In my devotional time recently I have been using a workbook called, The Workbook of Living Prayer by Maxie Dunnam. It is part of the ACTS ACADEMY class and we use it to help us learn more about prayer. The book has been helpful and as I reflected on the material in the book it has encouraged me to continue to grow in my own prayer life.
Recently I was involved in a conversation with several people when one person asked, “Do you believe in prayer, that it really works?” My first reaction was an immediate “Yes!”, and the conversation then somehow was turned away from the topic of prayer to another topic. It has been several days since that conversation, but I am constantly being drawn back to the question, “Do I believe in prayer?” The answer is still the same, but I am asking myself why do I believe in prayer? In Dunnam’s book he writes on page 18, “Things happen when we pray that do not happen when we don’t pray.” I believe that is true. I have seen many examples of what I believe are answers to pray. I do not have the time or the paper or the memory to recount all of the answers to prayer that I have witnessed in my life. Someone might say, “But those things could have happened anyway, even if you didn’t pray.” My friends, I believe in a God who hears us when we pray. I believe He also is a God who answers us. He does not always answer my prayers in the way I would like for Him to answer, or in the time I would like for them to be answered, but He does answer.
I was reminded of this again on Sunday. It was United Methodist Women’s Sunday and I was not preaching. I had the rare privilege of sitting with my wife in the worship service. As the service concluded I turned to leave and coming down the outside aisle of the church was Stephanie Peteritis. My mind immediately raced back to a December night at the ICU unit at Hillcrest Hospital. As Chris Peteritis and I were preparing to leave the hospital a nurse stopped us to talk about Stephanie. She wanted us to understand how sick Stephanie really was. She told Chris that he might want to consider bringing Stephanie’s children in to see her because she might not make it through the night.
Several weeks and months later, and following thousands of prayers being prayed by many different people, Stephanie is here and continuing on the path of recovery. Do I believe in prayer? Oh yes, I believe in the God who heard us and is still answering our prayers, and I saw another powerful reason why I believe on Sunday. Praise God.
Keep on praying, God is not finished yet.
I have been thinking lately about the question, “How does one know the will of God?” As a church we are embarking on a major decision about leasing the McKinley Elementary School and starting the McKinley Community Outreach Center. How do we know this is God’s will? How can we be sure this is something we really should be doing now when finances are tight and the future is still somewhat uncertain?
As I have looked at the scriptures I have concluded that we can know the will of God about some things. We know according to scripture that God wants all people to be saved, or to know Him personally. (I Timothy 2:3,4; II Peter 3:9). We also know that we are to make disciples of all nations, this is the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20. Jesus commands us to feed the hungry and to care for the poor among us.
So we can agree that there are some things we know for sure that we as a church are called to do in order to accomplish the will of God. We as a church have made a bold statement that we believe God’s will for the Willoughby United Methodist Church is to love and serve God, make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of lives. That is why we exist, that is our mission. So will McKinley help us to do what we believe is the will of God? I think we can agree that it will.
But should it be McKinley and should it be now? How can we know if it is God’s will for us to take this bold step of faith? As the leaders of the church who have been elected to serve you and to serve God, we have prayed and we have been in conversation about this decision. We have asked God to lead us and to give us wisdom as we have presented ourselves to Him to hear His word and to speak to us. After much time and much prayer we believe God is leading us as a church to take this bold step. Will it stretch us? Oh yes it will. Will it be easy? No, it will not be easy, but we have not been called to take the easy way. Will God be with us? We have no doubt about God’s presence being with us always. So we go forward, walking through the doors that God will open for us.
I believe this is God’s will for us as a church. I am not God, I do not claim that I have special knowledge or that I know more about God’s will than anyone else. I am only trying to be faithful to what I believe God is calling me as your pastor to do. This is a decision we have come to as the Administrative Board of women and men who are seeking to follow God. Pray for us, and pray for God’s will to be done.
I had an interesting experience not very long ago. In December I was invited to visit the Enrichment class of our Preschool here at the church. I was given the wonderful opportunity to share the Christmas Story. As I spoke with the children some of them were already familiar with the story of Mary and Joseph and angels and shepherds and the manger in Bethlehem. But, some of the children did not know the Christmas story. Some of the children looked at me as if I were telling them another make believe story from Disney or Aesop’s Fables. They had no concept of who God is and why He came to earth as a baby.
I still remember how I felt as I left those classes in December. I felt upset, angry, confused and a little frustrated. I found myself asking, “How am I going to relate the Christian story of my faith to three and four year olds”? If I can’t communicate the story to three and four year olds how do I expect to communicate to adults? Have you ever felt that way? Have you tried to share your faith with someone only to walk away feeling really inadequate?
I started thinking about how Jesus told people about God, His Father. Here is what I thought of, He showed them God’s love, and then He told them of God’s love for them. In many of the scenes from the gospels we read of Jesus doing acts of mercy and kindness. When people would ask Him why He was doing these acts, He then would teach them about His Father.
I wonder if there is a lesson here for us. Someone once said more things that are learned are caught than taught. We are taking a bold step of faith as a church to be more intentional about sharing the love of God. We have made the decision to lease from the Willoughby/Eastlake School District the former McKinley Elementary School. The reason for this decision is so we can be the hands and feet of Jesus in our community and to continue the ministry of demonstrating the love of God to as many people as we can. There will be much more information to come about this exciting new outreach ministry in the future. But for now let’s get out there in the world and show the people around us how much God loves them. “For God demonstrated His love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8.
See you in church,
A story is told of a father and his son who loved to talk about different places around the world. One year for Christmas the boy received a globe as a gift from his father. From extended use the axis on the globe was loose and as the young boy was sleeping one night his father came in to get the globe so he could repair it. As he was leaving the bedroom the young boy woke up and asked, “Daddy what are you doing with my world?” The father quickly replied, “I’m taking it so I can fix it, then I will give it back to you.”
I am writing this article two days after the tragedy at Newtown, Connecticut. As I think about those small children who unfortunately were witnesses to something no child should see, I am wondering if some of our children might be asking that question of us, “What are you doing with my world?”
We live in a time when the directional shift of the culture seems to be moving to eliminate any mention of God in the public setting. We have removed prayer from schools. There are several law suits filed that seek to remove any religious scene from government buildings or properties. Regularly I hear of legal action taken against school boards, administrations and students to ensure that prayer is not offered at graduation or any school function. And I wonder where these decisions are leading us?
Are we capable of fixing the world and giving it to our children and grandchildren? Are the actions we are taking and the direction we seem to be heading in making the world a better place, a safer place?
I would like to try and address some of these questions in a sermon series I plan on preaching in January 2013. I invite you to come and think with me on the theme, “Hope For A Broken World”. Maybe the Bible, a book that is very old, has some new answers for us living in the 21st century.
See you in church,
Recently I found myself thinking about pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns. The thought that came to mind was, “What does it take to make a jack-o-lantern?” One must be willing to take a perfectly good pumpkin and take out the perfectly good stuff that is inside of it. That means you must be willing to make a mess and to do the hard work that is necessary to create something brand new and different out of something that seemed to be just fine the way it was. And then you put a candle inside of the empty shell so that it can provide light so others can find their way.
As I was thinking about jack-o-lanterns, here is the thought that came to mind: is that what God does to us? When I turned to God, He took me as I was. Too many people, what they saw when they looked at me from the outside was perfectly good. But then God patiently began to do the messy work of carving out all the old stuff that was inside of me and very painfully removing what I had grown accustomed to. He was taking away my pride and my selfishness that always caused me to put myself before others. He started to take away my desires and wants that had me thinking and working to get the things that pleased me.
I must admit that this is still an ongoing work of the Lord, and yes, it is painful. But in place of what was once inside of me now is an empty space. What was God going to put in this empty space in my life? What He did was put Himself in there. With all the old stuff inside of me before, there was no room for God. He had to re-move the old stuff so that my life would have the necessary room for Him.
I John 1:5 says, “God is light; in Him there is no darkness.” When God came into my heart, He brought light into my life. And just like a good jack-o-lantern, I want my life to shine so that others can find their way to God.
Shining for Jesus,
Have you ever had one of those days when you knew God was really paying attention to your prayers? Yes I know that God hears us when we pray, and I also know that God answers our prayers. But every once in a while He does something that just knocks my socks off. Let me ex-plain.
Recently during one of my quiet times, I was praying. Many times in my prayers I have a list of concerns; prayers for the church, prayers for others, praying for families and maybe prayers for myself. But on this morning I was just talking with the Lord. I said “Lord, would you let me serve you by serving other people today? Maybe those people will be at the church, in my own home, or wherever you can use me.” And I started my day.
When I arrived at the church, I no sooner made it to my desk when someone needing help was asking to talk to a pastor. Listening to her story I soon recognized her immediate need. Her need was something we were able to help her with and thus to serve her. As I was walking out the door I encountered a group of students who come to the church once a week to help us with our bulletins. These students have special needs and this busy morning what they needed was to introduce themselves to the pastor and talk for a few moments. As I shook hands with each of them I thought who is serving who? They needed a little of my time, but they are so eager to serve us and yet very few people even know that they are serving us.
Sometimes we serve others and sometimes others serve us. Sometimes the service will be easy and sometimes the service required will be beyond what you can do and you might have to ask for help. Sometimes you might be recognized for your service and sometimes you might have to serve in private.
God answered my prayer that morning and I am so glad He did.
See you in church,
Do you ever get discouraged? There is a line in an old hymn, “What A Friend We Have In Jesus,” that says we should never be discouraged. I am afraid that is a hard command for me to keep. Let me share a recent story.
A little while ago I was on one of my morning exercise routines. I was jogging and most times when I jog I am praying or thinking about the next “big” thing on my schedule. Well on this day I was jogging and talking to myself. The conversation I was having with myself was over what in the world was I doing out here early in the morning, when it was so hot and humid, and was this exercise really doing me any good any way?
It was one of those conversations that I have regularly with myself to talk myself into doing what I know I ought to be doing. (Does that sound familiar, do you do that?) I had stopped running and now I was walking as I rounded Grove Ave. onto Second Street. I started to jog again when I saw him, the man pushing a walker, wearing his Texas Longhorns tee shirt and turning from McKinney Ave. right into my path on Second Street. I ran up behind him and walked with him for a few steps and extended my hand and said, “Hello Terry, how are you doing today?” He turned to me and said, “Oh, hi Reverend.” Yes, it was Terry Daniels out for his morning walk around the block.
Needless to say, I did not have to talk to myself the rest of the way home. Terry became for me exactly what I needed, a word of encouragement, and he did not have to say a word, his actions spoke volumes.
That experience caused me to think:
¨ Do you have people in your life who serve as encouragers? Does their life speak to you without saying a word? I would love to hear your story.
¨ Are you allowing your life to be an encouragement to someone else?
The Bible says we are not to grow weary in doing what is right. My brothers and sisters, some of you are tired and you may be talking to yourselves about why you are doing what you are doing. Don’t give up! Look for those signs of encouragement, you might be surprised at who you may see.
See you in church, or out for a walk,
Last month I shared with you about our granddaughter learning to ride her bicycle without the training wheels. I wrote about the fear that she needed to overcome in order to be able to ride her bike free of the training wheels, and I made the correlation between Emmi’s breakthrough and our spiritual walk with the Lord.
This month I want to think about staying at a place where we feel comfortable instead of trusting God and allowing our faith to grow. Emmi could have continued to ride her bike with training wheels. If she so desired she could ride a bike with training wheels well into her adult years. Most of us would think that would be silly, unnatural, or even childish, and we would be right.
For a Christian to stay where they are instead of moving to the next stage of development is unnatural, maybe even childish. To move beyond what is comfortable requires a person to take a risk and to try something new that may be scary and even difficult at first.
The Bible tells this wonderful story of the disciples in a boat when they see Jesus walking on the water. The story is found in Matthew 14, and it says when Peter saw Jesus walking on the water he said, “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water.” What do you think Jesus said, “No, Peter, stay where you are comfortable; this might be too hard for you?” No! He said, “Get out of the boat!”
Am I talking to anybody yet? The easiest thing for us to do is to stay where we are in our Christian walk with Christ. We might be comfortable sitting in a pew, sitting in a class; we choose to let someone else lead, let someone else teach. The problem with that response is that you will not grow. It is not natural, and it may be childish. Maybe it is time for you to step out of the boat which is your comfort zone and take a walk with Jesus on the water. Maybe you need to remove the faith training wheels you have been trusting in for years and experience the freedom that comes when you trust Jesus and take that risk to follow Him.
Just something to think about.
See you in church,
Something happened at our house recently that got me thinking about my walk with the Lord. Our granddaughter Emmi rode her bicycle without the training wheels for the very first time.
For a few months we had tried to convince her to let us take off the training wheels, but each time she responded with a strong opinion and sometimes with tears. And each time the answer was the same, “No”. But finally the day came when she said yes, as long as I did not let go of her seat. The first few attempts were a little wobbly. She fell and she got back on the bike and we tried again. And then the shouts of success, I can still see her face, and hear her cries of joy, “Whee, this is so much fun. Look at me, I’m doing it.” I watched with pride and rejoiced that she had taken another step to what is a natural process of growing up as a child. Then I did what I usually do, I began to think about the correlation between Emmi’s ride to freedom and my walk with the Lord.
I thought about all that it took for Emmi to ride that bike. She had to overcome her fears. She had to let go of her fear of falling, her fear of failure, and her fear of trying something new. Next she had to let go of her past successes. Yes, she knew how to ride the bike with training wheels on it, but that was not going to help her now. And she had to trust me and her mother who told her she could do it, and that we would help her by holding on and not letting her fall.
I want to continue to think about this correlation in the future issues of the Broadcaster, but for now let me leave you with this thought. When was the last time you took the next natural step in your walk with the Lord? Have you felt Jesus calling you into a new place and are you feeling a little fearful about what that might mean? What would it take for us to take the spiritual training wheels off of our lives and trust Jesus to be there for us? Think about that and let’s talk some more the next time.
Do you need help? That is what the sign said. I saw it the other day as I was out for my morning walk. This sign was stapled to a telephone pole. Most signs are at eye level, but not this one, it was at knee level. I was curious, so I stopped to look closer. It was from someone who wanted to help other people. Here is what I found:
Do you need… Dog Walking, Light Yard Work, Someone to bring in your trash cans, newspaper or mail while you are on vacation? 8 (almost nine) year-old boy available.
I love that sign! When I saw it I thought of the church (it is an occupational habit). Many people have different opinions of why the church exists. For some they see the church as a museum for the saints, for some it is the club you join to enjoy the perks (no pun intended). There are some people who see the church as a building you go to, and there are some that see the church as a religious organization that exists to promote a certain agenda.
But what if we were like that little entrepreneur who posted his sign on the telephone pole? What if we saw ourselves as people who had the gifts and abilities to help other people? What if we saw ourselves as a hospital for hurting people? What if we actually believed we existed for the purpose of being the hands and arms of Jesus Christ placed in this community? Could we make a difference? Would Willoughby and the surrounding communities be different because a group of people who claim to be the body of Jesus Christ really had a burden and a desire to help people? Do you need help? Do you know someone who does? Do you think we might be able to help?
I was just wondering,
Recently I found myself in a reflective state of mind. I saw an award presentation where the person who had won an award was now giving recognition to all the people who helped them achieve this honor. The list of names went on and on until their allotted time was up and they were led off the stage. You have probably seen similar instances.
What struck me about this particular event were the people being named. They thanked their producer and director, writers and fellow band members and crew and then a list of people that nobody in the audience would recognize upon hearing their names. The honoree thanked their mom and dad, fellow siblings and several friends who gave them encouragement and friendly advice along the way.
People that nobody knew made a difference in one person’s life so that this one person could become somebody that was worthy of honor or notoriety. That is an awesome reality and I love the fact that this happens over and over again.
As I reflected on that thought, I made some initial observations. You and I are persons of honor…in God’s sight anyway. I, like many of you, will never be on a stage and identified as a famous person (and I am more than okay with that). But I began to ask myself who am I helping to become a person worthy of honor; and who are those people in my life that I need to be thanking now, without waiting for some special occasion?
During the next several weeks we will be looking at biographies of famous people found in the Old Testament. As I look at these stories of great men and women of the faith I will also be looking for the people that nobody else will recognize when their name is said or read. All of these people matter to God, and by the way, so do you!
See you in church,
Recently I found some time to get away to pray and think about the upcoming sermon series after Easter. As I was thinking about those services, I had a very difficult time trying to move past Easter.
For us who identify ourselves as Christians, Easter is the highlight of the year. It is our New Year’s Eve in Times Square, our Super Bowl, World Series, Final Four, and Daytona 500 all wrapped up into one. Easter is the coronation and the foundation of our faith, but for some reason I think most of us miss its real significance.
The early church understood the significance of Easter and so they set aside every Sunday, the day that Jesus rose from the dead, as a “little Easter.” The Apostle Paul writes that if Jesus were not raised from the dead, then our faith is in vain. He also writes that the gospel is: Jesus who lived, Jesus who died and Jesus who has been raised from the dead.
I was reminded of the significance of Easter as I stood before a grieving family and had the privilege of proclaiming the wonderful good news of our faith. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, you and I have the hope and the promise that someday we too shall be raised with Him to eternal life.
We are called to live as Easter people. I think that means we are to live a life that gives witness to the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. God has shown His love for us in the giving of His very own Son, and He has demonstrated His power in raising Him from the dead. If we believe that this is true, then Easter should impact every day of our lives, not just one Sunday out of the year. We are called to be people of hope in a God who is able to do the impossible because He has done that over and over again.
I am so looking forward to gathering with the people of God who believe in the Christ who was raised from the dead and want to see that power demonstrated in their lives every day. I hope you will come to worship looking for that to happen, believing for that to happen and waiting for that to happen in your life.
See you in church,
I have been thinking lately about how often I am caught off guard by upcoming events. I am talking about those events that you know are coming, but when they come for some reason you are surprised at how quickly they have arrived. Specifically, I am thinking about the Season of Lent. I knew it was coming, it comes every year, but this year it seems to have caught me by surprise.
Lent is a season that we use in the church to direct our thoughts and attention to the passion and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the One who died to pay the debt for our sins. In this season we talk about sacrifice and penance. We take on new disciplines such as a Lenten Bible study or fasting and give up some old habits and pleasures. It is a season of reflection and searching as we seek to draw closer to the One who loved us so much that He gave His Only Son.
During this season I want to invite you to come and join us as we learn lessons from those who have gone before us as they found themselves in the wilderness places of life. You know those places. You have been there yourself in various times and seasons of your life. They were times of great temptation, and doubt and disappointment and you wandered around looking for the way out and wondered if there was a way.
The Bible is filled with stories of those who wandered in wildernesses and found grace and salvation, hope and strength. I want to share those stories with you because they can be an encouragement and a guide for us today. So come along and join us as we read through the Bible and talk about real people with real struggles who find real peace in the arms of a real God.
See you in church,
I send you greetings of peace and grace in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord.
As you may or may not know the Willoughby United Methodist Church has been experiencing a process of transition for the past two to three years. There have been changes in the senior minister, the associate minister, the youth position, the Christian Education position and the accountant just to name a few.
In this time of transition at the church I also realize that many in our church family have also been experiencing periods of change. The world around us seems to be in constant turmoil and change. I have heard it said that the only constant in our world is change. For some of you that change has come in the form of your finances due to job loss. For others of you the change has come in the loss of a loved one or the ending of a marriage. I know that for many the change has occurred in the arrival of a new baby or the watching of that baby going off to college. In some way change has entered your home and that can be difficult.
My purpose in writing this letter is two-fold. First, I want to remind you that in our world of change God is always the same. The one constant we can count on is God’s Presence. The second purpose for this letter is to introduce a new ministry I want to share with you.
I want you to know that as your pastor I pray for you constantly. I love being your pastor and I love serving the Lord with you. As part of my prayer time in 2012, I want to pray more specifically for you and your family. Here is how I am proposing to do that. Each week we will identify five families that I will be praying for specifically for one week, in my morning prayer time. Those five families will receive a letter with an enclosed card and instructions. I only ask that you will return the enclosed card before the designated week so that I can have those prayer requests to include in my prayers for you. I will keep your requests confidential, just between you, me and the Lord. If you do not have specific requests, please know that I will be lifting your name and your family before the Lord the entire week.
I hope this will be a comfort to you and in some small way remind you of my love for you, and God’s love for us.
May this year be a time of blessing for you and your family,
Good morning, Family.
I have been thinking lately about how awesome of a story the Bible is. I love sharing the stories of the Bible with people in many different settings. I also love the way some people respond when they hear about a story they did not know was in the Bible.
There is an old hymn entitled “I Love to Tell the Story” that talks about telling the story to those who know it best and to those who have never heard. That is a great thing about the Bible; it can relate to people at whatever level they may be in their life.
This got me thinking. What if we could read through the Bible in a year as a congregation and preach each Sunday from what was being read by the entire church? I know there are some in our congregation who have read through the Bible many times. I also know that there are some in our congregation who have never read through the Bible, not to mention in a year. So this is my challenge: commit yourself to set aside thirty minutes a day, and let’s start on a journey that I believe could be the most exciting journey you may have ever experienced.
The goal is to read through the Bible in one year, starting on January 1, 2012. Each day we will read three chapters, except on Sundays when we will read four chapters. We will start in Genesis in the Old Testament and make our way through the Bible together. We will switch to the New Testament when we need to speak to specific dates on the church calendar, like Easter.
So come along for a most enjoyable and exciting year as we read and study the Word of God together. Included in the Broadcaster is a calendar of the readings for the month of January. Invite your friends to join you in this adventure. You might be surprised at what God will show you.
See you in church,