Happy New Year everyone,
We often begin the New Year with hope and aspiration toward a fresh start for something. Gyms are filled, salads at Publix are scarce, and Dunkin Donuts has absolutely no donuts! Because they are cutting back. This might be a great time to make a commitment to a steady reading of God’s word. We live in a society that increasingly believes that truth is what they decide for themselves. Fewer and fewer people believe God establishes what is absolute truth. Christians believe God sets the standard and we should trust in Him. We need to be diligent in learning from His words and much of what we believe is true
comes from the teaching of Jesus and Paul.
I have a few things to offer that I have been working on these last few years:
- Listen to the Bible when you are driving. I use the Bible app on my phone and was able to listen through the entire Bible three times in 2022. Set a goal to listen through one time.
- We are recreating the 27/90 series from several years ago. If you have completed this before, commit with someone to do it together. If you have not done the series, we read through the entire New Testament in 90 days. All of the teaching is recorded so you can actually go at your own pace. There is a short devotional learning for each day and two more thorough teachings each week. We begin January 9. Set a goal to complete the series this year.
- Take notes!!!! Writing something down increases the chances of it doing you some good
tenfold. Get yourself a gift for the New Year, a notebook for spiritual lessons and key verses.
Keep it at your bedside table, bring it to church, set it on your desk at work.
- We are planning three series this year in church:
A. Lessons from the Garden part two. These are lessons Jesus teaches using illustrations
B. Messianic Prophecies fulfilled. These are Old Testament prophesies Jesus fulfills
C. People Jesus changed: Gospel characters whose lives were changed be meeting Jesus.
- One of the disciplines I will be introducing this year will be witnessing to our faith. Begin to
think through how Jesus has changed your life. Take a few notes.
I am looking forward to an exciting year in ministry with you. We press on toward the goal. Our mission is to make disciples who live and love like Jesus.
I love being your pastor,
Word of Encouragement
Hello Wesley Family,
As I look into the future through a dark glass, I see only blurred images of what might be. Melville called this “glimpses of a mortally intolerable truth.” I see dimly things that that I hope to see more clearly soon. Perhaps Wesley may feel a little of this right now. Without a firm foundation, these blurry thoughts can create anxiety. None of us really knows what tomorrow holds.
So here is what I am doing and perhaps it will help you.
I “take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Philippians 3:12 I have absolute certainty that Jesus has a hold on me and it is that certainty that will bring clarity into the tomorrow He alone can see and a day He holds firmly for me, and for you. Paul continues, “I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.” Phil. 3:13 I have chosen to believe, “to press on” as Paul says. Wesley too will press on. We will each new day continue to take hold of the future we do not yet see clearly. We press on firmly believing God alone holds our tomorrow. For me, pressing on takes the form of getting out of bed each day. I make my bed every morning so that I know I accomplished something early. I stay in my devotions, pray for my family and friends, learn from the word, take a walk, meet a
few people and offer encouragement and hope, piddle in the yard, spend time with my family, prepare a word for my church family. None of that has really changed.
I encourage you: PRESS ON.
I love being your pastor,
I have had several ask about the allegory of the forest. Here it is.
I went to John Chestnut Park before sunrise on Tuesday and parked where I knew there was an open field. I could hear the sound of the antlers of two buck raking one another, each trying to proclaim dominance. When the sun came up, I saw there were actually six deer in the field. The two buck, two does and two fawns who had just lost their spots. The buck fought fiercely and I could hear them snorting at one another. Each was certain he had the dominant claim to the territory and the harem. One of the does ran over to the buck, almost as if to intervene, and the two buck instantly stopped fighting and together ran her off. The fawns were off playing and accidently got too close to the fighting buck. Again, the buck stopped fighting and together ran off the children as if to say this is grown up
stuff we are doing here.
I began my walk and noticed a cardinal on a palm branch, all alone and simply waiting for the next seed to drop, confident in the coming provision. A little further along there were three does, not a care in the world, grazing near one of the pavilions, everyone getting along splendidly.
The allegory mirrors society, people in power, politics, the church, and even my drive into church down I-4 every day. We cannot seem to overcome our innate need for domination, at least some cannot. The church should not see itself from a position of power. We are called to be with the persecuted, even more, we are called to be the persecuted. As often as I try to intervene, I just get run off. So be it. I will be OK even if I walk alone.
I love being your pastor,
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 ~