• 28
  • 28
  • 28
  • 28

Know and be known by God

October 10,2014

by Pastor Mike Ramsdell

I love to tell the story about a lunch I had quite a few years ago with several celebrities. The church I pastored at the time allowed a movie to be filmed at a house we owned, including allowing our fellowship hall and parking lot to be a base for the filming as well as to feed the cast and the crew. (We did not charge enough.) They invited me to eat from the food truck anytime I wanted, so on occasion I got my food there and ate in our fellowship hall, often with the actors in the movie. (The food was amazing.)
 
So, I can say I had lunch several times with Danny Glover, Ed Harris and John Malkovich. Sally Field was also in the movie, but she must have eaten elsewhere. The movie was called Places in the Heart. You might have seen it. At the time, the actors were not well known. Since then, they have all gone on to great success — the Lethal Weapon movies, The Truman Show and more recently Reds.
 
But the truth is, I don’t really know them at all, only the characters they have played and the stories I might have read about them.
 
For too many, this is their experience with God. They know a few things about God. They might have even touched base with God a time or two. They might know some of the God stories others have told, or more likely, the ones in the Bible — Noah, Samson, even Jesus. But they don’t really know God.
 
Probably the person I know best in life (it’s not Danny, Ed or John) is my wife, Rhonda. Why? Because we have shared life together, all the ups and downs of a fascinating journey, some days good and some days bad. We shared the funeral for her mother when we loaded her cremated ashes in our car after the service in Pensacola and then drove them to Key West to scatter them on the grave of her mother’s first-born child as she had requested. We shared it when my parents died, and she sat next to me holding my hand as we grieved together.
 
But we also shared it when we met her mother’s sisters two weeks ago and her uncle for the first time since she was 7 and enjoyed many meals, wonderful stories and the great Boston accents they had. We also shared lobster rolls, views of Boston and Gloucester Bay and then stood at the tip of Cape Cod. It was especially cool to stand next to the farm my Dad grew up on and then find the place where Rhonda was a little girl just a few miles from there. It’s shared life that makes us know and be known. And, I believe one of the deepest urges in each of us is to know and be known.
 
The way to know and be known by God is to share life with God. This is God’s will and intent when he created us in the first place. Each day we are told that in the Garden of Eden God came down and walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening.
 
 He sent his son Jesus into the world to walk with us all, if we choose to follow him.
 
Pray about everything. Allow God to share your life experiences. Confess sin and accept forgiveness. Explore the Bible daily. Learn to worship God. Make room in your life for God. Don’t compartmentalize your relationship with God to one hour a week or just in seasons of trouble. Give God access to all your life and all your moments. It’s about sharing life with God, the ups, the downs, the good, the bad. It is from this place that the Christian life is experienced and lived.
 
I would like to add that there is still room for men to join us at the Journey for Men Breakfast on Saturday morning at 7:30 a.m. We have a very special guest speaker, Senator Brian Birdwell, a retired colonel from the Army and a survivor of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon. He has an amazing story of courage, faith and heroism. If you have not yet signed up, contact Cindi Blackburn and sign up today. We are having such a great response that we are moving the breakfast from the Loft into the Gym. We anticipate a full house and maybe our largest men’s event as we embrace this inspirational story of faith, country and family.
 
Mike Ramsdell
Senior Pastor

The story of the Christian life

October 10,2014

by Pastor Mike Ramsdell

Last year we celebrated Commitment Weekend, which is the season when we turn in our financial estimates of giving for the next year. It is an important time. We are about to begin that season again with our Be Rich emphasis.
 
I was surprised when it was brought to my attention that my 8- year-old grandson, Cody, had filled out, signed and turned in a commitment card for $65. This was to be given the following year. When they found out that they were moving to Puerto Rico the first week of January, Cody turned his offering in that Sunday, $65, money he had been saving for a long time. His family told him he did not have to do it, but he wanted to. And, with excitement and faith, he placed all the money he had in the world in the offering plate. Can you say “proud moment” for Granddad?
 
By the way, this divine moment for Cody doesn’t mean he is more than eight years old. I played a video game with him not much later where he “killed” me a hundred times, howling with laughter every time Granddad bit the dust. I am sure he has been sent to his room a few times under the disciplinary tutelage of his parents.
 
A little boy with a divine moment where he experienced God’s grace in an act of giving but knowing there are equal human moments where grace is known just as much − this is how love works. 
  
This is much the way we are as adults. We have divine moments that rise in the sea of our own humanity. But this is what grace is and where we connect with God − when we love, give, serve and forgive. But equal grace is experienced when we fail, worry, even sin as God acts in us as much as he acts with us and through us. It’s all part of the journey. We love as we have been loved, give as we have received, serve as we have been served. We will never catch up with God, but it is God who we follow as disciples of his Son, Jesus Christ.
 
I love that I can occasionally rise to the occasion as a Christian, serving in a special moment, reflecting God’s love in a special season, giving to a cause above and beyond what I imagined I could do, all the ways that the Spirit works in my life. But I have learned to love equally as God bends down to where I sometimes find myself − a moment of depression, a season of failure, an act of sin. And, God forgives, loves and transforms that moment just as much by his grace in the cross; and from this place I rise again.
 
This is the story of the Christian life, the story of the church as well. We rise to the occasion in divine moments, but God also bends down to us in the moments that also happen that are only human. Thank you, God, for Jesus, the only one both human and divine.
 
Mike Ramsdell
Senior Pastor

It's a big deal

October 10,2014

by Pastor Mike Ramsdell

Two years ago we did a message series called Guardrails, naming some of the practices that help us keep our Christian life on track. There are four that have been very important to me for more than 40 years.

Just a week ago two men came walking down the hallway of the church. I was the only one there, and I asked if I could help them. I had not seen them before, and to be honest, I thought they were coming to ask for money. This happens often in churches, and they were dressed in a way that suggested this.
 
After I asked if I could help them, one said, “Are you the pastor here?” I told them that I am one of the pastors, and he said, “Good.” And, now I will paraphrase the conversation as best I can. He said, “I have been a Christian now for about 10 years and don’t have a church right now. I have visited around for a while, but I believe in tithing.” He then stopped, opened his wallet and pulled out a substantial amount of money, leaving not very much in the wallet. He gave it to me to give to the church. He then said that he had learned the blessings of giving and wanted to make sure he gave his tithe that month to God. After I thanked and affirmed his understanding of giving to God, he and his friend headed out the door and began walking down the street. It seemed they did not have a car.
 
Somewhere he learned that giving to God was a key part of faith and had experienced life blessings in that relationship. I also learned not to judge people just by what they look like. When I was anticipating someone to ask me for something, God sent someone to give to me.
 
He could have done whatever he wanted with his money. But he chose to give to God through the life and mission of First Methodist Mansfield, a mission that has been active and growing since 1885.
 
This is one of the practices that has guarded my heart, my life and my faith since 1973 (the year I gave my heart to Christ). I wanted to share with you those few things:

  • Reading the Bible (putting the truth of God in my heart and mind);
  • Prayer (formal, informal, lengthy, short, daily);
  • Tithing (giving 10% of what God has given me back to God);
  • Going to church (may sound like an old-fashioned term, but marking a Sabbath moment has been essential for me).

What this has done for me is help me see and understand life through a faith filter. When things go bad or they turn good, I learn to see them through the filter of my faith — what the Bible says, my relationship with God fostered through prayer, my belief that all I have or ever will have is a gift of God and all of life directed in consistency through my weekly church experience. It’s a big deal.
 
Mike Ramsdell
Senior Pastor

Celebratin​g a special worship service

October 10,2014

by Pastor Mike Ramsdell

For many years I had a dream that one day we would begin a special worship service and ministry called Celebrate Recovery. For many reasons we kept putting it on the back burner until four years ago when Pastor Caesar Rentie, our Celebrate Recovery Pastor, Debbie Black, our Care Ministries Director, Karen McGough, our worship leader, myself and many other leaders in our church got together and made it happen. After our leaders went through extensive training, and after much prayer, we gathered our great volunteer leaders and selected a time and space. Celebrate Recovery began. Since then, it has met every Thursday night at 6:30 p.m., even on Thanksgiving, Christmas and other holidays.
 
Tonight, Thursday, October 9, at 6:30 p.m., we will celebrate its 4th anniversary in our Chapel. I plan on being there, and know you are invited as well. If you are unable to attend, please pray for this great service and ministry.
 
When we were looking for an idea that would cover the purpose and meaning for Celebrate Recovery, these words came to me, “Everyone is recovering from something.” That has since stuck and become the guiding light as an invitation as hundreds of people have been helped through the service, step studies and other ministries that touch the heart and change a life through Celebrate Recovery.
 
Tonight’s guest speaker is a special one, Dr. Marty Jeane. Dr. Jeane is a long-time professional counselor, first with Center Street Counseling and more recently the Director of Regency Counseling in Mansfield. For many years he directed the counseling out of our Wesley Mission Center. Pastor Caesar will lead the service, Karen will lead worship and Dr, Jeanne, a United Methodist minister, will inspire us.
 
Jesus said this — and I paraphrase — “Who needs a physician? The sick do, that is who I have come to!” Jesus knew that the religious leaders of his day thought they were perfectly healthy and needed no help, so they rejected him. But everyone else? They knew they had broken pieces and responded to Jesus Christ. We all are a little bit or a lot broken. I am so glad Jesus has come to make us whole. The first step in becoming whole is admitting we might be broken.
 
That is the core of Celebrate Recovery but also the core of the Christian life. When the crippled man at the pool of Bethesda was asked by Jesus — “What do you want me to do for you?” — the answer was simple and clear. “Make me well.”
 
“Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
 
Mike Ramsdell
Senior Pastor

What questions are you asking?

October 10,2014

by Pastor Mike Ramsdell

When I was a kid, like most of us, I didn’t like tests very much — too many questions. Some are fill-in-the-blank, others true or false, occasionally multiple choice and even essay tests. I must confess, I thought multiple choice was the easiest. An educated guess seemed to guarantee a passing grade. I thought fill-in-the-blank was the most difficult, either I knew the answer or I didn’t, guessing wasn’t all that helpful.
 
One of the things that Jesus often did to engage the heart and the soul of his hearers was to ask questions, questions like this:

  • Why do you call me Lord and don’t do what I say?
  • Why do you doubt?
  • Why are you afraid?
  • Who do you say that I am?
  • What do you want me to do for you?

These questions require a response. Here are some good questions that I believe are essential to answer if we want to really be and grow as followers of Jesus Christ: 

  • Is God the authority in your life choices and priorities?
  • Are you engaged in a consistent, daily conversation with God?
  • Does your life reflect the fruits of the Spirit? (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control) 
  • Are you devoted to God, to good and the people in your life? (What is the evidence?)
  • Are you faithful in stewardship? (Does how you spend your money reflect what you believe?)
  • Are you committed to Christian community? (the church, mutual support, service, accountability to others who also have chosen to follow Christ)

When we might be asking questions like — what will the weather be tomorrow, did the stock market go up or down, who won a certain football game or what is the correct answer for the Wheel of Fortune puzzle — we might be better served to go a little deeper on occasion. Yes, deeper can be intrusive, even painful, but deeper is where life is changed, a new life is found and a future formed and shaped by our commitment to Jesus Christ and partnership with God’s Holy Spirit.
 
I hope you will dig a little deeper and work though some of the questions in this thought. 
 
Mike Ramsdell
Senior Pastor