The Good News 7/11/24 ~ Food for Thought

Food for Thought

When Jesus talks about food in the Gospels, he usually makes points about grace, love, and hope in the kingdom of God to come.  When I read those food stories, think about the biggest buffets I can imagine. Plenty of food, drink, and perhaps entertainment to take care of all the people who come to the Father’s feast. I imagine…a Cruise Ship vacation!

As you may know, Leigh and I just returned from an amazing 10 day Mediterranean Cruise. We celebrated 20 years of marriage by seeing many ancient wonders of Italy and Greece. It was a memorable and educational trip.

Cruises are well known for being decadent, and the cruise we were on delivered that experience. We ate at all-you-can-eat breakfast buffets in the morning. We enjoyed specialty evening dining at a on-board French restaurant and a Brazilian steakhouse. Pub-style food was available 24/7. We also enjoyed amenities such as pools, spas, dance parties, dueling pianos, and other fun activities. There are always a lot of good things to do on a cruise. Could there be too much of a good thing?

Yes, there can be too much of a good thing. Ten days is a long cruise. On the first days, the breakfast buffet and surf and turf dinners were delicious. However, after about five days, the omelets were underwhelming, the burgers were bland, and the steak dinners were just juicy protein chomping. It’s an ungrateful and entitled thing to say, but I was getting too much of a good thing. The saying is true: “If you eat too much lobster, it will all begin to taste like soap.”

By the end of the cruise, I found myself not even wanting to look at a steak, or a lobster, or a buffet. Too much of a good thing isn’t a good thing.

Maybe this is how people felt when they refused the invitation to the wedding feast in Matthew 22. Maybe after the feeding of the 5000 story, the people just feel fat and lazy, and they were not interested in anything more. Did wedding guests in Cana just saddle-up to the water-to-wine bar and not care what they were drinking? When it’s about food…or rest…or leisure…or really most anything, we can have too much of a good thing. 

Of course, feasts and food in the Gospel stories are metaphors for God’s grace, Jesus’ love, and the Holy Spirit’s provision for us. We will get bored with sumptuous feasts, but the food in the Gospel stories points to something deeper. We can never have too much faith, hope, and love. We will grow tired of too much of a good thing like food but, we will never grow tired of the eternal things like faith, hope, and love. Pray for these spiritual gifts today! (and explore moderation in all things!)

Peace,

zack@madisonfumc.com

Weekly Devotion: July 3, 2024

The Faith of a Farmer
By: Larry Wayne
The Upper Room

A few white clouds drifted in a blue sky over the Smoky Mountains. In the distance I could see a farmer on a tractor, tilling the field for planting. The farmer could not know what the weather would bring or whether the seeds would produce a bountiful crop. Yet, undaunted, the farmer has faith that the seeds will produce an abundant crop and prepares the land.

The words from James quoted above came to mind. As followers of Christ, our witness is like the seeds a farmer plants. We don’t know how well our seeds will grow or whether they will bear fruit. But like a farmer who returns each spring to plant once again, we must have faith that some of our seeds will land on good ground and produce a harvest that will bear much fruit for the kingdom of God.

I pray my faith remains as strong as that of a farmer and that my witness will bring an abundant harvest.

TODAY’S PRAYER

Dear Lord, guide us through the day so that we hear your word and through our actions become witnesses of your goodness to others. Amen.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

Let me have the unwavering faith of a farmer.

TODAY’S READING

Isaiah 30:18-26

The Good News by Ruth Bearden

Wow!  The dog days of summer have arrived. The last week of June is upon us, summer activities are in full swing, and it is 100° in Madison.  Yet, I walked into a home store in Athens yesterday and saw decorations out for Halloween.  Halloween? That is still more than four months away. HOW can anybody be thinking about fall when we’ve barely begun summer?

Inevitably, seasons will come, and seasons will go. No matter how much we try to hold on to them or wish them away, we eventually learn that nothing stays the same except our God.   Genesis 8:22 tells us that “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” In this constantly changing and often chaotic world, I try to remember these things:

God is present in THIS season, and in this moment.  He wants us to embrace the season that we are in.   There are seasons in life that we love and welcome – sweet chapters with loved ones and peaceful circumstances that we don’t want to pass by.  But even in those good times, we can get ahead of ourselves and spend so much time worrying about the next season that we miss out on the joys of this current and fleeting moment in time.   Or perhaps we find ourselves in a hard season that is so difficult that all that we can do is wait for it to end.  Whatever our situation, we can know that God walks with us, and He will never forsake us.  We trust that God can use even the hard things for good, perhaps in ways we cannot see this side of heaven.  God wants us to find the joy in the season we are in, because true and lasting joy comes from Him, not from our momentary circumstances.

There is a beautiful passage beginning in Luke 5:33 that relates to this. Jesus is having dinner at Matthew the Tax Collector’s house and Pharisees are giving Him grief about all manner of things.  They question him about why his disciples are celebrating instead of piously fasting like John’s disciples. Jesus responds with the beautiful illustration of feasting with the bridegroom while He is present. What Jesus is telling them is this: “ I am here with you right here, right now.  Whatever you circumstance, I am with you, and I am all you need. Now is the time to celebrate.  Now is the time to feast. ” 

A Season does not define us. Regret steals our joy.  God doesn’t want us to hold onto regret about past seasons.  Yes, we should own our mistakes, ask for forgiveness and make amends, but once we have earnestly done that, we are forgiven.  God is in the redemption business.  When Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well in John Chapter 4, she was in a season of shame – she’d had five husbands and was an outcast in her world. There were so many reasons she was not worthy to give this man a drink of water.  Interestingly, the Bible doesn’t even give her a name.  Maybe that’s because we are all the woman at the well. Who of us that has lived long enough has not had a season of regret? A chapter that we wish we could do over?   Yes, we know the woman at the well. Most of us have felt her pain. Jesus already knew all about her, just as he knows all about you.    And he didn’t care about any of that.  He just loved her.  He just loves you.  Hear the beautiful words that Jesus spoke to her.  He speaks them to you too:  If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”  If only you knew.  If only we knew the gift God has for us, our past seasons wouldn’t matter.  We would not be worrying about the next season.  We would be celebrating the presence of Jesus in the here and now. This, my friends, is the time to feast.

Weekly Devotion | June 13, 2024

Musical Worship?

The story of Joseph in Genesis 37-50 is one of the most beloved tales of the Old Testament. It has everything that people like in a good story—jealousy, revenge, sex, power, plot twists, forgiveness, and a rags to riches ending.

You’ll remember that Jacob, one of the patriarchs of ancient Israel, had 12 sons, but he favored Joseph more than the others. The arrogance of Joseph and his dreams causes his brothers to fake his death and sell him into slavery. Joseph winds up in Egypt as a slave to an army officer, but he gets framed for sexual assault by the officer’s wife and is imprisoned. Miraculously, Joseph, with his dream interpretation abilities, makes his way into the Pharaoh’s court. The story gets better!

A famine strikes the land, but Egypt is ready with storehouses of food Joseph saved. The brothers who almost killed him are now coming to him begging for food. They don’t recognize him, so Joseph plays games with them. Eventually, Joseph reveals himself and forgives them for what they did. All is well that ends well.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical version of this bible story is called “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” debuting in 1974. It has been performed for years on Broadway and literally in thousands of colleges, high schools, and community theaters around the world. For the 50th anniversary of the Broadway production, you will have two chances to see it live! Right here in the Wesley Worship center our VBS kids, youth, volunteers and special church member cast will perform 2 shows: Saturday, June 22nd at 10:30AM and Sunday June 23rd at 10AM. 

Next week, Music Camp will have the perfect combination of musical and traditional VBS to embed Joseph’s story in the hearts of adults and children alike. I hope you’ll invite friends and family to attend these performances. I promise you’ll enjoy the story, the music, and the deep sense of how God works in amazing ways in his children’s lives. Rarely, if ever, does a worship service and a Broadway musical make such an impression. Come and see our children, youth, and adult volunteers bring this ancient story to life.

Weekly Devotion – June 6, 2024

The Best Defense

Our first game of church league softball season was a close win this past Tuesday. The teams were evenly matched, having mostly scoreless innings with a few runs coming in at clinch moments. We were tied as the clock ran down in the last inning, but as the home team, we were last to bat and managed to score a run. We won: 6-5.

I watch a lot of baseball on mlb.com and from the bleachers at my son’s ballgames. Softball is a far more defensive game than baseball. While all positions in baseball are important, the game heavily relies on the pitchers rather than the fielders. In our softball league, the opposite is true. There are virtually no strikeouts and the batters usually make contact every time. The ball is always going to require a good defensive play. I think a similar thing could be said about our faith.

The Apostle Peter wrote a letter to the early church saying, “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15-16)

What are your beliefs about being a Christian? Can you make a good defense about why you believe in God? Or trust in Jesus? Or how the Holy Spirit works in your life? What is your defense of when someone asks you about something you believe? It’s good to think about your defense when the questions come to you. In softball terms, are you ready when the “ball comes your way”? Stay faithful this summer to worship and don’t fall out of practice. Be ready to make your defense whenever it’s asked of you.

Peace,
Zack@madisonfumc.com

It is more than knowledge of the game, it’s also the experience of applying that knowledge. You may know how to catch a ball, but what you do with it after the catch matters as well.

The Good News ~ May 30, 2024

Have you ever done a lot of work on something, but no one will ever notice?

Last weekend I worked hard to finish up some projects around the house. I rerouted downspout water runoff on both sides of the house. I installed three squirrel proof birdfeeders on 10 foot poles outside our family room windows. I laid about 70 bags of mulch in beds that needed some bare dirt covered. There were several more projects too small to mention. The point is that these projects took longer to finish and cost more than expected.

Like any project around the house, there were problems, mistakes, and difficulties along the way. I discovered that 4½ inch drain pipes are not compatible among manufacturers. I cut poles too short. A bag of mulch doesn’t go as far as it used to, and I had to buy more. There were multiple trips to the store to get what I needed and problems in the store as well. When it was all said and done, I added a few coins to the cuss jar.

I tried to explain my work to a friend, but he really couldn’t see hours, sweat and tears, frustration, and money I spent. All he saw was some nice landscaping and some nice birdfeeders. That’s all I saw as well…but I WORKED SO HARD!!!

When we do work and no one notices we can feel resentful, unappreciated, and angry. So much work gets done because of unsung heroes all around us at church, at work, at home, and in our country. Memorial Day reminded us of the fact most of the men and women in the military who died in the service will never be fully appreciated for what they did for their fellow citizens. Be thankful for them even though you’ll never know what they’ve done.

Paul writes to the church members Colossae, “Whatever task you must do, work as if your soul depends on it, as for the Lord and not for humans…”(Col. 3:23). Do work for the Lord as if your soul depends on it. That’s a different way to think about our work. Strive to do your work not to please other people but do your work to please God. People will let you down with their appreciation, but God loves what you do when you use your gifts and talents he gave you to help others.

So use your gifts and talents to Christ’s purposes. Do it as if your soul depends on it as for the Lord, not for humans.

Zack@madisonfumc.com

The Good News Weekly Devotion by Jen Zappa, Director of Children’s Ministry & Preschool

Hello Church family,

Mayday! Mayday! We survived this month!  Have you heard? May is the new December. The festivities kick off with teacher appreciation week and Mother’s Day, then the action ramps up with the banquets, band concerts, plays, award ceremonies, ball games, recitals, class parties, water days, field days, goodbye days, graduations, graduation parties, and a partridge in a pear tree. It’s physically and emotionally exhausting attending all the May things, but I wouldn’t want to miss any of it. The end of the school year is bittersweet. It’s sad to say goodbye to friends and teachers, but everyone is ready for summer!

First Kids has an action-packed schedule of events planned for your children that promises to be both fun and spiritually enriching. I love spending time with your children and want them to come to church! Below is an overview of our upcoming summer activities.

Preschool Camp ~ June 3-6 ~ 9 am to 12/noon. 

Wonderfully Made Preschool camp is open to children aged 3 through rising kindergarteners. This is a great opportunity for the children to make new friends, play, and learn about Jesus!

“Little Lambs” ~ Sunday, June 9th  ~  3 pm

Babies and parent(s) are invited to fellowship together, while their little ones explore, craft, and play with friends. Light snacks served. Meet upstairs in the Wesley Building.

Summer Music Camp featuring Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. 

June 17-23 ~ 6-8 pm ~ Open to 3 years old to adults! Register online today!

We need all ages in the show! Open to 3 years old to adults! While the older kids and adults work on the show, the children will enjoy traditional VBS activities. They will rotate between Bible lessons, crafts, games, snacks and during music the kids will learn their part of the show!

First Kids Summer Sundays ~ 4pm-6pm

Children aged 3 through 5th grade are welcome to join for bible lesson, craft, games/yoga, and a snack!

Back to School Splash! July 28th 5pm-7pm.

This is a church family event! Please join us for dinner, fun, and fellowship!

Please contact me with any questions or if you want to help with any of the First Kids summer events.

With love,

Jen Zappa

Jen@madisonfumc.com

The Good News Weekly Devotion | May 16, 2024


Yesterday, our staff met for a full day of reflection on the past almost 12 months and to plan the next 12 more for the 2024-2025 year.  We went around the table and shared our experiences in our job positions, our triumphs and how we could use support going into the next year. Some of us are tenured in working in the church and some of us are brand new to it, yet we were all there together as one body to give life and love to our church and community. We all agreed that each one of us has amazing strengths and talents that are unique to each of us and we couldn’t do it without each other! While we all have other obligations and responsibilities in our life, together as a staff we will serve God with a purpose to grow our church and spread the Good News to our community. Yesterday we were able to focus on how we can continue to move forward as one body and what that will look like in the next year to come – it was a great day!

Mary Frances Carroll
Communications Director

 

This week’s devotion is from the Upper Room, and hopefully will allow you to reflect on God’s important purpose for you in your life.
An Important Purpose

In many of the apostle Paul’s greetings to the early churches, he stated that he was an apostle of Christ by the will of God. While Paul recognized his life’s purpose, often as believers we feel less assured of our purpose and wonder if God is using us in our present circumstances. Sure, God called great theologians like Paul to serve God. But we who work in factories, drive trucks, care for children, do clerical work, teach, farm, and live in all kinds of circumstances can also be used by God.

God has a purpose for each of us just as God had a purpose for the young servant girl we read about in 2 Kings 5. She served the wife of Naaman, army commander for the king of Aram. Her faith changed the course of Naaman’s life and helped alter his hostile view of Israel.

Many of us can’t fathom how God could use us, but God is continually working in and through our lives. We don’t have to be great theologians to be used mightily by God. We just need to trust that we have been called to follow God, whatever our circumstances. We can trust that God has a purpose for our lives.

Scripture

2 Kings 5:1-14

Thought for the Day

I trust that God has an important purpose for my life.

Today’s Prayer

Faithful God, thank you for the ways you work in and through our lives. Help us to focus on how you might use us this very day. Amen.

You can subscribe to Daily Devotions and prayers from the Upper Room by signing up online: www.upperroom.org

Weekly Devotion: May 2, 2024

Songbirds at Night
Our house backs up to a fairly large woodland area. Leigh and I enjoy sitting on the back porch and pretending like we are camping out deep in the woods – it’s one of my favorite things about our life in Madison. My least favorite thing about the back porch are the songbirds at night. I’m fine with the wrens making nests everywhere they can stack leaves and debris. I love the owls hunting and hooting in the woods. What I don’t like are the songbirds of the night that won’t shut-up at 11PM.

My nightly songbirds are close to the house, and they are loud! They recently woke me up in the dark of the morning at 1AM last week. I don’t remember having songbirds of the night at previous homes. Maybe they were there, but they kept their distance.  I love birds, but I don’t like the songbirds of the night that wake me up. These birds could also be thought of as “the things that worry us” and wake us up in the middle of the night. These worries won’t shut-up or be shut out. These worrisome songbirds of the night chirp away inside our minds and keep us from a good night’s rest. What keeps you up at night these days?

I usually sleep well, but sometimes a thought surfaces in my mind that won’t let go. A sermon idea, a conversation that didn’t go well, or something left undone on my to do list. These songbirds inconveniently worry me in the middle of the night. I find some comfort in Jesus’ teaching on the subject. “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to your span of life?” (Matthew 6:25-27)

I encourage you to pray to God who doesn’t want you to worry. Pray that his grace will mute the songbirds of the night and help you focus on his care for the “birds of the air”. Are you more value than they are? Pray that God will take care of the worries as you trust in him.

Peace,
Zack@madisonfirstumc.com

 

Weekly Devotion April 26, 2024

Collections

For our Prime Timers Senior Adult Ministry lunch yesterday, I dragged out some of my model railroading collection. Yes, I’m a train collector of HO, O, and G scale models. Displaying my collection was difficult because I couldn’t unpack dozens of boxes and show off everything I have. I found it hard to pick just a few things that represent the entire collection. It’s like choosing your favorite child! I couldn’t do it! Somehow, I managed to control myself and filled a show-and-tell table with a few locomotives, some rolling stock, and maps and pictures of full-sized trains. It was fun playing show-and-tell with the Prime Timers.

I’ve spent many hours in my life modeling trains and playing with them. Jesus said, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 18:3) Seems like Jesus is on the side of adults who like to be childlike from time to time. My wife seems to agree as she approved my renovating an attic storage room into a train room. I can’t wait to have an open house for church members to come play trains with me.

Many people have an instinct to collect things. What do you collect—toys, dollhouses, dishes, or porcelain figurines? Maybe you thought if you collected stamps, coins, or beanie babies you were “investing” in stuff that would make a big payoff in the future. Many a collector has been down the road of thinking their stuff was worth more than it really is.

The old joke is true, “Do you know how to make a million dollars with a collection of _________?   . . . . Start with two million dollars.

Occasionally there will be an anecdotal story about some art or toy collection that fetches a high price at auction. These stories are the exception to the rule. Collections are only worth something to the collector. No one else cares very much.

The instinct to collect things might be one of those things God planted in us. If we are made in the image of God, then at some level God must be a collector. God is not into trains, planes, automobiles or beanie babies, Hummels, or dishes. God is very interested in us, his children. I think God collects all the memories of you he can. God celebrates our successes and roots for us to do better when we fail. At the end of our lives, God, the Great Collector, gathers us up into his presence for eternity. The collection of his children in heaven is diverse and astonishing. I imagine we are all the favorites when show-and-tell time comes.

Collections are only worth something to the collector, and you are infinitely valuable to him.

Peace,

zack@madisonfumc.com