May 2024            The Spirit-Filled Life

Rev. Dr. David Palmer

On my way to the airport to pick up a friend, I noticed I was almost out of gas. So, I pulled into the gas station near the onramp. I did everything right. I swiped my gas card, pulled the nozzle from the pump, and set the lever to fill the gas tank.  I was also very concerned that the car looked good, so I cleaned the windshield and did some spot polishing while I waited for the car to be filled with gas. There was a particularly difficult spot of sap that had become encrusted in the corner of the windshield, which I focused my attention on. 

After a bit, I heard a beeping sound from the pump and assumed that it meant that the tank was full. I continued to work on the sap spot until it was cleaned to my satisfaction. However, when I returned to the pump, I discovered that it had reset. Realizing that I didn’t have much time to get to the airport, I hopped into the car and sped off to pick up my friend. 

A little while later, on the freeway, I discovered that even though I had gone through all the right motions, I had never put any gas in the car. I had been so focused on ensuring the car was clean and presentable that I missed out on making sure it had the gas it needed.

Have you ever felt like you're going through all the right motions, yet still lack the power or energy for living? Maybe you've tried various trends or self-improvement books, but joy seems to elude you. This struggle is not unique to non-Christians; it can be just as real for believers.

We, as the church, can sometimes become so preoccupied with appearances that we overlook the essence of our faith. There is a crucial element that we are missing, a divine gift from God that can transform our lives from mere activities to victorious living. This missing piece is the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit’s power that revolutionizes the life of the believer, infusing it with energy and joy in the Lord. This is not just a component of discipleship, but its very foundation.

Think about the early church. The disciples were told to wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit promised to them, even though they had received the confirmation of Jesus’ resurrection through direct personal experience with him.  Jesus knew that they would need more than just a good experience with him to carry them into ministry to the ends of the earth. They would need to be filled with God's continued presence and power through the Spirit.

On the day of Pentecost, we celebrate the gift of the spirit as the real birth of the church because only by the Spirit does the church find the strength for its ministry and mission. This is an important part of the Christian life. Celebrate and discover this precious gift for yourself this Pentecost on May 19th.

 

April 2024         The Lifesaving Station

Rev. Dr. David Palmer

After the resurrection, Jesus not only comforted his disciples, but he also gave them the great commission: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20).” This same missional movement has been the signature identifying feature of God’s people throughout the centuries. However, there are times when the church has forgotten what it was called to be. The following story about a lifesaving station helps illustrate how this has played out in history. 

There was once a crude little lifesaving station on a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occurred. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, tirelessly searching for the lost day and night, with barely a thought for themselves.

Some of those who were saved, and various others in the surrounding area, wanted to become associated with the station and to give of their time and money for the support of its work. New boats were bought, and new crews were trained. The little lifesaving station grew.

Some of the life-saving station members were unhappy that the building was so small and poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided for those who were being saved from the sea. They replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged building. The lifesaving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they decorated it beautifully and furnished it exquisitely. It became sort of a club.

Fewer members were interested in going to sea on lifesaving missions, so they hired professional lifeboat crews to do this work. The lifesaving motif still prevailed, and a memorial lifeboat was placed in the room in honor of all those people who had been saved in the past. 

About that time, a large ship was wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boatloads of cold, wet, and half-drowned people. They were dirty and sick, and some of them were from a foreign country and couldn’t speak their language. The beautiful new club was in chaos. The property committee called an emergency meeting and decided to build a shower house outside the club where victims of shipwrecks could be cleaned up and properly instructed on the rules of the lifesaving station.

At the next meeting, there was a split in the club’s membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s lifesaving activities because they were unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social life of the club. A few members insisted that lifesaving was the club's primary purpose. They pointed out that they were still called a “lifesaving station.” but they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save lives, they could start their own lifesaving station down the coast, which they did.

As the years went by, the new lifesaving station experienced the same changes that had occurred with the old. It evolved into a club, and yet another lifesaving station was founded. History continued to repeat itself, and if you visit the seacoast today, you but the victims drown.

The point of this story is to remind the church of her primary purpose. When we forget our purpose, we can easily get distracted by many tasks that could prevent us from living up to our calling. During this next season, we will explore God’s intention for us as the church to be missionally engaged in the community. Come and be part of this new launch into the choppy waters of faithfully pursuing God’s design for our church. ~ Pastor David Palmer

 

March 2024        My Easter Story         

 Rev. Dr. David Palmer

The truth is that my story isn’t very glamorous. I was a hooligan as a youngster. My friends and I would walk through the local shops to pocket whatever goodies weren’t locked down. We vandalized property and acted like the law didn’t apply to us. One Easter morning, my parents compelled me to go to church. I remember sitting up in the balcony because I wanted a quick way out as soon as it was over.

As I looked down on the church people, I heard the preacher talk about God in a way that caught my attention. He described the basics of the Easter story. He started by saying that God loves us and created us to know God and experience a good life. What caught my attention was that he didn’t talk about God as some judgmental guy in the sky who was disappointed with me. Instead, God wanted me to know him and gave me the opportunity to be alive so I could do that, and I realized that I also wanted to know God.

The message continued to describe how we are separated from God by sin and death. Nobody needed to tell me about death. My sister had died unexpectedly a few years earlier, and my whole family was still reeling from her loss. I knew the pain of losing someone close to me, but I kept blocking out the darkness from my heart. I also knew about sin. I knew that lying, stealing, and cheating were wrong, but I just kept on doing it, mainly when I was with my friends. This led to a bunch of guilt that I was carrying around.

Perhaps the most amazing thing I heard was that Jesus came to be our best friend and died so we could live. I had never thought of Jesus as a friend, but when I heard that he took on the punishment for everything I had done, I was fascinated to learn more about him. Apparently, Jesus knew everything I had done and loved me anyway. He also decided to go to the cross to die in my place to pay the price for all the stuff that I had done. He did this so that I could be set free from sin and death and live. I remember being blown away that Jesus did this because of God’s love for me. He is the best friend I could ever have. When Jesus rose from the dead, it was proof that God’s power overcomes death and sin.

The message ended with the encouragement that we are invited to respond to God’s love and begin a right relationship with God. Honestly, I don’t remember what else was said in the sermon because I closed my eyes and simply prayed “God, I know that I’ve messed up my life, but thank you for  your love and for sending Jesus to be my friend. Help me to be the person you want me to be.” It was a simple prayer, but I immediately felt that a huge weight had been taken from me. I knew that God had forgiven me and that I had a new friend in Jesus.

I can’t say that everything has been perfect since that time. It wasn’t easy to say no to doing the things that I had done before, and I still do things that I know I shouldn’t. I also still experience pain and hurt in my life, but I know that I am not alone because Jesus is with me. He is the best friend I could ever have.

My Easter story is just one example of the change that God can make in a person’s life when they simply ask for God’s forgiveness and start a new life with Jesus. I want to invite you to hear that same message of God’s love today and consider if you are ready to let go of the things of the past and begin a new relationship with God. I invite you to pray a simple prayer like the one above and ask Jesus into your life. Even now, as you read these words, just pause and pray to God. If you want to learn more about how to have a relationship with Jesus, please call me at 603-432-7083, so I can help you take the next steps.

 

February 2024 - Church for All People

Rev. Dr. David Palmer

Jesus prayed for his disciples and the future generations of believers to be of one heart and mind.  – John 17:20-21

Can you imagine a church where Christians of every denomination worship and work together? Believe it or not, this happens every week on US military bases worldwide. I often describe my experience growing up in this kind of church as being part of a convertible church. This is because it was designed to be changed to accommodate a wide variety of worship styles and theological perspectives. The walls had depictions of religious art that celebrated Catholic and Protestant stories of faith. The cross had a swivel, so it could be turned to show the crucifix on one side and the standard protestant cross on the other. We even celebrated communion in three different ways every month.

This does not mean those who came were unclear in their understanding of faith. Instead, each person was encouraged and challenged to dig deeper to understand their faith so they could live more fully into who God had called them to be. As a young person in the church, I remember being surrounded by Christian leaders from various backgrounds who were passionate about their faith. They didn’t always agree, but they celebrated God and the diversity of their perspectives and worship together.

I wonder what it would look like for believers today to grasp the truth that Jesus is the true Lord of the church regardless of the denomination. We might learn to appreciate a Jesus who is larger than our own limited personal experience.

As we begin the season of Lent this month, we will hear several perspectives of what Jesus has done for us at the cross. This great mystery is far greater than any one person's understanding. Through the centuries, different groups of Christians have understood this mystery in diverse ways. Each of these has something to teach us if we are listening. You are invited to come and discover the depths of God’s love and grace through Jesus.

 

January 2024 - Message in a Bottle

Rev. Dr. David Palmer

You may have heard the hit single “Message in a Bottle” sung by Sting. The song is presumably about a story of a castaway on an island, who sends a message in a bottle to seek love. A year later, he has not received any response and despairs, thinking he is destined to be alone. The next day, he sees "a hundred billion bottles" on the shore, finding out that there are more people like him out there. This famous song describes the human need for connection as an SOS for all to see. The hope is that somebody will respond. This points to the ongoing need to know that we are not alone in our journey in life.

The great news is that God continues to speak to us and desires for us to know the comfort of a deep and abiding love. We are not alone. The truths of God are revealed to us in a variety of ways. The scriptures point out that “In the past, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe (Hebrews 1:1-2).”  This passage points out that God is sending us a message not only in a bottle, but through nature, the Bible, and even Jesus himself.  This provides insight into the meaning of the opening of John’s gospel, in which he declares that the “word became flesh and dwelt among us.”  In the person of Jesus, God’s love is revealed to the world.

I believe that it is imperative for Christians to discover how to hear and understand what God is saying to them. But how can we hear God today? What is the connection between Jesus and the scriptures? Are the promises of God from the Bible still relevant in the 21st Century? During the next month, I will be preaching on the important subject of God’s revelation and how we can hear God’s voice today. I hope you can join us each Sunday as we open God’s message for us.


 

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