In Sunday’s sermon, we observed that finances can be one of the greatest stressors in our lives. We considered two lessons on the subject from Jesus’ “Parable of the Talents” (Matthew 25):
- Remember who God is — not harsh, judgmental, or demanding. Rather, God is generous and forgiving. God is a God of abundance.
- Remember who you are – you are a steward of the abundant resources of God.
When you feel the anxiety of financial stress, try this exercise: first, acknowledge to God your anxiety. Pray, “Lord, I am feeling vulnerable right now. Grant me strength and courage for the facing of this time.” Then, second, offer gratitude for something specific in your life: “Lord, I give you thanks for ___.” You will find your prayers of confession and gratitude will transform your anxiety into peace.
In Sunday’s sermon, we spent some time thinking about the importance of knowing who you are. As Ron Greer has observed in his book on integrity, “If you know who you are, you’ll know what to do.” We get into trouble when we forget who we are.
- The Bible tells us who we are – In Matthew 16, Simon was given a new name (Peter) and told that he was a piece of the “Rock of Ages.” That is who we are as well. Remember that.
- Jesus also gave Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven – the point of this commission is to unlock heaven’s gates and unleash God’s goodness on earth.
Invitation: In the midst of a tense political climate, episodes of ugly racism and bigotry, and terrible tragedies such as earthquakes and hurricanes, those of us in the church remember who we are and respond by unleashing God’s goodness on earth.
Peter was one of Jesus’ most faithful disciples, yet sometimes he still got it wrong. In Sunday’s scripture, we hear how Peter went from being called the rock on which Jesus would build his church, to a stumbling block when he can’t handle the idea of Jesus facing suffering and death. We are called to take up our cross and follow Jesus, even when we’re facing fear, pain, or uncertainty. Just like Peter, Jesus forgives us when we get it wrong, but we can still put forth our best efforts to be disciples and make disciples by sharing the love of Christ and telling others about our faith. It’s not always easy, but with the strength of Christ we can do hard things.
In Sunday’s sermon, we spent some time thinking about heaven and focused upon two words — hope and home.
- Hope — there is a future aspect of heaven with which we are all familiar (“When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be…”). However, there also is a present aspect to heaven (“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”) We literally pray for heaven to come upon earth, and there are times when our prayers are answered and we catch glimpses of it — in times of worship and especially in times of harmony and joy with others. In these days of cultural upheaval, let us pray more fervently and lean more intentionally into this present aspect.
- Home — heaven is a place that has been prepared for each of us. It is our eternal home, and each of us has a homing device that calls us home. St. Augustine’s words from his Confessions could be translated: “Our hearts are homeless and homesick until they find their home in You.”
Invitation: A place in heaven is prepared for you; there is plenty of room; have you made your reservation?
We live in a world of instant gratification. As a result, we pray to God for the perfect marriage, the perfect job, and the perfect church. However, we often are left disappointed because God is the original “fixer-upper.” God’s grace works in us to restore us to the luster God intended. In response, to the work of God’s grace in us, we are called to participate in the renovation of our lives:
- The demolition phase — remove those things from our lives that hinder the light of Christ from shining upon us
- The restoration phase — engage in those spiritual disciplines that will nurture the seeds of God’s grace planted in us (worship, prayer, study, fasting, and service
Invitation: Look through the attached “Every Member in Ministry” commitment card and find at least one area of the church’s ministry in which to participate. When a critical mass of those in the church come together, speak with one voice, and radiate the love of Christ, attitudes and lives in our world will change. This is why God raised up the people called Methodists. So, let us “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in us.” Amen.
There are two parts to the equation in any relationship: an offer and a response. Justifying grace empowers us respond to God’s offer of love, forgiveness, and a relationship with God in two ways:
- Repentance — John Wesley described repentance as “a change of heart from all sin to all holiness.” What hinders you and distracts you from fully experiencing God’s love and grace?
- Faith — Wesley called faith “an unshaken assent to all that God hath revealed in Scripture.” Belief is a conscious decision to accept that the scriptures are true.
Invitation: We live in a broken world in which there is a gap between God’s intent and reality. Christ has come to close that gap and fulfill our prayer: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Therefore, we in the church must speak out against racism, anti-Semitism, bigotry, and violence. Especially those of us who are white must call our world to repent and believe the Gospel.
We all have a hunger deep inside us that can only be filled by a relationship with God. In our scripture reading (John 1:43-51), we learn two lessons:
- God’s grace is prevenient. It comes to us before we ever do anything to earn it or deserve it. Our past failures do not disqualify us from being a disciple of Jesus Christ.
- When we accept God’s grace, we experience a purpose and meaning in life that empowers us to make a new beginning
Invitation: Once you have experienced the prevenient grace of God in your own life, be willing to share that grace with others who are hungering for that which will satisfy them and fill their soul..
In Psalm 121, the writer admits that his help is from the Lord God, who makes heaven and earth. The writer tells of God’s protective care, and of God’s faithfulness even in the face of evil, and that God will always watch over God’s own.
Today, we, too, can trust this same God to be with us when the storms of life come. Whatever we face in life, whatever comes our way, we can take hope in the truth and the reality that God is with us. God is faithful.
Psalm 100 is filled with joy and thanksgiving. Yet some days it’s a little hard to find that joy on our own. This Psalm reminds us of the importance of belonging to God and of belonging to each other so that we may help one another find joy. We are invited into an active relationship with God through several phrases: make a joyful noise, worship the Lord, come into his presence, know that the Lord is God, enter his gates with thanksgiving, give thanks, and bless his name. Let us find our belonging by actively being the church together with God.
“Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” Voltaire’s quote seems to perfectly sum up Psalm 27 as we’re reminded that even in the midst of our enemies, we can sing praises to God. Instead of turning to weapons, or walls, or words to protect us, let us remember to turn to the Lord as our light and our salvation. Throughout our lives we will have both darkness and light within us, often at the same time. Yet it is the one we give strength to that eventually wins. So let us spend some time in the Psalms, letting their words become familiar to us, so that we may recall them in times of need, crying out to the Lord in fear or in praise. And let us choose light over dark, love over anger, and Christ over everything else.
The reading of the 23rd Psalm is one of the most beloved passages in the entire Bible. I believe its power comes from the hope and comfort it communicates to us as we walk through life’s valleys.
- “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”The psalmist understood that the valleys of life are a given. Life isn’t just enjoying yourself in green pastures, sitting at a feast at the family table, or overflowing cups of blessings. The valleys in life are inevitable.
- The psalmist understood that the valley is not a destination. Rather, it is a passageway that we walk through.
The interesting difference between “though” and “through” is the letter “r,” which in American Sign Language is represented by crossing your fingers. Of course, this sign predates ASL by many centuries. Early Christians used the sign in times of persecution to identify themselves as people of the cross – followers of Christ. We are invited to remember that it is Christ who is with us as we venture into life’s valleys, and it is Christ who enables us to move through them.
You probably know someone who is struggling in a valley this week. Look for a way to offer them an encouraging word. They are not alone. Christ is with them. That word might make all the difference to them.
During this time of the year, we pause to give thanks to God for the blessings of life, honor our veterans, and pray for our nation. As we pray for America, we are encouraged to pray for the heart of our nation to be consistent with the heart of Moses:
- Moses was a man of deep humility and compassion (Numbers 12:3). Our time is a time for humility and compassion. The waters ahead are deep and uncharted. We do not need arrogance or pride. We need quiet humility. May America’s heart be filled with humility and compassion.
- Moses never gave up. In spite of opposition to his leadership and discouragement (Numbers 11:10-16), he persevered – standing up for righteousness, standing up for truth, and resting in the assurance that God was at his side. Our Lord is looking for people who will not grow weary in doing good.In the words of Winston Churchill, I feel we are walking with destiny. All of our past experiences have been preparing us for this hour and this time. God is with us. God encourages us. God leads us. With this in mind, we are ready to pray for our nation and world.
Our scripture lesson for the day invites us to consider an encounter between Abraham and Sarah and the Lord in which the Lord promised them Sarah would bear Abraham a son and they would become the ancestors of many nations (Genesis 18:1-15).
- Abraham and Sarah responded to the Lord’s promise with laughter (after all, they both were in their 90’s!). The Lord asked, “Why did you laugh? Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?” Abraham and Sarah appear to be very faithful and pious, but could it be that their laughter reveals that, while they believe in the Lord, they don’t really believe in his promise to them? They are not “all in.” What about you?
- The Lord told Abraham and Sarah that he would visit them again the next year, and by then Sarah will have given birth to a son. If the Lord were to visit you this time next year, what new blessing would he find in your life?
I hope you will be “all in” with the Lord and that the gift of hope will overflow in your life, enabling you to be a blessing to others.
Richard Rohr describes the mystery of Trinity as The Divine Dance between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, creating new life and transforming the world. God as Trinity is evidence of God’s character and nature as relational community. Being made in God’s image, we are called to be in relationship, we are called to dance, with God and others in life for transformation.
A few key ideas to remember:
- “Mystery isn’t something that you cannot understand – it is something you can endlessly understand! There is no point at which you can say ‘I’ve got it.’ Always and forever, mystery gets you!” – The Divine Dance
- Our tendency is to avoid or protect for the purpose of safety and protection. This indicates a root of fear & brokenness as threat. At the root of God’s being is love, grace, and goodness. Remember those relationships that have changed you.
- Allow the Trinity to be a way of life rather than an idea or just theology – move from information to transformation.
As we go into the world this week, be in relationship. Courageously engage others looking for where God is at work. In the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit, let’s dance!
The work of the Holy Spirit is more inward than outward – the Spirit transforms us from within so we can thrive in the midst of outward struggles. Jesus suggests the Holy Spirit flows out of the believer’s heart like “rivers of living water.” John 7:37-39
Two observations about the work of the Holy Spirit within us:
- The Spirit helps us remember we are the children of God. Sometimes we become distracted or busy and forget, but the Spirit is there to remind us.
- The Spirit inspires us not just to remember but also to act. Humble people, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and full of courage can do great things.
Homework: reflect upon the gifts and abilities God has given you and look for ways to make a difference in the lives of others this week – the life of a child, a youth, a co-worker, a family member, or someone struggling in his or her life. May God bless you as you serve.
As Jesus ascended into heaven, he reminded his disciples that they had witnessed the scripture being fulfilled in his death and resurrection. Now that we have heard the story, let us be witnesses of these thing as well.
- Everyone loves a good story, and the story of Jesus’ life and resurrection is one of the greatest ever lived.
- We are the next generation of disciples, and it is our task to share the message of Christ with others so that the story may continue.
This week, grow in your discipleship by being a witness of the greatest story ever lived: share with a friend why you love PRUMC, invite someone to worship with you, or express the love of God to all you meet.
We are in the season of transitions – graduations, weddings, confirmations, etc. With each of these, the old passes away and something new begins. And that can be a source of anxiety for many, and Jesus understood that. While preparing his disciples for his own departure, Jesus said: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever…” (John 14:16)
- The Advocate the Father sends is one who walks alongside us as a counselor. Do you have someone like that in your life?
- Jesus doesn’t just send us an Advocate. He sends us the Advocate – the Holy Spirit who brings to us an abundant life.
- There is nothing you can say or do to prevent God from loving you.
This week, look for ways to declutter your life and create more room for the Holy Spirit to fill your soul. Exercise your spiritual muscles through worship, prayer, study, and service. You have an Advocate!
The two extremes of emotion that folks tend to experience most on Mother’s Day are gratitude for those who have loved us and shaped our lives and anxiety from the fear of losing those persons. Jesus understood that fear and counseled his disciples: “Let not your hearts be troubled. You believe in God. Believe also in me…” (John 14:1)
In this passage, Jesus invites his disciples to overcome their feelings of anxiety and loneliness by believing in him. We’ve applied that lesson with our children. When a child has separation anxiety, we comfort them, reassure them, and help them learn to trust the ones charged with caring for them. In a similar way, Christ invites his disciples to trust in him for he will watch out for them and eventually bring them to him.
This week, take it upon yourself to look for the anxious, lonely people around you. Offer them a hug, an encouraging word, and the love of God.
On Sunday our choirs led us in worship. We remembered how important praise is to the soul of a Christian. When we praise God, we are filled with a spirit of gratitude, and gratitude leads us to joy. So, if you want more joy in your life, praise God from whom all blessings flow.
These can seem like difficult days in which to live as a Christian. The author of I Peter offers words of encouragement for us (I Peter 2:2-9).
- You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people. Think about that – you are chosen by God to live in relationship with God
- It’s easy to get distracted and forget who you are – forgetting gets us in all kinds of trouble
- John Wesley gave the early Methodists three general rules to help them keep their relationship with God fresh – “do no harm, do good, and attend upon all the ordinances of God”
Begin each day this week with a prayer that resets your life and helps you remember who you are and whose you are. Claim your identity and live as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Sunday’s worship services were led by our Doxology Youth Choir for the very first time! Their presentation of “Celebrate Life!” led us through a musical representation of Jesus’ life and resurrection. Their work was moving and uplifting and reminded us how fortunate we are to have this talented young generation at Peachtree Road.
Matthew’s story of the Resurrection of Jesus contains several unique elements (Matthew 28:1-10):
- An earthquake changed the spiritual landscape of the world forever
- An angel representing the presence of God rolled the stone away and sat on the stone in a demonstration of God’s power
- The response of the women to the empty tomb was one of “fear and great joy” at the same time
Easter invites us to consider the earthquakes that occur in our lives, where we see God showing up, and the times we are missing out on “great joy” because we are paralyzed by fear. Each morning when you get up, recite the words of the “Apostles’ Creed” and claim the power of God in your life.
Two observations from the description of Jesus’ death on the cross (Matthew 27:45-54):
- The church needs to talk more about death in general and Jesus’ death in particular. His life, death, and resurrection place our lives in context.
- Jesus died as he lived – forgiving, caring for others, and thirsting for God. The fact is we all pretty much die as we live. Therefore, the best preparation for dying a Christian death is living a Christian life.
Invitation: Develop the practice of breathing deeply in God’s Spirit and praying this prayer each day: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. Amen”
Three observations from the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-45)
- “Jesus wept.” Since Jesus knows our heartache, he is better able to identify with us and help us.
- “Where have you laid him?” Jesus demonstrates his power by venturing into a cemetery and raising Lazarus.
- “Unbind him and let him loose.” Jesus invites us to participate in his life-changing ministry.
Invitation: Prepare for the nightmares that are to come (and they do come!) by developing the practice of spending time with the one who knows you. Listen to his voice and breathe!
The story of Jesus healing the man born blind (John 9:1-41) is an amazing story about the grace of God that raises these points for consideration:
- Instead of looking for blame, look for God at work in the world.
- The past may describe you, but it does not define you.
- Living in fear does not offer protection. Embrace gratitude and hope – they are the seeds of joy.
The past matters, but it is past. Your fears, regrets, and sorrows only hold you back. Invite faith, gratitude, and hope to travel with you from now on.
Life can be full of disappointments. It often doesn’t turn out as we had hoped. The woman Jesus encountered at Jacob’s well (John 4:5-42) probably felt the same way. Two observations:
- The woman at the well was open to Jesus. So many times we refuse to allow ourselves to be vulnerable to others for fear of being hurt. However, when we are open to God’s Holy Spirit, we place ourselves in a posture to breathe new life.
- Jesus not only talked with the woman at the well but he also saw her. How many hurting people go through life with the feeling they are invisible to God and others? Christ calls us to see one another.
Invitation: As we prepare for our “Great Day of Service” this upcoming Saturday, let us intentionally open ourselves to the blowing of the Holy Spirit in our midst, truly see one another as God sees us, and encourage each other to place our hope and trust in God. In the midst of our failures and disappointments, let us breathe in God’s Spirit.
We all have questions: If God is good, why is there so much evil in the world? If God is all-powerful, why do good people suffer tragedies? We have questions. Three observations:
- God can handle our questions. Our scripture reading for the week (John 3:1-17) reminds us that the best place to take our questions is to Jesus. He can handle both our questions and our doubts. In fact, doubts can be the “air-holes” to faith.
- When Jesus teaches that we must be “born anew,” he is encouraging us to move beyond a philosophy of life based on “do’s” and “don’ts” to a life lived in relationship with Christ.
- There is a difference between saying “I believe” which requires nothing more than intellectual assent and “I believe in you” which requires putting our full faith and trust in someone.
Invitation: Jesus does not offer simplistic answers to our questions, but he does offer to walk with us the journey of our lives. This week, practice a life lived in relationship with Christ. Each morning before your feet hit the floor, recite these words: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16). And breathe this prayer: “Into my heart, into my heart, come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Come in today. Come in to stay. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Amen”
The central word of our scripture reading (Matthew 4:1-11) is “temptation,” and our most basic temptation is the inclination to forget who we are and whose we are.
- Adam and Eve were confronted in the Garden of Eden by the Tempter. They forgot who they were, disbelieved God, and “fell” out of their rightful relationship with God.
- Jesus was confronted by the same Tempter, but he leaned upon the words of assurance in scripture to stand firm in his belief in who he was and whose he was. As a result, he has enabled us to be restored to a right relationship with God.
Invitation: When Martin Luther was under great stress, he would stop what he was doing, take a deep breath, and say to himself, “Martin, be calm, you are baptized.” In a similar way, when temptation comes your way in the coming days, reflect upon the words of assurance from scripture and remember who you are and whose you are. Breathe!
In the Transfiguration story from Matthew’s Gospel (Matt. 17:1-9), we hear words of instruction, encouragement, and assurance from the Lord:
- “Listen to him” – learn to hear the voice of the Lord among all the other voices
- “Get up” – the word Matthew uses here is the same word used to describe Jesus’ resurrection; therefore, we are invited to “be raised up” and not wallow in pity
- “Do not be afraid” – Jesus not only speaks this word but also touches us to empower us to stand against our fears
Invitation: As the season of Lent begins, you are invited to listen to Christ by developing the daily practice of reading scripture (read through the Gospels this season by reading two chapters each day) and weekly worship; hearing the Lord’s call to action in outreach by signing up for the Great Day of Service; and casting aside your fears, for the Lord is with you and empowers you. Trust God in this!
Two observations about Jesus’ command to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect:”
- Jesus is not insisting that we always “get it right” and live mistake – free lives.
- Jesus is teaching us about how to live in relationship with one another- teaching us to think, speak, and act the way God thinks, speaks, and acts – offering compassion toward all people.
Invitation: Think of someone with whom you are in conflict. Empathize with that person. Pray for that person daily this week.
- In a garden, one person may plant, another fertilizes, and still another waters, but they all have a common purpose. Step back and reflect upon how that also is true in the church.
- What are the distractions that prevent you from being a servant of Christ? Remove them!
- As a church let us “Rise up” and look for ways to bring people together.
- Finally, sign up this week for the 25th Annual Great Day of Service.
On Sunday morning, every generation of Peachtree Road showed up to show pride in our Student Ministry. This incredible, thriving ministry was represented by over 180 students, with 9 seniors sharing how PRUMC has impacted their lives. Through word and song our youth expressed great gratitude for the support and community of their church. The blessings of a strong church community and the seeds sown within should never be taken for granted. Next Sunday, look around at the generations of Peachtree Road, think about what they mean to you and experience the joy that comes with being a part of it all.
Have you ever felt that your attitude has brought you down or held you back? Many of us can point to a time when we experienced the truth of this. But how can we change and develop a holy attitude that is consistent with Christ’s desire for our lives?
Bill left us with four ways to work toward this goal:
- Read the Beatitudes – Matthew 5:1-12
- Live in the present.
- Allow yourself to be led by the Holy Spirit.
- Find ways to be a blessing to others.
Last Sunday we rose up as a city to cheer on the Falcons and now celebrate together as we prepare to head to Superbowl LI! But our rising together didn’t stop (or begin) with the game. We rose for our church as we stood together in worship and heard Bill’s message on following Jesus and His calling for our lives. We rose for our world community as 200+ gathered in Grace Hall to pack 15,000 food bags, which will feed over 90,000 people facing hunger around the world. And we’ll continue to rise each week as we worship and fellowship as a church family and serve one another and our community in Christ.
This Sunday, our message was “Plug into the Spirit” as we focused on the baptism of Jesus and the importance of the Holy Spirit in our lives. At the close of worship, we approached the font, touched the water, and remembered our baptisms. Each year, this service helps us create a wonderful new beginning.
Christmas Eve is one of the most beautiful and holy moments we experience together. Whether it’s the high energy and joyful participation during the family services, or the stunning music, prayers, and candlelight at the traditional services, there is something about worshiping together that fills us all with wonder and awe at the birth of a babe who would change the world forever.
From the assurance of God’s grace at Communion, to the sparkle in each child’s eye as they sing a joyful noise, may we all be filled with the Holy Spirit and feel the peace of the season within us all. As we spread the light of Christ from one candle to another, let us remember that Christ was sent into the world as the light of the world that no darkness can overcome.