Thursday, March 4, 2021

Love in the Here and Now

 Galatians 4:6-7

Pastor Paul writes, Because you are God’s children, God also sent the Spirit of his Son Jesus into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a child of God...



Is there something inside of you that is crying out to God?  What is your heart searching for?  Are you listening for God’s love?


A couple of days ago, I was feeling pretty exhausted.  It had been a busy day at work, and when I got home, my life got even crazier.  My wife was out so I was trying to feed the kids as fast as possible, clean the house, and try to stop someone from crying every 5 minutes.  It was rough.  Looking back, I know I was trying to do too much.  Finishing work calls, preparing food, and fixing the sink...  When I finally let go of everything else and embraced the moment, the day turned around.  I was able to fully engage with the kids, we sang, laughed, and danced way past bedtime.  Apparently we all needed to feel the devotion and love of another person.  Trying to do everything just left us angry and defeated.


I think we all need unconditional love, but we will rarely make time for this.  We fill our lives with other (less productive) things.  Our scriptures remind us that God’s love is always close by.  God loves us right now.  All we have to do is receive the gift.  


Today I hope that you can all feel a bit of God’s love and devote yourself to this moment… right here and now!


Blessings!


Brian


Thursday, February 18, 2021

What matters most...


How much time do you spend trying to be right?


How much time do you spend asking for forgiveness?


If you’re like me, you spend a lot more time trying to be right and much less saying sorry… I think it is wonderful when we can be correct, and I think we should always do our best to have our facts straight.  However, I know my obsession with being right can easily turn into something unhealthy.  For example, when I find myself arguing with my two year old, it is never a good thing.  In that situation, there is no point in trying to prove who is more logical… I can state what needs to be said, but I also need to let go of my ego. :)


There are also times when I am flat out wrong.  Sometimes there are church members who let me know that I have made a mistake, or my wife will tell me that I have messed up.  Other times my kids can even catch me in an error.  These moments of reflection should be helpful.  These should be the times when I open my heart to bettering myself.  However, I often entrench myself against them, or I will blame someone else for the mistakes I’ve made. 



In our church we have entered into the season of Lent.  This season encourages us to go back and reflect on our lives, and open our hearts to the teachings of Jesus.  It is a time to admit that we do not have all the answers, but we also remember that this was never the most important thing to Jesus.  Christ wants us to see that we are loved.  We don’t need to trample our enemies.  We don’t need to destroy anyone who is different from us.  We need to open our hearts to love.  This means admitting that we are wrong and believing we can be forgiven.


In our sermon series, we are going to take a deeper look at the book of Galatians in the Bible.  This book was originally written as a letter to the church that existed in the ancient city of Galatia, and it offers us an incredible amount of hope.  However, we have to swallow our own ego at times to see it.  


Today I hope we can all hear the message that God is with us.  God loves us and cares for us just as we are.  If we can let this message into our lives, then I believe our need to tear others down will diminish.  Let us embrace God’s gifts today and share the light with the world!


Blessings!



Pastor Brian


Thursday, February 4, 2021

Can you see God?

What trials have you faced recently?


I spoke with a person this week who lost a family member to Covid-19.  It was a heartbreaking story of a tragic battle with the disease, and it ended with the death of a 35 year old.  I also spent some time with a young man who was just trying to find a job in these difficult days.  This individual has been experiencing homelessness, and it seems like everything has gone against him.  I have known this man for quite a while, and I have seen him work incredibly hard, but no matter what he tries, things always seem to fall apart.  I think we all face trials and failures in our lives, and at times it is easy to sink into a spiral of defeat.  I see this particularly when people face grief and hopelessness.  Even people with the greatest potential can lose heart.


This week we are concluding our sermon series on the Book of Esther.  This book is filled with so many trials and questions of faith, and I believe we can use it to reflect on our own lives.  Do we believe we have a calling?  Are we getting so caught up in the world around us that we forget to open our eyes to the love of God?  I really believe that the Book of Esther is all about learning how to see.  Is God here… or not?  


This sermon series has reminded me of another story about a brave woman in the Bible who found her calling.  Her name was Hagar, and she was a slave and a foreigner in the land of Israel.  She and her son had been forgotten by nearly every other human being alive.  However, Hagar has this powerful encounter with the God of Israel in Genesis chapter 16.  Even though she was Egyptian, the God of Israel sees her, calls her, and God gives her hope to keep on living.  In verse 13 she gives the God of Israel a new name:


“You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”


It is an exceptional story to show up in the Old Testament.  God does not just see the people from the land of Israel, which is how every other nation understood their gods at the time.  Here is a God who sees us and teaches us how to see hope. 


Today I am praying for all people.  May we all realize that there is a God who cares for us and sees us.  We are loved.  Let us open our eyes and see it.

Blessings!!


Brian Ward

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Cherish the moment!

who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for a time such as this...

-Esther 4:14


This week in worship we are going to be looking at one of my favorite Bible verses. (Ok, I get that I have a lot of favorite verses… but I really do like this one!)  The book of Esther is the story of a Jewish girl.  In the beginning of the book, Esther seems rather unremarkable.  She lived in exile in a foreign land, and her people were being oppressed by the Persian Empire. In a dramatic change of fortunes, Esther becomes the Queen over the entire land.  If this were a classic fairy tale, the story would end there.  Esther would marry the King and her rags to riches story would be complete.  However, this book is not a fairy tale, and her story was just getting started.  Esther still feels ordinary.  She is still filled with doubts and unbelief.  When her people are in danger, she does not believe she can offer any kind of hope. 


Most of us understand that life is not a fairy tale.  We never reach a point of happily ever after, because we are always plagued by unbelief and failure.  The beauty of the book of Esther is discovering what true hope is all about.  If we find ourselves wishing for the perfect moment, we will wind up wishing our lives away.  Instead, if we recognize that each day is a gift, we will discover what God is really doing.



Personally, I want to start seeing every moment as sacred.  Yes, my kids are going to cry.  I will make mistakes, and sometimes it will look like the world is going to fall apart.  However, God is calling us to cherish this moment.  Let us open our hearts and seize the day!


Blessings!



Brian

Thursday, January 7, 2021

To go beyond our minds...

What is going through your mind today?


In the midst of all that has happened this week:


I know some people who are angry.

I know some people are heartbroken.

I know some people are called to deeper reflection.

And I know some people are searching for others who they can blame.


There are so many people in this world who are in such different places of life. Sometimes I wonder how healing can ever come... How can I move toward the people who see the world so differently than I do? I believe the Bible calls us to reach out in love toward our neighbor, but there are days when I don’t know if this is possible.


In the Gospels, there is a very important word that Jesus uses. In Greek, the word is Metanoia.  It is often translated as “repent” but a better translation is “to change one’s heart” or more directly “to go beyond your mind.”  The word Metanoia is one of the first words that Jesus says in his public ministry. I think it is a call for all of us to look beyond what we already have. We are called to look beyond our tribe and really take the time to get to know our neighbors. Instead of simply seeking the knowledge that will confirm our own biases, let us respond to Christ’s Word with hope and love. Jesus stood against hatred and violence by noticing the humanity in others… even his enemies.




If we choose to really love all people and truly see one another as human beings, then we have the ability to to see a glimpse of God’s Kingdom. Instead of giving in to anger, blame, or heartbreak, let us move toward Christ’s Love. Can we move toward new relationships and new opportunities to get to know others in the hope that Christ will show up? This may not always have the results we want, but I believe we shouldn’t underestimate the small but powerful ways Christ may be working. Let us be a church of peace and hope, NOT a church that blames others. Let us stand against violence by loving our neighbor. Let us see beyond our minds…


In Christ,



Brian Ward


Thursday, December 17, 2020

The Candle of Love

1 Corinthians 13

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing…



This week we will light the fourth candle on the Advent wreath:  the candle of love.  People talk about love all the time.  It fills Bible verses, songs, movies, and almost anything else you can think of.  Sometimes it can seem almost too cliche to talk about.  Even amazing passages from the Bible can start to lose their power.  There are just too many examples of broken relationships, and families and friendships that have lost hope of any kind of reconciliation.  Love seems like a wonderful word, but what power does it really have?


There are moments in my house when the kids are refusing to brush their teeth, put their clothes on, or sit down in their car seats.  I can get pretty exasperated trying to get them to do anything, but they are perfectly happy right where they are.  Perhaps one day they will start to learn how to listen and prepare for the day better.  However, I may be able to learn from them too.  They can appreciate the love and joy right where they are at.  They don’t need too much at all… They can just enjoy the simple things.


Sometimes the greatest gifts that love can share are in the still small moments of life. We do not have to spend our lives chasing after something God has already shared.  The Bible teaches us that love surrounds us right here and right now.  My prayer for all of us is to embrace all the gifts we have.  May we receive the love God has for us with open hearts, and cherish each moment we are in!


Blessings!



Pastor Brian


Thursday, December 3, 2020

Peace on the Advent Journey

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

-John 16:33


The season of Advent is a journey.  Long ago, Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem.  They were not able to take much with them when they set out, and they expected their journey to end with more taxes, more oppression, and more poverty.  However, they did bring several very important gifts with them:  Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.  


Today we still prepare our hearts in this season of Advent.  We may have more wealth and power than Mary and Joseph ever did, but it is also important to ask if we really have what matters?  This week we are taking a look at the spiritual gift of peace.  Jesus never promised to make our lives easy.  However, Jesus did promise to love us in the midst of the tribulations.  Jesus promised to always be present, and if we open ourselves to this love, then I believe we can bring real peace to this world.


Today I hope you can all find a little peace in your hearts, and I hope you can find some way to share this.  Don’t get caught up trying to move mountains or saving the entire planet.  Just ask if there is any way to bring a little peace to your life.


I was taking some time with my family last week, and honestly it was less than peaceful.  Our two year old was refusing to put pants on, and the screaming was getting out of control.  :)  We were setting up our Advent wreath, and it looked a little strange since the candles had sat out in the garage all summer and melted into some pretty weird shapes. (Oops!) However, we wound up just cherishing a few moments of love around the candles.  The boys wound up laughing and playing together, and I saw just a bit of God’s peace that day.  



God is working in this world.  I hope we can all open our hearts and see it!


Blessings!


Brian