A Message from Pastor Dave

Dear Family of Christ,

The path of Irma has been shifting to the west over the past few days.  It now seems that we are close to the direct path of the storm.  Tropical storm force winds will be starting on Sunday morning with Hurricane force winds occurring in the evening and then overnight into Monday morning. With that in mind, if you are here in town, it seems best to not have any services on Sunday morning.  We will have our service tonight at 6:00 PM and please take precautions with all of the preparations around your homes. If you feel your home is not safe call me (813) 892-3003.  Or if any trees come down on your property let me know and we have several people with chainsaws who can help with that issue.

We are praying tonight for all of those already affected by the storm and those in the future path.   

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:6-7)

Pastor Dave 

Praying With Jesus: Good Friday

Today is one of the most important days of the year. It is Good Friday the day Jesus died on the cross. I am always asked by the kids in chapel why is this day called good, when the most terrible thing happened? Here is the answer.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

I remember a story told by St Jerome who was an early translator of the Bible. As told by him he went to Jerusalem and Bethlehem for a time of study and prayer and one night he had a dream. In this dream Jesus appeared to him and Jerome gave him everything he had. Jesus did not want those things. Then Jerome gave him all of his money. Jesus did not want that. What would you like? Jerome asked. Jesus replied, “Your sins.”

The day is called ‘good” because we find that Jesus takes our sins upon himself so that we might have the righteousness of God. In ways we do not always understand Jesus became our sin so that we might know the amazing love and grace of God.

Thank you for this day Jesus. For all that you did for me I am amazed by the magnitude of your grace. This day truly is good.

Pastor Dave

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Praying With Jesus: God’s Timing

Can you keep a secret? Can you keep a secret from God? Absolutely not. Jesus knew of this plan and took steps to make sure it did not disrupt his plans.

Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present. (Luke 22:1-6)

One of the most unusual actions of Jesus, that follows this in the Gospels, is when the disciples on the next day ask where they are going to celebrate the Passover? Jesus tells Peter and John to go into town and they will see a man carrying a water jar, follow him and that will show you where we are going to meet. Prepare everything there. Is there more than one person carrying a jar of water in Jerusalem? Of course, but Jesus does not want to tell the group where they are going to be eating this evening because that would be the perfect place for Judas to tell the guards to come and arrest Jesus. Jesus wants to make sure he has time to wash the disciple’s feet, teach them some last few things, and then most importantly, Institute the Lord’s Supper. That Passover celebration had to happen without interruption, so Judas would later lead the guards to Jesus when they stopped to pray on the Mount of Olives.

Jesus knows the timing of all things. Judas was looking for the first opportunity without the crowds around Jesus and this meal would have been perfect. Some things have to happen in a certain order for God’s will to be done. We always need to remember that when we pray. In life I have had so many prayers answered but not on my timetable. When I have to wait I sometimes wonder and question God. But this passage reminds me that God always has in mind what is needed and important. His knowledge of the future is better than my knowledge of the past. We are often told to live by faith. Today I also want to remind you to pray with faith. Knowing that today, tomorrow and all eternity is in God’s gracious hands.

Thank you Lord, for knowing the timing of all things. Help me to understand your plans for me so that I may grow in faith and trust. Amen.

Pastor Dave

Praying With Jesus: Turn Me To You

We have started Holy Week and one of the things Jesus did this week caused quite a commotion in the Temple.

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it `a den of robbers.” The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. (Mark 11:15-18)

Have you ever been challenged on something you are doing? The chief priests were taken aback by the boldness and the words of Jesus. Was it a den of robbers? Jesus found that the Temple had lost it’s way and became an institution and not a house of prayer. We always have to take these words to heart and be reminded that the church is here to be a house of prayer. That is connecting people to God in the various newer methods of today and the tried and true ways that have worked in all of history. Lent is in fact one of the oldest seasons of the church year and goes back way before people celebrated Christmas. This week reminds us that faith is never business as usual. Sometimes church and our lives walking with God can get stuck in a routine. Maybe there is a table in your life that needs to be flipped. It looks to be messy but it can open up new ways of seeing Jesus in faith and how he impacts your daily life.

Jesus, you turned many things upside down. Turn me so that my life is filled with your presence and help make my life a life filled with prayer.

Pastor Dave

Praying With Jesus: Praying On Holy Ground

What is holy ground? I have heard of several Christian coffee shops using the name Holy Grounds. Holy ground is when we come into the presence of God.

So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight–why the bush does not burn up.” When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:3-5)

This is a unique example of prayer and it brings some important truths that we can include anytime we pray. First God called Moses into this situation. He did something that got his attention with a burning bush. It was not a scrub fire but something that kept on burning. It reminds me of Jesus saying I knock calling us to prayer. God wants people to pray and calls people in a wide variety of ways.

Secondly, God says “Moses, Moses” when he draws near. Prayer is very personal. Just as God knows our name He wants us to know Him. The next verse has God telling Moses I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. A great comfort prayer gives us, is that God has time for us as individuals. He knows your name and wants you to speak and listen to Him.

Finally, we have God telling Moses the place where he was standing was holy ground. Moses too realized this because after God spoke to him he covered his face. Prayer is entering into the holy presence of God. We need to be reminded that prayer is entering into the holy presence of God. There are certain customs of prayer that remind us of this fact. We do this whenever we bow our heads, kneel, or sometimes stand up to pray. Prayer brings us into the presence of God, therefore wherever it may be, becomes holy ground.

Lord, thank You for holy ground. Anyplace You reside is holy ground. Remind me of that when I pray. Just as You called Moses to come, You call me to come into your presence every day. For that I thank You. Amen.

Pastor Dave

Praying With Jesus: Jesus Is Always Beside Us

Monday I talked about praying in an unusual place. Today I want to talk about regular planned prayer and what Daniel did when he prayed toward Jerusalem.

So King Darius put the decree in writing. Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. (Daniel 6:9-10)

This passage has Daniel praying 3 times every day towards Jerusalem and the Temple. The temple was the spot where God made the promise to his people to be present, to hear their prayers. Why do we not pray towards the temple? It is because of Jesus. A big part of the New Covenant is that the old temple commandments and the worship there, is replaced with Jesus and his one sacrifice on the cross. When Jesus died you hear that the curtain in the temple was torn in half (Matthew 27:51). The old ways were now over, and the focus of our faith, and of God speaking are now on Jesus.

Jesus, Thank you for opening faith and prayer in new and powerful ways. God and the Temple may have felt far away, but now we know that you are always beside us. In You we know we hear the Word of God straight from your lips and our prayers wherever we may be. Amen

Pastor Dave

Praying With Jesus: Helping Those With The Least

Have you ever seen the face or felt the powerful presence of Jesus in something you have done? One place where that happens for me fairly regularly is at our homeless feeding.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’  “Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  “The King will reply, `I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:35-40)

I want to ask all of you to pray for the ministry we carry out each week with the homeless. I got a call yesterday from Metropolitan Ministries that the police are going to stop allowing churches to feed where we have been doing so for the past 9 years. We started helping people there on a dead end portion of Livingston behind just north of Fletcher. Since we started there three other churches have been feeding on differing nights of the week at the same site. We sort of have a chicken or the egg situation. We helped there because that was where the homeless lived and some are now blaming the homeless situation there because all of the churches are feeding them there.

The police are supposed to help find us another location and I ask that you pray for God’s will to be done. I understand the complex issues that surround the homeless and this specific situation, but God wants us to give testimony of who Jesus is by our lives and actions.

Lord, help us to see you in every action that we carry out in life. May our lives be a living testimony to the love and care you give us so that we may share our blessings with others.

Pastor Dave

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Praying With Jesus: Where We Are

Sometimes prayer is made with great sorrow and a heavy heart. There is a great example of this in the prayer of Hannah for a child.

In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD. And she made a vow, saying, “O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” (1 Samuel 1:10-11)

The problem of not being able to conceive is a hardship that many couples face. In fact Hannah’s soul is described as being bitter. We often say Jesus gives his grace to you just as you are. The same can be said of prayer, our Lord wants to meet us just where we are. God wants to lift up our souls and even takes the bitterness of life upon himself in Jesus.
God gives even more than we expect and God gave Hannah the child prophet, Samuel.

Lord Jesus, thank you for meeting us where we are in life. You don’t hear our prayers because of our goodness, but because you are loving. Thank you for answering Hannah’s prayer in a powerful way. And thank you for always hearing and answering us. Help us to be patient because sometimes we have to wait for that answer. Amen.

Pastor Dave

Praying With Jesus: Eternity In Our Hearts

I read this passage this morning in the devotion with the teachers. It involves one of the greatest difficulties we have in understanding God, time.

I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  (Ecclesiastes 3:10-11)

This passage says God has put eternity in our hearts. What does that mean? Part of this means is that we have a deep yearning to live with the gift of eternal life. Without that gift life is not really all that it is meant to be. We are caught up in the busyness of the day but our souls yearn to understand God’s eternal plans for each and every one of us. A great way to have God’s eternal plans for each of us in our daily life is to follow this simple template from Martin Luther. Live as if Jesus died on the cross for you yesterday. He rose from the grave today. And he is coming again tomorrow. This brings eternity and God’s plans for you into your actions each and every day.

Jesus, thank you for the gift of eternal life. In my heart I want to know all of your actions and your eternal plans. In Jesus we find eternity stepping into this world and my life. Thank you and give me a greater insight as to how I live each day with the gift of life eternal. Amen

Pastor Dave

Praying With Jesus: Praying Without Distraction

While you can pray at any time and in any place sometimes it is best to get away from everything to pray. Here is an example from the life and practice of Jesus.

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. (Matthew 14:22-24)

Jesus did this sort of thing very often, he went away to pray. Often this would be on a mountainside because without cars people did not want to live too far up the mountain because that climb would have to be made many times a day. In essence what Jesus did was find a place where he could be alone and that was on a mountainside. Do you have a place where you can find solitude? One of the greatest problems in prayer is being distracted. Finding a place and time without any interruptions is important at times and even Jesus did that himself.

Lord help me to find quiet places without the rush and noise of life. For in the quiet places in life, my soul is open to hear you speak. I want to hear your voice each and every day. Amen.

Pastor Dave

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