I have been reading about how the church got started in the book of Acts and I have to tell you I am not so sure I would have wanted to be a church starter back then. It did have its highs and lows, like almost everything in life.
On the high side, Peter gave one sermon and the church had 3,000 people. Not quite working like that today. On the low side, they argued over who was going to get their way. Who would get the food offering and who would be left out. On the low side, if the towns people did not like what you were saying they would stone you, not a bad option today some might say. On the high side, if the leader knew you were lying, he could call you into the office and you would die, and so would your wife.
On the high side, you got to live a lot of places because you were always being scattered throughout the region. On the low side, your enemies always seem to know where you went and they would follow you.
So there were lots of ups and downs when starting a church in Acts. There still are today and it is so much fun.
~Grace & Peace~
One of the gifts I was given as a young Christian was being taught to put important scripture verses in my mind and then my heart. I put my first verse in my memory the very first night I was a Christian, Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen.” This verse has visited my mind many times since 1976, most of those times when it came, it was right on cue. It always came when I was struggling with something about life, really cannot even remember all of the details now. What I do remember though is how that verse came to me and what it felt like.
When life is confusing because of circumstances, events, relationships, and each morning carries more pain and hurt, there is something powerful about a verse washing over you, bathing you in hope. You can stay there for hours and it seem like a second. This still happens today. At any moment in time, God can send me a message of hope through a scripture I memorized. It even happens when I am standing on front of the congregation preaching. God sends me a word, something for me, something for you. And that word is always so sweet, so comforting, right on time.
~Grace & Peace~
The Aposte Paul is a brilliant man, well educated, articulate, organized, energetic and charismatic. All of these character traits make for a great leader, but there is only one trait Paul lifts high over and over again to the churches he started and served. It surfaces many times in his letters to the Corinthians, Jesus tells Paul, “My grace is sufficient in you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:8 (beginning) The only thing Paul ever really brags about is his weakness, his trials, being shipwrecked, beaten, stoned, snake bit and imprisoned. Anything that is not a weakness is “garbage” he tells the Philippians. Why?
Being gifted, educated, articulate, energetic, charismatic are wonderful things to have for the humble. They are not so great for the proud. Paul understands that humility keeps us close to God. God blessed Paul with a “thorn in the side,” something that humbled him and would not go away. He asked God on several occasions to intervene, to remove the thorn. God said no, and that was a great blessing to Paul. It kept him humble. Sometimes we bemoan our difficulties in life, our own thorn. It is a far better choice to consider it a path to intimacy with God we would never otherwise have.
So stand with Paul, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:8
~Grace & Peace~
As we read through the New Testament together, I have added a new discipline for my personal study. I am going to memorize one key verse each day and post it on my personal facebook. If you would like to se it, just send me a friend request. I expect this will be rather challenging for me. Monday the verse was Matthew 5:44, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” This is an awesome challenge in theory until you come across someone who does not like you and goes out of their way to ruin your day or even your life. When that happens, you quickly realize just how impossible this is without the Spirit of God giving you strength. I guess that is the point of the whole sermon on the mount. We really cannot do any of those things without help. We sure so need Jesus.
~Grace & Peace~
Brenda and I evacuated to Winter Garden for the hurricane and of course the storm followed us. A tornado touched down just a stone’s throw from my son’s home. Matthew and I walked the neighborhood and helped where we could. Then we got busy working at Matthew’s house cutting up the downed branches, putting his fence back in place. We took a walk to see where the tornado touched down…tremendous damage. What power the wind has to snap a three foot diameter oak tree. Something good came out of the storm for me. I have begun to gain strength in the hope that there are still a lot of good people in this world.
Neighbors who rarely say more than hi to each other became co-workers in the community, helping everyone in need without question. It actually felt a little like church. No one asked political questions or cared the color of our skin, or even thought about our ethnic origins or whether or not we were illegals. We all just helped.
It felt really good to see my children and grandchildren all helping on projects alongside neighbors. There really are some good people out there, and I was honored to be a part of it.
When Wesley GOES out into the community, it is with purpose. When we work together like this, we reveal the kingdom of God– the same kingdom Jesus died to get started.
My neighbor who live above me just asked where we went and told me he drove to North Carolina. Up until now he had not even said hello. We should all be very grateful things were not worse around here, and remember they were far worse in the islands. Be prepared in season and out of season to offer a witness to our Lord. Helping your neighbor is just such a witness.
~Grace & Peace~
As Irma approaches Florida, I got word of a mandatory evacuation for the Keys Wednesday. I took a mission team to help after hurricane Katrina and stood in awe as I looked at the water mark left on the overpass for I 10 12 miles inland, 12 miles inland. I was in shock. Two entire blocks of Bay St Louis Mississippi were simply gone, only the concrete foundations were left. If Irma comes our way, please have a plan to go somewhere.
Riding out a cat 4 or cat 5 storm is really not an option. All of my church family around the Town and Country area, you are in flood zone 1, that means big problems with a storm surge. The church cannot be a safe haven for you as we are in the same flood zone. Find another alternative. I may be crying wolf, but I know what I saw in Mississippi. I stood in the front of the Methodist Church in Bay St Louis that Sunday morning and listened to people searching for loved ones or telling stories of loss.
When we come back together, after the storm, we can share our stories of how God led us through. Use some common sense.
And the storm may just pass us by. I hope so. Through the calm and through the storms, God is with you. Faith leads us from the beginning to the end. God be with you.
“The Lord’s message rang out from you…” There is a glorious affirmation in our lives when we are living on purpose. As we grow in faith and learn what it means to be Christ in the world to others, we begin to realize that what God is doing in our lives has changed our attitudes and our behaviors and almost without really knowing how, people begin to say they are blessed to have us in their lives. The Spirit of the living God begins to “ring out” from us. This is a natural growth from the seed that was planted.
I have always tried to live my life according to God’s purpose for me. When I make decisions, I seek God’s path. Sometimes I have been right and sometimes I have been wrong, and I have learned to know the difference through this very verse. When I am on target, my effort rings out God’s glory; the hard work is easy and the surprises of affirmation directed toward God are many. My exhaustion is met with renewal. When I am off target, my effort rings out self glory or runs to defeat. The pats on the back stop with me and the surprises are more worldly. The hard work is just hard and the exhaustion never ending.
Let’s all pray for one another today, “may our effort ring out glory for our Savior.”
~Grace & Peace~
We are completing our series “Seed of Possibility” this week and I am asking everyone to read John 1:1-14 and Genesis 1:1-3 before coming to church. These passages are intimately connected and speak to the glory of our savior. I look forward to sharing with you this week just how much God cares about you and your life. Be encouraged and know that God has a plan for you and your life and your eternity. Before the world was even created he made a decision about each one of us. He decided we were worth the price of the cross. He paid for our mistakes and as believers, we get to live in the hope of a never ending relationship with Him.
I pray that you draw near to Jesus as He desires to draw near to you. It is far easier to live according to our created purpose than it is to fight against our maker. So run to God, Learn form Jesus, for His yoke is easy and His peace is certain.
~Grace & Peace~
Summer is drawing to a close and it has been HOT!. I know this because school busses are on the road; teachers are back to work; Wal-Mart is filled with school supplies, and parents are busy getting their students ready for a great year. My whole life moves in rhythms and this time of year through the fall has always been my very favorite season. Each fall I am reminded that “for everything there is a season.” One would think moving to Florida would have changed that but no. I still anticipate “Indian summer,” even though it never really cools down until winter.
One of the things I like the most is that everything seems to slow dow. Summers are busy for everyone. The longer I live it seems this never changes. As fall comes, help us Lord to sit down to a different rhythm and spend time in something other than business. So how will we discipline ourselves and to what?
I would encourage you to start some chair time. Spend fifteen minutes a day in a chair with no noise, nothing to read, no planning, no strategizing, just in quiet. It is not as easy as you think and will take a few weeks to develop. I fully expect God to respond to those who have “ears to hear.”