We are beginning a new sermon series entitled “Ascend: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.” We will be looking at Psalms 120-134, which are known as the Songs of Ascents. Three times a year, the Hebrew people were commanded to go to Jerusalem to the great worship festivals, and these psalms were likely sung by pilgrims as they traveled. Topographically Jerusalem is the highest city in Palestine, and so all who traveled there spent much of their time ascending. Climbing uphill requires much more grit than going downhill, so these songs are fortifying, encouraging, always pointing us to our prize: God.
We are entering the season of Lent. Just as the season of Advent helps us to prepare for the birth of Christ at Christmas, Lent prepares us for Good Friday and Easter.
Lent is about Jesus. It is a season of preparation and repentance in which we are invited to make our hearts ready for remembering the death and resurrection of Jesus. During these 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday, Lent is a time for us to remember that we are sinners in need of our Savior. It's a season to reflect on our lives, to reconsider how we are living in light of the presence and power of God made available to us in Jesus. It's a time to reflect on our lives as they are, and how they could be.
During this season, we want to refocus our lives on God and the call he has placed on us. That's why it's a common practice at Lent to give something up. But it's not about the giving-up or missing that which we've removed from our lives during this season – it's about clinging to Christ when we realize how often we turn to the perishable things of this world. It exposes the sin we bear when we set anything as more important than the One who is sovereign over all.
We are starting a new sermon series that is all about prayer. What are the obstacles that keep us from praying as Jesus does? What does it look like for us to approach God as children? God is inviting us to inhabit a space of dependence, messiness, and freedom from guile and fear as we lift up our hearts to the Lord in prayer. In this season of Easter, let us be bold as we pray to the One whom Jesus called abba, to the One who had the power and love to raise Jesus from the dead!
Our church staff and musicians have been preparing to lead us well on Easter morning. It will be a wonderful time of worship! The preparation that counts the most, however, will take place in your heart. The power of the Resurrection is yours if Christ is in you.
On Wednesday we began the season of Lent. "Lent" is derived from an Old English word that refers to the lengthening of days during the spring season. In the life of the Church, Lent is an invitation to lengthen our reach, asking God to take a greater place in our lives as we anticipate the Easter celebration that will mark the end of the season.
As we have in years past, we plan to "reach" together during this season. Small groups have been organized and books have been purchased in the hopes that you will join us in this reach. We will be reading "40 Days Living the Jesus Creed" by Scot McKnight. It's a brief daily devotional reading that I believe will have great impact on our life personally and corporately. The sermon series will coincide with these studies.
Nehemiah 8:10 tells us that celebration is important--it renews and strengthens us for continued service. Over the last four years our church has chosen to be transformed. As we learn about the story of Nehemiah, we will reflect on the work that God has done through the people of First Pres Maumee.
Throughout Advent we will be asking the question, "Why did God take on flesh?" or "Why was Jesus born?" These questions help us unravel what has been historically called the Doctrine of the Incarnation. Most in our society will be celebrating Christmas in the weeks to come. Many understand the holiday has to do with the birth of Jesus. However, the doctrine of the Incarnation is so mysterious that even those within the Church might struggle to answer the question. Join us as we take Hebrews, chapter 2, as our guide to more fully adore our Lord in this season.
We've been contemplating the concept of love this fall. We've considered keys to a reconciling love, we celebrated the love of God's Word that led to the Reformation 500 years ago, and in the month of November, we will be seeking to know the love of God as it is expressed in a critically important Old Testament word-- the word "hesed". As followers of Jesus, we are called to love as God loves. The best word to help us understand what this means is the word hesed. With the exception of Jesus himself, there is no better person in all the Bible to demonstrate the power of this word than Ruth, a woman of tremendous faith. Her story is told in the Old Testament.
The work of reconciliation is something many people dread. ...at least when it comes to finances! Reconciliation is one of those words we don't use very often. Most often, we use it in reference to our finances or our faith. We reconcile a checkbook and we are called to be reconciled to God through Jesus.
While we may put off reconciling finances, we cannot avoid the work of reconciliation that God has given to the Church. In fact, God's Word says that this is the very reason the church exists. We have been given the work of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:11-21)
There are some keys to reconciling your checkbook. A good lesson will go a long way. Likewise, there are a few keys that will help us be reconciled both to God and people. Throughout most of October, we will be discovering these keys to reconciliation from God's Word. We hope you'll join us!
Through September, we have a four week series highlighting some of our Mission work in our city and globally.
A favorite quote about the Bible comes from Mark Twain. Twain said, "It ain't the parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it's the parts that I do understand!"
Truly, we can give thanks that essential aspects of God's Word are accessible to any who truly want to understand the Bible. The simple gospel can be understood by the youngest of children. However, we all know that other aspects of the Bible can be much more complex and confusing. As a result, throughout the history of the church many biblical passages have been misunderstood and misused. In light of this danger Saint Paul admonished his son in the faith, Timothy, writing, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth." - 2 Timothy 2:15
This summer we, ourselves, will be taking to heart this exhortation as we consider some of the most misused passages of the Bible. Not only do we hope to understand these passages correctly, but we also want to develop greater skills in handling the whole Bible.