The Heart in Transformation: The Life of David

Rev. Dr. Mark Raeburn Johnston

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No Place

“There were two men in a certain city, one rich and one poor…” so begins the prophet Nathan as he relates his story to King David. “The rich man had flocks and herds without number, but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb which he bought and nurtured, so that it grew up very much loved along with his children. Then an occasion arose when the rich man entertained a guest. But unwilling to take one of his many sheep from one of his many flocks, he took, killed and used the poor man’s lamb for his guest!”

When King David heard this awful report, he demanded to know who the rich man was, declaring that punishment for such a crime would be immediate and severe!

Then Nathan looked the King straight in the eyes and proclaimed, “You’re that man!”

With those words, David was brought to repentance for his adulterous affair with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.

Seduced by King David during the absence her husband, Bathsheba became pregnant.

To hide his sin, David successfully contrived Uriah’s death during the siege of Rabbah, then married Bathsheba. In essence, David murdered Uriah to take Bathsheba. You can read of this terrible crime in First Samuel, chapter 11, verses 1-18.

There is an interesting irony in the name of Uriah. Uriah’s name literally translates as; “The LORD is my light” and indicates the transparency that comes with a true knowledge of God.

Whereas David chose the darkness of deceit to cover his adulterous affair, his hidden sin was seen and exposed by God! How true the Scripture that proclaims;

“Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:5)

The child born through adultery became ill and died. And with that death the innocence of King David, the courageous shepherd boy who fought giants for the living God, seemed to die as well.Sin wars against God and destroys the soul! When sin is continuously entertained as a guest, it eventually becomes a master! Godly character requires that we give no place to this enemy of love and life!

David cried out for peace with God as captured in the 51st Psalm which says, “a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise!” That peace may have arrived with the birth of Solomon, whose name means “peace”.

There is a tradition that says it was Bathsheba who composed and recited Proverbs 31 as an admonition for Solomon, who was blessed with a life free from the warring tribal factions that so plagued his father’s reign! The peace that comes through God’s forgiveness is instructive for each of us today.

Let’s keep our peace with God as faithful warriors against sin! In so doing, we will dwell in God’s living light!

True peace tolerates no sin!

The Heart in Transformation: The Life of David

Rev. Dr. Mark Raeburn Johnston

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Where Most of Us Bend

Our character is often shaped through the gentle hammering of the Holy Spirit upon the anvil of God’s faithful Word!

This process requires that we stay out of God’s way while He completes the good work He’s begun! And this is where most of us bend in our walk of faith!

It’s where Abraham and Sarah turned when they decided to “help God out” with the promise of a child. Ishmael still interferes with the promise of Isaac!

It’s what happened to Jacob when he hurried God’s plan for the divine blessing, and his family life became irreparably twisted!

It happened to Moses, who tried to fulfill his destiny in his own strength. Killing an Egyptian soldier, Moses became a broken fugitive in the Sinai wilderness.

Such “pig iron” faith always breaks under the tough circumstances of life.  While the Lord doesn’t require our help, He often invites our participation. Knowing the difference is the essence of true faith!

David displayed true faith when running from the vengeance of King Saul who sought to murder the young shepherd boy! Once David was chosen to become the new King of Israel, Saul attempted to assassinate him!

On more than one occasion, David could have retaliated and killed Saul, but refused the opportunity saying that he wouldn’t harm God’s anointed! He wouldn’t put forth his own hand to fulfill the promise of God in his life. Rather, David trusted in the providence of the Lord, a promise eventually fulfilled in spectacular fashion!

Jesus displayed such faith when he refused the devil’s temptations. Everything the world would offer in place of God’s promises were answered with the immutable Word of God! Jesus responded to the Tempter’s words with, “It is written…” referring to the absolute authority of God’s holy Word! That authority is inspired by the Holy Spirit of God and is still powerful today!

Saint Teresa of Avila said, “Do not suppose that God has any need of our works; what he needs is the resoluteness of our will!” In other words, the Lord desires our obedience above our genius.

While we are often commanded to do certain things as an evidence of our faith, it’s God’s work that forges true destiny. Your destiny is not dependent upon your strength, but dependent upon His Spirit!

As Abraham, Sarah, Jacob and Moses discovered, God holds the hammer and invites us to become the spiritual nails that will build His Kingdom! Let’s pause, pray and remember that when we are in His Word we are in His hands, and when we are in His Hands, we will not bend!

Let God shape your life!

 

The Heart in Transformation: The Life of David

Rev. Dr. Mark Raeburn Johnston

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Before the Throne of Grace

In the Greek Orthodox Bible you can find an additional Psalm of David!

Called the Hallelujah of David, Psalm 151 describes the victory of David over the giant of Gath. It begins, “I was the smallest of my brothers” and continues with “my brothers were handsome and majestic…but the Lord did not choose them.”

When one considers David’s many Psalms, there’s always the recognition that his extraordinary life wasn’t due to his own labors. Rather, his trust was in the Lord who “removed him from the sheep of his father” and anointed him with the “ointment of his anointing” as the Psalm declares.

Before occupying the Throne of Israel, David learned to kneel before the Throne of Grace!

God’s work through our lives isn’t simply a matter of our abilities. It’s about the character of an obedient heart that says, “Thy will be done!”  History is replete with people who have extended God’s Kingdom because they kneeled before the Throne of Grace and enquired of the Lord.

We can think of the unnamed man who lent his little donkey to the Lord Jesus on what we now call Palm Sunday. He may never have seen Jesus, but believing the word of the Lord through the disciples, he entrusted his donkey to the business of God and his name is now a matter of honor before the Lord!

Jesus fulfilled prophecy as Israel’s long awaited King when he rode that donkey into Jerusalem amidst the shouts of hosanna by the excited population!

God seeks to do an extraordinary work through those who seek His will!

Retired Army Chaplain and founder for the Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches, Colonel Jim Ammerman, recalls that his life took on a supernatural dimension when he knelt before the Throne of Grace and prayed, “Lord, You can have all there is of Jim Ammerman!”

That was an echo of the prayer that William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army prayed. It was also the prayer of John Wesley, who was simply following the example of Saint Paul and Saint Peter!

Supernatural events will occur in the life of any ordinary person who submits to God’s Holy Spirit, and by such submission, such people will continue to impact the world with the message of God’s love in Jesus Christ!

Should we dare to pray the same way, our lives will also include a new chapter of praise for God’s amazing grace! Let’s dedicate ourselves to the work of God by first kneeling at the Throne of Grace! When we do, everything will change!

Give what you have to God!

Guidelines

Following the Bishop’s recommendations, FUMC will re-open with the necessary caution required to ensure the safety, health and well-being of our congregants.

We anticipate a return to sanctuary worship no later than Sunday, June 14th, 2020.

The following is our proposed process for a gradual return to in-service fellowship.

a) Only the 11 am Sunday Service will be reinstated as a first step in re-opening FUMC.

What this means is that Sunday school, on-site committee meetings and other activities will remain suspended until further notice. With our initial attempt at congregational gathering we will monitor the health of our membership before opening the church further.

Committee chairs are encouraged to conduct business via internet email, Zoom conferencing, texting and phone calls.

b) The entrance and exit points to the 11 am service will be identified and monitored by appointed ushers.

The purpose of this step is to maintain safe-social distancing. The entrance and exit points will have hand-sanitizer tables that congregants can use.  Masks and gloves will be available at the entrance point to the sanctuary. Whereas the use of gloves are optional, the use of masks for the initial services will be required. We hope to move beyond masks in the near future, but this decision will be contingent on the status of the virus in our community.

c) Seating in the sanctuary will be structured so that every other pew is unoccupied. Families that live together will be able to sit together, otherwise, social distancing of approximately 6 feet will be enforced.

d) The FUMC Choir will not be assembled. Alternatives, such as solos and instrumentals will be utilized during worship. Congregational singing will be minimized due to the required use of masks.

e) A tithing box will be set-up at the back of the sanctuary in the center isle for on-going offerings. Persons entering or exiting are encouraged to give their tithe in support of FUMC either through the use of this tithing box or by mail.

f) Communion will be controlled with the use of separate wafers and cups that are administered by the Pastor and a Communion Steward. Ushers will control the movement of congregants from their pews to the Communion rail and back to their pews.

g) Physical contact between congregants (such as hand-shaking, hugging etc.) will be avoided during this pandemic.

h) Children will be permitted to remain with their parents or placed in the designated classroom during the service. Parents will need to ensure that the children are healthy (not running a fever, cold, coughing, etc). The classroom will be monitored by two healthy adults who have the authority to accept or turn away any child -based on symptomatic concerns.

i) Because of the nature of this terrible disease, no liability can be assumed by the Church regarding the health of parishioners who choose to attend the 11 am service. While our hope and prayer is that everyone will be healthy and immune from this plague, it remains an ‘invisible enemy’ that can strike anywhere. We are committed to protecting our congregation with practical preventions such as frequent cleanings and sanitizing of our building.

j) Finally, we are requesting that each congregant participates in self-care that will go a long way to the protection of others. Monitoring one’s own health is vitally important during this time. Persons who are not feeling well MUST remain home until recovered. With practical measures we add the necessity of personal prayers. Through prayer, our physical health and our spiritual health are placed into God’s loving care. 

Dear FUMC Congregation,

Bishop Holston met with the Cabinet concerning an appropriate time to reopen UMC Churches throughout the state. Here is a portion of his message;

In consultation with the Cabinet and according to the latest guidance from public health officials, I am strongly recommending that leaders of each local church continue to suspend inperson worship services, gatherings, meetings and events through June 10.

Worship and other inperson gatherings are allowed to resume beginning Sunday, June 14. The Cabinet has outlined the safety concerns and guidelines for resuming inperson worship in a new resource called “Reset | Restart | Renew.” These guidelines are the product of prayer, research, data analysis and many conversations with public health officials, church leaders and state leaders. Clergy and church leaders are strongly encouraged to use this document to navigate the transition to resuming in-person worship.

This past Thursday a few of us met to discuss the procedures we will put in place when reopening does occur. The attached document is an outline of that discussion. We will continue to prepare for our resumption of in-Sanctuary fellowship on June 14th.  In the interim, let’s remember to seek the Lord through prayer, Bible reading and reflection. We’ve posted some devotionals and bible studies on our FUMC website that may be useful for your edification and we encourage you to view the Sunday message as time permits.

The Scripture reminds us to “Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!” (Psalm 27:14)

Stay strong and stay connected-let someone know that you are thinking of them today!

Mark

 

The Heart in Transformation: The Life of David

Rev. Dr. Mark Raeburn Johnston

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Under God

Persons arguing against any reference to the living God in the Pledge of Allegiance is a
recent event in American history. A few years ago, a known atheist stood before the Supreme Court of America, and while pointing to an American flag declared, “I’m an atheist!  I don’t believe in God!”

Defending the use of “under God,” the Solicitor General responded by saying that the
phrase doesn’t place the pledge in the category of unconstitutional religious expression.

Rather, “under God” was one of various
“civic and ceremonial acknowledgments of the indisputable historical fact that caused the framers of our Constitution and the signers of the Declaration of Independence to say…that God gave them the right to declare their independence when the king has not been living up to the unalienable principles given to them by God.”

The importance of a nation rightly positioned under God can be discerned in our study of David and his predecessor, King Saul!

Saul was divinely chosen to lead Israel, but he eventually assumed such self-importance
that he chose against God in decisive ways. Instead of being a king submitted to Heaven’s authority, Saul pretended to the ministry of Samuel by offering sacrifices in the prophet’s absence.  The king elevated himself above the authority of God!

Whenever the government of man usurps the authority of God, only divine displeasure can occur.  And judgment usually follows!

While King Saul’s behavior required correction, the Lord would not leave Israel without a shepherd.  A new king would be anointed!  That would be the shepherd David, a young man who honored the Lord, and who placed himself “under God’s” authority to obtain personal blessing and national prosperity!

David’s anointing foreshadowed the One who Nathaniel exclaimed, “Thou art the King of Israel!” (John 1:49)

Pilate would append that very title, “King of the Jews” above the head of Jesus, who hung above the entire world while on Calvary’s Cross.  Being ‘under God’ points to our hope, God’s mercy, our redemption, and God’s love.

Let’s take a moment today to thank the Lord for His blessing, and let’s renew our pledge to submit ourselves under God’s authority!

Prosperity for any nation begins “under God!”