notes from Pastor Jeremy

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Geared Up for Life

Greetings and the grace of God be with you! 

Ephesians has been called “the queen of the epistles” by Dr. William Barclay and many other biblical scholars. This epistle, or letter, contains everything you need to explain the faith in one compact package.

Ephesians divides neatly into two halves. The first half, chapters 1-3, provide a theological foundation for the faith. The second half, chapters 4-6, focuses on the ethical dimensions of the faith: how do we live it out? It reminds us that faith is not simply about believing, but about living.

Many, if not most, scholars would tell us that it was not written by Paul, and that it was not really written to a specific church in Ephesus but was designed to be passed from church to church and community to community. Since is it not contextualized to any one church or community it becomes an even better guide as we seek to live out our faith as United Methodists by making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  

We will be looking at the two different parts of Ephesians. Think of it like the first half of a season of your favorite TV show. In the first three weeks of our “miniseries,” we will focus on the last word of our series: Gearing Up for Life. The first three chapters of Ephesians are the theological foundations of our faith. This is the why part of Ephesians. Why do we embrace this life of faith? Why have we been given this blessing, this opportunity, this grace? These are the core themes of our faith. 

Then the second four-week miniseries focuses on the first two words of our series: Gearing Up for Life. This is the how part of the letter. Because of the grace in the first half of the letter, these last four weeks are the how-to to live our life as God intended.

So, as we get ready to get back on the discipleship path, grow in our faith, and seek to reach out to our Nolensville community wouldn’t it be a great time to get ourselves geared up? A great time to gear up for the Fall for church with events like Promotion Sunday & Blessing of the Backpacks on August 7, our Block Party on August 14, Beersheba Retreat on September 16-18, and new Wednesday night opportunities (coming in September.) Or maybe it is starting a new year at school, a new job, or a promotion at work, or whatever.

The letter to the Ephesians is about gearing up, about making sure that our faith is not just a head thing but also a heart thing. It is about living out the faith and remember who we are and whose we are. It is about being good to be blessed and belong. It is good to remind ourselves that we are not alone, but a part of something bigger than ourselves.

I know that after moving at the beginning of July, experiencing my first Vacation Bible School here last month, trying to unpack in between everything else, and with all the other transitions like traveling back and forth from Hendersonville that I have experienced, I am ready to start a new time in our life together.  I need to get myself into another gear. Maybe you do too? 

Let’s do it together! Would you join me in reading Ephesians over the next seven weeks and seeing how it can gear us up for life? 

Ephesians: Geared Up for Life
Aug 7 Setting Our Hope (Ephesians 1)  
Aug 14 He is Our Peace (Ephesians 2)
Aug 21 Rooted & Grounded in Love (Ephesians 3)
Aug 28 A Life Worthy (Ephesians 4:1-16)
Sept 4 Speaking Truth (Ephesians 4:25-5:2)
Sept 11 Giving Thanks (Ephesians 5)
Sept 18 Armored (Ephesians 6)  

Blessings in Christ,

 pastorjeremy@nolensvilleumc.org

Let's build It Together

The men of Jericho built the adjoining section, and Zaccur son of Imri built next to them. (Nehemiah 3:2)

One of the books of the Bible that has spoken to me most during this time of ongoing transition during the last two years is Nehemiah. The story of how Nehemiah asked to return to Jerusalem to rebuild after the Babylonian exile contains many lessons for all of us as we rebuild after our exile.

Chapter 3 is one of those chapters in Nehemiah that consists largely of unpronounceable names and long-forgotten people! It can be discouraging to come to a chapter like this and not recognize any of the names. But it tells the story of the work of repairing the gates and walls of Jerusalem that Nehemiah had been sent there to do.

The basic thing Chapter 3 tells us is that they all worked together. All through this account, you will find the phrase “next to him worked” so and so, and “next to them worked” others. Some of them worked more, others less, and, unfortunately, some did not work at all. They helped one another. Nehemiah had so marvelously organized this project that each one had a section of the wall or a gate assigned to him.

We also notice they worked near their home. Look at verse 10: Jedaiah made repairs opposite his house. Verse 23 tells of certain men who made repairs in front of their house. The important truth that emerges is that this is God's design for ministry. God has placed us all strategically where God wants us to be. Your neighborhood, office, or home is where your ministry should be as a follower Christ. That is why God put you there.

And then there is also where God has strategically placed you to be in the church community, too. God has sent you to Nolensville First to do something as God as sent me here, as well.  In John 15, Jesus said to His disciples that He had appointed them, and the word means strategically placed them. He had put them in the place where He wanted them to be. This is brought out beautifully in Nehemiah as we watch these people laboring in their own neighborhood.

One commentator has said: God is a great believer in putting names down. That is true. There are many chapters like this in the Scriptures. But that should really encourage us. It means that God has not forgotten our names either.

The central teaching of this chapter is that in putting lives back together, we need and must seek help from each other. This is a great chapter about cooperation. It illustrates the New Testament truth concerning the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12,  among others, teach that believers in Christ are part of a worldwide body, made up of many members. We belong to each other, and so we are to help one another and bear one another's burdens. This is portrayed in a very dramatic way throughout this chapter.

We learn from the New Testament that there are two things you cannot say any longer when you become a Christian. The first is, You do not need me. Everyone in the body of Christ needs everyone else. The second is, I do not need you. You and I do need others! It is the awareness of that truth that makes a church a living, warm, vital, and loving fellowship.

In the summoning of the people of Jerusalem to rebuild their walls and their gates, we learn that all the people were involved in the project. That portrays for us an important principle of the New Testament: that the ministry of the church belongs to everyone in the congregation. I do not know any truth more important for the accomplishing of God's work than that.

Susan, Hannah, and I look forward to being fully present in our ministry together as we move into the parsonage on July 6 & 7 after having traveled to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for the National Holstein Convention where Susan has been a leader for years (black and white dairy cows have always been a major part of Susan’s life.) 

There is something for everyone to do as we prepare for our last major opportunity this summer to reach out to our Nolensville community this month for Vacation Bible School. And getting ready to get back to everything in the fall. When we work together, we can accomplish amazing things that bring glory and praise to God’s name and continue to build the kingdom of God here on earth. Let’s build it one block at a time — together. 

Rev. Jeremy Squires, pastorjeremy@nolensvilleumc.org

The Apostles' Essentials

The Apostles’ Essentials

Greetings and the grace of God be with you all! 

This year, the first Sunday in June is Pentecost where we remember the Holy Spirit’s powerful presence coming down the on Apostles as tongues of fire. They have been trying to figure out what to do after Jesus’ death, His 40 days appearing among them, and now ascending back to heaven. Then emboldened by the Holy Spirit, Peter preaches and those who accepted his message were 3,000 that day. The Church had begun and it says in Acts 2:42 that the fellowship of the believers:

...devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

I love this insight into the life of the earliest church. And I believe it has a lot to teach us about being the church. Obviously, the circumstances are different between this early church in Jerusalem and the one that you and I are a part of. Not many churches go from 120 members to over 3000 in a single day. And no other church has had as many members who had physically followed Jesus, absorbing all He had to say and do, for up to three years. But what this verse records them as doing is something that I believe all of us at Nolensville First could benefit from and that is what we are wrapping our time around on Sunday mornings this summer. We are going back to the basics of what it means to be the church at its beginning. Acts 2:42 says they were devoted to:

They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to prayer. For us today, the apostles’ teaching is found in the New Testament. There is no substitute to spending time together in Bible study and in prayer. We should be taking every opportunity to gather together to hear what God has to say in the Word and to commune and be in conversation with God in prayer. We should be excited about the opportunity to meet with God.

The other thing they did was spend time together, fellowshipping and eating together. They met together in large groups in the temple courts, and in small groups in homes. And they spent time together gathered around the Lord’s table, breaking bread. They were living the two greatest commandments, loving God and loving others.

While you can identify many other things that a church should be doing, I am not sure how effective they will be without these four. That may look different from church to church. And after all that we have been through over the last couple of years, I have found that when we get back to basics and remember what it is like to be a church community God can do amazing things through us. And when God’s people love spending time with God and with each other, good things are bound to happen. At the end of Acts 2 in verse 47 it says:

And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

May that be our prayer, too, in our days to come of gathering as a church community. 

Blessings in Christ,

Rev. Jeremy T. Squires
pastorjeremy@nolensvilleumc.org

God sees you. God knows you. God loves you.

We are discovering right now in our Easter season sermon series that the ultimate longing of every human is to be seen, known, and loved. That is it. That is what we want and what we need. We need to know that there is someone out there who knows the real us, understands why we are the way we are and accepts us and all our imperfections.

We see it talked about in Psalm 139: God’s love story about how deep God’s love is for each one of us. We see it in different translations:

You have searched me, Lord, and You know me. (NIV)
Lord, You know everything there is to know about me. (Passion Translation)
O Lord, You have examined my heart and know everything about me. (NLT)
O Eternal One, You have explored my heart and know exactly who I am. (The Voice)
Lord, You have examined me. You know me. (CEB)
(Psalm 139:1)

The writer of the Psalm is in awe of God. The God who sees, searches, examines, explores, and knows us, who marvels over our faces, our gifts, and our beauty. It might be hard for you to believe that, to imagine someone looking in love at all the mess we see in our lives. But, that one truth is fundamental to believing anything else at all about the love of God: That God sees us and knows us and loves us. 

Why do we crave to be seen, known, and loved? Well, God has designed each one of us to desire a relationship with our Creator, the One who knows us completely and loves us unconditionally. In Psalm 139:1-3, David shared his realization of the way God sees, knows, and loves God’s children: 

O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off, You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.

Look at what God does in these verses:

God searches and knows us. God understands us.

God is familiar with our ways. God completely gets what we say. 

There is no person on earth who can know us as God does, see us like God does, or loves us as God does. Just look at how much God cares as David describes in Psalm 139:17-18:

How precious are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; when I awake, I am still with You.

There is not a moment when God forgets us. God is never too busy to look our way. We never have to fear that God does not see or know us.

And then, on those days when you find yourself thinking: you do not matter and do not make a difference, remember, all you have to do is look to God. Rest in God’s deeper knowledge of who you are, how you feel, and what you need. When others don’t understand what you say, trust that God does. When you feel left out, concentrate on the love of God that brings you closer to God.

Then take the following three truths and plant them deep in the core of your being:

God sees you.   God knows you.   God loves you. 

Blessings in Christ, 

Rev. Jeremy Squires
pastorjeremy@nolensvilleumc.org

What Is Holy Week?

What Is Holy Week?

We will soon enter Holy Week. In one sense, there is nothing special about “Holy Week.” For most people in the world, it is just another eight days each spring. But not for the faithful who are followers of Christ.

We have no mandate from Jesus or His apostles to mark these days for any particular observance. Celebrating Holy Week is not an obligation, but it is an opportunity. It is a chance to walk with Jesus down the Via Dolorosa (the way of sorrow and suffering) through the most important week in the history of the world. It is a chance to focus our minds on what gift was given to us and what was the price of that gift that we celebrate on Easter.

Holy Week and those events that happened in the life of our Savior are a major part of the New Testament. In fact, the final eight of Matthew’s 28 chapters are given to this one week, along with the last six of Mark’s and the final six of Luke’s. And in John’s Gospel, the essential half, ten of 21 chapters, focus on the final week of our Lord’s life, His betrayal, His trials, His crucifixion, and His triumphant resurrection.

So I would invite you to seize the possibilities of these last days of Lent. I ask you to consider how you might make the most of this week? These are some of the darkest and brightest days in the history of the world. In the chaos of our increasingly fast-paced and hectic society, Holy Week is a reminder to pause and ponder, to carefully mark each day, and not let this greatest of all weeks get lost like every other.

Perhaps pick a time each day — alone or with your family or small group — to slow down and savor what was happening during what we call the Passion week. Consider reading through a Holy Week devotional (there are many online and right at your fingertips on your phone) — or read one (or a couple) of the Passion narratives from the Gospels: Matthew 21–28, Mark 11–16, Luke 19–24, and John 12–21.

Block out several minutes. Find a comfortable place to sit. Seek to quiet your soul, and pray that God would meet you in the events and significance of this week. And spend a few moments in prayer after you read each one of these accounts. 

Then come out and join us for the start of Holy Week on April 10 with Palm/Passion Sunday when we begin the greatest story ever told once again. And later that week on April 14 for Maundy Thursday where we remember the Last Supper and the new commandment that Jesus gave to His disciples. And then on April 15 for one of the most powerful nights of the year: Good Friday and Tenebrae (a Service of Shadows).

One author suggests if you would like a specific biblical text to serve as a prayer focus for this week, try that God would make this prayer of Ephesians 3:16-9 increasingly true of us this Holy Week:

...that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith — that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have the strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Jesus’s step-by-step journey to Golgotha is a glowing revelation of the extent of His love. And in going all the way to the cross with Him, with every bruise, every puncture, and throb and stab of pain it is that we see most profoundly how deep the Father’s love for us. Romans 5:8 reminds us “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

May God use this week and beyond as an opportunity for you to be newly grounded in the love of Christ, remembering from the resolve of Palm Sunday to the goodbye and greatest commandment of Maundy Thursday, to the ultimate sacrifice of Good Friday, and finally to the triumph of Easter Sunday. And may you, as we are praying and focusing on Easter with Love Never Fails, know the love of Christ, in all its breadth and length and height and depth — and wonder upon wonder, be filled with all the fullness of God.

Blessings in Christ, 

Rev. Jeremy Squires
pastorjeremy@nolensvilleumc.org

Our mission is to be a neighborhood church where people experience a life-changing relationship with Jesus in a welcoming church family empowered to go and serve the world.

Are You Ready to Return to God?

Are You Ready to Return to God?

The 40 days of Lent are a time for both new and longtime Christians to hear God's call to return with all our hearts, Do you need a new beginning, to return to God? One that refreshes God’s call in your life? It begins with Ash Wednesday and Sunday and continues through the next 40 days of our own turning around in repentance, reconciliation with God, and connecting to one another. And then preparing to publicly proclaim again our belief in the crucified and risen Christ. Every year, this is the time to revisit and return to the beginnings of our Christian journey of freedom and new life. God pursues us and says to each one of us, “It is time to return to Me with all your heart.” But will we?

We pursue happiness, fame, fortune, and success. When we begin to pursue greater meaning in our lives, we discover a God who loves us is pursuing us. How can we trust a love so encompassing? How can we accept God’s love and love God back? That is what we are exploring as we start our journey once again towards Easter and celebrate the Resurrection.

Join us in-person or online for our sermon series “PURSUED”:

 March 6      TEMPTED                          Luke 4:1-13
 March 13     ASTOUNDED & AMAZED Luke 9:37-43
 March 20     WASTED                           Luke 13:1-9 
 March 27     CELEBRATED                  Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32 
 APRIL 3       ANOINTED                       John 12:1-8
 APRIL 10     FORGIVEN                       Luke 19:28-40  Luke 22:14-23:56

Blessings in Christ,

Rev. Jeremy Squires
pastorjeremy@nolensvilleumc.org 

New Beginnings

“Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel.” (Joshua 1:2)

Joshua was a faithful servant to Moses and God for years. Moses had died leaving a new generation in charge. Joshua was to take up the mantle of Moses and move God’s people forward into the promised land. The old was fading in the distance and there before him was the doorway to the future. What did Joshua feel? No doubt fear, and questions by doubters, supporters and perhaps even himself as to his ability to fill the shoes of Moses. 

After all, those are big shoes, Moses had been used by God to do incredible things, things never seen before. He delivered them from bondage, parted the Red Sea, drew water from a rock, and the gave the Ten Commandments.

Who could fill those shoes? What lay in store for Joshua by following God to a new land? And Moses lost the privilege of taking the people into the promised land after wandering with them for forty years. If Moses had paid such a great price just to lead them to the desert, what cost would Joshua pay in the future leading them into battle for the land that God had promised?

Something I have realized after 25 years of serving in the United Methodist Church as an ordained Elder is that we are always a series of Moseses and Joshuas. A time of goodbyes and hellos. It is the way of things when the calling and timing of God is involved. 

As we both have said farewell and our goodbyes (which only means God be with you until we meet again) to a beloved pastor here at Nolensville First and a church that has loved our family for almost nine years, the old comes to a close and the new begins to emerge upon us. 

Waves of doubts filled with fear can overwhelm our hearts and minds as we contemplate the unknown of what lies ahead. We do not know what to expect of each other. We only know what we have known. The promised land lies ahead of us but we only see it from a distance and it looks hazy right now. We often restrict our decisions and perceptions based upon our limitations rather than on God’s limitless power. I am sure Joshua’s first thought after God had told him to lead could have been; "Where do I begin?" 

That is a question we all ask at the beginning of a new relationship and a new journey. I am asking it. You are asking it. We are asking it together as our journey begins now. 

But God made it very simple for Joshua, as God does for us. God told Joshua two things to do: arise and cross. Joshua could not remain where he was and fulfill the purpose God had for his life. He could not wallow in grief or fear, recite a list of excuses, or wait for a better time to emerge. He had to choose to get up, go where he was being sent, and to obey all that God had told him to do. Refusing to arise and move forward defeats God’s desire for us to answer the call of God upon our lives. Joshua 1:9 says Be strong. Have courage. Know that your God will be with you wherever you go. 

The second thing Joshua had to do was to cross the Jordan River. This river was the only thing standing between God’s people and the land of Canaan. Stepping out into the waters of faith allowed Joshua and the people of Israel to cross over into their calling of God. Joshua could not allow the Jordan to keep him from obeying God, no matter how impossible it seemed to overcome. Joshua had to leave the "how to" to God.

And when they stepped out into that water, God dried it up before them. After all, God parted an entire sea for them with Moses; surely God could part a river. God takes our Jordans and dries them up before us when we move forward in faith with God. It was the first step of obedience that cleared a path to walk across. God will always meet us at our place of obedience.

Together there are new challenges ahead of us, fears to conquer, new land to enter, and walls to bring down. With our new journey before us, let us step out into the waters of faith and behold the power of God to bring us into a new land! I am excited for where God is going to take us all next!

Blessings,
Rev. Jeremy Squires
PastorJeremy@nolensvilleumc.org 

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