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Fasting to Feasting, Martin Luther, and Laity Weekend

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Fasting to Feasting, Martin Luther, and Laity Weekend
Thanksgiving and Christmas will be here soon. I would like to invite everyone on a journey from FASTING TO FEASTING the first 21 days of November. Why fast and pray? Are you seeking God’s wisdom in prayer to make a major decision in your life? Is your life “out of whack?” Are you looking to pray with extra depth on behalf of family members or friends? Our church? Our nation? Our world? If so, I would like to invite you on this special 21 day journey from FASTING TO FEASTING this November.

This Sunday, October 22nd, we begin the first of two teaching sessions on Prayer and Fasting in the chapel at 1:00 pm. Dallas Gray will be partnering with me to teach some of the benefits of fasting from physical, spiritual, and Biblical perspectives. We will follow up on October 29th with session two. These two weeks of teaching will help us prepare and select the kind of FAST we will practice for 21 days in November. (Fasting can be done in a variety of ways even beyond food and diet.) Basically we will be identifying a way to give up something to make more room for God. Our resource will be using the book Awakening by Stovall Weems for our 21 day journey. We invite you to join us for this journey from FASTING TO FEASTING.

October 31st this year is a very special day. It will be the 500th anniversary of Protestantism. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses on the door of All Saints Church in Wittenburgh in protest of the Pope selling indulgences. Luther never intended to form a new protestant movement but his action sparked the birth of Protestantism. As a result in the last 500 years, many protestant denominations have formed like the Methodist Church.

There is relevance and significance of this date as part of our heritage and church history. This history of the Church prior to Martin Luther explains why we say “Holy Catholic Church” in our Apostles’ Creed. We have a heritage prior to the Reformation and after. In saying this we are both affirming our first 1500 years as being a part of the Catholic Church and our last 500 years as being Protestant. All of this Church history of course is part of the Church Universal and all who claim faith in Jesus Christ! One of the big changes during the Protestant Reformation was the understanding of Luther of the “priesthood of all believers.” In our United Methodist Heritage, we celebrate this as ministry of both lay and clergy. In our church we have four clergy on staff and hundreds and potentially thousands of laity involved in ministry.

Next weekend our laity will be leading our worship as part of Laity Weekend. Beth Russell, our Lay Leader, has written an article about this weekend. I hope you will read Beth’s thoughts about the ministry of the Laity. We are blessed to have so many take roles of speaking, leading worship, and service for this special weekend!

Shalom,
Philip

Knowing God Week 6 & 7

KNOWING GOD’S PROMISES

TRUST JESUS

Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.’ Then Jesus shouted, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!’
— John 11:40-44, NLT

How much do you think about the Lazarus story? In school, I remembered it because it has the shortest verse in the Bible "Jesus wept." For most of us, the story is about Jesus and Lazarus. Yes, it is about Jesus' love for his friend Lazarus, but the story is actually about Mary and Martha.

In John 11:21-22 we read

Martha said to Jesus, 'Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.'

Martha had incredible trust in Jesus. She knew did more than believed he was the Messiah, she trusted that he could care for us in ways that no one else could. 

This week, we are looking the passages when Jesus said "I am the way, the truth, and the life" and "I am the resurrection and the life." Jesus challenges us to live as he lived throughout all of his teachings. John has been showing us how Jesus shed a new perspective on the classic Jewish teachings. The way of Jesus is not just a club to be in or a rite to follow. It's a lifestyle. We must first believe that he is Lord, then trust that he can change our lives. Then, we must follow his example he set out for us so that we can walk the path he laid out as truth following him to eternal life.

It's easy for us to say, "Of course I believe. I was baptized and I professed my faith before the church. Now I'm saved and I'm good." But That's not what Jesus asks of us. He doesn't want us to simply check a box on our bucket list. He wants transformation. He may even ask us to put a part of ourselves to death so that he can give us a new and better life.

The Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways in our lives. No one can explain it fully, but the key is to never forget that the Spirit is always working to make us more like Christ every day. That is what the Way means.

QUESTIONS TO PONDER:

  1. How do you relate to this idea of “way” as referring to right living versus right belief? How does this understanding impact your interpretation of John 14:6?*
  2. What do you think it meant for the disciples to make Jesus a way of life?*
  3. If Jesus lived in our area in our time, how do you think he would relate to those of faiths other than Judaism and Christianity?**
  4. Consider the difference between Lazarus and Jesus. Lazarus was brought back to this life; Jesus was brought back to a resurrected life. What is the difference between resuscitation and resurrection to you?+
  5. When have you experienced some kind of death in order for God to give you new life?+
  6. Have you ever said to God something like Martha’s words to Jesus, “If only you had been here, this would not have happened”? What was the situation? How did that event affect your faith?++
  7. Rob says that faith sometimes asks us to do things that don’t make sense. When has your faith caused you to do or say something that a nonbeliever might find hard to understand?++
*The God We Can Know, by Rob Fuquay. Chapter 6, Reflection/Discussion Questions.
**The God We Can Know, Adult Group Guide, by Rob Fuquay. Week 6, Video/Book Discussion.
+The God We Can Know, by Rob Fuquay. Chapter 7, Reflection/Discussion Questions.
++The God We Can Know, Adult Group Guide, by Rob Fuquay. Week 7, Video/Book Discussion.

When Jesus arrived at Bethany, he was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days. Bethany was only a few miles down the road from Jerusalem, and many of the people had come to console Martha and Mary in their loss. When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.’

Jesus told her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’

’Yes,’ Martha said, ‘he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.’

Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?’
— John 11:17-26, NLT
‘Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.’

’No, we don’t know, Lord,’ Thomas said. ‘We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?’

Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!’
— John 14:1-7, NLT

Knowing God Week 5

KNOWING GOD’S POWER

FED BY GOD

In John 14:12-14, Jesus tells his disciples that if they believe in him, they can do the same works he has been doing, even great things than he has done. Think about that for a moment, Jesus fed the 5,000+ from one person's daily portion of food, he raised Lazarus from the dead, and he cast out demons. How could we do these things or better?

What I’m about to tell you is true. Anyone who believes in me will do the works I have been doing. In fact, they will do even greater things. That’s because I am going to the Father. And I will do anything you ask in my name. Then the Father will receive glory from the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name. I will do it.
— John 14:12-14, NLT

In our passage this week, Jesus explains how through his image of the vine and the branches. This was once again another familiar image in Jewish culture. The grapevine was the image often used for Israel. Yet, Jesus is not focused on the grapes, or even the vine, he's focused on the branch and abiding in him. Only when we abide in Jesus can we stay healthy and strong. We must keep our eyes on what feeds us and gives us our life-force.

Many times, we can be doing all the right "religious" stuff and still feel far from God. That can be because our focus is on the wrong thing or because we have something in our life that is sucking the spiritual joy from our lives. Jesus wants to help us stay focused on what is right in our lives and rid our lives of things that cause us to feel spiritually depressed. He wants us to bear healthy fruit, but not to worry about the fruit because he's got that covered.

Our job is to be a branch and let God’s power flow through us.
— Rob Fuquay, The God We Can Know

QUESTIONS TO PONDER:

  1. When was a time you felt near to God but far away from God’s presence?*
  2. Is it possible to be surrounded by symbols and reminders of Christian faith and still feel disconnected from God? Where does the disconnect originate?** 
  3. What does it mean to you to “cling to the vine”? Have you ever placed more focus on being fruitful than being faithful?*
  4. Name some prayer practices or experiences that encourage you to abide in Christ. How does being connected to the vine help you produce good fruit?** 
*The God We Can Know, by Rob Fuquay. Chapter 5, Reflection/Discussion Questions.
**The God We Can Know, Adult Group Guide, by Rob Fuquay. Week 5, Video/Book Discussion.

I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.
— John 15:1-8, NLT
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