Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The Kind of Fast God Loves (Sermon February 16, 2020)

Going Deeper
By Phil Wood for Pat Russell

"The Kind of Fast God Loves" – Isaiah 58:1-12
Sermon by Bruce Spear

In this week's sermon, pastor Bruce drew a clear distinction between sins of COmission and sins of Omission, and pointed out that God is just as concerned (perhaps more so) about the good things we don't do as he is with the bad things that we do.

Bruce suggested that our normal human tendency, when praying our prayers of confession, is to focus on the things we have done that we believe may have angered God, while we remain blind to the needs of others that we have ignored. This is a great issue to bring to the Lord in quiet meditation. Ask him to search your heart, and open your eyes to any sins of omission that may be apparent to him but may have escaped your own awareness.

Here's an exercise in the discipline of examen that you may find helpful. At the close of the day, find a quiet place and give yourself a few moments to become still, perhaps by deeply breathing in the peace of God, and breathing out the anxiety and pressures of the day. When you have achieved stillness of mind and heart, imagine yourself sitting with Jesus, just the two of you together, reviewing each thing that happened during your day.

Recall each event one at a time and let Jesus push the pause button on any event he wants you to examine more closely. Was there something you did or said that could have been more loving or Christ-like? Was there a need expressed or apparent that you didn't notice or pay attention to at the time? Was there a nudging from the Holy Spirit that went unheeded?

After reviewing all the events you can think of, ask Jesus to point out anything you may have forgotten, anything you should have seen going on but didn't, anyone you passed by who could have used a helping hand. Ask forgiveness for any such omission he may point out to you. And make him a promise to do better tomorrow.

Read Isaiah 58:1-12 again. Look for the things that break God's heart. Notice how God brings these questions right down to our individual hearts. It's about how our individual hearts are focused, and it's about the actions we take and the things we do or don't do in our individual lives. By laying our hearts open to God about these matters, by becoming increasingly aware of the needs of people God brings into our lives, we can become more like the people he created us to be.

Going more deeply in this direction is not an easy choice to make. It means our own hearts will be as broken as God's. But it's something God obviously cares about a lot. And it's worth exploring the subject with him.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Holy Seed (Sermon February 9, 2020)

Going Deeper
By Pat Russell

"Holy Seed" – Isaiah 6
Sermon by Pat Russell

This week take time to read this passage again.  Read it slowly and let your mind go with Isaiah to this very holy place.  See the Lord, his eyes, his robe.  See the seraphim and the smoke filling the house.  Hear them singing, hear the doorposts and thresholds shake.  Sit in this place.

Now, what do you say to the Lord?
What happens to you?
What might he be saying to you?
Does he have something for you to be or do?

Be still and listen.

Consider how you have been a burned stump.

Consider how Jesus is the holy seed in you.

Write a prayer of worship, like the seraphim.
Sing the song, “Holy, Holy, Holy.

Additional Scripture from the sermon:
Psalm 103:11-14
Matthew 13:9-16
Isaiah 43:19
Isaiah 11:12
Romans 8:32

Friday, February 7, 2020

An Offering for Sin (Sermon February 2, 2020)

Going Deeper
By Pat Russell

“An Offering for Sin” –  Isaiah 53:7-12
Pastor Bruce Spear, February 2, 2020

Today as you re-read this passage, recall how the word pictures of Isaiah are descriptions of Jesus.  Go to one of the Gospels and re-read the story of Jesus’ crucifixion.  Allow yourself to become aware of what both your head (thoughts, ideas, pictures) and your heart (feelings, emotions, movement of your spirit) are telling you.
The brokenness of Jesus is depicted here in phrase after phrase.  Read this quote given to us from Susan Leonard.  Consider how His brokenness and your brokenness are woven together.  How might you offer your brokenness to Him?
“Maybe the love gets in easier when the heart is broken open. Maybe our hearts are meant to be broken. Broken open. Broken free. Maybe the deepest wounds birth the deepest wisdom.
"The seed breaks to give us the wheat. The soil breaks to give us the crop, the sky breaks to give us the rain, the wheat breaks to give us the bread.  And the bread breaks to give us the feast. There was even an alabaster jar that broke to give Him all the glory. Never be afraid of being a broken thing.
"God sees the broken as the best and He sees the best in the broken and He called the wounded to be the world changers. 
"Wounds are what break open the soul to plant the seeds of a deeper growth.”

Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way – A Daring Path into the Abundant Life

By Pat Russell as follow-up to the sermon.
Please feel free to email me to express your thoughts and experience with this passage.

The Suffering Servant (Sermon January 26, 2020)

Going Deeper
by Pat Russell

“The Suffering Servant” –  Isaiah 52:13-53:6
Pastor Bruce Spear, January 26, 2020

Pastor Bruce has been focusing on the Servant Songs in Isaiah.  These are messages about the Servant in the time of the Israelite captivity in Babylon.  The songs are meant to give hope to a people who have lived for decades in captivity under the rule of a nation that did not understand their needs, sorrows, and desire for “home.”  And, for that matter, really did not care.  These were the years of exile.  These were the years of Esther and Daniel.  These were the years of suffering.

We stand in our present era and look back at this passage, seeing so clearly the person of Jesus in every verse.  So did the Gospel writers in their era.  That is why they quote Isaiah more than any other book of the Old Testament, except for Psalms. 

And yet, the people of Isaiah’s time did not know of Jesus.  Try reading this passage from the perspective of someone who does not know anything about Jesus; someone who is a captive in another land.  Describe the person in this passage:  what is he like; what was his purpose in life; how does who he is impact you in your captivity?

Look at Pastor Bruce’s translation and pick a phrase from one of the verses that you would like to meditate on.  Remember as best you can some of the thoughts that Pastor Bruce presented to us.  Picture Jesus.  Then simply read the verse over and over letting the words go down deep into your soul.  Become still; take a deep breath; allow the Spirit to speak to your soul.

Lastly, memorize Philippians 2:6-11.  This is another song, but it comes from the New Testament era.  Let the words of this song become your song.  Let this song of Jesus be your pattern in life.

By Pat Russell in follow-up to the sermon.
Feel free to email me to express your thoughts and experience with this passage.

The Hope of Restoration (Sermon January 19, 2020)

Going Deeper
by Pat Russell

“The Hope of Restoration” – Isaiah 49:1-18
Pastor Bruce Speer

You will need the handout for this Sunday for this exercise.  In this scripture passage, we can see the eternal character of God’s hope.  What is your definition of hope?  How would you tie hope with restoration?

If we go to the ancient past, we read in this passage of the hope that Isaiah brings to God’s people who are held in captivity in Persia.  Read the entire passage out loud and let the words of restoration flow over you.  Imagine yourself in captivity.  How would these words impact you?  What verses mean the most to you?

But this hope is not only for those ancient times.  Strikingly, this passage sounds very much like Jesus.  Now read the scripture phrases followed by a number in parentheses along with the corresponding verses that talk about Jesus.  If you lived in the time of Jesus and you knew your Isaiah scripture, what would you think about Jesus – what he said, what he did?  How might this knowledge impact your thoughts of hope of restoration?  How do you think Jesus was impacted by knowing this Isaiah passage?

Finally, the hope of restoration from Isaiah 49 is meant for us in this day.  Take each description of hope that Pastor Bruce wrote out and pray about how that characteristic applies to you.
1.     Hope gives courage to the Servant of the Lord.
2.     Hope seeks the tangible restoration of land, freedom, and children.
3.     Hope is sustained by the LORD’s undying love.

If you care to share your thoughts with me, I would be most interested and will reply.  patannruss@gmail.com.

The Servant of the Lord (Sermon January 12, 2020)

Going Deeper

by Pat Russell

“The Servant of the Lord”-- Isaiah 42:1-9

Pastor Bruce Spear

Pastor Bruce emphasized the truth that “…a bruised reed (the Lord) will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench…” (Isaiah 43:3a).  The woman caught in adultery was a bruised reed when she was brought before Jesus by the Pharisees.  This week take some time to picture Jesus as he encountered this woman.  Read John 8:1-11.  Enter the story; become a person in this story. 

I have included questions that might lead you more fully into what you read.  This exercise is about using your imagination to be right there with Jesus. When we enter an account in the Bible, our minds and feelings can become more aware of what the Lord is saying to us. Read the story once very slowly.  Then read through these questions.  Read the story again and let the Lord take you into His presence. 

Here are questions to encourage your meditation:

Where are you standing? In the shadows, with the Pharisees, beside Jesus, beside the woman, with the disciples, somewhere else?

What does Jesus’ face look like when the Pharisees tell their story about this woman?

What do the people around you do or say?  What do you think about this woman?

How do you react when Jesus bends down and writes with his finger on the ground? What do you feel and think when Jesus finally says something?
Look into his face when he speaks to the woman.  What do you see in his eyes? What do you hear in his tone of voice?

As you walk away, what will you take with you?


Baptism and Communion (Sermon January 5, 2020)

Going Deeper
By Pat Russell

“Baptism and Communion”- selected Scripture passages.

Pastor Bruce Spear, January 5

This first Sunday of the New Year, we participated in two sacraments, Baptism and Communion.  Pastor Bruce gave us a very clear definition of a “sacrament.”  “A sacrament is both a visible sign of our salvation and transformation in Jesus Christ and a sacred pledge of fidelity to Jesus.” He pointed out that a “sign” points to something that God has already done.  So, in your Baptism and when you enter into Communion, those sacraments point to different and some common truths.

Look on your handout and you will see that Pastor Bruce has spelled them out very clearly. Under Baptism, read #1 and then read Titus 3:3-7.  Read #2 and then read Romans 6:3-4.  Read #3 and then read Col. 2: 9-12.  Finally, read #4 and then read Matthew 28: 18-19.  Underline the words in Scripture that affirm the numbered sentences.  Which, if any, of these concepts is confusing or difficult for you to believe?  How might you address your questions?

If you were at church Sunday, what did it make you think and/or feel when you sprinkled the waters of Baptism on your head in reaffirmation of your fidelity to Jesus once again?  Or maybe something else struck you about this sacrament.  If you have not been baptized, would you like to consider being baptized?  If so, feel free to contact Pastor Bruce.

Read through statements 5 through 8 concerning Holy Communion.  With which of those statements do you most connect?  Why is that so for you? 

Think:  what is something new I have learned or experienced in this first Sunday of the New Year?

Now, if you like, pray this prayer of confession by Billy Graham, as an affirmation of your desire to serve God.

Our Father and our God, as we stand at the beginning of this new year, we confess our need of Your presence and Your guidance as we face the future.  We each have our hopes and expectations for the year that is ahead of us – but You alone know what it holds for us, and only You can give us the strength and the wisdom we will need to meet its challenge.  So, help us to humbly put our hands into your hand, and to trust You and to seek Your will for our lives during this coming year.  In the midst of life’s uncertainties in the days ahead, assure us of the certainty of Your unchanging love.  In the midst of life’s inevitable disappointments and heartaches, help us to turn to You for the stability and comfort we will need.  In the midst of life’s temptations and the pull of our stubborn self-will, help us not to lose our way but to have the courage to do what is right in Your sight, regardless of the cost….And so our Father, we thank You for the promise and hope of this new year, and we look forward to it with expectancy and faith.  This I ask in the name of our Lord and Savior, who by His death and resurrection has given us hope both for this world and the world to come.  Amen.