Monday Morning Meditation 2-6-23

A man brought his son to Jesus to be delivered.  The boy has been tormented by a spirit his entire life, and his father was at his wit’s end when Jesus appears and the father asks if Jesus is able to heal his son.

Jesus said to him, “If you are able! — All things can be done for the one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

Mark 9:23-24

Faith isn’t easy.  Faith is not just a belief that everything will work out (even without any evidence).  Rather, faith is difficult.  It is difficult to say to God “I have complete faith and I turn it all over to you.” 

This father sums up a lot of us, especially if we have sick children, spouses or other family members.  We spend so much time, energy and resources seeking help, and when things do not work out, we get deflated, just like this father.  Our prayers tend to be begging and bargaining “Please Lord heal them” or “Lord, I’ll take the pain, I’ll take the sickness if you heal them.”  We pray earnestly and in faith, yet do not always believe.

I believe; help my unbelief.  It could be a daily prayer for all of us.  Is your job going poorly and you have no idea what to do next?  I believe; help my unbelief.  Is your relationship in trouble?  I believe, help my unbelief.  Are you struggling with a personal issue?  I believe, help my unbelief.  Is your church in need of transformation?  I believe, help my unbelief.

God may not give us the complete outcome we desire, but if we pray for greater belief, God will show us the way forward.  As you journey through this week, keep this prayer in mind.  I believe, help my unbelief.

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Monday Morning Meditation 1-30-23

In his classic work “Confessions, the great theologian Augustine said “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”

The Psalmist said: O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Ps. 63:1

Here it is Monday morning, I’ve been up for hours, made breakfast, lunches and drove my daughter to school.  My wife started the laundry that we did not get to over the weekend before she left for work.  We have an online appointment and I need to get working on next Sunday’s worship service and Lenten planning.  Plus we still need to review our calendars to make sure we know what is happening in the next few weeks.  I’m tired already.

But what was missing from all of this?  The quiet time with the Lord.  At some point this morning, I need to turn away from the computer and phone, get away from the to-do list and focus on what will bring me life, God. 

Today I feel like I am in a dry and weary land.  I’m going along with the flow of stuff, yet I know what I need.  Are you in that dry and weary land too?  Are you busy with your Monday morning?  Are you just getting through the day so you can go to bed and start over tomorrow?  If so, take a moment.  Read the psalms, go outside and watch the birds, find a quiet place, even if only for a few minutes and contemplate God.  Allow God to refresh you for you have been made by God for God. 

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, That my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit, That my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, That I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, To defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, That I always may be holy.

Augustine

Monday Morning Meditation 1-23-23

1Again he began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3“Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. 6And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. 7Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” 9And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

14The sower sows the word. 15These are the ones on the path where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. 16And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy. 17But they have no root, and endure only for a while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. 18And others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, 19but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing. 20And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”  Mark 4:1-9, 14-20

How is your soil?  Many of you have either grown up on or near farmland.  Living in this area for quite some time, we are used to the cycle of preparing, planting, growth and harvest.  The farmers take great effort in preparing the soil so the seed will take and an abundant harvest will come.

Preachers and teachers have the responsibility of taking the Holy Scriptures and feeding them to the congregation.   We need to prayerfully prepare ourselves to proclaim the word to you.  That is hard work and to do it properly, takes a lot of time.  But no amount of time on the preacher’s part will make up for poor soil.

We prepare our soil by coming to worship with an open heart and mind, expecting to experience God.  We prepare our soil by reading scripture and spending time in prayer.  We even prepare our soil by taking our bulletins home, re-reading the scriptures and liturgy throughout the week as we contemplate the sermon.  The more we do this, the more we are prepared to receive God’s word through the service and sermon.

How is your soil?  As you journey through this week, prepare your soil.  Spend some time meditating on the sermon and in prayer, asking God to help you receive the word.

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Monday Morning Meditation 1-16-23

7Jesus departed with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him; 8hearing all that he was doing, they came to him in great numbers from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and the region around Tyre and Sidon. 9He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him; 10for he had cured many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him. 11Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted, “You are the Son of God!” 12But he sternly ordered them not to make him known.

13He went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him. 14And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message, 15and to have authority to cast out demons. 16So he appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17James son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, 19and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.  Mark 3:7-19a

If you stop and really consider this passage, it is amazing.  Here is Jesus, the Son of God who has healed people of diseases and chased away evil spirits.  He has all the power, and yet He shares the ministry.

Jesus takes his disciples up the mountain and then names twelve as apostles (which, in the Greek, means “one sent out”).  He gives them the authority to preach the gospel, to heal and to cast out the demons.  Please note verse 19.  Jesus even shares the power with one who will betray him.

So, let’s review – the Son of God (God Incarnate), the one with the power, shares it with some of his followers so that they, too, may do the ministry.

Did you see this?  Even Jesus is not to do the ministry alone, rather He shares it with others.  Nobody, not an Elder, not a Deacon, not a Priest, Pastor, Preacher or anyone else is to do the ministry alone, for it is a shared ministry.  If that is good enough for Jesus, that should be good enough for His church.

As you journey through this week, consider what ministries you are doing.  Are you sharing the opportunity?  Are you sharing the power?  Jesus did.

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Monday Morning Meditation Jan 2, 2023

“for it was You who created my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I will praise You because I have been fearfully and wonderfully made”. Psalm 139:13-14

Often in the Hebrew scriptures we hear the term “fear” in relationship to God.  Proverbs 9:10 says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

Unfortunately, our English translation of the Hebrew is incomplete.  The word does not mean “be afraid of God” rather have awe and reverence for God.  It is about recognizing God’s awesomeness, power and majesty. 

The Psalmist recognizes this when he says I have been fearfully and wonderfully made.  Think about this – the Creator has created us with great reverence, with awesomeness.  When translated from the Hebrew, wonderfully means unique and set apart.

You have been awesomely made by God, you are unique and set apart.  Take a moment to think about that statement (read it over again).

A pastor who led a retreat would always say to us “God made you an original, don’t be a copy.”  I love that statement.  Each of us are made unique and set apart in the image of God.  Within you is something incredible because you have been made by God. 

As you travel through this week, and this new year, keep this in mind. 

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Prayer for the Week

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work too may be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy.  Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. Guide me then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. Mother Theresa

Monday Morning Meditation 12-26-22

 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:13-14

Merry Christmas!

The secular world has now pretty much finished up with Christmas.  The radio stations will phase out the Christmas music and return to their normal programming.  The emails from retailers are now about “getting the stuff you really wanted instead of what you got” sales.  The decorations will start coming down and shelves are filled with Valentine’s Day hearts.

Yet Christmas continues.  It is a season and a celebration of a significant event that continues to guide us (or at least it should).

When the heavenly host of angels proclaimed glory to God, they also offered peace to all (after all, God’s favor is for all).  It is our mission to spread that peace. 

As we travel through this Christmas season, be peace for those around you.  Offer grace to the underpaid and overworked retail clerks.  Give peace to those who are harried and under pressure.  Grant peace to those in your household.  Be peace for all around you.

May you enjoy this Christmas season,

Pastor Bill

Monday Morning Meditation 12-19-22

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). Matthew 1:20-23

Have you ever had a dream that was more than a dream?  Has God spoken to you in dreams?  Have you had a dream that inspired you to go above and beyond?

Throughout the bible we read of God speaking to people in dreams, either directly or through an angel (a Messenger of God).  These messages are important and, when followed, usually lead the person towards a greater purpose.

God may be trying to speak to you through angels, through strangers, through loved ones, and even through your dreams.  Keep alert, keep aware and pay attention to these things.  You never know, God might just be calling you to something special.

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Monday Morning Meditation 12-12-22

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19

Hopefully you recognize this scripture from the prophet Isaiah (I used it last week).  It is important for us to open our eyes to new possibilities instead of vainly clinging onto the things of old that just did not work or no longer work for us (notice what I said there, things that did not work or no longer work for us).  Even back in the days of the Hebrew Scriptures, God was telling the people to look ahead, look towards something new instead of dwelling on the past. 

This does not mean to ignore or forget our past, for it is important, but to not dwell on the old things that do not work (or never worked), the old things that brought us hurt (we need to heal then move forward), or the “way we used to do it.”  God is doing something new in our lives.

Recently there is a lot of speculation on the future of the D.C. Comics movie universe.  The “DCEU” was a failure.  While there were some good movies and some good portrayals of iconic characters like Superman and Wonder Woman, the overall output did not live up to the potential of the possibilities.  New leadership is making plans to change everything, and the comic book movie world is buzzing.  Unfortunately, because nobody yet knows the plan, everyone is making things up.  Will Henry Cavil remain as Superman? 

Will Gal Gadot be Wonder Woman?  Who will be Batman? 

It is amazing that thousands of people will watch a YouTube post that tells us nothing new, rather than an inspiring post that could change their lives. 

It is also amazing that so many will argue with the new plan (which has not been released yet) because it changes the old thing so many want (even though everyone admits it did not work). 

Unfortunately, the church works the same way.  We often get so wrapped up in the old ways of doing things that we miss out on what God is doing right now.  We miss the opportunity to meet God today and grow in our faith.  We miss opportunities to help someone else see God’s love in action and instead drive them away.

We can be different.  We can be better.  We can be the community we are called to be and this is where the scriptures help.  We read them, not to create lists of rules, rather to be inspired as we read what God has done and look to what God is doing in front of us.  Let’s try to do this.  As you continue your Advent journey, open your eyes, minds and hearts to see what God has done, is doing and will do. 

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Monday Morning Meditation 12-5-22

This is what the Lord says—he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, 17 who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: 18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. 20 The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, 21the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise. Isaiah 43:16-21

Advent is about new beginnings.  It marks the beginning of a new church year, it marks the beginning of a festive season, and it can be the beginning of something new for you as well.  Advent looks back to the promises of God, looks forward to the ultimate return of the Lord, and guides us in celebrating the birth of Jesus.  And it is a time of new starts.

Isaiah is reminding the people of God not to forget what has happened, after all our past is important and we should always remember those who came before us, rather he is saying “do not dwell on the past.”  This has always been a problem for people.  We get so caught up in the “good old days” that we do not see the good happening before us right now.  We complain about how things were better “back then” while ignoring the problems of that time.

Personally, I am in a new beginning as I start a new ministry.  It is a great opportunity to live this passage as I guide a congregation into their new beginnings. 

What about you?  What new beginning are you in right now?  Can you look at your life and give thanks for the good things of the past as you embrace a new change?  It might not be anything huge, it might be the time for you to start something good.  Look around, what new thing is God doing in your life today?

Peace,

Pastor Bill

Monday Morning Meditation 11-28-22

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers.” For the sake of my relatives and friends I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good. Psalm 122:6-9

During our Thanksgiving dinner, my sister mentioned her latest campaign.  Over the years, her neighborhood has been a little rough.  Plus, she lives in a more remote area so daily contact with neighbors does not happen.  However, she started waving to everyone she saw whether walking or driving.  Soon others began to wave back and now things seem a little bit better.

Our nation is in bad shape with all the violent acts and shootings occurring weekly.  We need some help.  Waving at each other will not prevent shootings, but it can be a start.  The psalmist calls the people to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.  We can take this further, pray for the peace of YOUR Jerusalem, your city, your homestead, and pray for the peace of Washington, DC, the governmental center of our nation.

If we begin to pray for our neighbors, show kindness to our neighbors and learn to live with our differences, we might just see some of that peace.  We then take the next steps, finding ways to create peaceful areas, finding ways to help those in need, finding ways to promote peace instead of violence.  Couple this with praying for our leadership, perhaps we might just find some solutions to the ongoing issues in our nation.

We can always try,

Pastor Bill