Pastor’s Pen 3.28.2020

By | Events, Pastor's Pen

Pastor’s Pen 3.28.2020

Pastor Doug Smith

Pastor Doug Smith

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Through the Wilderness to the Light

At 8:00  on Sunday, March 22nd, I sat in the empty Sanctuary of our church; the lights and heat were off but I was strangely warmed by a sense of the presence of God and the church who were in prayer with me. Shortly after the beginning of the second hour of prayer, I began to think of the darkness Jesus’ followers  must have felt as the religious landscape around him began to shift.

Throughout his ministry there existed a measure of confrontation with the Pharisees.  Jesus walked among them in Galilee and by and large he was able to move and minister freely. Once Jesus turns toward Jerusalem, however, the moderate confrontation with the Pharisees morphed into high level hostility with the religious leaders of Judaism. Nowhere is this shift seen more clearly than in the Gospel of John. Jesus did teach in the Temple, but he was protected by the masses of whom the leaders were afraid.

The first hint of a darkening outlook for the ministry of Jesus actually came when Jesus told the Disciples he was going to Jerusalem.  Peter demurred, suggesting such a move was not advisable. Peter was actually very astute. On some level he knew that nothing but darkness lie in the direction of Jerusalem. Jesus rounded on Peter, because Jesus knew there was no way to the light of salvation without walking into and through the darkness that lay ahead of him.

It is that same terrible darkness that accompanied all the visitors to Jesus’ tomb (but particularly the women) on that first Easter Sunday morning. It was the deepest kind of darkness that completely obscured sight and sucked the air from their lungs. The walk toward the tomb was surreal.  Just weeks before they had been filled with a sense of hope that things were really going to get better. Then a betrayal, an arrest, a trial, a crucifixion and a death. The darkness had closed in and it was tight and complete.

And then, in an instant, the darkness is dispelled by the blinding light of the resurrected Jesus with the calm call, “Mary.” We don’t often think about it but the light of Jesus is made even more brilliant because of the depth of darkness through which Mary and the rest of the Disciples had walked. In part, this is because in the darkness Mary and the rest of the believers saw themselves for the lost souls that they were.

In many ways Lent is designed to make us walk through the darkness of our inner being so that we might more clearly see and more deeply appreciate the light of eternal life. As I sat in the darkened Sanctuary on a Sunday morning it occurred to me that this entire 40 days of Lent has been covered with the darkness of a growing pandemic. We saw the shadow on Ash Wednesday as the coronavirus exploded in China and had already spread to several other countries. And now the darkness of a serious virus has covered all of us, causing panic in some and serious worry in most others.

It occurred to me that perhaps for the first time in our life we may actually have a visceral understanding of the darkness that hung over the followers of Jesus as they approached that first Easter morning. Life right now seems surreal, as if we are walking around in a dream, or rather a nightmare; not sure if we will wake tomorrow to life as normal or to the news that a loved one died from this virus. This is a staggering darkness that causes us to ask the existential question, “Where is God?”

Like the original followers this is the kind of darkness where we truly see ourselves for who we are and know intuitively that we are lost without Jesus. This is the kind of darkness that causes us to know how deeply we need the light of Christ. Most of the time we actually avoid this dark place, but as Noah floated on the deep for 40 days and nights; as Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years; and as Jesus faced the devil in the wilderness for 40 days; we too must walk right through the valley of darkness to see the light of Christ. After all, Noah came to a deeper appreciation of the goodness of God; the children of Israel grew into the people of God; and Jesus defeated evil. If we are serious about our walk, the darkness is to the soul as a wet stone is to the knife; it sharpens the senses, it turns dullness in to a clear focus on our Redeemer.

Perhaps our present darkness will lead us to a much deeper appreciation for the gift that is Easter!

3-26-2020

By | Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday 3-26-2020

Thankful Thursday finds me pausing to remember who God is. He is the great I AM. The Alpha and Omega. He has and continues to create the world and each and every human in it.

He offers each of us the gift of salvation. And calls us each to live into the gifts with which He has blessed us. When we choose to act aligned with His will, we fulfill and obey both the greatest and the second commandments:

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” ~Matthew 22: 38-40 Read the full chapter here.

 

Looking at who God is, who we are in relation to Him, and the gifts given to us and those around us, I give Him praise! He is bigger than the virus that is currently in this world. Medical personnel, the medical supply chain support, grocery store workers, and the food supply change support currently live into their gifts to care for our world. So much love being lived out today!

The gift of time lays before those of us not in these fields. I invite you to live out love as you stay at home and use that time to lift others in prayer, explore gifts and interests you put to the side when too busy with life, and simply be still. When we try these other options, we observe new perspectives. Praise God!

Blessings to you!

3-26-2020 Experience Opportunities:

All are invited to online worship this Sunday at 8:00, 9:15, or 10:30 AM. If you would like to know more about these services, click here. Or want to revisit a message that really spoke to you? Check out our Sunday Sermons. Currently, we will also be having the Wednesday evening Lenten services posted to our YouTube channel.

Wednesdays Be In the Light Activities at Gravel Hill are currently canceled; however, look for worship services online on our Sunday Sermon page. Lent occurs now through Easter, April 12.

During this new normal, you can also look for Facebook A Moment To Praise posts from our worship leader, Joyce. You can search for our page by typing: Gravel Hill Church beside the magnifying glass. She will be sharing a small devotional, scripture, and worship song.

Weekly Wink 3.25.20

By | Weekly Wink
Weekly Wink 3.25.20

Virus notice

Tonight (3.25.20):

Service is available online.

Weekly Wink 3.25.20 Ahead:

Mar. 29: Sunday 8:00, 9:15, & 10:30 AM Worship (Sanctuary) Service will be available online under our Sunday Sermons. Sunday bulletin (Hill Highlights) via email – sign up here.

SS Refresher Flyer

Postponed: Safe Sanctuaries Refresher Training (Heritage Room) Please sign up at the Welcome Center.

Tuesday 9:15 AM Ladies Bible Study (Room 201) continues its study of Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer. Returns April 21.

On the Horizon:

Apr. 18: Saturday 9 AM Gravel Hill Spring 5K See details by clicking here

Apr. 18: Saturday 4-7 PM Pot Pie Dinner (Fellowship Hall) Youth Group Fundraiser. Take our orders can be placed at the Welcome Center or online here.

Postponed: Safe Sanctuaries FULL Training (Heritage Room)

Ongoing Opportunities

Gift Shopping Made Easy! You can shop for gift cards and benefit Gravel Hill. Purchases support the off-site Ministry Fund. Learn more about Gravel Hill’s Scrip Program by clicking here. You can start shopping now. Create username and password. Gravel Hill’s Enrollment Code is: 21L936DB32931.

Order in person at the Welcome Center on Sunday mornings from 10-10:25 AM and after 11:15 AM. Or complete a Welcome Center order form and place it with your check in the provided envelope into Tony’s mailbox (next to the elevator). Orders placed on Sunday will be available by Thursday or the following Sunday for pick up.

Have questions? Please contact Tony.

A Moment To Praise For Kids 3.24.20

By | A Moment To Praise
A Moment To Praise For Kids 3.24.20

Hi kids (and parents too!) –

Checking in this week with a funny little picture of my current house guest! She’s my daughter and son in law’s parrot, a sweet little green cheeked conure, named Sammy!

Now, Sammy likes to get into mischief. All of the time – including in this picture where I caught her red-handed with a piece of the puzzle we were working on. Usually when this happens, she tries to eat whatever she’s taken or she tries to fly back to her cage carrying her prize! The funny thing with the puzzle piece was that she wasn’t trying to fly away with it or even nibble on it. It was like she knew what we were doing and she was trying to lend a hand, or a wing, or a talon…I guess that’s what her little feet are called! 🙂

This makes me think about what God desires from us. He asks us to use our talents in a way that will be helpful to everyone and to glorify Him. Mostly, He asks us to do all of this in unity, or with kindness to one another.  Not all of us have the same gifts or abilities, but we can do our part and be grateful when others chip in to help.  Just like Sammy was trying to do.

A Moment To Praise For Kids 3.24.20 in Scripture

Click on this scripture and see what God says to all of us when it comes to working together.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+133%3A1&version=GW

A Moment To Praise For Kids 3.24.20 in Song

Last week in church we would have sung a song called Let’s Get A Little Crazy! I thought I would include that with our devotion today.

The first line says:

Yea, we’re all in this together and we’re having fun!

We’re here to spread the love of God to everyone…

Make sure you’re having fun! Work together in your family. Make sure you’re being kind. And make sure you’re spreading God’s love any way you can.  Draw a picture and email them to relatives, make phone calls, FaceTime with friends.  Think of some things to do and step out in faith and do them. Until next week, I expect you to get a little crazy for God!

Click below for “Let’s Get A Little Crazy!”

https://youtu.be/FnMo6OE1s5o

A Moment To Praise For Kids 3.24.20 Learn More

Click below if you want to learn more about green cheeked conures like Sammy!

https://lafeber.com/pet-birds/species/green-cheeked-conure/

A Moment To Praise 3.23.20

By | A Moment To Praise
A Moment To Praise 3.23.20

A Moment To Praise 3.23.20

Hi Everyone!

Do you have a moment to praise with me today?  I sure hope so!

Hope that your weekend was blessed and that you are all healthy and coping as best as can be expected! I am praying for you all daily!

I have seen so many people on social media or the television say that they are tired of this.  I’ve said it myself, “I can’t wait until this is over!” You know, I have had a little rant about it, a little pity party for myself! Can any of you relate? Where can I go for refreshing news or thoughts? Where can I go when I’m spent, exhausted, or tired?

Forgive me while I digress for a moment. The phrase “I’m tired!” always makes me giggle to myself. Let me explain. As some of you know, I lead the littlest of worshipers at Gravel Hill in the Kidz Choir. We practice weekly and it’s usually a fun, raucous time;  that is until we get to the serious stuff of rehearsing! Then the moans and groans start. What do I hear the most? I hear complaints of “…but Miss Joyce, I’m too tired to stand up!” Of course I and my helpers always make a joke about them being “oh so tired” and move on with the practice.  But secretly, I must admit that some days, I feel exactly the same way…tired!

A Moment To Praise 3.23.20 in Scripture

Scripture expresses to us that this is not a foreign emotion for those of us living in this world or even those living centuries before us. Let me share with you Jesus’ words about this very feeling:

(click the scripture below)

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+11%3A28&version=CEV

Jesus says to give our burdens over to Him and He will give us rest. Physical rest? Maybe. Emotional rest? Certainly. Let’s take our concerns, our fears, our anxieties and the like and turn them over to Him.  Speak it out loud and call upon His name! Lay them all down at His feet. He promises rest, as well as peace!

A Moment To Praise 3.23.20 in Prayer

Jesus,

You are the River of Life. Your peace and calm flows freely from You to all who ask. Your mercy gives us strength and courage through all of life’s storms, trials and tribulations.  We come before You today, laying down all that is troubling our minds and souls. We humbly ask for You to take these things, and through Your grace, grant peace to all of us. Thank you, Lord Jesus. Amen.

A Moment To Praise 3.23.20 in Song

Click the link below to listen to the scripture in song. As you listen to the words and sing along, I hope you can feel and know that you are loved by a God who has no weakness. No limits. Only strength and love for you!

https://youtu.be/9Rrcnj1gf7I

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