Devotions

Rescue & Joy

Joy comes from God

THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT
Joy. 
That’s what we’re all supposed to be feeling, right?  “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” so the song goes.  From the schmaltzy melodies filling up the playlist on your favorite streaming source to the abundance of sweet and savory treats suddenly appearing at all the events of the season, isn’t joy being manufactured in abundance?  I hope you’re experiencing some measure of delight in these things.  Truth be told, I hope this will be my experience, at least to some degree.

 
Greater truth be told, I long for something more.  Perhaps, you do too.  Joy is not dependent upon songs, sweets, circumstances or our mood, in as much as joy derives from the actions of a mighty and loving God.  Our God has come and is coming in ways that turn our world upside-down.  The lowly are lifted; the hungry eat their fill, while the proud and powerful receive their comeuppance.  The poor and the poor in spirit receive God’s favor.  That’s a message that either comforts or challenges or leads to sobering self-examination or some combination of all three and more. 
 
We can be certain of this, God’s on a rescue mission. From ancient times prophets declared that our Creator is One who goes to great lengths to ransom the captives, redeem the enslaved, and restore the broken.  Mary, the God-bearer, bore the reality of this mission in flesh and blood.  Her child has come to our rescue.  He is the ultimate reason for our joy.
 
Learn more about that joy from this week’s sermon by Pastor Greg.
 
Today, we had our children’s Christmas program at Rapid City First UMC. Please be sure to check out some photos from the morning posted on Facebook.
 
Next week, we will move on to Rescue & Obedience for this blog and our sermon focus will be on Obedience. Please join us at 8 a.m., 9:30 a.m. or 11 a.m.
 
Christmas Eve, we will be offering worship four times in the evening. We hope you will join us! Please refer to our home page or the Facebook event for those times and types of services provided to best engage with a variety of spiritual walks, needs and schedules.


Jesus Christ Died for Us

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Roman 5:8

Recommended reading: Romans 5

Harriet Buell heard a Christian speaker at the 1876 annual camp meeting held at Thousand Park in upper New York State. The speaker that morning was discussing our relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. Harriet left the service as if walking on air as she walked to her cottage. The complete set of words had come to her and she entitled the poem, “The Child of the King.” John Summer was a young pastor in Pennsylvania traveling throughout the Susquehanna
Valley, teaching singing schools. In February 1877 while reading the Methodist revival magazine, The Northern Christian Advocate, he found Harriet’s poem and set it to music. It became popular hymn quickly and found its place in the gospel hymn books of the day.

The prayer for the week is the speaker’s work that inspired Harriet’s poem: “Christian friends, we are the children of a King! Our Heavenly Father’s King! Poor ones. take heart, you’ll have a palace someday built for you by Jesus Himself!” Amen



Rescue & Preparation

SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT
“Prepare the way of the Lord.” For those who are familiar, that phrase credited to  John the Baptist may bring-to-mind a certain song. If you’re a fan of the musical Godspell (or have a little time and are curious), here’s a link to a clip from the original 70’s movie version… Try not to get distracted by the time capsule hair, clothing, etc., but watch the attitude (then come back here and finish reading)… Did you notice the joy and abandon with which people hear the call, drop everything and move toward being washed clean? They prepare for what’s next. They leave things behind as they move forward. Real life isn’t quite as easy as a movie musical though, is it?
 
Each moment we are alive is the present. Our time, second by second, is leaving a trail of the past. As we press on into the future, our next moment, our next step, do we step with faith? Or do we step with regret, fear, or maybe anger? Or are we oblivious that we have a choice and that it matters?
 
MŠdchen betrachtet AdventskranzWalking through Advent, and Christianity in general, we can strive to live presently in thankful, mindful balance. It’s a tension of looking ahead to God’s great plan, while at the same time, respecting the past, recognizing where God has already been at work, revealing grace to us. The Bible shows us where God’s people have been, mistakes made and lessons learned…how love saves and has been modeled to us through Jesus and what we need to know about the very nature of God… A faith community provides a place where we can hear and live together through similar stories, but from contemporary timelines…Yes, God still performs miracles, large and small with people right here around us.
 
Individually, as we stop today and look at our lives—as we Prepare—where has God already been at work that we can recognize and be thankful? If we’ve never really paid attention to that presence, it might be hard to pinpoint… Or we might blame God for things that are people’s doing (That whole “free will” thing humanity’s got going on, really gives God a bad rap…). What memories—Christmas or otherwise—add to that thankfulness? What regrets or bitterness do we have that we need to drop and walk away from, seeking forgiveness, as we Prepare for Rescue?
 
When we travel, it pays to  pack only what we need. We don’t want to take too much. We don’t want to leave the necessary behind… We travel a journey to Rescue. What do you really need, and need to give up, to be Prepared?
 
Hear more about the idea of being Prepared through Pastor Greg Kroger’s sermon from December 4, 2016.
 
Next Sunday, December 11, 2016 at 8 a.m. we will have a traditional service with the Sermon theme of “Joy” then at 9:30 and 11 a.m. we will have our Christmas pageant “Twas the Night Before” presented by our children. Please join us!
 
screen-shot-2016-12-04-at-7-49-21-am


Invest in God’s Kingdom

Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuaded me to become a Christian.” Acts 26:28

Recommended reading: Acts 26

Philip Bliss was a gifted young musician who died tragically in train disaster at the age of thirty five. Philip worked for a publishing company, writing sacred and secular songs. He was a rising star in the American gospel music scene. As time allowed, he also volunteered as soloist and song leader in evangelist meetings. One day he was assisting preacher, Rev. Brunage. During the sermon the evangelist quoted Acts 26:28. Philip was struck by those words and penned the hymn “Almost Persuaded” in 1871, a year before his death. Philip sang the hymn at evangelistic rally in
Waukegan. When he sang hymn an unusual power swept over the crowd.

Dear Jesus, every day is a gift from the Lord. We are blessed with Your Holy words in the Bible that persuade us to serve You. Your teachings are true and good. We desire to join You in Your ministry to others. Amen.



Rescue & Watchfulness

FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT

Watchfulness.  We set out today for a journey over the next few weeks, a journey seeking Rescue. Watchfulness is our starting point.  The Rescue is a gift we receive from a God who gave us nothing less than God’s own self.  This incredible present is the very presence of the creator of all that is, ever was, and ever will be.

So why do we need Rescue?  Because of our own humanity. In ways, large and small we’re torn and conflicted.  I know for me, the good things I intend to do, I don’t.  The things I wish I could stop doing seem to be never-ending habits.  The person I want to become stands in my imagination just outside my grasp, in spite my best intentions.  Who will Rescue me from this life-sapping, exhausting struggle?  Who will Rescue you?  Rescue comes from the One who was, who is, and who will come again. This Rescue is a promise we have received.

Child boy traveling by amd looking from a window.

And so we watch. 

Watchfulness includes waiting.  That part can test our patience.  We spend lots of time waiting for what’s next.  Waiting for a day’s work to end, waiting for the weekend, waiting for vacation…waiting in line, waiting for an appointment, waiting for test results…waiting for treatments, waiting through treatments, waiting to see if treatments have done the job…waiting for others, waiting to grow-up, waiting for love, waiting for commitment…waiting to see if diet and exercise will work, waiting for things to slow down, waiting for life that is truly life, waiting for life that is beyond life…
 
We’re watching and waiting, but they’re not separate from the Rescue. Each activity is essential…we play an active role.  Dreaming and longing set the stage for Rescue.  We name our highest hopes, our deepest desires to Live Life Loved.  We watch.  We wait.  We remember God has come to us, is among us, and will return to us.  Even in watching and waiting streams of living water flow.  As water drawn from a crystal-clear spring, to soothe a parched throat, the thirst of our inner being is satisfied through the down payment already provided.  The Spirit of God is present and pointing to a greater reality yet to come.  God who began a great work in Bethlehem will bring all things to completion through that same child, our Savior, our Rescuer.  The Rescue already underway will be complete.  Until then, we Watch, and can be confident, reminding ourselves that God is busily at work on our behalf.
 
We invite you to come, visit and learn more or call us at 342-4498 and ask questions… 
 
Sunday next week, December 4, thoughts on Rescue will move from Watchfulness to Preparation.


Hear the Voice of the Lord

The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and heart the voice of His mouth. Acts 22:14

Recommended Reading: Acts 22

Daniel Roberts was born in Long Island. He attended college in Ohio and served as a private with the 84th Ohio Volunteers during the War Between the States. When the war ended, he was ordained as a deacon in the Presbyterian Episcopalian Church and shortly afterward was ordained as a priest. He spend the next thirty years pasturing Episcopalian churches in New England. Daniel wrote the hymn, “God of Our Fathers” in 1876 to celebrate the one hundredth birthday of America. He set it to the tune of the Russian national anthem. Twelve years later George Warren, a self-taught organist, composed the stately tune with its trumpet fanfares to commemorate the hundred anniversary of the U.S. Constitution.

Dear Lord, we hear You calling us to serve You and to bring others to know Your will. You are by our side and in our hearts at all times helping us to follow the Holy Spirit. Praise God for giving us His son, Jesus. Amen.



Live life loved

 
“Live life large.” Have you heard of that? It’s supposed to mean live life on your own terms, get all you want out of this world. In some ways it sounds great, but it’s not necessarily the best way to go … At Rapid City First United Methodist Church, we prefer the focus of “Live life loved.”

We know if you’re struggling in life right now, your reaction may be, “Live life loved. What the heck?” For instance…

If you’ve been in any relationship where guilt, shame and abuse of any kind are heaped upon you, or where people don’t seem to care abouyou, love may not seem real – or it seems warped, ugly, self-serving…

If you have made personal choices that sent you down a road you wish you hadn’t traveled, it can be impossible to feel loved, to feel worthy of love, or to give love…

If life is nothing but hard—when existence is a struggle for food, shelter, time, sobriety… you or someone you care about is suffering through cancer or other illness…when someone you love has recently died, just waking up in the morning can be painful. How do you live life loved?
 
During the season of Advent, beginning the Sunday after Thanksgiving, we begin a journey toward Christmas. We spend four weeks creating a little room in our normal, everyday lives for a big thought on faith and where it comes from. The gift of Rescue. We are rescued by a King. No matter what is going on in our lives, there is a loving Savior who will walk through it with us and change us from the inside out.  It is each of us making a claim on God’s love that gets it started.

To those who already know the love we’re talking about:

Live life loved. Who are we, when we know or remember we are loved? We are better. We are happier, calmer, more at peace. We feel supported. When we receive love, claim love, we have love to give. Even when life is at its hardest.

When we live life loved, we remember who we are and whose we are: God’s child. One forgiven by and embraced by the living Christ.
 
When we live life loved, we are people in action, people serving our families, friends and community.
 
rescuewebbanner3
 
At Rapid City First United Methodist Church, we love, grow and serveWe live life loved.

Honestly, we are human, so we don’t always do it well, but we do it! We keep practicing, and like new skaters on the ice, hold each other up in joy.

You can too. We welcome you to join us. We can support you while we all continue to learn about the love offered from God who made and brought you here. We even have a weekly study, Under Wraps, going on during Advent that helps teach more about God. Sundays, each service will focus on different aspects of this journey and our rescue as we move toward Christmas.

You are valuable, you are worthy, you are loved. You can choose to live life loved. We welcome you to contact or visit us if you’d like to learn more.

 



Secure in the Lord’s Hand

Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household. Acts 16:31

Recommended reading: Acts 16

Priscilla Owens was a public school teacher. She was lifelong native of Baltimore, Maryland. She taught school for forty-nine years and in her spare time devoted her time to the local Methodist Church. In addition Priscilla wrote
prose and poetry. Priscilla wrote the hymn “Jesus Saves” in 1882 based on the above verse for the anniversary of the Union Square Methodist Sunday school in Baltimore. She also wrote the hymn, “Will Your Anchor Hold” based on Hebrews 6:19.

Prayer for the week is the chorus from The hymn, “Will the Anchor Hold”:
Dear Lord, We have an anchor that keeps the soul steadfast and sure while the billows roll, fasted to the Rock which cannot move, grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love. Amen



Calvary’s Grace

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

Recommended reading: Romans 5

William Newell as a boy had serious problems and was torn apart by turbulence. But he did keep the rules and day by day ventilated his frustrations to Dr. Torrey, president of Moody Bible Institute. Years later William was a beloved professor at Moody Bible Institute. He thought he should put his testimony into verse. The result was the hymn, “At
Calvary” which he wrote in 1895 on the back of an envelope. He said that had if he not gone through his troubled years he might not have fully understood the importance of Calvary’s grace.

Prayer for the week:

Dear Lord, we sing praises to You. God grants forgiveness by surrounding us with His love. He
hears our pleas for help. The greatest gift we can give is ourselves to the service of God. We must
allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in our service. Amen



God’s Love in Strains of Music

Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:5)

Recommended reading Romans 5.

Philip Bliss was born in a Pennsylvania log cabin where his father led daily prayer and music was the primary entertainment. As a lad he was drawn to the Lord Jesus and music. When he was ten, Philip sold vegetables door to door. Approaching home, he heard music he’d never heard before. It was a piano. The next year he went to work in logging camp. He married Lucy Young and she encouraged his musical dreams. Her grandmother provided funds for classes
at a nearby music school. He began traveling place to place teaching music and singing. Within a short time he was one of America’s foremost writers of gospel music. In 1870 he joined the staff of Chicago’s First Congregational Church. One evening while mediating on the above verse he wrote the hymn, “Jesus Loves Even Me.”

Prayer for the week: Dear Lord, thanks for the gift of resiliency, spirits that stretch instead of breaking; this resiliency offers fresh responses to life’s inevitable surprises. Be strong as a spiritual warrior of Jesus Christ to celebrate the Bible’s message of peace, joy and love. Amen