Monthly Archives: May 2016

Saying Grace

By Pastor Vern Kratz

I remember when I was still in school, coming home for lunch and finding my sandwich waiting for me on the table. And sometimes in my adolescent haste I would begin eating without waiting for anyone else to join me or without even acknowledging their presence. My mother would always bring me back in line and remind me about my manners. Then she or someone at the table would ask the question, “Did you say grace?”

I’d have to answer, “No.” Then we would all pause, bow our heads, and someone would say, or even recite, a one-line prayer thanking God for the food and asking His blessing on it.

I always found the tradition of “saying grace” before a meal somewhat intriguing. I remember as a child thinking, “What if I don’t like the food? What if there isn’t enough food? What if I get an upset stomach from the food? Maybe we should wait and see, eat first, and then if all is well, say grace and thank God for the food.”

Obviously it doesn’t work that way in most traditions. In fact, in many settings, it is seen as improper or impolite to even take one bite before you thank the Lord for His provision.

“Saying grace” refers to the practice of thanking God for the food before a meal. It is also called “saying the blessing.” Such prayers follow the examples of Jesus and the apostle Paul, both of whom “said grace” before meals.

Matthew records two instances of Jesus feeding thousands of people with only a small amount of food (Matthew 14:15-21; 15:32-38). In both these accounts, before Jesus “broke the bread” (or started the meal), He gave thanks to God for it (14:19).

The passage I was reading today was actually a story from the book of Acts.  Let me encourage you to take the time to read Acts 27. It’s a very exciting story. Paul has been taken prisoner and is on a ship being transported to the place he will stand trial when suddenly a huge storm comes up. The storm lasts for days and all the while the sailors are frantically fighting the storm, literally fighting for their lives. After the storm had been raging for several days and the men had not even stopped to eat Paul was visited by an angel and told that they would be alright.

Paul shared this report with the men on the ship and encouraged them to eat something to keep up their strength. Then I got quite a picture in my mind when I read verse 35: “After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat.”

The wind is howling, the rain is stinging and making them uncomfortable and miserable, the waves are tossing them about; and this isn’t a ride that goes on for a couple of minutes,  but rather for days and days. But at Paul’s urging, they stop to eat, and I can imagine them in their haste and impatience agreeing to take a brief break from fighting the storm and then begin grabbing and gulping down the food. But then they look over and see Paul in the middle of the raging storm bowing his head, and pausing to thank God for the food. It’s almost comical.

Our days are filled all types of situations, sometimes good, sometimes stormy, but in every situation we need to stop and eat at some point. Since we owe everything we have to God’s grace, the “free and unmerited favor of God,” it is appropriate to thank Him always (Ephesians 5:20). Meals provide a good time to pause and do just that. So let me encourage you, no matter how busy you are, or in whatever is going on in your life, “Don’t forget to say grace.”

 

Sing Praises!

By: Pastor Heidi Kratz

Psalm 46:6

“Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.”

As I was reading this Psalm I was struck by how many times the word “sing” is used in verse 6.  The Psalmist does not use the word once or twice, but it is used four times in this verse!  The word sing is also used again in verse 7.

The word “Psalm” means hymn or song.  There are 150 Psalms that are found in this book of the bible.  You can have psalms of praise, psalms of thanksgiving, and psalms of desperate cries for God to help his people, just  to name a few.  Psalm 46 is a song of praise to God.

There are some days we don’t really feel like singing at all.  When there is hurt, sickness or pain in your life the last thing you want to do is sing.  I would rather complain or feel sorry for myself about everything that is going wrong. This verse tells us to “Sing praises to God.”   It does not say to sing if you are an accomplished musician.  It does not say to sing if you have had a good day and everything is going your way in your life.  The scripture just simply says “sing praises.”

Psalm 46:6 is also not specific as to where you are to “sing praises.”  We do not have to be sitting in church service at 9:30 or 11:15 on a Sunday morning to “sing praises.”  We can sing praises anytime and anywhere.  We can be in our car, taking the dog for a walk, running errands around town. “Sing praises.”

Why do we need to “sing praises?”  The Psalms goes on to say that God is the King of all the earth.  God reigns over the nations.  We need to praise God for who he is and what he has done for us whatever our current life situation might be.

“Sing praises!”

Here am I. Send me.

By Gary Jennings (Lead Pastor)                                                               

RAP – It’s simple to do. Read a passage; Apply the passage, and Pray the passage. Everyone can rap.

It was just a typical Sunday morning in my world. I have a regimented routine on Sunday mornings as I work my way forward to our first service of two for the morning. After I finished the final study and preparation of my sermon, I gazed at my bulletin board in my office to see what the planned daily reading passage was for our church family. The passage was Isaiah 6:1-13. Awe yes, I said to myself, a familiar passage indeed; and one I love. I read the first 8 verses, then stopped and reflected. Now, sometimes I will read the passage for that Sunday in our services. This was missions Sunday and I was feeling that it would be a good passage to read to our church family.

So, this is exactly what I did. As I publicly read I felt greatly impacted by the words, Who will go for us, then Isaiah’s quick response, Here am I. send me. These words are loaded with power and commitment. I had no idea what God was doing in the pews before me, but I did know he was doing something. Many of us were being affected in a fresh way. After the services I saw people lingering behind in the pews in quiet meditation. It was after the services that heard from three people who told me specifically where God was sending them to. I marveled at the workings of God. They will be sharing a testimony this Sunday in church. God is sending them because they said, here I am.

For me personally, my fresh surrender to be sent led me from the walls of our church to a house number in our city. It was there that I felt the gentle nudge of God to share. As I did a connection was made with someone who has a need. Who knows what will come out of this in the days ahead.

I heard someone say one time that the reality today is that some have changed the wording of Isaiah 6:8 from Here am I. Send me, to Here am I. Send somebody else. Why do people say that today? Is it because sometimes ministry is messy and inconvenient? Is it because sometimes ministry takes us out of our comfort zones? Is it because sometimes ministry has a price tag attached to it? Yes, yes, yes, all of the above and much more certainly apply to ministry and being sent. Here’s what I know: ministry is seldom clean, tidy, neat, and cheap. There is always a cost.

Here’s what else I know: Oh, how much we miss when God has to pass over us in search of a willing person. Years ago we used to call a willing person, a willing vessel. A vessel is a container which is made to be filled and used. When we refuse to be used, ministry to people in need still happens, but through someone else. And then, someone else gets the blessing that God designated to us.

Jesus went looking for disciples and followers as he walked this earth. When He found them, he sent them out to do needed ministry among people.

God is still looking for people who will say, Here I am. Send me. Amen!