Sunday, September 20, 2020

Creation and Fall

Sermon Theme: We tend to be curious about origin stories. They tell us things about ourselves or others in the present. Genesis tells us that humans are here on purpose for good (which is not what we might naturally believe). It also tells us that we have a problem we can't solve (which we also don't seem to believe). Ultimately, though, we aren't even the main characters of the story. God is. And God makes a way in spite of us, for us. And this is why there is hope. 

Reading Theme: This week we will see God’s faithfulness – both to punish sin and to graciously offer mercy and salvation to humanity. 

STUDY THE SCRIPTURE
Click here to access the reading from Genesis 2:4-7 and 

For more help use this Bible Study method

You will find the Sermon Notes for today’s message here.

REFLECTION

How Can I Be More Like Jesus and Less Like Eve?
by Elaine Pierce

Did God really tell you not to eat from any tree in the garden, Eve?  Don't you think you misunderstood? Surely, he wants you to be like him, knowing good and evil?   
Look what pleasures await you: the fruit [where did we get the idea that it was an apple, anyway?] will taste delicious, and it will give you wisdom. Surely God would want you to enjoy his creation? Right? [paraphrasing Satan in Genesis 3]

If only Eve had resisted - we wouldn't be in the mess we're in now, would we?  
Stop for a moment and think about times that you have listened to the serpent instead of to the Holy Spirit. Have you ever cut corners because no one was watching? After all, the rules of the road/workplace/family dynamics were silly in the first place. And, after all, you knew better. After all, no one will ever know--and after all, I deserve this pleasure - it can't possibly be wrong.

We've all done it. We've done it in little ways and in big ways. We're no different from Adam and Eve.

The serpent - Satan - never gives up tempting us. Jesus was tempted [read the story in Matthew 4:1-11] and again, Satan twisted God's word to lure Jesus into sin. But Jesus doesn't betray his Father like Eve did, or like we do. He answered Satan with scripture, and the devil left him.

A key part of our corporate Sunday worship is confessing our sins and receiving Jesus' forgiveness. "As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. " (Psalm 103:12).

Go back for a moment to Adam and Eve in the garden. After they enjoyed the forbidden fruit, their eyes were opened, and they realized they were naked. They hastily sewed fig leaf coverings - they were ashamed. And then they heard God walking in the garden, in this paradise in which they lived, and they hid from him.
Ah, dear friends, let's not hide from God. He will always find us. And he longs to bless us and give us all good things. Let's fall at his feet, confess our sins, and experience his love, his care, and his kindness that knows no end. Jesus paid the price and the way is clear to our Father.

UALC’S CAMPAIGN OF PRAYER - SUNDAY
SCRIPTURES - Pray the Scriptures. Some examples are Psalm 91:1-15 / Psalm 121:5-8 / John 14:27 / Philippians 4:6-7 / 2 Timothy 1:7

Saturday, September 19, 2020

God’s People and God’s Story

We finish our week of studying the “blessings of life together” with a song of praise from the prophetic book of Isaiah. This book is full of hard truths and scary warnings about the consequences of sin and rebellion against God. But here, toward its end, we hear the faith-filled song of a suffering people who have seen God work and trust Him to do it again. As you read and pray today, take time to journal and thank God for all the ways you’ve seen Him at work in the past. Then spend time writing out the ways you desire to see God working in your present and your future. 

STUDY THE SCRIPTURE

Click here to access the reading from Isaiah 63:7-19 

For more help use this Bible Study method

REFLECTION

Where Are You God? 
By Mary McGinnis


Read: 
Corona virus, political upheaval, racial tension, protesting, violence, tropical storms, and wildfires. What do we do at times like this? Times when it feels like there is more and more bad news, unrest, and chaos. It seems like things only seem to be going from bad to worse and there is really no end in sight.

The book Isaiah finds God’s people amid such chaos. They had been invaded by neighboring enemies, defeated, and led into captivity. Their situation kept going from bad to worse.

Today’s reading begins with these words: “I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord. . .” 

The word for “steadfast love” in the original language is the Hebrew word “hesed.” The word “hesed” is used 253 times in the Old Testament and has a much richer meaning than what our English translations can capture. It is sometimes translated as loving kindness, mercy, faithfulness, or unfailing love. God’s “hesed” love is rich in kindness, faithfulness, a dedicated and committed love. It is a love without expectations, regardless of the response, a constant and abiding favor. It is a love that sees the distress of the one loved, and is willing to act on their behalf, no matter the cost.

Amid their distress, God’s people recounted God’s “hesed” love for them. In their vocabulary of praise, they recount His great goodness, His compassion, how He became their Savior, His love, His pity, how He carried them and led them. 
After recalling the faithfulness of God on their behalf, they then bring their raw, honest cries before their God. “Where are your zeal and your might?” and “Return for your servant’s sake.” 

How have you seen God’s “hesed” love revealed in Your life? Take time to journal some memories of when God showed His loving kindness, mercy, and steadfast love to you in tangible ways. Look around you today. How is God’s love being revealed to You right now in your present circumstances? Use Psalm 136 to prompt your writing. 
How does this encourage you even when answers to all the chaos does not seem evident? 

“He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will he not also with Him graciously give us all things? 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:32,35,38-39)

Prayer Practice: Prayer Journaling

Friday, September 18, 2020

Living By the Spirit


Today we read another one of Paul’s letters to the early church. In the first half of the letter to the Romans, Paul deals with the beliefs of these Christians. He corrects their understanding of the Gospel and urges them toward unity together, trusting in Christ alone. Today’s passage comes toward the end of that half – giving the Christians practical direction for what it looks like to live out the Gospel. This passage is full of both warnings and promises. As you read, note these, and ask yourself, “What warning does God have for me today? What promise do I need to be reminded of?

STUDY THE SCRIPTURE

Click here to access the reading from Romans 8:1-17

For more help use this Bible Study method

REFLECTION

Life in the Spirit
By Diane Ward

Jesus promised the Holy Spirit. “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you.” (John 14:18)

Paul opens chapter 8 of Romans with these words of assurance. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” If we are in Christ as true believers, we are not living with a price on our heads. At Calvary God condemned sin on our behalf. (John 3:16) We are empowered to walk in freedom. (John 8:36)

Chronologically, the Spirit’s ministry in earth’s time and space, is staged. First age; God the Father, the law supreme and the Word spoken through prophets, priests, and kings. Second age; God the Son, under grace teaching, healing, dying rising again and glorified. Third age; God the Holy Spirit, the elect, (the called-out people,) the restoration of Paradise and the Holy Spirit’ sanctification through the Church, the Body of Christ.

The mysteries of the Holy Spirit have been revealed to us. “To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27) Daily living in the power of the Spirit is another matter, it is one of discipline and desire at a personal level. 

In submission we humble ourselves unto God, setting our minds on things of the Spirit so that His power is displayed in our lives. (Romans 8:5-8) While we often struggle with sin and a guilty conscience, the Spirit of God is dynamically moving toward abundant life in the Spirit. We must let no inferior presence occupy the place in our hearts where God has staked his claim, a place only he can fill.

“Jesus, without you we are orphaned and lonely, come as our Teacher and Guide. Leave us not comfortless, send us the Comforter, come to our hearts and abide.” (Catherine Marshall, The Helper)

UALC’S CAMPAIGN OF PRAYER - FRIDAY
FAITH - Pray for faith instead of fear, that many would come to faith in Jesus and that we would all trust God more deeply during this time.



Thursday, September 17, 2020

Keeping in step with the Spirit

We continue in the letter to the Galatians, now hearing from Paul as he moves toward the close of His letter. He is instructing the Galatians in how they ought to live out their faith, together, based on the truth of the Gospel. Like in chapter three, Paul contrasts living in step with the Spirit of God and trusting in our own power and abilities. What is God saying to you about keeping in step with the Spirit as you read? 

STUDY THE SCRIPTURE

Click here to access the reading from Galatians 5:16-26

For more help use this Bible Study method

REFLECTION

Keeping in Step with the Spirit
by Kelsey Bacon

I have a funny memory from my teen years of one Sunday when I was the scripture reader in the service. It was Mill Run Xalt at the time, and today's passage was the scripture that I read aloud. I think back and laugh as I remember how embarrassed I was to read out this list of sins in front of the congregation, glossing as quickly as I could over the more mortifying ones. I left the podium with my cheeks burning.

I always remembered that moment and thought it funny, but now as I read this scripture and reflect, I ask myself why I was so embarrassed. It felt shameful to read out those sinful words, for my lips to be associated with them. I felt the weight of those sins in that moment, and I didn't want anyone looking at me while I digested what they meant. It was like a shameful, private moment that everyone was looking in on. And I suppose that's what we're supposed to feel, isn't it? When the devil whispers the lies of guilt and shame into our hearts. Whether your sins are public and exposed or inward and secret, our human instinct is to hide those sins away, to keep our sins locked up where no one can see, where we can be fed by the shame that comes only in the dark.

And that is why there is more to this passage. It doesn't stop with a list of sins, but a way of life that frees us from those sins. To keep in step with the Spirit is freedom, not a burden of perfection. We don't have to try and get all those fruits on our own. They are the products of life with the Spirit, the gifts that grow naturally within us when we surrender ourselves to Jesus. And fruit cannot grow in the dark, where the shame lives. It needs light and water, both of which Jesus provide.

So when we sin, which we will, and we feel the edges of shame--the flush in our cheeks, the creep of darkness trying to kill our hope--we remember the sacrifice of Jesus, and the gift of his Spirit to us, whose purpose it is to guide us and grow us. We are forgiven; we are free.

 UALC’S CAMPAIGN OF PRAYER
 THURSDAY: TRIUMPH 
Pray for scientists all over the world seeking antidotes to heal the world of this virus. Pray they would be triumphant quickly.