A Discipling Church

As the Pastor of Discipleship Ministry at HPCUMC I wish to share a few comments about discipleship. First, a definition: a disciple is a follower or student of a teacher, leader, or a philosopher. To say we are Christian disciples means we are personal followers of Jesus Christ. We follow his teachings, follow how he lived his life, and follow how he shared his love. The church is to model his life and love so that others might come to know him.

Our mission statement at Hyde Park Community is to “share the love of Jesus to transform lives, Cincinnati, and the world.”  The Mission of the West Ohio Conference of United Methodist congregations is, “to equip local churches to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world… A world of justice, love, and peace filled with people growing in the likeness of Jesus Christ.” Both of these mission statements are about being disciples and transformation.

At HPCUMC we are engaged in growing as disciples from kindergarteners to senior adults and everyone in between. Our faith development and spiritual formation is an ongoing journey. We never quite arrive. However, deeper discovery opportunities of transformation abound here. We need to be more intentional about how we are growing as disciples of Jesus Christ.

It is my hope you will seek opportunities to engage in a Bible study, a Sunday school class, join a small connect or contemplative prayer group, attend a seasonal retreat, or the Walk to Emmaus. All of these are ways to become the disciple Christ would have you be. Honestly examine your heart. Pray about where you are on your journey of transformation. We all have room for growth as disciples.

In the life of the church the beauty of it all is we listen, learn, love and disciple one another in Christian community. As our lives are transformed we are then sent out to “light the way” of transformation in our community and the world.

Stay on the journey of discipleship!

In Christ,

Dave Weaver

IMAGINATION?

Our mind functions through imagination. The reality is we can’t do anything without imagination. One of the meanings of the word “imagination” in the Old Testament is “conception.” Our imagination is the mental function in which we can see things. In my opinion, without an imagination we would be totally noncreative and unproductive.

When you think about it, there are only two ways for a human to “see” something: physical vision through their eyes or imagination. Without imagination: we would be completely limited — virtually robots. All human progress has been born out of imagination — the ability to “see” things differently than they were.

The only way a human can see the past or the future unaided, is through his/her imagination. Memory uses the imagination. Much of our thinking, whether planning or “jumping to conclusions,” involves our imagination. Fear and faith even operate in the realm of imagination.

Many top athletes successfully use their imagination in training. Vividly imagining a successful action seems to be more effective in training than doing it physically. When we experience an event vividly in our imagination it is imprinted as an experience, even though we did not physically do it. Children seem to naturally have active imaginations. At least my granddaughter does.

What about in the life of the church? What about HPCUMC? Is our faith an “act of imagination?”

2 Corinthians 4:18 (NRSV) “Because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.”

We are starting a new sermon series titled: “The Gospel According to Dr. Seuss” and the subtitle this week is, “Imaginations Gone Wild.” Hope the fun-title piques your interest.

See you this Sunday in worship,

Pastor Dave

Our Purpose

Rick Warren, the non-denominational pastor of Saddleback Church in California, wrote a book in early 2000.  The book was titled: “The Purpose-Driven Life.”  In his book he poses several questions. Why am I here?  Does my life matter?  What is my purpose?  Warren later wrote another book titled: “The Purpose-Driven Church.” Both were best sellers.

The scriptures help us to know that God’s purposes are at work or being fulfilled. Here are some scriptures that support my thinking on this.

“I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). 

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21).

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13).

“He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace” (2 Timothy 1:9).

More questions for us all to ponder:  Are we living out our purpose for God’s Kingdom here on earth?   Is our purpose Christ-centered or self-centered?  Is the Holy Spirit actively at work in us to fulfill a greater purpose?

We are still focusing on Christ’s resurrection this week in worship.  The sermon series is titled: “He Lives.”  We are resurrected people.  As followers of the risen Christ, I do believe he gives us a purpose.  It’s my hope all go away from worship this Sunday empowered to live out this purpose.

In Christ,

Dave Weaver

What Are You Facing?

We will all face giants at one time or another in our lives. By giants, I am speaking of seemingly insurmountable problems and issues. We try to beat these giants, but often they seem to only grow stronger with the passing of time.

It could be a giant fear of heights or public speaking. Or it might be a giant of some type of personal sin that you fall into again and again. It might be the giant of pride or envy or gluttony or lust or something else.

In a related way, your giant might be one of addiction, something that has a grip on your life. Then again, it could be a giant threat that is taunting you today. Someone has slandered you. A lawsuit has been filed against you. All consuming and concerning.

Or it might be a different kind of giant altogether, like an unbelieving spouse or a prodigal child. You have prayed for them, you have asked the Lord to reach them, yet they seem to become more hardened as the years pass by. You find yourself wondering how you will ever overcome this.

So how do we deal with giants? We find the answer in the Old Testament account of David and Goliath.

What a victory it was as David boldly defeated the giant Goliath, armed only with a slingshot and five smooth stones. The will of the Philistines was broken. The Israelites were reinvigorated. And it was all because a little shepherd boy answered the call of God and cut down the giant.

So what can we learn from this story about facing off with our own giants in life?

We must first recognize that we all have giants and it takes a lot of courage to face our giants. David had courage to face the Philistine giant without fear. He defeated the giant.  As people of faith, we place our trust in God to help us face our giants.  Being delivered from our giants does not come solely through trust in human might. We believe God is in the battles we face.

1 Samuel 17: 47 says, “All the assembly may know the Lord does not save by sword or spear; for the battle is the Lord’s.” Join us in worship on Sunday and go away reinvigorated in facing your giants!

In Christ,

Pastor Dave Weaver

Happy Epiphany!

Hello Friends,

Happy Epiphany! The Advent and Christmas season is coming to an end. Hope your family holidays were filled with much peace, comfort and joy. The question is “Are you now ready for the New Year of 2017?” One of the first days at the beginning of the New Year we celebrate is called, “Epiphany Sunday.”

Some Epiphany history:

Epiphany, or the 12th day of Christmas, usually falls on January 6 and marks the official end to the festive season for many Christians. The ancient Christian feast day is significant as a celebration of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, as well as a more general celebration of his birth. The six Sundays which follow Epiphany are known as the time of manifestation.

The Twelfth Night (Epiphany) also marks a visit to the baby Jesus by three Kings, or Wise Men. The word ‘Epiphany’ comes from Greek and means “to show”, referring to Jesus’ being revealed to the world. In the West, Christians began celebrating the Epiphany in the 4th century.

According to the Gospel of Matthew, the men found Jesus by following a star across the desert to Bethlehem. The three men – named Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar – followed the star of Bethlehem to meet the baby Jesus. According to Matthew 2:11, they offered symbolic gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The gifts were symbolic of the importance of Jesus’ birth, the gold representing his royal standing; frankincense his divine birth; and myrrh his mortality.

Let’s step into the new year of 2017, like the wise men, “seeking diligently” for more of Jesus, the Christ, in our lives. They were following a star that placed them over the place where Jesus was born. They were bearing gifts.

Maybe Hyde Park Community UMC is that place where we find Jesus born anew each and every Sunday in worship, a study class or a small group. What gifts will you bring to the Lord this year? Will you give more generously of your time, talents, and treasures for His Kingdom? I invite you to make Jesus’ teachings more of a priority in 2017. A great faith journey and wise first-step might be to make a heartfelt “recommitment to Christ” New Year’s resolution.

Happy searching! Happy finding! Happy New Year!

Pastor Dave

Dear Friends, ‘Tis the Thanksgiving Season

I do not know about you, but Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the year. Yes, I enjoy the food, football, and playing cards. (No gambling, I’m a good United Methodist.) But more importantly, I enjoy the family connections and conversations at the table, in the living room, or the kitchen. It’s a very laid back kind of day.

I’m not sure what your family tradition is around Thanksgiving Day. It may be similar, or much different. You may be married and part of a large family and have to make a couple of stops to visit folks. It could be you are a single person and hanging out with friends. And if you choose to be alone this Thanksgiving Day, that’s okay too.

But whatever you decide to do or who you choose to be with, “be thankful, give thanks to God.” There is always much to be thankful for if we only stop and think about it. Start a new tradition this Thanksgiving. Do it in the form of a praise prayer to God or take a moment and jot down or journal your thankfulness down on paper. Share it silently or shout it out to God.

I’m very thankful to God for each of you. The family of faith here at Hyde Park Community is a gift. I thank God for our times of worship, study, faith-sharing, prayer, celebration, and the ways we are in service in our city and in other parts of the world. I praise God for our theological diversity, servant leadership, caring hearts, and our spiritual connectedness, lived out in Christian community. We are a blessed and beloved people. I am thankful. I’m sure many of you feel the same way I do about our church family. Give thanks to God!

Psalm 100: 4 “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise; give him thanks and praise his name. “

It’s my hope and prayer that you and your families have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Bountiful Blessings,

Pastor Dave Weaver

Understanding Mercy

God is known to be a God of mercy and grace. Understanding mercy is often difficult for people as we tend to be a generation of “I’ll get him for that” and “I hope they get what they deserve.” Many have developed a nature of harsh criticism and want others to get what they have coming to them and then some.

God, however, is merciful to even the worst offenders, sinners, and law-breakers. This means that even though He knows of our guilt, God doesn’t issue the punishment deserved. To elaborate, the verse in Romans 3:23-24 says “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” God’s mercy is restorative, not punitive.

Simply, we all miss the mark and will never meet the full standards of righteousness that God intends us to have. But, through God’s mercy and grace God releases us from any form of judgment. God’s covenant of love and mercy with Israel in the Old Testament was steadfast regardless of how wayward the people were. God’s mercy in the New Testament is made known to us through Jesus who reconciled all people once and for all.  We live under a new covenant of love, mercy and grace.

We continue the sermon series this week titled: “The Heart of God.” Our subtitle is “God the Merciful.” God’s mercy is there for us every moment of our lives. Join me in worship this Sunday. Maybe you will go away understanding the depth of God’s mercy. Maybe you will recognize the need for God’s mercy. Maybe you will realize you need to show mercy. Or maybe you will experience God’s mercy as we sing the famous hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness” and the words, “Morning by morning new mercies I see; all I have needed Thy hand hath provided; great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!”

In Christ,

Pastor Dave

A Doubting Faith?

Have you ever had doubts or insecurities about your faith? Are you skeptical at times about God or wonder why God seems to be absent? If so, you are definitely not alone.
Maybe you’re just more open and honest about your feelings than a lot of people you know. In fact, I would say that most Christ-followers have at one time or another struggled with doubts. I know sincere Christians who have been believers for years and still struggle.

Doubting your faith is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it can lead to spiritual growth and maturity. Think about it. It can be a time when you move from your family’s faith (childhood, adolescence) to actually owning your beliefs in a deep and real way.
There was an article blog in Christianity Today that spoke to this “doubt and faith” topic. It stated that there are usually two reasons why people doubt. Here they are:

1) Intellectual questions. In this case, people’s doubts come from questions about what’s true and what’s logical. People who have intellectual doubts often have questions like these: “Why should I believe the Bible is inspired by God?” “How is Christianity different from any other religions?” “Why isn’t evolution true?”

2) Emotional questions. These questions often come from hurt or grief. The emotional doubter may actually ask questions that are similar to those asked by the intellectual doubter: “Why does God allow suffering?” “How could a loving God send someone to hell for not being a Christian?” “Why are people born with disabilities?” The difference is that emotional doubters are not easily satisfied with intellectual answers. Why? Because their problem is not intellectual. It’s usually about their wounded feelings, and they need love and comfort.

This Sunday’s lectionary text is John 20: 19-31. It is the story of Thomas, aka…”the doubter.” You know the story. Jesus had appeared to his disciples behind closed doors (after his resurrection). Thomas missed the occasion. He did not believe his friends. He doubted or was skeptical of what they told him. He needed proof.

So he said, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and place my finger in his side, I will not believe.” Thomas must have been from the “show me state of Missouri” in Israel in those times. Jesus did reappear.

But what about us? Where are we in the story? Are we like Thomas? What’s our proof of a resurrection? Do we still doubt? Does our faith waffle back and forth? Maybe we can give ourselves the “benefit of doubt” and still have a “courageous strong faith” concerning the resurrection.

Pastor Dave

First Sunday of Lent

The Lenten season is here. It is a solemn religious observance in the liturgical calendar of many Christian denominations. We began our 40-day Lenten journey this past Wednesday when we smeared ashes on our foreheads, with the sign of the cross, to remind us of our own mortality. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer through prayer, penance, repentance of sins, almsgiving, atonement and self-denial. It’s a time of spiritual introspection or soulful self-examination.

During Lent, many Christians commit to fasting from food or giving up certain types of luxuries as a form of penitence. Some may try fasting from TV or technology. Others may try fasting from gossip or worry. Many Christians also add a Lenten spiritual discipline, such as reading a daily devotional, to draw themselves near to God. I hope you will pick up one of the Hyde Park Church devotionals this week found in the Welcome Center or at the ushers table in the Narthex. It’s not too late to start. These have been written by a variety of lay people and pastors.

Lent is traditionally described as lasting for forty days, in commemoration of the forty days which, according to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus spent, before beginning his public ministry, fasting in the desert, where he endured temptation by the Devil.

We start a new Lenten series this Sunday titled: “Journey with Jesus.” We will focus on “Overcoming Temptation in the Wilderness.” It’s my hope you will join me in worship as we talk about the temptations of Jesus and how we might find ways to overcome these types of temptations ourselves.

Join me in reflecting on this passage about the temptations of Christ from the suggested gospel reading for the first Sunday of Lent found in Luke
4:1-13. It was written by Anne Osdieck.

Gospel Reflection: Luke 1

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan
and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days.

Holy Spirit, take us to the desert. Speak straight to our hearts.
Help us fast with Jesus. Smooth out our rough souls.
Give us spiritual quiet, a quick and ready faith.

God, our only nourishment, our energy,
we want to come out of the wilderness, like Jesus,
charged with yourself.
Let this be.

Pastor Dave

Where’s Jesus?

I hope everyone had a peaceful and joyful Advent and Christmas season in celebrating the birth of our savior Jesus, the Christ!

Have you ever had fun with a Where’s Waldo photo illustration? It’s a series of children’s books created by the English illustrator Martin Handford. The books consist of a series of detailed double-page spread illustrations depicting dozens or more people doing a variety of amusing things at a given location. Readers are challenged to find a character named Wally (Waldo) hidden in the group. Wally’s distinctive red-and-white-striped shirt, bobble hat, and glasses make him slightly easier to recognize, but many illustrations contain red herrings involving deceptive use of red-and-white striped objects. Later entries in the long-running book series added other targets for readers to find in each illustration. The books have also inspired a TV show, comic strip, and a series of video games.

In our lesson this Sunday from the gospel of Luke Chapter 2:41-52 instead of asking “Where’s Waldo” we might ask; “Where’s Jesus?” In our story he’s lost in the crowd going to Jerusalem for the Passover. He’s only 12 years old and his parents have no clue where to find him. Can you believe they have lost the Son of God? How did this happen? Where is he? Will they find him?

Come and worship with us this Sunday as you hear the message titled: “Finding Jesus.” You may or may not be surprised where He is found or what he is up to in the story. Frankly, Jesus is a lot easier to find than Waldo. Jesus doesn’t play hide and seek with us. He is right where He is supposed to be “in his Father’s house.”

Lastly, it’s my hope after the service today you will be inspired or challenged to make “finding Jesus” more of a priority in your life as we start the New Year.

In Christ,
Pastor Dave