God Empowers Us to Serve Others Through Trials

Yesterday’s Sunday School lesson, as well as sermon, both focused on why we have pain and suffering in our world. These are tough topics for anyone to address. I was and am thankful to for the opportunity to facilitate this lesson at church for several reasons, however. This has been a topic on my mind and heart more frequently than usual in the past few months. It’s also, according to Barna research, the most common question asked by people about God everywhere. “Why does God allow pain and suffering in our world?”

One idea which emerged during our class discussion yesterday is this: While we often (or always) “come up short” understanding the grand plans of God and how individual cases of pain or suffering fit into them, as Christians we often DO experience situations where God empowers us to serve others through our trials and through the trials of others. As one of the speakers in the longer video we watched yesterday explained, often our best response when someone comes to us in pain and suffering is to embrace them and cry with them. We may not have “the answers,” but do have the capacity to love and support each other. We can embrace others and embrace God through faith, and have confidence that God is the one opening the door for us to love each other through our struggles and our dark valleys.

This is also one of the most important ideas which emerged for me yesterday during our lesson: God invites us to call upon him and use the name of Jesus to bring strength, peace, healing, and love into our darkest and most painful moments. I have experienced times like these in my own life, when I have literally cried out to God for help and assistance to bring me back from the abyss of despair. It’s a bad place to be, and an especially bad place to be ALONE. But that’s exactly one of the key messages of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: We go nowhere alone. God goes with us, and he promises to never abandon us or forsake us. What good news this is to everyone facing the suffering and trials of this life! We may be uncertain about the timetable of God’s cosmic plans and how our lives fit into them, but we can be certain about His reality and His provision in our times of need.

The name of Jesus is powerful! Do not hesitate to call upon the Lord when you are feeling isolated or alone, when you are suffering and full of despair. Call upon the name of Jesus to fill you with God’s Holy Spirit in all circumstances, whether they are filled with light or darkness. This is the Good News of the Gospel, that Jesus came to save us from our sins and the destructive power it has in our world. God wins. And we’re on God’s side. This is good news.

A couple more items from yesterday’s lesson.

Here’s the short video I shared with our class, as I gave a brief summary and enthusiastic recommendation of The Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C. Sarah and I were able to spend about 4 hours there last week during our visit to the area, and it was fantastic!

Here is a 44 second time lapse version of my sermon sketchnote yesterday, on Eric Laverentz’s (@ericlav) message, “The Problem of Sin.” I drew this and exported this video with the ProCreate app for iPad. Learn more about creating sermon sketchnotes in this chapter of “Pocket Share Jesus: Be a Digital Witness for Christ.” I added quite a bit more to this chapter over the weekend, but still need to add more to the chapter on “Narrated Sketchnotes.”

It worked well to use the website mentimeter.com yesterday to get members of our class to respond to a question using their smartphones. I used this as an opening question on the screen when class members came into class, “What is your favorite encouraging Bible verse?” This was a good way to start a relatively “heavy” lesson on pain and suffering.

May God bless you richly this week as you seek Him and strive to better understand His call upon your life. Make no mistake, God will open doors for you to not only draw closer to him in relationship, but also serve others with whom you have contact today and this week as you ask Him to.

Praise God for His love and the revelation of His truth through His Holy Word. Have a great week!

Sermon Sketchnote on Psalms 78:1-8

This is my narrated sermon sketchnote and sketchnote for today’s sermon by Jen Howat on Psalms 78:1-8 at First Presbyterian Church of Edmond, Oklahoma. Key points were:

  1. Don’t hide God’s good news about Jesus Christ!
  2. Remember God calls us to SHARE with others
  3. As disciples we should be reproducing: Helping GROW other disciples!
  4. People can’t follow Jesus if they haven’t heard about him from someone
  5. Remember those who POURED their lives into you as a believer, and resolve to “pour yourself” in a mentor/apprentice relationship into others
  6. It’s good for God to create TENSION in our hearts: Encouraging us to SHARE JESUS with others!

Narrated Sermon Sketchnote on Psalms 3

This is a sketchnote and narrated Sketchnote I created today in church as Lee Schmidt preached on Psalms 3:

“Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side. Arise, Lord! Deliver me, my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked. From the Lord comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭3:1-8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

God Never Abandons Us

These are our sermon verses today, which are important reminders about God’s faithfulness:

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters…

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.” ) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:28-29, 35-39 NLT)

Zechariah Did Not Believe (initially) #sketchnote

I am flying tonight from Oklahoma City to Raleigh, North Carolina, to share three presentations at their statewide educational technology conference. I started re-reading the Gospel of Luke tonight, and was reminded of our church’s presentation of the musical “One Incredible Moment” as I read the story of Zechariah. I don’t think I remember the story of Anna, which also is shared by Luke in the second chapter:

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36-38 NIV)

I am practicing my sketchnoting skills (feeble as they are) with a new iPad stylus (the Paper53 “pencil”) and the iPad app Paper53. I don’t like it as well as ProCreate, but since it is free (ProCreate is not) and I’m sharing a presentation on visual notetaking this week, I decided to practice a bit. I can’t get the “undo” function of the app to work, so some of the unintended smudges I made on this drawing persist. I do like the watercolor brush though, and will likely use it more in some Sketchnotes I’ll make at the conference this week.

I pray God will give me faith to believe in the truth and goodness of his promises, and not doubt them as Zechariah did when the angel Gabriel foretold the birth of his son, John.

Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.” (Luke 1:18-20 NIV)

A Fast to End Injustice and Oppression

From the verses in Isaiah I used last week for an Ash Wednesday sermon, starting the season of Lent:

“This is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The GOD of glory will secure your passage. Then when you pray, GOD will answer. You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.'” (Isaiah 58:6-9 MSG)

These verses are on my heart as I think about the challenges schools so close to our home face, and my own prospects for teaching in the year to come.

Our Bodies Are Temples for God’s Holy Spirit

Today’s sermon message focuses on how we should act and care for our own bodies, which are temples for God’s Holy Spirit.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭6‬:‭19-20‬ NIV)

I used iMovie for iPad to create a narrated version of this sketchnote.

Prayers for Joe Rightmyer

I shared this comment tonight on the Layman Online article, “PCUSA defrocks nationally recognized renewal leader.”

Actions like this by the PJC of the PCUSA Denomination further disclose the spirit of the organization and its leadership. Sadly and tragically, that spirit is revealed to have become divorced from The Holy Spirit.

 

My prayers are with Rev Joe Rightmyer. I also pray God would change the hearts of those who actions appear to be based on spite rather than love or any other fruits of the spirit.

 

These actions also highlight the wise course of action taken by HPPC to sever ties with PCUSA. I am thankful to God that our congregation was also able to sever those ties and join ECO. It is wonderful to be finished with denominational squabbles which attempted to take our eyes away from Jesus Christ, rather than [STAY] firmly fixed upon Him.

bread and cup by tcd123usa, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  tcd123usa 

Comparing Translations of Romans 12:2

We are reading and studying Romans 12:2 in Sunday School today. This is one of my favorite passages of the Bible. The NIV version is the more familiar version:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (‭Romans‬ ‭12‬:‭1-2‬ NIV)

This is the version in “The Message:”

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (‭Romans‬ ‭12‬:‭1-2‬ MSG)

One of my favorite parts is “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..” The message says this well: Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.

These verses particularly speak to me when it comes to discerning God’s will. As a metaphor for this, I think about a marinating steak. I need to “marinate” myself continually in God’s Word to follow these mandates, recorded by the apostle Paul. I need to spend time in prayer each day. I need to regularly seek the community and fellowship which comes within the body of Christian believers.

Oh how I need the encouragement of these verses from Romans! Praise to God that He sent his own son to earth, and provides ways today for us to live in relationship with Him!

Tonight’s cloud show by rkramer62, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  rkramer62 

God Rejoices With Us

Some great verses and thoughts about Christ and joy from our associate pastor, Matt Jones, this morning.

Remember God rejoices with us:

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” (‭Zephaniah‬ ‭3‬:‭17‬ NIV)

God’s voice is heard loudly and clearly through the words of Jesus.

Jesus shared and shares his words, the words of God our Heavenly Father, so our joy can be complete.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (‭John‬ ‭15‬:‭1-11‬ NIV)

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