A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Dave's Deep Thoughts

Sometimes, you don't come home.
When my mom was diagnosed
with dementia several years ago,
my family began that inevitable journey
towards the day when she would
no longer be able to remain on the farm.

After two years of providing
24 hour care for her
we had no options left,
but to take her out of the farmhouse
in which she was born 82 years ago,
and move her into my sister's home.

And so on Sunday,
we had a party on her behalf.
We invited family, neighbors, and friends
to visit her one last time
under the big maple tree
that had housed many picnics & parties
through the years.

Then, after the party,
she was escorted to my sister's car,
never again to set foot on the farm.

We experience last times for many things in life,
this last time just seemed a little bigger.

The week prior to the party,
there had been heavy rains and winds.
The yard was a mess,
with branches and leaves
covering the overgrown grass.

The day before the party, the unexpected happened....
the sun finally came out and began to dry the land.
And so I did what any son would do.
I seized the opportunity and began to mow the lawn.

When you mow a large property,
you have time to think.
And so I mowed,

and I thought about all the memories of life on the farm.
Bailing hay on the 4th of July,
in 95 degree heat.

Supper at 5 o'clock every day,
with the entire family sitting down to table.

Making homemade ice cream with mom
and taking turns at churning.

Hosting neighbors and friends on the weekends,
playing in the creek on hot summer days.

The bush where I hit my brother
in the head with a baseball bat (accidentally)

Putting up with older sisters'
high school friends who came for sleepovers.

Birthdays when friends were able to come over for the entire weekend.
Sitting on the porch in the late evening
and listening to the crickets
or watching the fireflies.

Herding livestock in
when storms approached.
The smell of apples on the trees in the autumn.

Thanksgiving Days
that began with hunting
and ended with extended family
gathered around a table
that had to extend into the living room.

Summers that seemed to last forever,
a swing that hung from a large tree branch,
and sandboxes where we created entire civilizations.

There were sad times too.
Deaths in the family.
Gathering together to grieve.

Times when the family was
challenged with disputes and circumstances.

The day the barn burned,
and watching the helpless expression on a dad's face.


But there was always a tomorrow.
Time to rebuild barns.
Time to heal from physical and emotional wounds.

Christmas in the early years.
Taking the tractor out to the grove
and bringing in a fresh tree.

A dad who would foolishly climb the windmill
to place the Christmas star at the highest point.
Big gaudy Christmas bulbs on the front yard bushes

And cold winters,
with snow drifts taller then I could reach.
Bedrooms so cold
I couldn't wait to slip under the electric blanket.
Wood stoves
that made the house feel so good
when you came in from the cold.

Easter mornings
with the obligatory photos in our new clothes,
always in front of mom's flower beds.

Croquet & football games in the front yard.
Graduation parties.
The smell of manure freshly spread in the springtime.

Secret trips to the attic,
just to explore what was there
avoidance of the cellar,
which seemed so scary.

When you have a lot of grass to mow,
you can think about a lot.

And so today,
I thought about how much there was to remember.
How much there was for which to be thankful.

How within another generation,
these wonderful stories and memories
would be forgotten.

As I turned off the mower,
I looked at the new home that had just gone up
on the other side of the pasture.
A new family starting their own memories.

Just up the road,
a home had been recently built
to house those with disabilities.

Another type of family,
beginning its own journey.

Yes, it is true,
sometimes you don't come home.
But I am learning that that is okay.

It's what happens when you are a part of eternity.
There is another place for you.

And so as mom was helped into the car,
for that final trip down the driveway,
there was sadness,
but also joy.

A sadness that recognizes we are witnessing a close to a season of life.
But a joy that comes in knowing that there is another season
both for us, and for the families that follow on this sacred space.

And the greatest joy is knowing,
that God is preparing those who love Him,
the best home of all.

In my Father's house,
are many dwelling places;
if it were not so, I would have told you;
for I go to prepare a place for you.
John 14:2

Bible Study Summary - Upcoming Sunday's Scriptures

October 2 Sermon – “Transformed Living: “Drawing Water”

Acts 12:1-7, 11-17

-         Herod’s use of the sword (as opposed to stoning) in executing James (brother of John) was his way of showing that the early Christian movement was a political threat to Rome.  Christians referred to Jesus as the true king.
-         From this point on, the other James (brother of Jesus) will become the leader of the Christian movement in Jerusalem. 
-         V. 5 – The church prays for Peter who Herod had put in prison.  They pray because they have seen God do amazing things already!  Peter gets released!
-         Rhoda announces that Peter is alive but the others don’t believe it.  The early church was a lot like we are today – sometimes not seeing that God does answer prayer!

Luke 18:9-14

-         A parable about a lawsuit, not a religious service.  (See the end of the parable involving a judgment by the Judge.)
-         The Pharisee emphasizes his good traits in his prayer while denouncing the hated tax collector nearby. 
-         The tax collector is showing genuine penitence and humility and the judge vindicates him.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Thoughts on Prayer - No Service?

At a recent bible study, we decided to end our time together in prayer.  I asked each person to take a few minutes in silence and listen for God's voice.  The room became eerily silent as our conversation hushed and we were all seeking to listen to what God would say to each of us during that time in prayer.

It was only five or maybe ten seconds into the silence when all of us heard a strange voice say, "No service."  The sound of that loud voice startled me and my first thought was, "I hope that's not God speaking to us!"

Imagine our sighs of relief when we noticed one of our bible study members reaching for her cell phone that was tucked away in her purse.  As she was turning her phone off, we couldn't help but to laugh at the timing of those mysterious words!

This Sunday, our church will be focusing on how prayer is one of the ways that we participate in transformed living.  I wonder if one of the reasons we struggle in setting aside time for prayer is because we are afraid that we will hear those same words, "No service!"  Or worse, we won't hear any voice at all.

Like the woman in my bible study, I have found that my phone also struggles to get a signal in the room where our bible study meets.  But thankfully, there is service between us and God.

In my morning devotions today, these words remind us that God hears our prayers.  "Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you." - Matthew 7:7

With God, our signal strength is strong even when our phones may have lousy coverage.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Transformed Living - Renewal, New Life, & Playfulness!

   As I was running on the bike path next to a beautiful stream on a recent sunny day, I noticed a mother with two little children wading through the water.  They were playfully splashing the water at each other, looking for rocks, and enjoying their day together.

  This little water scene gave me a new understanding of the meaning of baptism.  Baptism is a time of celebration in which we experience the refreshing water of God’s love and receive God’s grace anew. 

  We are currently focusing on the theme, “Transformed Living” during our worship services by using the image of water.  Water reminds us of cleansing, renewal, new life, and yes, playfulness!

  I am so glad that we are celebrating several baptisms during this sermon series.  One of the ways that we experience a transformed life is by remembering our baptism and giving thanks.  

  May God bless you as we focus on what it means to live transformed lives.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sermon (September 25) "Transformed Living: Priming the Pump"

          Today begins a new focus on what it means to live the transformed life.   This is going to be an exciting time because the more thought and effort we put into these next six weeks, the more we are going to experience transformation in our lives as well as in the life of our church.  It’s going to be a win/win for all of us!
          But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, we first need to think about priming the pump before transformation can begin to happen.   Do you remember how those old-fashioned pumps first needed some water poured in to prime them before they could reach down deep and provide the water supply? That’s what this first week of our series is all about—a priming of the pump, preparation, getting ready. 
     Priming the pump means we reflect on where we are now, evaluate where we’d like to be, and even question some of our basic beliefs about our relationship with God. All of this is to help us acknowledge where we are now and to prepare to commit to be the best followers of Jesus Christ we can possibly be.
     Today I want to suggest four things for us to consider over these next several weeks.
          You know, one thing I like about this focus of the transformed life is that it meets each of us where we are, right now, in our walk with Christ.  So the first point is that these Sundays will help us to take a fresh look at where we are now.  God wants to meet us where we are.  We’re all in different seasons of our life in Christ.  Some of us are thirsty for more, and we know we’re thirsty.  We know God has more for us in our lives than we’re experiencing or struggling through right now.  We want that deep refreshing drink that will satisfy every need and every cell crying out for more.
          Others of us are walking hand in hand with God and know what it means to receive the living water that refreshes us. Some of us might be thinking that we’re in a place in our spiritual lives where it’s hard to imagine that it can be any better.  But it can.
          And some of us are moving so fast with family, work, and activities that we don’t even know that we’re parched.  We think we’re okay and can’t imagine how on earth we could find the time to stop for a cool refreshing drink.  I mean, we might get one if we can get it at the drive-thru and drink it on the way, but to actually consider adding one more component to our life—well, when we’re in that spot, we’re so dry we don’t actually know how desperate for water we really are.
     The woman who met Jesus at the well was going about her business of getting water for the day.  Little did she know that she was about to encounter Jesus who is the living water.  It was at this well in the middle of a hot day when Jesus told her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty.  The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”
     Did you know that word was in the bible?  “Gushing.”  That’s a great word.  Is your life filled with the gushing living water that comes to us from Jesus?  And I love this woman’s response to Jesus.  I hope it’s our response to him today.  “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
          One thing that each of us have in common, no matter what our level of thirst at the present time, is that we all really want more.  Some of us might not think of it that way or realize we want more, but we do.  We aren’t satisfied, not really.  There’s something inside of each of us that wonders if there’s more to life than what we have; if it’s possible to be happier, more fulfilled, more content, more satisfied.  Even if you are really satisfied with your life in this moment, remember that even one of the richest men in the world wanted more.
          John D. Rockefeller Jr. was heir to the greatest fortune in the world back in the 1920s.  Among their enterprises, the Rockefellers owned Standard Oil, which controlled almost all the oil industry in America at the time.  Most of today’s big oil companies—ExxonMobil, Conoco, Phillips, Chevron, Amoco, BP, Atlantic Richfield, and Marathon—were part of Standard Oil.  Recent estimates of JDR Jr.’s net worth placed it at $995 million in 1928, which would be about $6.5 billion in our time. Well anyway, John D. Rockefeller was once asked how much money was enough. Rockefeller’s reply was “Just a little bit more.”
          Even one of the richest men in the world said that regardless of what we have, we all have the desire for more.  Of course, he was talking about money, and we do need to be wise with money. Luke chapter 16, verse 11 says, “If you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven?” But Rockefeller’s statement also applies to other aspects of our lives. Money is just a little thing when compared to true riches.  Money doesn’t make people happy; money won’t ever satisfy.  God offers us the true riches of life—and among them is the gift of his love and care for us.  That’s the second point to consider: God really loves and cares for us.
          Do you know how much God cares for us?  God cares so much that he offers the very best for us.  Like Rockefeller, as a society, we tend to think that if we could just get a little more money, we’d be happy.  But the true riches of life go far beyond material possessions.  It has been aptly noted that “in today’s society we know the price of everything, but the value of very little.” Value is what’s important.  What is true?  What is lasting?
          Deep down, you and I know that we want what’s true and lasting.  It’s what we want in our relationships with our spouses, our children, and our life’s work. It’s okay to want what is true and lasting, to want more and to not want to settle for less than what God intended for you. God created us with a thirst to be more. He created us to want more, to want a rich life, one of more meaning and more fulfillment.  And the good news is that when we seek God, we get those things we long for . . . and more.
          Have you ever wondered what that “MORE” is for us?  We know we want it, but don’t have an idea what IT is.  That’s okay.  One thing I believe we’ll all gain through these weeks together is that we’ll discover new aspects of who and what really satisfies our souls.  We’ve heard all our lives that God has a plan and a purpose for us.  Some of us have been fortunate to discover what that very personal plan is.  But the rest of us, well, we’re in for a treat. Now we get to explore for what—and for whom—we’ve been created.
          The third point is this: you’ll discover your niche. There’s a place where you fit perfectly into the niche that God has created for you, and where everything you have or do works together to accomplish his desires for you.  You may be called on to use your time, money, talent, knowledge, or even relationships.  God has given us all these and he wants us to use them in order that God’s kingdom will fill this earth.
          God’s desire is to show us what is the best for us in a life of transformed living.  He wants us to jump into the water and enjoy it in all of its fullness. This can’t happen if we have divided loyalties.  We need a central focus.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God.” The top of our priority list should be commitment to the kingdom of God. When we choose God, other choices will begin to take their rightful place.
          One of the foundational truths of this series is that we are all to be in ministry.  Every person in the body of Christ is called to have the kingdom of God as his or her whole life.  Every person in the body of Christ is called to be a minister—especially those who don’t have that title on their business cards.  Or especially if they don’t even have business cards. We minister to people by the way we live our lives, by the way we talk to the person in line next to us at the grocery store, by little kindnesses you do like bringing in the mail for your elderly neighbor, and by volunteering in areas of service in the church and in our community.
     The kingdom of God is not just about service.  It’s all about that relationship we talked about earlier. When you love someone, you become like them. You want to do the things you see them do. Jesus said he only did what he saw God doing. “Whatever the Father does, the Son also does (John 5:19).  And putting the kingdom of God first doesn’t have to be that hard. Some people know that already.  But for the rest of us—this series will help us discover how simple it is when we have the Holy Spirit guiding and empowering us along the way.
          A father once asked his son what he had learned in Sunday school.  The young boy replied, “Well, I learned the vowels.” Dad was intrigued by that unexpected answer, so he asked, “Well, what are the vowels?”
          “A-E-I-O-U,” came the reply.
          Dad said, “Son, you learned that in public school, not in Sunday school today.”
          The son responded “Well, the teacher taught that we can remember a basic concept of life using A-E-I-O-U. A is for Adam, E is for Eve, and we owe them because of our sin. The last three letters, I-O-U, remind us that we owe God.”    
          As Adam and Eve sinned, so have we. But God forgives us and loves us, and still wants to draw us closer to him.  I’m constantly amazed that the creator of the universe wants to be my friend.  God wants to spend time with me.  He wants to talk with me, and he listens to what I have to say. That’s an incredible thought.  But it’s true. God created us to be in relationship with him. That relationship takes many forms. It develops in prayer, it expands when we participate in worship, it deepens when we give, and it grows when we reach out to others in need.  And like all intense, satisfying relationships, it requires commitment.
          That’s the fourth point to consider: it’s time to commit.  God has already made his commitment to us. Now, as we walk through this six-week focus as a church, we have the opportunity to commit—or in some cases—recommit in our relationship with God and experience the joy of living a transformed life.
          The woman who met Jesus at the well experienced joy and transformation, didn’t she?  She immediately left the well and went back to her community and told them all about Jesus.  And John tells us that many believed because of her.
          Because this woman experienced the true living water, she wanted others to as well.  And she made the commitment to live out her new faith in Christ.
          In preparation for this journey together, I’ve been praying for us to discover how we might satisfy our thirst for that something more that’s missing.  I hope you’re as excited by this possibility as I am.
          There’s that word again: commitment.  It’s an important word and concept, and we’re going to hear it again and again. Commitment primes the pump, bringing the water of life. Once primed, the pump will flow endlessly as long as it keeps moving.  To keep ourselves moving in the right direction, we’ll soon be looking at our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness —beginning the fulfilled life that God has for us.
          A pastor in Africa who possessed contagious faith wrote these words about commitment that speak straight to the heart:
                        I am a Christian, the die has been cast. I’ve stepped over the line. My decision has been made. I’m a disciple of his. I will not let up, look back, slow down, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure. I’m finished. I’m totally done with low living, small planning, smooth knees, mundane talking, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals. I no longer need preeminence or prosperity or position or promotion or popularity. I don’t have to be right or first or top or recognized or praised or rewarded. My pace is set, my goal is sure. The road is narrow. My way is rough, my companions few, but my God is reliable and my mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, delayed, or deluded. I will not flinch in the face of adversity nor negotiate at the table of the enemy nor meander in the maze of mediocrity. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I’ll go until he comes, give until I drop, speak all I know of him, and work until he stops me. And when he comes again, he’ll have no problem recognizing me because my colors are clear.
          Commitment is when our colors are clear; it involves knowing whose team we’re on.  Commitment primes the pump for receiving the water of life that God has prepared for us.  My prayer is that each of us will commit to the journey over these next several weeks and receive all that God has in mind for us.

*This sermon is based on the resource, Treasures of the Transformed Life, Abingdon Press, 2006.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sunday Worship Preview - October 2

October 2 - (8:15 A.M. & 11:00 A.M. Traditional Services & 9:45 A.M. Praise Service) & Wednesday, October 5  (6:30 P.M. Casual Service @ Crossroads, 2095 Fair Avenue)

Sermon - "Transformed Living: "Drawing Water"

Features - 16th Sunday After Pentecost & World Communion Sunday

Scripture - Acts 12:1-7, 11-17 & Luke 18:9-14

Theme -  For this Sunday of our "Transformed Living" series, our focus is on the importance of drawing on God's living water.  We draw this water through having an active prayer life.  Together, we will consider the key elements of a prayer life that will lead to transformation in our daily living.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Death Penalty & The United Methodist Church

The recent Troy Davis execution in Georgia has put the issue of Capital Punishment in our news headlines.  I thought it would be a good opportunity for thinking Christians to reflect on this very controversial topic.  Below is an overview of the stance of the United Methodist Church.  Please use this information to prayerfully consider what a Christian response is to this issue.

Overview of the United Methodist Church

Capital punishment, legalized killing by the state, has always been a deeply troublesome issue for religious and non-religious people alike.

Well-meaning people of faith weigh in on both sides of the debate. Some argue the death penalty deters crime and protects society. Others contend that it has not proven to be a deterrence, is biased against the poor and African Americans, and isn't something Jesus would "do." The death penalty is currently legal in 38 U.S. states.

The United Methodist Church, in its Social Principles, officially opposes capital punishment and urges its elimination from all criminal codes. The church's General Conference, a delegated body representing members around the world, meets every four years and is the only entity that can take official positions for the denomination. Those statements are included in the church's Book of Discipline and Book of Resolutions. On many issues addressed by the church, individual members hold a wide range of viewpoints, including outright opposition to denomination policy.

The United Methodist Church has held it's position on the death penalty for 50 years. At the 1956 General Conference in Minneapolis, delegates first passed legislation that put the church officially on record as opposed to the death penalty.

Each Methodist and United Methodist General Conference since that time has reaffirmed its opposition to capital punishment.

Bible Study Summary - Upcoming Sunday's Scriptures

Sermon – “Transformed Living: Priming the Pump”
Scriptures – Numbers 20:1-11 & John 4:1-14

Numbers 20:1-11

-         Book of Numbers: 1) Israelites in wilderness and tells the story of whether Israel will be faithful to God and keep moving toward the Promised Land.  2) “Numbers” refers to the counting of 2 generation of Israelite males who would be able to go to war.
-         This is a story about not taking credit for miracles provided by God (bringing water from a rock.)
-         Miracles – Do you believe miracles like water from a rock can happen today?  Why or why not?  What is a miracle?

John 4:1-14

-         In 1st century, the Samaritans were despised and considered outsiders to the Jewish faith.  Samaria was between Judea and Galilee.  Samaritans would often attack Jewish pilgrims journeying through their territory. Samaritans originate from intermarriage while many Jews had been in exile in Babylonia.
-         Jesus met a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in Samaria.  Jesus does two shocking things: 1) Is alone with a woman 2) Has a conversation with the woman.
-         Jesus is speaking spiritually and the woman is thinking literally. 
-         “living water” meant “flowing water.”  Literal water is a sign-post to the heavenly water that is available to this woman and to all of us.
-         How does Jesus as the living water make a difference in your life?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sermon (September 18) "In Your Wildest Dreams: Your Wilderness"

     Going after our wildest dreams is not always as wonderful as it sounds.  I remember when I accepted a calling from God to enter the ordained ministry.  I was so excited and couldn’t wait to pursue this dream.  Penny and I were married in June of 1985 and immediately after our honeymoon, we drove off with the few belongings we had in our weighted down used Ford Escort.
     The sky was the limit.  There was nothing that we wouldn’t be able to conquer.  We were going after our wildest dream.  We were going to change the world!
     We arrived in Dayton, Ohio and walked into our tiny seminary apartment on that warm summer day.  I don’t know what happened but that apartment didn’t look anything like the picture in the seminary brochure!
     We had no air conditioning and the seminary dumpster was just outside our window which meant that like it or not, 5 AM was our wake-up time.  And when our wedding money was about to run out, I fortunately was able to find a part-time job at a nearby gas station.  That barely gave us enough food for groceries.  Looking back, I’m just glad that we were able to survive that first year of seminary.
     Over the past four weeks, we have been looking at the life of Moses and what it means to go after our wildest dreams.  And today as we conclude this series, we turn our attention to Moses and the wilderness story.  When we go after a God sized dream, we will inevitably encounter a wilderness moment when times will get tough and we will wonder if that dream is worth pursuing.
     Now there are a lot of stories we could use from when the Israelites were in the wilderness, but let’s focus on the one from our scripture reading for today.  This is the story of how the Israelites were facing starvation as they journeyed through the barren wilderness.  Things were getting so bad, that the people wished they were back in slavery in Egypt where they at least had bread to eat.
     The journey toward fulfilling a God sized dream will include sacrifice.  I mean, think about it.  If you go after any dream that is worth going after, you’re going to need to make some sacrifices. 
     This past spring, I finally watched the movie, “Invictus” which is a movie about apartheid and Nelson Mandela who is played by Morgan Freeman.  There’s a scene in that movie where the white captain of South Africa’s rugby team becomes friends with Mandela who is now the President of South Africa.  Because Mandela has been encouraging and helping the team to do well in the 1995 World Cup, the rugby team decides to visit the prison where Nelson Mandela had been detained for 27 years because of his work toward racial equality.
     When the rugby captain who is played by Matt Damon arrives at Mandela’s prison cell, he takes that time to think about the incredible sacrifice Mandela made in his pursuit of his wildest dream which was to help his country be free of racial segregation.  This rugby captain imagines Mandela in the prison cell with him as well as outside the cell doing hard labor.
     Let’s watch this clip.  (Show movie clip.)
     Any dream with pursuing will come with sacrifice on our part.  It won’t be easy.  There are going to be times that we’ll want to quit.
     I love the story of the high school basketball coach who was attempting to motivate his players to persevere through a difficult season.
     Halfway through the season, he stood before his team and said, "Did Michael Jordan ever quit?"  The team said, "No!"  The coach yelled, "What about the Wright Brothers?  Did they ever give up?"  "No!" the team responded.
     "Did Joe Montana ever quit?"  Again the team yelled, "No!"
     And then the wise coach asked, "Did Elmer McAllister ever quit?"
     There was a long silence.  Finally one of the players was brave enough to ask, "Who's Elmer McAllister.  We never heard of him."
     And the coach shouted, "Of course you never heard of him - he quit!"
     Following after our wildest dream can get discouraging at times.  Like the Israelites, we may feel like we’re in the wilderness wondering why we even left our old way of life in the first place.
     But let’s look carefully at this story of the Israelites in the wilderness.  Notice that the Lord responds by providing them with meat and bread.  Even though they are in the middle of nowhere, God still provides for them.  And it’s because of God’s grace, that they are able to continue their journey in the wilderness and finally arrive to the Promised Land.
     To pursue our wildest dreams, we need to remember that even when we are in the wilderness, God will provide.  God offers us grace along the way.  It’s God’s grace that keeps us going when we are ready to cash everything in. And notice that God gives Moses a plan to help the people have enough bread to eat on a daily basis.  The point here is that to go after our wildest dreams, we need to rely on God’s grace every day.
     One of the ways that I have found helpful to pursue a dream or a vision or a goal especially when the way seems difficult is to put together a plan of action.
     Putting together a plan takes a lot of time and thought.  It takes effort and work, but it will be worth it.  A good plan of action will help us think through some key areas in reaching our dream. 
     Here are those key areas.
     In a sentence or two, write out what the vision or the dream is.  By stating what the dream is, it helps us to be clear about what God is calling us to do. 
     The second area of a plan of action is when we think about the resources that God has given us to use to reach the dream.  Moses had some important resources if you think about it.  He had God who promised to be with him.  He had his brother, Aaron who would be his spokesperson since he was slow of speech.  He had a staff which was what God used to perform miraculous signs.
     God has given us the resources we need to pursue the dream that God has given us.  We just need to think about what those resources are and how we can find them.
     The next area in the plan of action is to brainstorm how all of this can be accomplished.  Remember, what the title of this sermon series is.  “In Your Wildest Dreams.”  
     Scott Peck, who has written several books on the Christian faith claims that he spends a couple of hours every day in thought and prayer where he can’t be interrupted.  Wow!  He says that it’s amazing what will come to your mind, if you just spend some time thinking and praying.
     I like to use my running time for thinking and prayer and it’s amazing how many ideas come to me during those workouts.  Last spring, I was struggling with how to approach a particular situation that our church was facing, and it was during one of my workouts that God gave me an idea that ended up being really helpful.  I don’t think I would have thought of that on my own.
     After those first three things; writing out what the dream is, listing all the resources that are available, and brainstorming how the dream can be accomplished, the next part of a plan of action is to list the specific things that need to get done either by yourself or by others.  This is the nitty-gritty part of going after our wildest dreams.
     Not all of us are detail persons, but without details, dreams can quickly lose their steam.  By listing the specific things that need to get done, we are honoring God by saying, this is way too important to leave to chance.  I need to own my responsibility for the dream that God has placed on my heart.
     And last but not least.  After we make a list of the things that need to get done, we need someone or maybe a team of people to help keep us on the right track.  Maybe there are some things that we can do to make sure that we are following through with the plan as well.
     Moses didn’t have a blackberry or an I-Pad but he did have Aaron and his family to help keep him on track.  We need each other to go after those big dreams.  We need each other for encouragement and support.  Moses needed others and so do we. 
     So those are the key areas of a plan of action.  And after we have a plan of action in place, then we begin the exciting, and often times challenging work of pursuing the dream that God has placed on our hearts.
     The story is told of Rafael Solano who in 1942 was physically exhausted and defeated.  As he sat on a boulder in the dry river bed, he announced to his companions.  “I’m through.  There’s no use going on any longer.  See this pebble.  It makes 999,999 I’ve picked up without finding one diamond.  One more pebble makes a million, but what’s the use?  I quit!”
     The exploration crew had spent months prospecting for diamonds in a Venezuelan watercourse.  Their efforts focused on finding signs of valuable diamonds.  Mentally, physically, and emotionally they were exhausted.  Their clothes were tattered and their spirits weak.
     “Pick up one more and make it a million,” one man said.  Solano consented and pulled forth a stone the size of a hen’s egg.  It was different than the others, and the crew soon realized they had discovered a diamond.  It is reported that Harry Winston, a New York jewel dealer, paid Rafael Solano $200,000 for that millionth pebble.  The stone was named the Liberator and to date is the largest and purest diamond ever found.
     Several years ago, staff members and people from the congregation I was serving attended a church growth seminar in Indiana.  One of my staff members was going through a time of feeling burned out in ministry.  He was feeling pretty low and discouraged.  I was concerned that he might be getting close to calling it quits.  But he was hoping that this seminar would be a way for him to be rejuvenated in the ministry. 
     When the staff and members of the church arrived at the seminar, I asked this staff member how his trip went.  And he said, “You won’t believe what happened to me.  Before I left from home, I stopped at a Christian bookstore to buy a motivational tape to listen to during the long trip hoping that it would cheer me up.  I got in my car and about fifteen minutes into the trip, I put in the tape but it didn’t play anything.  So I flipped over the cassette to try the other side, but it still didn’t play.  That’s when I realized that I had bought a bad tape.  It was blank on both sides.”
     Now friends, I know that it wasn’t appropriate for me to laugh in that moment, but I just couldn’t help myself.  I said, “Roy, you mean to tell me that you bought a motivational tape that ended up being blank?”  And I said, “Now that’s the definition of having a bad day!”
     Well, the good news was that he couldn’t help but laugh too.  And the truth is, the two of us laughing at that crazy story was more therapeutic for him than what any motivational tape could have ever provided.  And thanks to the seminar we attended together his faith was renewed and he came back with new ideas for our church that ended up helping us reach more people for Jesus Christ.
     As we conclude our focus on the life of Moses, I want to give us an opportunity to offer to God our wildest dreams.  In your bulletin this morning, you hopefully received this picture of a burning bush.  For the next minute or two, I invite you to write down the dream that God is calling you to pursue.  Don’t worry about how crazy that dream might sound, whatever God is calling you to pursue, write that dream down on that space.
     When it seems like everyone has had enough time, I’ll lead us in a prayer of blessing over these dreams.  Let’s take this time and write down our dreams.