Women Preaching in the Bible

One thing that we often pray for as we begin to read Scripture is that the Word of God will challenge us and change us. These are easy words to say, but it’s difficult to be truly vulnerable to scripture, which “is living, active and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12). So as I read again the familiar story of the women discovering the empty tomb on that very first Easter Sunday, I found myself challenged, though not surprised. Listen to the April 8 sermon, “Believe Her.”

Upon reading, “Their words struck the apostles as nonsense, and they didn’t believe the women” (Luke 24:11), I couldn’t help but wonder:

How could such a hopeful moment give way to such brokenness?

At the crossroads of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we find Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and a group of other, anonymous women. They share with the rest of the disciples the good news, “He is risen!” And rather than trusting these fellow disciples who have accompanied Jesus, who have even helped finance the apostles’ ministry, their story is met with disbelief.

As I have so often asked of other challenging texts present in Scripture, why include this verse in the text? The answer comes in the form of another question: “What can we learn today from the apostles’ folly?” We have learned a great deal, but we still have a great deal more to learn. If we examine the words and deeds of Jesus Christ, the church has had no greater model for female empowerment, and yet the long tradition of the church is full of privileged male voices and marginalized female voices.

In effect, the female disciples were the first to preach the resurrection, and yet, women have had to struggle to live into their call to the ministry of preaching. I am grateful that, for the most part, the question of female ordination has been settled, but it’s important to recognize two difficult truths:

  1. It’s been long and difficult road. Throughout the history of the church, women have struggled with the tension between a very real call to preach the Word of God and a few scriptural passages that were used as prooftexts to prohibit their ministry. Whether by saturating their sermons with Scripture, “preaching” without preaching, taking leadership roles in mission work or preaching by leading private Bible studies, women have overcome obstacles their male counterparts did not face with creativity and grace. Many women and men have worked tirelessly to fulfill the words of the prophet Joel: “I will pour out my spirit upon everyone; your sons and your daughters will prophesy.” The Methodist Church first granted full clergy rights to women in 1956, but I must wonder, what took the church so long to recognize where the Holy Spirit was already at work?
  2. We still have a long ways to go. The most challenging aspect of addressing these words from Scripture has been the acknowledgment that there is still work to be done. In August 2017, The United Methodist General Commission on the Status and Role of Women identified two major problems that undercut the notion that we have somehow arrived at equality. First, women are greatly underrepresented in church leadership. While they represent 58% of UMC membership, women make up only 28.4% of clergy roles. Second, and more worrying, female clergy are paid significantly less than their male counterparts. These two realities stand in stark contrast to the life and ministry of Jesus, who demonstrated the importance of female empowerment.

The good news is that God is still calling and equipping all kinds of people to serve as the hands and feet of Christ. The Holy Spirit is still moving in and through the church as we sing out, “He is Risen!” The resurrection of Jesus Christ announced the arrival of the new humanity, that “if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation” (2 Corinthians 15:17). This new humanity is already revealed in Christ, but it’s not yet fully present. So the church is called to work together to empower all people—that’s right, all—to share the good news of Jesus Christ and practice resurrection until every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!

Pastor Matt Potter

Easter

But Wait, There’s More

Ron Popeil is the inventor and marketer who created a company called “Ronco.”   Known for his advertising on television, Ron Popeil has brought us such great products as the Vego-Matic, the Pocket Fisherman, Mr. Microphone, and the Showtime Rotisserie Oven.   Mr. Popeil is also known for a famous catch-phrase that he would often use in his advertising and marketing: “But wait, there’s more.” Listen to the April 1 sermon.

While this phrase might be a clever way to encourage someone to buy a product, it’s also a great phrase for summarizing the message of Easter and the resurrection of Jesus.  By rising from the dead, Jesus is telling us that there is more to life than just this life.  He is confirming his identity as our Savior and Lord, and also affirming his promise, “I died, and behold I am alive forevermore. And because I live, you will live also” (Rev. 1:18, John 14:19).

Because of Easter, we can see physical death as it really is, not simply an ending, but a transition to a new beginning.  Because of Easter, we discover that we are not in the land of the living moving towards death, we are actually in the land of the dying moving towards life.  Because of Easter we can look at the graves of our loved ones, consider our own mortality, and confidently say, “but wait, there’s more.”

Pastor Mark Miller

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday was an inaugural parade.  Jesus was making the bold statement that he was the promised King, bringing a new kind of kingdom.  Some believed, some did not.  For those who believed, the resurrection of Jesus confirmed his identity and authenticated his kingdom.  The King who declared that his kingdom was not of this world, demonstrated a power that is not of this world, and established the Church to be a visible representation of his eternal kingdom in this temporal world.  Listen to the March 25 Sermon, “Join the Parade.”

But the King is not finished.  His first inaugural parade will someday be followed by a second inaugural parade.  The King is coming back!  The second-coming of Jesus Christ is a promise that has given hope and strength to Christians down through the ages.  The second coming is referenced at least 318 times in the New Testament and was a dominant part of the teaching of the early Church.  We do not know the day or the hour, but we know that our King will return.

For now, we live in between the two inaugural parades.  One has already happened on Palm Sunday, the other will happen someday.  Until that day, we live out our lives with hope, and we engage in two consistent behaviors that demonstrate the Kingdom of God in our midst:

  1. First, we work.  Work is how we demonstrate the power of the kingdom. We do the work that Christ began, caring for those who are struggling, and inviting people to be reconciled to God through the love and forgiveness that is available to us. 
  2. Second, we worship.  Through worship we celebrate the beauty of the kingdom.  We don’t worship God because He needs it, we worship God because He deserves it.  Authentic love and devotion must be expressed in order to be fulfilled.  Through worship we express our love, loyalty and devotion to our King.  

Someday, there will be a new heaven and a new earth, and there will be no more suffering, death, injustice or sorrow.  Until that day, we wait.  But while we wait, we work and we worship, knowing that the Kingdom of God has already begun, and we get to be part of the action!

Pastor Mark Miller

2 Ways to Find Joy at Work 

how to find joy in your work, ways to be happy at work

Many people think of work as a burden, a curse, or a necessary obligation that allows us to earn money so we can then do what we really want to do.  We often think of work as the opposite of play.  Work is not fun, play is fun.  But it doesn’t have to be that way, and it shouldn’t be that way.

Work is not meant to be a curse, but an opportunity to serve others and express God’s love to the world as we engage our talents, skills and abilities in tasks that help solve problems and meet needs.  Listen to the March 18 sermon, “Working with Joy.”

If you want to experience more joy in your work, here are two suggestions:

  1. Look up. Find meaning and purpose in your work.  See work as God’s invitation to you to make a positive difference in the world.  Doing good work and being excellent at what you do is a way of expressing love for God and love for others.
  2. Look around. Look for the opportunities and possibilities all around you to bless other people. Sometimes we fail to notice how a problem or challenge at work is really an opportunity to glorify God.  Sometimes the issue at work that we curse is the very instrument that God is trying to use to deepen our faith and develop our ability to serve others.

When we look up and look around, we find joy in our work.  We solve problems and meet needs in a way that honors God, blesses others, and deepens our faith.

Pastor Mark Miller

The Power of Words

The Power of Words Scrabble letters, words are powerful

Words are powerful.  Words can build up or tear down.  There is an expression that goes like this: “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”  That isn’t true.  Words can hurt.  But words can also heal.  The Bible declares that “the tongue has the power of life or death” (Proverbs 18:21).  If we want to experience greater joy in our lives and become a source of joy in the lives of others, we should pay close attention to our words.  Listen to the March 11 sermon, “What Do You Say?”

Here are two helpful habits to cultivate:

  1. Replace words of criticism with words of encouragement.  Complaining and criticizing are easy to do, and those kinds of words tend to come naturally to us.  To experience more joy, we need to become encouragers.  Encouraging words are not intended to butter someone up or lie about their deficiencies in order to spare their feelings.  Encouraging words are designed to speak truth in love so that a person can recognize his or her potential and be motivated to work towards that potential.  Encouraging words see the up-side rather than the down-side of situations and circumstances.  Encouragers build up and bless, even when the conversation is difficult.
  2. Replace words of fear with words of faith.  Fear usually manifests itself as worry.  Worry is not the same as having a concern.  Having a concern is normal and useful because a concern is meant to motivate us toward positive action.  If I have a concern about my finances, I am motivated to read a book on money management, create a budget, discipline my spending habits and live within my means.  But worry is different.  Rather than motivating us toward action, worry paralyzes us with fear and dread.  The English word “worry” derives from the Germanic word “Worgen” which literally means “to strangle” or “to choke.”  This is what worry does.  It chokes the joy out of us.  We get so focused on fear that we don’t see God’s possibilities in the midst of difficulties.  Replacing fear with faith allows us to speak God’s truth into our challenges and struggles.  Sometimes we have to say it before we see it, but choosing to speak words of faith rather than fear, can help us discover God’s grace and strength, and we begin to grow in new and important ways.

This is why the Church is so important.  The Church is God’s anointed instrument for helping people speak words of encouragement and faith in the midst of a world that is gripped by criticism and fear.  We serve a loving and powerful Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who conquered sin and death and offers us a new life and a new identity.  With that comes a new vocabulary.  So let’s use words that cultivate greater joy in our lives, and bring joy into the lives of others.

Pastor Mark Miller

2 Easy Ways to Find More Joy

We live busy, noisy lives.  Sometimes our thoughts, attitudes, and habits (joy stealers) can distract us from the joy that our Lord has for us, and we can miss out on the joy that is promised to us through our faith in Jesus Christ.   But there are a couple of strategies that can help us keep our focus and experience greater joy. Listen to the “Joy Stealers” sermon from March 4.

  1. Be discerning about the people we hang around.  It’s not that we need to be a “holy clique” and avoid people who are different from us, but we do need to be thoughtful and intentional about our relationships.  If we hang around negative people who complain, criticize, gossip and pursue selfish desires, we will tend to adopt those attitudes and behaviors for ourselves as well. As the Bible reminds us, “bad company corrupts good character”(1 Cor 15:33).  A good question to ask is this: “who am I hanging around and what are they doing to me?”   Building Christian community requires us to intentionally enter into relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, relationships where we focus our attention on encouraging, supporting, and challenging each other to pursue the kind of life that honors the Lord and allows more joy to flow into us and through us.
  2.  Be discerning about the kind of things we allow into our minds.  We not only have a relationship with people, we have a relationship with our television, the movie screen, our smart phones, books, magazines and the internet. These various forms of media are bombarding us every day with messages, philosophies, value statements, and truth claims that can influence us in subtle (and not so subtle ways).  A good question to ask is this:  what am I watching these days, and what is it doing to me?  What books am I reading?  What movies am I watching, what songs am I listening to, what websites am I visiting?  What video games am I playing? How are these and other forms of media impacting my life and my character? 

Ultimately, joy is not primarily an emotional response to pleasant circumstances, joy is a character quality we cultivate.  Few things impact our character as much as the people we hang out with and the media we consume.  Let us be discerning and careful, because we don’t want the joy stealers to distract us from the joy that comes from a good and honorable character!

Pastor Mark Miller

Give Thanks, Always and Everywhere 

 

Gratitude never goes out of style. Often, the most joyful people are also the most grateful. They find a way to be grateful, regardless of their circumstances. Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk who has lived through a world war and the fascist takeover of his country, has found that gratefulness is essential to joyfulness. Gratitude is woven into the witness of Scripture, even in the unlikeliest of places. Thanksgiving makes countless appearances in the words of the prophets, the psalms and the witness of the early church. We may not be able to give thanks for everything that life hands us, but we can be grateful in every circumstance. Listen to the Feb 25 sermon, “Practice Gratitude.” 

Paul and Timothy, pastors and prisoners, write back to a church that they have founded and give thanks to God for their work and witness. They write that they are grateful for the gift that the church has sent, but they are even more grateful that the gospel message continues to spread by their imprisonment. Paul and Timothy identify as slaves of Christ Jesus and partners in ministry with the church in Philippi. Far from being ashamed of his chains, Paul writes that he is a slave of a slave, that he humbles himself because Jesus humbled himself, “taking the form of a slave” (Philippians 2:7). Paul gives thanks because he has found perfect freedom, which is service to God. Gratitude and joyfulness allow us to share in the mind of Christ by focusing not on ourselves but on others.

If Paul and Timothy can sing hymns of praise to God and write letters of encouragement from the inside of a prison cell, then we can learn to be grateful in all circumstances. Paul models grateful and constant prayer for the church in the hopes that they can discern what really matters through love, knowledge and insight. Paul continues to instruct us in filling our prayers with gratitude. When you saturate your life with prayer, your every word and action will overflow with love. So what are you grateful for right here, right now? In happiness and heartache, we can always give thanks. Gratitude is a constant companion. And joy always follows close behind!

Pastor Matt Potter

Train Your Brain

Train Your Brain 

The human brain is an amazing instrument. Weighing less than 3 pounds, containing more than 100 billion neurons, it represents only about 2% of our body weight but uses 20% of the oxygen pumping through our bloodstream. At any given moment, our brains are receiving and processing more than 100 million pieces of information. What we call “thoughts,” are electrically charged chemical reactions traveling through neurological pathways in our brains at a rate of more than 200 miles per hour. An individual brain generates more electrical impulses in a single day than all of the world’s telephones combined. Listen to the Feb 18 sermon, “Train Your Brain.”

But our brain needs training. The Bible tells us that we should take control of our thoughts and train our brain to focus on those things which are good, noble, right, pure, lovely, excellent and admirable (Philippians 4:8). To train our brain, we must develop personal disciplines that help us focus our thoughts so that we can experience the life God intends for us. Many people think that joy is simply an emotional response to our external circumstances. When I experience pleasant circumstances, I will experience the emotion of joy. Without those pleasant circumstances, I will not experience joy. But Christians discover that joy is a disposition of the heart that we cultivate through our thoughts, not through our circumstances.

One way to help cultivate a life of joy by focusing our thoughts is to train ourselves to continually ask two questions, regardless of our circumstances. The first question is, “What’s good about this?” The second question is, “What am I thankful for right now?” These two questions don’t necessarily change our circumstances, but they do change how we think in the midst of our circumstances, which in turn cultivates joy and empowers us to persevere and thrive in the midst of challenge and adversity. Asking these two questions is not meant to create a false reality where we ignore pain and problems, but rather to focus our brains on the presence and promise of God, so that we can see the pain and problems from a new and better perspective. Joy begins with our thoughts, not our circumstances. And if we want to experience the joy that God has for us, we need to train our brain!

Pastor Mark Miller

Two Questions

Two Questions to Consider 

I love good questions, they help us think clearly and grow wise.  Questions can inspire discovery and innovation.  Whenever I study a passage of scripture, I try to ask questions of the text because I believe those questions help me understand God’s wisdom, and apply that wisdom to my life.  Recently, I was studying Colossians 2:6-7, “Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, so continue to grow in Him, rooted and built up in the faith as you are taught, and overflowing with thanksgiving.”  Reflecting on this passage allowed me to consider two very important questions. Listen to the Feb 4 sermon, “Two Questions to Consider.”

  1. First question: Have I truly received Jesus Christ as Lord?  There is a difference between having an opinion about Jesus and making a commitment to Jesus.  Receiving Christ Jesus as Lord means more than just believing that He is the Son of God who died on the cross and rose from the dead.  It also means making a commitment to receive Jesus as my Savior and Lord, and to commit my life to Him by seeking to live as He would have me live.  This is what people mean when they talk about having a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”  It is more than an opinion, it is a relationship that requires an intentional decision to be committed.  In the same way that I committed myself to be in a personal relationship with my wife on our wedding day, I need to make sure that I have committed to be in a relationship with Jesus, and that I have made that decision clearly and earnestly.
  2. Second question: Am I continuing to grow in Him?  In other words, am I living out the implications of my commitment to Jesus.  A commitment to receive him as Lord implies a commitment to continue growing mature as a follower of Jesus Christ.  There is a difference between “trying” to become spiritually mature and “training” to become spiritually mature.  Christians are called to “train” themselves to become mature (1 Timothy 4:7).  This requires intentional effort and consistent discipline, so I must make sure that I make time in my daily and weekly schedule to invest myself in Bible study, worship, fellowship and service so that I can continue to grow.

These two questions really summarize the basic steps of the Christian life: making a commitment to receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and then continuing the spiritual growth process implied by that commitment. In this way, we become the people we were meant to be, and make the best of our life for the rest of our life.

Pastor Mark Miller

What Would I Say to Tammy?

Tammy was a teenager who was part of the youth group in the church I served as a Pastor many years ago.  Once, while engaging the youth in a discussion about the importance of attending weekly worship services at church, Tammy challenged me.  She argued that church services were boring and a waste of her time.  She felt closer to God when she walked her dog in the park, and she explained that her relationship with God was “a private, personal thing between her and God.”  When Tammy finished with her short speech, I did not know what to say to her.  Now, many years later, I wonder where Tammy is and I’ve figured out what I wish I could say to her. Listen to the Jan 28 sermon, “What Would I Say to Tammy?”

I would tell Tammy that while our relationship with God is personal, it’s not entirely private.  There is a corporate and community identity that we share as part of the people of God (1 Peter 2:9-12).  When we gather on the Lord’s Day, with the Lord’s People, in the Lord’s House, it is a public profession of that personal relationship with God, and it is a reminder that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, we are connected to a bigger community of Faith where we worship, grow and serve together.  Participating in corporate worship on a regular basis helps us to remember who we are and Who’s we are.

I would also tell Tammy that corporate worship inspires us to serve others. I know it is possible to do kind deeds of compassion on our own, but the corporate nature of the Church allows us to pool resources, energy, and abilities in a way that allows us to do big things that impact many lives.  Over the year, my participation in the Church has allowed me to build hospitals, orphanages, dig fresh water wells, provide medical equipment, feed thousands, and do so much more.  Corporate worship is the place where we remember the call to serve the poor, hurting and needy.  Through worship, we are inspired to be servants of the Servant, who declared, “when you serve the least of these, you have served me.” (Matthew 25:34-40).

Finally, I would tell Tammy that attending Church exposes us to opportunities for spiritual growth that can help us become the people we were meant to be.  I am sorry that some Church worship services can be boring at times, but if they are led well, and if time and attention is invested in making the worship experience excellent, then few hours of the week can be more beneficial to our spiritual growth than the hour spent in public worship.  Perhaps this is why the Bible encourages us to be consistent in practicing “The Discipline of Assembly” and we are warned not to neglect gathering together (Hebrews 10:25).

Pastor Mark Miller