Pilgrim Reformed Church

Pilgrim Reformed Church

Sunday, July 24, 2011

This Week at Pilgrim

Opportunities for Worship, Prayer and Study

Monday, July 25th @ 7:00 PM ... Cline/Folwell Wedding
Tuesdau, July 26th @ Noon ... Prayer in Parlor
7:00 PM ... Bible Study in Cary Beck Classroom
Thursday, 7:00 PM ... Choir Practice in Sanctuary
Sunday, July 31st. ALL DAY ... STUFF THE TRUCK
9:15 ... Sunday School Opening
9:30 ... Sunday School
10:30 ... Worship

Monday, July 25th ... Robin Beck
Tuesday, July 26th ... Judy Russell & Amber Sink
Wednesday, July 27th ... Noah Byerly
Thursday, July 28th... Betty Johnson
Friday, July 28th ... Emma Edwards
Saturday, July 29th ... Audry Winebarger


“How do I do this?” “How can I get there from here?” “How can we ever achieve peace in the world?” “How can God hear me when there are so many talking to him at the same time?” How, how, how! I don’t have to tell you there an awful lot of “how” questions asked every day.

They are asked by every one of us, from the youngest to the oldest. They are asked by the learned and unlearned among us. They are asked about things that have simple answers and those with terribly complex answers, and sometimes no answer at all.

I thought of the many “how questions” we ask after reading some very important “how” questions in my daily bible reading. I came upon them in Romans 10:14-15 (NLT), “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? 15 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’

Those are a lot of really important “how” questions. We all are aware (at least I hope we are) that Christ commanded us to go out “into all the world”(Mark 16:15 NLT), the entire world with the good news. He didn’t say we are to send someone out to tell the Gospel story. He said to go out, period!

You might respond that’s not what the above verses tell us, it tells us to send someone, but if you think that, take another look. And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? Well, yes, it does mention “sent” and it is my understanding that is precisely what Jesus did. “Go out into all the world…” But wait, you say, that’s foreign missions, I can’t do that.

What we overlook is that “all the world” begins right outside our front door, and it is that kind of telling others the good news about Jesus that will ultimately win the world for Jesus. How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news! To answer that question I guess we each have to look down at our own feet. How about yours, are they beautiful?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

This Week at Pilgrim

Opportunities for Worship, Study and Service

Sunday, July 17th 6:00 Youth Fellowship
Tuesday, July 19th Noon Prayer in the Parlor
7:00 PM PandaMandia Program & Refreshments
Thursday, July 19th Choir Practice in Sanctuary
Sunday, July 24, 9:15 Sunday School Opening

9:30 Sunday School

10:30 Worship

July 17th ... Billy Knight
July 21 Wayne Morris

I don’t have to tell you of the tremendous number of so called “reality” shows there are on television this year. Actually, there are probably more than I even know, and you can believe that there are more coming. If you add these to the game shows, which are in a sense also reality shows, the number boggles the mind.

No matter how different they are from one another they all have one thing in common, money. Usually that money amounts to big bucks for either the winner or survivor. One million dollars seems to be the going payoff rate for the reality shows whereas on the strictly game shows the winner’s amount varies greatly.

Bottom line is, however, that each contestant really wants just one thing, the BIG prize. It also seems that they are willing to do anything to win; cheating, lying, double-dealing and double-crossing are all a part of the game. Exhibitionism and self-debasement are also a part of the game and it seems that almost everybody will do anything to get on one of these shows. After all, the chance of winning a million there is so much better than from Publishers Outlet.

But this is nothing new. In fact, think back on all the fairy tales and children’s stories where the “good fairy” or the magic genie promised all kinds of wishes granted, to say nothing of great wealth. Like, say, you become a princess from being a poor girl with a really evil stepmother and live happily for ever after. Yeah, right.

There is, however, a much older story, one where any wish would be granted, and I came upon it in my daily Bible reading this week. Although it is a familiar story it seemed to have even more impact than usual, perhaps because of our national quest for the million-dollar pay-off, the end of all our problems.

What I discovered is 2 Chronicles 1:7, 10a (NLT). “That night God appeared to Solomon in a dream and said, ‘What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!’” Solomon replied, “Give me wisdom and knowledge…” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if game and reality shows offered this as a prize!

The wonderful thing about “wisdom and knowledge” is that it is available to us, all of us, and we don’t even have to do all those dumb things contestants do. We have simply to ask God for it, as did Solomon.

Oh, perhaps, there is one other thing we need to do. We need to listen for God’s response … and follow it!

Sermon July 17, 2011
“So Who’s Running the Show”

Sermon texts: John 1:1-4; Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 1:15-18

John 1:1-4 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men.

Matthew 16:18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

Ephesians 5:23 Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior

Colossians 1:15-18 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

A man was sitting at a stop light one morning. The lady in the car in front of him was apparently going through papers on the seat of her car, but when the light changed to green she didn’t move. She did not obey its command - a green light is a commandment, Thou shalt move ahead - it’s NOT a suggestion.

When the light turned to red, and she had still not moved, the man began (with his windows up) screaming epithets and beating on his steering wheel. His expressions of distress were interrupted by a policeman, gun drawn, tapping on his window. Against his protestations of, "You can't arrest me for hollering in my car," he was ordered into the back seat of the patrol car.

After about two hours in a holding cell, the arresting officer advised him he was free to go. The man, still irate said, "I knew you couldn't arrest me for what I was yelling in my own car. You haven't heard the last of this."

The officer replied, "I didn't arrest you for shouting in your car. I was directly behind you at the light. I saw you screaming and beating your steering wheel, and I said to myself, "What a jerk. But there is nothing I can do to him for throwing a fit in his own car." Then I noticed the 'Cross' hanging from your rear view mirror, the bright yellow 'Choose Life' license tag, the 'Jesus is Coming Soon' bumper sticker, and the Fish symbol , and I thought you must have stolen the car."

The question I’d like to discuss for a few moments this morning is “Who’s Running the Show.” Who is in charge of the church?

The idea for this message came to me when I saw a sign in front of a church that stated proudly “Under the Same Management For 2000 Years.”

That’s intriguing. We’re all used to seeing signs in shop windows that say “Under New Management” or “New Name, Same Management.” The only problem with these signs is that they really don’t tell us anything of any substance.

Does this mean the new food or service or product is better? You are given no idea, unless of course it was so bad to begin with it all it could do was improve. If, on the other hand, it was already superb, in which case, perhaps sadly, it is now less so.

What does this have to do with the church? Well, it’s all a matter of perception. My first thought of this “New Management” concept, was, as I hope yours might have as well, was “Isn’t it comforting to know that Jesus is still running the church, our church.”

This, however, is where we make our first mistake. Jesus isn’t running the church! Never has been. We are. You and I. And one of the problems with our management is that we are all too often no better than our friend in the illustration, someone driving a stolen Christian’s car.

If a church says it has been under the same management for 2000 years there must be some very old members at the reins.

No, the management of the church is in our hands, and perhaps that’s why we are having some of the problems within the Christian church we have today.
Remember the slogan, I think it was Trailways, or maybe the “dog” but whoever, it said “Leave the driving to us.”

Well, that’s what Christ did with his church, he left the driving to us…and frankly, some of those behind the wheel aren’t such good drivers.

The problem is we think of the church just like we think of our car. When we are behind the wheel we want it to go where we want it to go. We want it to respond according to our wishes. To go… well, when the light is green, to turn according to our desires and to park where we want it parked.

What’s the problem with this picture? Well, basically, we own the car but Jesus owns the church. Although he’s not the manager, he is the founder and he created the church for his purpose, not ours. Yes, of course he died for us, but he created the church for his purpose, and that purpose was to spread the Good News of salvation to the world.
And how are we to do this? Well, it doesn’t get done by managers with fish stickers on their bumpers and anger in their hearts.

Another way it doesn’t get done is by managers who think they can change the rules. You see, even before Jesus came to earth to found his church, God began setting down the by-laws and the constitution by which it would be managed.

He gave us The Ten Commandments for starters and through the centuries by way of his prophets, or messengers, he told us what pleased him (righteous behavior) and also what displeased him (sin). He has never deleted any of them as far as I have been able to tell. Yet, and what is so disturbing, is that some of his managers have, through the ages, modified the rules, made them more comfortable to live with, more accommodating. After all, they reasoned, if we ease off on some of this sin stuff perhaps we will be more welcoming to outsiders.

They’ll join us, and then they will add their money to our treasury and we’ll grow richer as a church … and isn’t that good management?

Oh, and while we’re at it let’s entertain them too. Nothing like less sin and more entertainment to fill the pews.

I worry that, at the rate some are going, Holy Communion will one day be celebrated with beer and hotdogs in front of a large TV screen and we’ll worship while a wide receiver kneels and crosses himself in the end zone.

Well, Jesus did make some modifications, some simplifications you might say, for our modern application of the Law such as this one from John 13:34, where he said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

What’s important is not just what he said but what he did. That’s scary to a lot of Christians because he loved us in a sacrificial way. He died for us, and our dying for another, especially one we may not know or even like, is not something that tops our list of things to do today.

What’s just as important is to note to whom he said it and that is discovered in the very next verse. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” It may come as a surprise but “my disciples” can very well be translated into “my managers,” the managers of his church and specifically Pilgrim.

It’s interesting how we think that computers are so great because they have made it possible for district managers (that’s what we are, after all) to manage a corporate business far from the source of the directors or owner when, all along Christians have had a much simpler system.

It’s called prayer and it doesn’t require any sophisticated hi-tech stuff. It never tells you have made a “fatal error,” I can’t tell you how that used to scare me …. or you have lost your connection with your POP Server.

Actually we call our POP Server - Father or in the Hebrew abba… and he never shuts down. One remarkable thing about our Christian system is that it operates 24/7, rain or shine from any place on earth with perfect clarity. And, furthermore, if we should neglect to check in at the home office, Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit to nudge us along on the proper managerial path.

No, our management hasn’t been around for 2000 years, and we keep it healthy by constantly bringing new people on board…all volunteers accepted!

What has been around for 2000 years are the founders, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. And just to set the record straight, they are not absentee owners. They are with us right now, right here … and that’s something to be excited about!
So who’s running the show? Well, I guess we are…but always with his help and direction.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

A few pictures from our Vacation Bible School

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Happenings and opportunities at Pilgrim Reformed Church for the week of June 19, 2011

Monday, June 20th, 7:00 ... Pastoral Committee in Parsonage
Tuesday, June 21st, noon,... Prayer in the Parlor
7:00 PM ... Bible Study, Fellowship Hall
Wednesday, June 22nd, 7:00 ... Consistory in Fellowship Hall
Thursday, June 23rd, 7:00 PM ... Choir
Sunday, June 26th ALL DAY...STUFF THE TRUCK
9:15 ... Sunday School Opening
9:30 ... Sunday School
10:30... Worship Service

Sunday, June 19th ... Gary Gibby & Gene Edwards
Tuesday, June 22nd ... Peggy Black & Abigail Fulton
Wednesday, June 23rd ... Carlin Truell & Elizabeth Reynolds

Self-criticism goes just so far. Although it is good to take a look at what you have accomplished and try to judge whether it is good or bad, whether it does or says what you want or mean to say, it is frequently better left to another to judge us. If we have just one failing (actually we have many, but let’s be upbeat) it is usually the inability to judge ourselves.

One thing I learned long ago was, that no matter how well I thought I wrote a piece, there was an editor who made it better. Oh, to be sure there were those few times when I disagreed with some corrections, but basically, I’m glad other eyes were the final judge.

Even after I write a Viewpoint, I have to read it several times, often out loud, before I find all the errors and still there are those that elude me. It takes other eyes (perhaps yours) to discover the flaws I’ve overlooked.

One of the problems we probably all share, however, is a general dislike of someone else pointing out our flaws. “Okay, I’m not perfect, but I don’t need you to tell me so” we may respond to a critic.

Think then, about the courage of the psalmist David when he wrote (prayed) these words in Psalm 139:23-24a (NLT). “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you.” How challenging would that be for a writer, an artist, an actor, a politician, or a Christian?

Indeed, how courageous would those words be for any of us, no matter how good or righteous we believe ourselves to be! “Point out anything that offends you, God” Sometimes we may even ask that of God in our prayers, sometimes, but, even so, I suspect we come to our “Amen” before we’ve spent much time listening for God’s reply.

I imagine that God’s response to us might be something like, “Well, if you’re really interested in knowing what bugs me about you, if you really mean it, then put aside all of next week and we’ll go over it together.”

Most of us would never put aside that much time for plain correction, not even from God, but perhaps it might truly benefit us, and God as well, if we did set aside a few minutes every day for having our hearts tested and our behavior graded.
You think?

Sermon For, June 19, 2011
Trinity Sunday & Father’s Day Fathers Day

GODLY FATHERSSermon text: Romans 8:14 –17

I love it when Father’s Day falls on the Sunday designated as Trinity Sunday and our Epistle for the day contains these wonderful words from St. Paul: “Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory."

What better good news can we have than that? We are children of God. Let’s face it though, the concept of the Trinity may be a little abstract for us--God as Father, God as Son, God as Holy Spirit. That may all be a little murky.

Author Liz Curtis Higgs writes about a conversation she had with her young daughter Lillian on the subject of religion. Liz first asked, “Who rules the universe?”

Without hesitation, Lillian replied, “God does.”
Next, Liz asked about Jesus, and Lillian answered, “They work together.”
Time for the big one. “What about the Holy Spirit?” Liz asked.
And Lillian replied, “He works on weekends.”

Obviously Lillian didn’t have a very clear concept of the Trinity. But who does? If we could reduce all God is into a pat formula, God would not be God. But most of us can understand quite readily what it means to call God, Abba! Or Daddy! We know what it means to say we are children of God. And, as we honor Christian fathers on this special day, we can gain a better understanding of what God means for Christian fathers to be.

Now, it’s not easy being a good father --- any more than it is to be a good mother or a good son or a good daughter. Always in the home we have tensions.

Two explorers in central Africa were comparing their stories.
“I am a man of action,” said the first. “Modern life was too stuffy and predictable for me. I wanted to experience new horizons, danger, adventure. I wanted to see nature in the raw. That’s why I came out here……..What about you?”
“I came,” said the second man, “because my son is taking bagpipe lessons.”

Family life always has its tensions. Even in the best of families. Still, as I read this text I see quite clearly three things that Christian fathers ought to be.

First of all, Christian fathers ought to love as God loves. The word is one of intimacy: “Abba,” “Daddy.” The feeling that Jesus gave us about God…is not that God is somewhere far removed from us. God does not seal Himself away from us, unavailable, unyielding, uncaring. Rather God is a God who sees every sparrow fall from the sky, who counts every hair of our head. Think about that for a moment. It is really a radical view of God. It is one of closeness and deep caring.
In our society the whole idea of fatherhood has been at least partially disconnected from manhood. Maybe somewhere in many men’s subconscious it somehow feels unmanly to show their children affection. Maybe that was how they were raised. Maybe they had no model of outward displays of affection.

“Our heroes have never been daddies,” wrote Hugh O’Neill in a piece for MOTHERING magazine, adapted from his book, DADDY COOL:

“Consider the pantheon of manliness -- the granite-jawed Randolph Scott, Clint Eastwood, the Duke, Alan Ladd as Shane, the outlaws Bogart and Cagney, the denim cool James Dean, not to mention Springsteen. All the legends have one thing in common: they are entirely undomesticated.

Cool is the open road to wherever it leads; Daddy is … is the station wagon to the swap meet.
O’Neill continued, “The fact is that any fool can be cool if he is well rested, and well-groomed when he makes the decisions about his life. But it takes real sand to be cool when you haven’t slept since June, when your son only plays “Red River Valley” on his harmonica and is threatening to drive you mad, when you have just been awakened with a GoBot to the head.”

Many fathers have had no models for showing affection to their children, affirming their children, encouraging their children. Society doesn’t provide them with models. And perhaps their own fathers were distant, remote.

Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton had this to say about her father, “My father would come home and say, ‘You did well, but could you do better? It’s hard out there.’ I would come home from school with a good grade, and my father would say, ‘Must have been an easy assignment . . . ’”

Now you might say that her father’s conditional expressions of love probably helped make Hillary Clinton the over-achiever she is today, but don’t you think that it also exacted an emotional price?

Lee Strobel is an immensely gifted man who has had at least three successful careers: as an award-winning journalist for the Chicago Tribune, as a pastor at one of the largest churches in the country, and as a best-selling Christian author. Through the years, Lee secretly wished that his father would affirm him more. How much he longed for those words, “Son, I’m proud of you.” But he never heard them.

In 1979, Lee’s father died. At the funeral, dozens of his father’s friends and business associates came up to shake Lee’s hand and all told him the same thing: how proud his father was of him. According to these men, Lee’s father had bragged about him all the time.

What a bittersweet moment it was for Lee to hear those precious words from his father -- after the man’s death. What a difference it would have made if his father had said them while he was alive.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, past governor of California, tough guy star of macho movies like Robocop, and as we know, unfortunately not the perfect husband, but, here is what Schwarzenegger had to say about fathering:

“The little things make you a hero to your children. When you’re there to help them pick out the perfect clothes for school and the perfect shoes. If you comb out their hair in the morning and if you help them with their breakfast--those are the kind of things, the little things that make you a hero.”

Most Dads do not have exciting jobs like being a movie star or a pastor but Dads can still do the little things that make them heroes to their children. A Christian father ought to reflect God’s love. And a Christian father ought to reflect God’s character.

An Internet poll asked respondents to answer the question, “Which one family member is best identified as your role model?” The father was listed as the top role model in most families, with mother coming in a close second.

Whether you like it or not, Dad, you are a role model to your children. However, what if Dad himself hasn’t really grown up? What if Dad indulges in irresponsible behavior? The damage can be considerable.

When General Norman Schwartzkopf was interviewed by Barbara Walters, some time ago, she asked him for his definition of leadership. He reflected for a moment and said, "It's competence. More important, it's character. It's taking action. It's doing the right, the ethical, thing. These four qualities are also critical for success in the business world.”

Later Barbara asked him what he wanted on his tombstone. For a moment he grew very quiet. Then, with just the hint of a tear in his eye, he said, "I want it to say, 'He loved his family and he loved his troops- and they loved him.'"

Steve Goodier in his book, One Minute Can Change a Life, tells about another man of character, tennis great Arthur Ashe. Ashe once related a defining incident that occurred when he was 17 years old. He was playing in a tournament in West Virginia. As was often the case, he was the only contestant of color in the tournament.

One night, some of the kids trashed a cabin. They absolutely destroyed it … then decided to say that Arthur was responsible. The incident was reported in the newspapers; Arthur denied his involvement, but the boys would not change their story. The worst part for Arthur was worrying about what his father would say and do.

He eventually made the dreaded phone call. As he surmised, his father had already learned of the vandalism. His father's tone was grim. He asked Arthur only one question. "Arthur Junior," he asked, "all I want to know is . . . were you mixed up in that mess?"
Arthur answered, "No, Daddy, I wasn't."

His father never asked about it again. Arthur learned that day why he had always been encouraged to tell the truth. Because there would come a time when he had to be believed. Because he had already earned his trust and respect, he knew his father believed him. From that day on he was determined, above all else, to live a life of integrity.

Arthur Ashe learned about character from his father -- the way most children learn from their parents about character. Christian fathers reflect God’s love and God’s character.

A Christian father reflects God’s gentleness and at the same time God’s strength. Obviously we’re not talking about physical strength, but emotional strength, spiritual strength. The kind of strength that takes fathers through difficult periods of sickness or just hard economic times. These are the times when families fall apart when parents fight and fathers storm out of the house. It is the time when the most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.

Real Dads have emotional strength, spiritual strength. They are gentle, yet strong, in the same way that Christ was gentle, yet strong.

My guess is that there could be some people in this room who grew up somewhat afraid of their Dad.

Perhaps your Dad embodied a style of parenting that confused strength with stoicism. Perhaps your Dad was relatively absent except when discipline needed to be meted out --- and then it was with an iron hand.

For some of you, this awkward relationship with your Dad may have affected your relationship with God. You see God as a harsh, remote God.

If that is your experience, listen again to the words of our scripture lesson: “because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, (Daddy) Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”

That is the God we worship and that is the God we should reflect as fathers, as parents, loving as God loves. People of character reflecting God’s character, people of gentleness and strength.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

The happenings at Pilgrim for the week of June 12, 2011

Here's Whats Going On

Sunday, June 12th 6-9 ... Vacation Bible School
Monday, June 13th 6-9 ... Vacation Bible School
Tuesday, Jube 14th 12 noon ... Prayer in the Parlor
6-9 Vacation Bible School
Wednesday, June 15th 6-9 ...Vacation Bible School
Thursday June 16th 6-9 ... Vacation Bible School
Sunday, June 19th FATHERS DAY
9:15 ... Sunday School Opening
9:30 ... Sunday Schhool
10:30 ... Worship
6:30 .. Youth Fellowship

Sunday, June 12th ... Kelly Mosley
Friday, June 17th ... Justin Neese


Great expectations. No, I’m not thinking about the book. I’m thinking about the concept, the idea. Very few of us have gone to long without having had a “great expectation” of some sort. Perhaps you have hopes for the Braves, or for you favorite golfer, for Junior or your favorite race driver in the “chase,” such that, by mid-summer, you begin to get that “great expectation”… Champions! Well, that’s been dashed a few times, hasn’t it!

Then for students there are/were the expectations of “killing” that final and getting an “A” for the course. That doesn’t always happen either. Or when we were (or are) teenagers we had (or have) certain expectations about that person we are dating for the first time and sadly staying home with the parents often would have been more fun. A lot of retired folks today find their retirement dollars don’t go nearly as far as those early expectations led them to believe.

Great expectations are common on the job, at school, at play, for the young as well as the elderly. In spite of our proclivity for expecting great things we are also aware of the dangers of expecting too much. The idea that if something is too good to be true often the best course is it to stay clear of it. We also sometimes feel that things must be terribly complicated in order to have value.

I thought of this as I came across an example of a person, a man named Naaman, in my daily Bible readings who had the interesting problem of having expectations that were not met and a solution that seemed far too simple. 2 Kings 5:10-12 (NLT), “But Elisha sent a messenger out to him with this message: ‘Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of leprosy.’ But Naaman became angry and stalked away. ‘I thought (expectation #1) he would come out and meet me! … I expected (expectation #2) him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me!’”

If, at last, he hadn’t listened to his officers and done the simple thing he had been instructed to do, poor Naaman would have lost “the whole ballgame.”

Today we are concerned about the prospects for a lasting world peace and it seems that no matter what we do or no matter what our expectations for success, global peace eludes us. Perhaps, in the end it really comes down to doing a simple thing on a global scale. Love each other as I have loved you.”(John 15:12b NIV). It’s certainly worth trying.

Sermon for Sunday, June 12, 2011
“THEM BONES GONNA RISE AGAIN”Sermon Text: Ezekiel 37:1 14
“Them bones, them bones, them dry bones . . . Now hear the Word of the Lord.” Who can read this colorful parable from the Bible without thinking of that old spiritual? “Well, the toe bone’s connected to the foot bone, and the foot bone’s connected to the ankle bone, and the ankle bone’s connected to the leg bone and the leg bone’s connected to the knee bone . . . now hear the Word of the Lord.”
Ezekiel says that the hand of the LORD came upon him, and the Lord brought him out by the spirit and set him down in the middle of a valley, a valley full of bones. (This sounds like an opening scene on television’s CSI, doesn’t it?) And the Lord led Ezekiel all around the bones--bones were everywhere--and they were very dry.
And the Lord asked Ezekiel, “Mortal, can these bones live?" Ezekiel answered, "O Lord God, you know."
Then the Lord said to Ezekiel, "Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live;and you shall know that I am the Lord.

So Ezekiel prophesied as he had been commanded; and as he prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. “The finger bone’s connected to the hand bone, and the hand bone’s connected to the wrist bone, and the wrist bone’s connected to the arm bone . . .”

Ezekiel looked, and there “were sinews on the bones, and flesh and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then God said to Ezekiel, "Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live."

And Ezekiel prophesied as the Lord commanded him, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. Then God said to Ezekiel, "Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, 'Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.' Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord . . . when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act," says the Lord. “Them bones, them bones, them dry bones . . . now hear the word of the Lord.”
Now let’s jump ahead a few hundred years. It is the day of Pentecost. The followers of Jesus are gathered together in one place. Their Master has left them to ascend to the Father. They are on their own now. They are still trying to assimilate all that has happened to them, but they are a rather disorganized bunch. They know they’ve got a big job ahead of them, but they’re still a little confused about how they are supposed to go about it. The Master had told them to wait in Jerusalem until the Spirit came upon them.

What did this mean the Spirit would come upon them? It was Greek to them. Well, actually it was probably Hebrew…ok, I guess it was still Greek to them.

But then something quite unbelievable happened. The house began to shake. And from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. (Now, I know if that should happen here, right now, after what’s been happening this spring I expect most of us would be possibly somewhat concerned….like panic.)

Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. “Them bones, them bones, them dry bones . . . now hear the word of the Lord.”

These stories from God’s Word ought to make our hearts race. When the Spirit of God comes, things happen; that which was dead springs to life, that which was dreary and gray bursts forth into a rainbow of beautiful colors, that which was without promise is now shining with new hope and possibility. This is the Word of the Lord. God can take dry bones and give them life.

There was an interesting article in the little Upper Room devotional booklet sometime back. Alma Barkman shared a news report about a boat load of beans that was being transported across the North Atlantic. When the ship ran into a storm, some water got into the hold where the beans were stored. The beans began to swell until they nearly split the ship open.
Alma makes the point that we often underestimate beans. Consider that Southern phrase reserved for those things that are of little consequence: “Doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.” But get some water into those beans and they grow far beyond their original size.

The same sort of phenomenon occurs when the Holy Spirit comes into a life. We become empowered beyond our normal capabilities when we have God’s Spirit working in us. God can take dry bones and give them life.

It might be the dry bones of a relationship. Relationships are difficult whether they be between husbands and wives or parents and children or whatever they might be.

I heard an amusing story about a family that had a tradition that whenever any of the children did something wrong, they had to go outside and cut their own switch. These were those primitive old days when punishment was usually corporal. Anyway, young Brad had done something wrong and he was sent out to find a small branch that would serve as the means of his punishment.

He finally returned with a small handful of rocks. With his lower lip quivering he said, “Daddy, I couldn’t find a switch. How about if you just stone me?” My guess is his Dad was laughing too hard to administer the punishment. Relationships are difficult. And some relationships can grow stone cold.

You might have heard this unusual story: A jeweler had one client, a recent divorcee, ask if he could transform her wedding band into a pair of earrings. Not such an unusual request. But she wanted the earrings inscribed. One would read “with all,” the other would read “my love.” The client explained that the earrings would serve as a reminder that “the next time anyone said, “with all my love” to let it go in one ear and out the other.”

Relationships are difficult. There is something very sad about an important relationship that has been allowed to founder on the reef of misunderstanding.

"Love never dies of a natural death," Anais Nin once wrote. "It dies because we don't know how to replenish its source; it dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of withering, of tarnishing." What a sad truth that is. Relationships are difficult. Any relationships but particularly those relationships that are the most intimate.
A young couple who were getting married on a shoe string asked if I could make their wedding rings out of silver instead of the usual gold which they couldn’t afford. My answer was certainly, and as a matter of fact silver is quite appropriate for marriage. It will only stay bright if used, just like love. Put it aside and, like love, it tarnishes. But God can breathe new life into dry relationships just as well as he can into dry bones.

In the same way God can breathe new life into dry hearts. Sometimes because we live such respectable lives in somewhat cloistered neighborhoods, we forget that Christian faith is not simply a convention that you grow up with. For many people it is a dramatic, life-changing encounter.

You and I meet people all the time who need that kind of experience of Christ. And they are not merely down-and-outs. Some of them are up-and-ins. But they are lonely, they are bored, they are afraid. They’ve let their lives get out of control and they are guilt-ridden and ashamed. They need Jesus just as much as the prostitute or thief needs Jesus. Jesus can bring new life to dry hearts.

And God can even breathe new life into dry churches. Today is Pentecost, the day the Spirit of God came upon the early church.

I remember a story that Dr. Zan Holmes, an outstanding African-American preacher, once told about Pentecost.

He said he was flying into a certain city and he was told that a man from the sponsoring group would meet him in the baggage area of the airport to drive him to the place where he was to speak.

Well, no one appeared. He stood there in the baggage area waiting while the other passengers gradually disappeared to their destinations, but no one came up to him to offer him a ride to the meeting place. Then he spied a man, almost concealed by an airport column, carefully looking him over.

Finally this man came over to him and asked, “Are you Dr. Holmes?”

“Yes I am,” Dr. Holmes replied.

“Well,” said the man somewhat indignantly, “You sure don’t look like your picture.”
“Pentecost,” says Zan Holmes, “is a picture of what the church ought to look like.” Then he adds, “But most of us sure don’t look like our picture.”

He’s right. We don’t look like the church at Pentecost. There are no tongues of fire above our heads. And people in the neighborhood are not going to accuse us of being drunk and disorderly in worship. And that’s all right. That’s a one-time occurrence.

But what is sad is that we don’t pray with the intensity that the early church prayed, and we don’t share like the early church shared, and we don’t love like the early church loved, and we don’t believe like the early church believed, and we don’t reach out to the people in our community like the early church reached out to the people in its community. That is sad, very sad.

Now before you try to stone me for saying those terrible things about “our church” I’m speaking of the Christian church in general. I’m very proud of the way this body of Christian believers responds to these things but, let’s admit it….we could still do better.

We may not need all the fireworks of that first Pentecost, but we do need the Spirit of God to fall afresh on our dry bones to make us all that Christ means us to be.

“Them bones, them bones, them dry bones…”I believe it can happen. I believe it can happen to dry relationships, I believe it can happen to dry hearts, and I believe it can happen to dry churches.

That’s the word of the Lord!


Sunday, May 22, 2011

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This Week at Pilgrim

Monday, May 23rd @6:00 PM ... VBS Workshop in Fellowship Hall

@ 7:30 PM ... Pastoral Committee Mtg. in Parsonage

Tuesday, May 24th @ noon... Prayer in the Parlor

@ 7:00 PM ... Bible Study in Fellowship Hall

Wednesday, May 25th @ 6:00 PM ... VBS Workshop in Fellowship Hall

Thursday, May 26th @ 7:00 PM ... Choir

Sunday, May 29th @ 9:15 ... Sunday School Opening

@ 9:30 ... Sunday School

@ 10:30 ... Worship

@ 5:00 ... Cookout in Picnic Shelter

Birthdays This Week

Wednesday, M ay 25th ... Ardinus Watkins

Friday, May 27th ... Edfdie Varner


Last week I got caught in a heavy shower going from the car to the house. The distance isn’t that great but the rain came down “with a vengeance,” like you’d have thought it hadn’t rained all week. None the less, I was glad to get in the house. “Ah,” I sighed, “dry shelter.”

I can also remember the last summer day I spent at the beach, when I was glad to get in out of the sun (I was beginning to get that cooked lobster look), before I did some real damage to my body.

Out of the rain, out of the sun, out of the cold and out of the heat. We have a lot of reasons to get out of the weather and into the shelter of our homes, don’t we, a place where we can always, at least hopefully, control the climate and find comfort.

It’s not always the getting “in” some place that makes us feel good, however. Sometimes it’s what we put in us that does the trick. Here again we find extremes can satisfy, such as a hot cup of coffee on a cold day or a cold iced tea on a hot day. Perhaps it’s a simple snack, just something to munch on that we want inside us while, at other times a really big meal and a full stomach is all that will accomplish satisfaction.

I thought of these “ins” when I read John 14:20 (NLT) in this week. ”When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” The more I thought about that verse the less important all those other “ins” seemed. The comforts they afford are only temporal in nature. You have to keep making adjustments. The food you ate for supper, no matter how filling, no longer satisfies the next morning, and you can’t stay within the shelter of a building all the time, you have to go out into the elements.

But with Christ the “in” is permanent. He is always in his Father, while at the same time, we are always in him and he is always in us. We never need to wake up with an empty feeling, and, we are always in the shelter of our Lord.

What a wonderful thought to start the week with. Isn’t God great! You might just want to take a moment and thank him. Go ahead and do it now while we’re thinking about it.

Sermon for Sunday, May 22, 2011

Philippians 3:4b-14
If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.
7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Staying focused is one of the secrets of a successful life.

Just the other I went into a McDonald’s and said, “I’d like a senior coffee please…black, no cream or sugar.” The girl at the counter asked, “Would you like cream with that?” Focus!

Doctors hear some pretty strange stories in their line of work. Audiologist David Levy recalls a frantic client who lost her hearing aid. She had been eating a bowl of cashews while talking on the phone. --- Her tiny hearing aid was sitting on the table next to her. --- In the midst of her conversation, she mistook the hearing aid for a cashew and ate it. Focus!

Actor James Cagney recalls that in his day, acting was not as glamorous a profession as it is now. Actors were paid only slightly more than the average American. There were no labor laws to protect actors from long hours or hazardous working conditions. Cagney remembers that in one of his early movies, The Public Enemy, his character had to run away from an enemy who was shooting at him with a machine gun.

There were few special effects back then, so the actor used a real machine gun with real bullets. Because Cagney often played characters that were on the wrong side of the law, he was often in movies where he was shot at with real guns and real bullets. ---- One wrong move, and he would have been dead. I doubt that Cagney had much difficulty staying focused when he did these scenes.

One of the secrets of a successful life is: stay focused.St. Paul was one of the most effective persons who ever lived. Today, two thousand years after his death, his writings are being studied by millions of people all over this globe. We’re doing so this morning.

Has there ever been --- except for Jesus Christ --- a man whose thoughts have influenced more people over the generations than this tentmaker from Tarsus? One of Paul’s secrets was the power of focus. Religiously, Paul already had all the essential credentials to impress his peers. He didn’t need persecutions, shipwrecks or imprisonment to validate his standing in the religious community. He was a circumcised Jew, a member of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews.

More than that he was a Pharisee. He not only knew the Law, he practiced it fastidiously.In fact, he was so committed to his faith that he persecuted the early Christian church.

And yet, one day, he came to see that none of these things mattered in the least to him compared to his new-found faith in Jesus Christ. And thus he focused his life on this one endeavor: to know Christ.

He writes: “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”

A few verses later he writes: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death . . .” Then he sums up his intent with these words: “But this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus
.” (NRSV)

That’s focus. Paul concentrated his life on this one thing--knowing Christ--and Paul affected the lives of millions of people.

Focus gives our lives power. Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar has used a marvelous image: He asks us to consider whether we are “wandering generalities” or “meaningful specifics.” In other words, are our lives focused on a few important things or do we spread our lives far too thinly?

A good analogy is that of light. Light is a marvelous thing, and it comes in many forms. But light’s focus and intensity determines its power. For instance, light bulbs generally have a low level of focus and intensity. The light rays scatter out of the bulb, creating what we call incoherent light. But take those same scattered light rays and focus them in one direction at one target, and you have a laser, which is infinitely more powerful.

St. Paul’s life had the power of a laser. Successful people have a clear understanding of what their life is about. They know where they are headed and they have made a significant commitment to finishing the journey. When comedian Jim Carrey was a struggling young actor, he wrote himself a check for ten million dollars and postdated it seven years in the future. That check kept him focused. Even more impressive is the fact that, when it came due, he was able to cover it. By staying focused on his goal, he achieved great fame and success.

A picture appeared in a news magazine several years ago. In the picture a woman was grinning from ear to ear. At age 72, she had something amazing to grin about. A few years earlier she had decided to become a mountain climber. She had never climbed a mountain before. --- “Mountain climbing is not a realistic goal,” her friends warned, but she decided to do it anyway. She was now in the news because she had climbed Mt. Everest!

There she was in all her glory, backpack and all, holding her victory flag up toward the clear blue sky. She had done it! She had climbed one of the world’s highest mountains.

Not every 72-year-old needs to set his or her sights on climbing a mountain.
For that matter, not every 22-year-old needs to climb mountains, but it is amazing what we can do when we set our minds to it.

A golf instructor once advised, “Take dead aim! Instead of worrying about making a fool of yourself in front of a crowd of 4 or 40,000, forget about how your swing may look and concentrate instead on where you want the ball to go, and you will be surprised at how often the mind will make the muscles hit the ball to the target, even with a far less than perfect swing .”

Personally, I discovered years ago, that in golf, either my mind was weak or my muscles didn’t listen.

Focus. What is it you really hope to achieve in your work life, your family life, your spiritual life? How you would like for your body to look? How you would like your resume to look? --- What are those hobbies you hope to master? Successful people have a picture in their mind of what they would like to achieve with their lives and they focus their energies on that picture. Focus is power.Of course, there are many examples of people who have focused their lives too narrowly.

There are choices to be made in life. In the same way that not everyone is wise to climb mountains, not everyone is cut out to be St. Paul.

For example, we have no record of Paul enjoying the love of a family. His passion for the Gospel was all encompassing. There was too much travel in spreading the Good News to the Gentiles --- and too much time spent in jail.

Not everyone can make that kind of commitment. Not everyone is called to change the world in the same way as Paul did. Whereas focus is critical to a successful life, it is possible to focus your life too narrowly.

They have no time nor inclination to allow room for the needs of others. If you want to pay that kind of price…you can have it. They are successful by the world’s measure, but not by God’s. And, they are not happy people.

They are successful by the world’s measure, but not by God’s. And they are not happy people, Beware of too narrow a focus. Our focus needs to be large enough to accommodate a lifetime of growth.

I mentioned actor James Cagney. Cagney grew up in a poverty-stricken neighborhood where desperate men would do just about anything to make a few bucks. Some of the tougher men in Cagney’s neighborhood turned to boxing as a way out. Cagney once painted a picture of an old boxer, a man whose body is scarred and whose mind is destroyed by repeated beatings. He titled the painting “The Victor: Chronic Progressive Fibrotic Encephalopathy,” which is the term for brain damage caused by repeated blows to the head. Cagney said, it is a picture of “the winner who loses everything.”

How’s that for graphic? The winner who loses everything. Many of us are squandering the precious time God has given us on this earth by not focusing on a few important things and doing them extremely well.

Others of us are losing eternity because we have focused our lives on the wrong things or we have focused our lives so narrowly that we have excluded those we love and God. Finding the proper focus is critical in life just as in photography.

What good is a photograph that is taken out of focus? I know, I’ve deleted many. What good is a life that is not focused on God, on those we love, on our calling as followers of Jesus Christ?

St. Paul was focused on a goal that was narrow enough that he never was distracted, but large enough so that he never became bored.

In his commitment to Christ he found that perfect balance that made his life laser-like in its intensity.

And here is the good news: IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO FOCUS YOUR LIFE.

A piano teacher taught many students over a lifetime career, When she got them ready for recitals, she would encourage them to perfect their endings. She insisted they practice the endings over and over again.

When her students grumbled that it was boring going over and over these last few measures, she would answer: “You can make a mistake in the beginning or in the middle or in some other place along the way. But all will be forgotten when you manage to make the ending glorious.”

We know very little about Paul’s last days on earth. But we do know his ending was glorious. The power of a focused life: “But this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.”