Saturday, November 14, 2009

"When Christians Pray"

Today’s reading - Acts 12:1-6 (NIV): 1It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. 2He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3When he saw that this pleased the Jews; he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. 4After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.

5So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.

6The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance.

In Chapter 11 we looked at the growth of the early Christians, their leaders, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in people’s lives and the message of Jesus the Messiah was penetrating hearts. Let’s take a look at what is next by starting chapter 12. The King Herod of this era is not the same King Herod the Great who reigned during the birth of Jesus, it is his grandson. Like it or not, traits from our ancestors do get passed on, some traits we like and others we, well, shall I say nicely, dislike.

In order to win the favor of the Roman government, persecuting Christians again seems to be the thing to do to please the government and the Jewish people. If this was happening in our neighborhood (and for some of you it may be) it would not be pleasing, it would be illegal and absolutely wrong.

Peter was to be the next Big target, for he was becoming more and more respected and more people were becoming Christians, as you recall both Gentiles and Jews were converting. This fact was enough to threaten the empire and the Jewish family tree.

When I feel threaten in any way, I tend to want to take the defense at that very moment. I don’t take enough time to stop to see what else is happening, what lead up to this, why it might be happening or what is the best strategy to eliminate the threat. There is the word, eliminate, ugh, I thought it and I typed it. I know I don’t want to eliminate anyone; I just merely want to not feel threatened. I take feeling threatened as a personal attack on my character.

For me to set that aside, I need guidance and direction, which only can come from the Lord. Every time we pray for someone we are petitioning the Lord God Almighty for them. Experiencing and learning of the fruits of my commitment to pray for others is reward that only God can ordain. The church was earnestly praying to God for Peter while he was sleeping between two soldiers bound in chains. What is your prayer for your pastor who sometimes is caught between light and darkness, feeling threatened by the chains of darkness, unable to speak the word of God?

It is time we get busy and pray for our pastoral leaders, to free them to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Dorothy Drago Brucks
Aldersgate UMC
Nixa, Mo

Monday, November 09, 2009

"Laity in Ministry"

Today’s reading - Isaiah 52:7 (NIV): 7 How beautiful on the mountains
  • are the feet of those who bring good news,
  • who proclaim peace,
  • who bring good tidings,
  • who proclaim salvation,
  • who say to Zion,
  • "Your God reigns!"
Before we start Chapter 12 of Acts, I wanted to share with you about serving in ministry from a laity perspective based on this scripture. You may have heard the term ‘just in time training’ well that is how I feel sometimes about how I accomplish things. I take on project work, it is my specialty. I thrive on challenging projects and learn as I go, ‘just in time’ to complete the work.

Last Friday, I felt down in the dumps, but that all changed after having a wonderful conversation with a friend. Now I am feeling joyful. I have spent the past few weeks reading and preparing to lead my Sunday School class through a 4 week session about ‘Who We are as United Methodist’. So of course I had to start with John Wesley. Sunday just past, was my first lesson plan. It was awesome to share with the class, (most all new to Methodism) how the Lord powerfully blesses laity in ministry. God has blessed lay preachers for centuries.

Since the beginning of September I have been moderating an on-line lay speaker course titled “Go Preach” and I am so proud of the six students that persevered through the course and will be coming together this Saturday to meet each other, to further their training and to present their prepared sermons. These folks feel called and I admire each of them for being willing to serve.

Lastly, tonight I finished my first ever knitting project – now don’t laugh, because I was inspired to knit a prayer shawl for our prayer shawl ministry. I was overcome with emotion tonight as our group prayed over the shawl. It has many flaws, but holds many prayers which have been prayed in advance for the person that God already knows will be the recipient. (Isnt' that kool He already knows who?)

The scripture today describes laity in ministry; the lay speakers will bring the good news in their messages, the prayer shawls will bring peace, John Wesley’s lay preachers proclaimed salvation.

And you and I say “God Reigns!”

Dorothy Drago Brucks

Aldersgate UMC
Nixa, Mo.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

“The Message”

Today’s reading - Acts 11:25-30 (NIV): 25Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

27During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) 29The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. 30This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

These two paragraphs of scripture reveal two very important characteristics of Jesus. Jesus spent time with the people that needed Him. He helped people to know who He was, he stayed with them night and day and he taught them all they needed to know. Now Barnabas and Saul are doing the same thing; helping the people in Antioch to know more about Christ and to live a Christ-like life.

History teaches us that Antioch was the first group of people that were called Christians and they were as diverse a population as there could be. It was important for Barnabas and Saul to continue their work there. The characteristic of spending time with others to help them learn.
When this group of disciples heard of the famine that was to spread throughout the area, they came together and decided it was right to help those that would soon be in need. They gave what they could to help those in Judea. The characteristic of serving is revealed in vs. 29 – providing for others.

With the holiday season upon us very soon, we will be given multiple opportunities to spend time with our families, friends and some of us may have to choose between families. We will also be offered many opportunities to serve others less fortunate and are in need of food, finances, clothing, gifts and some of us may have to choose how much we can send to assist.

If you are a budget shopper or a spend thrift at this time of year, don’t forget to invite Christ into your life to keep you focused on His ever presence. Spend time with others teaching them about the real reason we celebrate Christmas. The message is needed and you and I are charged to share the Joy to the World. That is what Barnabas and Saul were doing.

Dorothy Drago Brucks
Aldersgate UMC
Nixa, Mo

Hearing Impaired

Today’s Reading: Mark 4:9 NIV

9 Then Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Good morning!

For years, I simply thought my husband wasn’t listening. I would say something to him, and, an hour later, he would have absolutely no idea what I was talking about. This became a huge issue, especially when we were trying to plan and coordinate our days. In the morning, if I talked about the after school schedule and we encountered some glitch in transportation or scheduling later in the day, it would set me on edge. I felt like I was talking to a brick wall and I wondered if he was choosing to ignore me. It wasn’t until we found ourselves at the doctor’s office reviewing hearing test results when we both realized that Jeff had suffered a profound hearing loss that had gone undetected for some time. I was very embarrassed for all my emotional outbursts and sorry I had not recognized the origin of the problem many years before.

My eighty-six year old mother has a great pair of hearing aids and she hates to wear them. She says that the sound is completely distorted, and that frustrates her to no end. She has been struggling to hear clearly for many years. Sometimes, I think it is easier for her not to have to listen than to try and hear the sounds around her. Quite often when I visit Mom on the weekends, she has her hearing aids off and the television volume up on blast. It is a good thing her neighbors are all deaf too. I can generally pick out the television program she is watching down the hall, before I even knock on her apartment door. Sometimes, she doesn’t even hear me knocking.

I wonder if the Father becomes frustrated when His children, who have been given ears to hear, choose not to listen. Our spiritual hearing loss is impacted when we hear but refuse to accept and follow God’s Word. People will listen to the Word for many different reasons. Some folks want to hear the Word preached in a way that makes them feel better about themselves – maybe even a little self-righteous. Others are looking for reasons to discredit the messenger. Yet, there are many who yearn to go deeper in their relationship with the Lord. Jesus spoke in words that could only be understood by those who were truly seeking Him. And there are some, who will not hear the author of life knocking at their door, even as He stands there, patiently waiting.

We do not always hear and understand God’s truth because we may not be fully ready for it. There have been many moments in my own life when I was either unwilling and/or unaware to hear and act on the message being given. I am especially thankful for my husband and mother, and for all the pastors, mentors and teachers in my life, who have never given up on me, especially when I was suffering from a profound spiritual hearing loss. None of us are exempt from the frustrations that come with a spiritual hearing deficit. We must learn to be patient with each another, knowing that the Father can and will reach us right where we are, at just the right moment in time. He will open our ears and melt our hearts so that we can obey His Word.

I will be sitting this morning in the hearing impaired section of the sanctuary. Come join me in worship today!

Grace and peace,

Deb Spaulding

Faith UMC - St. Charles, MO


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