John the Baptist sure was a character, simply waiting in the desert till he heard from God that it was time to fulfill his calling. No one really knows how long he waited, for some reason I think it was a very long time. Throughout the Bible, trips to the desert tended to be unpleasant: hot and dry, people were always complaining about not having enough to drink and the Israelites came right out and said they just wanted to “go back.” Of course, going back may be an option for some. The desert can be a tough place. We get through our own desert experiences the same way Moses did and the same way John the Baptist did. We set our hope on God’s promise. God promised Moses He would lead the people out of the desert into the promised land. He promised John he would be the one to prepare the way for the Lord. If you find yourself in a spiritual desert, a place where nothing seems to be going the right way, then it would be a good idea to follow the lead of Moses and John the Baptist: pray, give God time, and cling to a promise God has given you. Start with a really simple promise, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” You are never alone!
Happy New Year Wesley. During this season, many of us look back at all we can celebrate and look forward to what night be in the days ahead. 2019 is going to be a most challenging and exciting year for us. In reading through Luke and preparing for upcoming messages, I know that chapters 9 and 10 are critical to understanding the good news of Jesus as Lord. Jesus tells the very busy Martha, “I discern that you are anxious about many things, but only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better way.” Mary chose to sit at the feet of Jesus. While Jesus visited her home, she knew it was time to put aside all business and worship. She sat there like a child at the feet of the rabbi and wanted to learn, to absorb the compassion and the love and the truth Jesus brought to her home. She had no time for housework or cleaning. Her business was with Jesus. I hope and pray we recognize that our priority is to sit at the feet of Jesus. For 2019 we will be focusing on coming into the presence of our Lord through worship and prayer. Sunday I look forward to sharing with you the first red letters in Luke. Bring your Bibles to church and be prepared to come into the presence of the Lord.
So Sunday I talked about Joseph and the phrase “after he considered this…” He was considering his own life and what to do with the news that Mary was pregnant and the child was not his. When he was finished considering how this would affect his future, he was afraid to take her home. There is more than one sort of considering. There is, of course, the sort Joseph undertook, considering how circumstances will affect your future. That really gets people almost nowhere important. It ended up making Joseph afraid. Then there is the sort of considering that takes into account other people and how your life intersects and influences others. Now that is a higher form of considering and often takes divine intervention to practice. And then there is a third sort of considering concerning your relationship to your maker and how He created the lilies of the field. Only when you link the two higher forms of considering will you find fulfillment in life.
As Christmas nears, we consider what gifts to give to one another. It would be wise to consider our giving on a higher plane. What of me can I give to make others feel valued? How can I help my loved ones sense the awe of an immeasurably wonderful God?
When I was in college a lifetime ago, one of the fad psychology trends was centering. Gurus offered seminars and even classes on centering. Of course I took one. Could not resist. So the basic idea was to think your way through the clutter of life, you had to peel back the chaos and confusion and focus on the most important thing: you. And now, 45 years later, I think they almost got it right. All that needs to change is the focus. To focus on self only leads to disappointment and selfishness. And really, how many times does Jesus tell us to focus on ourselves? In reality, there are at least three better things on which we could center.
1. Center on someone else or some other group of people. What do they need? How can I serve her? What is on his mind? Jesus does say, “love your neighbor.”
2. Center on caring for the planet, the seas and the rivers, the beasts of the fields and the birds of the air. The Bible does say God gave us dominion over the planet.
3. Center on Jesus and ask yourself, “Jesus what would you have me do? Or better, who would you have me become?”
All three options are far better than the fad os self-fulfilment through self centering. There is, though, a valuable lesson from the centering fad. To center, we need to eliminate as much of life as is causing the chaos and find what brings order and purpose. To do that, we need to simplify mind and garage, calendar and wallet. And it is not enough to know we need to do this; we then need to do it. At first others will come up against the desire to change. People do not like change. They want to keep stuff, spend money on self, occupy every minute on self satisfaction. In short, they may seem a bit uncooperative. So invite them along. Start with you and invite others to lead a more simple life.
One of the leadership principles I have learned over the years is that when things get a little crazy, just simplify and focus of what you do well and what is most important. I have enacted this principle many times in my personal and professional life. It works. I have simplified the stuff I own; cut down on my calendar appointments; had my children “just pick one thing to do;” eliminated my entire reading list except the Bible; gotten up three hours earlier than normal just to do the one thing that matters most, pray. Like many, I sense a bit of out of control around me, politics have reached a level of negative exhaustion; the changes have pushed us to realize America is becoming an unchurched nation, even moving toward a faithless nation. So I am responding as I have always responded to chaos…zoom in on what is most important, emphasize the critical and celebrate what is working.
To this end, we are beginning our “red-letter study” December 2 so we can zoom in on what Jesus teaches and does. This is not to say the rest of the Bible is less important, just to acknowledge that Christians should know what Jesus says about being a Christian. A red-letter Bible simply puts the words Jesus says in red letters. I use a New International Version study Bible for worship on Sundays. I want to encourage everyone to bring your Bibles with you to church every week. Genuine learning means we take what we heard and read and put it into practice until it becomes an integral part of living. We forget most of what we learned in college because we never put the lessons into practice. So I invite you to church. Bring your Bibles. Come ready to listen and to learn.
After a wonderful Veteran’s Day celebration in church Sunday we got to have a pot-luck dinner. Boy those are really good. I remember as a kid growing up how much I liked those. Good memories. And there were lots of children who joined us for the festivities. Thank you to all who made that possible, to the kitchen staff, those who set up, cleaned up, and everyone who made something for us. Great memories for us and for all the children who were there. In our work for the Lord, it is important for us to remember that the memories we create for one another at Wesley become the memories God uses in the life of a child 30 years from now. What we are doing matters. God is watching Wesley and I can confidently say He is smiling. Well done church!
“No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.” Luke 8:16 We who have come to know Jesus have been given the gift of light in our souls. When all around seems like it is dark and difficult, we are the messengers of hope and peace and joy. At times we are called to choose this and willfully battle the forces that bring despair and defeat. Other times hope comes to us as a great gift and we simply respond with thanksgiving. When those around us face difficult time, BE THE HOPE. As I shared Sunday, recently my family has again been tormented with physical ailments, one after another. And our response, :Change the station. Put on a Hallmark Christmas movie, bake some chocolate chip cookies, change the depressing music, do not even look at the negative campaign ads. Be the hope for each other. You really never know what people are facing in life. I have noticed that fewer and fewer people make eye contact in public. Even fewer have anything to say to strangers. Perhaps the world is just waiting for God’s people to BE THE HOPE. Come to church this week and hear how God is working here at Wesley and hope is being spread. THe harvest is plentiful!
I am excited to be sharing with the congregation our “Red Letter Study.” We will begin with Luke, move thru Acts and finish with Revelation. The plan is to look at all of the things Jesus actually said so that we know His teaching. This will take a while to accomplish. I am encouraging everyone to purchase a red letter Bible or get one as a Christmas gift. We will have a case available for purchase starting in December. In a world where the truth seems to be whatever the loudest voice says it is, it is important that as Christians we actually know what Jesus said and try to orient our lives around that teaching. Luke is the perfect place to begin as the gospel of Jesus is propelled to all the nations and salvation made available to all. I want to encourage you to be a vital part of this study. Many of the Real Life Groups will be following the series, so get involved. Give your soul a chance to really know the voice of the savior.
The two secrets of the parables in Matthew are no longer a secret for us. Jesus is the messiah who dies on the cross for the forgiveness of our sin so that we might have everlasting life. This is the central message of all Christians and all of Christianity and it is the only message that matters eternally. We all need to make a decision about Jesus. Why do people have such a hard time really believing this? And I sometimes wonder why people think they can pretend they believe when they know they do not. Why do that? If it is more important to coach baseball, make money, or sip a margarita than it is to humble yourself to the Lordship of Christ, then why show up once in a while? What is the gain in worshipping two or three times a year? Perhaps the second part of the secret of the parables speaks to this. The messiah is coming back to collect what is His. When He comes, there will be a great separation, a discerning that only Jesus can make. For those who willingly asked God to change them and sought transformation into the likeness of the savior, there awaits a great banquet and a celebration of a soul once lost that found its way home. And quite honestly, for those who spent life running after personal gratification and seeking the rewards of this world, they will have already achieved all they can. There is no more. Jesus says, “I never knew you.” And He shuts the door. The pleasures of this world are indeed attractive and ever so appealing to the short term thinker. Deep inside though, we all recognize that eternity is real and Jesus speaks the truth. Somehow many have allowed their soul to become clouded into thinking an occasional showing up or a check once in a while will appease their guilt before God. Jesus says it does not. The only thing that saves us is that we know HIs voice, we have a relationship with Him. We hear HIs voice and acknowledge HIm as Lord and savior and dedicate our lives to serving Him. If you do not know Jesus as Lord, I invite you to ask Him to make a home in your life. Seek Him; He has been waiting for you to come to your senses. FInd like minded Christians and take this journey to eternity with them.
~Grace & Peace~
It is always a wonderful joy to share in the lives of those who get baptized. This past Sunday, we had a wonderful chance to experience all that we have been learning in church when we got to share in the baptism of both a baby and an adult. As a community of faith there is no greater expression of our salvation than baptism. Our corporate expression for both a baby and an adult affirms our belief that salvation is a gift from God, a result of a decision God made on our behalf before the creation of the world. Paul says to the Ephesian church “By grace you have been saved through faith. It is a gift from God not as a result of works lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8 The two sacraments we celebrate, baptism and communion, are the greatest reminders God gives us of His love and our gift of salvation through the sacrifice Jesus makes on the cross. I am so glad so many stayed for the celebration of baptism.