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by John Weston | September 12, 2018
Come on the Journey
Mark 10:21b "You lack only one thing," he told him. "Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
The gospels tell us that this promising young man did neither of those two things and missed out on something big. But not everyone missed out. Jesus didn't just ask people to believe in him and then go on their way; he challenged them to linger and even help with his ministry as they literally journeyed throughout their homeland and even outside its borders. For Jesus' core disciples, those men and women got to drink in not just Jesus' opinion about the scriptures or the traditions that Jews held in such high importance: they came away with a worldview and that was strong enough and foundational enough to go on to change that very same world.
The United Methodist Church is in crisis and at the end of February, 2019, we will come to a decision point as a denomination. We at SUMC are not burying our heads in the sand. We are staying the course and going on a journey together. Whatever happens, our local church will continue. This past Sunday we took our first step into understanding what the United Methodist Church says it believes on paper. This fall we will examine core beliefs of Christianity and how they affect our lives including our involvement in current day American culture. What do you believe? What difference does it make? What is church really about? You will remember why you love Jesus or come to know him for the first time personally.
Here's what you can do:
Attend worship each week and take in the teaching.
Be a part of a small group that is going through “A Firm Foundation.” There are two sections open Sunday mornings at 9:15!
Visit the website at least monthly for upcoming sermon scriptures so you can read ahead and start collecting your own thoughts.
Pray for SUMC and for the United Methodist Church.
Support each other. It's easier to bond with other believers when you know what really matters.
This is where the faithful are reminded, where the skeptical are thoughtfully answered, and where guests are offered a place in the church which spans nearly two millennia. It's not about listening to a few sermons or going to one class for a few weeks. It's the process. It's serving Jesus. It's loving people. It's living his word. It's the community of everyday saints doing normal things with supernatural help. Come on the journey.
August 29, 2018
A Firm Foundation
(hope and vision for a new Methodist future)
Our Basic Christian Beliefs
If you have not already joined a group to study A Firm Foundation, you are invited to join any of the groups listed below. Our entire church is encouraged to join one of the groups in order to be best prepared for whatever decision will be made in February at the special General Conference concerning the future of the UMC.
Another benefit of the study is that we will all be encouraged to deepen our faith and clarify what we believe and how to best live out those beliefs. We will also be better equipped to discuss and explain Christianity to those who are not yet committed to Christ.
Books for the study will be supplied by SUMC at no cost to you. You will receive your book at the first class.
See or call Jan Rosas (3600 698-4678) or Fran Donaldson (360 710-9654) for more information or for answers to any questions you might have.
SUNDAY – Grant Bosshart – Class begins at 9:15 – 10:15 on Sept. 16, 2018 in room 104. Grant can be reached at 360 286-5368.
Kathy Cosner – Class begins at 9:15 – 10:15 on Oct. 7, 2018 in room 102(Library). Kathy can be reached at 360 286-7350.
Nitz Arcega – Nitz will be leading class in her home on Sundays. She has not yet set a time or beginning date. Nitz can be reached at 360 271-3595.
MONDAY – Jan Rosas – The Monday night group will start on Sept. 10 with a potluck at 5:30-8:00. Group will meet on the following Monday nights from 6:30-8:30 in the Emma Linn Room at SUMC. This study session will be held from Sept. 10 through Nov. 5, 2018.
TUESDAY – Jan Rosas – The Tuesday women’s group will meet from 10-12 noon in Room 104 at SUMC. The study session will be held from Sept. 11 through Dec. 11, 2018.
WEDNESDAY – Carol Frost – This group is beginning on Sept. 5, 2018 in the evening at Carol’s house from 6:30-8:00. Carol can be reached at 360 692-6080.
THURSDAY – Jan Rosas – The Thursday women’s group will meet from 10-12 noon in Room 104 at SUMC. This study session will be held from Sept. 13 through Dec. 13, 2018.
by John Weston | August 15, 2018
Do you like knowing how to do things? I was doing some maintenance on the parsonage a year ago and needed to use an extension ladder. Before going up, I thought, “The church wouldn't appreciate having an interim pastor for six months while I recover from a bad fall,” so I got on YouTube and spent a few minutes learning how to best handle a ladder from some experts. The gutters are cleaned out and I am in one piece two years in a row now. Don't you love learning from people who are really good at a particular thing? Young people today call skills and tricks that make your life better “life hacks.” A “hack” in the computer world is breaking into someone else's data and using it for your purposes. But a “life hack” is using someone else's wisdom or learning to make your life better. Life hacks are usually concise and don't take much time to pick up.
Tomorrow evening, Wind of the Spirit ministries will be offering more than just a “life hack” or two; they will give basic, easy-to-use training on healing prayer that is geared for all Christians. The Apostle Paul tells the churches of the region around Ephesus what job #1 is for pastors:
Ephesians 4:11-13 11 He [Jesus] is the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ, 13 until we come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature and full grown in the Lord, measuring up to the full stature of Christ.
Church leaders are supposed to train. Christians are supposed to get equipped and then go out into the world and be Christians in it doing Christian stuff around non-Christians. Wind of the Spirit Ministries is headed up by Bob & Tracy Martello who have been a part of Silverdale United for a lot of years. If you haven't taken advantage of a WOSM training event, you're missing out on the best we have to offer. The Martellos and the rest of WOSM have been equipping in a way that does not feel like a theoretical aerospace physics lecture. You get to try out what you're taught as part of the teaching. It's safe, hands on, and full of the Holy Spirit's power. He is the one who makes it all work in the first place.
Sunday mornings is just a starting place. Get equipped to go out and be Jesus for people who are living in darkness and bondage—people who are ready to be set free. Sound totally out of your league? It is. But not with God working in you.
2 Corinthians 4:7 But this precious treasure-- this light and power that now shine within us-- is held in perishable containers, that is, in our weak bodies. So everyone can see that our glorious power is from God and is not our own.
If you want to try and get in on this week's Healing Seminar Thursday evening, August 16th through Saturday morning, August 18th, please call 360-692-9813 between 9:00 a.m. and noon and ask for WOSM.
by John Weston | August 8, 2018
Billy Graham sought to impact America for Christ. Millions of believers in the U. S. credit him as being an important part of God reaching them and putting them on the right track to salvation. Especially in the early days, there had to have been religious people who frowned on his activities as being undignified: meeting in tents or movie theaters or parks or anywhere people would come and hear the good news of Jesus. Why would a true man of God preach outside of a church building? Probably because it has been done for centuries (it took John Wesley a while to warm up to it), and because Jesus himself favored ministry outside of formal settings. I think Graham wanted settings where people would come who otherwise might not show up in a religious facility. He wanted people to “come as you are.” Graham's favorite hymn to be at the end of his services was “Just As I Am Without One Plea.” He wanted to cut through the layers of religious ritual that can sometimes insulate souls from the living God and help people engage with God personally.
Graham's strategy comes right of Jesus' playbook. Jesus was not nearly as interested in trying to convince deeply entrenched religious stuffed shirts of their need for God's forgiveness as he was making on-ramps to faith for people who thought they didn't matter, didn't measure up, or would never fit in with “the religious crowd.” After reaching out to a well-to-do, but hated chief tax collector, Jesus defends himself succinctly:
Luke 19:9-10 9 Jesus responded, "Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a son of Abraham. 10 And I, the Son of Man, have come to seek and save those like him who are lost."
When Jesus engages with Zacchaeus, it was not in a synagogue. Jesus invites himself over to the man's home, who then throws a party for Jesus and invites his non-religious friends to attend. Many “good Jews” in that day couldn't understand why Jesus would conduct his ministry outside of the box with “those kind of people.” But Jesus' followers have been breaking out and innovating to make those connections for centuries since.
Dr. Graham's legacy continues, and we all have a chance to participate this Sunday night. Rev. Dr. Franklin Graham, one of Billy Graham's sons, will be sharing a message after an evening of worship at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma this Sunday.
Schedule, Sunday Night, August 12
6:00: Leave from SUMC (caravan, church shuttle van)
7:00: Arrive @ Cheney Sadium, set up
7:30: Worship Begins led by Jeremy Camp
The event will be in the parking lot: bring camp chairs, blankets, snacks, and water, and be ready for a great evening of worship and a message of hope for all of us, especially for friends who are far from God.
by John Weston | July 12, 2018
By John Weston
I sound like a frog.
I just got back from three nights at Camp Indianola working with a group of overnight campers and a group of day campers and I love that no matter how much things change in our society, and no matter how many times I've worked with kids in a camp setting, kids are still kids. We sang songs older than me VERY loudly. We played “Eagle's Nest,” which is like “Capture the Flag,” except that each team is trying to steal “egg” basketballs from each other's side of the play field instead of a towel or a sheet: we decided to play adults vs. kids. The kids cleaned our clocks. We went swimming in Puget Sound TWICE in one day. I have so many mosquito bites, people are asking me what went wrong with the tattoos on my legs. I don't have tattoos on my legs. We ran. We yelled. I had kids try to attach themselves to my feet. The first two days of camp I had over 20,000 steps. Why all this effort? Camp plants seeds.
When kids are around Christians who treat them right, it sends powerful messages that go deep inside them. John Mark's family regularly hosted prayer meetings in the Jerusalem Church in the early days (Acts 12). Luke tells us that when God springs Peter from jail that he goes to their house where there happens to be a prayer meeting in progress. I have a suspicion that John Mark's family's home was a regular meeting place for believers even before Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead. In Mark's gospel there is a curious note in the scene where Jesus is arrested in the middle of the night at the Garden of Gethsemene:
Mark 14:51-52 51 There was a young man following along behind, clothed only in a linen nightshirt. When the mob tried to grab him, 52 they tore off his clothes, but he escaped and ran away naked.
I believe this is Mark's signature: HE was the youth who was out that night, either hanging close to Jesus and the disciples or following them because he was worried. Mark wasn't a major player in those early days, but years later he is one of the first of the next generation to be tapped to accompany Paul and Barnabas on the first official mission trip from the church in Antioch.
One measure of a church's vitality and passion for the Lord is how well they craft spaces in ministry for the next generation. You want to help carry that torch? Contact the office (360-692-9813 or email@example.com) about becoming a part of the nursery team, the kids church team, or working with youth. We screen our leaders for safety, but it's an easy process, and well worth it.
And you probably will not get dunked in Puget Sound and lose your voice.
by John Weston | June 28, 2018
One of the most endearing and generous apostles of the early church was Barnabas. His real name was Joseph but he had such a good attitude and was so good with people that he became known by his nickname, “Son of Encouragement,” which sounds awkward in English, but in Aramaic it was “Barnabas.” We first hear about him because he had financial resources that God moved him to donate to the church:
Acts 4:36-37 36 For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means "Son of Encouragement"). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus. 37 He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles for those in need.
Not everyone had real estate they could donate to the church. But it was one way that people like Barnabas could help out.
In August, Silverdale United is hosting a Camp Indianola Day Camp on site here in Silverdale, August 20-24. Elementary school age kids will be doing a full day of camp led by Camp Indianola Staff and volunteers from SUMC from 8:00 in the morning until 4:45 in the afternoon each day. There will be music, games (including water olympics), lunch, snacks, and Bible learning—just like sending them to camp, but at a fraction of the cost. To help those families that cannot afford the already discounted rate of $110 per child, would you donate $60 so a kid can get registered for $50? For more information on Day Camp 2018, visit: http://campindianola.org/daycamp/.
This will bless our kids and we promise not to give you a weird nickname.
by John Weston | June 20, 2018
Photo caption: Jeanine Hurst and Danielle Bergquist were part of SUMC's group attending the Boomtown Fireworks demo night June 15th in Seabeck.
Find excuses to talk to people. People generally love that you are interested in their lives, and it presents an opportunity for them to hear about your life...and Jesus. Luke tells us about Philip, one of the defacto apostles who probably didn't know he was going to be a church planter, but ended up doing it anyway in Samaria. Philip started out working in the New Church Jerusalem's food bank. But when persecution arose, he and a lot of other Christians got out of town. After Philip plants a church in the most hated district of the region, God takes him out to a highway. A financial officer from Ethiopia comes riding along in a large chariot:
Acts 8:29-30 29 The Holy Spirit said to Philip, "Go over and walk along beside the carriage." 30 Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah; so he asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?"
Do you see what Philip does? He is obedient to the Holy Spirit and quickly finds an excuse to start talking with the Ethiopian. Philip leverages his knowledge of the scriptures to start talking with the man and tell him about Jesus. Philip is then invited to travel with the man, and before the day is over, the Ethiopian becomes a Christian and is baptized.
Next week, we are providing plenty of excuses for you to talk with people. Come help us sell fireworks June 28 through July 4th. Contact Rick Lee (360-509-9195) or Gloria Lee (360-509-9105) to get signed up for your shift. Each hour you work will provide not only funding for missions here in Silverdale and abroad, but you will have brief windows of time to connect with community members and even talk about Jesus.
by John Weston | May 30, 2018
My Sophomore year of college, I was in my dorm room one night, headphones on, writing in my journal. It was fall. And suddenly, I wanted M&Ms. I got out of chair, grabbed my wallet, left my room, walked downstairs and made a beeline across campus, and then off campus to the Rose Street Safeway store where I bought a pound of Peanut M&Ms, walked back, put my headphones back on, and then proceeded to open the bag. I threw one into my mouth, then set the bag aside. Five minutes passed. I took another. Three minutes passed. And another. Over the next two hours, over half the bag was gone. I knew that even M&Ms with peanuts in them weren't good for me in large quantities. I didn't finish the bag that night, but it took everything in me to make the bag last the week. I felt out of control.
The Holy Spirit comes into our lives and helps us give control to God. I say “give,” because God never fully runs us around like a remote control car. There is always an element of cooperation when we are behaving the way God desires (even for resisting one of the greatest candies ever invented), but for people to act truly good, we need God's power to do it. Christians for centuries have given this the name “sanctification.” The idea is this: something that is made holy—set apart for God's use—is becoming sanctified, just like a room set part for God's use is called a “sanctuary.” But God is far less concerned about how a room is respected than he is how we as his people behave. Godly people, not buildings, are what God truly desires. And he does that by giving us the Holy Spirit.
In his sermon, “Justification by Faith,” John Wesley, starts with a statement by Paul early on in Romans:
Romans 4:5 5 But people are declared righteous because of their faith, not because of their work.
All people are intrinsically flawed and estranged from God, requiring each of us to receive forgiveness through the cross of Jesus. New Living Translation says “declared righteous,” but the King James Version reads “justified.” This is all about God forgiving our sins and no longer holding them against us, or “justification.” But God does much more than simply forgiving us: he moves in. We are not forgiven, and then told to stand in the corner so we don't mess up the world with the rest of our lives or heaven in the one to come; we are made part of God's family. We become his children. And this transformation happens through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.
In one of the most fascinating and memorable stories in the gospels, John tells us that Jesus is visited one evening by a religious scholar and politician named Nicodemus. Nicodemus is one of the highest ranking and most influential Jews of his time. He is both a Pharisee, a sect known for their devotion to the scriptures and to holiness traditions of the Jewish people, and a member of the Sanhedrin, the highest governing body over the Jewish people, second only to Rome and its representatives. Nicodemus is cautious and curious. Jesus tells him:
John 3:6-7 6 Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives new life from heaven. 7 So don't be surprised at my statement that you must be born again.
John Wesley talks about this in his sermon entitled, “The New Birth.” The gist of it is this: God doesn't simply forgive us for being bad people; he gives us the Holy Spirit and makes us into good people. And the reason we become good is because the Holy Spirit STAYS with us, inside us, continually working, continually linking us to God. Wesley uses the metaphor of breathing, that God is breathing into us, enabling us to breathe back into God.
Being born again is essential. Jesus makes this clear to Nicodemus. But it is something that God does, not us. We can observe it. We can see signs of it. But we can't make it happen. We can't do it. It is all God happening inside each of us. Baptism celebrates it by using physical water applied externally. But only God can make us truly new.
Early Methodists spent a lot of time thinking about talking about this reality. It drove them in their mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ: producing Christians who were doing good deeds out of an overflow of joy and gratitude aimed at God. Sanctification is a process that starts with the first moment of saving faith and ends when we stand before God in heaven, forgiven, judged, and left to stand before One who will embrace each of us and welcome each of us as our Father.
by John Weston | May 23, 2018
Justification in popular American culture today is almost portrayed as a vice. All of us try to justify our actions, even when we know we are veering off target or even when we are out-right sinning. Have you ever heard politically-motivated leaders say, “The ends justify the means?” Spooky! But for those of us adopted into God's family through the blood of Jesus Christ, the term “justification” has an entirely different sense, and one that is critical for understanding just how it is that we have faith that saves us.
When each of us experiences spiritual “justification,” we are each experiencing the forgiveness of God through faith in his Son who died for us all. John Wesley and the early Methodists understood this to be a core and pivotal doctrine of the Church universal. In his sermon, “Justification by Faith,” Wesley explains the biblical path to this necessary state of grace. His main (but by no means his only) scriptural reference for that message was Romans 4:5 “But people are declared righteous because of their faith, not because of their work.” (New Living Translation) What the NLT translates as “declared righteous” is “justified” in the King James Version which Wesley and most people used in that day. The basic flow is this (some of the wording is more Weston than Wesley):
People Are Messed Up: People are made in the image of God, but ever since Adam & Eve's fall from grace, all of us are “children of wrath,” living in a fallen state requiring God's forgiveness and spiritual repair. The only solution to rescue humanity was for God's Son to die in our place, receiving the penalty of death and thereby satisfying God's perfect, righteous anger, or “wrath.”
Justification Is Pardon; not ignoring or overlooking or choosing not act on what we have done wrong. Nothing has been swept under the rug or deferred to a sub-committee or expired because of a divine statute of limitations. God is the perfect judge and he knows all that each of us has done wrong. And he is legally justified to absolve us of the penalties by the substitution of his Son's death for each of ours.
Justification Is for the Ungodly. But here is the catch: EVERYONE needs to be justified by Christ's sacrificial death. Compared to God's perfection ALL OF US are ungodly. Good deeds before you have faith? Nope. You might as well try to buy the moon. Good deeds after you have faith? They're great (and necessary) but they don't buy you the moon or your entry ticket into heaven—they simply express gratitude and confirm that God is working in your life.
Justification Is by Faith. You can't produce God's forgiveness. You can't earn it (or the moon). You can't deserve it. That drives some people crazy. But it's the only way: heaven is for people who are humble and know they deserve hell, but instead are receiving forever love. You have to believe to be justified—it doesn't automatically accrue because you're sucking wind. No one is entitled to God's forgiveness.
Making sense? Justification is everything to do with God's Grand Scales of Justice tipping heavily out of our favor, and God finding a way to make it right. Justification is about God's forgiveness because of Jesus' death on the cross. The instant a person turns from sin and receives this forgiveness, something wonderful happens: the Holy Spirit comes into their heart and starts house cleaning, as well as adopting that person into God's family. This new process is called “sanctification,” but that is for another time.
Justification is critical for every Christian to understand. It puts everything in perspective, puts each of us in our place, and puts God in the highest place. Without it, heaven would be full of a bunch of seething, spoiled brats who can't get enough of ourselves. But that doesn't describe the residents of heaven, does it? More like hell.
by John Weston | May 16, 2018
Baptism: sprinkle or immersion?
Bible: King James or any other English translation?
Food: always pray before eating, sometimes pray, or only on special occasions?
Prayer: eyes open or closed?
Music: classical hymns or contemporary choruses?
Worship atmosphere: quiet & contemplative or loud & lively?
Worship day: Saturday or Sunday or any day?
Worship posture: hands raised or hands down?
This is just the beginning of a long list of traditions and rituals that Christians don't agree on. Have you ever had an awkward moment where you were with another Christian and one of you was following a ritual or practice in a moment where the other wasn't? Yesterday I was at a Christian conference and we ate lunch together, and it was a gradual, staggered start for the food line. One of my table mates and I were the first to get back with our food. The rest of our table was out talking, in line, or out of the room. I was going to start eating without prayer, but my table mate said she would pray, so she bowed her head, and prayed, and I put my utensils down, put my head down, joined her in prayer and offered a prayer out loud as well when she finished.
When the church was merely years, not centuries old, there were a lot of traditions of man and commandments of God to sort through and figure what stays and what goes? Jesus had ushered in a new covenant, and some of the Law of Moses continued to be in effect (ethical statutes on matters like sexuality) while others became optional or passe (ceremonial statutes for things like worship format and dietary restrictions). But Jesus didn't spell out each individual rule. The church had to figure it out with the aid of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 15). So there were a lot of awkward moments and also a lot of heated arguments over what things were important and essential and what weren't. The Apostle Paul knew this, and after giving perhaps his greatest and most complete explanation of people, sin, the Holy Spirit, and how salvation works in Romans 1-12, he attends to some housekeeping matters in the last few chapters including this matter:
Romans 14:1-4 Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. 2 For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. 3 Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval.
Before Jesus came, dietary restrictions were a big deal to the pre-Christian Jews. If you didn't keep kosher, you couldn't go to the temple and people might whisper about you behind your back or worse. But Paul says essentially, “Keep your salvation in Christ center stage, and don't waste time bickering about stuff in the store room.” Sometimes it may mean humoring someone and not eating pork when sharing a meal with them. Or it might be the other way around: someone keeps their mouth shut when bacon is on the breakfast menu but they are still keeping kosher. Some Christians call this line of thinking the principle of “the weaker brother,” referring to Christians who may not understand that a particular opinion they hold is not a command of God.
Give other Christians a break, and I'm guessing that over time we will give you a break too.
(I can report that a few minutes after my table mate and I gave thanks for our meal a pastor got on the microphone and offered a blessing for the meal in progress. Phew! Double coverage...!)
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