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Thoughts on living between the lines

September 09,2014

by Pastor Mike Ramsdell

The best life, the good life is lived between the lines we refuse to cross.
 
The Bible teaches us many things — how to be saved, who God is, what a relationship with God looks like, what sin is, how we discover grace, how we might experience God, how we are supposed to treat each other. If offers many rich promises, encouraging words, challenging words, loving words. It even reminds us that “the truth shall set you free.”
 
One of the things American culture focuses a great deal on is that everyone should be able to do what they want. There should be few, if any, restrictions, that life should be about pleasing oneself as long as no one else is hurt. We are bombarded with images of unrestricted sexuality. Alcohol advertisements constantly are connected with enjoying life in almost every activity. Images of food attack our senses and our appetites hundreds of times a day, online, signs, TV, etc. Few of the images that we encounter show the backside of unrestricted living — broken marriages, broken lives, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. It seems the culture tells us there is no penalty for a life without rules, yet all around us we see the self-sabotage of people who have bought into that.
 
While many worry about ISIS and the Ebola virus, the real danger is the destruction of values that undergird our lives, marriages, families and communities, a danger we have adapted to at such a level that we often don’t recognize how destructive it can be until the damage is done. (The marriage fails, the family is broken, health is lost, life community slides down hill, you know what I mean.)
 
When God set the people of Israel apart, he promised that they would be his people and he would be their God, that there would be a land that these used-to-be slaves would one day have, that they would one day be a great nation. The first thing God did was set them free from slavery (the Red Sea parted). The second thing God did was a stop at Mount Sinai when the Commandments were given (you might know 10 of them). God knew they could not thrive, become his people, become a great people and live the life he wanted for them without heavenly guidelines. Otherwise they would be just like the immoral and idolatrous people around them.
 
This pattern has not changed, and neither has the Bible.
 
The art of experiencing the full abundance of the Christian life over the long haul is becoming very familiar and very specific on the lines we will not cross because it is between those lines where the greatest rewards of life are experienced.
 
What are the lines you will not cross? If you don’t have any, I would recommend praying about it and getting some. 
 
Mike Ramsdell
Senior Pastor

Thoughts on walking with God

September 09,2014

by Pastor Mike Ramsdell

Throughout the years many have attempted to paint a picture of God. Some see God as angry. Some see him as fatherly. Some see him with lightning bolts in his hands, others as a pointing, judging finger. He is often seen as a man with a white beard who sits in the clouds.
 
But when the Bible paints a picture of God, it is often very different. When God chooses the words that paint a portrait of himself that he wants to give us, it often looks like the following words, Psalm 23.
 
The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
 
In the thought today, I simply want to say this:  the last few days I have been saying this psalm throughout the day. It has brought me closer to God and opened up the relationship I have with God. I realized that often my walk with God is attempting to encourage God to guarantee an outcome I want, even altruistic outcomes. This psalm reminds me it is walking with God that is most important. If for us walking with God is a success, then no one and nothing can prevent a successful life.
 
May Psalm 23 guide your walk with God today and every day.
 
Mike Ramsdell
Senior Pastor

Faith makes the future your friend

September 09,2014

by Pastor Mike Ramsdell

For the last few weeks, I have been thinking a great deal about faith and how important it is for the Christian. Jesus certainly talked about it a great deal. The book of Romans even tells us we are saved by our faith.
 
Just what is faith and why is it so important? For many, their efforts are spent — usually uselessly— trying to get all their ducks in a row, that if they can get every part of their lives in perfect order and then get their future as secure as possible, then they can have peace, be happy and go on and live their lives. Unfortunately, this pretty much never happens. The ducks refuse to get in a row, and the future still looks uncertain to us. We find fear our way more than peace, anxiety more than confidence. This way of being impacts us, our relationships and the choices we make. The future becomes our enemy, and this enemy is always just in front of us, not a fun way to live.
 
Faith makes the future your friend
 
The Bible tells us we are to “walk by faith and not by sight.” This is hard. We practice every day living by what we can see, getting our bearings, focusing on landmarks, making sure we don’t trip, etc. We practice a great deal walking by our sight. But we typically don’t practice faith very much — until we need it — then we are not very good walking by it.
 
What is faith?
 
It is trust in God, a God who holds us and our future in his hand. Trust is as good as what we place it in. “Is God trustworthy?” might be the question. Is God all-wise? I think he is. Is God all-loving? I think he is. Is God all-powerful? I think he is. If so, God must be trustworthy. How does God let us know he is all-loving, powerful and wise? How does God let us know he can be trusted with our future? 
 
God intersected our world and our lives at our point of greatest need and greatest weakness. He came in Christ and healed the sick, cast out demons, calmed storms and fed the hungry. He taught the good news of God’s kingdom. He, as God’s perfect Son, died willingly on the cross for our sins, and then three days later his broken body was raised from the dead, a resurrection that now changes the future.
 
This God has proven we can trust him with our future. Even death does not win for those who place their faith in God.
 
To me, this means that if God can be trusted to save me from my sins and with the certainty of my own death, then God can be trusted with all my future. Peace.
 
I practice this because I want to be good at it. I need to get better at it, but I am trying.   
Faith makes the future your friend. 
 
Mike Ramsdell
Senior Pastor

Thoughts on faith

September 09,2014

by Pastor Mike Ramsdell

Matthew 6:33 says, “Look for the kingdom of God first, and you will discover everything you really need.” This is my paraphrase, but I think it reflects well the heart of the entire chapter, a chapter written to people who have a tendency to worry too much, a people who have a tendency to live in fear of the uncertainty of tomorrow.
 
Jesus gave us many commands, but three stand out that are often missed:

  • Do not be afraid.
  • Do not be anxious.
  • Do not doubt.

 The Bible teaches a different way, teaching ideas like “we walk by faith and not by sight,” “the just shall live by faith,” “now faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.” This is just a flavoring of many verses about faith in the Bible.
 
I think many people are driven by fear and worry, often making their decisions and operating their lives based on their fear of a seeming uncertain future and their worry that they might lose what they have. This grips too many people today and sometimes leaves them in a quagmire, makes them feel helpless and causes them to stagnate in their faith.
 
Jesus addressed this very human bent in Matthew Chapter 6, and here I offer again a paraphrase of the last verse.
 
“Look for the kingdom of God first, and you will find everything that really matters.”
 
If we think we can deal with fear by running away from the things we are afraid of, if we think we can deal with worry by finding complete security, if we think we can overcome doubt by having everything we want happen as we want, then we have missed the point of faith.
 
But when we realize nothing prevents us from experiencing the life in Christ that really matters — a life of faith, an eternal life, a life that makes a difference, a life that loves God and our neighbor, the life that Jesus teaches under the banner of faith . . .
 
It is looking for the kingdom of God; it is walking with God. The fallback position for fear, worry and doubt is to just walk with God, to trust God, to live for God, to serve God. Just walk with God. This is the one place where there is no room for fear and worry. It is where the Christ-life is to be lived. The one-word definition — faith.
 
Just walk with God, you will find everything that really matters.
  
Mike Ramsdell
Senior Pastor

A cause close to my heart

August 08,2014

by Pastor Mike Ramsdell

Sunday I spoke about the Run with Heart 2014 one-mile fun run/walk, the 5K run/walk and the half marathon sponsored by Methodist Mansfield Medical Center. Once again I am on the steering team for the second year of this event that attracted well over 1,000 people last year.
 
Some have asked how to sign up, so I wanted to share a few instructions.
 
First, I am excited that Pastor Caesar Rentie will be running with me along with many other friends.
 
Can you walk?
Yes, you can walk or run, though walking the half marathon will take a long time.

Where do you sign up? 
Go to the Run with Heart 2014 website:

  1. Click on the “register now” link.
  2. Sign in.
  3. Select half marathon team, 5K team or one-mile fun run team.
  4. Enter the team name "First Methodist Church."
  5. Fill in the form.
  6. Make your payment as requested.
  7. At that point, you can add other family or friends as prompted.

Email me if you have any problems. We will be giving those running or walking the 5K or one mile a soft red In the City for the City shirt and those running the half marathon a bright red In the City for the City shirt.
 
You might ask why I am committed to this event. First, I love the idea of bringing a run like this to our own area, the first at this level. Second, I am on the Advisory Board of the hospital, as well as part of the steering team for Run with Heart 2014. Third, two summers ago my life was saved by the care of Methodist Mansfield Medical Center when I was suffering a heart attack. And of course, I believe in the cause — cardiac services — and a cause that is close to home. Emergency services for heart issues that are close by can make all the difference. So, this event makes a difference. Finally, I believe in activity at almost any level. In our sedentary world, many of us experience health issues because we are not living as God designed. We sit too much, eat too much and work too hard. These moments can get us kick-started enough to add healthy exercise and diet to our lives. This means we can serve each other, our families and God better.
 
I hope to see many of you this weekend as we celebrate the last of the message series, Saved, to Be a Disciple, the message is Good and Evil

Mike Ramsdell
Senior Pastor