Your Faith Journey 96

This week we are concluding the ONE: Unity in Christ series. During the previous five sessions, we’ve been studying and discussing the following:
1. We are meant to be “Completely One” as the church by being united in heart and mind through the Spirit of God, seeking the Lord’s will together (John 17).
2. As we follow Jesus on “The Path of Discipleship,” we are formed into the likeness of Christ individually and collectively through the work of the Holy Spirit and our faith practices, which are also known as holy habits (Philippians 2).
3. Our gifts, talents, and abilities are given to us by God “For the Common Good” of those within the church, our community, and world (1 Corinthians 12). We should seek the good of others as an expression of loving our neighbors, knowing that some may be saved because of experiencing God’s goodness through us.
4. It is time for us to “Reclaim Our Identity” as new creations in Christ, reconciled with God through Jesus. We have been given the ministry of reconciliation as ambassadors of Christ and the Kingdom of God (2 Corinthians 5:16-21).
5. With all that is happening in our world, nation, community, congregation, and families, it can be overwhelming and an ongoing source of anxiety. Thankfully, scripture reveals multiple ways for us to know “How to Cope,” including sharing our concerns, sorrows, and needs with God in real and raw ways through prayer (1 Peter 5:7 & Psalms). Max Lucado’s acrostic based on Philippians 4:4-8 is also helpful:
Celebrate God’s Goodness
Ask for Help
Leave Your Concerns with God
Meditate on Good Things
Now we are turning our attention beyond today and this season. This week, we are wrestling with the question “What is Our Legacy?” In episode #6 of the Woodlawn: ONE small group video series, Dr. Tony Evans compares our legacy as Christians with runners in a relay race. We need to be intentional about handing off our faith in Christ to the next generation. Another way to think about our legacy is “discipleship.” During the AUMC Disciple’s Path series in the fall of 2019, we shared the following statement:
Discipleship is a lifelong journey of walking with Christ towards maturity and unity for the sake of others.
Consider prayerfully wrestling with the following questions:
How are you walking with Christ in your thoughts, words, and actions?
Do you see and experience evidence that you are growing more like Jesus?
How are you helping others to grow more mature as disciples?
How are you personally seeking to be one in heart and mind with sisters and brothers in faith who are part of our church family? What about the Jesus followers who don’t agree with you?
What are you doing now to prepare the next generation within your family and our church so that the baton of leadership and discipleship can be handed to them one day? Read more…

Your Faith Journey 95

This week we are continuing with the second half of the ONE: Unity in Christ series as we turn our attention towards “How to Cope.” From the beginning of human existence people have suffered. Genesis 3 reveals that Adam and Eve sinned, so they were forced to leave the Garden of Eden. When their two sons grew old enough to work, Cain killed his brother Abel out of jealousy and anger. Hardships and heartache are part of our lives as human beings. Jesus said, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows” (John 16:33 NLT). Unfortunately, following Jesus doesn’t provide an immunity from pain, suffering, and loss here on earth. As we experience trials and sorrows, we must learn how to cope effectively. Learning to effectively cope is especially important during this season as we continue through the pandemic, working to eliminate systemic racism, being confronted by division within our nation and Methodist denomination, managing finances in an ongoing economic downturn, and enduring the pain of broken families along with the loss of loved ones.
Use the link below to read the CDC’s (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) list of Healthy Ways to Cope with Stress:
The CDC’s suggestions are applicable to anyone and everyone. But what about those of us who are people of faith? How should we cope allowing our faith in Christ to guide us through the troubles of life? In the small group study based on his book Anxious for Nothing, pastor and best-selling author, Max Lucado shares an acrostic inspired by Philippians 4:4-8 to help us learn to cope as people of faith and stay CALM:
Celebrate God’s Goodness
Ask for Help
Leave Your Concerns with God
Meditate on Good Things
If you’re interested in further study beyond the sermon and this Your Faith Journey devotional, consider reading Max Lucado’s book Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World or his book Fearless. Read more…

Your Faith Journey 94

This week we’re jumping back into the second half of the ONE: Unity in Christ series. During the first three sessions we’ve been studying and discussing the following:
1. We are meant to be “Completely One” as the church by being united in heart and mind through the Spirit of God, seeking the Lord’s will together (John 17).
2. As we follow Jesus on “The Path of Discipleship,” we are formed into the likeness of Christ individually and collectively through the work of the Holy Spirit and our faith practices, which are also known as holy habits (Philippians 2).
3. Our gifts, talents, and abilities are given to us by God “For the Common Good” of those within the church, our community, and world (1 Corinthians 12). We should seek the good of others as an expression of loving our neighbors knowing that some may be saved because of experiencing God’s goodness through us.
Now we are turning our attention to “Reclaiming Our Identity” as new creations in Christ. We have been reconciled with God through faith in Jesus, so our sins are no longer counted against us. As new creations, reconciled with God, “we are ambassadors for Christ,” and “God is making his appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5:20 NRSV). We have an eternally significant message to share with the world, the message of God’s Great News, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. How humbling that the One who gave his only son to save the people of the world from the punishment we deserve is working in us and through us as ambassadors with a message of reconciliation!
Do you need to experience being made into a new person in Christ? If so, let God know. Consider talking to a family member, friend, or pastor after you pray for God to make you into a new person by placing your trust in Jesus.
How does being reconciled with God impact how you see yourself?
What does it mean about how you live your life knowing you are an ambassador for Christ?
Who needs to hear the message of reconciliation with God through faith in Jesus this week? Ask the Lord to give you the opportunity, words, and grace to speak the truth in love, as well as the courage to share when the door opens for a faith conversation. Read more…

Your Faith Journey 93

We are taking a one week break from the ONE: Unity in Christ series to turn our attention upon the defining story for the Israelites, the Passover and Exodus from Egypt. We will return to the ONE series on September 13th. In regards to the Israelites, they were a chosen people that began as a family. The family grew over a period of generations until they eventually became so large that they were known as the twelve tribes of Israel. During a season of a famine, the families moved to Egypt. “Eventually, a new king came to power in Egypt” who decided to enslave the Israelites, who were also known as the “Hebrews” (Exodus 1:8 NLT). After suffering for generations under the ruthless demands of the Egyptians and their pharaoh’s, the prayers of the Hebrew people were answered by God when he chose Moses to lead his chosen people out of slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land.
When the day of Passover had arrived, death came upon the first born sons throughout Egypt including the Pharaoh’s son and livestock, but the Israelites were unharmed because of the blood of their Passover lambs that were upon the doorposts of their homes. The Lord told Moses to let the Israelites know that “the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:13 NRSV).
All the Israelites did just as the Lord had commanded. On the day of Passover, the Lord freed the Israelites from the Egyptians. During that time, God revealed through Moses, “This annual ‘Celebration with Unleavened Bread’ will cause you always to remember today as the day when I brought you out of the land of Egypt…you must celebrate this day annually, generation after generation” (Exodus 12:17 Living Bible).
For more than a thousand years before Jesus was born, the Israelites passed along the celebration of the Passover meal from one generation to the next. And for nearly 2,000 years since Jesus’ ascension, the Jewish people have continued to celebrate the Passover. The annual celebration helps them to “remember” what God did so that their identity as a people claimed by God and set free from slavery continues to be part of who they are and how they know God and themselves. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why Jesus told his disciples to eat the bread and drink the cup of wine in remembrance of him on the night of the Last Supper when they shared in the Celebration of Unleavened Bread. As we receive Holy Communion, we remember Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Whenever we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we remember who we are as the children of God united in the ONE body of Jesus known as the Church. Christ’s story, the story of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, is our defining story as Christians (John 1:29). Read more…

Your Faith Journey 92

As we continue the ONE: Unity in Christ series, we turn our attention to the first century Christians in the city of Corinth who were struggling with a lack of unity as the body of Christ. The apostle Paul told them, “No one should seek their own good, but the good of others” (1 Corinthians 10:24 NIV). Paul went on to explain, “I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:33b-11:1 NIV).
Who’s example are you following?
Who is following your example?
Are you seeking what is good for others? Why?
Paul was seeking the common good so that many would be blessed, and ultimately saved, through faith in Christ. Are you willing to seek the common good of the people of AUMC and our community so that many may be saved? Read more…

Your Faith Journey 91

The apostle Paul encourages believers to, “be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:2-5 NRSV). The mind and attitude of Christ was revealed in Jesus’ actions and words, “I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will” (John 6:38 NLT).
Are you willing to surrender your will to fulfill God’s will?
Are you allowing the Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts, words, and actions?
Are you looking to see and do what is in the best interest of others within God’s family, the church of Jesus Christ?
Are you regarding other Christians as better or more important than you?
Are you united with sisters and brothers in Christ by living in harmony as a faith family with one mind?
Is the love of God flowing in you and through you to Jesus’ disciples here and now? Read more…

Your Faith Journey 90

Jesus prayed for his followers, “Holy Father, protect them {the disciples} in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one” (John 17:11b NRSV). Jesus’ desire was for the disciples to live in supernatural unity just as God the Father and Jesus the Son are united. The unity Christ prayed for included not only the twelve disciples, but “all who will ever believe” (John 17:20 NLT). Thankfully, Jesus’ prayer began being answered within the earliest years of the church when “all the believers were one in heart and mind” (Acts 4:32 NIV). Yet as the church became more diverse, the unity became strained and broken. In 1973, in a city torn by racism and hate the Woodlawn high school football team experienced a supernatural unity through faith in Jesus and the Spirit of God. The miracle of 73’ was over forty years ago and the unity described in Acts 4 was over 1,900 years ago. Is Jesus’ prayer still being answered today? Read more…

Your Faith Journey 89

During Sunday morning worship services and within the weekly Your Faith Journey devotionals from the past few months, we have gone on a journey through the first seven chapters of the Acts of the Apostles. The chapters reveal Jesus’ ascension, the Holy Spirit coming upon the believers on the Day of Pentecost, and the season when Christ’s followers were being his witnesses in Jerusalem, performing miraculous signs and wonders, healing the sick and afflicted, helping one another as needed, enduring opposition from the religious leaders, all while the Holy Spirit enabled them to be “one in heart and mind.” All of this took place before persecution caused the earliest Christians and their Gospel message to spread beyond the city of Jerusalem (Acts 8:1). “In those days when the number of disciples was increasing” issues began to arise because of the differences between the treatment of Greek-speaking widows and Hebrew-speaking widows (Acts 6:1 NIV). To ensure that the needs of the widows were being met, seven men “full of the Spirit and wisdom” were chosen to be given the responsibility of overseeing their care (Acts 6:3 NIV). Because of the expansion of the leadership responsibilities beyond the twelve apostles, “the word of God spread” and “the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly” (Acts 6:7 NIV).
Today, we can learn a lot from our first century sisters and brothers in Christ. In order to continue successfully spreading the Gospel and making new, maturing, and fruitful disciples of Jesus, we must share the responsibilities of the church. Thankfully, there are many leaders and members of the body of Christ who are part of Avon UMC using their time, talents, and treasures to fulfill God’s will and spread the Kingdom of God into new hearts, lives, and families. If you are one of the faithful followers of Christ helping AUMC to share the Good News about Jesus and make disciples, thank you for your help! None of us are equipped to fulfill the Great Commission on our own. We need each other! Read more…

Your Faith Journey 88

How good do you have to be to go to heaven? If you’re kind to your family members and friends, is that good enough for a ticket into eternity in paradise? Do you also have to be kind to people in need? How much of the Bible do you have to read and memorize to earn an “A” on your afterlife report card to gain acceptance into the ever after? Are angels in heaven taking weekly worship service attendance because you have a certain number of days you’re allowed to be absent before you receive an “unsatisfactory” on your permanent record?
In Mark 10, a rich young man asks Jesus, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” In the first century there was a widespread belief that a person’s wealth was equal to the amount of God’s favor and blessings in their life. It was assumed that the wealthy were going to inherit a pleasant eternal life because God already looked upon them favorably. Jesus shattered that myth when he taught his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:23 NIV). Jesus’ followers were shocked by his statement. They asked him, “Then who can be saved?” Christ explained that you can not earn your way into heaven. He told them, “it is impossible” if you’re trying to be good enough or do enough good things to earn your way there (Mark 10:27). But it is possible to receive eternal life through faith, because “all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27 NIV). Read more…

Your Faith Journey 87

Acts 5 reveals that the Jewish religious leaders had the apostles arrested and sent them to jail again (Acts 5:18). Their hope was that the message about Jesus, including teaching in his name, would cease. Instead, an angel set the arrested believers free from the jail and they went back to the temple and began to “teach the people” at daybreak (Acts 5:19-21). The temple guards were shocked to find empty jail cells, but they were able to find the apostles since the men were not trying to hide. The guards then escorted them to the Jewish supreme court, known as “the Sanhedrin”, to be quested by the high priest (Acts 5:26-27). He accused them by saying, “you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching” (Acts 5:28 NIV). Although the apostles had been previously warned by the religious leaders in Jerusalem not to teach or proclaim the truth about Jesus, they responded with strong faith and “great boldness” in speaking the truth as the Lord gave them opportunities (Acts 4:29). Instead of acting fearful as they stood before the Sanhedrin and were questioned, Peter and the apostles said, “We must obey God rather than any human authority” (Acts 5:29 NRSV).
For the apostles, although they were Jewish men living under the rule of the Roman government, their allegiance was first and foremost to Jesus the Christ. What about you? If you had to rank your allegiances, what would you rank as first? Why?
How does the hierarchy of your allegiances impact your decisions and life? Read more…