Monday, October 19, 2020

For Online Sermon October 18, 2020

By Pat Russell

Considering the final sermon before his retirement from Pastor Bruce Spear, October 18, 2020

Scripture for the day: 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18

 6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

16 At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. 17 But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed, and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

As I write my reflections on Pastor Bruce’s final sermon, I am once again keenly aware of God’s word coming to us through our Pastor as he says goodbye. So today, I encourage you to take this passage and change it into a prayer for Bruce and Susan. After each verse, say a parallel thought for Bruce and Susan. For instance, with verse 6 I might say, “I thank you for how Bruce poured out Your Words to us in his sermons. And I am so grateful for Susan pouring out her heart in music and poetry.”

Include remembrances of how the Lord Jesus brought Bruce and Susan into our midst; how you have been blessed by them and their lives; how He kept them (and us) through difficult times; the things that make you say, “thank you.”  Be a testimony to God on their behalf. And then, pray for them as they step into this new season of life. 

And finally, lift up a prayer for our church fellowship in the days ahead.

If you care to write out that prayer and send it to me, I will be sure they get it.

Pat Russell

patannruss@gmail.com

Monday, October 12, 2020

For Online Sermon October 11, 2020

By Pat Russell 

October 11, 2020

Sermon from Pastor Bruce Spear

Scripture for the day: 2 Timothy 4:1-5

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

It's Sunday afternoon and I am sitting in My Hiding Place (aka she-shed). The weather is changing. The bright gold and yellows on the trees have moved to rust colors as the trees and bushes begin to draw their energy inward in preparation for colder days. The winds are blowing, and the leaves are falling. Even though we have gone out with a beautiful bang of color, we think about wrapping up our yard work and maybe even lighting a fire in the fireplace. We begin to draw inward. It is a time of transition.

And so, it was with Paul and Timothy’s relationship. As Bruce has pointed out, this was probably Paul’s last letter. Once again, we can draw the parallel between Paul and Bruce as he moves toward retirement and we press on without him. I appreciated what Richard Foster said in his interview with Bruce, “Bruce has prepared you for this time.” And the quote from Julian of Norwich when she heard God say to her, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

Timothy could have been feeling timid or afraid about the future without Paul, and Paul wanted to encourage him to keep on keeping on. As you listened to Bruce’s sermon, what words of encouragement did you hear for you and for our church? What stood out in your mind and captured your heart? The rock cut out of the mountain from Daniel’s vision that established the Kingdom of God over all; the proclamation of the Word of God proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus; our church mission to “Help People Meet and Walk with Jesus” in words and action; to preach the Good News in and out of season; to keep a clear head in the days ahead; to endure hardship; to discharge your duties as a follower of Jesus; to “tell it” over and over!

Last week I struggled with drawing a Going Deeper out of the sermon because telling our flock to check for sin in our lives as we are in this transition is not particularly enjoyable. But it is so important for us to prepare our hearts when these times have produced critical spirits! We cannot take that critical spirit with us in these days of transition. We cannot draw in and “wait and see” if “they” do it right. We must listen carefully to what Paul encourages Timothy to be and do, and “go do likewise.”

So many good words! So many precious words of love spoken by a pastor to his “flock of one.” And Bruce has spoken to his flock through those very Words. The question remains, what will you and I do and be in the days ahead? God has the WHOLE world in His hands; He has EPC in his hands. How are you going to respond to that truth in the days ahead?

Monday, October 5, 2020

For Online Sermon October 4, 2020

Going Deeper

By Pat Russell

October 4, 2020

Sermon from Pastor Bruce Spear

Scripture for the Day: 1 Timothy 3:1-5 and 10-12

You must understand this, that in the last days distressing times will come. For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, brutes, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid them!

10 Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions, and my suffering the things that happened to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 

As I listened to this sermon, this was my first reaction: “Oh, this is so true of our world today, especially the political climate out there. Whether a person is right, left, or in the middle, surely they can see how bad things are!” Yea, first reaction. Then God began a deeper work in me….

“How about YOU, Pat? Are any of these descriptions true of what has been deep in your heart in these months?” he asked with a gentle voice.

I began to think about the “weeds” in my life that are growing along with the “wheat.” We all have them if we are honest. We all have had them sprout up and grow like healthy plants as we water them with our thoughts and feelings. The weed seeds may have been planted long before the corona virus hit us. It is time for us to do some gardening of our souls.

As we enter into this time of transition in our faith community, we must prepare ourselves for a new work of God in our church by examining our particular soul – our will, our thoughts, and our intentions. We must come before God in confession and seek His forgiveness. He is waiting and ready to begin something new in these upcoming days. He will do HIS part. Will we do ours?

With those words in mind, take time to pray and meditate on the four words Pastor Bruce gave us yesterday. He gave us a deeper understanding of only 4 of the 18 weeds that Paul lists! Let’s start with these 4 and ask ourselves if ANY of the seeds of these weeds are growing in our lives. You may want to ask this self-examination question adapted from Larry Warner’s book Journey with Jesus:

How has the destructive nature of that particular sin impacted your life? (choices you made, interactions with others and so on)?

Pastor Bruce’s words:

After beginning by describing these people as being in love with themselves and in love with money, he uses the word translated “boaster.” The original meaning of this word is “a charlatan, an imposter.” “All hat and no cattle,” as they used to say.

Another word that Paul uses is “arrogant,” an elevated sense of one’s own value and importance. This is part of being in love with yourself as Paul says. William Barclay says, “People like this nourish an all-consuming, all-pervasive pride; and in their hearts there is a little altar where they bow down before their own images of self.”

A third word that Paul uses is “blasphemer.” This word is usually used of a person who blasphemes God, but in this case, Paul is talking about people who blaspheme other human beings made in God’s image. That is why it is translated “abusive,” someone who is verbally abusive of others.

I’ll just take one more word although all 18 words are full of meaning and are worth studying. Paul says these people are incapable of appreciating the good things in life. The word is translated “haters of good” but it literally means “unable to love the good.” The Greeks held up “the good, the true and the beautiful.” There is much in life and in the world and in the people around us to appreciate because it sparkles with the goodness with which God has filled it.

Paul was able to say, “imitate my life.” May we, in all humility, be able to say in the days ahead, “Imitate Elizabeth Presbyterian Church when your community faces the challenges of these days.”

Romans 8:34; 2 Corinthians 5:17

Now hear the good news!

Who is in a position to condemn?

Only Christ,

and Christ died for us,

Christ rose for us,

Christ reigns in power for us,

Christ prays for us.

Anyone who is in Christ

is a new creation.

The old life has gone;

a new life has begun.

Know that you are forgiven

and be at peace.

Amen.

Monday, September 28, 2020

For Online Sermon September 27, 2020

By Pat Russell

Going Deeper September 27, 2020

Sermon from Pastor Bruce Spear

 

Scriptures for the day:

2 Timothy 2:14-15

Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

2 Timothy 3:14-17

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Today Bruce gave us three important guidelines from Paul’s letter to Timothy for reading and teaching the Scriptures:

1.      All Scripture is God-breathed therefore humbly receive what is written there.

2.      Jesus Christ is the theme of all Scripture therefore hold His story up as the plumbline to all that has been written in Scripture whether before Jesus lived on earth, during or after.

3.      The purpose of Scripture is to enable us to do the work of Jesus therefore seek training in righteousness.

Here is Bruce’s conclusion: “And so, let us never stand in judgment of Scripture but always humbly receive the Word which is able to save our souls. And as we read Scripture let us always remember that the gospels which tell the story of Jesus are the reference point and the plumbline by which we understand the rest of Scripture. Let us never quarrel about words that aren’t even found in Holy Scripture. And let us allow Scripture to train us in the righteousness of Jesus so that we can seek first his kingdom in all we say and do with our lives.”

Here is how you might Go Deeper with this sermon:

1.      Write or speak a prayer for yourself using the words of each of the three points. For instance, “Lord, it is beyond my understanding how You work in humans to accomplish your will through Scripture. Remind me that whenever I pick up my Bible to read, or think about a word of Scripture, or listen to a song

Monday, September 21, 2020

For Online Sermon September 20, 2020

By Pat Russell

 

Going Deeper September 20, 2020

Sermon from Pastor Bruce Spear

 

Scripture for the day: 2 Timothy 2:1-10

 

Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus. 2 You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.

3 Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. 5 And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. 6 And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. 7 Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things.

8 Always remember that Jesus Christ, a descendant of King David, was raised from the dead. This is the Good News I preach. 9 And because I preach this Good News, I am suffering and have been chained like a criminal. But the word of God cannot be chained. 10 So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen.

 

Paul could not be with Timothy as he led the church in Ephesus, but he could give Timothy a heart-felt reminder of the guiding truths that had led Paul since meeting Jesus in person. He knew these truths would keep Timothy filled with “power, love, and self-discipline.” Paul then encouraged Timothy to “teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.”

 

As Bruce begins his transition from being pastor of our congregation, we can listen for the voice of the Trinity coming to us through his preaching, just as Timothy listened to Paul.

 

This is how I listened today:  Bruce is Paul and the church (you and me) are Timothy. What does my heavenly Father say to me for these days through the relationship of Paul and Timothy? How might I make myself available to the grace of God that “fuels” the saints, just like the fuel of a 747 taking off, during this time of transition in our church?

 

In what ways might I “endure the suffering” of others in these days of sickness, unrest, natural disasters, and church transition? Which metaphor – the soldier, the athlete, or the farmer – might I dwell on in prayer so that I might gain insight for my living faith? How can I “endure the suffering” of transition along with Bruce and Susan in the days ahead? What might I do or be as an encouragement to them?

 

What hope strikes at the core of my being in verses 8-10 that will keep me centered in the way I experience life now and life through the transition ahead? I was struck by the truth that no matter what happens in my life or in the life of our church (as Paul was in chains), the Word of God is NOT chained in any way. 

 

These are suggested means for you to Go Deeper with the truths brought to us today by Bruce. We are dear daughters and sons who will pass these truths on to others.




Monday, September 14, 2020

For Online Sermon September 13, 2020

By Pat Russell

 

 

Considering the sermon by Pastor Bruce on September 13, 2020

Scripture Reading, 2 Timothy 1:1-12

 

This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus. I have been sent out to tell others about the life he has promised through faith in Christ Jesus.

 

I am writing to Timothy, my dear son.

 

May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord give you grace, mercy, and peace.

 

Timothy, I thank God for you—the God I serve with a clear conscience, just as my ancestors did. Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. I long to see you again, for I remember your tears as we parted. And I will be filled with joy when we are together again. I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. 

 

This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

 

So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. 10 And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News. 11 And God chose me to be a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of this Good News.

 

 12 That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.

_____________________________________________

 

After spending time with Paul, learning of his background, hearing of his encounter with Jesus that forever changed his life direction, and finally seeing the overflowing ministry that came out of that encounter, Pastor Bruce now takes us into the depth of relationship that Paul had with the younger Timothy. Paul mentored Timothy.

 

Paul spoke words of encouragement and love into Timothy’s life. (2 Tim 1:2-4) Paul understood the value of Timothy’s childhood background in terms of who he was as an adult. (2 Tim 1:5-6) Paul trusted Timothy completely as Timothy led the church in Ephesus. (2 Tim 1:8-10) Paul encouraged Timothy in the area that might have been his greatest challenge: fear. (2 Tim 1:7) Paul was an example to Timothy in a time when the world was a threatening place for Jesus’ followers. (2 Tim 1:11-14)

 

Take time to read this passage again in light of someone(s) in your life that you might encourage this week. Last week, I was thinking about the fact that I am on my way out of this struggling world due to my age, but my nephews and nieces have a long way to go, it would seem. They will face challenges that I only have begun to experience. How can I be of encouragement to them?

 

In that moment I texted this to my nephew, “Hi Cory. Thinking of you today in all your life roles – father, designer, leader, teacher, friend, husband. I pray God anoints you with his ‘Spirit that gives you power, love, and a sound mind.’” (Timothy) This morning (Sunday), I received this reply, “Thank you Aunt Pat. I appreciate the prayers. When your text came in, I was actually reading about the Holy Spirit! I’m reading Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves. It’s very good. Love you.”

 

My heart sang! And then my heart sang a second verse of praise when I heard this sermon and the very Scripture verse that I sent to my nephew. Believe me, God will use you as you reach out to others.

 


Tuesday, September 8, 2020

For Online Service September 6, 2020

By Pat Russell

 

 

Considering the sermon by Pastor Bruce on September 6, 2020

 

I have often longed to be able to “see” the face of God. By that I mean that I long to experience Him like I experience another person, a presence that is tangible. Not a sense of “Someone there” but in a “human sense – touch, see, smell, taste, hear” kind of experience.

 

One day I was asking the Lord about this and I believe that He gave me this thought which I wrote in my journal, “As I sit here this morning, You say to me, ‘I am a different being.’ I think that I keep trying to make You a human being that I simply cannot see. But You are not. Yes, of course, I know that You are different, but I believe You are saying something about how I as a human being relate to You as non-human… We humans only have the context of human-personal relationship, but You contain the human personal and are also so much more. How can I experience that? Maybe I simply cannot and must find a place of contentment in how I can experience You as I live my human being life.”

 

As God continued to deal with this desire of my heart, I came to this scripture in Exodus 33:12-23 on another day:

 

Moses and the Glory of the Lord

 

12 Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”

 

14 The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

 

15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

 

17 And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”

 

18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”

 

19 And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have

compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

 

21 Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by.23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”

 

I wrote this in my journal after meditating on this passage: “This was a great lectio for my soul this morning. It is all about Moses’ plea for Your presence and how You handled that. It is so incredible that You hid him in the cleft of the rock, let him see Your goodness and how You protected him by not letting him see Your face.”

 

I thought, “I see God when I see GOODNESS in this world and that is how He meant it to be.” Then I thought how God has allowed us to see HIS face in the face of Jesus the Christ. Jesus is pure Goodness. God contained himself in human form so that we might have that longing met. As Pastor Bruce has quoted many times through this series, “For God, who said, ‘Let there be light in the darkness,’ has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.” (I Cor. 4:6)

 

And yet, total knowledge has yet to have been granted us. That comes with our death. Today Pastor Bruce said, “In this life, however, Paul tells us that we only see Jesus through a glass darkly or only as a reflection in a cloudy mirror. He says, now we only know Jesus partially but then we shall see him face to face.” (I Cor. 13:12) as he paraphrased Scripture for us.

 

As a beautiful conclusion to the theme, “Encounters with Jesus,” Pastor Bruce gave us many examples of human beings who have tasted (and I use that human sensory word intentionally) that glory and then were able to give us a foreshadowing of what is to come, both in Holy Scripture and in human experience form.

 

So, with all of this being written, I ask you to ponder what you heard in the sermon or read in this writing that you would like to contemplate more? Did a particular thought or word of scripture or an example touch your emotions? Why do you think that happened?

 

What do you think about your death? To what do you look forward? What makes you afraid? What do you long for when you see Jesus, face to face? What would you like him to say or do? What do you think you will say or do?

 

Spend some time talking with Him about Your longing.

 

As a benediction to my contemplation on this mystery, I recalled a song from my early church years. Perhaps you know it and would like to sing with these words:

 

He Hideth My Soul

 

A wonderful saviour is Jesus my Lord
A wonderful Saviour to me
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock
Where rivers of pleasure I see

 

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock
That shadows a dry, thirsty land
He hideth my life in the depths of his love
And covers me there with his hand
And covers me there with his hand

 

A wonderful Saviour is Jesus my Lord
He taketh my burden away
He holdeth me up and I shall not be moved
He giveth me strength as my day

 

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock
That shadows a dry, thirsty land
He hideth my life in the depths of his love
And covers me there with his hand
And covers me there with his hand

 

When clothed in His brightness
Transported I rise
To meet Him in Clouds of the sky
His perfect salvation, His wonderful love
I'll shout with the millions on high

 

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock
That shadows a dry, thirsty land
He hideth my life in the depths of his love
And covers me there with his hand
And covers me there with his hand

 

Source: Musixmatch

 

Songwriters: William James Kirkpatrick / Patti Drennan / Fanny Crosby

He Hideth My Soul lyrics © Hal Leonard Publishing Corp., Glorysound, A Div. Of Shawnee Press, Inc.