Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Psalm 38:12-22

Psalm 38:12-22 
New International Version (NIV)

  12 Those who want to kill me set their traps, those who would harm me talk of my ruin; all day long they scheme and lie. 13 I am like the deaf, who cannot hear, like the mute, who cannot speak; 14 I have become like one who does not hear, whose mouth can offer no reply.
  15 Lord, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God. 16 For I said, “Do not let them gloat or exalt themselves over me when my feet slip.” 17 For I am about to fall, and my pain is ever with me. 18 I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin. 19 Many have become my enemies without cause; those who hate me without reason are numerous. 20 Those who repay my good with evil lodge accusations against me, though I seek only to do what is good.
  21 Lord, do not forsake me; do not be far from me, my God. 22 Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Savior.


  If I were ever to summon the necessary emotions to hurl myself out of a perfectly working airplane, I would desire one thing, and one thing only:  a parachute.  All the money in the world would be of no use to me at that moment if I did not have a parachute.  The adoration of millions would be of no use to me if I was in free fall without a solution.  Only one thing (well, I guess a jetpack would work, but you get the idea.  Plus, jetpacks are somewhat harder to come by.) would help.
  In the same way, only Christ can truly deliver us from the forces that seek to do us evil.  Sure, we may find some temporary security in other ways, but those will ultimately fail us.  We can try and buy our way out of trouble, or try to secure ourselves against it, but such methods will prove fruitless.
  Only God can protect us, and so it is wise to trust in him and wait on him.  If we grow impatient and tired of waiting, we are foolish to turn from God and seek more immediate, albeit temporary, assistance.  Waiting on God, no matter how foolish it may look, is the wisest course.  May we place our lives in his hands, and trust that he will not let us down.

May you feel God's nearness today

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Psalm 38:1-11

Psalm 38:1-11
  New International Version (NIV)

  1 Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. 2 Your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down on me. 3 Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin. 4 My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.
  5 My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly. 6 I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning. 7 My back is filled with searing pain; there is no health in my body. 8 I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart.
  9 All my longings lie open before you, Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you. 10 My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes. 11 My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbors stay far away.


  Anybody know how this feels?  Have you experienced a pounding heart?  Have you been so deeply wounded that your friends and neighbors avoid you?  Have you felt as though there was no health in your body, and the only thing you could see was darkness?  Do you know this feeling?  Perhaps you have it now.
  There is a prayer for that.

  Our religion is not built on the faulty assumption that all will be well, that if you say your prayers and go to church, then God will bless you with happiness and health.  Christianity is a religion that knows how to rejoice, and it is a religion that also gives us language and the ability to cope with the deepest and darkest valleys of life.  This is real life stuff, and God wants us to have the ability to hold onto faith and hope in the midst of our pain, despair and tradition.  God gives us language with which to pray during these chapters.
  God understands.  God himself has hung on the cross while abandoned by his companions and in deep physical distress.  God knows, and God will neither abandon nor forsake you, even if everyone else in the world does.
  God is neither afraid or nor ashamed of you when you are at your lowest, for when Christ was at his lowest, he was raised to the heights of glory by the power of God.

  You, too, shall be raised.

  May you have the strength to believe that today

Monday, April 28, 2014

Psalm 37:29-40

Psalm 37:29-40
New Living Translation (NLT)

  29 The godly will possess the land and will live there forever. 30 The godly offer good counsel; they teach right from wrong. 31 They have made God’s law their own, so they will never slip from his path. 32 The wicked wait in ambush for the godly, looking for an excuse to kill them. 33 But the Lord will not let the wicked succeed or let the godly be condemned when they are put on trial.
  34 Put your hope in the Lord. Travel steadily along his path. He will honor you by giving you the land. You will see the wicked destroyed. 35 I have seen wicked and ruthless people flourishing like a tree in its native soil. 36 But when I looked again, they were gone! Though I searched for them, I could not find them!
  37 Look at those who are honest and good, for a wonderful future awaits those who love peace. 38 But the rebellious will be destroyed; they have no future. 39 The Lord rescues the godly; he is their fortress in times of trouble. 40 The Lord helps them, rescuing them from the wicked. He saves them, and they find shelter in him.

  What endures?
  The Psalmist here mentions that he has seen the wicked flourishing.  We've all seen this--people who prosper despite having no integrity or principles.  We wonder if their deeds will ever catch up to them.  They find fame and success and fortune through deceitful means, and we shake our heads.
  Such things will perish in time.  When fame and fortune become idols to people, such things will eventually vanish, and they will be left with nothing.  However, when we put God first, we will endure.  Fortune and success may find us, but we will recognize them for what they are, and if we continue to cling to God, we will endure while all else passes away.
  So let us recognize that the wiser choice is to always put God first, trusting in his wonderful future and his power, and giving thanks for material blessings but never putting our complete trust in them or seeking them before all else.

May God's glory outshine everything else today

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sermon for 4/27/14 on Acts 17

Click Here:  Acts 17:16-34



Let’s dive into something controversial, shall we?
Let’s talk about desserts. 
Now, some of you are equal opportunity dessert lovers.  If it has sugar in it, you’re interested, and dinner is often the meal to be endured before you get to the good stuff.  You don’t have to be picky—as long as it’s dessert, you’re happy.
Now, others of you have favorites.  I’m a favorite kind of guy.  Ice cream and cookies is as good as it gets, and I’m often not too interested in the other options.
Others of you, well, you might prefer cake.  Or maybe pie. 
But we have our favorites. 
Now, let’s just say I made it my personal mission to convert everyone in the church to choosing ice cream and cookies for dessert.  The worst way to do so would be to stand up and tell you that you’re a terrible person for liking cake, and that choosing cake will rot your brain and lead you into perilous moral choices.  What if I belittled you for choosing pie?  Would that work?  Or, would it convince you if I ignored anything you said or anything about you and simply shouted over you?  What if I ignored your lactose intolerance and simply told you that ice cream was right for you anyway—would you find that appealing?
Now, if I really wanted to win you over to ice cream and cookies, what would be the best way to do so?  I’m guessing it would be to learn what you like, to get to know you, and then maybe invite you over to my house to try some homemade ice cream and cookies.  Maybe you’d convert right then.  Maybe you’d be curious enough to come back and try it again later.  Maybe you’d lead unconvinced.  Any way it ended, you’d have had a positive experience with someone whom you believed deeply cared about you and getting to know you and your interests. 
So this is the ideal way I’d convert you to a lifelong love of ice cream and cookies.  It’s much more reasonable and, probably, appealing than any alternative. 
So when we come to talking about something much, much more important that dessert, how are we going to approach others about our faith?
When we find Paul in Athens in Acts 17, he’s in a city filled with idols.  It’s a place foreign to Christianity, and note how he approaches the people in the city.  We know that his spirit was provoked within him, but rather than rant and rave and hope that his anger converted the Athenians, he instead spends days in the synagogue engaged in conversation with the Jews.  He’s in the marketplace every day talking with the philosophers.  He spent time getting to know the people and the city, and only then does he begin to address the Athenians.
When he does speak, he speaks to the people, rather than over them.  He starts with something they can all relate to—their hunger for God.
See, the Athenians were a religious people, a people who were eager to worship.  They simply had the target of their worship wrong.  They knew they were supposed to be worshipping, and so Paul started with that, because it was something they had in common.  From there, he redirected their efforts, their worship, pointing out to them the error of their ways.  They had this statue of the unknown god, where they basically admitted that they weren’t sure what they worshipped, they just intrinsically knew they were supposed to be worshipping.  Paul points out that statue and tells them that this doesn’t have to remain a mystery—that God has pulled back the curtain so that the truth might be revealed.  And that truth is not some esoteric point to be debated—it’s a person, Jesus of Nazareth.
So Paul points to Christ, crucified and risen from the dead.  He starts with the darkness, where the Athenians are, and he brings them into the light.  He is compassionate, yet firm.  He does not waver from the centrality of Jesus Christ, but he also does not bludgeon them for getting it wrong.  They are welcome to repent, invited to repent—but they have to do so around the person of Jesus Christ.
Now, at this point some of them depart.  Resurrection from the dead is too much for them.  Some of them convert, and many others want to hear more.  They’re intrigued.  They’re curious.  They have questions, and before they convert their lives to follow Christ, they want answers.
Friends, the great news for us is that Christianity doesn’t have to be afraid of questions.  We don’t have to hide behind secrets and mysteries—we believe that Christianity is robust and rigorous enough to withstand examination.  For 2,000 years, the opponents of the church have been trying to tear it down.  They have not succeeded, and will not succeed, for not even the gates of hell itself are strong enough to prevail against Christianity. 
So what do we learn from this?
First of all, we were made to seek God.  Paul says this in verse 27.  He notes that God didn’t need to create us, that God wasn’t missing something without us, but that God wanted to create us and knows that we are at our best when we are seeking God with our whole hearts.  God wants the best for us, and our sin interferes with this life, so God longs for us to seek him.  In verse 27, Paul spells out the purpose of life, and our greatest hope.  We are all made to seek God, and those who choose not to pursue God substitute something else.  We all choose to worship something.
Secondly, when we speak to others about God, we need to relate to them.  We need to know them, to care enough to understand where they are coming from.  Paul spent days speaking with Jews and with philosophers.  Paul learned their poetry, which he quotes here.  Paul cared enough to get to know the people he would preach to.  We, too, are called to know our neighbors, to love them enough to know them, so that when we speak to them of faith, we can talk to them in language they’ll understand.  It’s no use talking over people—people want to know you care.
Finally, Christianity can stand up to examination.  We can stand tough questions.  Paul spent days debating philosophers, people who questioned everything.  He didn’t give up or throw in the towel, but had deep conversations.  Many who are curious about Christianity have a lot of questions.  It’s ok.  It’s also ok to not know all the answers.  Just because you and I don’t know the answers doesn’t mean there are no good answers—it just means we need to learn more.  I’m not afraid of science or medicine—they can throw whatever they want at the faith, and I am comfortable knowing what I believe.  We don’t have to be scared.
Friends, all of this points to Christ, crucified and resurrected.  Paul held this in the center, and it needs to be the center of our life, too.  Without it, we drift off course.  If we let Christianity become a set of rules or some method to happiness, we wander from the centrality of what God is doing in Jesus Christ.  God is defeating the power of sin and death in Christ.  Each and every one of us was lost, without cause for hope, until Christ intervened and saved us from our sins by the power of his death on the cross.  We cannot lose this at the middle, for without it we are no different than anyone else.  May we base our lives around this central truth, and may we never deviate.

Let us pray

Friday, April 25, 2014

Psalm 37:23-28

Psalm 37:23-28
New Living Translation (NLT) 

  23 The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. 24 Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand. 25 Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread.
  26 The godly always give generous loans to others, and their children are a blessing. 27 Turn from evil and do good, and you will live in the land forever. 28 For the Lord loves justice, and he will never abandon the godly. He will keep them safe forever, but the children of the wicked will die.


  I make mistakes.  Lots of them.  I don't keep a list handy, but it would be pretty long if I did.  It's tough reading the Psalms because the Psalmist often seems to live a very, very righteous life, one that looks far different than mine.
  So I find consolation here in verse 24, when the Psalmist acknowledges that the godly will stumble.  We're going to trip over things, some of them self-made obstacles.  The important thing is that when we do stumble, we don't fall from the grasp of God.
  It's like when I hold Caleb's hand as he's walking on the curb.  He stumbles sometimes, and he would fall if I were not holding him, but I prevent injury by keeping him from falling.  I'm there, allowing him to try something, but ready to protect.
  God does the same for us.  He loves us enough to allow us to be free, and yet he is right beside us through every moment of life, giving us room to stumble but always close enough to prevent us from falling.

May you trust the presence of God today

Thursday, April 24, 2014

April 24 New Hope E-News


Potluck!-- This Sunday

Community Kitchen Spot
There are a lot of hungry and homeless children of God and the community needs some help feeding them. If you would like to help out, please bring the following items to church this Sunday & put them on the bookshelf.
Plastic Forks, Knives, Spoons
Dinner Napkins
Heavy Duty Sectional Dinner Plates
Dessert Plates

New Hope News

May NewsletterIf you have anything you'd like included in the May Newsletter, please submit it to the church office by Monday.

Sunday SchoolDon Kaller is going to be teaching the adult Sunday School class through May 4.

Session MeetingMay 4, 5:30-7.

Pray For:
Norma Capone

Peggy & John L.

For those in darkness struggling to see the light bursting forth from the empty tomb

For the kids in confirmation class


Keith's Random Thoughts

The last few years have seen a huge rise in participation in endurance athletic events. Full & Half-marathons and Full & Half-Ironman Triathlons are more popular than ever. Thousands of people spends thousands of hours preparing for such events. In order to complete such an event, training has to become a certain way of life. You can't just walk out the door and complete and Ironman. (Well, I can't. I used to think I wanted to do an Ironman. Then I did an Olympic distance tri, which is ¼ of an Ironman, and I realized that I'm good with the sprint races, which are ½ of those. Moving in a straight line for 12-17 hours in a row doesn't actually seem like something I'm particularly called to do.)
Picking up training for such an event disturbs rhythms and patterns in life. There was a fascinating article some years back about rifts in relationships, including divorces, that are caused by one partner dedicating themselves to training for such an event, while their partner gets left behind if they don't take up the training. One feels guilty criticizing the other for choosing physical fitness, but there can be no room left for the other partner when solo training takes hours each morning or evening.
Paul talks about this in 1 Timothy. He says that physical training is of some value, and it certainly is. It's good to be healthy, and it can enable us to participate more fully in various opportunities.
Paul goes on, however, to say that training in godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise in this life as well as the one to come.
Suddenly, we recognize the limits of physical training. No matter how good my physical fitness may be, I can't beat death, and it won't help me beyond the grave. Resurrection doesn't depend on one's ability to do 40 pushups.
But training in godliness—that will help us beyond death, and it helps us here and now. It helps release us from fear and anxiety and to live with boldness today, and it prepares us for the eternal life that is to come.
Wouldn't it be great if we dedicated ourselves to godliness training with the same passion we dedicate ourselves to physical training? Wouldn't it be wonderful if we recognized the benefits of spending 30 minutes a day getting spiritual exercise? I believe the benefits would compound, and we'd grow deeper and more faithful over the years, recognizing God at work in our hearts and lives. We may not end up with the fancy race t-shirts, but the ability to recognizing God's blessings around us would surely make up for that!

Text for this Sunday (Click on Link below to read)

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Psalm 37:14-22

Psalm 37:14-22
New Living Translation (NLT)

  14 The wicked draw their swords and string their bows to kill the poor and the oppressed, to slaughter those who do right. 15 But their swords will stab their own hearts, and their bows will be broken.
  16 It is better to be godly and have little than to be evil and rich. 17 For the strength of the wicked will be shattered, but the Lord takes care of the godly.
  18 Day by day the Lord takes care of the innocent, and they will receive an inheritance that lasts forever. 19 They will not be disgraced in hard times; even in famine they will have more than enough. 20 But the wicked will die. The Lord’s enemies are like flowers in a field— they will disappear like smoke. 21 The wicked borrow and never repay, but the godly are generous givers. 22 Those the Lord blesses will possess the land, but those he curses will die.


  Delayed gratification is a hard message for us to abide by.  It's hard to pass up immediate pleasure in the anticipation of future rewards.  We want to have plenty now, and suffering in the hopes of future gain is so very difficult, especially when everyone around us seems to be reaping their rewards now.
  But God teaches us that we have eternity before us, and that denying ourselves some small pleasure now is the wise thing, because what we gain far exceeds what we give up.  But it's not easy.  Anyone who tells you that it is easy is a liar.  It's so tempting to reach for gratification today and not even think about tomorrow or the distant future.
  But don't get distracted.  Stay focused on God.  When temptation whispers in your ear or shouts from the street, remember the promises of God.  He will be faithful.  May we strive for faithfulness, too.

May God strengthen you today

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Psalm 37:8-13

Psalm 37:8-13
New Living Translation (NLT)

  8 Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper— it only leads to harm. 9 For the wicked will be destroyed, but those who trust in the Lord will possess the land. 10 Soon the wicked will disappear. Though you look for them, they will be gone.
  11 The lowly will possess the land and will live in peace and prosperity. 12 The wicked plot against the godly; they snarl at them in defiance. 13 But the Lord just laughs, for he sees their day of judgment coming.


  It's hard to give up our anger.  Often, our anger can fuel us.  It will drive us to make things right, to get even, to show others that we can't be pushed around.  Sure, anger narrows our vision and can become all-consuming, but isn't it worth it to make things right?
  I think God tries to redirect our vision--God wants us to allow him to be in charge, to let him be the one to set things right ultimately.  Our anger often leads us to retribution, which may make us feel better in the short-term but may not be good for us (or anyone else) in the long-term.  God is always most concerned about our long-term growth.  God is always most concerned about who we are becoming, about how we are working together with those around us.  God works on such a bigger picture, and our anger can short-circuit God's bigger work.
  So rather than try and set things right on our own, let's let our anger fuel our works of love, and trust that God will ultimately set all things right.

May you be able to trust God completely today


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Psalm 37:1-7

Psalm 37:1-7 
Common English Bible (CEB)

   Don’t get upset over evildoers; don’t be jealous of those who do wrong, 2 because they will fade fast, like grass; they will wither like green vegetables. 3 Trust the Lord and do good; live in the land, and farm faithfulness. 4 Enjoy the Lord, and he will give what your heart asks.
  5 Commit your way to the Lord! Trust him! He will act 6 and will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, your justice like high noon.
  7 Be still before the Lord, and wait for him. Don’t get upset when someone gets ahead— someone who invents evil schemes.


  We want the world to be fair and even, here and now, right?  We want those who do evil to be punished immediately!  We want thing set right, and now!
  But the world doesn't work like that.  If we demand that it does, we will end up very, very frustrated, and not much will have changed.  Mob justice probably doesn't bring a sense of satisfaction with it.
  As Christians, we're called to trust in God.  Things will be set right eventually.  He promises.  So let us trust in that promise and be still before the Lord, trusting in his ability to do what needs to be done.  He'll use, guide and direct us when necessary, but if we constantly act on our impulses alone, we'll be so busy trying to fix the world on our own that we'll leave God out of the picture.
  So let's allow everything to begin in God, as it should.  Our every heartbeat, every thought, every breath can begin with him, and then we will find ourselves at peace, because in God, all will be set right.

May you have the confidence in God necessary to slow down and trust him today

Monday, April 21, 2014

Psalm 36

Psalm 36
Common English Bible (CEB)

  I know the sinful utterance of the wicked: No fear of God confronts their own eyes, 2 because in their own eyes they are slick with talk about their guilt ever being found out and despised. 3 The words of their mouths are evil and dishonest. They have stopped being wise and stopped doing good. 4 They plot evil even while resting in bed! They commit themselves to a path that is no good. They don’t reject what is evil.
  5 But your loyal love, Lord, extends to the skies; your faithfulness reaches the clouds. 6 Your righteousness is like the strongest mountains; your justice is like the deepest sea. Lord, you save both humans and animals.
  7 Your faithful love is priceless, God! Humanity finds refuge in the shadow of your wings. 8 They feast on the bounty of your house; you let them drink from your river of pure joy. 9 Within you is the spring of life. In your light, we see light. 10 Extend your faithful love to those who know you; extend your righteousness to those whose heart is right. 11 Don’t let the feet of arrogant people walk all over me; don’t let the hands of the wicked drive me off. 12 Look—right there is where the evildoers have fallen, pushed down, unable to get up!


  We feast on the bounty of God's house!  All of the evil in the world only makes God's magnificent love look more beautiful in comparison!  We are surrounded by so much despair, so much darkness, that God's light and love are all the more striking.
  Easter is a gift.  Each year it reminds us to dance with joy in spite of the despair around us.  Each Sunday, every little Easter, strengthens us to live in the face of pain and suffering.  Each and every day can be to us a reminder that God's love is wondrous and triumphs over evil!!

May you bask in the wonder of God's love today!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Sermon


Know what the two most dangerous words in America are? “Watch this.”
The three most dangerous words, of course, are: “Hold my beer.”

If you hear either of these two phrases, back away. We all know how what will follow will end, and if anyone is filming it, of which there is an increasing likelihood nowadays, it will probably end up with millions of pageviews on YouTube.
There are all sorts of situations in which something inside of us knows how it is going to end. I have the distinct memory of being at a Reds game with Rachel in which the Reds' worst pitcher had been brought in to face the opposing teams' best hitter with the bases loaded. I remember turning to Rachel and telling her to be ready for exactly how far that ball is going to fly. To this day, I don't know if I've ever seen a baseball hit farther. I'm not sure that ball has landed yet.
The same is true of every romantic comedy ever made. Within the first five minutes, or perhaps before it has even started, most men can tell the basic plot. Most women can, too, it's just that such knowledge doesn't prevent them from watching them.
We know how certain situations end. Some things are simply predictable. They end in a certain way, every time.

Death is that way, too. When someone dies, we know how it ends. As in, that is the end. The story of death isn't one that suddenly changes halfway through. When someone dies, we don't hang around the mortuary in the hopes of getting a burger with them later. We don't pop by the cemetary in hopes they don't have any plans that day. Death is a permanent condition.

At least, that's what the disciples thought. That's what the whole world thought when Jesus died.
But when Jesus died, everything changed. When Jesus died, our expectations shifted. When Jesus died, he came back alive.

The women went to the tomb that morning, and while they expected to find Jesus in the tomb, they instead found an angel rolling away the stone, and the angel was inviting them in to “Come, see the place where they laid him.” The women were invited in to view the new reality, to be amazed at what Christ had done, to witness the evidence that death was no more. The reality they expected to find had been shattered by this new reality, the one where life is the answer to the questions death raises.
After they were invited to come and See, they were sent to go and tell. The new reality into which they had stepped needed to be shared, and they were invited to step into this new way of life, where the good news of Christ's resurrection is meant to be shared with the world around them. Come and see, the angel says. Go and tell, the angel says.

And through it all, do not be afraid. The angel tells them not to fear, and the resurrected Jesus tells them the same thing. They have nothing to fear. This new reality is not laced with sin and death and fear and worry like the old one. Now that they have seen the new way of life, where the shackles of death no longer have power, they have nothing left to fear, for the Christ who conquers shall walk with them and give them the strength to overcome any obstacle that confronts them. They have no need to fear, for God is faithful and true. Note what the angel says—He has been raised, just as he said! What Jesus says is true—and if he can be trusted as to his own resurrection, he can be trusted with ours as well.
Come and see that God is stronger than death.
Go and tell that you are invited into this new reality.

And in all things, be not afraid!

Sunrise Service Meditation

John 20:1-10 
Common English Bible (CEB)

   Early in the morning of the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 She ran to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they’ve put him.”
  3 Peter and the other disciple left to go to the tomb. 4 They were running together, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and was the first to arrive at the tomb. 5 Bending down to take a look, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he didn’t go in. 6 Following him, Simon Peter entered the tomb and saw the linen cloths lying there. 7 He also saw the face cloth that had been on Jesus’ head. It wasn’t with the other clothes but was folded up in its own place.
  8 Then the other disciple, the one who arrived at the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 They didn’t yet understand the scripture that Jesus must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to the place where they were staying.



I love puzzles. I had to stop doing them, because Rachel got tired of being woken up at 3 am when I crawled into bed 4 hours after I promised I would finish once I got 'one more piece'. I have a hard time finding a good stopping point.
There's a certain moment in doing a puzzle in which you suddenly have enough pieces in place to have a clear picture of the end result. This moment often comes when you still have plenty of pieces left in the box, but enough have been placed that the jumbled chaos you began with now has a form and points clearly to what its final shape will be. Sometimes, if the puzzle is hard enough, this is enough. Other times, it is encouragement to press on to the finish.

In John's account of the resurrection, we come to a similar moment in verses 8-9. Mary has already been to the tomb and see the stone rolled away. Peter and John then rush out to the tomb, and when they arrive they come in to see the clothes on the ground and the head cloth neatly folded. John, we are told, is the first to believe in the truth of the resurrection, in the idea that Jesus Christ, who was brutally killed, has risen from the dead into new life. Verse 9, however, tells us that Peter and John still don't understand the scripture that Jesus must rise from the dead. They have seen enough to believe, but they still don't grasp the complete truth of what has occurred.

In a similar vein, you and I know enough to believe. We have the testimony of the Gospel writers, and we have the letters that comprise the remainder of the New Testament. We have the witness of the early church and 2,000 years of church history. We have the general revelation all around us and the ongoing work of Christ within us. We have enough knowledge to believe that what the Gospel says is true—that Jesus Christ is the perfect Son of our perfect God, and that he was crucified, buried and rose from the dead three days later. This we believe.

But we still don't have the puzzle completed. We have a box with all these pieces rattling around in it, filled with our questions about the resurrection and the world around us and about God himself. We are unsure of so many things, of the nature of heaven and what our resurrection bodies will look like. There is much we don't understand.

But let us not confuse complete understanding with belief. We may not know all the answers, and there are times when we have to throw our hands up and admit that we don't see the whole picture. One day we will. One day we, like the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, will look back and understand so clearly what has been happening these many years. It will all come into focus, and we'll realize what we had been missing.
But until that day, we can only believe. We have seen enough of the story to understand that God is bigger than death, that Christ has conquered the grave, and that God invites us into new life, a life that still includes death, but does not remain under its power. New life is available for all who believe, and let us rejoice this Easter morning because we see enough, Christ risen from the grave, to believe with heart, mind and soul that Christ is the one who can save us from sin and deliver us to new life in God!

Let us pray

Friday, April 18, 2014

Psalm 35:19-28

Psalm 35:19-28 
Common English Bible (CEB) 

  19 Don’t let those who are my enemies without cause celebrate over me; don’t let those who hate me for no reason wink at my demise. 20 They don’t speak the truth; instead, they plot false accusations against innocent people in the land. 21 They speak out against me, saying, “Yes! Oh, yes! We’ve seen it with our own eyes!”
  22 But you’ve seen it too, Lord. Don’t keep quiet about it. Please don’t be far from me, my Lord. 23 Wake up! Get up and do justice for me; argue my case, my Lord and my God! 24 Establish justice for me according to your righteousness, Lord, my God. Don’t let them celebrate over me. 25 Don’t let them say to themselves, Yes! Exactly what we wanted! Don’t let them say, “We ate him up!” 26 Let all those who celebrate my misfortune be disgraced and put to shame! Let those who exalt themselves over me be dressed up in shame and dishonor!
  27 But let those who want things to be set right for me shout for joy and celebrate! Let them constantly say, “The Lord is great— God wants his servant to be at peace.” 28 Then my tongue will talk all about your righteousness; it will talk about your praise all day long.


  Good Friday is a day that seems like evil wins.  On Good Friday, it looks like death and the forces of evil have won.  On Good Friday, all seems dark.
  And yet, the light shines in the darkness.  Even today, while we mourn the reality of sin and death, we know the Easter truth.  Even today, we hold onto the hope that resurrection is a reality, that Christ triumphs over the grave, that sin and death are defeated.
  So while we mourn, we simultaneously dance with joy, because Christ wins!  Evil may be rejoicing, but we know the end of the story, and we know that darkness will meet its final demise and be smashed by the light!!
  Notice, in verse 24, that justice is established according to God's righteousness!  Not our own--God's.  All of this is based upon God, and we orient ourselves around God and his power and his love, and that is why we are able to rejoice on this, the darkest of days.

  Christ is Risen!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Maundy Thursday Reflection

How many of you have a bucket list?
The whole idea became very popular based on a movie of the same name, in which two men traveled the world undertaking various adventures that they hadn't done in their lives. The adventures had the same theme—they were usually risky and filled with adrenaline, the kind of thing you might do if you found out you only had a week to live. They're wild adventures, and exciting.
Now, there's nothing wrong with a bucket list. There's nothing wrong with adventures. If you told me I had a week to live, I would totally go skydiving. Also, I wouldn't have done my taxes last week.
I think it's interesting to think about Jesus' bucket list. He knew exactly how much time he had left on this earth. He knew that it was growing short, that precious time would soon run out and he would be at the mercy of violent hands and people who strongly objected to everything he did. He knew time was limited.
So what did Jesus, the most powerful and resourceful man who ever lived, do with his last days?
He took a bucket, filled it with water, and washed the feet of the disciples.
His bucket list involved a literal bucket.

Now, think about all that Jesus could have done in those last 12 hours. We have spent the last 2,000 years debating many things about Christianity and God. He could have cleared all those up. He could have demonstrated his power in magnificent and certain ways. He could have healed countless more. He could have engaged in debate with skeptics and doubters. He could have called more disciples.
He could have done any number of things. But he chose a bucket, and washed the feet.
He was still teaching, even to the end, and he wanted to teach us about the nature of God.

Jesus wanted to teach us about God's strong desire to reach out to his children. Jesus wanted to teach us about his love, about his tender care. Jesus wanted us to know that God desires to wash us, that we might no longer be tainted by the dirt that we carry. Jesus wanted us to know that God sees us as a people worthy of his love and service. Jesus wanted us to understand the importance of small acts of love, that we might imitate these.
And then, after washing the feet of the disciples, Jesus sat down to eat the Seder meal with them. Jesus wanted to teach them about the importance of tradition, and how it was all leading up to Him. They would have taken their time over that meal, talking as friends, as companions. It would not have been anything grand or unusual, but Jesus chose to invest his last precious hours in the lives of his closest friends, trying to help them see the importance of connections, of companionship, of breaking bread together.
All of this he imbued with a deeper meaning, leaving behind the cup and the bread as reminders to us of his sacrifice, of his love.
But look at how ordinary these things are. His last hours weren't spent chasing adrenaline or adventure. They were spent in the company of his friends, and he was serving them, involved in their lives, talking and listening.
This is the life to which Jesus calls us. A life that may not seem to be extraordinary from the outside, but in the hands of Christ, our humble efforts are transformed. The time we spend selflessly serving one another is seen to reflect the selfless love of God, and the Kingdom shines through us. The time we eat with one another is transformed by the Holy Spirit into a holy sharing of our lives, and we are brought closer together. The food we eat and the cup we drink are to be reminders that what may seem plain to the eyes is extraordinary in the Kingdom, for they remind us of how Christ was broken and poured out. His death, ordinary from the eyes of the world, was an extraordinary sacrifice made for you, for me, so that our sins may be forgiven and that we may no longer be far from God.
Friends, Christ chose to spend his last hours reflecting the love of God for those around him, reflecting a willingness of God to serve others.
May we choose to spend our lives not chasing adrenaline in the hopes of finding meaning, but rather recognizing that in the ordinary opportunities to serve and love those around us, the Spirit transforms them into something far more extraordinary than we can even imagine.

Let us pray

Psalm 35:11-18

Psalm 35:11-18 
Common English Bible (CEB) 

  11 Violent witnesses stand up. They question me about things I know nothing about. 12 They pay me back evil for good, leaving me stricken with grief. 13 But when they were sick, I wore clothes for grieving, and I kept a strict fast. When my prayer came back unanswered, 14 I would wander around like I was grieving a friend or a brother. I was weighed down, sad, like I was a mother in mourning.
  15 But when I stumbled, they celebrated and gathered together— they gathered together against me! Strangers I didn’t know tore me to pieces and wouldn’t quit. 16 They ridiculed me over and over again, like godless people would do, grinding their teeth at me.
  17 How long, my Lord, will you watch this happen? Rescue me from their attacks; rescue my precious life from these predatory lions! 18 Then I will thank you in the great assembly; I will praise you in a huge crowd of people.


  This world is not fair.  If you forget this fact, you'll probably be reminded of it again before long.
  Here, the Psalmist is lamenting that he treated those around him with respect, and yet none of it was returned to him.  Instead, they mocked and ridiculed him.
  If we expect fairness from the world, we'll be disappointed.  The great news is that God isn't fair, either.
  God gives us more than we deserve.  God gives more richly than we deserve.  God gives us love even though we have not earned it.  Often, the world will give us less than we feel we deserve, and we'll feel slighted.  God is so generous, however, that he longs to pour out love upon us, and will do so far beyond what we can even begin to understand.
  So may we allow the unfairness of the world to pass us by, and may we get caught up in the delightful unfairness of God.

May you be grateful today

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Psalm 35:1-10

Psalm 35:1-10
Common English Bible (CEB)

  35 Lord, argue with those who argue with me; fight with those who fight against me! 2 Grab a shield and armor; stand up and help me! 3 Use your spear and ax against those who are out to get me! Say to me: “I’m your salvation!”
  4 Let those who want me dead be humiliated and put to shame. Let those who intend to hurt me be thoroughly frustrated and disgraced. 5 Let them be like dust on the wind— and let the Lord’s messenger be the one who does the blowing! 6 Let their path be dark and slippery— and let the Lord’s messenger be the one who does the chasing!
  7 Because they hid their net for me for no reason, they dug a pit for me for no reason. 8 Let disaster come to them when they don’t suspect it. Let the net they hid catch them instead! Let them fall into it—to their disaster!
  9 But I will rejoice in the Lord; I will celebrate his salvation. 10 All my bones will say, “Lord, who could compare to you? You rescue the weak from those who overpower them; you rescue the weak and the needy from those who plunder them.”


  No matter how strong or weak I am, my future depends on the Lord.
  It's tempting to try and do everything myself, to try and struggle forward on my own efforts.  I can see my own efforts, and I know what I can rely upon.  But ultimately, the forces that oppose me are stronger than I am.  Only God can lead me through.
  For a while, we can deceive ourselves.  Perhaps, even for our entire lives.  But the sooner we recognize that God's strength is the only force big enough to lead us through this life and the death that must follow, the wiser we are.  It would be a shame to believe only in ourselves for all of life, only to discover how small we are at the end.

May God's size and power leave you in awe today, and may you recognize that God wants to put this power to work for you!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Psalm 34:11-22

Psalm 34:11-22
Common English Bible (CEB)

  11 Come, children, listen to me. Let me teach you how to honor the Lord: 12 Do you love life; do you relish the chance to enjoy good things? 13 Then you must keep your tongue from evil and keep your lips from speaking lies! 14 Turn away from evil! Do good! Seek peace and go after it!
  15 The Lord’s eyes watch the righteous, his ears listen to their cries for help. 16 But the Lord’s face is set against those who do evil, to eliminate even the memory of them from the earth. 17 When the righteous cry out, the Lord listens; he delivers them from all their troubles. 18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he saves those whose spirits are crushed.
  19 The righteous have many problems, but the Lord delivers them from every one. 20 He protects all their bones; not even one will be broken. 21 But just one problem will kill the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be held responsible. 22 The Lord saves his servants’ lives; all those who take refuge in him won’t be held responsible for anything.


  To understand this passage well, I have to challenge my typical thinking of what protection means.  My initial thoughts of protection mean that nothing bad will ever happen to me.  But then I look to Christ, God's beloved and only Son, and see him hanging on a cross, for all the world to see, suffering and dying a bloody, violent death.  I wonder what type of protection this is...
  But then I look beyond, I look deeper, and see Christ emerging from the tomb, the victor over death, the One whom death cannot hold, the One whom shall live and reign forever.  In looking deeper, I can see that true protection means that we shall not be pulled from the hand of God, that death and disease and sin cannot tear us from our true Beloved, and that we shall live forever because the brokenness cannot conquer and destroy the soul.
  So when God protects us, he does so in such a way that suffering will still affect us in this world, but it shall not destroy us, because in Christ we are with God, forever.

May the presence and power of God encourage you today

Monday, April 14, 2014

Psalm 34:1-10

Psalm 34:1-10
Common English Bible (CEB)

  I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise will always be in my mouth. 2 I praise the Lord— let the suffering listen and rejoice. 3 Magnify the Lord with me! Together let us lift his name up high!
  4 I sought the Lord and he answered me. He delivered me from all my fears. 5 Those who look to God will shine; their faces are never ashamed. 6 This suffering person cried out: the Lord listened and saved him from every trouble. 7 On every side, the Lord’s messenger protects those who honor God; and he delivers them.
  8 Taste and see how good the Lord is! The one who takes refuge in him is truly happy! 9 You who are the Lord’s holy ones, honor him, because those who honor him don’t lack a thing. 10 Even strong young lions go without and get hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.


  How do you know if something is good?  If I describe to you how good a strawberry tastes, you'll have a good idea of it, but you can't be certain yourself.  If I tell you how reliable a business is, you may well believe me, but you won't fully buy in until you've experienced it yourself.  If I tell you how dependable my friend is, you'll only really believe once you've experienced that for yourself.

  The same is true with God.  No matter how many personal testimonies you read, nothing trumps personal experience.  Reading or hearing the stories of others can strengthen our faith and inspire us to worship God, but until we have experienced the grace of God in the midst of our suffering, we won't fully understand just how good God is.
  So taste and see.  Dive in to the riches of his love, and let the waves of his grace and mercy wash over you.  You'll be amazed at how great our God is.

May you be in awe of God's love today

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sermon for Palm Sunday, 4-13-14

Mark 11:1-11 
Common English Bible (CEB) 

  11 When Jesus and his followers approached Jerusalem, they came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives. Jesus gave two disciples a task, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village over there. As soon as you enter it, you will find tied up there a colt that no one has ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘Its master needs it, and he will send it back right away.’”
   4 They went and found a colt tied to a gate outside on the street, and they untied it. 5 Some people standing around said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 They told them just what Jesus said, and they left them alone.
  7 They brought the colt to Jesus and threw their clothes upon it, and he sat on it. 8 Many people spread out their clothes on the road while others spread branches cut from the fields. 9 Those in front of him and those following were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessings on the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest!”
  11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. After he looked around at everything, because it was already late in the evening, he returned to Bethany with the Twelve.



I'm sure you've noticed all the campaign signs around us this time of the year. We're all aware of different races for positions here in Hamilton County. In a few short months, campaigns for the fall elections will kick into high gear, and it won't be too long until the race for the 2016 presidential campaign is in non-stop mode. We'll be hearing constant analysis of who had lunch in Iowa and who might or might not run. It gets to be a little much.
Think about a presidential election, though, whether it's the last one or the next one. When it comes to presidential elections, we all have an expectation. When we think about our preferred candidate, we have a certain expectation about what life will be like if that person is elected. We expect that they will help our country prosper and that we, as a part of that, will prosper, too. We expect that we'll have more money, be healthier and happier and have a better job in a better economy. We expect all these things from our president, and from all our elected leaders. We expect them to make this life better now. When they don't, we're disappointed and vent about it on Facebook.

The problem is that we use these same expectations when we think about Jesus Christ. The first century Jews certainly did.
It's a bit strange when you stop and think about it. Jesus Christ was the Messiah that the Jews had been waiting centuries for. The last thing you would expect would be for them to shout for his crucifixion when he came to save them. They were longing for his presence, because they were laboring until the oppressive rule of the Roman Empire. They understood that the Messiah would come and liberate them from the Romans. They expected that he would come and raise an army, if he didn't come with an angelic army, and then drive the Romans from their homeland. He would then institute his kingdom, and they would all be healthy, wealthy and happy for the rest of their lives.
For many of us, we have started to expect this from Christianity. We expect that Jesus will make us happy, that he comes to make us healthy and wealthy. It just seems natural that if we follow Jesus, our lives in the here and now will be better off.

So we need to talk about how Jesus did not live up to the expectations of the Jews. And then we need to talk about how he might not live up to our expectations.

Friends, when we talk about the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, we're talking about an event that may have misled the crowds. Jesus had spent 3 years disappointing those who expected the Messiah to come and overthrow the rule of Rome. He's spent three years disappointing those who expected him to set up his throne in the temple and rule from on high. Jesus spent three years wandering the dusty roads of the greater Jerusalem metropolitan area, healing lepers and casting out demons. They make for amazing stories, but these are not the sort of displays of power that the people wanted to see. They were amazed, and some believed, but many others, including much of the leadership, expected something grander out of Jesus, something that demonstrated power in this world, something that would elevate their lives and the lives of those around them. They wanted to see some material displays.
But Jesus wasn't here to make people powerful. He wasn't here to overthrow the Roman Empire. He was after something much greater than that.
See, Jesus' Kingdom is one that will last forever. Of his kingdom, there will be no end. So the Roman empire isn't exactly a big threat. In fact, our entire lives are not very long when compared with the time frame of eternity. So Jesus' first priority isn't to make sure that we're all happy and comfortable here. Jesus' biggest priority is to rescue people from their sins, to turn their hearts away from the false idols that have been deceiving them and back to the God who created them and loves them and wants to spend eternity with them. In order to deliver us from sins, to purchase us back from the domain of sin and death, a price needs to be paid. You can't redeem a people from sin without a sacrifice, and the only acceptable sacrifice to sin is one that hasn't yet experienced sin. Enter, Jesus Christ, Son of God, wholly God and wholly man, who is able to be that sacrifice. In doing so, he buys us back from sin and death, redeeming us, and making it possible for us to live with God forever. The God who cannot dwell with sin can now dwell with us, because in Christ we no longer are subject to sin and death.
Christ is doing something so much more than building an earthly kingdom, but so much of it is beyond what the eye can see. Because of that, because it wasn't a tangible kingdom that could be read about in the newspapers and easily understood in a world where money and power are the two primary currencies, the Jewish leaders rejected Jesus. They had him killed, confidant he was a fraud, because he wasn't living up to their expectations.
When Jesus rides into Jerusalem, people gather and worship because they think that this may be the moment when he transforms his movement into a political steamroller, changing the world forever. Well, Jesus changes the world, but not in the way these folks imagined. Their disappointment led to anger, and their anger was poured out upon him, and as his blood was poured out, their sins were forgiven, and the door to eternal life was thrown open, that all who believe may enter in.

So let's talk about our own expectations. There is a lot of really bad theology out there, and while we don't turn to Jesus in anger when our expectations aren't met, I think we can easily wind up disappointed, and this can lead us to indifference.
There is a loud choir of Christians out there claiming that following Jesus will make you healthy, wealthy and happy in this life. It's often called the prosperity Gospel, because we think that Jesus came to make us prosperous. This is often done by taking certain passages of Scripture, including things Jesus said, and focusing on them alone. We can believe that if we pray hard enough, if we submit long enough, God will notice and give us prosperity in some form the world can understand. We have this idea that we need to be able to see it, to grasp it, to call it a blessing. We have the idea that, if we are sick, Jesus will heal us if we pray hard enough, and that if we aren't being healed, we simply aren't praying hard enough.
Friends, Jesus Christ called us to imitate him. He also rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, knowing that he was riding to his eventual death. He lived a hard life, and he suffered at the hands of sin and opposition. He was not wealthy, and he died young, despite being perfect.
Now, if we expect that Christianity will make things easier, what happens is that we become disappointed when following Christ doesn't yield material benefits. When we are sick and are not healed, we become disappointed. We wonder if God's love is actually real, if God really cares for us, if God notices us. We distance ourselves from the God who disappoints us, and in so doing we stop paying attention to him. It's not outright rejection, but it is a rejection in that we choose to lavish our attention and resources on material things that reward us more immediately. We opt for short-term pleasure, exchanging long-term growth in Christ because of how distant and intangible it seems.

The Christian life, when lived faithfully, is one of sacrifice and challenge. We're called consistently to turn away from the temptations of the world. God isn't interested in seeing you prosper just for the sake of your comfort. God blesses us so that we might bless others. God calls us so that we might call others. God calls us out of comfort into growth, into challenge, into new life. It's not easy, and if we believe that it will be easy, we'll be very, very disappointed.

So may we embrace Christ for who he is, rather than who our humanity wants him to be. May we expand our understandings and expectations to recognize that the kingdom he is establishing is beyond what we can grasp or understand in this world, and that reality should call us to let go of our ideas of prosperity and recognize that true prosperity lies only in the arms of God, who alone can meet our any and every need. In him do we find rest. Let us trust completely the God we find in all of Scripture, who reaches out to save and to love. Let us pray

Friday, April 11, 2014

Psalm 33:13-22

Psalm 33:13-22
Common English Bible (CEB)

  13 The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees every human being. 14 From his dwelling place God observes all who live on earth. 15 God is the one who made all their hearts, the one who knows everything they do. 16 Kings aren’t saved by the strength of their armies; warriors aren’t rescued by how much power they have. 17 A warhorse is a bad bet for victory; it can’t save despite its great strength.
  18 But look here: the Lord’s eyes watch all who honor him, all who wait for his faithful love, 19 to deliver their lives from death and keep them alive during a famine. 20 We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. 21 Our heart rejoices in God because we trust his holy name. 22 Lord, let your faithful love surround us because we wait for you.


  If only...
  If only I had $1 million, then I would be secure.
  If only I had the best doctors in the world, then I would be secure.
  If only I had a private army of security guards, then I would be secure.

  Sounds good, doesn't it?  But we can't purchase security.  Our health, our money, the world will all prove, ultimately, that they cannot provide lasting security.  Death, disease, stress and financial turmoil can reach us all.  If we put our trust in the things of this world, we will discover that they, no matter their strength, cannot save us.

  Only God can save us.  Only God has power over death.  Only God is Lord of heaven and earth.  Only God is ultimately worthy of our trust.
  So if you were going to trust God completely with your life and everything you possess, what changes would you have to make?

May you be comforted by God's strength today.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

4/10/14 New Hope E-News


Easter is April 20!!

Maundy Thursday-- Thursday, April 17 @ 6:30

Easter Egg Hunt-- This will be Easter Sunday @ 10 am. Please bring Easter Eggs to donate by this Sunday!

Easter Cantata-- During the worship service on Easter morning @ 10:45.

Sunrise Service-- 7:00am on Easter morning on the patio of the McMillan Building.

Community Kitchen Spot

There are a lot of hungry and homeless children of God and the community needs some help feeding them. If you would like to help out, please bring the following items to church this Sunday & put them on the bookshelf.
Plastic Forks, Knives, Spoons
Dinner Napkins
Heavy Duty Sectional Dinner Plates
Dessert Plates

New Hope News

Sunday SchoolDon Kaller is going to be teaching the adult Sunday School class in March & April.

Pray For:
Norma Capone

Peggy & John L.

For those still dwelling in the uncertainty of Flight MH370's disappearance

For teachers and students, who deal with the anxiety of violence in schools

For those in the Ukraine

For the kids in confirmation class


Keith's Random Thoughts

My bushes died. Well, they look dead. I keep thinking that if I wait long enough, they'll come back eventually. (I can't help but laugh at the thought of doing this with my goldfish that died a few months back. “Just wait, Rachel, it might come back eventually!”) There are some signs of life, but overall, they look sad. And dead.
But they just may come back. It was obviously a tough winter, and perhaps these particular bushes are just waiting to see if spring is really here, or if this is just some tease before the snow and freezing temperatures return. Maybe I need to go outside and assure them that spring is really here, that Easter is near and that perking up a little might improve their chances of not being dug up.
Looking at my bushes, I can't help but reflect on my own life. I wonder how often God looked down from heaven and thought, “Is there any faith left in that kid? Or should we go ahead and just give up hope on him?” Surely, I have given God moments to doubt the sincerity of my declarations of faith. My life's direction has not always sought Christ first, and perhaps God wondered if there was any hope.
If the Bible is clear on anything (and I think it's clear on a lot of things!), it is pretty evident that God is patient. The entirety of the Old Testament testifies to God's willingness to endure patiently the rejections of Israel. God threatens and warns many, many times before taking action. God patiently waits for the people to turn back.
I think God is patient with us, with me, too. God knows we are tempted by sin. God knows that sometimes, we give in to temptation. We hurl vicious thoughts (and sometimes words) at those closest to us. We cut corners. We idly waste time. We choose not to grow in faith.
But God waits, and continues to prod us via the Holy Spirit. Christ keeps urging us to grow, and God returns and refreshes us, day after day, hoping that we will choose the wiser path, the one that pursues God and the faithful life.
So I'll give those bushes an extension on life in my front yard, for they remind me of God's patience towards me.

Text for this Sunday

When Jesus and his followers approached Jerusalem, they came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives. Jesus gave two disciples a task, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village over there. As soon as you enter it, you will find tied up there a colt that no one has ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘Its master needs it, and he will send it back right away.’”

4 They went and found a colt tied to a gate outside on the street, and they untied it. 5 Some people standing around said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 They told them just what Jesus said, and they left them alone. 7 They brought the colt to Jesus and threw their clothes upon it, and he sat on it. 8 Many people spread out their clothes on the road while others spread branches cut from the fields. 9 Those in front of him and those following were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessings on the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest!” 11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. After he looked around at everything, because it was already late in the evening, he returned to Bethany with the Twelve.

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