Prayer: Our Home is in You (Genesis 17)

Abraham-and-the-starsFaithful One
Your covenant is steadfast
Your promises are true

You fulfill, even when we fail
Forgive us and renew a right spirit within

We hear you offering relationship again
How great is your heart
Your patience
Your desire for the everlasting to be made real in us
We bow in awe
We stand to proclaim and welcome

Yes!
Fulfill your desires in our Yes
Fulfill your desires in our obedience
Like the sand, so many brothers
Like the stars, so many sisters
Together heirs of your grace and generosity
Together heirs and family
Together
Our home is in you

Based on Genesis 17:3-9
God’s covenant with Abraham, Sarah, and their descendants (physical and spiritual) 

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Our Home is in You © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

2018 Bookshelf

2018 BooksIn November of 2014, I read a blog post encouraging persons to set aside a bookshelf for all the books read in a calendar year. As the year goes by, you see the shelf filling and are reminded of time well spent. (I wish I could remember who to thank.)

The project was so rewarding in 2015, I continued it in 2016, 2017, and now 2018. I’ve found the process of adding books enjoyable and helpful. Sometimes you forget a really good book.

Helpful Hints

  • If you read most of your books electronically, consider setting up a virtual bookshelf on Pinterest.
  • Another option is to set up a profile on Goodreads. Be sure to fill in a start and end date for each book you complete. You can even set up a reading challenge for the year.
  • This year’s list includes books I read and books I listened to while traveling. There are wonderful, free audio books available through your local library and via streaming if you subscribe to Amazon Prime.
    • This year, I’m using an affordable audiobook subscription service called Playster which provides far more titles than are available through the library.

So my friends here’s my 2018 bookshelf. I hope it encourages you and that you find a treasure or two. Should it be helpful to you, I’m glad to provide more feedback on specific selections. Just leave a comment below. Also, feel free to leave your book recommendations in the comments.

Happy reading. Happy exploring. Happy growing. – Lisa <><

Leadership Development 

Novels

Memoirs
It’s especially fun to listen to a person read their own memoir via an audiobook.

Bible Study and Theology

Devotionals and Prayers

Healthy Relationships

Sermon Recording- The Witness of Prayer (Philippians 1, Numbers 6)

prayer group hands

Sermon Series: Hometown Missionary
Message 2 of 5: The Witness of Prayer
Scriptures: Philippians 1:1-11; Numbers 6:24-26
This message was offered Sunday, 7/15/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Click Here for Bishop Ken Carter’s Story: The Gospel, a stranger, and the burnt ends of the brisket

What about this story speaks to you?

We live in a missionary age. Less than 20% of the American population actively practices the Christian faith.

So where do we begin as hometown missionaries? We begin by hanging out with people, really listening, really caring. Treat people are people, not projects.

As we share back and forth, needs are revealed. This leads to praying. Hometown missionaries need to know how to pray out loud when the moment presents itself.

1. The questions

Be gracious and humble. Prayer is never imposed or forced on someone.

  • How can I best pray for you?
  • May I pray right now? May I offer a blessing?
  • May I touch your shoulder? May I hold your hand?
  • Take your time. Make space to help the person realized God is already present. Look the person in the eye.

The witness of prayer: When I was in seminary, I was walking with a classmate. I shared a concern and asked for prayer. He stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and said, “Let’s pray now.” It was so meaningful, I still remember is 20 years later.

2. Pray out loud

A. Offer a Sentence Prayer: Name for God + Verb + Name of Person

  • Lord, help my friend Steve
  • Jesus, strengthen Lori
  • Holy Spirit, fill John with wisdom

You’ve been listening to the person, so you know the need.

B. Offer a blessing: Consider memorizing Numbers 6:24-26 (The Priestly Benediction/Blessing God gave to Moses and Aaron). Write the blessing on a piece of paper and put it on your mirror as you brush your teeth or near your computer screen.

Here’s what it means:

24 The Lord bless you and keep you;

  • May the Lord constantly bring good into your life
  • May the Lord protect you and guard all that is sacred and precious about you

25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;

  • Imagine how a person’s face lights up when they hold a baby. God’s face shines on you in the same way. This is a reminder that God delights in you. May you know how beloved you are.
  • Justice is getting what we deserve. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Grace is getting better than what we deserve. We all need grace. Grace upon grace.

26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

  • Imagine you walk into a room and a person is working at a computer. The person stops what she’s doing and looks up at you, giving you her full attention. God is fully attentive to you. God is here, already at work, already reaching out to you, loving you.
  • May you know God’s presence and peace

Remember to continue to make space after the prayer or blessing. Often, the realization of God’s presence causes the person to want to talk more, to share even more deeply.

3. Follow up – The Evidence of Prayer 

As in the story, promise to continue to pray. Follow up with the person with a written note, text, call, or Facebook message. A written prayer can be read again and again. Offer something simple- I’m praying for you. I’m here for you

When you see the person, offer something simple like “It’s so good to see you.” Leave space to let them lead the conversation.

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Sean and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9:00 am or 10:30 am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9:00 am Sundays or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

sermon © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Sermon Recording- Come and See (John 1.35-42)

coffee hang out relationship

Sermon Series: Hometown Missionary
Message 1 of 5: Come and See, Hanging Out and Making Invitations
Scriptures: John 1:35-42
This message was offered Sunday, 7/8/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

When you think of a missionary, what comes to mind?

  • Special people  who are identified and sent by a congregation
  • They have a calling from God and are trained to fulfill it
  • Mature, devoted followers of Jesus Christ
  • Often leave home to go to a far off, developing country
  • Might learn a new language
  • Might bring a skill like medical training, construction experience, knowledge of water purification techniques, teaching
  • Special people who choose a life of sacrifice, poverty, and danger
    • Praise the Lord that 2 of the 3 UMC missionaries in the Philippines have been released. Continue to pray for the release of Miracle.

Missionaries fulfill the great commission literally- They Go!

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations. Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Lo, I am with you always to the end of the age. – Matthew 28:19-20 

Our job in fulfilling the great commission is to recognize and affirm their call, to support them in their training and mission work with our prayers, our money, and by sending supplies. Occasionally we might go on a short-term mission trip, but they stay “in country.”

This model no longer works. The world has changed. America has changed. America is now a missionary territory.

In the story of my family, there are 5 generations without faith in Jesus Christ. That’s 100 years.

We now live in Post Christendom America. Christianity no longer has preferential treatment in our society. It’s sometimes subtle and sometimes it’s downright hostile.

  • 24/7 work week + increased workloads, the need for 2 income families, job plus a side hustle, jobs in retirement
  • So many options for how to spend our time and money
  • So much pressure to raise “well rounded” kids who are committed to sports plus arts plus making great grades

Many of us came to faith when all you had to do was build a church and people would come. It was part of the culture.

How many of us trained to be missionaries? Very few! Therefore there is no shame in not knowing how to do this. We’ll spend the next few weeks reclaiming the missionary heart, prayers, and practices of our spiritual ancestors.

Take a breath. It’s ok if this is new for you, even uncomfortable. It is for me as well. I’ll be learning and trying out new things right alongside you. God’s power will be made perfect in our weakness.

So where do we start? We start simple just like they did in Bible times. We hang out with people. We build a relationship, build trust. Be a great friend. Care about folks with no agenda. God will open the door for deeper discussions.

Read John 1:35-42

Understand Who You’re Hanging out with/Inviting

This pie chart helps us understand the US population’s relationship with Christ and his church. Different groups are best reached in different ways

pie chart us population relationship with christ

Group 1 = Green and Gold Areas of the Chart

These persons have firsthand experience with words and ways of Jesus. (Scripture, Prayer, Holy Communion, Serving Others). They know church language, are comfortable in a sanctuary and in worship, and are comfortable around other Christians.

  • Dark Green (10%) name themselves Christians, have a church home, and are active participants one or more times per month.
  • Light Green (10%) name themselves Christians, have a church home, and are active participants less than once per month but more than just Christmas and Easter.
  • Gold (20%) name themselves Christians, have had a church home in the past but not currently, and are open to reconnecting to active participation with a congregation.

Group 1 Invitations = Come and See  

  • Easy to hang out with persons in this group because we have so much in common
  • Because of their experiences, you can invite these persons directly to church activities and worship

Group 2 = Orange area of the chart (20%)

These persons also have firsthand experience with words and ways of Jesus but are now uncomfortable at a church and around other Christians. They may have been hurt by a church experience. They may be angry at the church or at God. They may be ashamed of something or just adopted new priorities. They are closed to reconnecting with a congregation and maybe even faith itself.

Group 2 Invitations = We’re different

  • This takes much more prayer and relationship building.
  • Help persons discover our congregation is different from the hurtful one they previously experienced.
  • Different might mean relationships, theology, style, values, motivation, and/or goals.
  • Build trust, pray, and invite them to meet other Christians or try inviting them to events which will meet felt needs

Group 3 = Blue Area of the Chart (40%)

This represents persons who have little to no experience with the words and ways of Jesus. If the orange group is done, the blue group is none. All they know about Christianity is from TV, movies, and novels. (how often is that accurate?) They may have never stepped foot into a sanctuary. Coming to worship might feel like walking on Mars. They may not have had a Christian in their family or friends for generations, have never had a Christian in their family/friends, or even know a Christian.

For me, the longer I am a Christian, the fewer people I know in this group. I need help in this area.

Group 3 invitations = Go!

  • Reaching persons in this group is similar to foreign mission work.
  • It’s about cross-cultural relationship building on their turf rather than the church campus.
  • Invite them to out for coffee or for a meal, activity together

Your mission should you choose to accept it: Make space to hang out with people. Be a real friend. Really care. No agenda. Listen deeply. Be consistent. Treat people as people, not as a project.

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Sean and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9:00 am or 10:30 am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9:00 am Sundays or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

sermon © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Church as Family

belonging ducklings1 Peter 2:16-17a (NRSV)
As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. Honor everyone. Love the family of believers…

A while back a former gang member came to our church. He was heavily tattooed and rough around the edges, but he was curious to see what church was like. He had a relationship with Jesus and seemed to get fairly involved with the church. After a few months, I found out the guy was no longer coming to the church. When asked why he didn’t come anymore, he gave the following explanation: “I had the wrong idea of what church was going to be like. When I joined the church, I thought it was going to be like joining a gang. You see, in the gangs we weren’t just nice to each other once a week— we were family.” That killed me because I knew that what he expected is what the church is intended to be. It saddened me to think that a gang could paint a better picture of commitment, loyalty, and family than the local church body.
– Francis Chan, Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit

At our Spanish-speaking immigrant church, people don’t have the luxury to think too hard about what it costs to raise their kids. Most have children (it probably never occurred to them not to) and keep busy making ends meet. The kids in my church don’t have Baby Mozart albums, parents who attend every school function, or a neighborhood in a top school district. Yet, they seem to be doing just as well as kids who have it all. Why? Because their moms and dads love them exorbitantly, and everyone in the church parents them as well. My church, though not perfect, does better job than most of living up to the proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” An older empty-nest couple, for example, used to take care of a younger couple’s two daughters. The pastor’s wife goes out of her way to pick up children for Sunday school when their parents can’t come. We treat each other like family, and we treat all the children in the church as our own. – Liuan Huska, It Takes a Church to Raise a Child

Like the strongest biological families, God’s family at its best shelters, teaches, and supports its members — because loving other people is often tough whether we’re talking about biological or spiritual kin. Communities of faith have the opportunity to offer each other and to model for those beyond their walls a place where people can learn to love and fail to love — and yet be accepted either way.
Mary Lou Redding, The Upper Room Daily Devotional Guide

An essential part of wholeness is the sense of belonging. Belonging within nature. Belonging to one another. Belonging in your own skin. At first, Jesus rejects the Syrophoenician woman’s entreaty to cure her daughter, because she does not belong to his people. The woman cleverly dismantles his sense of limitation however, and now the Gospel belongs to all of us. (Mark 7:24-30)
– Suzanne Guthrie, The Edge of the Enclosure

An extended quote from Prodigal Brothers by Steve Garnaas-Holmes (Luke 15:11-32)
The failure of our love—distancing ourselves from God and one another— is at the heart of our sin. In our self-centeredness, we break our family bond with God and with others, as if we’re not related. It is not just of our disobedience that we repent, but of our distance, our refusing to get close to God and to others, including those whom we judge.

The good news is that in the end, we are unable to break that bond. Despite our attempt to disown God and each other, God stays related to us and keeps us related to each other. The father puts a ring on the younger brother’s finger—a symbol of family. And he corrects the older brother and calls the younger one “this brother of yours.” Despite their failures, he invites them both into the party. The righteousness that we need is not obedience. It’s a loving relationship—and this is not our own doing; it is the gift of God. In repentance, we pray toward both God and neighbor, “I am not on my own. I am yours.”

Acts 2:41-47 (NRSV)
So those who welcomed [Peter’s message concerning Jesus Christ] were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

We must be knit together, in this work, as one man. We must entertain each other in brotherly affection. We must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities, for the supply of others’ necessities. We must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality. We must delight in each other; make others’ conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, as members of the same body … For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world.
– John Winthrop, A Model of Christian Charity

Prayer: Make us your children
Heavenly One,
Your reach extends to every person, every nation
Offering grace, forgiveness, wholeness, and hope
A saving embrace
Drawing us to you and each other

Make us your children
Grateful for a place in your family
Humble before your love and generosity
Faithful in honoring and welcoming all
Joyful in sharing what we have found in you
Amen.

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Click Here for Steve Harper’s discussion as to “why ‘churchless Christianity’ will never work, even though some of the concerns it carries are valid.”

For a post entitled Trinity, Community and Love, click here
For a post entitled One with God, One With Each Other, click here
For a post entitled Quotes: Community, click here

Prayer: Make us your children © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.