Ch-Ch-Changes

Anyone remember that old David Bowie song? Anyone? He somehow managed to make a catchy chorus by simply repeating consonants. Genius some would say. But with a soaring voice, some acting chops and a penchant for outlandish make-up, ol’ Ziggy saw many phases to his rather prolific career. He may have understood something about change. The truth is, we all have our experience with the new. New locations to live, to jobs to work, new developments in our physique. Yes, not all changes are good ones. But time marches on and as I like to say, “All of life is nothing but transitions.” Every morning marks a new transition: new opportunities, new interactions, new perspectives. As we head into the coming school year, many of us face yet another transition. Our family will have a brand-new middle schooler, a brand-new high schooler and one starting kindergarten. At home, we will be down to one child during the day. In an overarching sense, it’s more of the same…a suburban family gearing up for another school year. But for each of us, these transitions fill us with excitement, nervousness, a little stress, and various other emotions. In the song, Bowie admits, “Time may change me.” It’s an undeniable truth. It applies to everything from the glorious oak tree to the inanimate skyscraper downtown. But as we all fall prey to the ongoing transitions of time, my prayer is that we don’t allow time to be the only thing that changes us. God is at work. He sent his Son into our frame of time. The infinite God took on a finite life and though Jesus experienced changes, he remains changeless. This process of incarnation, death and resurrection was not some interesting cosmic experiment. Through Jesus, the entire universe underwent a big change! Our death could now be changed into eternal life! Moreover, we have been gifted with the presence and power of the Holy Spirit: the infinite God dwelling within us. Again, this is not just a fun way for God to pass the time, but rather the means by which we can be changed. From sinner to saint, from unrighteous to holy, from dead to alive. Don’t let time be the only thing that changes you.

“All of us are looking with unveiled faces at the glory of the Lord as if we were looking in a mirror. We are being transformed into that same image from one degree of glory to the next degree of glory. This comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

2 Corinthians 3:18



Are You Sailing, Floating or Sinking?

The summer before my senior year, I was at Red Rock Camp. At that time we had a large catamaran (think flat large sailboat). One of the fun things to do while out on the boat was to hang from the bottom bar of the boat. The rest of the group took their turn and had a blast getting splashed by the lake. I was so excited for my turn. I climbed off the edge and grabbed hold of the bar. See back then I was about the size of my daughter here. As the boat turned towards the wind the pressure of the water was so strong and I couldn’t pull myself up above the bar and waves. I knew that I was in trouble. You see we hadn’t paid attention to the increased winds on the lake.
 
Life is like that, and in many ways our faith is like that. If you don’t look around and see where you are you will quickly find yourself sinking or floating instead sailing in your spiritual life.
 
So today I want to ask “Are you Sinking/Floating/Sailing?”
I’m going to start with sailing: Some of us are sailing. You’re relationship with God is going good, time with Jesus comes natural. You are serving. Matthew 7:16-17 ” You will know these people because of what they do. Good things don’t come from people who are bad, just as grapes don’t come from thorn-bushes, and figs don’t come from thorny weeds. In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, and bad trees produce bad fruit.”
 
Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit that the Spirit produces in a person’s life is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these kinds of things.”
 
You probably want to be here. You desire it, but I’ll be honest in saying that it is tough to get there and even tougher to stay there. Many times we will bounce between the three. How to know you are sailing: You see fruit. If you are not, go back to what you were doing the last time you were sailing. It might not work, and you might have to try something new, but go back to listening, and go back to serving.
 
Some of us are floating.
How do you know if you are floating: You don’t even feel guilt for your sin, you go to church, you make no effort to change, you are content with where you are, there is no fruit in what you do. The key word for this is apathy. You exist, God exists, but that is it. You believe Him, You believe in Jesus, but you there is no movement.
 
Revelation 3:15 “I know what you do. You are not hot or cold. I wish that you were hot or cold! But you are only warm—not hot, not cold. So I am ready to spit you out of my mouth.”
 
This is why we talk so much about serving. Being mobilized on your campus, at your church, and in your community. Spiritual maturity has nothing to do with what you know, and everything to do with how quickly you react to God.
 
Steve Callahan set out sailing on a trip that would take a month years ago, and he set out alone. He said that he wanted some solitude, he wanted to get away, and that he was excited to be alone on the sea. A little over a week into his trip something hits his boat. He doesn’t know what, but it punctured the hull of the ship and the ship began to sink in the middle of the night. He quickly grabbed some stuff, got on a life raft and was stuck on it for 76 days. 76 days of struggling for food, water. 76 days of laying in a raft, of trying to get by. He said what got him through was the fact that he realized he had done nothing with his life but waste it. He doesn’t say this, but he obviously had enough money to get a boat, obviously had enough money to not work for a month to go sailing, yet he said he wasted his life because he had never given anything back to anyone.
 
I’ve floated. I know that at times it feels good. You like it because it’s easy, it takes little effort, and I convince myself that I can change when I want. But in reality I’m either lazy, or hoping something magical happens. The key is that you’re waiting.
 
Proverbs 14:8 “It takes wisdom for the clever to understand the path they are on, but the fool is deceived by his own foolishness.”
 
I know there are some of us that are sinking. Some signs that you are sinking: You are stressed constantly, you feel overwhelmed, doubt is overpowering you, you dread getting up in the morning at times, many times you lack transparency.
 
There are 3 major groups of people that are sinking:
  1. Those that have no idea they are sinking- They believe in God and say they love Jesus, but then brag about their sin. They don’t even know how far off they are.
  2. Those that realize and don’t want to be rescued: You feel your faith being sucked out, you know things aren’t right, you know that the life is being squeezed out and to be honest you don’t care. Mostly because you either convince yourself it is a season, or because you like the way you feel.
  3. Those that realize they are sinking and want to be rescued: You’ve felt like it for a while, you’ve been hurt by it, you might have even cried out for help to God, but have been met with silence. It breaks your heart.
 
I want you to know that if you are sinking you are not alone. In the Bible the disciples had many moments like this. This one might be my favorite and it could be found in the book of Mark. Jesus has the disciples going across a lake and in the middle of crossing a storm comes up. Huge waves break on the boat and they begin to yell that the boat is going to sink. In the meantime, Jesus is asleep. They go and get Him yelling:
 
Mark 4:38-40 “Jesus, Master, don’t You care that we’re going to die? He got up, shouted words into the wind, and commanded the waves. That’s enough! Be still! And immediately the wind died down to nothing, the waves stopped. How can you be so afraid? After all you’ve seen, where is your faith?”
 
When those waves started crashing over me, I was like those disciples panicked and scared. Suddenly, from above a hand came down and grabbed the front of my life-vest and pulled me above the waves. Later, I was told he had been trying to get my attention so I would reach out to him to pull me up, but I was too focused on the waves and not looking up. We can be so focused on not drowning, on keeping ourselves a float that we can forget that our rescue is on God. Maybe you are sailing but you know someone who is sinking, reach out and pull them above the waves.
 
Cassi B
Director of Youth Ministries


The Battle Hymn of the Republic – The Real Story

If you’ve had the opportunity to attend a hymn sing at Forest Hills, odds are you’ve heard me call out the hymn number “717!” at some point. Hymn #717 in the United Methodist Hymnal is The Battle Hymn of the Republic and my favorite hymn in the book. Since I’ve requested it so many times, I thought I might take this opportunity during Pastor David’s sabbatical to explain myself and my apparent obsession (it might seem) with this particular song. The truth? It all began with the American Civil War. Hello, my name is Amanda Lucas and I am a Civil War Nut. There, I’ve admitted it in front of all of you! Actually, the American Civil War (ACW) has been a hobby and area of interest of mine since I was all of seven years old. Maybe even prior to that. It began with paging through books, reading battle maps, and then it progressed to giving “presentations” on some of the major battles to my parents. Around the time I was in fourth grade, my dad took a new position within his company in North Carolina. This began a stint of six years that we lived on the East Coast and the South…right in the thick of where the Civil War took place. While moving more than the average family could have been seen as a terrible thing, it opened up a field of history that we don’t have direct access to here in the state of Minnesota—Civil War battlefields. Our moves blessed us with the opportunity to walk where history happened. Once I set foot on my first battlefield, I knew I was hooked.
 
What is the connection to The Battle Hymn? It is a very interesting story! You may be interested to know that the hymn written by Julia Ward Howe is not the original form of the song. It began as a campfire spiritual in the 1850s called Say, Brothers, Will You Meet Us?, an old Methodist song! In an early show of something going “viral” (other than disease at that point), the song actually was taken up by the followers and supports of John Brown, the abolitionist who attacked Harper’s Ferry and was subsequently executed for his actions. Say, Brothers, Will You Meet Us? then transformed into John Brown’s Body and was used as a rallying cry as the ACW began in earnest. Then, on a November night in 1861, the poet Julia Ward Howe awoke from a deep sleep with the song John Brown’s Body running through her mind. She began to formulate new verses in her mind and she furiously wrote them out. The day before she had toured military camps around Washington DC with her friend Reverend James Freeman Clarke and the Reverend had asked her to pen some new lyrics for the song after singing some of the more irreverent verses. Howe admitted that she had often thought of doing just that. Now the words came to her and she began to form the song we now know as The Battle Hymn of the Republic. The newly formed words were wildly popular and were sung by Union soldiers throughout the war. My love of the song comes from two things: the lyrics themselves and the history involved. The two are tied together, no doubt, as the words of the song can only remind one of the history that was present day for author. Some of the syntax seems a bit odd to us in 2019 but I’d argue it only adds to the weight of the composition.  For example, the use of the word “loosed” in verse one instead of something like “used” is a way we wouldn’t say something now. It might seem a little funny to refer to lightning as being “loosed” but what the word actually means is “released, sent forth, deployed.” It is something much more powerful than simply saying “He hath decided to use the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword.” Albeit, that was a little tongue in cheek, but you understand the meaning. I’m including the lyrics below, read through them and see what stands out to you.
 
Verse 1 Mine eyes have seen the glory Of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage Where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning Of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.
 
Chorus Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.
 
Verse 2
I have seen Him in the watchfires Of a hundred circling camps
They have builded Him an altar In the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence By the dim and flaring lamps;
His day is marching on.
 
Verse 3
He has sounded forth the trumpet That shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men Before His judgement seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him; Be jubilant, my feet;
Our God is marching on.
 
Verse 4
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom That transfigures you and me;
As He died to make men holy, Let us die to make men free;
While God is marching on.  
 
What did you notice? Did any phrases speak to you? Anything make you say “what does that even mean?” Verse two is one that has always stood out for me as far as words painting a picture. You get an exact vision of small campfires dotting the rolling countryside of Virginia, maybe on a wet, misty April night. Small lanterns lighting the Bible’s pages for the soldiers who are off duty, others are gathered around the campfires singing this very song. Quite an image! Which verse speaks to you the most? Beyond the words of The Battle Hymn, the history of the song also really speaks to me. Yeah, I know. A lot of songs we have in our hymnal are old. Ok, maybe that isn’t the word…how about venerable. The difference for me is we know exactly who sang this song, when they did, where they did it, and what they were doing at the time. I think that is amazing! Of course, my extreme interest in the Civil War is key here. If I weren’t such a history nut, I might also wonder why someone like me continuously requests this hymn at Hymn Sings. Although I think that there is another reason why I love this song aside from the lyrics and the history. I believe that The Battle Hymn of the Republic is a great representation of who America is. Yes, there has been war. Yes, we’ve had to set our friends free both in our own country and in others. We’re also a nation founded and rooted in Christian belief. While Christ was born on the other side of the planet from us, He died for us before we were even in existence. Even our Declaration of Independence states that we “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This ties in directly with verse four and our country’s veneration of freedom. Ah! What an amazing song! Even the actual musical arrangement is big, marching, and triumphant. America keeps going forward! I could go on, but I’m guessing you have some other things to get to in your day! Hopefully this blog helped to shed some light on why I always ask for this song and some of the history behind it. Needless to say, when I lead worship again on July 14th we’ll most likely be doing this song. I’ve held off until now, otherwise I’d do it all the time! Thanks for reading, our God is marching on!  
 
Amanda Lucas


Don’t Waste Your Summer

Every summer, I have grand plans to spend it bonding with my family. My ideas are going camping, museums and spending time sowing seeds of faith and wisdom. But, instead I get caught up in schedules, errands and before I know it the summer is over. Then I promise myself next summer I will do better. I will spend more time with my daughter before she goes off to college and we don’t have summers together. 
 
Summer goes so much quicker than we ever expect it too. We start out with the best intentions when our kids are small to use the summer to the best of our abilities, but then life just seems to get in the way. We get sidetracked and we waste the opportunities given to us. Often we as parents forget —God’s given us just 18 summers with our children before they leave home for college. So, don’t waste this precious time. Don’t look back with sadness, and without memories, because those days can’t be done over.
Summers are also a great opportunity to talk about your faith as a family; to let your children see how faith and family are important from one generation to another. Jesus showed us the importance and the impact of spending time together in his relationship with his disciples. He shared life with those twelve who were closest to him. He knew he had just a few short years with them and that he had to make the most of it. 
 
He modeled to his disciples what a mature relationship with God looked like. He taught them how to pray, worship, serve and  live with other Christians. By doing life together the disciples were able to grow in their faith. This idea of making disciples of our children made me rethink how I talk and what I do during these summer days. What do I want my kids to learn before they leave home? What memories do I want them to have? Read more…


 
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