How to Deal with TestsTest

Life is full of tests.  The purpose of a test is to reveal, to educate, to evaluate.   Tests may not always be enjoyable, but they are helpful tools.   We will be tested in this life through circumstances, challenges, problems, struggles and opportunities.  We will be tested in this life because life is a school.  Listen to the April 15 sermon, “This is a Test.”

The New Testament Epistle of James is a helpful book to study because it is full of wisdom for taking on the tests of life.  James deals honestly with some of the biggest issues that we all face, issues like perseverance, temptation, dealing with anger, treating other people graciously, expressing anger in a healthy way, and living out our deepest values when it is difficult or inconvenient.

I encourage Christians who are serious about living out their faith to make a serious study of the book of James.  It is helpful, challenging and motivating.  Worth the time and effort to read and study for anyone who wants to do well in the tests of life.

Pastor Mark Miller

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