Give Generously

The following post is from Pat Bills

So how do you know if a church is living on mission as disciples who follow Jesus? In the book, The Good and Beautiful Community, James Bryan Smith tells a story of two churches…

When I was the chaplain for a small school in Wichita, I was approached by someone in the community from a local church. The person informed me that the church had decided to set aside a large sum of money for a “college ministry” and they wanted our school to be the designated recipient. But there was one catch. They wanted me to teach a special class on Sunday morning for college students. I (of course) obliged and began teaching while the school benefitted from a gracious gift of funding. Soon, the burgeoning class grew to some 25-30 students and all seemed to be going quite well.

Until I got a phone call.

Evidently, the students who attended the class were not sticking around for the worship service afterwards. They were coming for class and then heading to other churches for the assembly. The church asked me to inquire of the students as to why they weren’t sticking around. So, I asked the students why they did not stay for the assembly and they replied, “It’s boring and irrelevant. Besides, no one really talks to us.” When I called the church back and told them of their reasoning, the response was simple and direct: if the students do not stay for the assembly we will pull the funding for the college ministry. It seemed to me that the church was more interested in growing their membership than it was in serving these students. So… I decided to stop teaching. And the money stopped coming.

A few months later I received another call from a local church. The pastor exclaimed how the small community was aging and felt a need to explore ministry opportunities. One of the ideas was to be helpful to the college community. After all, the pastor said, we may be old but we still have a lot to offer. The pastor inquired as to how I think they, this old and “out of touch” church, might be helpful. I asked if they could cook. “Cook? We have some of the best homemade pie in the county!” I told him he might consider providing a meal after service on Sundays since the cafeteria was closed. I then asked if the church like to give “free hugs.” “Hugs?” the pastor replied, “Why we have lots of folks who love to hug on anyone that comes through the door.” I told him that many of our students were far away from home and a little TLC might go a long way. The pastor told me he was worried about the worship service. He explained they sang old hymns without all the “bells and whistles.” I informed him that college students may not be as interested in entertainment as he might think.

And so we set a date for a special Sunday.

I recruited some college students and the church provided lunch… and free hugs. And though the worship was slow, the hymns were old, the sermon was solid and the church was exceedingly gracious in their hospitality. Even more, the hugs from the older generation to a lunch afterward in which the college students were amazed by the home-cooking and hospitality. We enjoyed the warmth and hospitality so much that we kept coming back… and it is still my church home to this day.

The difference? One existed for the sake of themselves while the other existed for the sake of someone else. I don’t think Jesus ever meant for churches to be places for entertainment or building large worship gatherings. Jesus meant for churches to give generously for the sake of the world around them. So which church would you attend? Which church do you think was living on mission as disciples of Jesus?

Let’s choose wisely as we consider how we can serve others with the good gifts that God has given- no strings attached! And let’s not forget the hugs and homemade pie.

As you worship this week:

 

Meditate – on God’s great gifts

Contemplate – How these gifts change your life, daily

Seek – the joy in knowing that God provides for you generously in all things

Find – opportunities to return to God and others generously

 

Resounding Themes:

God’s gifts

Generosity

Kindness

Serving

Giving

 

Getting READY to Worship

 

Ready, Set, READ

Genesis 4:1-4

2 Corinthians 9:6-15

Matthew 6:1-4

Romans 12:3-8

Psalm 40

 

Ready, Set, MEDITATE

  • What’s the greatest gift someone’s ever given you before? How did it impact you? Does it still? Did you tell the giver so?
  • What’s one of the greatest gifts you’ve been able to give someone else? How did it impact them? Does it still? Did they tell you so?
  • Do you consider yourself a generous person? Do others? Why or why not?
  • What are some ways you could be even more generous with your money?
  • What are some ways you could be even more generous with the other gifts God has given you that you could give more freely?

Ready, Set, PRAY

God, You are the giver of all things.

No one can out give you.

Teach us to give like you give and take away the fear that we lose something, when we give.

But rather show us in all ways that giving is gain.

Teach us to use this opportunity you give us each day, to tell the people around us of your love.

Open our eyes to see the need and to have compassion towards others so that your name might be given glory because of the generosity of your people.

“Teach me to serve you as you deserve;

to give and not to count the cost;

to fight and not to heed the wounds;

to toil and not to seek for rest;

to labor and not to ask for reward

save that of knowing that I do your will.”

(St. Ignatius of Loyola)

AMEN

Ready, Set, WORSHIP!

 

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Using Your Gifts

The following post is from Chad Higgins

 

How many times have you heard – or even thought – “I don’t have any gifts…” “I have nothing to share with anyone else that can be helpful.”

Chances are, we’ve all felt that way at some point in our lives, either because of our age, gender, socio-economic challenges, or physical struggles we face.

Meet Jared Axen.

On the outside, he might just a appear to be a nurse.

Changing sheets and bedpans.

Wheeling patients to and from the O.R.

Yet, above and beyond his job at Valencia’s Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, Jared has found a way to take his gift, seemingly unconnected to his vocation, and has used it to transform lives for the better.

Click here to see the video article from the L.A. Times, 2013

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODok6eNtA9c

Jared has combined his talents to become a shining light for patients and nurses everywhere.

Jared believes part of his job as a nurse is to make sure patients remain upbeat and positive. He hopes his singing reminds them that they are much more than a diagnosis.

Nurses are always pretty extraordinary, but Jared takes compassionate care to a whole new level. He is an inspiration to other nurses, musicians, and caregivers everywhere.

“The majority of patients are of an older population, so a lot of what I sing is aimed at trying to bring them back to happier times and memories,” he says.

“Your interaction with somebody may be really small and you don’t really know what kind of impact you’re going to have on someone’s life,” Jared says. “So why not make it a positive one?”

Why not make it a positive one, indeed!

As you worship this week:

 

Meditate – on the ways God gifts his creation

Contemplate – what gifts God has given you, specifically

Seek – the joy in becoming the instrument God created to you to be

Find – opportunities to use your gifts to bless others, for God’s glory

 

Resounding Themes:

God’s gifts

Generosity

Kindness

Serving

Giving

 

Getting READY to Worship

 

Ready, Set, READ

Acts 4:32-35

1 Corinthians 12:7-11

1 Peter 4:10-11

Exodus 26:1-2

Matthew 25:14-21

 

Ready, Set, MEDITATE

– What gifts do you have? When were you first aware of it/them?

– Has anyone ever identified or noticed your giftedness and encouraged you to use it to bless others? How did that make you feel?

– have you ever recognized a gift in another person and encouraged them to use it to bless others? Have you ever seen that gift in action since?

– What talent(s) do you wish you had that others do? What would you do for God’s glory if you had their gift? Why do you think you didn’t receive that gift?

 

Ready, Set, PRAY

How Great is the love that You

The Father have lavished on me!

And not just love, but gifts and talents

To change the world around me

It sounds like such a good deal, Lord.

You give it, I use it, others receive it…

But, I confess, I’m never satisfied with

What You give me

Even though it’s You who does the giving

And Your gifts are always over the top

For some reason, I find myself

Wanting what someone else has

Thinking I could be better with their share

All the while,

Unable

Unwilling

To invest my own portion

In the marketplace of blessing humanity

Rather than spend, I bury

Instead of participating, I hoard

And my gift, though not lost and safely tucked away

For a rainy day

Fails to grow and ripen

Like a vegetable grown under too much shade

So, Lord, give me the courage to

Show my gift

Share Your gift with the light of day

And invest it in the places where it might

Grow and produce interest

Because, despite my fears

My deepest interest

Is pleasing You

Just as Christ pleased You

And in His name I boldly pray,

AMEN

Ready, Set, WORSHIP!

 

Choose to Love

The following post is from Chad Higgins

A few years ago after his ascension, while in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis met, embraced and kissed a man suffering from a rare disease called neurofibromatosis, a painful and disfiguring skin condition growing thousands of tumors all over a person’s body.

The following is taken from an Op Ed piece by Rev. James Martin

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/11/07/why-the-popes-embrace-of-the-disfigured-man-is-so-powerful/

For the Christian, the image of the Pope’s embrace calls up memories of the man whose name Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio chose after his election as Pope: St. Francis of Assisi.

 As a young man, riding his horse one day outside of Assisi, Francis came upon a leper, a person suffering from one of the many skin diseases common in the early 13th century.

From childhood Francis had had a horror of lepers. Yet because of an earlier dream in which God had asked Francis to change his life, the formerly dissolute youth saw that something new was being asked of him. He dismounted his horse, pressed a coin into the leper’s hand and kissed him.

When he jumped back on his horse and turned to wave farewell, Francis saw that the leper had disappeared – legend has it that it was Christ.

 It was a turning point in the life of Francis of Assisi; from then on he would devote himself to the poor and marginalized. He had embraced, to use Mother Teresa’s famous expression, “Christ in distressing disguise.”

The Pope has done the same.

More broadly, the Pope’s embrace recalls images of Jesus’ healing of lepers, again a blanket term for a variety of skin diseases common in first-century Judea and Galilee.

 In a frequent theme of the Gospels, Jesus of Nazareth not only heals but touches people considered “unclean,” dangerous to be around and unworthy of inclusion in society.

In the Gospel of Mark, a leper begs Jesus for healing, by saying, “If you choose, you can make me clean.”

Mark’s Gospel tells what happened next: “Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean.’ Immediately the leprosy left him and he was made clean.”

But the English translation of this powerful story is weak indeed.

The original Greek word for “moved with pity” is the Greek “splagchnistheis.”

This means that Jesus felt compassion in his bowels, the place where the ancients believed that the emotions resided. In other words, Jesus felt it in his guts. This is the kind of compassion we are called to have and to express. This is the kind of compassion we see in the photo of the Pope’s embrace.

Even more broadly, for believers, the Pope’s kiss reminds us of God. This is the way God loves us. God loves us in all our pain, in all our struggles, in all our humanity.

As we think about the idea of choosing to love this week, let us be reminded of this truth: there are lepers everywhere in need of love…and we are one of them.

As you worship this week:

Meditate – on God’s great love

Contemplate – What lengths His love has gone to reach you

Seek – the paths the led you into God’s loving arms

Find – ways to tell God how much you love Him and appreciate His love for you

 

Resounding Themes:

God’s Great Love

Unfailing

God Will Make A Way

The Father Running to His Child

Jesus, the Great Shepherd

 

Getting READY to Worship

Ready, Set, READ

John 10:1-18

Psalm 36:6-12

1 John 3:1-3

1 Corinthians 13

1 John 4:7-12

 

Ready, Set, MEDITATE

– What’s the difference between “like” and “love?” Which is harder? Why?

– Who is a person or group of people you struggle most with loving? Why? Have they wronged you personally?

– Have you ever done something that caused you to be unloved? Who didn’t love you? Did you always remember that God loves you?

– Why does God love us? Is His love worth His risk? What are you willing to risk in love for God?

 

Ready, Set, PRAY

How great is the love that You, the Father, have lavished on us,

that we might – that we are – called sons and daughters of God!

For, Lord, we’d rather be called that

than any earthly accolade this life can give

From president of our company

To being the best at what we do

All pale in comparison to being known as Your child

Great father, as Your children,

we know we stray from how You want us to behave

and who You desire us to become

Let’s face it – we’re flat out rebellious at times!

But, as our loving parent,

Your gentle correction and discipline

remind us of how much you love us

And more than that,

That you’ll never let us go

Your grip of grace is stronger than the pull of any other love

Loving God, unfailing in all Your ways

Especially Your love

We love You

And You love us

World without end

AMEN

Ready, Set, WORSHIP!

 

 

Tell Your Story

The following post is from Pat Bills

I heard the following on a news outlet this summer. I found it quite interesting…

 In 2009, a middle school art teacher named Bre Pettis started MakerBots, a company whose product enabled people to print 3-D objects that could be designed on any computer. As a new entrepreneur, however, he struggled to convince clients and investors that there was a market for his creation.

In response, he turned to an unusual strategy — storytelling. He shared with prospective company stakeholders the impact his invention could have. He talked about how health-care professionals could save money by printing their own supplies with his tool.

Then there was the student who used his teacher’s printer to make himself a prosthetic hand.

Five years later, the entrepreneur sold MakerBots for $604 million.

Prettis’ theory that telling stories could make his ideas and business memorable proved to be correct.

The numbers back him up: Jennifer Aaker, a marketing professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business, conducted a study finding that 63 percent of people recall stories a speaker shares, yet only 5 percent can remember a single statistic. In a recent research study, NYU Psychology Professor Jerome Brumer found stories to be up to 22 times more memorable than facts alone. They can captivate audiences, becoming tools of influence able to persuade listeners to action.

What’s the point? Stories matter. In fact, storytelling is not simply a way to sell a product. Storytelling is a way to convince someone that a difference can be made. And I believe that storytelling is one way the Holy Spirit empowered the church to be the church. The earliest disciples had a story worth telling. And the response?

Let’s not forget that a primary way of submitting to the Spirit is telling our story. The story has been going strong for over two thousand years. And I’d say that’s a pretty good track record for a marketable influence.

As you worship this week:

Meditate – on the power of stories on your own life

Contemplate – how your own journey in this life tells a story for other to read

Seek – out moments in your own timeline that can be molded into stories about God working in your life

Find – opportunity to tell someone about your faith by using the power or your own story

Resounding Themes:

God’s Narrative

Story

Journey

Telling

Living by Faith

Salvation

 

Getting READY to Worship

Ready, Set, READ

Luke 5:12-16

John 4:1-42

Acts 8:4-8

2 Timothy 4:2

1 Corinthians 2:1-8

 

Ready, Set, MEDITATE

– Which do you prefer, bullet points or a story? Why?

– What’s the best story can remember? What stands out to you? Who told it? Have you ever retold it to someone else?

– Why do you think the Bible is told in story form, rather than just a list of laws and dos and don’ts? What is the major theme of all the stories in the Bible?

– Have you ever thought of your like as a story? What story does it tell? Is it worth telling to someone else?

 

Ready, Set, PRAY

Lord God

Great Story-teller and narrative weaver

As we see the evidence of Your work and movement through humankind’s journey

We see a story that tells of Your

Great patience

Amazing advocacy, and

Steadfast love

For every story begins and ends with a display of Your love for Your creation

No matter how far they stray

How far they run from Your advances

Time and time again, You show Your heart

Risking in love

So that relationship

Intimate relationship is possible

As that narrative unfolds before our very eyes

And we see for ourselves Your

Great patience

Amazing advocacy, and

Steadfast love

Grant us the courage to tell others about our story

That they too might find relationship with You

By Christ and the power of Your Spirit,

AMEN

Ready, Set, WORSHIP!

 

Follow the Spirit

The following post is from Pat Bills

A few years ago I was reading a book on leadership. The opening story, to my surprise, had nothing to do with leadership. Let me explain…

The author told a story about a music festival in the Northwest. On one particular night a gentleman (not sure if he was sober or not!) was so moved by the music that he decided to start dancing… on his own… with full abandon. His moves were on point and would have rivaled Michael Jackson any day. But what happened next was really interesting. Someone else decided to join in the fun. And then there were two people dancing. Then another joined– and another – and another – and soon there were hundreds of people dancing. Someone captured the whole thing, from start to finish, on video. By the end of the song the crowd was in a frenzy of disco fever.

You are probably thinking what I was thinking when I read this story from a book on leadership.

Leadership: “Be the first one to make a move.”

Leadership: “Someone has to start dancing!”

Leadership: “Don’t worry what others think.”

But the whole point of the story was to remind the reader that a foundational principle of leadership is having followers. In other words, what made this particular scene so powerful was not just one guy deciding to dance but that hundreds decided to join in on the fun. It takes one to lead while someone needs to follow.

So when we, as the Highland Oaks Church, consider how the Holy Spirit invited the earliest church to be the church, we must begin with this question: Who started the dance? This was not a dance of the eleven disciples. This was not the dance of Peter – “the rock” – who could preach like fire. This was not the dance of Saul – who became Paul – and converted much of the world. This dance was not begun by any person on earth.

This was a dance of the Holy Spirit. And someone needed to follow. A choice had to be made. The church could never have become the church without a group of committed followers joining what the Holy Spirit had begun. So as we think about moving from witness to worship… the next step is to follow the steps of the Spirit.

The dance has begun! I wonder if we are willing to follow?

 

As you worship this week:

Meditate – on the mystery and majesty of God’s Holy Spirit

Contemplate – how they Holy Spirit moves and works in your life/the world

Seek – awareness to sense the movement of the Spirit on your heart to move and act in accordance with the Father’s will

Find – opportunity to move/dance to the Spirit’s rhythm, no matter what others might think

Resounding Themes:

God’s Spirit

Moving over the earth

Holiness

Rekindled Flame

 

Getting READY to Worship

Ready, Set, READ

John 15:26-27

Genesis 1:1-2

Matthew 3:11

John 14:15-27

Acts 1:4-8

Acts 2

 

Ready, Set, MEDITATE

– What was your first teaching about the Holy Spirit? How did it affect you then? How does it affect you now?

– Have your views on God’s Spirit changed over the years? How? If not, why?

– What is your greatest fear concerning God’s Spirit? Do you believe, including but also outside the words of the Bible, that the Holy Spirit can actively speak to and lead you to act/see/understand?

– What excited you about the Holy Spirit? If you could ask God one way the Holy Spirit could lead you (and you would follow), what would it be?

 

Ready, Set, PRAY

Praise You, Father!

Praise You, Son!

Praise You, Spirit!

Three in one!

For what was unnecessary for You to do within Your own existence

You have gladly done for Your creation’s benefit,

Parting out Your majesty into three

A triumphant triumvirate

That we might know You more

And enjoy a closer relationship with You

And just as Jesus prayed that He might be one in You

so that the world would know

You sent Him

God, may we be one in You, through Your Spirit,

so that all may know

You have sent us

So,

Praise You, Father!

Praise You, Son!

Praise You, Spirit!

Three in one!

AMEN

Ready, Set, WORSHIP!

 

Commit to Worship

The following post is from Chad Higgins

The following article was taken from the New York Times, January 3, 2007

https://nyti.ms/2jE6QMX

It was every subway rider’s nightmare, times two.

Who has ridden along New York’s 656 miles of subway lines and not wondered: “What if I fell to the tracks as a train came in? What would I do?”

And who has not thought: “What if someone else fell? Would I jump to the rescue?”

Wesley Autrey, a 50-year-old construction worker and Navy veteran, faced both those questions in a flashing instant yesterday, and got his answers almost as quickly.

Mr. Autrey was waiting for the downtown local at 137th Street and Broadway in Manhattan around 12:45 p.m. He was taking his two daughters, Syshe, 4, and Shuqui, 6, home before work.

Nearby, a man collapsed, his body convulsing. Mr. Autrey and two women rushed to help, he said. The man, Cameron Hollopeter, 20, managed to get up, but then stumbled to the platform edge and fell to the tracks, between the two rails.

The headlights of the No. 1 train appeared. “I had to make a split decision,” Mr. Autrey said.

So he made one, and leapt.

Mr. Autrey lay on Mr. Hollopeter, his heart pounding, pressing him down in a space roughly a foot deep. The train’s brakes screeched, but it could not stop in time.

Five cars rolled overhead before the train stopped, the cars passing inches from his head, smudging his blue knit cap with grease. Mr. Autrey heard onlookers’ screams. “We’re O.K. down here,” he yelled, “but I’ve got two daughters up there. Let them know their father’s O.K.” He heard cries of wonder, and applause.

Power was cut, and workers got them out. Mr. Hollopeter, a student at the New York Film Academy, was taken to St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center. He had only bumps and bruises, said his grandfather, Jeff Friedman. The police said it appeared that Mr. Hollopeter had suffered a seizure.

Mr. Autrey refused medical help, because, he said, nothing was wrong. He did visit Mr. Hollopeter in the hospital before heading to his night shift. “I don’t feel like I did something spectacular; I just saw someone who needed help,” Mr. Autrey said. “I did what I felt was right.”

So what does this have to do with worship, you might wonder?

Everything.

If worship were formulaic – do this right, say this here, sing this there (and don’t do a whole lot of other things) – then God would be honored only by our perfection and ability to get it all done in a decent and in orderly manner.

Yet, not one body of God’s people have ever brought him pleasure on their best Sunday, when Monday through Saturday was forgotten.

As we continue to look into the 8 Moves of A Disciple, we turn our attention to, Worship. Not so much how we honor God inside the walls of the church, but how we serve and please and honor God once we leave.

 

As you worship this week:

 

Meditate – on the ways God is truly worthy of our worship

Contemplate – on the expressions of worship that God desires from us most

Seek – the heart of God, both with your words and meditations, but also with your heart of love for his creation

Find – joy in worshipping God with every moment of your life

 

Resounding Themes:

Worship of God

Compassion

Faithfulness

Joy

Surrender

 

Getting READY to Worship

Ready, Set, READ

Isaiah 29:13

Matthew 25:31-46

Psalm 29

John 4:20-24

Luke 10:25-37

 

Ready, Set, MEDITATE

– Think of one of the most powerful worship services you’ve been a part of. What made it powerful? What role did you play?

– When you hear the word “worship” used, what does it generally refer to? Why? Do you think that helpful, in the context of understanding true worship?

– Name some things/behaviors that constitute the worship of God that have no attachment to an assembly.

– Which are you better at – worshipping God in the church or in the world? Why? – What honors God most when it comes to an expression of worship (no matter where you are)?

 

Ready, Set, PRAY

Why do I worship You, God?

Hmm…there are so many reasons

You’re all powerful, all knowing, all seeing, and altogether amazing! Truthfully, God, worshipping You how You should truly be praised, though

Is a bit daunting

And overwhelming

Quite honestly God, I wish You were delighted when I developed a sound doctrine and executed proper worship to You based on those do’s and dont’s

Then I would know when You were watching and paying attention

And the rest of the time, I could act how I wanted to

But You have no on and off switch

Your praise knows no bookends of “dear Lord,” and “Amen.”

For there are only two things You desire from me

A broken spirit and

A contrite heart

For, when I approach You with these two things,

Your wrath turns to grace

Your impatience transforms into faithfulness

Your grief over my sin dissolves into love

And that’s just one of the many reasons I choose to worship You

With my lips, and,

With my life

AMEN

Ready, Set, WORSHIP!

 

Become A Witness

The following post is from Pat Bills

I think it is fair to say that my parents were not the only ones who helped raise me. The Bel-Aire Church of Christ in Tullahoma, Tennessee was more than a nice place to go on Sundays. The church helped me grow up and become a man of God. And they taught me what it meant to be a witness.

Which is why I wish you could have known Bill Muse.

Bill Muse, a father of four, was one of the deacons at my church. His flattop haircut looked like something out of a 1960’s Moon Pie advertisement. Though short in stature Bill Muse always packed a punch. I remember how his raspy voice would call out my name – my full first name – and say with great clarity “Patrick, how are you?” Then, without giving me a chance to answer, he would “lovingly” punch me in the chest to see if he could take me off guard.

And I loved this about Bill Muse. But the punch in the chest was not the only thing I loved…

After Sunday night Bible study I would go over to the Muse’s house and play hide and seek in their gigantic backyard. Though we were in High School, Bill (and Jan) made me feel how a kid is supposed to feel… free to run, hide, and return to the simplicity of being “a kid.”

Bill also taught our youth classes. Though his own children might have been a bit embarrassed I loved it. I remember that when Bill taught he never made me feel stupid for asking a question. And it matters when someone doesn’t make you feel stupid when you have a question.

And I loved the way Bill honored the word “family.” He was a man of prayer, integrity and love for his wife, Jan. He was always so gracious in hospitality and always – always – willing to hug me (or punch me) and assure me that I was loved like one of his own kids. Even though I loved to chase his daughters around the church building, Bill Muse was actually chasing after me – reassuring me that I actually mattered.

Here is what I love most about Bill Muse: Bill was a witness of good news for me. He never sat down, one on one, to study the Bible with me. He never told me I had to “obey the gospel” or I was going to spend an eternity in hell. He never tried to be my “parent” or offer unsolicited advice. Bill Muse just loved me. He accepted me in all my weirdness, insecurity, and my high school arrogance. He taught me about Jesus, the church, and the importance of family by the way he lived his life. Bill Muse was a witness of good news because his actions spoke louder than words. Like St. Francis once said, “Preach the gospel… and if necessary use words.” And according to St. Francis, Bill was an incredible preacher; someone who was a witness by the life he loved right in front of me.

So, when I found out Bill had died this past week from a long battle with Huntington’s disease, I was incredibly sad. But I wasn’t sad that he had died- I was sad the sweet people in Tullahoma, Tennessee had lost a witness of good news. Thanks Bill for showing me the true power of a life well lived. And thanks for punching me in the chest… I hope to return the favor one day.

 

As you worship this week:

 

Meditate – on the glory of God, as seen and experienced through the lives of those around us

Contemplate – the beauty of sharing God’s great love with someone in need

Seek – the courage to preach the Good News in every part of your life

Find – opportunity cultivate words of Hope and Life in someone this week

 

Resounding Themes:

God’s Majesty

Courage

Mission

Witness

Compassion

 

Getting READY to Worship

 

Ready, Set, READ

Acts 1:6-8

Hebrews 12:1

John 1:1-18

Acts 26:12-18

1 Timothy 6:11-16

 

Ready, Set, MEDITATE

 

– What person in your life has been the greatest witness of the truth and power of the gospel of Jesus? Why?

– Has someone ever shared the gospel with you, without words? Can bad/harmful actions undo the best spoken words?

– If you were talking to someone right now about the Good News, what would be your core message, the most important thing you could say about it?

– Do you lack the courage it takes to speak directly with someone about Jesus? What holds you back? What could make that easier?

 

Ready, Set, PRAY

 

Gracious Father,

Your words are powerful!

In the beginning, they brought forth

something from nothing,

order from chaos,

light from darkness

How your words bear witness to your great power and might!

But with those same words, you spoke the Incarnation

Spirit to flesh

Immortal to mortality

Heaven to earth

And from your words of power came fragility and vulnerability

How Your Word bears witness to life, and life everlasting!

And so, with our words, we speak the Good News we know –

There is a God of great power

And

There is a Savior of great love

For, if we speak, let it be with the Words of Life

But when we act, let it always be a witness to the truth unspoken

Through Jesus,

AMEN

Ready, Set, WORSHIP!

 

Disciples Serve Others

The following post is from Chad Higgins

 

Excerpts taken from USA Today – see the full article here:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/09/02/harvey-volunteer-used-his-large-military-truck-rescue-hundreds-survivors/628235001/

 

The stranger drove down Braesheather Drive in a military vehicle taller than Staci Beinart’s one-story house. He stopped at the curb, killed the engine, and climbed down from the cab, which sits five feet in the air.

Beinart gasped for breath. She took two steps forward, smiled and wrapped the man in a hug. Then she introduced the stranger to her mother.

“Mom! This is the man who rescued us!” said Beinart, 40, before turning back to the man. “I’m sorry. What is your name?”

His name is Nick Sissa. And on Friday afternoon he was the returning hero of Meyerland, a neighborhood west of downtown Houston that experienced severe flooding due to Hurricane Harvey.

For two days [that] week, through blinding rain that threatened his own livelihood, Sissa drove his two-and-a-half ton military vehicle through the flooded streets of Houston. He rescued about 300 people, he said.

In the grand scheme of things, Sissa’s efforts may account for little. Harvey — one of the largest storms ever to hit North America — flooded about 300 miles of the Houston metropolitan area, the nation’s fourth largest city, forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes. Thousands more participated in rescue efforts. Rebuilding the city will take years.

To the people of Meyerland, however, Sissa’s big truck left a big impression.

Several years ago, a woman by the name of Eleanor Bradley was doing her holiday shopping in Manhattan at Sachs Fifth Avenue. Unable to navigate a stairwell properly, she fell and in the process broke her leg. Unable to move, she sat helpless, crying for help from the innumerable passersby. How long do you think she waited? 2 minutes, 4, 10? After 40 minutes, someone had pity and helped her out. She said hundreds of people walked by, even making note of how sad they were for her saying, “oh, you poor dear,” or “bless your heart,” all the while not stopping to help.

“Serving others is the Bread and Butter of Christianity – standard operating equipment, if you will. Not all can preach, still even fewer can lead. Only a handful will be able to teach or give counsel, but everyone can roll up his or her sleeves and wade into the flood of everyday life!” – Lynn Anderson

Jesus didn’t walk by the poor, the pitiful and the needy and say, “be warm and filled.”

Jesus was helpful.

He served.

Now, don’t confuse your empathy or sympathy for helpfulness. These emotions may move you to serve others, but without action, they only make you a bleeding heart.

 

As you worship this week:

 

Meditate – on the power of serving

Contemplate – the ways God has/does/and will continue to serve your needs

Seek – ways to see deeper into the needs of others and be moved by their need

Find – the courage to serve/fill those needs, as Christ has served you

 

Resounding Themes:

Serving

God’s Great Love

Neighbor

Sacrifice

Jesus, the Suffering Servant

 

Getting READY to Worship

 

Ready, Set, READ

 

Philippians 4:10-20

Isaiah 58:9-11

Matthew 6:25-34

2 Kings 4:1-7

 

Ready, Set, MEDITATE

 

– Describe a time when you or your family was in need of being served by someone else? Was it hard to accept their service? How did it make you feel?

– Conversely, have you ever stepped in and served someone who really needed your help? How did you feel? How did they feel?

– It may seem obvious, but what are some ways that God has served you, specifically? Why does God choose to serve his creation? How hard is it to accept?

– Do you ever find yourself moved by someone’s need or circumstance, but do absolutely nothing about it? What stops you from pitching in and serving?

– If you knew that, before you served someone, that you couldn’t possibly fully help them, but that every bit you did serve made a difference, would you serve more?

 

Ready, Set, PRAY

 

God,

In just a few hours of watching the news and reading the headlines,

We are struck but the amount of need in the world

Famine

Earthquakes

Hurricanes

War

Poverty

Injustice

And the screens go silent and the papers in the waste bin

And the needs are forgotten

But not to you, O God

For you cannot turn a blind eye to the suffering

Or a deaf ear to cries of your creation in pain

For what moment goes without your notice?

Again and again, you reach out your hand of mercy and serve your creation

We ask that you continue to do so, using us as your instruments

That through us, you might serve and meet the needs of a hurting and hungry world

And that in those acts of service, you would be glorified and honored as God

World without end

 

AMEN

Ready, Set, WORSHIP!

 

Disciples Create Welcome

The following post is from Pat Bills

My family loves Disney movies. We especially love their music. So, when the most recent Disney film Moana (Moe-wha-nuh) came into theaters last year, we could not wait to watch… and listen! In short, the film did not disappoint. And the music? Fantastic! But there is one song from Moana that our family loves to sing above all the others…

The song is performed by Maui (a mythical demigod) for the main character, a young Polynesian girl named Moana. The title of the song is “You’re Welcome.” The tune is catchy, creative, and it is SO hard to “not” sing-a-long. (You can see a video here.) But there is a catch to the title of this song. The song is not about making any feel welcome- it’s rather about someone saying to someone else: “Hey, you’re welcome for all the wonderful things I am doing for you.” In other words, the lyrics are completely self-absorbed and tied up in the expectation that your awesomeness will be and should be appreciated by those around you… “You’re welcome.”

It’s a cute song fitting for a Disney movie. But I wonder some times if we sing the same song to one another as a church. Put another way, our “church music” is often about what we want, what ought to be said to us, and the expectation for our heart to be blessed.

“I really would love for Chad to sing my favorite song.”

“Oh good, that communion talk wasn’t too long.”

“I sure hope ______________ isn’t on the praise team.”

“Did you notice so and so? They have no idea how to control their kids”

“I sure love the people that sit around me.”

“I wish Pastor Pat would shut up… the Cowboys play at noon.”

You’re welcome.

Don’t you think the story of the church Jesus had in mind would sing another version? I have a hard time imagining Jesus inviting us to sing about our wants- our needs – and our comfortability. No.

Not even close.

Jesus wants us to sing about another kind of “welcome.” It’s a song that is inclusive rather than exclusive. A song that invites us to think about others rather than ourselves. A song that says, “Yes! You are welcome to invade my space because it is OUR space.” Jesus did not die for a church to be self-absorbed and focused on the preservation of wants and wishes. Jesus dies so that we could say “You’re welcome” to any and all those around us.

So which version are you going to sing this week? One will be just the way you like it. The other? It’s all about the other and inviting a way for us to say – and sing- to our church family and neighbor, “You’re welcome.”

As you worship this week:

 

Meditate – on the welcoming nature of God

Contemplate – how it feels to accepted into God’s arms

Seek – the fullness of knowing you are both loved and called to love others in Jesus’ name, for Jesus’ sake

Find – the opportunity to extend welcome to someone you come in contact with that might otherwise not be accepted/welcome

 

Resounding Themes:

Welcome

Second-Chance

Outcast

Family

Unselfish

 

Getting READY to Worship

 

Ready, Set, READ

 

Galatians 3:23-29

Luke 15

Psalm 5:11-12

Matthew 10

John 8:2-11

Matthew 25:31-46

 

Ready, Set, MEDITATE

 

– Have you ever felt unwelcome? What were the circumstances? How did you feel?

– Have you ever had the opportunity to make someone who was outcast/excluded feel welcome? What were the circumstances? How did the person react?

– What areas of your life put you in a place where you exclude others? How would you feel if those areas were removed and everyone was welcome?

– Is your church a welcoming place? Why or why not? Is it important for a church to be welcoming? What specific ways could make your church a more welcoming place?

 

Ready, Set, PRAY

 

Lord,

You are a big, big God

And we have a small, small faith and are so scared

To open our homes to those we don’t know

To open our wallets and give to unknown needs

To open our hearts to stories that would sometimes shock, appall, and make us afraid

For our fear must surely be grounded in the truth that, in the faces, stories, and lives of those we chose not to welcome, we would see a reflection of ourselves

A past life we care not to relive

A future life that we hope never to see

O God, overcome our fear and insecurity!

Conquer our inability to move into these spaces and places of pain by the power and brightness of your great love!

For surely Your love, O Lord is like a tent

A world-sized banner of protection offering protection and welcome in a hostile and lonely existence

And may we serve as your ambassadors, welcoming

the outcast,

the lonely,

the afraid,

the lost,

the hurting,

the them,

the us,

the You in our midst

that all will feel Your love, as You have first loved us

In Christ,

AMEN

Ready, Set, WORSHIP!

 

Following the Holy Spirit

(The following article is from Chad Higgins)

 

Who doesn’t just love Indiana Jones, right?

Okay, well, if you don’t, just know:

First – You’re in the minority

Second – Jesus still loves you, but…

Third – …I’m still working on it!

I love all the movies. Everything from the Nazi’s faces melting in the first movie when they dared look inside the Ark of the Covenant, to the pagan high priest who could extract a still beating heart from the chest of an unwitting human sacrifice.

Okay. Maybe not everyone loves Indiana Jones. And for good reason!

But the third movie was the one top them all, as Sean Connery joins the cast as Indiana’s father, and they set off in search of the Holy Grail.

If you haven’t seen it, at the end of the movie, they come to the place where they believe the chalice of Christ is hidden, and they have to pass through a near impossible series of riddles and tasks in order to get to the cup’s final resting place. At the next to last test, Indiana comes to an opening in the rock which reveals a deep, impassible canyon, with the obvious entrance to the grail room across the divide.

With his father’s (Connery) life on the line, his clue is to take a leap of faith, straight into the chasm in order to cross it. With his eyes telling him it would be impossible, he closes them, puts his hands on his heart, and steps madly into the void.

But instead of falling to his rocky death (a poor ending to be sure), his foot lands on an unseen bridge of camouflaged rock that stretches to the other side. The concealed support could not be seen until once stepped onto.

Until he was unable to submit in faith to that which he could not see, but he knew must be true, he could not succeed.

As we continue to talk about our core values in action, we come to the Spirit of our house, and wrestle with this challenge: are we willing to submit and take a leap of faith!

 

As you worship this week:

Meditate – on the mystery and wonder of the Holy Spirit

Contemplate – how the Spirit works in and among us both with and without our awareness

Seek – to discern the Spirit more deeply, delving into the mind of God and his promise to you given by the seal of his Spirit

Find – discernment to know when the Spirit is leading you to take a leap of faith, and take it!

Resounding Themes:

God’s Holy Spirit

Courage in Action

Listening

Faith

Presence

 

Getting READY to Worship

 

Ready, Set, READ

John 14:15-17

Ephesians 1:3-14

John 3:5-8

Romans 5:1-5

 

Ready, Set, MEDITATE

– Have you ever had to do something that took great courage on your part? Why was it so hard? How did it turn out?

– Have you ever heard God’s Spirit referred to as the Holy Ghost? How is that different than naming it as his Spirit?

– What role does the Holy Spirit play in the lives of those we see in the New Testament? What role does it play in your life today?

 

Ready, Set, PRAY

God in three persons

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

We praise You as One

We follow You as Three

For in each manifestation of the Same, righteous, holy substance

You are more clearly revealed to Your creation of weaker flesh

Yet, no matter where You are or how You are moving

It is our deepest desire, our covetous thought

That Your Spirit live inside of us

Ever close, ever near to our thoughts and understanding

Even closer to our footsteps and actions

So, Spirit of God, grant us courage

Courage to become Your living Temple

That You might find residence in us

And we might find our forever home in You

Holy Spirit, You are welcome here

Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere

Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for

To be overcome by Your presence Lord

AMEN

Ready, Set, WORSHIP!