Saint Andrew United Methodist Church

1528 Church Road

Toms River NJ 08755

Posted by on Monday, July 31, 2017 @ 12:32 PM

Choose Your Treasure

Posted by on Monday, July 31, 2017 @ 12:31 PM

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it". 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? (Mark 8:34-37)

In the Twilight Zone episode entitled A Nice Place to Visit, which aired in 1960, a bank robber named Rocky is killed by police in a robbery attempt. In the afterlife he finds himself in a place that caters to his every desire,  every luxury, convenience, and entertainment is at his fingertips. Early on, he is ecstatic and wonders how he, a sinner, could've found enough favor with God to end up in Heaven. After awhile, however, Rocky becomes bored and dissatisfied. It seems as though having everything his heart desires just isn't enough to make him happy. In fact, he grows increasingly miserable every day. Finally, at wits end, he asks his host if he can leave 'Heaven' and go 'to the other place'. In a shocking revelation (the likes of which being what made the Twilight Zone series famous) Rocky's host begins to laugh and inform Rocky that he WAS in ‘the other place' and he could never leave.

Certainly a dramatic story...   and certainly a story with a kernel of truth. We've all had the experience of feeling empty and unfulfilled even when we have acquired most everything we could want or need. We' e all spent time, energy, and money buying bigger, better faster, and more things we think will finally bring happiness to our lives only to find out it was just another wild goose chase. After having this experience a few times we would think we would learn our lesson...    but so often we continue to do the same thing: chase after the things our culture (our consumer culture) tells us we must have to be happy like fame, fortune, pleasure, comfort, convenience, etc. The truth is that we can never have life and life to the fullest by living for ourselves. The more we get, the more we have, the more we indulge in, at some point just serves to make us tired, irritable, and feeling empty. We thought we were entering Heaven...    but realized we got caught up in Hell. It's a terrible twist of events.

In the Mark 8, we read of another 'twist' that is counterintuitive to us. Jesus says "For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it". For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? It turns out that the path to true happiness and full life is to give ourselves away to Jesus. If we follow him, do what he did, and live by giving, serving, and generously sacrificing for God and for others we will find true life and true happiness. And this true life and happiness is found even when we don't have a lot of stuff and even when the living and working of life is hard.

On p. 127 of Right Here Right Now Alan Hirsch and Lance Ford they spend some time talking about how the wealth and prosperity of the United States has NOT increased our sense of happiness or well-being. In fact, quite the opposite is true. It seems that the more we get...    the less happy we are. Christians who are everyday missionaries must both themselves overcome the temptation to equate consumption, material possession, wealth, fame, pleasure, comfort, or even safety and security with happiness, and also live in such a way that shows the Jesus lifestyle of giving, serving, and generous sacrifice for God is the path to true happiness even though it is often without material reward.

May you live fully and happily this week as you give yourself away to God in Jesus...    and may your life's example help God set others free.

For more in-depth discussion check out this week's video by the authors Lance Ford and Alan Hirsch Laodicean Cul-de-sacs posted on this blog

Posted by on Monday, July 24, 2017 @ 8:48 AM

Believing Is Doing

Posted by on Monday, July 24, 2017 @ 8:44 AM

James 2: 14-26

1What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill" and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works. Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe and shudder". Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren? Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness┬Ł and he was called the friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.

I am a physical fitness enthusiast! I love running, biking, swimming, lifting weights and many other activities. At my best, I also like eating lots of fruits and vegetables, getting a good night's sleep, and managing a healthy stress-level. The challenge I am always facing is NOT whether I really believe that a good diet, good sleep habits, exercise, and stress-management are good for health and physical fitness, rather, it is whether I am actually DOING it as opposed to just believing in it! Think about it, it is much easier (and a no-brainer) to believe in good health and fitness habits than it is to practice the habits day in and day out. In the end, the proof is in the results, right? If we commit to a year-long daily practice of exercise, good eating and sleeping habits, and stress management we WILL see a trend of increased health, vitality, and fitness both physically and mentally. If we commit to nothing more than the BELIEF that exercise, good eating and sleeping habits, and stress management increases health and vitality we will see nothing.

And, so it is with our faith life. We simply do not grow in our faith and relationship with God unless faith and relationship with God is a PRIORITY that we live and practice every day. It's really that simple...  not easy...   but simple. Our Scripture from James reminds us that even though we don't WORK for God's grace and favor and relationship...   the reality of God's grace and favor and relationship in our lives (if we have made it the priority of our lives) will be evident in our daily life and actions. Many of us try and balance all of our competing personal priorities (career, family, financial security, hobbies, lifestyle, comfort, entertainment, etc.) and faith winds up being just one small piece of many. This would be OK if faith was something we checked off a weekly 'to-do' list, but the Scriptures tell that the daily active life of faith IS in fact the full life God has promised us. It's not just one piece of the way we live our overall lives...   it is the priority that defines our overall lives. It is the principle and practice we live and organize our life around...   faith determines the 'to-do' list.

Our challenge in this is summed up well on p. 115 in Right Here Right Now (I'm paraphrasing the quote from theologian Johann Metz): Are we Christians really changing our hearts, or do we just believe in a change of heart while remaining essentially unchanged ourselves? Are we living as disciples, or do we just believe in discipleship and remain essentially undisciples ourselves? Do we show real love, or do we just believe in love and remain essentially unloving ourselves? How we answer these questions will give us a straight assessment of our current faith commitment. How we courageously live into these answers today will give us a maturing and ever-deepening faith journey tomorrow.

 May you live an active life of faith this week!

Check out Alan Hirsch and Lance Ford's video From Paper to Pavement posted on this blog for more in-depth discussion of this week's principles and practices

Posted by on Wednesday, July 19, 2017 @ 1:32 PM
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