Grace & Peace 01-25-16

Mother and Daughter in Prayer Ministry Stock PhotoThe beginning of a new year creates in us a sense of hope for better days.  Many people awake to the new year invigorated with energy to try something different.  The Apostle Paul encourages the church, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”  Romans 12:11  As the new year begins here at Wesley we shift attention from GO to GROW and onto especially children and youth ministries.  Each of us should place this high on our priority list.

Let our prayer be that the children and youth grow deeper and wider.  Deeper—that the spirit of the child be our spirit, a spirit of wonder and enthusiasm and excitement, a spirit of awe and joy and worship.  May the children of Wesley grow deeper in their relationship with Christ and may God realize his perfect will in their hearts.  Wider—that the spirit of love and compassion we have be offered to other children in the community.  May we reach out to all children and youth of every race and nation and help them meet Jesus.  May we be given the words and the heart to love them truly.

So this year Lord, help us to grow deeper and wider in our love for you.  Use us to touch children and youth.  May the children, not just our own children but all children, see Jesus in us.

Grace & Peace 1-11-16

Epiphany-Star-Word-Art We are now in the midst of epiphany, the twelve days of Christmas. Some of my greatest memories growing up were those few days after Christmas before school started up again. Growing up in northern New Jersey, we often got to bundle up, play in the snow and come inside to warm our red cheeks with some hot chocolate. When we moved to Germany, one of our favorite things to do between Christmas and school starting was to go to the Taunus Mountains with a saucer or a toboggan or just a big piece of cardboard and slide down the hills. I do not remember the stressors of those days, though I am sure there were many. I think I have my parents to thank for that. I know my dad worked sometimes three jobs before we moved to Germany, but I never knew that till I was an adult. I never felt deprived though, just a normal kid living with his brothers and sisters in a nine hundred square foot, two-bedroom one bathroom house, nothing to it. All the boys slept in the living room, the two girls in one bedroom and mom and dad in the other. It was normal for us.

Our trips to grandmas on the day after Christmas were filled with laughter and anticipation. Not for the gifts, we all got underwear, but for the fun. When I turned eight, my grandma gave me my first Bible. It was a real Bible, not a kids Bible with all pictures. This one had every word of the stories. When she handed it to me she said, “I think you might be a minister some day.” Thank you grandma for believing in me.

The cover fell off that old Bible and several of the stories just fell out. Eventually I had to let it go. But I do remember. Isn’t remembering one of the greatest gifts? I am not sure we get to pick and choose what we remember, and sometimes memories pop up unexpected. I do though know that the week after Christmas has always been one of my favorite weeks of the year. Be conscious of the memories we create for each other during this blessed week.

Grace & Peace 12-28-2015

LQPCRU2ZOP“God is good”  Romans 12:1-2

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy. To offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test, and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will.”

“His good, pleasing, and perfect will.”  As we enter this new year, we are reminded again of God’s goodness.  This is an election year.  We all dread the infighting and character assassination we know is coming.  I for one do not look forward to the lies I will hear about how change will come.  The only real change we need is humility.  We have overvalued ourselves far too long and left no room for God in our great country.  As we approach 2016, let each of us humble ourselves and remember God’s mercy, meditate upon his sacrifice at Golgotha that renews our lifeless souls and gives birth to our offerings.  May Wesley be a light in the darkness for people, and may God richly bless you with His loving spirit.  May we all know His great love as He seeks to really change the world.

As we traverse the stories of this year, it will be ever so difficult at times to remember that God has a good and pleasing will.  Many of us will face difficult circumstances, powerful storms of life.  So let us go forth boldly into tomorrow, holding fast this truth:  God looked down upon us, and in spite of everything he saw, He said we were worth it.  Have a blessed 2016.

Grace & Peace 12-14-2015

9WCWKCI28U“Test and approve God’s will.”
God certainly has a desire for us. Some might say a plan or a purpose. He does have certain ethical views about how we should behave and treat each other. With the ever-changing societal norms, we can be easily confused about what God actually wants. So how should we test and approve God’s will? First we need to think through the timeless will of God. What never changes? We can find these timeless decrees in the Bible and should pay particular attention to the teachings of Jesus. We measure our choices for behavior over against what Jesus says and does. Here are just a few examples:

We are not to use other people for personal or political gain. (John 8)
We should be shining stars enlightening others and not darkening their lives. (Matthew 5)
We should not say one thing and do another. (Matthew 5)
We should be generous with resources. (Matthew 6)
We should trust and not be anxious. (Matthew 6)

There are many, many more. To test, we need to know and understand the standard. This means we have a daily relationship with Jesus, listening and learning. The standard against which we measure our lives comes from the truths found in scripture and not social mores or norms.

We pass the test when our thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors all match in accord to the Scriptures. When we fail, we sin. The Greek word for sin is,”amartia.” And it means to miss the mark, like an archer missing the bulls eye. For Christians, this means the target is both a positive go and negative stop. Sometimes we think a life with God is just filled with all the no’s. “Don’t do that, stop that.” Of course that is often how it begins. We recognize the truth that our bodies are a temple of God and we should treat it with respect, so we stop smoking, or abusing alcohol, or change our sexual behavior. But this is always just the beginning of transformation.

When we enter the world of “yes” it gets so very much harder and more fulfilling. “Feed the hungry, take care of the children, listen to the brokenhearted.” We miss the mark when we fail to say yes to God for the right things.

Christmas is upon us. This is a great time to remember that God said yes to us. When he considered the human condition and looked across the planet at what we have done, what we are doing, He considered mercy and said yes. And in saying yes, he came. He came to us for mercy sake.