rides. I’m not into the food. I don’t like the side shows – they are people, not freaks – and I don’t do fortune tellers, horoscopes, Tarot, palm reading, crystal balls, astrology.

Biblically, the whole fortune-telling thing is prohibited, a way we redirect the trust we should have only in our God. And the stories bear that out:

Peter to Simon “Magus”
Acts 8:20-21 "May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God's gift with money! 21 You have no part or share in this, for your heart is not right before God.

Paul to Elymas/Bar-Jesus
Acts 13:10 "You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy

Why talk about carnivals and fortune-telling? These “Magi” were magicians, they dealt in the esoteric, in the spirituality of signs, in sorcery, in astrology. And, the title “Magi” is used for both Simon and for Elymas. Now, the Magi in the Jesus story were probably a cut above the average. They were wealthy enough, or had other indicators of status, to be taken seriously by Herod and, according to the story, “all Jerusalem with him”. But “kings” they were not, and we have no idea how many of them there were. That’s the Christmas carol, not the Bible story. Nevertheless, we’ve got the carol in the service today because the carol is ultimately not about the kings or magi or wise guys but about the gifts they bring and the star they follow.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Snow on the Beach

Had a wonderful time of refreshement as a family over the New Year's weekend - and enjoyed the remnants of the Christmas snow.

From Christmas Eve

A few pics from the 8:00 pm Celebrations service, including the smoke from extinguished candles.