Are you a God-Worshipper?

Over the years this is what I have heard about Sunday mornings from friends not able to make it to church.  At some point, all of these have been told to me.

  1. To tired
  2. To Sick
  3. I have to fix the toilet
  4. I don’t see how it will help me
  5. They’re just a bunch of hypocrites
  6. Too much hassle to get kids ready
  7. All they want is money
  8. I got in too late last night
  9. It’s Raining
  10. I don’t like the music

Regardless of what has been said, in today’s society, there are many distractions, which will keep you away from church on Sunday mornings.  Now many reasons are legit, and life happens Monday thru Saturday, and we are not in a cocoon to know that stuff happens.  Its how we conduct ourselves Monday thru Saturday in which we will make a big impact.  Small things can be done during the week that will keep you close to your faith.   

  1. On your commute, turn off your radio and have a conversation with God.  Pick a time and be consistent.
  2. Do one nice thing for someone every day.
  3. Think positive; no one wants to be around a negative “Nelly.”
  4. Hug your spouse/kids like you mean it once a day.
  5. Stop thinking about how we cannot do something and start thinking how can I succeed with the tools I have.
  6. Be Thankful.

In Psalm 22 verse 22 the psalmist talks about how he tells his friends what to expect when you come to worship, Regardless of your circumstances the last line says, “ He has been right there, listening”

Here’s the story I’ll tell my friends when they come to worship,
and punctuate it with Hallelujahs:
Shout Hallelujah, you God-worshipers;
give glory, you sons of Jacob;
adore him, you daughters of Israel.
He has never let you down,
never looked the other way
when you were being kicked around.
He has never wandered off to do his own thing;
he has been right there, listening.
— Psalm 22: 22-24, The Message

Are you a God-worshipper?  To be the worshipper, you have to celebrate surrender and know that God has never let you down and never looked the other way.   Certainly, there are times in my life I have been mad at God.  I did not understand the circumstances I was in or the prayers I have prayed that were not answered to my satisfaction.  But, over time I have tried to give up control and have more faith in His will not mine.  

In Psalm 29:29  “God makes his people strong. God gives his people peace”.  And in Matthew 11:28  “Come to me and I will give you rest.”

Apple had a slogan for its company and employees years ago.

We need to come up with something the public does not know it needs, but when they have it they cannot do with out it!

All of us in one way or another have a cell phone near us at all times.  Something we cannot do without.  We don’t have to have it but its something we have grown to depend on and rely on for our everyday lives.  Everything is at our fingertips.  

In these times do not forget that our God has never given up on us and he is always there to listen.  And you don’t need a phone for that.

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Mike Conrad serves as our Worship Director. When he's not preparing for worship or playing an instrument, he enjoys spending time with his wife boating and fishing. Learn more about Mike here.

Why I like Veggie Tales, Mickey Mouse, Iron Man, Hans Solo and...

The Challenge

Early in my ministry career, I was challenged to take Veggie Tales out of the preschool ministry curriculum, because Veggie Tales are made up characters. Some well-meaning parents did not want their children to associate God, who is real, with a talking tomato. Understandable huh? But let’s walk this whole concept of real and unreal back to the thought process of a child. Children, especially preschoolers are learning many new things, and what is real and what is imaginary can get confusing. But they can learn from both, and many times simultaneously and equally without conflict or validation. They just accept it. 

That reminds me of a few Bible passages about children. In these passages, Jesus encourages the disciples to humble themselves like little children to enter the kingdom of God. 
(Matthew 18:1-5, Matthew 19:13-15, Mark 9:33-37, Mark 10:13-16, Luke 9:46-48, Luke 18:15-17)  

Ever really thought about what that means? Most children accept life with simplicity and enthusiasm ready to believe and trust with little or no proof or prodding. 

Can you remember when you were three or four years old? You probably colored outside the lines and made up funny songs. You probably laughed more, loved more freely, and embraced the mystery of all the wonder around you more often. Your eyes probably sparkled as you marveled at all that was around you and how you were learning to interpret it through your young eyes and heart. You may have made up stories or even had imaginary friends. You dared to imagine when you weren’t able to understand, or control, or figure things out.

Kids rely on their imaginations to fill in the blanks when logic doesn’t make sense. Kids are concrete learners. This is how they navigate the lack of physical evidence. They imagine. Imaginations are not a bad thing. God gave them to us. Without our imaginations, kids (and adults) could not imagine a God that we cannot see, or hear, or know concretely.  It is true most young children can confuse the importance of God next to a superhero, or a Veggie Tale, but it is their imagination that allows them to take a leap of faith and just believe. We can all take a page out of the imagination book from kids, to learn to trust God more without requiring more evidence, more control, more understanding or explanation. 

We can imagine. 

Crash Course on Imagination/Creativity for Adults

 

  1. Be present in the moment – look around- look right in front of you....
  2. Take a risk, try something new – failure is not going to stop you from trying. Color outside the lines. 
  3. Challenge assumptions – Don’t be passive about what you believe, Be an active learner and contributor.
  4. Stay curious – Ask what if? Why not?
  5. Try looking at things differently. Grab hold of and get behind a BIG Vision!
  6. Watch one of your favorite make-believe shows, and ask yourself; “What did I like so much about this?”  Be patient for and with the answer.

While the big talking tomato on veggie tales may not resonate with you, think about what does. Take some time to enjoy, to wonder, to imagine.  Take your imagination for a ride and see where it takes you. Trust God to help you navigate to a new vision of who God is and who you are as His child, His creation. 

Blessings,

Lori Ferguson

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Lori Ferguson serves as Children's Director at NUMC, and has been at the church since 2015. When she's not planning or teaching, she enjoys spending time with her grandkids. Read more about Lori here.

Will Be Healed

In the book of Acts, chapter 5 verse 12 the Bible talks about the apostles healing many. 

The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade.  No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people.  Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.  As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by.  Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.
— Acts 5:12-16 New International Version (NIV)

I want to look at few things in this scripture.  “All believers would meet together on Solomon’s Colonnade (or Porch) no one else would join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people.   This just sounds eerily familiar in today’s society.  Here is what I mean.  We (Christians) meet in Church even though the door is always open the fear of joining or attending is still there.  We don’t bite. It’s the fear of I am not perfect, what will everyone think of me. Oh and the excuse “this is not my kind of service, or the music is not what I prefer.”  Do we really think that is an issue in Heaven?  Its worshiping God for who he is. Bow down and worship him. The song by Hillsong “Touch the sky” says “I touch the sky when my knees hit the ground.”  We find it difficult to admit we do not have it all together.  And we sure don’t want to go into church in front of people and declare we are a mess.  But the truth is you do not have to be in Church to fall on your knees to surrender to Christ.   This can be your path; certainly the Church is here for you.  To be honest, I am tired of people thinking ‘Oh so you’re a Christian” some how that can mean we are weak.  Far from it, just because we are surrendering ourselves to the guidance of Jesus does not make us weak.  It makes us strong. 

I can do everything thorough him who gives me strength.
— Philippians 4: 13 

We can be a witness to anyone we come in contact with, knowing that we are not perfect nor will we every be, but thought the blood of Jesus he has paid for our sins and we are forgiven. The next part of the scripture is the last line “all of them were healed."

During the past year I have lost a very dear friend of the family to cancer, and 4 more family and friends are fighting it now or have completed their treatment.  Growing up you never dwell or think about disease or addiction with people you know.  It was always “someone else”.  And as you grow older the more you realize it’s all of your friends and family.

I believe “all of them were healed” in that time was a statement for the ages. All who ask for God’s love and forgiveness will receive God’s grace.  All of our prayers are not answered for healing.  I sat at the bed side held my friends hand and prayed for healing of her body.  She was not healed.  She was still the same person I knew for years, full of wit and sassiness she had always been just in a much weaker state.  I do know she had great love for God and she is walking on streets of gold.  We miss her but she was healed.

My prayer is anyone who comes in the doors of the Church “Will be healed” and know that God’s love is available and they will never feel like they are intruding.

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Mike Conrad serves as our Worship Director. When he's not preparing for worship or playing an instrument, he enjoys spending time with his wife boating and fishing. Learn more about Mike here.

Environmental Holiness

I have a confession to make. Most of the time, my blogs just reflect whatever I’m trying to process myself. I’m definitely not an expert on the history of Israel, I haven’t been an activist concerning abuse in the church before, and I’m always talking to other pastors trying to get multiple sides of the story because I just don’t know what I don’t know. Over Christmas break, there were a series of events that caused me to really think about something called environmental holiness. At least that’s the fancy way to really talk about should we recycle. 

I visited my sister in California who just had her second kid. In her house, they have two trash cans, and on the wall above each trash can they had drawn “landfill” with a frowny face, and “glass, paper, plastic” over the other one with the recycle symbol. I’ve never been so convicted of a stupid frowny face in my life. It got compounded by all the things that Californians do on a regular basis that caught me off guard. They used biodegradable straws everywhere, the grocery store didn’t give you bags, forcing you to either bring your own reusable bags or buy them from the store, they promoted carpooling with HOV lanes and parking centers and phone numbers all designed to reduce pollution (but probably mostly traffic, because traffic is awful). 

Then, in one of my youth pastor groups, someone asked what our views on the theology of recycling was. There was mostly support for recycling, people would quote some scripture about God placing man as care takers of the earth and it seemed like a positive conversation… until we found out the reason it was brought up in the first place. This guy’s pastor had thrown away some trash in the youth’s recycling bin and said “well the Earth is only temporary”. And there it was, while we were all assuming that recycling lined up with just about any interpretation of the Bible from specific verses to broad strokes, we were faced with there are people who can still take another stance on scripture and come to the complete opposite conclusion. 

    To be clear, even thought the Bible never specifically addresses recycling, I personally think that you can make very strong arguments that environmental holiness is a thing and that God cares about how we treat the world. Recycling is one aspect of that. But at some point, if you really have to go to the lengths of hermeneutics and exegesis to determine if you should recycle there are some bigger issues. We shouldn’t have to invoke God to come to the conclusion we need to take care of His creation. 

One of the more curious things I’ve been dealing with is that non Christians tend to have a very different set of moral standards, or at least a different cause for those standards. They don’t steal, not because the Bible says “thou shall not steal” but because they inherently understand that that hurts the other person. California, one of the more unchurched states in America, has this inherent understanding that we should protect the earth, not because God created it, but because they want their kids to breath clean air, see the great barrier reef, or just be able to go outside and enjoy nature. 

So I guess the real question isn’t “Would God want us to recycle?” and then we research that and try to make Bible verses fit into our modern day context. Rather, I think we should be asking ourselves “how is it the rest of the world already understands the need and importance of this but we are still trying to Biblically justify it?”

While it’s a little late for New Years resolutions, I still think this is the perfect time to start being more aware of how wasteful we all are. Take those extra two steps to throw your bottle into the recycling bin (or better yet, use a reusable bottle), buy an extra trash can and mark it recycling, or just bring your own bags to Walmart next time. 

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Nathan Persell serves as our Youth Director. When he's not leading devotions and playing basketball with teenagers, he enjoys disc golf and bike riding. Learn more about Nathan here.

Give Thanks

The holiday season has ended, the lights are put away, or plans are in process to put away the lights, and the ornaments are wrapped so they will not break and be opened up with anticipation for next year.  

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. No presents just get together and enjoy a meal and each other’s company.  One of my favorite stories is of a grandson who asked his grandfather if he would like to join him for a prayer.  Grandpa said yes I would, “Do you want me to pray?” Grandpa asked.  Grandson said no I would.  As they both kneeled down to pray at the coffee table, the grandson said “Dear Lord…………..Thank you.   Amen.

Just simple.  How many times have we made events more complicated than they should be?

As we begin this New Year, with new expectations, do not let the busy-ness of our lives take over.  Just because we are busy does not mean we are productive or focused.  In all circumstances, we are to pray.

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Philippians 4:6-7  

I have a bad tendency of losing my keys.  There is something about misplacing something you know you just had in your hands, and it cannot be found, and it is nowhere in sight.  I know I am not the only one that does this. So many times I have just sat down and calmed down, gathered my thoughts and my keys are just where I left them, right in front of me.  We all do it.   We find ourselves worked up, sometimes to a boiling point over the smallest things. God is right there with us through the great times, the hard times, the times we are mad at God and those times we are too busy to say thanks.  

“Am I only a God nearby,” declares the Lord,  and not a God far away? Jeremiah 23:23

So as this New Year is underway, and we have all wrote 2017 in the past week somewhere and had to erase it and put 2018. Do not let our lives get so caught up in ourselves we forget to give thanks.  Look around and count your blessings.  We are blessed.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

God Bless,
Mike Conrad
 

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Mike Conrad serves as our Worship Director. When he's not preparing for worship or playing an instrument, he enjoys spending time with his wife boating and fishing. Learn more about Mike here.