Saturday, September 19, 2009

"It is Time to Worship"

Today's reading: Acts 7:6-8 (New International Version)

6God spoke to him in this way: 'Your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. 7But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves,' God said, 'and afterward they will come out of that country and worship me in this place.8Then he gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision. And Abraham became the father of Isaac and circumcised him eight days after his birth. Later Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs.

Here it is again “God spoke”. When the first words of a verse start with that phrase it is pretty assured what comes next is going to be powerful and ears should listen. All of scripture is divine with every word containing power and direction however; it is our human mind that causes the reader to put emphasis on one phrase over another. This is a good reason to ask the spirit to lead us as we approach and read the holy words.

Here we see again the dialogue between God and Abraham where God reveals the future of Abraham’s descendants. I am not so sure I would want to begin my families lineage knowing in advance of their plight. Four hundred years is a long time, probably 5 generations! God promises more than the covenant though, He promises they will survive and come out of slavery into worship!

I love going to Sunday morning worship; it is a retrieve from a week of enslavement to the world culture. A time to turn everything over to the Lord, bow down before him and give him our hearts. The act of worship has so much potential. As Christians, we worship the one true God, Yahweh, creator of heaven and earth. I am so thankful that Jesus Christ made worship available to me now and not 400 years from now.

It was important for Abraham to be circumcised and continue to pass this act of circumcision to his sons and their sons. Like our worship today, it means so much more than the physical, it means the total belief in God and what He offers us in the beyond! Dedicating our lives to His purpose to glorify Him. It is not about us, it is all about Him.

Sunday at Aldersgate is our annual “Homecoming” (formerly Rally Day) and pastor Dennis is going to be preaching out of Zephaniah and sharing how God has been and still is God of this City (Nixa). We believe, there is so much more to be done. Two of the praise songs we will be singing are Step by Step and Mighty to Save. I know that Step by Step He leads me and Abraham knew it also. So let’s not wait 400 years to worship Christ our savior, for He is mighty to save!

Dorothy Brucks

Aldersgate UMC, Nixa, Mo.

Friday, September 18, 2009

"One word will do - Jesus"

Today's reading: Acts 7: 1 - 5

1Then the high priest asked him, "Are these charges true?"
2To this he replied: "Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran. 3'Leave your country and your people,' God said, 'and go to the land I will show you.'

4"So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living. 5He gave him no inheritance here, not even a foot of ground. But God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess the land, even though at that time Abraham had no child.

Witnesses testified before the Sanhedrin of what Stephen had been preaching, he (Stephen) now finds himself with the opportunity to speak before the council. This was no time for stammering, beating around the bush, or pointing fingers, it was time to present the message in a manner which would raise council’s ears.

As one of the seven in charge of the local food bank, Stephen was in a leadership role for certain. His voice would need to carry over the crowds reaching and grasping for food for nourishment. The people had known hunger, so I can imagine a bit of anxiety waiting for the next meal. Watch where Stephen begins - “Brothers and fathers, listen to me!” – must have been spoken in a commanding voice for attention and authority. Next he declares how the God of Glory appeared to their father Abraham.

We have two dogs in our home, one more defiant than the other (the newest to the pack of course). When I need to get my point across to one of the dogs, my voice resonates deeper if needed, especially if I need to get my point across. First I position myself to gain eye contact and speak short commands (as I learned in dog obedience class) such as no, stop, sit, stay, off, down. Repeating the word over and over is no help with a dog because if you keep doing that, a dog knows instinctively how many you will say and not respond on command. (Another lesson)

Stephen, an intelligent man, seized the moment by reminding his audience how the God of Glory appeared to their father Abraham, gave him directions and sent him on his journey, the journey that forever changed the course of the Hebrew people and the possession of the land of Israel. God’s promise of descendants at the time seemed improbable and even reading it now, centuries later as we discover Abraham had no children of his own.

It seems improbable to me right now that our dog Emmitt will give up his quest for freedom or his yearning to destruct. However, those more experienced than I, keep assuring me that in time he too will begin to trust his master because he will know that his master does return to feed and love him. Stephen began his speech with the truth about God and as Abraham followed the master’s commands, God kept his promise of a child, and the journey continued. We must be the ones to experience God’s glory and be bold and share the word – one word will do – Jesus.

Dorothy Brucks
Aldersgate UMC, Nixa, Mo.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

"I can feel His mighty power"

Today's Reading: Acts 6:7-10 (NIV)

7So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.

8Now Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. 9Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia. These men began to argue with Stephen, 10but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke.

“Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place, I can fell His mighty power and his grace” are beautiful words from a worship song written in 1977 and now resides in the United Methodist Hymnal. If you are familiar with the melody, sing the sentence again and soak in the fact that the Lord is present with you right now where ever you are.

Lord, I thank you for your presence in my life this evening, it was evident your spirit was present with the praise team at practice. May we worship you always and share with others what you have done in our lives. Amen

I am in awe of how God weaves in and out of every aspect of life. His spirit is like fog in one sense. As you look out into a foggy river valley, notice how the moisture of the fog penetrates every space possible, it encompasses all of space. The Lord’s presence is that way too, He is everywhere before us, with us and behind us, just as He was with Stephen. The church in Jerusalem was growing daily, miracles were being performed and signs and wonders of God’s power displayed right before their eyes. Jerusalem was and still is a volatile place, but peace was there and will be there again.

Tonight at praise team practice, I saw and heard voices and instruments blending in the spirit of worship. As I move the screens to the songs lyrics, I watch and listen alone up in the balcony and a peace overcomes me. I know during that time frame each of us are where we should be, preparing our hearts for worship and to lead others in worship. It is humbling to know God allows me to assist in the worship experience in such a small way. I am humbled and grateful.

You see, nothing is small to God, because everything we are and everything we do is his work; eternal work for the kingdom! Just as God grew the church through Stephen and the apostles, God will continue to shows us miracles. We should be awaking everyday expecting miracles.

Monday, Deb will be awaking before daybreak - expecting a miracle, as her surgery is that morning at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis where she will undergo neurosurgery on her upper spine. Humans will be repairing discs, fusing her spine, inserting hardware and removing bone fragments, all with God’s power. As we each recognize from this scripture that all wisdom is from God, all works are of God – we hold within us the knowledge that nothing will stand against Deb as she faces this ordeal. Deb, Jeff and your children and grandchildren, stay obedient to your faith as you face these next several months.

Dorothy Brucks
Aldersgate UMC
Nixa, MO.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"Faced With Choosing"

Today's Reading: Acts 6:1-7 (NIV)

1In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word."

5This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
7So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.

Last evening I had the opportunity to speak with Deb on the phone for about a half hour, she was at the Coffee House on the Campus of Lindenwood University. This ministry is one that she helped begin along with several others from two churches I believe. It is a ministry she loves. Deb talked about the important work of sharing the gospel message and we all know from reading her devotions over the years, that she has the power of the Holy Spirit within her to plant the gospel in the minds and hearts of others.

If any of the readers out there know me, you know that my passion has not been focused on sharing the gospel message in the same way as Deb and this is my first attempt at writing devotional readings. My passion lies with leading, administration, teaching and organizing. It is hard for me to say ‘no’ to a task when it means taking on a project from the beginning and working with other people to see the task come to fruition. Don’t misunderstand me that sharing the gospel is not my focus, it is the most important mission, I merely approach that mission in a different way.

Deb has been enjoying walking and praying out loud and is feeling much less stressed as she has taken time to focus on healing portions of herself. The apostles were being pulled in all directions as the group began to grow and not all needed tasks were being taken care of properly. Their main focus of sharing the gospel was now being pulled like a rubber band in all directions and nerves were on fire amongst the people. Deb was also pushing herself in all directions. Both were faced with a decision to make and so they stepped back, sought others to assist and prayed and laid hands on (vs. 5 & 6).

Have you ever shared the act of ‘laying on of hands” to someone? It is a powerful experience from both the giving and receiving ends. It is an act of passing on the authority to someone, trusting and relying upon them as willing, able and qualified by the spirit’s presence in their lives.

Let us continue to pray for God to reign over Deb’s health as her plan of care unfolds before her Thursday at her appointment. Let us continue to pray for the word of God to spread and the number of disciples increase (vs. 7 revisited).

Dorothy Brucks
Aldersgate UMC
Nixa, Mo.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"What a friend - what a privilege."

Today's reading: Acts 5:40-42 (NIV)

40His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.

Tonight I thought it might be fun to ask my husband Phil what he thought about this passage of scripture. First I summarized the previous scriptures that I had written about and then read this passage out loud to him. Then he says to me ‘well, what’s your question?” in that voice of why do you need to ask. I really didn’t have a question, I just wanted to hear from him that possibly what I was thinking about was right. Validation is what I was looking for but I wasn’t going to tell him that.

He has a way of teaching someone by asking questions, making comments and having you discover the answers yourself, this causes you to think for yourself rather than settling for his answer, because he doesn’t often give the answers, he affirms them.

Gamaliel’s way of teaching may have been similar; remember, he shared examples in order to hopefully persuade the officers into a correct decision. By flogging the apostles before releasing them, they saved face amongst the crowds that may have rioted if a killing was attempted.

As we turn to the point of view of the apostles, we read that they left rejoicing! When was the last time you got beat up in a public place in front of everyone and went away rejoicing? In today’s society, most people would express themselves irrationally in front of television news cameras and reporters about how horrible the crime was against them - putting the focus on the criminal act. Instead, the apostles focused on the privilege of suffering the same inflictions that Jesus suffered and accepted for the sins of mankind. (Read that sentence again, slowly) They knew God had spared them for a greater purpose!

What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and grief’s to bear! What a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer. Whatever your style of teaching may be, remember it is the gospel message you are sharing, whether it be in public or private; in church’s; places of work or in a small group in your home; God has chosen you to share His message. May it be so, day after day – and that you never stop!

Dorothy Brucks
Aldersgate UMC
Nixa, MO.

Monday, September 14, 2009

"The voice of Gamaliel"

Today's reading: Acts 5:33-39 (NIV)

33When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 34But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35Then he addressed them: "Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God."

First the apostles were incarcerated, then released by the voice of an angel, began teaching about new life again, confronted by the crowds, brought before the Sanhedrin for questioning and possible trial, defended themselves quite well I might say in yesterday’s lesson and now they are sent outside for recess! At first glance I am thinking man; by sending them out for recess someone is having second thoughts.

But as I read deeper into the purpose of this scripture it becomes clear that isn’t so. The clear message here is when their actions are of God, the end result will happen no matter what is done to them! Cautiously, Gamaliel presents his case …‘men of Israel, consider carefully ….” and begins to remind them of the results of previous acts!

I have been teaching myself how to make graphics and movie projects on the computer. There are times I just wish someone would come over and show me the steps as I have spent hours going back and forth to learn one little trick about a layer in a graphic (then promptly forgot how I did it, age is my excuse). Even when I remind myself of the things I have tried over and over again that don’t work , I sometimes justify another attempt, when in reality reading the tutorials would have benefited me much more.

Gamaliel knew the law, probably wrote the tutorials, so was he now a friend of the apostles? Probably not, but he knew from experience what happens when one keeps doing the wrong things over and over again.

When you and I are in ministry, truthfully witnessing for the Lord, sincerely helping someone in need, we must praise God from deep within our heart and give Him the glory. The final outcome will be blessed and be fruitful. If you hear a voice in your mind questioning if what you are doing is right, that just might be your Gamaliel challenging you to make certain you and God are in the activity together for His kingdom. If you are not in sync with God’s will, frustration, division and failure are certain. God has given you the incredible gift of the Holy Spirit; open your heart to his presence, his calling and direction. He is there!

Shalom to Deb and her friends,
Dorothy Brucks
Aldersgate UMC, Nixa, Mo.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

"Exalted - a word of action"

Today's Reading: Acts 5:27-32 (NIV)

27Having brought the apostles; they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28"We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name," he said. "Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood."
29Peter and the other apostles replied: "We must obey God rather than men! 30The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead—whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. 31God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. 32We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him."

The atmosphere in this scene must have been full of spiritual dimensions from both sides; good and evil. “We gave you strict orders…” sounds very authoritarian to me, something parents most likely say with teenage drivers in the house. “We must obey God rather than men!” had to be shared by every person captured before the court, all in unison because they believed it and lived it.

Then begins the storytelling of how God raised Jesus from the dead and YOU hung him from a tree. The intonation of voices could have been a grave attempt at manipulating the captors into taking responsibility for the death of Jesus Christ. The Jews had indeed crucified Christ, but they were not about to admit it, for evil was spinning around all of them.

The splendor of this story comes in the words “God exalted …” that phrase from this portion of the scripture simply jumps off of the page! When I say the word exalted out loud it reveals the power of God and I tremble at the sound of the word.

There are times in our daily routines when an extraordinary opportunity to be His vessel arrives right in front of us. When we live a life according to God’s will (His orders) so we are not in conflict with the evil forces of the world - He will exalt us to be one with him. He will ultimately give us every word that we need at any given moment. Ask and we will speak in unison with Him.

Dorothy Brucks, holding Deb in my prayers
Aldersgate UMC
Nixa, MO.