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“Lord Willing” – Genesis 41:1-36

Curious-George-Binocs

We’ve been seeing so much of God’s sovereignty, the last few weeks of our journey through the book of Genesis.  No one is stronger than God and no one can forestall His plans.  The Lord is not weak and He goes to great lengths for the sake of His people.  He has overcome sin through His Son, Jesus, and provides assurance of eternal salvation for all who trust in Him.  God’s will always prevails.

While we confess God’s sovereignty, His good and loving character, and rest in the assurance that our eternal inheritance in heaven is kept certain by His sovereign hand, we often want Him to reveal to us more than He does.  Admit it, wouldn’t you love to know all the twists and turns your life will take?  Wouldn’t you love to know all the plans God has for you?  In fact, for many, not knowing the answer to the what, where and when questions of life produces an anxiety that goes beyond curiousity.  That need becomes more pronounced in the middle of a crisis or when you’re faced with a big decision.  But as we’ll see, the next two Sundays, there is a way to be at peace, even without knowing all the details.

Our passages, this week and next, show how peace is found when surrendering to God’s will.  Though the circumstances of your life is different than Pharaoh and Joseph, you can find a great deal of comfort and assurance when resting in God’s will.  God has a plan and will for you.

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I wonder if you’ve heard this story of

I wonder if you’ve heard this story of Thomas Cramer’s final moments on earth. http://ow.ly/BARK8

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“Growing Failure” – Genesis 20:1-18

Growth in Adversity

Things in front of the church office were noticeably different, first thing in the morning this week.  The traffic was once again backing up at the Elm Street intersection and everyone out there seemed in a real hurry.  It became evident that people were shifting out of summer and back into “normal” mode.  Sometimes our faith, or maybe our faithfulness, slumps during summer, when the pressure and demands on us are low.  But then, of course, things get so busy after Labor Day that it’s also easy to get lax when it comes to our devotion to the Christian faith.  No one does it intentionally, but before you know it, you’re relying on yourself a whole lot more than God.  You end up overestimating your ability and underestimating His.

Abraham found himself in a very similar place in our passage for this Sunday.  Abraham was a huge success and a great man of faith, but he began to trust way to much in Abraham and far too little in God.  If you’re honest, you can probably relate.  Whenever you think less of God than you should, you, inevitably, think more of yourself than you should.  At times like this, God often finds a way to get your attention, while providing an opportunity to grow you in your faith.  We’ll look at a couple of ways this happens on Sunday and consider how you and I can think a whole lot more of God and a whole lot less of ourselves.

Come join as we hear from God’s Word and worship together in the body of Christ this Sunday at 10:30!  Don’t forget to come early for breakfast (8 AM) and Sunday school (9:15 AM).

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“Created for Works” – This Sunday at 1

“Created for Works” – This Sunday at 10:30 … http://wp.me/p2boFe-6G

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Luke 11:27-28 – “Blessed”

Mary

Yes, that’s Mary, or an artist’s rendering thereof, at the top of this post. And, yes, you are receiving the correct clergy person’s posting! This week, we’re going to reflect, a bit, on the blessed virgin, the one who gave birth to baby Jesus, and we’re going to reflect on what it means to be “blessed.”

Have you noticed how often we speak of being blessed and wish blessings on others. When someone sneezes, I’m guessing you respond, “Bless you!” But what does it truly mean to be blessed? What do you want for that person or yourself when seeking a blessing. Are you hoping for prosperity, a certain anointing or for safety?

Not many can claim the blessed life that the virgin Mary had. She was blessed in so many ways. She was, no doubt, the envy of every Jewish mother. And, yet, Jesus indicates that you can be blessed more than Mary! We’ll talk about just how Mary was blessed and the ways in which Jesus wants you and I to be blessed when we meet together on the fourth Sunday in Advent.

Come grow in God’s grace together on Sunday morning at 10:30 and at 9:15 for Sunday school. Bring a friend or another family to church with you this week. Everyone is welcome!

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“Giving Thanks” – Psalm 95

heart of worship

 

We are taking a break from our series on the book of Acts this Sunday to focus on Thanksgiving. I don’t want to spend time debating whether the Pilgrims ate turkey or watch a football game on the first Thanksgiving. I want to consider why it is they were thankful. One of my favorite books is “Of Plymouth Plantation,” a diary of William Bradford. It traces 42 years of Bradford’s life, from Europe to the establishment and operation of the Plymouth Settlement. Our fathers who arrived on the Mayflower knew persecution and adversity like almost no other generation of New Englanders to follow them. Yet, their hearts were filled with thankful worship. Why is that? Don’t we all want some of that?

Well, thankfully, God has shown you and me, in Psalm 95, what warms our hearts to thankful worship. This Sunday we’ll dig into that passage, seeking to discover what it is that Bradford and his Mayflower cohorts knew. Also, take a few moments to add your comments to the growing Wall of Thanksgiving in the fellowship hall (vestry) next to the sanctuary. We have so much to thank God for.

Come grow in God’s grace together on Sunday morning at 10:30 as we worship Him and at 9:15 for Sunday school. Bring a friend or another family to church with you this week. Everyone is welcome!

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“Worth-ship” – Acts 17:16-34

parthenon-remains-athens

Athens was the intellectual, cultural and idolatry capital of the Roman Empire, at the time of the book of Acts. When we think of Athens, we think of beautiful, enduring structures like the Parthenon, a temple to the goddess Athena. As Paul arrived in the city, during the first century, he was deeply moved by the number of idols, representing a variety of gods. There was even an altar with an inscription, “TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.” The Athenians wanted to be certain they covered all the basis by recognizing all the gods they could think of, and even the one they may not have.

As I prepare this week’s sermon, I’m finding myself overwhelmed by the number of ways in which Athens is like the world we live in today. Every one of us is worshiping something or, maybe I should say, several things at once. The things we worship aren’t necessarily bad, in themselves, but what’s scary is that we don’t even recognize we are worshiping them. Like the Athenians, we don’t recognize either the power they have over us or the burdens they lay upon us. How do we find true freedom? What, in this world, is worthy of our worship? Find out this Sunday as we consider these things and others.

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“Christmas Un-Cut” – Luke 1:26-38 and Matthew 1:18-25

Christmas-Uncut

Here’s a quiz for you…… How many of the 25 most popular Christmas songs in the U.S. have something to do with Jesus? If you guessed one, you are, according to Wikipedia, correct! And that song is………..(drum roll)…….
“Little Drummer Boy.” Well, I guess in between the “pa, rum, pa, pum, pums” there are a couple mentions of baby Jesus who, we are told, smiled at that little drummer boy. And what book of the Bible was all that in?!

This Sunday we’re going to look at an Un-cut Christmas story from the perspective of Matthew and Luke. We’re going to learn what God was doing in a scene typically cut from the local church nativity play and not ever mentioned in any of the Christmas songs you’ve heard. Everything that God did at that time over 2,000 years ago had eternal significance and is worthy of our consideration.

SPECIAL NOTE: All the songs we’ll sing this week focus on our Lord’s first advent, as we give God praise for His glorious grace.

Christian formation classes start at 9:15 AM and Worship is at 10:30 AM. Invite someone to church this week!

Credit to Carl Laferton for the sermon title, taken from his book that caught my eye a couple weeks back.  A great book on Christmas for those who don’t know the whole story.

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A Congregational Reminder

Our Separatist and Puritan forefathers came to America from England to practice religious freedom separate from church, which had been taken over by the King of England, who formed an Anglican state run church.   Our Pilgrim / Congregational forefathers came to this land for religious liberty, wanting to follow God alone, according to His Holy Word without interference and corruption by the king.   The authority of the state run church was at odds with the authority of God in Scripture.  Christians found themselves asking, “Do we violate our consciences and obey the political authority or do we disobey those God has put over us?”  By physically separating themselves geographically from the reaches of the state run church, they would be able to worship God and practice the Christian religion without governmental corruption.

Today,  because of a recent executive branch mandate, many Christians in this country will be faced with either violating their religious conscience or disobeying governmental authority.  President Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services has ordered religious institutions to provide insurance coverage for employees that must include contraceptives, including those that may induce an abortion.  It also includes plan funded sterilization.  The only exemption is offered to churches and religious bodies that neither employ nor serve any significant number of people who do not share their faith. Many Catholic and Christian schools, colleges, hospitals and social agencies would be directly affected.

Why is this a problem?  Because those Christian organizations affected will have to pay for and provide services and procedures that are, in many cases, in opposition to Scripture.  They will be forced to either comply and violate their consciences or disobey the law and face the penalty imposed by the government.

Oh yes, the President did offer on Friday, in response to opposition primarily from the Roman Catholic church, a slight modification to the regulation.  Christian organizations and their employees will no longer have to directly pay for these benefits, although health plans will still have to offer the benefits to employees of the organization.  The cost of these benefits, will now need to be spread by the health plan providers to all other plan subscribers, thereby raising everyone else’s premiums.  Yes, even those of other Christians who consciously object to provide abortion services via their health plan.  Apparently the administration doesn’t understand the underlying issue.  Certainly, President Thomas Jefferson “got it” when he said, in 1808: “I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises.”

We find ourselves in a moral dilemma not unlike those faced by our Pilgrim forefathers before they set sail on the Mayflower.  And in a situation in direct opposition to the founding principles of this country.  The one huge difference, however, is that we now live in a republic and not a monarchy. A republic where the voices of its citizens and those of the nations’s founding fathers are often heard and heeded.  Thankfully, we as Christians have an even greater hope, no matter what the outcome, as we know the One whose voice is always heard.  Please join me in praying that God would be glorified in this matter and in our actions as His people.

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