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 ~
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.
~ Peace and Grace ~
Matthew 1:22 says, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophets.” Rarely do we see Christmas as the fulfillment of a plan, yet that is exactly what it is. Before the creation of the world, God established the salvation plan and believers would be saved through a child, the man/God who came from heaven. And definitively, once and for all the supernatural intersected the physical world. Jesus was born.
Writing my parents each week has been a tremendous exercise as I deliberately stir memories that have been dormant for decades. Christmas if full of hidden jewels for me and I am ever increasingly thankful for my parents and my own family. Today I am remembering travelling with Brenda and my children. We worked just outside of Philly and my parents lived in Virginia. The church we served had a midnight candle lighting service I led. We would pack up the car before church, have the kids all bundled, and as soon as church was over, we would be on the road. The one year I most remember I forgot to fill up the car in advance. Have you ever tried to get gas on Christmas Eve in the 1980’s? Nothing was open.
We got within ten miles of my parents before we ran out of gas and this was before cell phones. Needless to say, it was precarious. All we could do was wait. We waited about thirty minutes and my dad showed up. He got anxious when we were late and came looking for us at 1 am, on Christmas morning. Remembering can be such a celebration. Of course, everyone tells me that is not exactly what happened. Does not matter to me. I am so thankful my memories make me smile.
I pray you make a memory this year that will make someone smile in the decades to come.
Dec. 15, 2022
This week in church we will be learning about God’s love for us. One of my favorite promises in thescripture is Romans 8:35: “nothing can separate us from God’s love.” That is a great verse to hang onto in good times and in bad. If you read the whole passage in Romans 8, It will give you chills, especially when you consider what Paul endured.
The best spiritual exercise I have worked through these last few years has been to memorize the great promises God has for my life. The words fly back into my soul at just the right moment. In addition to Romans 8:35, here are three that have hit me this year:
- Romans 15:13 “May the God of all hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that
you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
- John 14:3 “I will come back and take you to be with me.”
- John 14:18 “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you.”
All three have hit me at just the right time, just as someone I loved needed to hear it. I have learned over the years to anticipate the promises of God coming to me just when I need them, or more important, when someone I love needs them. Pick one promise between now and the end of the year and memorize it, or just write it down and carry it with you. You just neve know when God can use His word to help someone.
~Grace & Peace~
In listening through the Old Testament again, I heard words many of us have read in the book of Daniel. Three Godly men refuse to bow to the idol Nebuchadnezzar erected in the desert and are about to be thrown into the fiery furnace. “Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, ‘Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up?’…To which they said, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:13-18
To hear the King call out your name in a rage must have been terrifying. Yet it does not seem to phase the three men. Clearly they were prepared for this before the confrontation. They spoke as one. There is a great lesson in this for Christians today. In the heat of the battle is probably not the best time to decide what you think or believe. Should the enemy call out your name, I hope there are two or three other names right there with yours. The fellowship of believers is for fighting spiritual battles, that we may serve as one together against the only enemy we have.
You are invited to our fellowship lunch October 30 at noon in the fellowship hall. Know this is about far more than salads and desserts.
Until recently, I had not realized that one of the things Jesus does is use my encouragement for you not only today as you need it, but he saves it for tomorrow. That is such a comforting thought and it adds a new dimension to my work as a pastor. So today I would like to encourage you to invite someone to church for Easter, not just so that they can have a great Easter morning, but so that God can have an opportunity to alter their eternity. On Easter I will be sharing about how wisdom builds a house that lasts forever. Easer is the number one day people are willing to answer yes to your invitation to attend church. We have created beautiful invitation cards for you to use. We are going to have a great brunch as an opportunity for you to sit with your guests and for us to meet them with extreme hospitality. This is your chance to be involved in changing someone’s eternity. Bring someone on Easter. There will be two services: 9 am and 11:15 with brunch in between. Children’s promiseland at both services this Easter. Lets give God a great chance to get to work.
“We must not be led to believe that the Disciplines are only for spiritual giants and hence beyond our reach. Far from it. God intends the Disciplines of the spiritual life to be for ordinary human beings: people who have jobs, who care for children, who wash dishes and mow lawns.” Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline. I have had quite a few people respond to the sermon series on discipline from Luke. Several talk with me as though I am sharing something beyond their ability to either understand or accomplish. Nothing could be further from the truth. Take the example I used Sunday. Penny gave me a hug as soon as she saw me. I get to feel the hug and her love for me, and it feels good. What we fail to realize in the moment is that Jesus takes that act of love and saves it for me, for when I need it, in deep places, when life is hard. That is not so difficult to understand and any one of us can give someone a hug, send a card of encouragement to a friend, stand by someone when others leave. We can all do that. It is just discipline. Every meal Herman and the men make, every bag Jamie and Pack a Sack fills, every card you all sent to Brenda, all of it gets saved, stored up, lined up for a powerful moment of worship. We do not do these things to get a thank you from those we help. We do it because we never know which act of love is going to be remembered in deep dark places when someone needs God.
I am encouraged by my God. Every day! A great lesson for me right now is, “today is the only day you have right now, so make it a good one.” It is not like there are not days when I feel discouraged. There are. It is just that now I know what I need to do on those days. Wanna know? The whole of it lies in a simple word, trust. I have come to trust that today is a day the Lord has made, so I will rejoice and be glad in it. Even though my heart may be sad, my soul can rejoice. The reality of this overflows in all of scripture, old and new testaments, men and women, prophets, kings, slaves and priests. Nearly everyone comes to the same conclusion. And though each of us may travel a different difficult path to get to the answer, the answer is the same for all of us. So friends, this is the very best day God has in store for you. Make the most of it. Rejoice and be glad.