Michelle was getting mashed potatoes ready for the potluck last week we had after worship. (By the way, our next ones are on the 9th and then the 23rd, come and join us. It is good to break bread together) Kaitlyn was watching her and Michelle told her that if she wanted some that she should get in line pretty early because they will probably go quickly. Michelle also told Kaitlyn that she probably wouldn’t get any because she would wait until everyone else went through to eat. So Kaitlyn, without missing a beat said to Michelle, “well then you better taste their glory now.” My girls do love mashed potatoes.
As I have had a chance to laugh at and think about what Kaitlyn said to Michelle, I have been thinking about the wonderful words from the hymn “Blessed Assurance” - “O what a foretaste of glory divine.” Have we ever had a taste of the glory? Gotten a glimpse of the glory of God? At a lot of our district and conference meetings, we will talk about glory sightings, those places where we have seen God at work.
In Psalm 97:6 the psalmist declares that “The heavens proclaim his (the Lord’s) righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory.” It is there, but do we know what it is. Sometimes it is easy to see, the work of God, God revealing himself. Isaiah says that “The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God.” (Isaiah 35:1-2) Sometimes for those who have eyes to see, it is so obvious.
Scripture also reveals to us that there are probably a few things we need to have in order to recognize and see more and more of this glory that God is revealing. Remember when Jesus was at the tomb about to raise Lazarus? "Take away the stone," he said. "But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days." Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" (John 11:39-40) Do we believe we will see it? Do we believe that our God is still at work in our lives, this world and all of His creation? When we wake up in the morning, is it with the thought of I get to see God reveal His glory today? Do we really believe that those places that are dead, those bodies that are worn out, those spirits that are broken can be brought back, revived, healed? Do we truly believe?
We also find a hint in David’s 63rd Psalm. It says “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.” (Psalm 63:1-2) Are we seeking? Really seeking? As one who is in need of water searches for water? Or are we more like the one who is hungry for a good burger, but I know if I can’t find a good burger place, I have plenty of other options?
I will end by reminding you of what David wrote in Psalm 34:1-8 “I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. My soul will boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together. I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Taste and see that the LORD is good.” He is good and His glory is so much better than that of mashed potatoes.
Because of Him,
Normally, I like to start my little articles with a story of something fun, funny or silly that the girls did and think about it in terms of what we can learn from where those lead. There are always stories I can use from our families lives, but today I want to tell on myself. As I got ready for Easter and the series to go along with Easter and as we started to talk about summer and what worship was going to look like in the summer, I listed out all the dates, slotted in the sermons, when Easter was, when we were starting the summer schedule (this week by the way), and Pentecost. But apparently in the shuffle, I was off a week. In my head, Pentecost was last week, but on the calendar, it is this week coming up. If you were thinking there was something off about your pastor, you were right (really there is more than one thing off).
But I was so excited to get to Pentecost. I was so excited to share the truth that God provided something even after the cross, even after the empty tomb, even after Christ was seated beside the Father, another helper. Maybe it is because I know that I am in such need. Maybe it is because I find myself depending. Maybe it is because I truly believe that, like Good Friday and Easter, Pentecost is a game changer. But as I think about what I did, I think I can learn something from it. Don’t get ahead. We are going to talk about how Moses did just that in this next sermon series. We see King Saul doing it when he is supposed to wait for Samuel to offer the sacrifice in 1 Samuel 13. Saul waits the 7 days he was supposed to, but Samuel hasn’t shown up and his men are starting to scatter. Saul sacrifices the offering himself and as soon as he is done, Samuel shows up. We see it with Peter trying to get Jesus out of the garden by fighting with his sword. We see it in ourselves, as well, I am sure.
Aren’t there times that we think we know what to do, or we think something is supposed to happen? But, the truth is, all we have done is used our wisdom and not listened to our Lord, to the Spirit. Aren’t there times when we think we need to say a word, because we think it will change something, but it isn’t the right time and looking back we can see we should have been a little slower to speak. It isn’t even a question of simply wanting to say or do the right thing, but also doing it in God’s time and way.
The Israelites heard the report from the spies that went to check out the promised land. After hearing the report, they decide not to go. So God declares they will not enter, but wander for forty years. The people then decide that they should go, and they try, but fail. God’s desire was to bring Israel into the land He has promised, but the people had the wrong time.
There are lots of scripture that remind us to wait and sometimes it is easy because we aren’t sure what to do anyway. But sometimes we just get ahead of God. We think, surely this is what He would want me to do. This is another reason why Pentecost is so important, because the Spirit will guide us. Before we go forward with what we think is right, we should go to the Lord to seek His counsel. When God says go, we go. If God says stay, we stay. If God say no, then no.
So be assured, Pentecost is coming. I was just a little early. Be assured that the Lord is working and has a plan. Don’t get ahead. I’ll leave you with two of my favorite verses about waiting. Psalm 27:13-14 “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.”
Because of Him,
One of the things that I know Michelle and I have to look forward to are our two girls spending time on cell phones (not making calls with them, really, who does that any more -insert sarcastic emoji here. I do of course because it’s a phone and isn’t that what you are supposed to do with a phone.) Neither of them have a cell phone yet, they have tablets and they spend plenty of time on them. But Madison has a group of friends that text each other and so she uses Michelle’s cell number for the group text. It is not a great situation for Michelle, but there is an advantage. We can see everything that is being texted. Right now there is nothing inappropriate that is being said in the texts, but give it time and I’m sure it will happen. But it is good for Madison to understand that we can read them all.
This has made me think about what Jesus said to Nicodemus, after the John 3:16 part. Jesus says: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (John 3:19-21). Darkness, hiddenness, and secrets are all places where we can allow the worst of ourselves to thrive.
We keep resentment tucked away until we think we are safe to let it out. We hold lust back until we are alone. We talk behind backs, in secluded corners, and away from others ears because we don’t want people to know what we are really thinking. We keep up a mask hoping no one sees through it or looks behind it. But one day we need to know that it will all be exposed. 1 Corinthians 4:5 tell us to “judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.”
This is why we are encouraged to confess our sins to each other and pray for each other, because it is in confession that we are brought into the light and the light is life. Confession is scary. Being honest with ourselves is hard enough, but being honest and open with someone else can be downright frightening, but it is there that we find freedom, it is there that resurrection and new life is found. This is why Paul when he is writing to the Ephesians says: “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’” (Ephesians 5:11-14)
So no one is probably reading your text messages to see what you are saying and no one knows what you are thinking in your heart or what you do when you are alone, but I want to encourage you to find someone you trust, who you know loves you and desires the best for you, and spend some time together sharing. Do it on a regular basis. I have questions for our transformation groups that can help shed some light if we will be honest. Life is found in the light, so let’s walk in the light.
Because of Him,
We were on our way to New York for spring break. On the way, we were listening to a book on cd called “Ribsy” by Beverly Cleary. Ribsy is a dog and the story is about his adventure of getting separated from his family and being found by his family. The third disc had just ended. In the story, Ribsy was still separated from his family. As Michelle takes out the third disc and puts in the fourth and final disc, she says “last one.” To which Kaitlyn replies without missing a beat, “they better find Ribsy.” Michelle and I just laughed, she is so quick.
As I have had a chance to think about it. I wonder if we ever get anxious, ever get worried (not that I think Kaitlyn was anxious or worried they wouldn’t find the dog, she was just being funny). I wonder if we ever think “it better happen quick,” “something better happen soon,” or similar thoughts?
I wonder what the Israelites were thinking as Pharaoh’s army was coming upon them with their backs against the Red Sea? “Something better happen soon!” I wonder if these were some of the thoughts that Elijah was having as he was running away from Jezebel? “God, you are going to have to do something. I’m all that is left!” But God was already doing something, even if Elijah couldn’t see it.
I wonder if Peter was thinking some of the same thoughts when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus in the Garden. “God, this isn’t right, we have to do something.” Maybe this is why Peter draws the sword. He thought something had to be done and he was going to do all he could to do it. The problem was, God was already doing it and it was different than Peter thought.
Do we ever find ourselves in those spots? We feel anxiousness, we experience worry, fear wells up within in us and our thoughts turn into prayers of “how, when, and please.” I think prayer is absolutely the right place to turn, because it is us turning to God, but maybe the prayer shouldn’t be for answers to relieve our questions. Maybe it shouldn’t only be a pleading for His help (although we find it in the psalms, “be pleased O God to deliver me, O lord make haste to help me” Psalm 40:13, 70:1). Maybe part of our prayer should be out of the confidence that God is at work. Maybe part of our prayer should be simple, asking for the eyes to see what He is doing. And maybe part of it is to ask for peace and courage to stand even in those times we can’t see it.
As I thought about examples of people who might be looking for God to act quickly, I also thought about people who didn’t seem anxious in situations that I certainly would have been anxious in. Abraham when God asked him to sacrifice Isaac (which of course God doesn’t let him). I thought about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace. Even Christ and the cross. We know that for Christ, and I would assume the others, there was the thought of “God if there is another way, but whatever you need to do so that your work is done.” That is the place I want to be. The place of knowing God is at work, the faith to stand even when I can’t see it and the faith to go and do even when I may not know how.
There is a way God desires us to live and we can see it even in how He talks to the Israelites about the promised land. Deuteronomy 1:21 says “See, the LORD your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the LORD, the God of your fathers, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." Do you hear it. God has already given it to you; go get it; don’t be afraid; don’t be discouraged.
So hear that today. The promises of God are already a given, let us live like it. Don’t be afraid, don’t be discouraged. I don’t know how many more chapters my life might have, but what I do know is that my God has a wonderful ending written, even if I can’t see how all the twists and turns will work out.
Because of Him,
March 1st starts the Lenten season. If you are wondering what lent is, let me share with you a section from the United Methodist Church’s web site.
Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo Saxon word lencten, which means "spring." The forty days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry.
Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection. In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism. Today, Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves for others.
Sundays in Lent are not counted in the forty days because each Sunday represents a "mini-Easter" and the reverent spirit of Lent is tempered with joyful anticipation of the Resurrection.
Good Friday and Easter are just around the corner. Sometimes they sneak up on us so quickly that we don’t have time to truly live in these moments too deeply. I think this is where Lent is helpful. Lent gives us time to prepare, reflect, and repent. It gives us the opportunity to take a longer and deeper look at the cross and the resurrection.
So I want to encourage us all to use this season. A lot of times people will give something up for lent. Giving something up gives us a continual reminder what we are heading toward, the cross and an empty tomb. Sometime people take on something; this can have the same effect. The real question is what is going to help you to slow down and remember that you are on a journey to the cross of Christ and a tomb that lies empty? We need to be drawn back, because life can just speed away from us and before we know it the Easter ham will be in the oven and family will be gathering and we will sing and worship, but there is an opportunity for us to journey toward it and not just suddenly be upon it.
So use this season to journey. Use this season to keep your focus on what is coming and be drawn even deeper into what that means. Give something up, start something new, prepare, reflect and repent. Good Friday and Easter will be here before you know it, don’t let it sneak up on you, journey to it and let it be something more.
Because of Him,
The forecast said there was a chance of snow. The possibilities for a snow day were there. When morning came, snow was on the ground, but it was only an hour delay. I saw Madison in the kitchen that morning and I think her and Kaitlyn were glad for an hour delay, but I’m sure they were wanting more. In fact, I know they were wanting more. Madison’s words to me were “I turned my socks inside out, they say that is supposed to help. They say to turn everything inside out, but I only did my socks.” In my head I was thinking, “and that is why there is only a one-hour delay,” but I didn’t want to encourage the thinking. I applaud the attempt though.
As I thought about what Madison said and did (turning her socks inside out), I started to think about the things that Christ said and how it sort of turns our view of life inside out. Think about it with me. If you want to be first, you need to be last. If you want to be the greatest, you need to be the least. If you want to have life, you need to lose it. Wouldn’t you say that is a little inside out?
Most of the time our world is pretty self-focused. We like winning, we like having, we like achieving, and those aren’t necessarily bad. I think what we learn from scripture is that it depends on where our heart is. If I have to win, if I have to have, if I have to achieve, that is where I start going off. When it has to be about me, then we need to start thinking about seeing things inside out. Paul encourages us in Philippians 2:3-4 to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” Does it sound inside out to you?
What I want to make sure we don’t do, is think that our view has to be just for others. I don’t think it is either thinking about me or thinking about someone else, but thinking about the King and thinking about the King's kingdom. I am a child of God, a child of the King, and I am also a servant of God, a servant of the King. So it is helpful for me to remember that I am a steward of all my heavenly father, the King, has given me. So how do I use it, not for me or even for others, but for the Kings good and glory. I think that may be inside out as well.
Because of Him,
This article is a repost from December 2013 – The Beach’s first year at Park Church
My daughter Madison was watching television a few weeks ago and saw a commercial for a Hallmark ornament called the Santa signal. It was the one that is supposed to let Santa know where you are. When Madison saw the commercial she was very excited about it and thought that we should get it. I think she was worried that since this will be the first year in this parsonage, Santa may not know where we are. She doesn’t have much faith in Santa’s underground network. And really if the oriental trading magazine can find us and send us another magazine in just a few weeks (really how do they do that so fast), surely Santa can do it in six months.
As I thought about Madison’s desire for the ornament and the reasoning behind it, I get happy because my Lord always knows where I am. (He really does see me when I am sleeping and knows when I am awake). I may feel lost, but He always knows where I am. I may feel alone, but He is always with me. I may try to hide, but I can’t get away. David reminds us in Psalm 139 about how God is everywhere.
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
Although the truth that God is always where I am is a great truth to remember, an even deeper truth is that He wants to be with you and me. Not only is He where I am but He wants to be with me, or maybe more correctly said, He wants me to be with Him. We find the fulfillment of this truth in one of those names of Jesus. In Isaiah we read: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) We learn in Matthew that Immanuel means, God with us. How crazy is that. David reminds us that we can’t get away from His Spirit, but Jesus reminds us that He wants to be with us.
This season as you see Christmas trees decorated with ornaments, and you might see one that has the Santa Signal ornament on it, remember that not only does God know exactly where you are, what you are going through and how to be your Lord in every situation, but also He desires to be with you. He was, He is Immanuel – God with us.
A NOTE FROM OUR PASTOR
Well, it is the end of October. Today my girls get to dress up and walk around the neighborhood at night. Today my girls get to knock on doors of strangers and let them shower them with candy. I think a dentist came up with the holiday so that business would be better in a few months, that is just my thought though. So much candy, so little time.
This year my girls are going to dress up like ladies from the colonial period. They went with my mom and dad to colonial Williamsburg at the beginning of summer and that must have gotten the idea in their head. My girls went over to my mom and dad’s house a few times over the last couple months and worked on, with my mom’s help and direction, making their costumes. They got material, they got patterns, they cut, they sewed and I think had a good time all while learning new skills. This is something that neither Michelle nor I could do with the girls. I never learned to sew, although I think it would be nice to know. This is one of the many, many times that we are thankful for grandparents and others who step in and help out where we fall short.
When you think about it, this is a good example of how the church should work. One person can’t do it all, that is why the body of Christ exists. During our baptism service there is a moment when after the person to be baptized or who is professing their faith states that they will remain faithful members of Christ’s holy church and will serve as Christ’s representative in the world that the church is asked if they will nurture one another in the Christian faith and life and include those who are before them. Let me remind you of the response of the church. “With God’s help we will proclaim the good news and live according to the example of Christ. We will surround these persons with a community of love and forgiveness, that they may grow in their trust of God and be found faithful in their service to others. We will pray for them, that they may be true disciples who walk in the way that leads to life.” This is a great reminder of our call to nurture. We proclaim, we live as examples, we surround and we pray.
A lot of times we think about what we have that someone may need, not material wise, but even skill wise or knowledge wise. And sharing those, passing those along are good things, but it is about the connection of relationship, the bond of friendship, the knowledge that we are not alone that really matters in the long run. Yes, the skills are good, the knowledge is good, the things are good, but it is the feeling of connection that’s priceless.
So the question I will leave with you is not only about how are you passing on your faith and to who are you passing it on to, but really who are you connecting with. Who knows they are not alone because you have taken the time to share? Who knows that there is someone they can call on because you have extended yourself to them? It may be a grandchild, it may be a neighbor, it may be sibling, it may be a coworker, but it must be someone. This is how the church looks like the church.
Because of Him,
In Matthew 4 we find Jesus calling Simon (Peter), Andrew, James and John. His words are “Come and follow me and I will teach you how to be fishers of men.” Most of us have heard that story before. When we think about being a disciples of Jesus, most of us think about a story like this. We think being His disciple is about following him, and it is, but it is also about more. It is about learning. It is about allowing Him to teach us, to show us, to mold us, to make us like Him. A teacher teaching his students his ways, that is what the discipleship process was.
I think sometimes we get this image of “following Jesus” as joining Him on the way to a great place. Like it is a caravan that stops and picks up people on the way to a great party (the bible would use the term banquet). I can picture people hanging out the window of a bus yelling, “Hey come and join us! It’s going to be great!” Like all they need to do is hop on and enjoy the ride that is ending at a wonderful paradise.
We can’t forget the second part, “And I will teach you.” Follow, first, but follow Him to the classroom (which is your life) and learn from Him. We hear it when Jesus tells the crowd "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30. The yoke is what the farmer puts on the animals to help him do his work. The animals are trained in how to work, without training the farmers work would not be very productive, but with trained animals, very productive. We are not sharing a yoke with Christ, we are letting Him put it on us, and so He says, “Learn from me.”
As we have been trying to figure out how we are to fulfill this call to make disciples, (and just to make sure I keep putting it out there), we want to make disciples through connections, community, commitment and discipleship.) First, we worked on defining a disciple. So let me share with you what we are using as a definition. A disciple is a follower of Jesus Christ who has: 1. A surrendering life – (it is about being His), 2. A changing heart – (it is about being Holy), and 3. A developing servant’s attitude – (it is about being a servant). We intentionally came up with a definition that would work with our discipleship process. We are always growing, because we are always learning and because He is always teaching. Are we learning? Are we growing? Are we becoming more like Him? I hope you and I keep hearing the call to follow, but I hope that isn’t all we hear. I hope we let Him teach us. I hope we learn from Him.
Because of Him,
Michelle, Madison, Kaitlyn and I went to the Peddlers Mall the other day. We were just looking around, we weren’t going to buy anything, just looking. As we walked around Madison and Kaitlyn saw some small dream catchers at one of the booths. They pointed them out to each other and Michelle and we kept looking around. Later on we were in another area where there were larger sized dream catchers. Kaitlyn pointed them out to Michelle and said to her “those are for when you have big dreams.” Both Michelle and I laughed at her comment. She has a quick wit to her.
As I have been thinking about that day, and thinking about Park, I have been reminded of the passage of scripture from Joel 2 that is quoted by Peter in Acts 2. In Acts it is Pentecost. The Spirit has come (which is what Joel was prophesying) and all the foreign onlookers were hearing the believers speak in their own languages. So some were amazed, some were perplexed, and still others said that the disciples must have had to much wine already. Peter’s reply was: “No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy’” (Acts 2:16-18).
The reason I have been thinking about this is that Park has been going through a season of figuring out what God’s dream is for us. We know that the mission of the United Methodist Church is “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” So our question was how do we do that. What dream has God given us? How does it happen and what does that look like here at Park. We know that a transformed world happens when people are transformed, and we know this is a work of God. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians that “whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces, all reflect the Lord's glory are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:16-18)
So how are we helping to transform lives? We think that it has to do with creating space, continually inviting to something more, and encouraging those deeper things. We are going to start saying it this way. We are transforming lives through connecting, community, commitment and discipleship. Each step is an invitation and an invitation to something more. Each step has a place, a moment, an opportunity. And we believe that as we invite and encourage people through love, prayer, and words, the Spirit will do its work and lives will be transformed and in that wake, the world.
Over the next few weeks I will be putting some more meat to this bone structure. So, be on the lookout. It isn’t revolutionary, or mind blowing, but hopefully it will focus and direct us in the dream that God has given us.
Because of Him,
Rev. Lynn Beach is married to his college sweetheart, Michelle, and they have two adorable daughters. He has been at Park Church since July 2013.