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Romans 4:13-25 “Keeping Promises”

For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation. For this reason, it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”)—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Therefore, his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification. [NRSA: Romans 4:13-25]

God’s covenant with Abraham and the family of God to follow, was the God would multiply the family’s numbers to be a numerous as the stars.

With “B”illion stars in the Milky Way, and 1022 to 1024 in the viewable universe would be billions of billions [100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000] of stars. God works with exceptionally large numbers. God’s perspective is greater than our lifetime and even greater than our time on earth. God is about the business of making and keeping promises.

The fulfillment of a promise is not designed to be fulfilled at our demand, and yet, God desires to be present with us through the Holy Spirit, as close as the breath in our lungs and the wind in our face.

A promise is experiment in faith. God is not a contractual god who operates on fairness,

  • God’s core-denominator is love.
  • God so loves the world that God is revealed in the context of the human family, as our brother.
  • The relation of Jesus is our brother, offering equal access to the father as a joint heir,
  • reveals God does not show up to boss us around.
  • God shows up with us, to show us how to love, how to love requires sacrifice, love is a promise, tested in a relationship.

Abraham receives from God, a promise that will be fulfilled beyond Abraham’s lifetime. Does that mean that God has not kept God’s promise? No, it means that God is concerned about us individually and collectively, in God’s perspective.

Paul is sharing this lesson about promises to people he would meet to weave together the promise of through Abraham and the promises revealed in Jesus and promise that extends to the church, which all three are the same promise of God.

The old hymn, standing on the promises of Christ my

Standing On The Promises by Russell Kelso Carter

Standing on the promises of Christ my king, through eternal ages let his praises ring; Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing, standing on the promises of God. Refrain: Standing, standing, standing on the promises of God my Savior; standing, standing, I’m standing on the promises of God. 2 Standing on the promises that cannot fail, when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail, by the living Word of God I shall prevail, standing on the promises of God. [Refrain] 3 Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord, bound to him eternally by love’s strong cord, overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword, standing on the promises of God. [Refrain] 4 Standing on the promises I cannot fall, listening every moment to the Spirit’s call, resting in my Savior as my all in all, standing on the promises of God. [Refrain]

Russell Kelso Carter (1849-1928) https://healingandrevival.com/BioRKCarter.htm

Russell grew up in the church and moved from his parent’s church when he was inspired by a Methodist youth camp, and from this point, he became focused on Divine Healing. As a young adult began writing hymns including his most famous, “Standing on the Promises” shortly after he had two bad health events that were not cured through prayer. Like Job’s friends, they told him he must have some unforgiven sin or shortcoming. He moved to the west coast, divorce his wife who was declared insane, and became a ‘quack’ healer, and basically renounces his faith. Some years later he remarried, and his second wife encouraged him to write about his struggle. In the process, he was diagnosed with Tuberculosis and was given a revolutionary new medicine that cured him in months in what was expected to a death sentence. In his reflections of God’s work in his own life, he realized that God was to be trusted in “prayer AND medicine”, saying both are necessary and God-filled healing.

Carter’s story is a witness to the struggle of having faith that God is willing to work through all things to redeem God’s people. His faith was restored and lived for many years as a trained physician and writer.

“Standing on the Promises” was composed in 1886 while Carter taught at the military academy. He was a member of the first graduating class in 1867 and had a powerful affection for the school. Author Phil Kerr makes a correlation between the music and the military academy in his book, Music in Evangelism, saying that Carter’s military experience was reflected in the martial musical style of the hymn.

Promise and Fulfillment: Believing the Promises of God, Victor Knowles, of Pepperdine University, writes:  

https://digitalcommons.pepperdine.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1769&context=leaven#:~:text=reading%20of%20the%20Bible%2C,made%20by%20God%20to%20humankind).

“Herbert Lockyer, in his volume All the Promises of the Bible,’ tells the story of Everett R. Storms, a schoolteacher in Canada, who made a detailed study of promises. According to Time,’ Storms, of Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, reckoned the figure of 30,000 to be too high (since it is roughly the number of verses making up the Bible31,173). During his twenty-seventh reading of the Bible, a task which took him a year and a half, Storms came up with a grand total of 8,810 promises (7,487 of them being promises made by God to humankind).

Of the 31,173 verses in the Bible, 7,487 about promises God makes to humanity. The 24%, one quarter of the bible is about promises.

The Dad who would not give up.

 (1989), an 8.2 earthquake almost flattened Armenia, killing over 30,000 people in less than four minutes. During chaos and destruction, a father rushed to his son’s school, whom he had promised to pick up from school. But instead of a school, he found a heap of rubble. He ran to the back corner of the building where his son’s classroom used to be and began to dig.

As he began to dig, well-meaning parents tried to pull him out of the rubble saying: “It’s too late!” “They’re dead!” “You can’t help!” “Go home!” “There’s nothing you can do!” The fire chief tried to pull him off the rubble by saying, “Fires and explosions are happening everywhere. You’re in danger. Go home!” Finally, the police came and said, “You’re angry, distraught, but it’s over. Go home.” But this father had made a promise, and he was going to keep it!

This father had in his heart that he would search for his son no matter how he found his son, He kept digging for 8, 12, 24, 36 hours. Then, in the 38th hour, he pulled back a boulder and heard his sons’ voice crying for help. Immediately, he screamed, “ARMAND!” Back came the words, “Dad!? I told them! I told the other kids that if you were still alive, you’d save me.

This is the love of a father who rolls away the stone, to save us.

So what is it that God has promised each of us?

  • God promises to give us life, eternal life, to be nurtured, blessed, and lived, now and forever.
  • God promises to prepare a place for us in heaven.
  • God promises to love us even though we are not worthy, because of our sin, doubts, fears, failures.
  • God promises to guide us through the Holy Spirit. He will not forsake us.
  • God promises to present in us, as Christ’s body for the world to experience.
  • God promises to forgive us if we will trust his way for our lives.
  • God promises to return to fulfill our lives IN God’s purposes.
  • And there are others that are individual and personal to each of our lives…

So why do we question? Doubt? Fear? Sin?

We are surrounded by those who have based every part of their lives on themselves, on the world, on society, on wealth, earthly power, all that is temporary and founded in all that is not God’s will, not in relationship to God.

This spiritual journey is our wake-up call to review where we place our trust? Whose promises are we seeking to fulfill?

So, understand and experience God’s promises being kept, requires us to seek God’s perspective. The heart of the Abraham experiment, that Paul is highlighting, reveals God is willing to trust when we do not have the perspective to trust. God is, therefore, as the author of love, able to extend love, trust, grace, to those who “have faith” in God’s time, love, and perspective.

We are living in a season of human history, and a culture that uses faith, trust, and love to serve social and political ends. This is not loving, this is not trustworthy; this is not the truth, and it is not God’s perspective.

Let us step back and look at what a promise from God is:

  • God is promising Abraham to trust God to provide what Abram cannot fulfill.
  • God is promising what Abram cannot prove.
  • God is promising What Abram cannot fully explain, and yet.
  • Abraham knows ‘by faith’ God is able, based on who God is.

The modern views of God as a made-up creation of a human’s need for meaning and a way to explain what has not yet been otherwise explained. The implied nature of that God is that we can shape God to answer anything or nothing. In that vacuum, others will say they have the greater promise of freedom FROM God, freedom to be our FULL SELF, freedom to be SELF DETERMINED. Each of these goes against the very nature of our being and the nature of God’s vision for us.

God, having created us in love, already knows how we struggle, fear, fail, as well as explore, expand, and experience our current reality.

  • Abraham has seen God of the universe desire a personal relationship and extends a covenant relationship between them.
  • A Covenant is a promise from God, that God promises to keep even when we do not.

Covenant: A God Promise.

A Covenant is a bad business model. Businesses, power, finance, and control operate on contracts, fairness, and a twisting of what is good, and therefore, Godly.

The Covenant with Abram is not only to become numerous people but to inherit the earth. God is entrusting the future of the earth into the hands of those who have faith, but that also means if the faithful become unfaithful, God is willing to risk the sacrifice. This is the proof of love, this is the meaning of the crucifixion, this is the hope of the Resurrection, this is the Good News of a God that operates on love and faith.

Abraham meets God one-on-one and is stepping out as one person, standing face-to-face with God and offers his faith. God is not looking for contacts satisfied, God is looking for those who will trust God’s plan and perspective.

So for us, at this point in the journey: We are ourselves and one another,

  • who do I trust with my life? My past, my present, and future?  
  • Who can save me?
  • Who loves me?
  • Who has claimed me?
  • Who will forgive me? God.
  • This is the story we retell, sing, shout, teach, and give witness to each other to the world.
  • So let us not be quiet until God has fulfilled God’s purposes in our lives.

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Day 7 Time in the Mountains

 

sunset sky over mountainous valley covered with lush vegetation
Photo by Vanessa Garcia on Pexels.com

Read: Exodus 24 (NRSV) 

My friends in the advertising world plan everything with Monday as the first day of every week. Many other businesses start the work week on Monday. There is an unspoken message at the starting point. It is a small decision that shapes our perspective for each week. In making plans we say, “I will have that ready at the first of the week.” Do we mean, Sunday, Monday, or sometimes before a week from now? We are then justified by saying, “I didn’t promise to have it Sunday, you said first of the week would be fine.” And we try to squeak by our words. 

More than calendar details, the Sabbath, literally Saturday, is a day of resting from our labors and relying on God’s labors. Sunday is our day of worship and celebration of the resurrection of Christ. Our modern weekend was first used in 18 79. The two-day break from the workweek was a combination of recognizing religious traditions and intended to forgive workers a rest. In 2021 we live in a twenty-four-hour, seven-day a week, and digitally available at all times. Finding Sabbath Rest is as difficult even when have legal days off; we just do not choose to rest. Keep in mind that the commandment is to “keep the Sabbath” which is resting from ‘our’ labor and not a request to do nothing or just sleep. 

We are called to be resting in the arms and heart of God. When we sing, study, serve, forgive, and celebrate the God-with-us in the Spirit we are usually more active; it is not a day for sleeping. It is a day for God.  Moses had many troubles and had many reasons not to go up to the mountaintop away from people’s demands. He travels up the mountain to be with God and not just away from his responsibilities in the valley.

Like Moses, if we do not spent time with God and time apart from the rest of our responsibilities we would not find the strength to lead the lives we are called to lead. 

Action Plan: Take the calendar you use and schedule the time you will give to God in the weeks ahead. 

Prayer: Give me the strength to entrust others with my work for a time, that I might give myself to you most fully.  Amen.

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Day 9 How Fast is Fasting?

hamburger and fries photo
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.com

Read: Exodus 34.28 (NRSV) 

Fasting is doing without one important thing in order to give more time, attention, and intention to another important one.

Moses chooses to not eat as an opportunity to trust God’s providing presence. In only a matter of hours after breaking our routine of eating our body’s system begins to make noises and share its discomfort.

Part of becoming more spiritually active is sometimes seen through our physical experiences. Jesus fasted in the wilderness and after his time of retreat, he was hungry.

When we fast for a day, we can easily begin to feel a lack of energy and fatigue. Try to make note of the feeling, attitudes, and perceptions when we are not eating spiritual food regularly.

Spiritual fasting becomes a spiritual discipline, not just from depriving the body but when we also shift our attention to the time and energy needed to grow in God.

As a contrast, imaging the reverse of spiritual fasting for a moment, what if you spent forty days growing in spirit, could you tell the difference in your life? Why not give it a try?

Would you feel closer to God for having done so? When we lay aside our physical necessities do, we feel closer to God’s work and witness in our daily living? Moses gives a radical act of spending forty days with God.

Imagine going on a spiritual retreat from your family, work, duties, and responsibility and entrusting someone else with all those demands, and giving your full attention to God.

Action Plan: Pick a set time to be with God. Set a timer for an hour or two.  No watches, no Weather Channel, and no Facebook. No texts, posts, No coffee, no soda. No news channels, no distractions. One you, or you and your household, and God. Take the time to be complete with God. Some moments in silence, some singing, some reading scripture, always listening for God. When Moses fasts he comes down the mountain with the Ten Commandments. 

Prayer: Jesus, take my life and let it be consecrated Lord, to thee. Amen.

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Day 8 Many Footprints Make Our Foundations

photo of footprints on beach
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Read: Exodus 26.14-26 (NRSV) 

One of the amazing features of the Hebrews wandering in the wilderness is that their place of worship was a mobile tent of meeting. It had tall walls made of multiple frames and panels stretched over poles of cedar. Silver bowls were located at the lower ends of the poles. In our current experiences of digital worship, we get a sense that this mobile format needs some special work to separate it from the ordinary work on our devices and our spiritual work through the same devices. The instruction was to separate the tentpoles from the ground in silver bases. The people were called to make forty bowls as the foundation of the holy mobile sanctuary. The bowls reminded the people that God’s presence was feeding their spirits. 

How can we define what is ordinary and what is specially set aside for God? What do we place at the foundation of our daily choices? Start and end the day in prayer. In spending more time at home or alone, where is our worship space? Could we pick a place to keep our bible, our worship music, or bible study materials together? Sometimes times the church has gone overboard with defining holy spaces and sacred things, but the intent is helpful. Finding the place of worship and fellowship with God was right with them wherever they traveled and that’s good advice for us. 

Take a bowl that you use for breakfast or soup and set it aside with verses of scripture to read and re-read. Place prayers and review them to see when the prayers are answered or need more attention. We can make these weeks a time of worship and fellowship wherever we go. Keep your bible and hymnal handy or move your apps to the home screen. Make going to the mountain easy, accessible, and be fed often. 

Action Plan: Gather songs that you enjoy singing or hearing and play them often – while you work, travel, clean, or play. Build the foundation in words and songs of faith. 

Prayer: O God, keep your words in my heart, in my hands, on my mind and at your feet. Amen.

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Day 6 Manna for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

Read: Exodus 16:35 (NRSV)

As slaves, the Hebrews ate from the “fleshpots” in Egypt. Yes, they were slaves, but the food bar was as dependable and easy to find as Golden Corral. On the journey out of Egypt and toward the Promised Land, God provided daily bread called ‘manna.’ Every day manna appeared on the ground. The Hebrew travelers were to gather exactly what they needed for the day; any extra manna would spoil if they tried to gather more than what they needed for that day. The manna was God’s form of MRE and an ongoing lesson about trusting God in daily life. Part of the “promise” of the Promised Land was that it would be a land filled with milk and honey. They were being taught faithfulness, trust, and patience. If the people could find a shortcut, there would be no need for the journey or God. 

Central to our spiritual journey is turning to God at the start of each day to find what we need for that day. The day we wake and not need God is a day that will be empty, lifeless, and without hope.  [KJV: Hebrews 13: 8] “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” God promises to be revealed in our daily reading and studying the Word just as the manna. We know where to find the word. It is in books on our shelf, apps on our devices, and parts are even loaded in our memory.

Action Plan: Look up and write down a verse of scripture that helps you remember to trust God throughout the day. Place it at your seat at the table, on your lunch bag, on the dash of your car, as a screensaver, or where you will see it regularly as a call to faith and prayer.  Prayer: God you are with us every day, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year.  Help us trust your leading as often as you are present with us. Amen.

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Day 5 Preparing the Body, Preparing the Spirit

Read: Genesis 50:2-3 (NRSV)

The ancient Egyptians developed a detail process of embalming a body far beyond practicality as an art form and a hope that it would prepare a person for their spiritual after-life. After thousands of years archaeologist who uncover these remains find the dried-up version of what was left unused in the afterlife. Which affirms that old saying, “you can’t take it with you.”

In life, hundreds of millions of dollars are invested in gym membership, health equipment, rows of books and hours coaching to prepare our bodies for daily life. Imagine investing the same resources we devote to preparing our body, to developing our spiritual relationships.

By comparison, jot down the amount of time you will spend this week in prayer, Bible study, fasting, service, and worship. Of the one-hundred and sixty-eight hours available this week, how many hours will you devote to working on your spiritual growth? A tenth of that time is sixteen hours. Maybe you save it all up for the Sabbath rest. I spent eight hours on a spiritual name will not fuel the struggles we face each day.

For those who see the season of Lent as a time to give up a particular food, like chocolate or alcohol; or time online, or watching television, or something that we like for the sake of practicing self-denial, I suggest we let all that go. Instead, see this at our intentional time of focusing on growing our spirit. That will likely mean we have to make time or give up somethings to make it a priority, but that helps us see the priority and not the denial. Typically, we are already rather proficient in denying that our spirit needs attention.

If we spend 10 mins in prayer each day, how much closer to Christ would you be if you doubled the time? If we read a two-minute devotion and pray for the day, how much deeper would our faith be if we wrote a devotion to share with someone else. The usual recommendation in increasing ‘reps’ and adding ‘weights’ that helps our bodies become stronger and have greater endurance will hold true for our spiritual work-out plan. Six days God gives us to work, how much farther can you make progress when eating a good spiritual breakfast? What does it look like when we go without Christ in your day routine? Make the goal to increase your training list and stick to it.

Action Plan: Make two realistic lists: one of things you would like to do to strengthen your spirit and one of what you would be willing to lay aside this week to make growth possible.

Prayer: Jesus give me strength to let go of the things that I have laid aside that you might be more present and real in my daily life. Amen.

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Day 4 Marriage at Forty

Read: Genesis 25:19-26 (NRSV)

We have a family rule that you need be at least thirty years of age to get married. That gives time enough to finish school, begin a career and have time to develop some maturity. While married life can be very maturing process, sharing two lives as one brings new challenges in addition to the struggle and challenges of life. Most couples will not wait and instead rush the process.

Isaac was forty when he married Rebekah. Twenty year later it seemed they would not have a child. While it didn’t seem likely God knew and rewarded their patience. She was not only expecting, they would have twins. Life gives us hurdles to overcome and miles to endure that will test our faith. Rebekah’s twins struggled in the womb and throughout their lives.

Marriage is a covenant that is rewarded with the faithfulness. Just as the faith covenant we share with God, we bring our struggles and challenges to the process of growing our trust of God. When the long-game plan for marriage is a lifetime growing closer together we known the daily steps build the relationship that will weather storms and blossom in love.

The work we do with Christ is for eternity. It is a good spiritual perspective to learn from periods of time we set aside and devote to growing our spiritual relationships. These forty days are our time to focus our spiritual maturity as the priority for the rest of our lives.

Action Plan: Think back over the first half of your life? How have you changed and grown? Through what struggles have your journeyed? As you look to the future part of your life, what will you do each day to keep you spirit growing in love with God and the people God has created us to share this life? Set some goals and name ways you can build your spiritual endurance.

Prayer: God, we pray that you bless all who you have joined together in marriage with your love and strength. Help those who are married to share their faith journey with those who may be struggling in their marriages. Bless this time apart that we might be more devoted to you.

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Day 2 “Cleanliness is Next to Godliness?”

Read: Genesis 7:1-9 (NRSV)
One of the most familiar “sets of forty days” in scripture is the forty days spent by Noah and his family on the ark. Typically we think of this as a story pointing to a children’s lesson about a rainbow. God promises to use the rainbow as a reminder to not destroy but rather show us grace. Whether it is the rainbow after the storm or the water from the sprinkler in the yard, we remember God desires for us to be righteous when we see the very special perspective a rainbow provides. But the forty days on the are the story for Day two in this spiritual journey.

In our post-modern consumption of scripture, very little attention is given to God’s act of cleansing and reconciliation by the flood. While the consequence of our collective and individual sin may never be a cataclysmic flood, God continues to call us to faithfulness and trust. Yet, we continue to test God’s love and patience. This mistrust and pushing away is our choice of sin. Imagine a forty-day cruise. Not the typical cruise, but one where we are surrounded by God inviting us to work alongside God in providing for the restoring of righteousness, and goodness throughout the world, Noah’s cruise.

Noah and his family are placed in the process of God’s cleaning work, to be ‘saved’ from certain death and enjoy the fruit of God’s righteous life.

The journey ‘in’ the Sin is seen throughout our lives and around the world. Sin is what we place, allow, or ignore in our lives that separates us from God. Those ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions continuing to prevent us, and others, from living and trusting what is right and wrong. Our only hope is God’s grace and help.

Near the start of our spiritual journey is a spiritual bath, a moment of cleansing. We might begin by speaking to God our prayers of confession. We might reach out to those we have harmed or ignored to open what has been closed. Our best effort to concur our sin is to manage spinning plates on sticks until everything comes crashing in because we messed up or some distraction. But we don’t want another flood to free us from sin. We need a method of being cleansed that doesn’t destroy the world.


Think of this, the forty-day journey that Noah and his family made a boat, by God’s direction, that has no sail, no rudder, and no anchor. This boat is also filled with animals and one family to do the work. They are completely reliant on God for everything. Here is the cleansing work.

When we are willing to recognize the power and influence of sin in our lives, we relinquish that we are in control and hand the reigns over to God’s heart. This begins a process of transformation that demands our cleansing ourselves, of ourselves. Jesus does the actual turning around for us, giving himself as the example and as payment for our default on right living. This journey will be that cruise. It’s time to feed the animals and enjoy the ride.


Action Plan: Make handwashing a time of prayer.
Prayer: Lord, make me whole, not just clean. Amen.

Our journey to the cross is two days closer..

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1 Corinthians 9:16-23 “Let’s Go to the Neighbors

Do Your Neighbors Know Joy and Grace in Christ like you?

As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “”Everyone is searching for you.”” He answered, “”Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.”” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons. [NRSA: 1 COR 9:16-23]

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
February 7, 2021 Video:

  • 5th Sunday after the Epiphany
  • February 7, 2021
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Jesus did an unexpectedly good job at the synagogue teaching and casting out demons, but his mission and ministry is not to be spent just in one town.

His healing of Simon Peter’s mother opened the can of worms! Everyone who had not come to the synagogue the day before was now showing up at the house to be healed and set free.

Again we think of Jesus being the Great Physician and healer, as he gives witness to the power of God, but his primary mission was not to heal family and friends.

Jesus model’s teach, healing, setting people free from all sorts of evil, obsession and addiction. He reaches out to his disciples, their families and those who they shared about what Jesus might do for them.

But the mission is more than one lesson, one town, one family, or even one community…

For all the out-pouring of power and healing, Jesus is intentional about claiming time away from the work. It is not simple taking his vacation days, rather making time and making and a way, and making a space that is AWAY from everyone else, for his renewal.

As an itinerant ministry i am claiming a personal place that is apart and away. , I have been on I’ve been using some of my personal time to build a place to pray ; It’s made from pallets, used doors and leftover parts from previous projects. But it is a place that I have dreamed about for many years. It is a 32 square feet set apart from all other responsibilities this is a place of prayer and renewal. I’m calling it a chapel. If it is ever empty you are welcome to visit, but if I’m there you will have to wait for me to leave. It’s not finished and it’s not heated but it is a work in progress… just as i am.

But Jesus’s ministry was not to stay sequestered alone as monk in a monastery, he ministry was to share God’s power and presence with the next neighborhood.

It is time to go to the neighbors.

We have made several attempts to start a ministry to the neighbors who live in close proximity to our church building as a response to Jesus’s own call to do the very same ministry.

When we have been moved out of our own building, we have been given the chance to see what it is like for our neighbors who have no church family, no relationship with Christ. We now have felt what it is to look from the outside in and wonder, grieve, and be tempted by so many distractions from being the body of Christ.

We have not been to our neighbors in Culebra and Costa Rica, We have not been to our neighbors in the name of safety and we find ourselves on the edge of wondering when we will be the body, united again…

Jesus’s discovery from his time in prayer and renewal was this: It’s good to be with family and friends, but there are other neighbors that are our primary work.

If anything, this past year has awakened the call to

1. Lift the hand of those who are sick

2. Lift the heart of those who grieve

3. Lift the hope of those who have given up or given in

4. Lift the Spirit of those who are feel forgotten

5. Lift the Spirit of those who have forgotten the joy of fellowship

6. Lift the foot of those who have stumbled and lost their way

7. We too have been in that wilderness and place of separations and yet we know Christ is with us. —- we have neighbors who we don’t even know.

THE ministry of Disciples is to disciple others

We have less than two weeks before Ash Wednesday. We will have some variation of a worship service on the 17th to make the beginning of our journey to the neighbors.

What is needed? Jesus was calling, training, teaching, and sending disciples to make beyond the walls to reach the neighbors.

Here is the measure of what it means to be RSUMC, or every church… To be the church of Jesus’s Christ in 2021 is to be making disciples

? What, that’s not new and creative? The mission has not changed by our method need to be fresh and meaningful, but the message has not changed. Our call has not changed…

Every person in our church family can disciple someone their know or someone God leads us to…. in every age and faith experience… there are people God needs us to reach. (Others may have tried, we are called to go next.)

What does this look like?

1. Standup to follow.

2. Spending time in prayer

3. Looking for Jesus

4. Be ready to follow where the Holy Spirit is leading us…

If you feel even the nudge of this calling make some sign to God, raise you hand, stand where you are, put in writing, type it in the comments, shout it out. Claim this as the moment that we activate our mission for Christ in 2021. Yes Lord, Yes Lord, Here I am, I am yours. Make is so, amen.

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Jonah 3:1-5, 10 “Get up, and Go”

“Jonah and the Whale” by Pieter Lastman, 1621

“The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. ..When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them, and he did not do it. “ [NRSA: Jonah 3:1-5,10]

Context: OT Prophetic, This part of the Jonah story begins after the adventure with the big fish.

  • Living Through Being Swallowed Up
    • Three Days in the Belly
    • Three Days Walking through the City
      • Dismiss the debates about survivability inside a whale or large beast– a distraction
    • The Retreat: three days apart, followed by the message being shared.
      • The story has a miracle, but that is not its real power…
  • Call to Repentance / Sackcloth
    • God uses our trials, struggles, and times of fear, self-doubt, and rejection to model us and inspire us to ministry
    • The wearing of Sackcloth is a public witness that we are someone going through some tragic time but we ALSO know God is using this time to 1) call to repentance, 2) call to faith, 3) Call to sharing.
  • The People changed their hearts and God changes God’s mind.
  • Shocking to Jonah: Imagine our political leaders confessing their corruptions and ask for God to forgive.
    • The evidence of Jonah’s journey of faith, inspired a nation, to turn toward God.
    • What struggles, trials, suffering has tested my/your faith?
    • How will God use our fears, doubts, and failures for God’s good work and witness?
    • Our role as prophets: Call others to seek God’s truth. Not left or right, rather the heart of God.
  • God’s call to Jonah was to get up and go, reveal the darkness and evil in people’s lives, and repent/ turn toward God. The Action Plan
    • The Fruit of faithfulness.
    • The power of trusting God.
    • The transformation from evil through faith in action.

As we look around and listen to our neighbors, our friends and enemies, is there a need for people to turn away from broken, hurtful, sinful ways? YES!

  • As we see and hear the news and messages around us, what are we, the Body of Christ, called tell the world.
  • Do we jump on the world’s band wagon?
  • Are we called to take political sides?
  • Are called to be quiet and polite?
  • Are we scared of being swallowed up by

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