Growing in Resilience: The Too Proud Faces of Death, based on Isaiah 47.10-11

mourn sorrow

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Growing in Resilience
Day 8, Read Isaiah 47
Reflection: The Too Proud Faces of Death, based on Isaiah 47:10-11

You felt secure in your wickedness; you said, “No one sees me.” Your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray, and you said in your heart, “I am, and there is no one besides me.” But evil shall come upon you, which you cannot charm away; disaster shall fall upon you, which you will not be able to ward off; and ruin shall come on you suddenly, of which you know nothing.

Will wickedness always remain?
Will violence and war continue to claim their prey?
Will daily needs go unmet forever?
daily bread undiscovered
daily water contaminated
daily shelter out of reach
Will oppression and poverty and captivity shriek their horrid victory?
Will isolation entomb us?

It’s all death
The too proud faces of death
death of goodness
death of peace
death of provision
death of dignity
death of relationship

O Lord, will it always be this way?
Your answer?
No!

Oh, how we need this reminder!
This promise!
This truth!
This hope!
Oh, how we need this now!

Hear our cry, One True Living God
Wield your resurrection love
Yours is the power and strength
Yours is the victory
Reveal it now! Grant it now!
Your people coming before you and coming together and overcoming

Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. – 1 Corinthians 15:54b-58 (NRSV)

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Click Here for more on the Growing in Resilience Reading Plan sponsored by Bishop Ken Carter and the Cabinet of the Florida Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. 

The Too Proud Faces of Death© 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Sermon Recording- Freedom in Christ (John 8.31-36)

Sermon Series jump freedom joy sunrise 1110 x 624

Message: Freedom in Christ
Scriptures: John 8:31-36
This message was offered Sunday, 7/1/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Opening Activity: Turn to your neighbors and show them what excited is by just using your face. Show them peace. Show them freedom. To show freedom we have to use our whole body and our voice. Is anyone free enough and brave enough to show us freedom?

Click Here for the sign for freedom in American Sign Language

Three Types of Freedom

1. Freedom = Freedom From

When we think about the founding of our country, we think about freedom from constraint. Freedom from: Oppression, Coercion, Tyranny, Harassment, Bullying, Prejudice, Abuse

2. Freedom = Freedom To

If we have Freedom From, that leads us to Freedom To. Freedom To: Worship, Vote, Speak, Work, Travel, Learn, Own things (including property/business), Raise a family according to my values, Rest and Relax. Freedom To is about access to opportunity- life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

3. Freedom = Freedom For

Freedom for

  • living the kind of life I was made to live
  • being
  • becoming the person I was meant to be
  • my true self to come out
  • living for something bigger than just myself and what I want
  • the common good
  • living into the Kingdom of Heaven

This kind of freedom, Freedom For, is the freedom found in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only One who can provide this freedom. The Good News is that this freedom is available to all people, no matter if you have the first two freedoms or not.

The story of Pastora Yolanda in Cuba. She does not experience much of the first two freedoms, but she does experience Freedom For. The truth of Jesus has set her free.

The three United Methodist Missionaries being detained in the Phillippines have Freedom For, freedom in Christ. Nothing can separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?” – John 8:31-33, NRSV

Most of the early followers of Jesus Jewish. Jesus himself was Jewish. Jesus is the Savior of the World and the long-awaited Messiah of the Jews. Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament promises, prophesies, and covenants which were mostly about what it means to be truly free and what it means to truly live.

The Jewish believers respond, “What do you mean freedom? We’ve never been slaves to anyone.” I’m thinking, What?? Where were you in history class?

  • Slaves in Egypt under the rule of Pharaoh
    • God led them to freedom and established them in a promised land. It’s remembered every year at the Passover celebration.
  • Later invaded and conquered, Babylonian Captivity
    • Jerusalem destroyed, the best and brightest taken into exile as slaves and allowed to return to rebuild Jerusalem after 70 years
  • As their saying this to Jesus, they’re under Roman occupation and oppression
  • Maybe they meant they weren’t literally slaves bound to a master. Slavery was an everyday reality of the ancient world.

We can think the same thing, “I’m an American. I live in America. I’ve never been a slave to anyone.”

  • We are still suffering from the legacy of slavery in our country and the reality that there are modern-day slaves. Slavery has not been abolished.
  • Slavery is alive and well in Florida. We have many ports. There are kidnapping and human trafficking groups supplying slaves for labor (agricultural especially), personal and domestic care, and sexual exploitation.

Slavery still exists. It exists in the literal sense and in the sense that we experience it in things like fear.

  • Have you ever been held captive to your fear? Held captive to falsehood?
  • Have you ever been in the chains of peer pressure or prejudice or addition?
  • In the bondage of poverty, or disease including mental illness, lack of education, lack of opportunity?
  • Have you ever been treated like property rather than a human being?

Jesus is talking about slavery and Jesus is talking about freedom. It is Big Picture. Jesus speaks in layers. It is literal and it is deep and it is wide. We must be careful in saying, “I’ve never been a slave.”

Jesus said you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. If the truth will make us free, then what will enslave us?

  • Falsehood is slavery
  • Lies, Sin, Spin, Misinformation is slavery

If you have a false understanding of God, have you found freedom in God? If you have a false understanding of freedom have you found freedom?

False idea: Freedom from external constraints and freedom to do whatever I want will give me true freedom.

How many times have we been sold that? Real freedom is nobody being able to tell me what to do. “You’re not the boss of me. You’re not my mom.” (Freedom From)

How many times have we been sold the lie that true freedom is the ability to have anything I want and to do anything I want, with whoever I want, whenever I want, and there will be no consequences? Some have even labeled that success.

Is this freedom? Is this real? Is this true?

No, it’s false. It’s incomplete. It’s twisting freedom into something freedom was never meant to be. It is actually backward. Freedom in Christ (Freedom For) empowers us to help with all the other freeing that needs to happen in our world and in our lives (Freedom From and Freedom To). Freedom in Christ first.

If we think freedom is about self-interest and self-determination above all else it’s not freedom. How many times have we seen this lie blow up a life, or blow up a family, or blow up a business? We’re seeing it blow up our nation.

A false understanding of freedom isn’t freedom, it’s slavery.  Let’s see what Jesus says.

31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”

34 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. – John 8:31-36, NRSV

 True Freedom = Freedom For, Freedom in Christ

How are we freed?

  1. Acknowledging we are slaves to sin and death and a whole bunch of other things and that we cannot save ourselves
  2. There is a Savior! We are freed by saying, “I am saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus offers salvation to me. Jesus is my liberator. Jesus is my Deliverer. Jesus is my Lord. I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back. Even though I may not know what I’m doing, even though I’m not perfect at it, Jesus help me. Save me.” I’m in need of saving. There is a Savior. I place my trust in the Savior.
  3. Then we are more and more free as we continue in the words and ways of Jesus
    • We learn and live the truth
    • We follow Jesus in sharing this Good News so others may be freed. Freed from sin and oppression and injustice. We join Jesus in working for the common good.

This is freedom. It is offered to each and every one of us. It is offered to you. You will know the Truth and the Truth will make you free and the One to know is Jesus.

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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.

Soft and Steadfast, a prayer based on Hebrews 3:7-14

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Hebrews 3:7-14, The Voice

Merciful One, soften my heart

Save me from hardheartedness
From evil and deceit
From mutiny and unbelief

Turn and return me
From wandering away
From petrifying slowly

Make my heart pure
Open to you
Wanting what you want

Make my heart true
Confident in you
Holding fast

Make my heart noble
Quick to listen
Rejoicing in your direction

Jesus
Heart of my heart
Keep me soft and steadfast in your nail scarred hands

Extended quote by John R. Wimmer, Blessed Endurance
The words joy rejoice as they appear in James and First Peter do not mean what they seem at first glance. The rejoicing we find here is not a shallow, syrupy, or optimistic refusal to admit that problems exist; instead, it is the realistic recognition of struggle bolstered by the decision to rejoice in knowing that God is working to bring us through strife to greater spiritual depth. Yes, it may be tough if not impossible to rejoice when suffering, but such joy will not take the form of emotional jubilance or elation.

James proclaims that suffering may be considered as joy when the encounter produces the spiritual virtue of steadfastness. And steadfastness, when allowed to flower into fullness, produces the most attractive bloom of all qualities: Christian maturity.

Authentic Christian maturity, then, is a steadfastness that we attain not by denial. It is a quality that, like any other kind of maturity, accrues with age, hard work, and a lot of bruising experience. It is the ability to redirect our thoughts beyond immediate woes in order to realize the spiritual growth that results from tests of faith.

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Prayer: Soft and Steadfast © 2017 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.

Jesus, the Coming Messiah- The Seed of Eve (Genesis 3, Romans 16)

Jesus, The Coming Messiah
Jesus, The Coming Messiah: Advent Readings from Old Testament to New
December 1: The Messiah as the Seed of Eve
Readings: Genesis 3:1-20; Romans 16:17-20

Genesis 3:14-15, The Voice
God (to the serpent): What you have done carries great consequences.
Now you are cursed more than cattle or wild beasts.
You will writhe on your belly forever,
consuming the dust out of which man was made.
I will make you and your brood enemies
of the woman and all her children;
The woman’s child will stomp your head,
and you will strike his heel.

Romans 16:17-20, The Voice
I am pleading with all of you, brothers and sisters, to keep up your guard against anyone who is causing conflicts and enticing others with teachings contrary to what you have already learned. If there are people like that in your churches, stay away from them. These kinds of people are not truly serving our Lord Jesus the Anointed; they have devoted their lives to satisfying their own appetites. With smooth talking and a well-rehearsed blessing, they lead a lot of unsuspecting people down the wrong path. The stories about the way you are living in obedience to God have traveled to all the churches. So celebrate your faithfulness to God that is being displayed in your lives—seek wisdom about the good life, and remain innocent when it comes to evil. If you do this, the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet soon. May the grace of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, the Liberating King, be ever present with you.

The seed of a woman is a child growing within her.
The child’s birth is a harvest, a promise fulfilled.
Jesus, the long awaited seed of Eve, grows within Mary.
His birth is a promise fulfilled, a harvest of hope for the world.
– Lisa Degrenia

Additional verse of Hark! the Herald Angels Sing
by Charles Wesley (rarely seen or sung today)
Come, Desire of Nations, come,
Fix in us thy humble home,
Rise, the Woman’s Conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in us the Serpent’s Head.
Now display thy saving Pow’r,
Ruin’d nature now restore,
Now in Mystic Union join
Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.
[Hark the Herald Angels sing, glory to the newborn King]

Prayer
Hallelujah to Jesus!
Born of a woman, that we might be born again.

Hallelujah to Jesus!
Struck by the full force of evil yet rising victorious,
that we might rise with him.

Hallelujah to Jesus!
Crushing Satan, sin, and death,
that we might know peace and the fullness of life.

Guard us, Anointed One,
from every warring way

Deliver us, Liberating King,
from every enticing falsehood

Lead us, Lord, to your wisdom and truth
May this grace birth faithfulness and innocence within us
May our new life delight you and honor you
May it better your world and draw many to your saving love
Amen

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Thank you for setting aside times this Holy Season to seek the One we celebrate.

Jesus, The Coming Messiah is an Advent Bible Reading Plan highlighting the Old Testament prophesies and passages which Christians see fulfilled in Jesus.

As you read each passage, consider how this description of Jesus the Messiah reveals his character, motivation, and purpose. How does this description inspire you to trust Jesus and his promises? How will you apply and share what you have discovered? I look forward to your comments.

If you’re in Sarasota, please drop by Trinity United Methodist Church for one of our seasonal events or services or just to say, “Hi.” You’re always welcome and wanted.

Happy Advent and Merry Christmas! – Lisa <><

The Messiah as The Seed of Eve © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in devotional settings with proper attribution.
Please leave a comment for information/permission to publish this work in any form.

Grant Me Your Wisdom (Proverbs 3.19-24)

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Based on Proverbs 3:19-24

Merciful and Mighty God, how wondrous is your wisdom! Your wisdom is eternal, beautiful, creative, powerful, good. The strong foundation of life itself, all of life.

Grant me your wisdom that I may discern faithfully and be a bearer of your life, goodness, and truth

Grant me your wisdom that I may walk with you all my days, clear-eyed and sure-footed

Grant me your wisdom that I may be your peace and rest in your peace, each night and forever.

I ask this for the honor and glory of your name, for the building of your kingdom, for the good of my neighbors and myself. I ask in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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Grant Me Your Wisdom © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Scriptures for Life on the War of Words Battlefield

power-of-wordsWe live on the battlefield of the war of words. Let us recognize their power to create and to destroy, choosing, by the grace of God, to use their power for healing, peacemaking, truth telling, and inspiring the common good. – Lisa Degrenia

From the Book of Proverbs
Lying lips conceal hatred, and whoever utters slander is a fool.
When words are many, transgression is not lacking,
But the prudent are restrained in speech.
The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the mind of the wicked is of little worth.
The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense. (Proverbs 10:18-21)

Rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.
Deceit is in the mind of those who plan evil,
But those who counsel peace have joy. (Proverbs 12:18-20)

From the fruit of their words good persons eat good things,
But the desire of the treacherous is for wrongdoing.
Those who guard their mouths preserve their lives;
Those who open wide their lips come to ruin. (Proverbs 13:2-3)

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongue of the wise dispenses knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.
A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. (Proverbs 15:1-2, 4)

From the fruit of the mouth one’s stomach is satisfied;
The yield of the lips brings satisfaction.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
And those who love it will eat its fruits. (Proverbs 18:20-21)

It can sway men to violence, or it can move them to the noblest actions. It can instruct the ignorant, encourage the dejected, comfort the sorrowing, and soothe the dying. Or it can crush the human spirit, destroy reputations, spread distrust and hate, and bring nations to the brink of war.
– Curtis Vaughan in James, a study guide 

From the Book of Psalms
Help, O Lord, for there is no longer anyone who is godly;
The faithful have disappeared from humankind.
They utter lies to each other; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
May the Lord cut off all flattering lips, the tongue that makes great boasts,
Those who say, “With our tongues we will prevail;
Our lips are our own — who is our master?” (Psalm 12:1-4)

Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Which of you desires life, and covets many days to enjoy good?
Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. (Psalm 34:11-14)

Why do you boast, O mighty one, of mischief done against the godly?
All day long you are plotting destruction.
Your tongue is like a sharp razor, you worker of treachery.
You love evil more than good, and lying more than speaking the truth.
You love all words that devour, O deceitful tongue. (Psalm 52:1-4)

My companion laid hands on a friend and violated a covenant with me
With speech smoother than butter, but with a heart set on war;
With words that were softer than oil, but in fact were drawn swords.
(Psalm 55:20-21)

Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked,
From the scheming of evildoers, who whet their tongues like swords,
Who aim bitter words like arrows, shooting from ambush at the blameless;
They shoot suddenly and without fear.
They hold fast to their evil purpose;
They talk of laying snares secretly, thinking, “Who can see us?
Who can search out our crimes? We have thought out a cunningly conceived plot.”
For the human heart and mind are deep.
But God will shoot his arrow at them; they will be wounded suddenly.
Because of their tongue he will bring them to ruin;
All who see them will shake with horror. (Psalm 64:2-8)

Deliver me, O Lord, from evildoers;
Protect me from those who are violent,
Who plan evil things in their minds and stir up wars continually.
They make their tongue sharp as a snake’s,
And under their lips is the venom of vipers. (Psalm 140:1-3)

Every idle word we utter betrays our lack of respect for our neighbor, and shows that we place ourselves on a pinnacle above him and value our own lives higher than his. The angry word is a blow struck at our brother, a stab at his heart; it seeks to hit, to hurt and to destroy. A deliberate insult is even worse, for we are then openly disgracing our brother in the eyes of the world, and causing others to despise him. With our hearts burning with hatred, we seek to annihilate his moral and material existence. We are passing judgment on him, and that is murder. And the murderer himself will be judged. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer in The Cost of Discipleship

All five chapters in the book of James refer to the power of words.
Chapter 1
You must understand this, my beloved:let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger (1:19)
If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. (1:26)

Chapter 2
So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. (2:12)

Chapter 3
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell.

For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue— a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh. (3:1-12)

Chapter 4
Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor?(4:11-12)

Chapter 5
Above all, my beloved, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “Yes” be yes and your “No” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation. (5:12)

Soft and Steadfast, a prayer based on Hebrews 3:7-14

soft-heart-cruel-world-2

Hebrews 3:7-14, The Voice

Merciful One, soften my heart

Save me from hardheartedness
From evil and deceit
From mutiny and unbelief

Turn and return me
From wandering away
From petrifying slowly

Make my heart pure
Open to you
Wanting what you want

Make my heart true
Confident in you
Holding fast

Make my heart noble
Quick to listen
Rejoicing in your direction

Jesus
Heart of my heart
Keep me soft and steadfast in your nail scarred hands

Extended quote by John R. Wimmer, Blessed Endurance
The words joy rejoice as they appear in James and First Peter do not mean what they seem at first glance. The rejoicing we find here is not a shallow, syrupy, or optimistic refusal to admit that problems exist; instead, it is the realistic recognition of struggle bolstered by the decision to rejoice in knowing that God is working to bring us through strife to greater spiritual depth. Yes, it may be tough if not impossible to rejoice when suffering, but such joy will not take the form of emotional jubilance or elation.

James proclaims that suffering may be considered as joy when the encounter produces the spiritual virtue of steadfastness. And steadfastness, when allowed to flower into fullness, produces the most attractive bloom of all qualities: Christian maturity.

Authentic Christian maturity, then, is a steadfastness that we attain not by denial. It is a quality that, like any other kind of maturity, accrues with age, hard work, and a lot of bruising experience. It is the ability to redirect our thoughts beyond immediate woes in order to realize the spiritual growth that results from tests of faith.

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Prayer: Soft and Steadfast © 2017 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.