Friday, December 16, 2011

The Light

I love this version of the Christmas Story.  I love the Gospel of John generally, but the first chapter is especially meaningful!  My mind thinks in storys and abstractions--so I love it.  But, did you notice it wasn't your "typical" Christmas story.  There's no virgin birth or angels or trumpets.  There is just the Word.  Just Christ.  Just a light in the darkness.

Think of the darkest place you can imagine.  The deepest darkness you've ever seen.  No lights in the sky or coming through the blinds.  No light on your cellphone or TV.  Are you there in your mind?  In the pitch black.  Sit in the darkness a minute.  Breath in and out and soak it in.

Then suddenly in the midst of the darkness a single match lights.  That one tiny bit of light changes the look of the whole room.  It doesn't take much light to change the face of darkness.  A little light goes a long way.  That's how our lives are, aren't they?  Just a little light goes a long way.  Just a little love changes things.  Just a little hope can make a difference!

I don't know what you are facing today.  Whether the death of a loved one, a health scare, a job loss, the end of a relationship, money problems or more.  I don't know why the darkness is creeping in.  What I do know is that I know a God who is light in the darkness.  A light the darkness will never overtake.  As the darkness creeks in look for that light.  Look for that hope, bask in the glow--even if its nothing more than a glimmer.  As you bask in the glow, you'll be able to reflect it for others. 

Thats my prayer for you this Christmas--that you can find the light, the light that shines in the darkness.  Do not let the darkness win.  Shine the light.

Blessings, love and light to you!

Pastor Emily

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Way Late....

Ok, I'm late and will make this short.

Your assignment this week is John 1....Lets see what John has to say about the birth story!!!

Pastor Emily

Friday, December 9, 2011

I love the Christmas Story.  Its such a testament to the Incarnation.  Thats our big church word meaning God with us.  That God chose to come to earth to save us--to be part of us.

This is the beginning of 33 years that changed the world.  God broke into the world.  Living for us, loving us.  What beauty and splendor came from the dirt.  Just like at creation, God created out of the dirt!  What a lovely picture.  The first evangelists were the shepherds.

Did you know why Bethlehem was important to Israel?  Well, lets start in the beginning.  Bethlehem was the city where David was born.  Remember, David was a shepherd.  Why would a town that was a suburb of Jerusalem be full of shepherds?

That's right, to raise sheep for the temples.  Remember, the sheep had to be perfect. So Bethlehem shepherds were special.  They only raised special sheep.  Perfect sheep.  They were the ones that would go to the temple for slaughter.

And who announced Jesus' birth?  The one who would be the last lamb lead to slaughter?  The Shepherds.

God prophesized the truth from the beginning.  Just as it was to be.  There were signs and mile markers.  They should have known.  I love yelling at scripture like I like yelling at the TV.  Mary--look out!  He's going to die! Look out Herod is after you!  Look out!

But she never hears me.  Do you hear God?  When God is yelling out to you--WATCH OUT!  Be careful!  Don't go that way?  When the signs are all there?

Maybe tonight its time we open our ears to the signs.  The signs of angels and tiny whispers.  Maybe tonight its time to pray for direction and guidance.

God, open my hears, so I may hear.  The Hallelujahs and the Look Outs!


Pastor Emily

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Luke's Christmas Climax!

We are having Jesus be born a bit early this year!  Lets look at the Christmas Story with new eyes.

Read Luke 2:1-20.

What is different than you remembered it?
What is missing from this version?
Which parts line up with the prophesies we've read?


Friday, December 2, 2011

New Testament Prophesy

There's so much here! 

So, I'm going to skip over the Angel coming to Mary--come to church Sunday and we'll cover all of that!  I get to interview Mary!  You should be there, its going to be really special!
Next, Mary goes to Elizabeth--It was probably a three day walk.  As she walks in--John's baby LEAPT in her womb.  Now, I am sure of this, but don't baby's do that regularly?  Isn't that normal?  Regardless, Elizabeth knew that something was different! 

John was born and went on to be a prophet--sending God's message to the people!  His dad also prophesized at his brist.  I loved the last few lines of that scripture,

"And you, child (JOHN), will be called the prophet of the Most High;
   for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
   by the forgiveness of their sins.
78 By the tender mercy of our God,
   the dawn from on high will break upon
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
   to guide our feet into the way of peace."

I hope today Jesus will give you light and guide your feet into the way of peace.

This is the week of peace, I pray you find some today.

Love and PEACE and blessings!

Pastor Emily

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Rest of Luke

Read this section of Luke 1 especially carefully!  There is much prophesy, but also much joy!  There is beautiful poetry--the Magnificat (Mary's Song of Praise!) and Zechariah's song of praise as well!

Yes, we talked about much of this in service Sunday, but we will also talk about much of it this week too!

Read Luke 1:26-80.  Tell me what hits your soul.  What makes you excited about Christmas.  What makes you smile!

Also, if you have some extra time--check out the blog I wrote at the Revive Website.  I'd love it if some of you could post thougths on the questions I asked there as well.  Its a question of the Holy Spirit.  Do we get the Holy Spirit when we believe? Or is the Spirit always there, and we simply become aware of its presence?

Blessings, and thanks for your help!
Pastor Emily

Friday, November 25, 2011

Elizabeth and Zechariah....

I have to admit, I have been staring at Luke 1 all week.  I've read the passage 100 times.  We are using parts of it for Revive, parts of it for Sunday Church, and for this blog.  I've read it and re-read it.

Today, i have more questions than answers.  Maybe because I'll give some answers in my sermons/challenges/discussions in the next few days, but here are my questions.

1) What did Zechariah do so badly when he asked Gabriel that question?  So many people have questioned God, and God has allowed it.  Why was Gabriel so angry?  It always gets me.  (also, later on, Mary asks a similar question and is called holy and blessed!)
2) How would God prophesy so much about this child, but make his Dad mute--shouldn't he have spread the word about this amazing thing coming to pass.

Maybe question 2 answers question 1.  Maybe if powerful Zechariah had talked about this messiah coming something would have happened to Mary.  Something would have happened to Elizabeth.  Maybe making him mute was keeping him safe.

I know some of the things I thought were the worst most awful things in my life, were really just setting up miracles that came later.  Now, its way outside of what I believe to think that God brings evil in our lives--but my goodness so often I don't know the goodness between good and evil.  So often I think the worst things for me or to me or around me are so often the things that make everything else fall into place.  Maybe I sound too naieve or too hopeful or too optimistic by saying it.  But if I could see every event through God's eyes, maybe I would be happier.  Maybe if I saw the big picture I could see an illness or a move or a disappointment as a way for God to move big, I could save myself unhappiness.

That's my goal for this week--to breathe and see the big picture.  To love beyond measure, and to make room in my heart for Emmanuel to come.  Do you have space yet?

Pastor Emily

Monday, November 21, 2011

Prophesy in the New Testament!

So, having spend so many weeks looking at the Old Testament Prophesies of Jesus, now we will head to the New Testament!  The first chapter of Luke, and some of the first chapter of Matthew are prophetic as well, but this will also be a time to transition into the Christmas Story!

Please this week read Luke 1:1-25!  This is also the beginning of the story we'll be focusing on for Advent this week!

Can't wait to hear what you think!  What is your impression?  What would you think if you were Elizabeth?  Zechariah?


Pastor Emily

Friday, November 18, 2011

Dwelling Among Us.

"And I will return to Zion and dwell in the midst of Jerusalem"

What a powerful promise and line.  I stopped on this line again and again.  What if that said, and I will return to Georgia and dwell in the midst of Kennesaw.  Amazing.  Wonderful!  Beautiful!  Yes, please Lord!

That one line has gotten me right in the Christmas Spirit. Because that's what Christmas is about--God loving us so much that God CHOSE to come live with us.  To feel what we did.  To face temptation.  To laugh.  To love.  To get dirty.  To be like us.  Its that one line that reminds me of what its like to be Christian.  That we have a God who gave up heaven to come to this broken world for me.  For you.  For everyone.  It amazes me.

But then you get to Zechariah 9.  And its the story of Palm Sunday.  Jesus coming in on the foal! And in his lowliness overcoming the worst of enemies.  Can you imagine???  Then the lines Mary loved so much--that we are Jewels in his crown!  so lovely!

This was one of the most uplifting sections we have read!  It reminds me again how many people look so hard for God that they miss him.  It reminds me again that sometimes I forget that our God is a God WITH US!  I loved this week.  It was just the scripture I needed.

I don't want to miss the Messiah.  What about you?

Blessings--Pastor Emily

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Lamp Post

Where has this week gone?

Here is this week's scriptures:

Zechariah 8:1-7 and 9:9-17

Take time.  Read it.  Pray about it.  Then answer these questions:

1) What would an Ancient Jew believe about this passage?
2) What do you believe about this passage--Do you see a prophecy about Christ in it?
3) What hit you this week especially in this passage?

Pastor Emily 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Redemption via Bethlehem.

Micah is speaking to a people who had grown used to peace.  Several generations in a row lived in peace.  Then during Micah's time that peace was broken.  Things were not going well.  The people had lived extravagant, decadent lives and now were broken, at war, and scared.

He preached and prophesied to people ready to hear him.  To People who needed it.  His words went from promises of hope and restoration to promises of Judgment.  This Chapter 5 is the conclusion of one of the promises of restoration.  The hope that was coming.  

He begins:  

Now you are walled around with a wall; siege is laid against us;
with a rod they strike the ruler of Israel upon the cheek. 

Bad stuff is coming--bad things are happening....

But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel,

The Ancient Jews believed him to be talking of a Messiah--they knew that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem!  Just where Jesus came from! 

whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labour has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel. 

This points to Mary and his brothers and sisters in the world!  Seems a good prophetic voice to me!

And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.

Jesus talked about being the shepherd--this is prophecy from here and from Psalm 23 (Directly after 22 which we dealt with)

And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; 
and he shall be the one of peace. 

Price of Peace!  We heard that in Isaiah!  But, the Ancient Jews were expecting an earthly King--forcing peace by strength.  How God's arithmetic doesn't make sense.  How God's power seems so backward!

If the Assyrians come into our land and tread upon our soil,
we will raise against them seven shepherds and eight installed as rulers. 
They shall rule the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod with the drawn sword; they shall rescue us from the Assyrians if they come into our land or tread within our border. 

This part is harder for me.  I'm not sure of the connection--other than it was Micah's understanding.  Maybe its an assurance that evil can't overtake the grace and love of Christ.

Then the remnant of Jacob, surrounded by many peoples,
shall be like dew from the Lord, like showers on the grass,
which do not depend upon people or wait for any mortal. 
And among the nations the remnant of Jacob, surrounded by many peoples,
shall be like a lion among the animals of the forest, like a young lion among the flocks of sheep, which, when it goes through, treads down and tears in pieces, with no one to deliver.  Your hand shall be lifted up over your adversaries, and all your enemies shall be cut off. 

More talk about how Israel will prosper and be safe even amongst enemies!  Talking about how God wins!

On that day, says the Lord,
   I will cut off your horses from among you
   and will destroy your chariots; 
and I will cut off the cities of your land
   and throw down all your strongholds; 
and I will cut off sorceries from your hand,
   and you shall have no more soothsayers; 
and I will cut off your images
   and your pillars from among you,
and you shall bow down no more
   to the work of your hands; 
and I will uproot your sacred poles from among you
   and destroy your towns. 
And in anger and wrath I will execute vengeance
   on the nations that did not obey. 

Here is talk like in Daniel about the Day of the Lord--that God is coming to save. I'm not sure if all of this points to Jesus--but it points to their understanding of the Messiah.

Whats your understanding of the Messiah?

blessings--Pastor Emily 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Micah (row your boat ashore??)

Here we go!  

Here are the directions!

1) Read all of Micah 5 Twice!
2) Go and do some background work on Micah
3) Read Micah 5 again, and see if the background work changed your first impressions!

1) What would an Ancient Jew be called to do if they listened to Micah's prophesy?
2) Where does it point to Jesus?
3) What are you called to do with Micah's prophesy?
4) What have I not asked you that I should have?

Blessings and good luck!!!

Pastor Emily !

Friday, November 4, 2011

The End of Times

My dad taught me to love old school science fiction at a young age.  I love Kurt Vonnegut.  I read Stranger in a Strange Land in middle school (yes its a million pages, I know!).  I just recently finished all three of the books in the Hunger Games Trilogy in 36 hours (and yes, I did work and eat in that time period--although I did not in fact do much sleeping!)  The Book of Eli and I Am Legend are amazing recent movies about the End of Times.  I love pictures of fantasy and seeing how artists and writers talk about the Apocalypse.

However, when they do the same things in Biblical Literature--Ezekiel, Daniel, Revelation--it makes me a little more nervous.  I've often wondered why.  Maybe because it seems more and less real all at once.  Maybe because I've struggled to figure out how these stories affect my faith.  Maybe because as much as I like to imagine the Apocalypse, I know that I don't want to be around Earth when the end of times come.

So, reading Daniel always comes to me with trepidation.  Both Mary and Lindsay point out that there might be some reference to Jesus in verses 13 and 14, but that any comparison seems much more conjecture than say Isaiah 53.  This is Daniel's picture of the end of times.  With beasts and kings and fire.  I took a lot of peace in verse 15 when Daniel himself talked about being uncomfortable with his visions.  And everytime I read that verse, I am thankful to God that I am not burdened with the responsibility of sharing visions like Daniel.

What I think I came away from this week was a sense of wanting to make the world better.  A sense of wanting to shine God's light in the darkest places.  Its clear that we live in a broken world.  Where disease and anger and hate often win over love and healing and peace.  So, maybe the Day of the Lord is coming.  Maybe we are "doomed".  I don't know.  What I do  know is that I want to fight for God.  Fight to shine light in the darkest places.  Fight for Truth and beauty and God's love.  I want to fight.  For, I still believe in hope and love and resurrection.  One of Jesus' final lessons to us is that its NEVER over until God says it is.  That the dead can live and the blind can see and the leprous can be made clean!  Maybe Daniel's visions will come to pass--but I'm going to keep fighting to bring love and God to this broken world.  And I pray that you all will join me!


Pastor Emily  

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Day of the Lord

Daniel is one of our best examples of Biblical Apocryphal literature.  Bored already?

So, the Ancient Jews believed in a "Day of the Lord".  A day when God would come in judgement--striking His foes down and saving His people.  Daniel shows visions of such a day.  As you read, remember this context.  Also remember we are reading a TINY piece of a much larger book.

Remember, this would be the stuff that was half belief and half legend.  Something told by campfires and talked about in hushed whispers in the exile.  

Read Daniel 7:9-14 several times.  Then read the entire chapter.

1) How does the small selection point to Jesus.  
2) If you were an Ancient Jew, what kind of Messiah would you be looking for?
3) How does reading the larger selection change your mind or views?
4) What part of the reading stuck out to you?

Can't wait to hear your thoughts!


Jeremiah 23, revisited

So, for a moment of honesty.

Its hard to write this second post when no one comments.  I try to write them off of what you say, and when you don't comment, its hard. So, between Trunk or Treat and other things, I didn't get to this last week.


But, back to the study--we have some new folks following along, and I am excited for them to join us!

What were your thoughts on Jeremiah 23?  Like Becky, I saw only one verse that spoke to Jesus specifically.  And yes, Jesus was from the line of David, but this passage seemed to point more to a military king and presence than to the Jesus I know.

To me, this is the clearest example of a prophesy that meant something to the Ancient Jews that seems to point less to Jesus.

What do you think?


Monday, October 24, 2011

Jeremiah 23

Please Read Jeremiah 23 this week! 

Lets see what God is saying to us!

1) What would you think the ancient Jews would have thought about this prophesy?
2) What do you see that points to Jesus?
3) What is speaking to you out of this?

Pastor Emily

Friday, October 21, 2011

Our God suffers.....

My Dad loves to ask the question, "Which holiday is more important--Easter or Christmas?"  Now, its not about the Bunny vs. Santa.  Its a question, of which of God's acts touches you more--the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross followed by the saving miracle of resurrection or the Incarnation--God being with us in flesh.

I love that question, and my answer always surprises people.  To me, the part of Christianity that boggles my mind is that God CHOSE to come and be with us.  To walk with us.  To be a part of this broken world.  In my logic (as flawed as it is), without Christmas--without Christ being PART of our world, there would be no Easter.  To me, there must have been as much pain in the stable that night--in Christ being "separated" from God--in Jesus coming to be born in a stable--than there was on the cross.  Maybe its just my poetic license.  I don't know.

But as I read Isaiah 53, I see Jesus.  I see Jesus like me.  When I hurt--when someone hurts my feelings, when I am sick, when I have tough choices to make, I turn here. 

Surely he has bourne our infirmities and carried our diseases, yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.

When I don't feel good enough, when I feel like everyone else is prettier, more eloquent, smarter, richer, I turn here.  

v. 2b
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.  He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; as one from form others hide their faces.  He was despised, and we held him of no account.

And when I suffer, I remember he suffered first.  Yet he did not open his mouth.  When I think there is no hope and all is dark, I remember that out of his anguish he shall see light.  And when I wonder if all my sacrifices are worth anything in the end, I remember that therefore I will allot him a portion with the great and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out himself to death and was numbered with the transgressors.

I love this picture of a God who loves me enough to suffer.  A God who suffers with me, for me, and in spite of me.  Who suffers because I suffer and who suffers from my hand.  This is the picture of God's strength and love that is bigger than I can ever imagine.  I am so thankful.  So thankful.


Monday, October 17, 2011

The Suffering Servant!

I am sure I say this a lot (well, I know I do!), but Isaiah 53 is one of my favorite pieces of scripture.  This is odd, because it is kind of violent.  It is not a pretty picture.  But it speaks so much to my vision of God.  And of love.  Please read Isiaah 52:13-Isaiah 53:12 carefully.  Several times.  I'm not going to give a specific details, just read it.  To yourself.  Aloud.  To someone else.  Pray about it.  Pray the scripture.  Do what you need to do to inhale this passage and let it speak to you.

Then think about these questions:

1) What would thie passage mean to a Jew in Exile? 
2) What points to Jesus?
3) What does this passage mean to you today?
4) What does this passage say about God?

The questions are simple, I look forward to hearing your responses!


Pastor Emily

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Christmas is coming!

I can’t read this passage without thinking of Christmas.  It almost smells of Silent Night and Candles and candy canes and evergreen trees.  Doesn’t it?  We can almost recite the passage together:

A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.

The gospels tell us that Jesus came from David.  The Jews believed that too.

This next part is beautifully poetic,

The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

But I’m not sure that it fits with my theology.  Jesus WAS God, it wasn’t that the Spirit of God RESTED on him.  But as I read and pray more over these words, I realize a few things.  First of all, the Spirit of the Lord did rest in a human body.  The spirit of wisdom, understanding, power, might, and knowledge did come into human form.  Through Mary!  So, yes, this points to Jesus too! 

He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;

YES!  I bet to ancient ears, this rang true.  They were the poor, they were the meek!  They were in exile.  They wanted a savior to raise them up.

But to my ears, I think of Matthew 5.  The poor will no longer be the lowest class—but the exalted.  That’s the promise of Christ.  The poor will be rich.  The meek will be raised up!  How are we helping that promise of Christ?  Even more—are we like the ancient Jews assuming that we are the poor?  Or are we looking for the poor to love?

he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

This seemed to point to a righteous warrior.  But, Jesus kills the wicked in different ways—Jesus kills the wicked INSIDE of us.  He vanquishes the demons!  And he was righteous and faithful!  He IS righteous and faithful!  He will always be righteous and faithful!

The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.

Then comes the section of backwardness.  The backwardness of God—That the wolf and the lamb, the leopard and the baby goat, the calf and the lion, the child leading.  See, Jesus triumphed through suffering and death.  Jesus was made to lie down with the enemy.  But, he was not a young child to lead them…So, although I see the pointing to Jesus, I also see parts that aren’t exactly in line.

Then, skipping to the next session, comes:

On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

The entire last section points to the warrior.  To the messiah conquering enemies.  To the lands of Judah and Ephraim working together.  To Israel being back in power and the enemies in the dust.

I can work to make this make sense and point to Jesus, but I’m not sure I’m convinced the argument is a good or fair one.  Jesus will conquer all enemies, but not the way this last section seems to indicate.

This section came at the right time for the weather to get crisper didn’t it?  It just makes me start to think of all the great festivities that are coming!

Pastor Emily 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Isaiah 11!!!

More of Isaiah's prophesy to Ahaz!  This is another section we know well!

Read this one with the ears again of the Jews that heard this from Isaiah.  What a hard challenge!  We read these each year at Christmas!  We KNOW that they point to Jesus.  But, try--try to forget those things, and imagine yourself as a Jew, in exile in Babylon.

1) Read the chapter twice.
2) Pray and walk away from it.
3) Read it again and answer the questions.

1) What points to Jesus?
2) What doesn't point to Jesus?
3)  If you were a Jew in exile--what would your Messiah look like?
4) What hit you powerfully in this passage?
5) So, what is the point of this?  What have you learned examining these passages?

Love and Blessings!
Pastor Emily

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Today's wrap up is a little more scattered--please forgive the scattered state of my brain tonight!

I really enjoyed this reading more than I'd anticipated!  You'll have to bear with me--I wasn't stoked about reading more Isaiah. I can't believe that I read that passage 4 times and still missed the reference in verse 1 to the Jordan!  Thanks Lindsay!

I can absolutely see how this points to Jesus--but I still can't imagine that I'd ever have connected the dots in the time and place!  Maybe that's part of the point.  One of my favorite verses is in John when Jesus reminds us that the Holy Spirit will come and reveal more to us!  Its amazing how God puts all the pieces together!

When was the last time God put the pieces in your life together?  When you thought the world was lost--but instead God showed you that there was a light at the end of the tunnel.  I think this passage can speak to people in those places.  The people who have been waiting for a sign, they have been walking in darkness, but there was hope!

So, next time things seem to be out of place--return to this passage.  And remind yourself that God can make good out of anything!  Exile, famine, sin!  Remind yourself, there is always light.  Remind yourself there is always good!  Remind yourself that there is always more to the story.

God, thank you that you are so many things.  Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace.  Thank you for making a way when we don't see one.  Thank you for the beauty in our lives.  Thank you for understanding our messes.  Thank you. Thank you.  Thank you.


Pastor Emily

Monday, October 3, 2011

Names of God

This week, we will continue with Isaiah's prophecy.  This section continues in Isaiah's prophesy to King Ahaz.  So, its a continuation from last week.

Remember, Isaiah is telling Ahaz about the exile that is coming!  The selection we skipped was talking about how terrible the invasion would be!  Think about that as you start this section.

This week's assigment:

1) Pray for enlightenment and wisdom!
2) Read Isaiah 9:1-7 twice.
3) Put it down for a while!
4) Read it again, and then answer the questions below!

a) If you were Jew during the exile or during Roman occupation, what would you expect the Messiah to be like?
b) Which parts do you think point to Christ as the Messiah?
c) Why would Isaiah use the words government in verses 6 and 7, if he wasn't pointing to an earthly ruler?
d) What struck  you in these passages?

Pastor Emily

Friday, September 30, 2011

Being Honest

I have to start by being honest.  Preachers are very honest people--unless it comes to talking about themselves.  We like to tell you that everything is ok, that we are superhumans--never sick, never doubting, never lacking faith.  But we do get sick and down in spirit.  We have days when we don't want to preach or write blog posts.  Days when we are too sick or tired to listen.

I know Christ had these days.  I know my mother does.  I know so many of us do.  I say all this to say this has been one of those weeks.  I've read this passage each day with an overflowing heart and a stuffy nose and a bad cough.  And through those lenses, I think God really was able to speak.  I love that--when God speaks even when my ears are too plugged up to listen!

First, I'm honestly split on whether this is a direct prophesy pointing to Christ or not.  I agree that the words in verses 14-18 have traditionally be seen that way.  I also believe that the ancient Hebrews were looking for the messiah to come through David because of the covenant in 1 Samuel we have already studied.  So, the discussion of the house of Ephraim points that way.  Still, the rest of it is a bit murky for me.  I'm not so sure that it all makes sense to me.

But these passages did speak to me.  I've learned through my life, never to ask God for signs--not becuase its not Biblical--but because I'm often scared of what the sign will be.  But, God starts this passage to Ahaz asking him to ask for a sign. A big sign--as deep has hell and as high as heaven (vs. 10)!

Sometimes I don't ask God for enough.  I think I can do it all myself. Instead of asking God for big things that he can do, I ask him for little things that I CAN DO!  That was Ahaz's problem, wasn't it?  He wanted to DO for himself, and he forgot God.  That's why he was so "evil" because he forgot God.  I do that--do you?

Ahaz replied, "I won’t ask; I won’t test the LORD.” (11)

I've said that!

God then grew weary of him!  UGH!  Does God grow weary of my little faith?  Sometimes, I'm sure!

Then come the words about the coming savior.  That even if Ahaz won't ask--God will send a sign.  That God will be with them!  That one will come to show us evil and good, and good times will be coming!

Then God talks about the evil that Assyria will do to its enemies.  It talks about the bad things that will be coming for Israel!  The pictures of the flies and bees particularlly got me--since after returning home from the better part of two weeks out of my apartment, I had a million fruit flies!  They were a mess.  (Thankfully an open glass of apple cider vinegar with some dawn in it solves that problem fast!).  But I thought of this verse.  How many times do I unintentionally leave other people my messes to clean up!  That's what was going to happen to Ahaz!  The goodness of their riches would become briers and thorns.  Bad things were coming.

This week, I was given hope that God will do bigger things than I ever can.  That its time to start trusting God and asking for big things.  Giant things.  Wonderful things.  God, I'm ready for the grace that is too big to swallow too enormous to contain.  I'm ready for big things--give me the faith to believe!


What parts of these passages really got to you this week?  How was your week?

Blessings and praying for you all!

Pastor Emily

Monday, September 26, 2011

Isaiah the Prophet

For the next several weeks we will be studing prophesies from the writer Isaiah.  Scholars believe that the book of Isaiah was probably composed from the words of several prophets.  Even with that, the writings clearly show a prophetic voice speaking to Israel as they are about to go into exile and as they are exiled.

Don't forget--"prophetic" in this case doesn't exactly mean predicting or pointing to the future.  It mostly means that they will speak to issues of justice in their own society.  Mostly prophets pointed out what was going on wrong in society and that there would be consequences to their actions.  Yes, in these cases we believe the writings may have pointed to Jesus, but they could also just be speaking to the time period.  Let us read the passages from Isaiah thinking with both minds!

This week's passage is the Word of God speaking to Ahaz.  Ahaz was king of Judah, and mentioned in Matthew's Geneology of Jesus.  At this point, what we think of as Israel was in fact two kingdoms.  Israel in the North and Judah in the South.  They had a bitter rivalry.  Ahaz was an evil king who was cruel and worshipped other Gods.  However, his son Hezikiah was widely revered and loved.  The final words of verse 9 are poignant, "If you do not stand firm in faith, you shall not stand at all." 

This Week's Assignment:
1) Read Isaiah 7:10-25 twice.
2) Put it down and pray over it. 
3) Read it again and answer the questions below!


1) What verses seem to speak directly to the time--to King Ahaz?
2) What verses seem to point to Jesus?
3) What makes you believe that these verses point to a Messiah?  Or what makes you think they don't?
4) Do you believe its a good idea to ask the Lord for signs?  Why or why not?
5) What part of the passage was most interesting or insiteful to you?
6) Is this study working?  Has it been helpful?

God--Open our eyes so that we may see your truths!  Let us not forget your love and your Word to us!

Pastor Emily

Friday, September 23, 2011

Jesus on the Cross

Did you picture it?  Jesus--humiliated, judged, in mind-blowing pain--hanging on the cross.  His loved ones standing around, watching him suffer.  The onlookers wanting to see him die.  The guards.  The criminals beside him.  Did you picture it when you read Psalm 22?

I think this picture was even more poignant for me this week.  I was in seminary when I first heard of Troy Davis.  He was a man on death row.  At that point, I didn't know the strong stance our church takes against the death penalty.  But, as I read more statements from our church on the death penalty and as I learned more about Davis's case, I began to hurt more and more for the situation.  I attended prayer vigils and prayed a lot.  That time in 2008, we thought we'd won.  We thought we'd saved him from death.  As we saw this week, that wasn't so.  As I prayed for Davis, his family, and for the family of Officer MacPhail, I thought of this Psalm and read it with new eyes.

"My God, My God, why have you forsaken me".

This is the line Mark quotes.  I can hear Jesus singing this.  This is what we think of first--of the pain.  We wonder where God is in these situations.  We question how God is at work in this world of evil.  Where police officers are shot.  Where justice never seems to be served.  Where Jesus, innocent, hangs on a tree.

In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.

But, we know that God is faithful and will deliver.  Even from the injustice and pain and death.  This is foreshadowing of good things!

But I am a worm, and not human; scorned by others, and despised by the people. 

I'm not good enough to deserve saving.

All who see me mock at me; they make mouths at me, they shake their heads; "Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver—let him rescue the one in whom he delights!’ 

Wait, didn't one of the criminals say that to Jesus.  Can you imagine Jesus, singing a familiar song, a holy song, and the other criminal realizing that he was part of the plan!  How do you think he felt?

On you I was cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me you have been my God. 

Jesus, once again speaking to the prophesy of his birth.  Words from David, that apply to Jesus and to David and to you and to me!

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; 

We believe Jesus died of a "broken" heart.  When he was pierced in the side, blood and water poured out of his body.  His bones were probably out of joint--although not broken.  His heart was melting like wax!  He is reciting the words of David, and speaking truth of what was about to come.  His heart was breaking!

my mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.

One of the Seven Last Words of Jesus.  "I thirst".  Again, David speaking truth, and Jesus singing truth.  By now, I see them all stopping and listening to him.  How do you think they felt?  Mad?  Scared?  Sad?  Frustrated?  Do you think they realized it?

a company of evildoers encircles me.

Do evildoers surround you?  They were surrounding Christ.

They stare and gloat over me; they divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.  
But you, O Lord, do not be far away!  O my help, come quickly to my aid! 

Do you think those soldiers thought twice.  The ones who cast lots for his clothes.  Do you think they stopped as they mouthed the words with him?  God has no longer forsaken, God is coming to help!  God is coming!  There is hope!

From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me.
I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: You who fear the Lord, praise him!

Wait!  There is hope!  Maybe Jesus will be saved!  Maybe there is still hope that we can have a world where cops won't die, and where our government makes all life sacred and gives chances for redemption--even when it seems doomed!  Maybe there will be a last minute pardon!  

All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him For dominion belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.

This is a far cry from "My God why have you forsaken me!"  For, remember God wins!  We will proclaim God's love and power to the world!  This is what Christ was singing.  More than just feeling forsaken--knowing that even in this place that God wins!

Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord, 

Oh, Jesus!  Oh David!  You are so right!  We still sing your name!  Preach on!  Sing on!  God is mighty!!!

and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.

Some translate the words "he has done it" for it is finished.  He has finished it.  Just like John says Jesus's last words were.  It is finished.  Maybe not finished like we wanted.  We didn't want Jesus to die.  But Jesus didn't die in vain.  Jesus may have died to this world, but soon, this would would be saved in ways they didn't know. 

Jesus died on his terms.  Probably not doubting God's presence, but instead singing of God's love and mercy and power.

In your bad times--remember that God's power will reign.  If your world is caving in, return to Psalm 22, and remember that Jesus feels your pain, and in the end God wins.

God wins.  Love wins.  Jesus wins.  Let us go into the world and sing this song.  Don't let this world discourage you.  Let God love you.  Let God's power encircle you.  Remember, you are loved--by a God whose song should be sung to the ends of the earth.  


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Psalmist

We learned about King David last week a bit.  While last week we focused on covenants, this week we'll look at the poetry attributed to King David.  If you are looking for the Bible's Hymnal, look no further than the Psalms.  Although we may not know the tunes, these poems were to be SUNG!  They were an important part of worship, something people knew!  

In Friday's post, I asked a trivia question.  Several of you had heard it from me--but the answer is twice that I can find.  1) With the disciples at the last supper (See Mark 14:26).  They probably sang Psalm 114-118, the hymns for Passover.  2) On the cross.  If someone said, "Amazing Grace how sweet the sound", we would look at them like they were crazy.  We automatically SING those words.  In the same way, when Jesus quoted Psalm 22 in Mark 15:34, he probably sang it!  More, he probably sang the WHOLE THING.

So, lets look at Psalm 22.  

Here's this week's suggested Methodology:

1) Pray--God of Light--Open our eyes to your truths.  Show us your vision.  Let us see with your eyes.  Let us remove all distractions and focus instead on your word.  We know you are speaking, let us listen and hear.  Amen
2)  Read the Psalm Through twice.
3) Take notes on what jumps out at you, and then put it down!
4) Come back to it later, and answer these questions!

The Questions!

1) What in this Psalm jumps out at you?  
2) If you were a Jew at the cross when Jesus was singing this, what would you be thinking?
3) What clearly doesn't point to Jesus?
4) What points to Jesus?
5) What else needs to be said?

Looking forward to this!

Pastor Emily 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Finding Jesus

Have you done the first part of our study?  If not check out this to catch up!

In this study, we are looking for Jesus in scriptures that tradition tells us point to Jesus.  In order to do this thoughtfully and faithfully, we first should think about Biblical Interpretation.  On one hand there is the way scholars interpret scripture--looking at the context and the time setting to see what the words mean.  This is helpful to let us understand the culture and undoubtedly some of the meaning behind scripture.  I might call this the Historical-Critical Method.  This was how we learned to read the bible in seminary.

On another hand is how the passage speaks to us--what does it say that impacts our lives.  I often think of the line "Morning by Morning new mercies I see!"  John Wesley spoke of scripture being doubly inspired--inspired when it was written, then inspired again when we read it.  I would call this reading scripture through my personal experience lens.

On another hand, is the tradition that we arrive from.  Since throughout the centuries church scholars have told us certain passages mean certain things, we believe it.  I've heard the line, "Everything happens for a reason" all my life.  Even though it might not be something I technically believe, I'll catch myself repeating it.  Sometimes our interpretation of scripture falls back on what we've always been taught to believe.  I might call this interpreting scripture through the eyes of faith.

Does this sound famliar?  Anything like the Wesleyan Quadrilateral?  

I think its hard to ever say scripture has one meaning!  I think God finds meaning in each verse at each point of each of our lives!  I think God tells us something different every time.  I believe that all three of these factors of biblical intepretation matter and are good.

With all of that being said, I have a really tough time seeing Jesus in the Deuteronomy passage in any way other than because the church scholars said he was there.  The passage to me could logically have pointed to Isaiah or Daniel or Amos or Micah.  

On the other hand, the images that point Jesus to David are lovely to me.  I absolutely see Jesus as the fulfillment of God's promise to David.  God no longer lives in a tent or a temple in Jerusalem--but lives in each of us!  More, every birth story that gives us a location has Jesus born in Bethleham!  The place where David was watching sheep when he was chosen to be KING!  Jesus was also chosen to be king--both by the Magi, and by God through baptism!  

Now, the exact lineage/genealogy seems a big tougher for me.  Mathew makes it clear in his Genealogy (1:1-17) that Mary was a descendant of David.  Matthew was writing to Jewish audiences and this was important to them.  Luke traces the lineage back a little differently (3:23-38).  He traces it through Joseph.  That always caught me as a little off.  Then I realized that in fact Joseph was important to Jesus's upbringing, faith, and claim to the people.  Joseph may not be a "physical" part of Jesus' make up, but he was important to the whole picture!  So, there too is another fulfilled prophesy!

So, what do you think?  Which method of interpretation do you most often use when you study the bible?  Where has God spoken to you today?  More, what "new mercies" have you seen today and in our study?

You have made the blind see and the deaf hear.  You have soften the hardest hearts.  Work now in us, so that through studying your word, your story, and your way, we might be better followers.  Work now in us so that we can love you more and know you better.  Let us go change the world with your love and by your grace!
In your Precious name we pray!

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Week One--

Don't forget to comment on the last blog!  I hope that you've all had a chance to read and reflect.

Just thought I'd stop in and give us a chance to pray together.  Feel free to add your prayers as well!

All-Knowing God--

You are bigger than we can know.  We are less than a grain of sand in your hand.  While we try to know you--seek you, search your scripture, look at your creation, love your people, we are still left with questions.  We are still left with insecurities.  When we think we know--you change us! You show us new things!

In this time together Lord, we ask you to show yourself anew.  Not like we are hoping for.  Not the way we know.  But in your fullness.  In your grandeur.  In your mysterious ways.  Teach us new things, and teach us the old lessons anew.  Let us be the students.

Let us find you new.  So that we can go into the world and share the depth and breadth of your amazing, never-ending love.  

In your name we pray--

Pastor Emily

Monday, September 12, 2011

A New Day

Study Background--

We are beginning to look at the recorded prophesies of Christ.  Most of these will be in the Old Testament, and then we will lead to reading the text of the Christmas Narratives in all three gospels.  We will look at our pre-conceptions, what was written and some historical background.  I love the Bible, and have taken many classes.  However, I am not a "Bible Scholar".  Feel free to disagree with me.  Feel free to disagree with each other--but in a healthy and loving way.  Being said, know that any comments that are disparaging or mean will be deleted.

This is the plan, on Mondays I will post a little background on the passage and some questions to answer.  Feel free to answer all or some of them them in the comments.  Then Friday I'll try to write a summary of the collected comments and add some more of my own.  The study schedule is posted on this post.  If you have questions or suggestions feel free to email me at emily AT kennesawumc DOT org.

Scripture Background--

Typically, we won't study passages from two books at once, but these two passages are closely connected!  Moses and David are closely connected, because they were both recipients of God's covenants with Israel.

Scripture Reading--Deuteronomy 18:15-22 and 2 Samuel 7

In ancient times, a covenant was a special promise--one cemented by God.  When two people made a covenant, they got their gods involved!  In scripture, covenants are promises between us and God.  God promises us something, and we promise something in return.  

Our first reading is from Deuteronomy, a book describing the laws God gave to Moses for Israel.  The covenant was that God would claim Israel IF Israel kept God's laws.  These laws were important, for they were Israel's link to God!  Remember, Moses was a prophet, but this passage prophesies a new prophet coming!  

Our second reading is from 2 Samuel 7 (Look most closely at 10-17 and 25-29).  This concerns a covenant God made through the Prophet Nathan with David.  David was King, but God promised that God would build God's own House from David.  

Your Mission!
  1. Pray--God open our eyes to your truths!  Let us see with your eyes!  Let us hear nothing but your words! Open our hearts to you!  Amen
  2. Read through the two chapters and put it down.
  3. Read through the questions below, and then the scriptures a second time!
  4. Try to answer the questions.
1) What makes you believe the "prophet" that is spoken of in Deuteronomy 18 Points to Jesus?

2) What makes you believe that the "house" in 2 Samuel 7 points to Jesus?

3) Talk about your notion of covenant.  How do these covenants with Moses and David helping point to the new covenant that will be Jesus?  What is the Covenant we have with Jesus?

4) What else stuck out to you?  What is new that you've never heard before or seen before or thought?  What did I not ask?

Can't wait to start this together!   We will reassess Friday and see how its going!

Pastor Emily

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

And We Begin Again!

Hello Everyone!

Its been forever since we've spoken!

Here's the New Plan.

We will study one or two chapters (or less!) a week!  On Monday I'll pop on with the text and questions.  Answer them at your leisure.  Then on Thursday I'll pop back on with a longer discussion piece.  That will give us more time to really dig in!

How does that sound?

We'll work on the Biblical Prophesies that we believe point to Jesus until Advent, then we'll look at the different Christmas stories.

The schedule will look like this:

  • 9/12 Deuteronomy 18:15 and 2 Samuel 7
  • 9/19 Psalm 22
  • 9/26 Isaiah 7:10-23
  • 10/3 Isaiah 9
  • 10/10 Isaiah 11
  • 10/17 Isaiah 53
  • 10/24 Isaiah 24
  • 10/31 Daniel 7
  • 11/7 Micah 5
  • 11/14 Zechariah 8:1-7 and 9:9-17
  • 11/21 Luke 1:1-25
  • 11/28 Luke 1:26-80
  • 12/5 Luke 2:1-20
  • 12/12 John 1
  • 12/19 Matthew 1
  • 12/26 Matthew 2:1-14
Looking forward to all this!  See you Sunday for Ice Cream!

Pastor Emily

Saturday, September 3, 2011

And it Ends

Scripture:  Revelation 20-22

Observation:  I have read and re-read this several times lately.  Partially because I have gotten distracted 100 times and partially because I can't believe its over!  What an amazing ending! 

Here is my favorite part: 
"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”  Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look! I’m making all things new.” He also said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  Then he said to me, “All is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will freely give water from the life-giving spring. Those who emerge victorious will inherit these things. I will be their God, and they will be my sons and daughters."

Everything will be new! Death will be no more!  Our God is the Alpha and Omega--the Beginning and the end!

I needed to hear this today.  Because even as we are finishing this journey, a new one is coming.  Even as God puts and end to scripture--new chapters will be written in our lives.  Even as one door closes, something else begins anew.  It makes me think of the Hymn of Promise--how everything comes new.  Everything changes.  God who began things, can end things and then begin again.

What endings are happening in your life?  What new beginnings?  What challenges will God get you through?  Its been my pleasure to journey with you this Summer.  Its been my pleasure to guide us through the New Testament.  I know each of you have strengthened my faith and inspired me!  Thank you for your dilligence and your hope.  Thank you for your love.

Alpha and Omega--Thank you for this summer.  Continue to bless those who journeyed through this reading with me. Those who stopped by occasionally, and those we never knew were with us.  Thank you for your insights and your grace!  All glory be to you--the one who begins and ends all things.  In your precious name I pray!  Amen

Remember--Sunday 9/11 at 4 pm in the Parlor!  I'll bring the ice cream, you bring your favorite topping!

Pastor Emily

Friday, September 2, 2011

Do Justice, Love Mercy

Scripture: Revelation 16-18


16:7 stuck out to me for the whole reading today: "And I heard the altar say,
      “Yes, Lord God Almighty, your judgments are true and just.” "

What does justice mean?  What does it mean to be just?

Application:I took a class in seminary on peace building.  In that class they said that Justice, Mercy, Peace and Truth must be heard in equal measures in order to be understood and conflict to be resolved.  (see:  Scroll down the the section listed "The Meeting".  It might change the way you see things like it changed me!)

I guess that's whats so hard for me here.  There's a lot of Justice and probably a lot of Truth, but not much mercy or peace.  Maybe I just always side with Mercy and peace.  I just am not exactly sure that these passages reflect the whole of scripture.  Where's the Micah 6:8 "Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God?" 

My seminary professors always said that scripture must be interpreted not on its own, but with knowledge of the whole canon (the whole of scripture) in mind.  I'm not sure where this leaves me today.  I do know that today I want to hope that even with these passages, the God I worship is a God who still loves Justice, Mercy, Peace and Truth in equal measures. 

Prayer:  God of Mercy--Please remember me, a sinner unclean.  Please continue to illuminate my mind and enliven my spirit.  Help me to see clearly what I do not understand.  Help me to love like you.  In your name we pray--Amen.

Pastor Emily