Continuing Christ's Church

THE PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION    

We approach seek the Holy Spirit to illumine our minds as we hear God’s Holy Word. Join me in a spirit of prayer.

Lord our God, we gather in this place, so God can write compassion on our souls. Spirit of God breathe the Word of into our hearts. Open our hearts to receive your Holy Word. We wait in wonder for Your love to soak into our souls to breathe life into our hearts. Pour your spiritual power into our hearts that we may serve others in your precious name. Amen.

SCRIPTURE READING                  Philippians 4:4-9                             Think of Excellence

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.  Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

We pray that the Lord will bless us with these Holy Words.

TIME WITH GOD’S CHILDREN#650                                         “Rejoice in the Lord”

SCRIPTURE READING      Deuteronomy 26:1-11                     First Fruits and Tithes

When you have come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name. You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, “Today I declare to the Lord your God that I have come into the land that the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us.” When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the Lord your God, you shall make this response before the Lord your God: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me.” You shall set it down before the Lord your God and bow down before the Lord your God. Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house.

This is the Word of the Lord!                    Thanks be to God!

THE MESSAGE                                “Continuing Christ’s Church”

Rejoice in the Lord, ALWAYS.  I have to admit that I don’t always feel like rejoicing in my present situation. Yet that is Paul’s instructions to the Christians in Philippi, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again, I say rejoice.” I’m not sure how the Philippians received this message or exactly what was happening, but they experienced persecution for their faith. Their neighbors pursued pagan (g) gods. Life remained difficult for these Gentile Christians. The Apostle rejoices in their faith that will sustain them even in uncertain times. “The Lord is NEAR!”

The Apostle paints a rosy outlook that when we trust in the Lord, Christians can rejoice, because our relationship with our Savior changes our perspective. We should not worry about anything, for Christ will be with us. We can tap into a power that surpasses human understanding, when we get down on our knees in prayer. Even if we cannot physically kneel, a humble approach to Christ through prayer will guide our feet and actions. When we rely on the Lord for strength we can rejoice.

In our Old Testament text, the Israelites emerge from the desert of uncertainty and rejoice. They wondered in the wilderness for forty years. They wandered and wondered as the days turned into weeks of walking on the hot scorching sand of the wilderness. I can’t quite imagine them rejoicing as they baked in the sun and ate simple manna each morning as they walked another day. They ended the day tired and ate a quail. Just to get up and do it again the next day.

In fact, we heard their complaints and grumbling against Moses and Almighty God. They wished for the days gone by when they ate their fill in the Land of Egypt. They longed for the days of knowing what tomorrow will bring, even though those days included harsh treatment at the hand of their overseers. Oppressed but comfortable in the known way of life. They initially gave thanks for God’s mighty hand bringing them away from the Egyptians, until it required that they trust the Lord for everything. The hard work of brick baking seemed better than the hard work of walking with the Lord in the wilderness.

Eventually, they enter their inheritance as the people of God. They reside in the Promised Land and get settled. They plant crops in hopes of a harvest. They find rest at the end of the day, in the same place they woke up. They cease their wandering days and settled in the land flowing with milk and honey. The work of wandering found delight in the toil of farming and waiting for the harvest. Soon, they would know from where their next meal would come. They would give thanks for God’s blessing of fruit and wine, bread and vegetables. They trust in the Lord to provide.

So from a historical perspective, we read in Deuteronomy of God’s instruction to give thanks for every blessing. When the harvest comes, don’t hoard the abundance. Bring your offering to give thanks for the Lord’s blessing. The Israelites are instructed to bring the first fruits as an offering to the Lord. They are to remember their wandering past and give thanks for the God’s guidance and blessing. The Lord instructs them to celebrate the bounty of their life as a gift from above.

As you move into a time of the wandering and wondering, I urge you to trust the Lord and continue to return a blessing to continue Christ’s Church. Remember that Christian over the centuries experienced the wandering of our ancestors in the faith. This congregation began as a venture on the frontier in 1855 when 12 Christians gathered to establish Christ’s Church at the corner of Jackson and Wall. They might have considered themselves aliens in a strange land, but they trusted the Lord Jesus to multiply their few in number into a faithful great community of faith.

Long before I arrived to be pastor, the Lord has blessed this congregation with elders, deacons, and lay leaders who shared their abundant gifts of time, talent, and treasure. These faithful members supported the continuing ministry of Christ’s Church. They brought their first fruits of faith to support the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ in our community. I pray that you will seek new ways to be faithful to Christ’s call of service. It will be important to make a commitment to the continuing work of Christ’s Church even as you wander in the interim wilderness.

Unfortunately, you enter this wilderness into the unknown without the pastor, you’ve known and loved for seventeen and a half years. But over the past 161 years, the Lord has provided 25 pastors to lead you through the wilderness. Much of life can be a little uncertain. Even as you enter this challenging time, the key to continuing Christ’s Church will by your faithful prayers and commitment to support the Lord’s ministry financially and with your God given talents.

Today, we will do three actions in our Congregational Meeting. First, we will receive the annual program reports and celebrate the work accomplished in Christ’s name. Second, we will elect elders, deacons, and memorial committee members who will help guide you into and through the wilderness. We can rejoice in their gifts of service. And finally, we will vote to dissolve my relationship as your pastor, trust the Lord to guide you faithfully. We may not rejoice in this action, but we can rejoice that the Lord promises to never leave us but will always support the continuing of Christ’s Church. TGBTG. Amen.

  July 2017  
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