This week I am preparing a lesson on the Apostle John. I have always been struck by how completely different his remembering is from Matthew and the others. John’s gospel is almost completely new from Matthew, Mark and Luke. It’s not that their theology is any different, but their perspective is. Mark just rushes from one event to another. “and then…’ is repeated many, many times. Matthew is written for Jewish people and so is filled with Old Testament illustrations and quotes. Luke has a
Gentile audience and has stories and events specific to Gentiles, The good Samaritan, the lost son, healing stories, the Centurion. John seems like he read these other accounts and simply kept remembering something they forgot.
I have begun wondering just how different we can be from one another and still be citizens of the same kingdom. John seems more interested in the relationships Jesus had with people and so his recollection of an event goes into way more detail and even has some emotional context. He really does see things from a different perspective.
When we realize how important those different perspectives are to God, it allows us clarity to love people who see things differently from us.
My children are very different. Their perspectives on things rarely match. Yet they are both believers and part of my family. Oddly, I never once considered one of them as outside the family, even though I may have disagreed with their perspective. Perhaps we can learn something from this rag tag group of disciples who rarely all saw things the same way,
~ Grace and Peace ~
I do not sit still very well, never have. My mom tells me I used to eat meals walking around the table. I still eat most meals that way. As I sit with Brenda, I get antsy. Ezekiel noticed and pulled me aside. I told him I need something to do. He said, “you are doing something.” “How about you just sit here and relax?”
I am unsure I know how to do that so I could use some prayers.
The Psalmist speaks to me today, “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10. I begin now disciplining myself to rejoice in being still. This is a new world for me and requires great trust. All these years I always just ran to the next thing I needed to do. Now being still is all there is. Here is what I have learned so far, in just a few days.
1. Brenda wants me to be still. That alone is reason enough to learn how to do it.
2. TV, as ludicrous as I see it, can be part of being still.
3. I can be still in shifts now. Maybe in a while I will last a little longer.
4. The most important part of being still is trust. The deeper I trust in God, the more valuable is my being still. Trust leads to a deeper relationship. Stillness with God keeps the light on. In years past whenever I tried to be still with God, we got into an argument. Trust has replaced arguing. I am learning my place at the table. Perhaps as we share communion this week and light candles on Friday, we can begin by simply being still, trusting.
~Grace and Peace ~
Most know by not that Brenda is home from the hospital and hospice has been taking care of her. It is difficult and we appreciate your prayers. I thought I would share with you a way God speaks to me. Anyone who has known me for a long time knows that physical ailments have troubled me family for 40 plus years. Most of the time we have navigated our way through and we will again. Friends have offered words of encouragement many, many times. There have been times when a simple word has struck me. When that happens, I write it down, underline the verses in the scripture, sometimes even putting the date in the margin. Years later as I enter another phase of trouble, what was shared earlier in my life comes back in a flood. This has happened over and over again and it happened again this
When I first moved to Wesley, we were working on rebranding the church with a new logo and website. A friend shared Hebrews 10:35-36 really for herself not knowing it hit me. I underlined it in my Bible and highlighted it a few years later. Earlier this week it was the key verse for one of my morning devotions. “Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. For, ‘in just a little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay.’” Now there is a promise I am counting on, something to look forward to.
It is a good discipline to create a way God can speak clearly to you tomorrow. My discipline and language has always been through the Bible. Over time it becomes so very clear.
~ Grace and Peace ~
I am in the midst of my Lenten dedication and committed to fasting each weekend. This past weekend has been a bit stressful and guess what happened. Monday morning I ate too soon. I gave in. It is not a surprise to me. I know the pattern. I have done this enough to know the way through. Satan would have me give up and consider it a lesson learned and do better next year. God, though, would have me double down confess the mistake and move on toward purity now. If I wait, I compound the sin. By confessing, as I have to you just now, I multiply the chance for growth and God’s kingdom is strengthened, and so am I.
Life happens. It has many ebbs and flows, lots of things stress us and stress is a fertile ground for satan. If you fail to reach a goal, like in 27/90, just get right back at it. When we just toss the spiritual goals aside, it takes so much longer to learn what God is trying to teach us. Stay faithful and that means when you fall, get up and keep walking.
~ Peace and Grace ~
WORD OF ENCOURAGEMENT
I had the privilege Wednesday of sharing a devotion with the CBS here at church and used a passage I will be referring to Sunday. It is such a good word I thought I would share it in writing. Zechariah is a prophet during the time of the exile, after the destruction and he is called by God to offer the people hope for a new beginning. This is when the temple begins to get rebuilt and the city of Jerusalem has an influx of people. In the first chapter, Zechariah challenges the people to believe what God tells them, “If you return to me, I will return to you.” It has been two generations since Jerusalem fell. People have
been in despair for a long time and not everyone is enthusiastic about returning to Jerusalem. Most stay behind.
Those who go bring their despair with them. Moral is low and the work is tedious. Besides, they are building a temple, not a home for their family. In the end, the despair wins out in that generation. It takes a while before Nehemiah comes to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls. One whole generation lives in despair and the learning is, they carry it with them from captivity into freedom. Despair is fertile soil for both satan and God. It can lead to giving up entirely or it can lead to hope. The difference can be in the person and most likely in the leadership.
Wherever you are in life, God promises, “If you return to me, I will return to you. “ He is not far off….
~ Grace and Peace ~
We are officially in Lent now and I promised I would share some of my spiritual disciplines and exercises I practice during this season of the year. Since Lent is a season of sacrifice and awareness, I fast during lent. There are many different kinds of fasts and many reasons God’s people fast. Sometimes we fast for discernment about a major decision or for healing both spiritual and physical. Sometimes we fast for a friend or for direction. Sometimes when people are grieving they fast. Fasting is almost never an act of celebration. It is meant for spiritual renewal, and that happens best with sacrificial decisions. So we give up something for Lent, make a sacrifice. And what is more, we dedicate resources to someone or something to empower the Kingdom of God.
I will be fasting every Monday and invite any who would like to join me. I have already started preparing my body by downsizing portions and eliminating sugars. Each week I will eat a light meal Sunday evening and then have nothing but water until Tuesday morning. I plan to then make an offering of the money I normally would have spent on food ($2.06 every Sunday for an apple fritter for starters). I fully expect this will total more than $100 by Easter. That will be my offering for Lent.
Last year we focused our resources toward a ministry to the Ukranian people which became a ministry to refugees. This year we are dedicating our resources toward a ministry to the Cuban people and specifically to purchase medicines that are scarce. Each family and ministry is being challenged to raise funds from now thru Easter and all of the proceeds will be used to purchase medicines that will be sent through the district coordinator in Cuba and then distributed to the communities through the Methodist churches. Together we can make a big difference.
~ Grace and Peace ~
We are entering the season of lent, a time for reflection, repentance, and renewal. Many people are familiar with the concept of giving something up for Lent but sometimes do not really know why. The spiritual discipline of sacrifice is at the core of lent. God’s people spend more time praying, studying the scripture, fasting, practicing sacrificial giving. Often people will make a 40 day commitment to something that starts Ash Wednesday, this coming Wednesd ay February 22. We will have a special service at 7 pm in the sanctuary to begin our Lenten season. Each of us should consider this a season of sacrifice that leads to renewal. Here are some ideas:
1. Read through one of the Gospels before Easter.
2. Help a neighbor with a project between now to Easter
3. Fast one day a week and seek God’s guidance for a decision. (I will be fasting every Monday if any one wants to join me. Let me know and I can give a little guidance).
4. Simply give up something that is a regular part of your life and dedicate the sacrifice to a cause, like medicines for Cuba: Starbucks Coffee, eating out, candy or donuts, etc…
5. Start each morning with a prayer for discernment: “Lord help me be aware today of your movement in my life and those around me.”
6. Go out of your way to encourage someone every day.
7. Call someone you need to reconcile with
8. Write a note to your parents if they are still alive and thank them. Share a great growing up memory. If your parents are gone, write a sibling or a friend.
9. Tell someone in your life you love them. Give a hug.
10. Memorize one Bible verse a week.
What I do every Lent is give up one thing in favor of something else. Usually, I change out something that is not so helpful for something that actually helps.
Make this Lent a season of spiritual focus and growth.
~Grace and Peace ~
At my men’s Bible study last Wednesday, someone said something that opened a memory channel for me and I got up and went into my office to find a poem I had not remembered in 45 years. I find that amazing. Something stored in my mind, not used, still there and it just seeps out. The poem meant a lot to me as I was deciding to go into the ministry. “The Collar” written by George Herbert is a poem written by an Anglican priest who served at the same parish for over 50 years. Having been here at Wesley now almost 10, it puts my tenure into perspective. He knew every story of every person, their children and even their grandchildren. Every victory, every defeat. The birth of each child and the grief they each felt in their lives. He knew their journey. The poem is about pressing on…finding Godly strength to endure…trusting in His provision and not your strength, or in some cases weakness. It reallywas quite timely. The men tolerated me as I read it aloud. I really do not know what it meant to them. We moved on pretty quickly because I know most men are not really poets.
I wonder if such rememberings happen for you. I am quite sure they do. Perhaps it would be a good practice to ask God to help you remember what your soul really needs to remember. This week is communion, a week we say the wors, “do this in remembrance of Me.” Before we gather Sunday, take some time to ask God to help you remember something. If appropriate, share what comes to mind. Honestly, I am more likely to remember spontaneously than I am to will my memories into existence. Talking with people who have known me a long time often helps, especially if we start telling stories. Remembering is such a good spiritual discipline and we rarely give it the attention it deserves.
This Sunday in church we will be remembering Jesus. There are visuals and symbols galore to spark our rememebering: the candles, the Bible, the bread, the cup, and of course, the cross. I am so very glad Wesley has a cross central in the sanctuary. Allow it Sunday to help your soul remember; Jesus gave us His all.
~Grace and Peace~
Recently I read Psalm 88. It ends, “You have taken from me friend and neighbor—darkness is my closest friend.” Psalm 88:18
I have known many people who understand this on a deep level. I do. It is not a rejection of faith but faith with a bullhorn. In darkness is when we believe more deeply and most powerfully because it is there that we have no strength of self. We are undone. No matter which way we turn, there is only darkness. Trusted friends disappear for no one really wants to be next to us. I have stood with people I love through these days, usually saying almost nothing.
This past week two people close to me talked about the darkness, perhaps because they knew I understood. They both heard me say, “hello darkness my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again…” If we are not careful, or enter the darkness without faith, it can and will own us. Faith is that still small spark, something I cannot touch or see. I know not when it comes but I have learned the source. When all around us is harder that we can bear, faith resonates with the invisible within. Deep calls out to deep.
I believe not for my eternity. I believe because it helps me know I am walking toward the light. Each and every step of faith I take brings me closer to the unseen. I know the sun will rise. If not today, then in my forever. If for no other reason, this is sufficient for faith to be mine and I am grateful.
`Grace and Peace~
I have been preparing three lessons a week now for a while and reading my daily devotional. It just happens the devotional I am reading is right in the place where I am preparing. I always take that as a push from God to share.
Jeremiah 29:11 is familiar to many of us. “For I know the plans I have for you” declares the
Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Nine years ago, this was our key verse for our future campaign. The context is quite
astounding. The people of Jerusalem have been taken captive and are exiled in Babylon. Their holy city sacked and burned, many they knew, family, have been killed. Jeremiah had warned them of this because of their disobedience, yet they did not repent. In preparation for captivity, God tells the people through Jeremiah to go there and “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters: find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage so that they too may have sons and daughters. “ Jeremiah 29:5-6.
It sounds to me like God intends His chosen people to be in exile a long time,
generations maybe. How does that lead to “I have plans to prosper and to bless you?”
Often in life we only see what affects us. Rarely do we see ourselves as a player in a much
larger, longer game, a part of a plan that takes thousands of years to fulfill. And yet that is
exactly what we are for God, a part of a much larger plan. Each person, each generation, each civilization all play a part in the plan. Our work today is to believe THE PLAN is to bless His people, no matter what our immediate part in the plan might be. That is called trust.
I want to encourage you to trust the Lord for His goodness. He knows what He is doing.
~Peace and Grace ~