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With All Your Heart

July 31, 2022

By Rev. Robert Rice, Pastor
Muncy Baptist Church

On the desk in my office, there is a sculpture that was given to me by a church member and friend who went home to be with the Lord many years ago. The sculpture is of a man kneeling, leaning on a chair, and praying with a Bible next to him on the floor. The placard on the sculpture is emblazoned with the words of Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart” (NIV). Many times, as I sit at my desk, I look at the man praying, and I reflect on my own prayer life and ask if I am truly living out the words of Jeremiah 29:13.

In our world, many people are seeking after things. Some are seeking answers, some are seeking peace, some are seeking a better life, some are seeking an end to pain, and some are seeking for the world to change. In the song “Good, Good Father” Chris Tomlin sings that “we’re all searching for answers only You [God] provide” (Barrett, Pat and Tony Brown). As a believer, I have to agree with that assertion. While not all of us realize or frame our search that way, what we are looking and longing for is truly found in a relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ. And the wonderful promise of that verse that adorns the sculpture in my office is that, if we seek God, we will surely find Him.

But the verse reminds us that there is a way we must seek God if we want to find Him. We must put aside our other pursuits and seek God with all our hearts. With this addition, the verse becomes challenging for all of us because, as sinners, we have hearts that are divided and deceitful. Our hearts do not just seek after God, they seek after so many other things.

Sometimes our hearts seek pleasure. We make decisions based on what feels good and what is easy, but this does not get us anywhere because, as Solomon reminds us in the book of Ecclesiastes, pleasure is fleeting and meaningless in the end. Sometimes our hearts seek victory, and we desire to be right. In our world that is so divided on so many issues, we seek above all else to be right and to win the argument. While this may feel good and certainly God does value the truth, many times this pursuit pushes us and others further away from God in the process.

So what are we to do? How can we deal with our divided hearts and seek God so that we might find Him? The process begins by submitting ourselves to God and surrendering our hearts to Him. Only when we allow the Lord to have complete control over our plans and lives can we be given a new heart that seeks after Him.

As I gaze again at that sculpture, I am reminded that I need to submit myself to God, and that comes not just from kneeling to pray but by asking that God’s will would be done, not just in the world but in my life. My prayer must first be like the prayer of Jesus as he prepared to go to the cross on my behalf: “Father,… not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

Sunday, July 31th, 2022

July 31, 2022

Because the COVID-19 outbreak continues to keep us from safely gathering together, few services are scheduled in area long term care facilities or prisons.  Many congregations are beginning to meet together in person for Worship, being careful to social distance and to follow all CDC guidelines. They also encourage those most at risk to continue to Worship at home and to take advantage of services that are live streamed on Facebook, YouTube, Zoom, and other venues.

The following institutional services are arranged for and reported by United Churches of Lycoming County:

Sunday:

Lycoming County Prison, 1:45 and 3:15 p.m., None scheduled.
Celebration Villa, 2 p.m., None scheduled.
Williamsport South, 2 p.m., Mr. Clarence Thompson, Love Unlimited Ministry.
Valley View Nursing Home, 2 p.m., Mr. Kelly Erhard, Bethel United Methodist Church, Williamsport.
Embassy of Loyalsock, 2 p.m., Rev. Ronald Shellhamer, retired Lutheran pastor.
HCR Manor Care North, 2:15 p.m., Ms. Tracey Mulcahy, First United Methodist Church, Williamsport.
Rose View Center, 2:15 p.m., Mr. Jerry Webb, AME Zion Church, Williamsport.
Leighton Place, 3 p.m., None scheduled.
Williamsport Home, 3 p.m., None scheduled.
Pre-Release Center, 3:30 p.m., None scheduled.

Services during the week include:

Heritage Springs, 10 a.m., Tuesday, None scheduled.
Leighton Place, 2 p.m. Tuesday, None scheduled.
Presbyterian Home, 11 a.m. Thursday, None scheduled.

On the radio:

Radio Services are provided by the following congregations:
8:30 a.m. (Saturday) Jersey Shore Assembly of God, WJSA 96.3 FM.
9 a.m. (Sunday) Community Baptist Church, Montoursville, WJSA 96.3 FM.
9 a.m. (Sunday) Pine Street United Methodist Church, Williamsport, WWPA 1340 AM/101.7 FM., WILQ  HD3

Ecumenical luncheon:

United Churches of Lycoming County’s Wednesday Noon Ecumenical Lunch will return September 7th!

Devotion line:

The United Churches telephone devotion line is available 24 hours a day by calling 570-322-5762. These devotions change daily and are hope filled and inspirational. The devotions this week will be provided by Ms. Tammey Aichner, First Church of Christ (Disciples), Williamsport.

Am I Enough?

July 25, 2022

By Nancy Baumgartner
White Pine Church-Cogan House Township

When I was growing up, my mother would often communicate her frustration with me by using sayings. If I had “gotten too big for my britches,” she could “take me down a peg or two” by offering to “knock the chip off my shoulder.” These metaphors conjured up literal and scary images, therefore, having the desired effect on me without Mom taking further action. It was a good system, which I found useful when I became a parent myself.

During the past pandemic season, I was reminded that, even though I am an adult, a well-constructed phrase could still shake me up and turn me around.

The isolation, fear, and stress of navigating entirely new territory were wearing on me. Our church was closed for awhile, personal visits with our children and grandchildren were not advised, and keeping track of friends was limited to phone conversations. Bible studies and “fellowshipping” slipped into the mysterious realm of something called “Zoom”; entertainment was limited to listening to podcasts, watching movie channels, or finally tackling projects that could be done alone at home.

For a few months, it was a novelty that I prided myself on being able to handle like a true champion of the tough times. I saw myself as brave, inventive, disciplined, and warrior-like when I faced each day that, eventually, became more and more like the previous one. I knew everyone else was going through the same experience I was. Even when an airplane jet trail cut through the sky above, I realized every passenger probably had similar thoughts, struggling with stresses also.

But, soon, I was feeling really sorry for myself. The family reunions, graduations, and birthday celebrations were not happening. With my face covered by a mask, I felt panic in the middle of a grocery store. A telephone prayer chain request underscored the separation of being physically out of touch with neighbors in need. And, there seemed no end in sight.

My self-pity-party soon deteriorated into complaining–sometimes out loud but more often in my head, my heart, and my soul. I learned that being confined to the space of a computer screen for a worship service did not produce the same spiritual elevation as being side-by-side with others in a church sanctuary. Even the versions of Bible studies offered online held a certain loneliness. Singing with a church’s website music just was not the same as standing next to a friend with a great baritone voice.

So one morning, while I was trying to whip up enthusiasm for the day’s devotions, the Lord whispered an astounding question into my spirit. “Am I enough?” He asked. It left me shaken! And, it certainly “took me down a peg or two.” The question demanded that I seriously consider, if everything else were taken from me, would my intimate relationship with the Lord be enough? Could my personal link to God withstand having all the “bells and whistles” of faith disappear? I had to ask myself, would my faith hold, if my only connection to my Lord was manifested through his availability and my receptiveness? It was a time of serious soul-searching. But, it was a question that needed to be asked and one I needed to answer.

I realized how fortunate I was to always have had the privilege of owning and studying my Bible, of being free to attend the church of my choice, and of talking openly with friends and family about the Lord. I thought of the folks in other countries and in other eras who were often subjected to imprisonment, or worse, for just such activities. I had read about people who secretly followed their faith, even when they were fearful of doing so, or people who had no access to Bibles, worship services, or fellow Christians. If God’s great love and faithfulness were “enough” for them, it should be “enough” for me. And, I was reminded of 2 Corinthians 12:9 when the Lord tells Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (NKJV).

I am glad the Lord asked that question of me, and I am glad that it led me to serious consideration. Each day now I try to make sure I am able to answer a sincere “yes”!