Blog Space of Rev. Adrian J. Pratt B.D, pastor at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church, Ellicott City, MD

Monday, February 29, 2016

How Much Longer

How Much Longer?

Here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church we continue to journey through the chronological version of Scripture produced by Max Lucardo and Randy Frazee known as The Story'. Last week in our journey we witnessed the Hebrews receiving the ten commandments. The related sermon “New Commands, New Covenant' can be found here.

In chapter 6 we are given the account of them setting out on their journey through the wilderness. It's going to be a long journey. If you are a parent, or have ever taken a youth group on a road trip, you know what's coming.

The travel schedule is tight. We hit the road with a full tank, confident, this time, that the plan we have crafted is going to work. But twenty minutes down the road we hear voices from the backseat. The artillery begins to bombard us with questions.

Some we expected. “Are we there yet? How much longer? Can we get something to eat?” Then come the unexpected ones. “Who was the first person to decide to squeeze those things on a cow and drink whatever came out? Why does our dog get mad at us when we blow in his face but when we take him on a car ride he sticks his head out the window? Where do babies come from?”

Every parent has been there. Questions from the backseat. You come to expect them. Every journey to a destination includes them. The same is true for the journey of faith.

Just like children on a trip we get tired of the journey. We want to know when we can stop. We get tired of serving. We get tired of waiting. We get tired of the people we’re traveling with. And we grumble. The Israelites did. They complained about the food, about the place they were traveling, and about their ‘driver’ Moses.

Grumbling does not sit well with God. In fact, our grumbling can lead to our wandering. When offered the chance to leave Kadesh and enter the Promised Land, the Israelites listened to a fear-filled report from ten spies instead of the faith-filled report from Joshua and Caleb.

Kadesh means “Spring of Decision” and it was time for one. They were in the right place to make the right decision. But the majority made the wrong one. The people wished they had died in the desert. Sadly, they would get their wish. They would wander for forty years until the unbelieving generation died out. Their children also suffered consequences.

The decisions we make affect those around us, just like the decisions the Israelites made at Kadesh. We can decide to grumble or be thankful. We can decide to turn away from God or turn toward God. We can decide to wander without purpose through life or follow God’s vision for our life. We need to remember that those in the backseat will also be affected by our decisions.

Decide this week to pursue thankfulness. It makes the journey a whole lot more enjoyable! Maybe see some of you Sunday. And if not, have a great week wherever the road may lead.

Not a song this week, but a video about decision making can be found here

Monday, February 22, 2016

Opportunity Knocks

Last week here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we looked at chapter 4 of 'THE STORY', a chronological version of Scripture produced by Max Lucardo and Randy Frazee. We read about God leading the people out of slavery in Egypt. A sermon focusing on that act of 'Deliverance' can be found here.

What happens next is maybe the greatest opportunity ever. Moses is told that God wants to come to God's people and dwell right in the middle of their camp. Not on the outskirts. But right where they were.

We might wonder, “What preparations would a people need to make for God to live in their midst?” Would it be like getting ready for weekend guests or someone special coming to dinner? We would feel compelled to make sure our home looked as good as possible. We would want to make a good impression.

God anticipated the question and told Moses what needed to be in place. First, God wanted to be close to them, but sin created a breach between them. God provided Moses with instructions about the practice of sacrificing, offering a covering for the people’s indiscretions before a Holy God. Sin was not to be taken lightly. The sacrifice of unblemished animals gave the people a picture of just how serious sin needed to be be taken.

Second, God wanted to stay close to them. Moses was given the blueprints for building the Tabernacle. Tabernacle is a big word for “tent.” A portable place of worship. God wanted to be close to God's people. Right in the middle!

God also wanted them to be close to each other. God gave them Ten Commandments concerning relationships. The first four commandments focus on how we are to demonstrate our love to God. The second six have to do with how to show love to each other. In seeing these relationships of love it was God’s desire that people would come to know Him too.

Jesus said the same in John 13:34: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

God gave the Israelites guidelines so that other nations would see them as different and know that they were God’s people. Jesus came so that, when we live like Him, others will know that we are God's people.

God took care of our sin through Christ's sacrifice. God 'tabernacles' in the hearts of those who draw near to Him. Every one of us has an opportunity as great as that given to the early Hebrews. To each of us is given the promise of God's presence, forgiveness and love.

Revelation 3:20 pictures Jesus declaring “Look, I'm standing at the door and knocking. If anyone listens to my voice and opens the door, I'll come in and we'll eat together. “(God's Word translation). Truly... “Opportunity Knocks.”

For some music, “El-Shaddai” by AmyGrant. The traditional images used in the video reflect some of the themes we have explored so far in “THE STORY”. El Shaddai is most often translated as "God Almighty." El-Elyon na Adonai is a combination of two names for God, meaning "God Most High, O Lord" Erkamka na Adonai is normally translated "I love you O Lord." (As in Psalm 18:1)

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, may God bless your upcoming week :-)

Rev Adrian J. Pratt. B.D.

Monday, February 15, 2016

When You Are Walled In, Look for the Way Out

 Chapter 4 -When You Are Walled In, Look for the Way Out

Here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we continue our journey through “THE STORY”, a chronological bible version edited by Max Lucardo and Randy Frazee. Last week the Hebrew people were thriving in Egypt. Our sermon on Joseph, who made that possible, can be found here. Time moves on. Their status as 'guests' rapidly descends into conditions of slavery. It raises the question. What can we do when our situation becomes unbearable?

There’s a wall in front of you. Behind you is a past you are running from. Beyond the wall awaits the promise of a new life. But you’re not moving because there is this “wall.” You feel trapped. No way out. This is just the sort of situation in which God does some of God's finest work.

You need only ask the Israelites. Behind them was a life of back-breaking work and slavery. Ahead of them was a life in the land of Promise. Behind them was the fierce army of a fanatical Pharaoh coming towards them. Ahead of them was a wall. Their obstruction was made of water.

Our “wall” may be a fear of failure. Or maybe it’s a lack of confidence that has grinded our progress to a halt. Or it could merely be too many problems that have piled up in front of us at the same time. And we have no clue which one to tackle first. So we stopped. And we aren’t sure if there is a way over, around, or under this imposing impediment.

At this point many people panic. Anxiety courses its way through the body, atrophies the movement muscles, and rigor mortis overtakes our resolve. Eyes which once had clear focus now only focus on the wall just inches away.

But some look elsewhere. The Israelites looked to Moses. They began belting him with blame. Have we done the same? Blamed the boss. Blamed a co-worker. Blamed God. Maybe even blamed ourself? Blame all we want but the wall remains.

While the Israelites were body punching Moses, he opted to look elsewhere. His options? He could have looked at the enemy’s army. He could have looked at the ungrateful people he led. He could have looked at the wall of water spread out before him, sat down, and given up.

Instead he looked to God. And God opened an unlikely route through the wall of water. Safely on the other side, the very wall that had halted their steps closed in on and covered the sources of their fears.

The very name of the book where we find this story serves as a reminder when we face our “walls.” “Exodus” is a compound Greek word meaning “the way out.” And in case we might have missed it, the way out was not a better job, a different spouse, or a victim mentality. No, the way out is God. Next time we find ourself up against a wall, maybe we should try seeking God!

For some music, a quirky ditty from the late Larry Norman, “Moses in the Wilderness.” (For music buffs; this 1969 recording featured on his solo album “Upon This Rock” and is often considered as "the first ever full-blown Christian rock album.")

Rev Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Trading our Dreams

Trading our Dreams

Here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we continue to follow a series focusing on the chronological bible version, by Max Lucardo and Randy Frazee, titled 'The Story'. Last week we talked about Abraham and the beginning of God's nation building program. Sundays sermon can be found here. This week we move on to think about the Story of Joseph. Some questions that go along with 'The Story' chapter 3 can be found here.

People nearing mid-life often crash into some startling and unexpected observations. For instance, we all dreamed big dreams when we were younger. But as we move at a break-neck pace through our twenties, thirties, forties and beyond, we eventually slam head on into the realization that some of our dreams will never be realized.

That observation throws some people into a crisis. Some don’t make it that far with their aspirations, having already given them up somewhere along the way. Some run into conflict that makes them weary and they settle for less. Still others make bold decisions to trade one dream in for another.

That’s what Joseph did. Talk about dreams! He had some big ones. At seventeen he dreamed his ten older brothers would bow down to him. It’s enough he dreamed that dream. What makes it worse is that he told his brothers about it.

His older brothers already had issues with their younger sibling. Their father favored Joseph. He had even given him a valuable, multi-colored coat. That’s the modern-day equivalent of a parent of four teenagers giving one an iPhone and the other three a stack of quarters each for a pay phone (assuming they could find one these days). The brothers banded together and tossed the dreamer in a ditch, eventually selling him into slavery at the first opportunity. The next thing Joseph knew he was waking up in Egypt.

From there his life was a rollercoaster ride. One minute a slave. The next in charge of an Egyptian official’s house. The next in prison. The next in charge of the prison. Then he found himself in front of Pharaoh, called upon to interpret the leader’s dreams. With God’s help he was able to warn Pharaoh he would have seven years of abundant crops that he should be put in storehouses in anticipation of seven years of famine. Recognizing his wisdom, Pharaoh put Joseph second in command of all of Egypt.

Because of God’s personal involvement in his life, he was able to save his family. The same family that God was building into a nation. Joseph could have lost his life getting caught up in the details of his life, chasing his dreams and desires. Instead, he chose a better story. God’s story.

We can do the same. If our life’s dream has stalled, we can seek God. If our dream, now realized, is not all we thought it would be, we can seek God. God can give us another dream. A better one. Just like Joseph. Then we’ll have a story to tell.

For some music, a song we'll be singing this coming Sunday; 'Blessed be Your Name', by Matt Redman. The song reflects on the changing fortunes of our lives and invites us to view them as a reason to bless God.

Rev. Adrian J. Pratt

Monday, February 1, 2016

When the Last in Line Gets Chosen for the Team

When the Last in Line Gets Chosen for the Team

The casting agent enters the room with her top picks for the show’s leading man and lady. The new series will follow the spellbinding story of a clan that builds a powerful, world-impacting family tree. This is the pilot, and it is crucial to make the right call on the individuals who will fall in love and launch this Kennedy-like family of influence and fame.

Producers and writers alike have waited breathlessly for this moment, the moment when who they have envisioned as the leading characters will be finally realized in an actor and actress. But when they turn to see who has been tapped for these most special of roles, the thud of their collective jaws hitting the majestic mahogany conference table, muffles their mutual groans.

There before their wide eyes, instead of the expected vibrant, young couple with gleaming white teeth and tanned and toned bodies, stand a 75-year-old man and a 65-year-old woman. Not what they had pictured for their production!

And yet, this is who God has chosen. His screenplay called for a couple to launch a new nation, one that would impact the entire world, a nation through whom “All the nations of the earth would be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3).

Abram and Sarai stand there, adorned perhaps by dusty old robes and crowned with wispy white hair, and loosely fitting skin, and as befuddled as anyone else. God chose them to begin a nation? An unlikely pair, especially after factoring in the fact that Sarai was unable to bear children.

God picks people you and I wouldn’t necessarily select to change the world. In fact, sometimes, we are shocked who plays the starring roles in God's stories. Unlike the way we do business, God taps people, ready to serve.

In the business world, you may not have a great pedigree. In academics, you may not be an Oxford Scholar. You may not have a lot of money and you may have average looks. But you may be sitting in a good position to be the top pick for God’s work.

Last week our sermon (here) was all about Creation. We saw how humanity is 'beautiful but broken'. Here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we are on a journey through a chronological version of the Bible called 'The Story'. We have reached Chapter Two, 'God builds a Nation'. Some questions to ponder can be found here.

For some music... Don Moen sings 'O God of Abraham'. 

If you are in the area feel free to come and join us as we continue our journey this Sunday, February 7th @ 10:00 a.m.

Rev Adrian J. Pratt B.D.