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“Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat!!!”

“Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, And all these things will be given unto you as well.”   (Matthew 6:33)

Anyone know the origin of this phrase  “Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat!!!”?

This phrase is actually first recorded in the 1866 novel The Headless Horseman by Thomas Mayne Reid. It was then and has come to be an expression of surprise or disbelief. Jehoshaphat is also mentioned in the book of Joel, where the dead are wakened back to life.

Jehoshaphat was actually a King of Judah and Jerusalem. I shared this in the message on May 1st. They were surrounded by numerous armies from a number of different countries. The odds against them were overwhelming. Jehoshaphat called for the people to fast and pray. As the people gathered, God raised up a respected member of the community and spoke through him. He said to trust and stand your ground. God will fight this battle and the victory will be God’s. As they prayed, praised and stood their  ground, the armies began to fight each other, ‘til there was no opposing army left.

In our Gospel lesson for this first Sunday in May, It speaks of when Jesus walks on the water and calls for Peter to join him. Peter jumps out of the boat, then realizes what he has done. He takes his eyes off Jesus, looks to the water below and begins to sink, “Lord save me!” he cries. Jesus reaches out and lifts him up. “Ye of little faith” Jesus responds. Yet Peter got out of the boat. He took a leap of faith.

As we decide what direction our church, God’s church is going to take, will you hear the call to fast and pray? Will you cry out and listen for God? Who will God’s Holy Spirit speak through to give our congregation direction? Who is willing to get out of the boat and take a leap of faith for God?

Who will join me in fasting, praise and prayer during May? (tues 8-9am, wed 9-10am, thurs 6-7pm) Who will join me to fast and pray during the national day of prayer on Thursday, May 5, 6am-9pm. (formal gathering at noon.)

When we hear from God, who is willing to cry “Jumpin Jehoshaphat!”, take the leap, jump out of the boat, form the famous cannonball dive and trust God will catch us and lead us wherever God is calling us to go”?

I’ll be waiting at the edge of the boat (the sanctuary) to pray and look forward to see who will join me in a group cannonball that will send tsunami size waves that will pour out through our church and into the surrounding community and beyond.

Amen.

 

Excitement and enthusiasm is growing at Akron First as we look forward to 2016

A committed group is regularly attending Hand to Plow meetings with persons from other congregations looking for ways to minister in increasingly relevant ways. They are joined by a number of people in the congregation every other week for prayer, study, and discussion.

New ideas and energy is already evident from this intentional work together.

Our Sunday School is finding ways to better teach and serve, with the Kids Worship a successful addition to the program. Results of this hard work and dedication were visible as the youth and children shared the Christmas story on December 13 with much joy.

We are responding to a call to make up a deficiency in our overall giving toward the 2015 budget with a significant portion of the shortfall already given.

Recognizing the need to try some new things and to maintain and improve what is in place we committed to support a budget which includes specialized staff to help us meet that need.

As we enter the new year there are ways we can all get involved, challenges we will face together, and successes we can celebrate.

Our studies and morning worship will center around what we believe. (see page 2) It is an opportunity to explore and to grow in a meaningful and caring way which provides a safe environment to share those ideas and understandings with which we sometimes struggle.

We continue to serve and reach out to the community with the programs at the C Dee Wright Center and our campus is often bustling with members of the community coming and going for various reasons.

If you are already apart of some of the good things happening here THANK YOU! If you have been away or disconnected for awhile we invite you to join us, even if only in a few of the opportunities.

Happy New Year!

 

A word (or two) from the Pastor—“Fruit Inspectors”

“After this the Lord appointed seventy[a] others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Luke 10:1-2 (NRSV)

As you read this, we will be wrapping up our forty days of fruitful living tcornucopia-clip-art-cornucopia-clip-art-13ogether. You, I, we have been challenged to “be fruit inspectors”, to evaluate how ripe and ready our spiritual fruit is for the harvest. Galatians chapter five, verses twenty-two and twenty three give us a tool. How filled are we with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? Matthew chapter thirteen gives us the parable of the sower to challenge us to ask how the “busyness” and “burdens of life choke our fruit and can leave us filled with bitterness, anger, hatred, jealousy, strife, quarrellings, factions, etc. My hope is we have been encouraged to see the opportunities in front us to reap a great harvest of the fruit of God’s spirit in our lives. Five Practices of Fruitful Living gives us five practical tools to learn how to reap a great harvest in our lives.

As we reap this harvest in our lives, God asks us how we can sow these seeds into other people’s lives. How can we separately and together help others reap a harvest of spiritual fruit in their lives as well? Radical Hospitality teaches us how to embrace and receive God’s love in our lives. It also teaches us how to reach out to help others embrace and receive God’s unconditional love. Passionate worship teaches us how to return that love to God, How to express our love for God. It also teaches us how to help others to express and return their love for God through worship. Intentional Faith Development teaches us how to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, how to become more like Christ. We are called to encourage each other to do this together. Risk-taking Mission and Service reminds us that as followers of Jesus, we are called to be willing make sacrifices to help others the way Jesus sacrificed himself, he gave his all for us. How can we separately and together reach out to help others accept and embrace God’s love? Finally God has so generously offered and given so much for us, how can we be extravagant in the way we generously give to God and others?

During November, as we reflect on a season of thanksgiving and the harvest God so generously offers us, we will as how can we each separately and together give back. How can we financially support our church family so we can do ministry to meet the needs of our congregation as well and the community, nation and world? We will also be asked how we can share the talents God has given us to be the hands, lips and heart of Christ?

Is God calling you to be part of the Radical Hospitality Team to reach out to people inside and outside of our church walls? Is God calling you to be part of the passionate worship team to make worship the best possible experience, pleasing to both God and others? Maybe you are being called to be part of intentional faith development to help people of all ages to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, to become more and more like Jesus. Perhaps you are willing to be a risk-taker and reach out in mission and ministry to help the lost and hurting. Lastly, are you so grateful for all God has given you, you feel called to be part of the team that helps others to want to cheerfully give back to God financially. Ask yourself and pray about how God is calling you to be one of the workers to help others reap God’s harvest.

Amen

Pastor Dave

 

‘Laying Fleece’

A Word (or two) from Pastor Dave

 ‘Gideon said to God,  “If you will save (us) by my hand as you have promised- Look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor.  If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, Then I will know that you will save (us)  by my hand as you have said (promised)”

Fleece1aIt’s one of my favorite stories in the bible. A man named Gideon, self proclaimed “least of the least” (least of his tribe, least of his clan). God’s messenger, “The” Angel of the Lord comes to Gideon and greets him. “The Lord is with you mighty warrior”. What a greeting. I love Gideon’s response, “If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?” Have you ever felt that way? The least of the least, being asked to do mighty tasks, going through many difficult, painful things in your life?

Gideon asks for a little affirmation, confirmation. Can you blame him? Fleece1bGideon shares an offering, it is engulfed in a fiery blaze, leaving nothing left. Though there is great debate, some claim the angel of the Lord is the preincarnate Jesus, before His coming to earth in the form of a baby. The Angel of the Lord encourages him to stand up for God and confront the corruption all around him.

Gideon then sees enemies all around him gather. Gideon sounds a mighty trumpet blast, calling all who would gather round him to defend his people. He looks around and sees the odds are great. His enemies have gathered 100,000 men. He has summoned only 32,000. Gideon lays a fleece on the ground, twice, just to confirm it is God asking him to do this, willing to help him do this. God first makes the fleece wet and the ground dry, then at Gideon’s request does the reverse.

God then tells Gideon to tell any of the men who are afraid, to go home.Fleecewater 22,000 men run, leaving only 10,000. God says there are still
too many. He sends them to the river and tells Gideon the ones who drink from the river, lapping the water like dogs will be his army. His army is now 300. Have you ever felt like the odds against you just keep increasing, things becoming almost insurmountable? Gideon snuck into the camp and heard the fear of his enemies and his faith in God was strengthened. He handed the 300 men torches and trumpets and the rest is history.

FleecehornsIs there a reason I share this story with you now? There is. This coming October 13th, it will be four years ago to the day I arrived in Akron, My wife and possessions arriving earlier that day. Forty-eight months ago, once thousand, four hundred and sixty days later, here I am.

God gave me that story before, during and after I arrived here. He laid fleece before me, making it clear I was to come here. Like Gideon, I am full of faults and  flaws, “the least of the least.” God did not send you a mighty warrior to bring victory, God sent someone He would work through to bring mighty victories. Do you believe the story of Gideon to be true? Do you believe God is powerful enough to work through someone like me? Come join us this fall. Come grab a torch and a trumpet. Come be part of “Gideon’s (God’s) army and find out.

In Christ,

Pastor Dave

What exactly is Pentecost? Why does it matter?

“When the Feast of Pentecost came,

they were all together in one place.

Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force

—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building.

Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks,”

Acts 2:1-3 (The Message)

pentecostcroseandflame

I believe in God the Father Almighty,

Creator of heaven and earth…

and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord…

I believe in the Holy Spirit…

(portions of the Apostles Creed)

 

What happened that day?

What is the Holy Spirit?

The traditional of our faith says Pentecost is the day the Holy Spirit came, fifty days after the Resurrection. The tradition of our faith also says the Holy Spirit is part of the trinity: Father, Son, Holy Spirit. One God: Three persons.

The greek word for spirit is “pneuma”, like pneumatic, also meaning air or breath to refresh us. Acts 2 in the message refers to the spirit as fire or like a wildfire to energize us. Other passages of the bible compare God’s spirit to living water to rehydrate us.

Ultimately, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, the presence of God. It is God with us, with us and within the heart of the believer 24/7. Jesus, the Son of God cleanses our bodies, the temple of God, while the Holy Spirit offers to dwell within out temple if we invite God into our hearts and our lives.

The Spirit of God is not God doing things for us. It is not God asking us to do things for God. It is God with us.

My prayer for all of us as we prepare to celebrate the day of Pentecost is that we invite Jesus to clean out our temple of all the junk in our lives and we also invite the spirit of God, God himself to enter our hearts and lives. As we do, like the breath of God, may it refresh us. Like the fire of God, may it energize us. Like living water, may it calm us, spiritually rehydrate us and bring life to our lives and the life of our church.

Pastor Dave

Four Seasons of a Tree Don’t judge a life by one difficult season.

As I sit and look around at the joy of the seasons in western new York, I found this. It reminded me of finding the joy amidst the struggle we can face in the seasons of life…

4seasontreeThere was a man who had four sons. He wanted his sons to learn to not judge things too quickly. So he sent them each on a quest, in turn, to go and look at a pear tree that was a great distance away. The first son went in the winter, the second in the spring, the third in summer, and the youngest son in the fall.

 When they had all gone and come back, he called them together to describe what they had seen. The first son said that the tree was ugly, bent, and twisted. The second son said no–it was covered with green buds and full of promise. The third son disagreed, he said it was laden with blossoms that smelled so sweet and looked so beautiful, it was the most graceful thing he had ever seen. The last son disagreed with all of them; he said it was ripe and drooping with fruit, full of life and fulfillment.

 The man then explained to his sons that they were all right, because they had each seen but one season in the tree’s life. He told them that you cannot judge a tree, or a person, by only one season, and that the essence of who they are–and the pleasure, joy, and love that come from that life–can only be measured at the end, when all the seasons are up.

 If you give up when it’s winter, you will miss the promise of your spring, the beauty of your summer, fulfillment of your fall. Don’t let the pain of one season destroy the joy of all the rest.

My prayer for each of us, as well as our church family is that as we experience the joys and struggles of each season, we can know there is another season to come, remember what has been and find the blessings around us.                                    Pastor Dave

 

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.                 Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NRSV)  

 

Beginning to blossom and thrive

“By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

Galatians 5:22b-23a

 

Hello everyone! If you don’t know by now, this is what is called my “life verse”. It is the verse I fruitbase my life around. If I am in harmony with God and If God and God’s Spirit is at work, this verse is the result. Without God, earlier verses point to bitterness, envy, strife, jealousy, anger, quarreling, dissensions, etc being the center of our lives.

 

There is a place in the bible that says we reap what we sow. I do believe we are often the victims of circumstances beyond our control, but We can often find these good things in our lives. In my teens and early twenties, I often found myself the victim of “sour grapes” in my life. That bitterness was all consuming. In one version of the bible, it talks about what our life can be like without God, God’s spirit, God’s help: “a stinking accumulation of mental garbage, frenzied grabs for happiness… loneliness, competition, never being satisfied, temper, etc.

 

In another place in the bible, Jesus talked about sowing seeds. He talked about our lives being like a garden or a field. Jesus talked about sowing good things in our lives. He also said that sowerimagepaths, rocks, and thorns affect those good things God wants to sow in our lives. He said the path is like the times we allow the good things to be quickly or easily taken from our lives. The rocky ground is the troubles and burdens life can bring, scorching the good things God wants to give. The thorns are the busyness and worries and burdens of life. Jesus said God’s spirit is like the gardener that can help us deal with the busyness and burdens of life so we may reap a great harvest of fruitfulness that God wants us to have.

CastingCrownsHow do we allow God to be that Gardener who can help us reap the good things in life? It is the time of year we can look around and see the gardens and fields that have become overrun with weeds or choked by rocky ground. We can also see the flowers, crops, and fruit that are beginning to blossom and thrive.

 

From time to time, I have asked the question, “Are you, I, we: surviving, striving, or thriving? There is a popular song out there by the Christian group Casting Crowns. It speaks of how we can be like a tree that thrives in a dry and thirsty land.

Thrivelyrics

“Joy unspeakable, faith unsinkable
Love unstoppable, anything is possible”

It is too easy to allow the rocks and thorns to steal the fruit God wants to give. Starting the final Sunday of July and during August, we will deal with what that can steal the good things from our lives. Come and hear how you can reap a great harvest with God in our lives and how together, we can thrive

Pastor Dave