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November 20, 2019
by Rev. John Weston, Senior Pastor | November 20, 2019
Call to Prayer
Mark 1:35-36 (NLT) 35 The next morning Jesus awoke long before daybreak and went out alone into the wilderness to pray. 36 Later Simon and the others went out to find him.
We are not in normal times. There is nothing business-as-usual about the season we are in. Yes, we have weekly worship. Yes, our small groups are meeting and encouraging and building up disciples. Yes, our helping ministries are extending tangible love to people in need in our community. But we are on the leading edge of something new. United Methodism will change in 2020. Our church will have an important role in how that plays out in our region. Are we ready for that? We are going to reach out to people of diverse backgrounds—including people with roots outside the U. S. Are we ready for that? We are going to encourage the few young adults we have to invite friends to something new. Are we ready for that? We are going to talk to strangers about Jesus and help them with the power of the Holy Spirit. Are we ready for that?
Answer: YES...if we pray.
A couple weeks ago the Lord told me to re-order the beginning of my day:
Me: “But going for a jog first-thing wakes me up, and sometimes you and I talk during those runs, Lord, and, well, I've been running first-thing in the morning as long as I've been a pastor.”
Holy Spirit: “Great. Change it.”
Bible reading and prayer are now the first thing I do when I get out of bed. I knew that God wanted no interruptions during that first hour of the day for me. I am available to the Lord, prayer journal open, ready to document if needed. I kneel and put myself out in his presence with no one to ask me to put the Lord on hold. When faces and names come up in those prayer times, they get recorded and I get an agenda for what I'm supposed to include with my tasks each week.
This is how we need to move forward. Carve out time: ten minutes. Twenty minutes. A half-hour. An hour. Do you live alone? Take advantage of that opportunity to be with God uninterrupted. Do you live with a spouse or kids? Find the window, even if it is turning off the radio or podcasts on the way to work and giving God your commute. (Don't try writing down notes while you're driving.)
All of us make decisions based on what we think is the best thing to do at the time. I'm asking to make opportunities for God to weigh in. Daily. Pay attention to the people who come to mind during those times. The Lord may be directing you.
Take time with the Lord and ask him to wake us up.
by Rev. John Weston, Senior Pastor | September 25, 2019
Saints Get Equipped
by John Weston
You pay your financial advisor to help you plan for the future. You pay a restaurant to provide you with a fabulous meal. You pay a physical trainer to make you hurt.
What do you pay a church for?
You don't. Everything else listed above are business transactions. If a doctor, for example, does not give you the care you want, you fire them and find another. It's commerce. But church is different. You and I give money to the church out of a debt of gratitude to Jesus to see his work flourish in our community and in our world. It's not a business transaction. If you're not getting what you want out of your church, you don't stop giving because those gifts aren't for services rendered by the church; they're for the Lord. But, like commerce, each of us does get something out of giving. You know what that is? We get to support an organization that in turn equips us to to do God's work.
Ephesians 4:11-12 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...
If you are a saint (and if you believe in Jesus and are trying to pattern your life after him, you're a saint), then the church's job is equip you to do God's work.
Growing up I looked at churches as inconsequential. Churches were extra. Something for your spare time. Like football, only more serious and spiritual. I thought it was great if I could help out now and then, but church was basically about us regular folks sitting on the sidelines and watching the pros (clergy) go at it. Like football. But more spiritual. Then the Lord came into my life and showed me personally that EVERYONE is supposed to be on the playing field. Church leaders aren't the pros that everyone else watches; they are the trainers and coaches that get the team in shape, on the field, and on the way to winning some games.
Some of you have taken the Motivational Gifts Seminar and are serving the Lord in those areas which you're spiritually gifted. And it's great! You're better than you are because God's power makes you more effective than you could ever be on your own. Make time for this seminar and you will get in touch with how God has wired you to serve him. Even if you can't make the seminar, fill out the survey and see which areas are your greatest strengths. Click here to download the inventory. Please let the office know in order what your three strongest gift areas are in order. Lay Leadership Team wants to know so we can ask you to serve in areas that match your strengths. Simple as that.
If you have not ever been trained to do anything for the Lord, this is the time to change that. It will change your life. I took this training a year ago and highly recommend it.
Motivational Gifts Seminar
“Motivational Gifts” are the seven areas of Christian spiritual gifting listed in Romans 12. They include: prophecy, serving, teaching, exhorting, giving, leading, and mercy. This event is put on by by Wind of the Spirit Ministries, a religious non-profit that is run largely by SUMC's own members and is located across the hall from the church office.
by Rev. John Weston, Senior Pastor | August 7, 2019
Twinlow United Methodist Camp
We can't run all the time. We can't keep doing one ministry event after another after another after another. Do you know any Energizer Bunnies who would reply to that,“Sure we can! 'I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me'”? Jesus himself, as a human being, was go-go-go. But even he saw the necessity of pulling back and at least trying to rest and re-focus.
Mark 6:30-32 30 The apostles returned to Jesus from their ministry tour and told him all they had done and what they had taught. 31 Then Jesus said, "Let's get away from the crowds for a while and rest." There were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn't even have time to eat. 32 They left by boat for a quieter spot.
Sounds great, huh? Can you imagine a quiet time with Jesus? Re-fuel? Get to really chew on some of his deepest insights into life and people and God? We need that. Jesus wants us to have that. Now the reality is we don't always do it. Even in the above example from Mark's Gospel, the ministry retreat gets interrupted by a little event called The Feeding of the Five Thousand (“Look, Mom! No plans!”).
Coming up in September, the Greater Northwest Wesleyan Covenant Association has organized a retreat to take place at Twinlow Camp, Sunday evening, September 22nd through Tuesday morning, September 24th. I will be leading worship. Our own Pastor Larry Eddings of Wind of the Spirit Ministries will be presenting. And our keynote speaker will be Pastor Walter Fenton, a United
Methodist clergyman and senior advisor to the Wesleyan Covenant Association. Pastor Walter will be speaking about the future of the United Methodist Church, what can be known about the likely denominational split, and what is still up in the air. Any of you wanting the latest developments and practical things to consider and pray about as we move forward should attend this event. But most of all, we will gather with United Methodists who want to be faithful to God in a fashion that more closely resembles the priorities and attitudes of the 1st century church. Getting away will be good. And I promise we won't have to feed five-thousand people. You might, however, need to wash one hundred forks, knives, and spoons.
I know it's a little old school, but if you want to register, just come to the church office, Monday - Thursday, 9am-4pm and we'll get you a registration form to fill out and mail in. $125 includes two nights lodging in hotel style accommodations AND all your meals!
July 10, 2019
by Rev. John Weston, Senior Pastor | July 10, 2019
Walking into the Ocean
by John Weston
Genesis 1:9-13 9 And God said, "Let the waters beneath the sky be gathered into one place so dry ground may appear." And so it was. 10 God named the dry ground "land" and the water "seas." And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, "Let the land burst forth with every sort of grass and seed-bearing plant. And let there be trees that grow seed-bearing fruit. The seeds will then produce the kinds of plants and trees from which they came." And so it was. 12 The land was filled with seed-bearing plants and trees, and their seeds produced plants and trees of like kind. And God saw that it was good. 13 This all happened on the third day.
Over the Fourth of July holiday this past week, Jennifer, the kids, and I got to spend a few nights at the beach. Dear friends in Christ gathered for us to baptize two of their children. Claire will be starting eighth grade this fall, and Jonathan will be starting 4th. They reside in a small native village in northwestern Alaska. One of their grandparents had some water from the Jordan River that we started with and then finished with full immersion in the Pacific Ocean.
I love going to the ocean. For all of humanity's technological advances, oceans still serve as a firm boundary. No matter how much we want to explore and settle and build and construct and settle, when you hit the beach, it's over. I've read about current and even future designs for living on the water, but really, people were created for land. I love that when I go to the beach, everything comes to an end. Even in Warrenton, Oregon, where we stayed, you can drive on the beach, but no one was plowing into the waves to conquer the horizon.
Maybe what I am experiencing is this: just as civilization stops at the ocean, so do our lives run up against another kind of boundary that keeps us nestled and tucked into our lives: death. For people without Jesus, death fills them with anxiety or even terror. For Christians, death is a firm boundary, yes, but it is also a gateway; a portal to new shores that we can only begin to imagine from here. Paul wistfully describes this final reality like this:
Romans 6:3-5 3 Or have you forgotten that when we became Christians and were baptized to become one with Christ Jesus, we died with him? 4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. 5 Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised as he was.
1 Corinthians 15:50-52 50 What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These perishable bodies of ours are not able to live forever. 51 But let me tell you a wonderful secret God has revealed to us. Not all of us will die, but we will all be transformed. 52 It will happen in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown.
In C. S. Lewis' fantasy series, The Chronicles of Narnia, Edmund, Lucy, Caspian, and the crew of a Narnian ship sail to the end of the world, and in the closing scene, one of the heroes, a rather large talking mouse named Reepicheep is given the opportunity by Aslan the Lion to take his small boat beyond the world's edge into Aslan's Country. The warrior mouse fears no living creature, and in the end, gratefully receives permission to explore this new place knowing he will never be able to return. Reepicheep boldly and humbly moves into what from the perspective of his friends and family seems to be death, but for him is the beginning of a new life.
Claire and Jonathan stepped into the water and let the breakers come in and gently cover them as I lowered them each underneath the surface. I carefully surveyed incoming waves as each of them went down, feeling the power of the water moving around us. One day many years from now they will each once more go underneath the water and emerge to find a completely new world they have never seen, and to see a face they have been longing for since before they could remember.
How big is the love of God?
Bigger than the ocean.
by Rev. Larry Eddings | June 18, 2019
Rev. Larry Eddings
“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They cried out with in a loud voice,
“Salvation belongs to our God
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”
“All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying.”
Praise and glory
And wisdom and thanks and honor
And power and strength
Be to our God for ever and ever.
“Great and marvelous are your deeds,
Lord God Almighty
Just and true are your ways,
King of the ages.
Who will not fear you, O Lord,
And bring glory to your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come and worship before you
For your righteous acts have been
Then John heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God
For true and just are his judgments.
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!”
[From Revelation 7, 15. 19]
What a worship service that must have been! And yet, there is no record in The Revelation about the heavenly hosts saying anything about how the worship went. They simply sang and shouted before God and the Lamb [Jesus], acknowledging who they are and that they are worthy of all worship from every person from every nation under heaven.
On the morning of January 31, 2019, I awoke suddenly, hearing the words, “You people worship, worship!” Now totally awake, I remember asking, “What?” It was repeated, “You people worship, worship!” “How is that?” I asked. I heard, in my spirit, “Think about it. Think about the various statements that you have heard made about worship services that you have attended or read about.”
I did start thinking about it, and the following is something of what I remember hearing or seeing on social media Facebook or Tweets or Blogs or at various worship services in various churches in various places in various countries. I have been a part of some such conversations.
“Wasn’t that a great service today?”
“Boy, worship was powerful today?”
“Wasn’t that a fantastic time of worship?”
“The worship team was really good today, wasn’t it?”
“I really got a lot out of worship today.”
“We really had church today!”
“I wish we could have worship like that every week.”
“That worship service really spoke to me today.”
“Couldn’t you just feel the presence of the Lord today?”
“The Lord really showed up today, didn’t he!”
“Hope you’ll come and join us. We have powerful worship services!”
It would be hard to imagine hearing the angels walk away from the throne of God and the Lamb, saying, “Wow! Wasn’t that a great worship service? I hope we can have worship like that every week. The angel choir was really on today!”
What is the focus of worship? Is it that which makes us feel good or that which pleases God? Does what we do glorify us, the worshippers, or God, the One worthy of all worship? Perhaps we could learn from the heavenly hosts and join with them, focusing on God and the Lamb, singing
Come, let us worship and bow down
Let us kneel before the Lord, our God, our Maker.
For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture
The flock under his care!”
Psalm 95:6, 7
PRAYER: “Almighty God, may our worship bring joy to your heart as your Holy Spirit leads us to worship you in Spirit and in Truth. Our Lord Jesus has told us that these are the kind of worshipers that you seek.
Teach us how to worship like your heavenly hosts! Amen.”
by John Weston | April 10, 2019
Tim Smith eyeing a street sign before we put in our church's new tile in 2014.
by John Weston
Never underestimate the power of a holiday for inviting people to church. You know and I know that as Christians EVERY Sunday is a celebration of Jesus' resurrection. But for people outside the church, Easter is one of the few times a year they feel like they can actually show up without having to have an excuse. Some of our guests will come because it's the seasonal thing to do. And some will come because they feel empty and they don't know what to do, but SUMC is the church where their cousin's memorial service was held, or it's the church that seems to help people in need, or they went to Vacation Bible School there seventeen years ago, and even though they haven't been back since, there's just Something that seems to be drawing them back. God brings people to church ultimately. But we can play a big role in helping that happen. We can invite.
Jesus was great at inviting people to events that would bring them closer to him. In fact, Jesus wasn't above inviting himself over to people's houses. Remember Zacchaeus, the hated Jewish tax collector, working for the Romans and getting rich off his own neighbors? Zacchaeus was the kind of guy who could get blood from a stone. Audit was his middle name. But when Jesus sets his sites on this hated public figure who had lowered himself by climbing a tree to get a better look at Jesus and his team, look what happens:
Crazy, right? Zacchaeus was obviously curious, but wasn't Jesus being over-the-top? Nope. Nailed it. Zacchaeus takes Jesus' self-invitation to Zacchaeus' house and turns it into a ministry event at the drop of a hat—invites all of his tax collector staff and buddies. And it changes his life forever.
Years ago I was spending a lot of time in cafes and coffee shops doing church work so that I would have the opportunity to meet people while doing my “office hours.” The Corner Cafe in Post Falls was a favorite breakfast spot, and I went in there about 7:00 to have a bite to eat and work for a couple hours as long as there was room for me. There was a group of old-timers sitting at the front counter. I perched on a stool on end of the counter and started off by asking questions like, “What's your favorite item on the menu?” and “So how long have you been coming to the Corner Cafe?” It didn't totally work the way I thought. They gleefully let me have it by poking fun at me and quickly discovered I was a preacher. There were jokes and questions and comments. Tim was a part of the group. He was more quiet, but listening to all the banter and occasionally jumping in. I learned that he liked motorcycles and rode when the weather was nice. When he got up to leave I shook hands and gave him a church flyer. When we started meeting weekly for worship, Tim was there. And he stuck. He stayed with us through a movie theater, our own commercial space we had to remodel, a hotel, and another commercial space remodel. Tim was quiet, but kind. Grew up on a farm in South Dakota. Our church became his family. God rekindled faith from going to a Methodist church growing up. And over the next several years, more than a couple of the people I met at the Corner Cafe came and visited our church more than once because Tim had invited them.
Whether the person you want to invite for Easter is tough and complicated like Zacchaeus or quiet and unassuming like Tim, ask the Holy Spirit to give you the timing and the words. Then go for it. You might even invite yourself over for dinner.
by John Weston | March 20, 2019
Provocative, no? This is the title of a KOMO news documentary/opinion piece that aired for a solid hour with no commercials on channel 4 Saturday evening, March 16, at 8:00 p.m. Click on the title and watch it on YouTube. Do you want to see something that speaks to our community? Do you want to see the future of Kitsap County unless we change course? Guess what: it's already here.
KOMO's piece makes the argument that drug addiction is responsible for much of Seattle's visible homelessness and crime. Here's my breakdown of their presentation:
Laissez-faire: Current elected leaders are tolerating more and more homeless drug crimes. Seattle's current administration sees the issue as a housing problem, not a drug problem.
Limited Policing: Many Seattle police believe they are not permitted to police effectively. Morale is down. Good cops are starting to leave.
It's the Drugs: Politicians deny the drug problem behind much of the visible homelessness and crimes that come with it. The filmmakers press for a new program of drug intervention through incarceration and cite success of a recent program doing just that in Rhode Island.
Here at SUMC, we help people in need. Maggie Stasny and the Severe Weather Shelter team just put in over a month straight making sure street people and other homeless individuals did not freeze at night. Hallowed Grounds Cafe puts out free meals every Tuesday afternoon at 4:00 for anyone who wants one. The Clothing Closet similarly provides Tuesday afternoons as well. SUMC's food bank gives out all kinds of goods that come in. The church office staff distribute bus passes, information, small food packs, and give restroom access, and even prayer on-the-spot for people in need. How much are we helping? How much are we enabling? How can we help more effectively in the future?
Proverbs 11: 10-11 (NOG) 10 When righteous people prosper, a city is glad.
When wicked people die, there are songs of joy.
11 With the blessing of decent people a city is raised up,
but by the words of wicked people, it is torn down.
The writer of Proverbs here seems to have in view not the little guy who suffers from bad public policy, but the influencers in the community: leaders, for good or for ill. I believe Kitsap DOES have an affordable housing shortage. Not everyone who is homeless is on drugs. But a majority of the street people our staff know personally are substance abusers. As Kitsap goes in the direction of Seattle, more and more addicted people are going to come through our church office, and unless a miracle happens through prayer for each individual, no amount of goods and services are going to change their situation. And as the numbers increase, so does the chance that someone who is 1 in 1000 or 1 in 10,000 or 1 in a million will come through our doors and something really bad will happen. Jesus calls us to help people in need, so total retreat from the problem has no theological integrity (Mark 14:7, Matthew 26:11, John 12:8, and Matthew 25:31-46). What if more people were getting medical intervention to get off drugs while in prison, and more of the people coming through our doors had a better handle on their addiction so we could get some traction in helping them?
Proverbs 11:14 (NOG) A nation will fall when there is no direction,
but with many advisers there is victory.
Look at the documentary. Pray. Sharpshoot with scripture and common sense: are the filmmakers missing any major pieces? Is there a significant hole in their argument? If the Lord is showing us a solution, we should contend for it.
by John Weston | March 6, 2019
Now that General Conference has come and gone
If you haven't heard yet, a special called session of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church met last week in St. Louis, MO and eventually passed an amended version of what is called “The Traditional Plan” regarding the UMC's stance on human sexuality. The special meeting was convened in order for the denomination to find some way forward through the impasse surrounding disagreements over human sexuality. The Traditional Plan upholds scriptural and traditional teachings about marriage and keeps the church in line with the vast majority of Christian denominations globally, even attempting to enforce discipline over these matters. However, an increasing number of United Methodists in the United States favor widening the definition of marriage beyond heterosexual unions. Last week's decision was another major defeat for progressives, though only by six points (53% for and 47% against). What this means for our local church, which has historically aligned itself with a strongly traditional faith and doctrine, is that we will not, by the current state of things, be forced to officially sanction behavior that is expressly condemned in the Old and New Testaments. Along with the Traditional Plan, a “Disaffiliation Plan” was also passed which is an attempt to provide a “gracious exit” for churches that cannot in good conscience support General Conference's final decision. The exit plan was passed with the intention of protecting either progressive or traditionalist congregations who might need to leave if their favored plan was not passed, that the church should be a coalition of the willing, not the constrained. The Disaffiliation Plan, however, was amended to require 2/3 majority approval at a local church conference as well as a 2/3 approval vote by the Annual Conference. This requirement would effectively nullify the provision for churches trying to leave in cases where a local church was in a theological minority in their Annual Conference region. These are the very basic facts of the outcome.
Even though I, like many of us, feel very strongly about these issues, I want to provide as much information as possible for all of you to make up your own minds, and should we disagree, let it be an informed disagreement.
Here are some helpful links that cover the spectrum from conservative (Wesleyan Covenant Association) to Progressive (Western Jurisdiction of the UMC):
Church leaders in the first century had to contend with competing voices trying to take the church in different directions. Paul planted a lot of churches, networked those churches, and did his best to hold them on course. Listen to his observation:
Ephesians 4:11-16 (NOG) 11 He also gave apostles, prophets, missionaries, as well as pastors and teachers as gifts to his church. 12 Their purpose is to prepare God’s people to serve and to build up the body of Christ. 13 This is to continue until all of us are united in our faith and in our knowledge about God’s Son, until we become mature, until we measure up to Christ, who is the standard. 14 Then we will no longer be little children, tossed and carried about by all kinds of teachings that change like the wind. We will no longer be influenced by people who use cunning and clever strategies to lead us astray. 15 Instead, as we lovingly speak the truth, we will grow up completely in our relationship to Christ, who is the head. 16 He makes the whole body fit together and unites it through the support of every joint. As each and every part does its job, he makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Are the changes being introduced to the United Methodist Church “uniting us in our faith and in our knowledge about God's Son...” (v. 13)? Or are are they “influenced by people who use cunning and clever strategies to lead us astray” (v. 14)?
As you explore the links above you will see divergent views on what it means to be the church. Here in Silverdale, we are looking to the future and formulating strategy to grow us spiritually (v. 15) and numerically (v. 16). There are opportunities everywhere.
It has always been about Jesus!
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