Seeking The Face Of God

Seeking The Face Of God

“You will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

(Jeremiah 29:12-13)

One of my greatest joys as a Pastor is leading people to faith in Jesus Christ. I have had the opportunity in my forty plus years of Christian ministry to nurture many people from the beginning of their Christian experience through their call to ministry and full-time service in the church. No greater joy exists than to see someone you have nurtured in Christian formation take up the mantle and live out his or her life in service to Christ for the transformation of the world.

A key responsibility of a Christian is to seek the face of God in prayer, not just the hand of God. There is a difference between seeking the face of God and seeking the hand of God. When we seek the face of God, we come and spend time in God's presence. We delight in God and enjoy God's presence. When we seek the hand of God, we come to God to get what we want, and off we go. It's all about what we want.

David tells us in Psalm 14:2 that "The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God." No spiritual discipline is more important than the discipline of prayer.

On one occasion Jesus’ disciples came to Him and said, “Teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples to pray” (Luke 11:1). They had seen Jesus wake up early in the morning and pray. Sometimes He prayed all night long. Throughout the day He prayed for others. Other times He prayed before making decisions. The disciples observed Jesus’ disciplined life of prayer.

The disciples no doubt made a connection between Jesus’ personal power and his prayer life. They wanted that same power for themselves. Jesus had unusual peace in times of storm; extraordinary ability in times of human suffering; courage in times of crisis; faith in times of challenge; compassion in times of need.

The disciples concluded that if Jesus taught them to pray, they too could grow in these characteristics. Jesus taught them to pray and sent them out empowered to do as He had been doing. Establishing a discipline of prayer is vital for Christian formation, without which your spiritual life will be barren and powerless.

While I was teaching a group of new disciples how to pray, the Holy Spirit inspired me to share with them that “Before you eat normal food in the mornings partake first of spiritual food. Before you drink your first cup of coffee or your first glass of orange juice, before you eat your first slice of toast remember that God "satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things" (Psalm 107:9). Eat spiritual food first thing in the morning before you eat normal food and before any appointment in your day.

Our spirits often hunger and thirst for God. The Psalmist says “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:2). If you have no craving for God, it might mean that you have not had much spiritual food and your appetite remains dormant. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

On one occasion, I was traveling, and I ordered a piece of pound cake, chocolate cake or apple pie with each evening meal. Normally, I go for months at home without having any cake, but when I travel my diet is thrown off completely, and I don’t eat as well as I would like. Here I was traveling and just enjoying myself eating a piece of cake with every evening meal.

Do you know what I discovered? When I returned home and was having my dinner, I longed for a piece of cake. I found myself going through the refrigerator trying to find a piece of cake. Why? Because my appetite for treats had been awakened. Similarly, when you awaken your spiritual appetite through prayer, you will find that you enjoy it so much that your soul begins to desire more of this spiritual food – and this desire is for essential spiritual nourishment.

It is this spiritual food that we need to help us overcome the natural inclinations and tendencies of life. According to the Apostle Paul, “he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:8).

Isn’t that what we want – life, happiness, meaning, significance and success! Here is how we get it by seeking God's face in prayer. "The lion may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing" (Psalm 34:10).

Resist the temptation to go from one year to the next or from one holy season to the next without understanding that God created you to seek his face not just his hand. Make a decision today to seek God's face.

Here are four ways to seek God's face: Celebrate the presence of God in worship weekly (not just when you feel like it). Read the Bible and pray each week-day for an hour. Participate in a Small Group Bible Study for faith sharing and fellowship with other Christians, and join an outreach ministry of your church so that you can communicate God's love to others.

The Psalmist said, "I sought the Lord, and he answered me; and delivered me from all my fears" (Psalm 34:4). There is nothing to lose and so much to gain. How about you?

God Bless!

Pastor Mike

Wise Men Worshiped Him - What Will Your Response Be?

“Wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, 'Where is he who has been born.

We have seen his Star and have come to worship him.'” (Matthew 2:11)

When I was a child, I often watched adults play dominoes.  From a child’s perspective, it seemed like they played dominoes constantly.  I learned the fundamentals of this cognitive diversion at an early age and became a very good domino player. 

When I was a bit older, I competed in a tournament.  Crowds came from miles around, eager to demonstrate their skills.  My partner and I competed in game after game, day and night, until better players won out.  Like the adults in my childhood days, I became devoted to playing dominoes. 

At Christmas, crowds of worshipers gather to participate in Christmas or Advent services.  Churches provide additional services and chairs to accommodate the overflow of worshipers.  Many who have not attended a worship service in months will be present at Christmas with their entire families.  Certainly, worship is an appropriate response to the Advent of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  The Bible says,

Wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born King of the Jews?  We have seen his Star and have come to worship him” and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him (Matthew 2:2, 11). 

An old Persian legend tells about the reactions of the Wise Men after their visit with Christ.  The youngest saw in Christ the promise, beauty and joy of youth; the middle-aged saw in Him the enduring resilience of the good life; and the eldest saw in Him the beginning of an eternity of which he would soon be a part.  Each person finds in Christ the promise and hope that surrounds his or her deepest needs.

Like me, everyone has a need to be devoted to something be it sports, politics, a favorite charity, family or self.  In my youth dominoes once satisfied that need in my life.  Unfortunately, none of these, while valuable, can satisfy the real need of the heart.

God’s gift of love to us – his Son – is the only one that can satisfy the desires of every human heart.  Fellowship with family and friends, though important, won’t do it; Christmas gifts that grow old and worn with the passing of months won’t do it; a new car or new clothes won’t do it; nor will additional things satisfy us.  He (alone) satisfies the longing soul and fills the hungry with goodness (Psalm 107:9). 

The good news of Christmas is that everyone who desires can find satisfaction of their deepest need in Jesus.  I have found satisfaction in Him.  I still like to play dominoes, but I am no longer devoted to it.  I am devoted to Jesus.  He came that we may have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10).

Wise Men worshiped Him.  This Christmas, what will your response be?

The first lady, Pamela, and I wish you a hopeful, peaceful, joyful, and love-filled Christmas!

Pastor Mike

Why Do People Need Kemble Church?

Why Do People Need Kemble Church?

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Colossians 3:17).

I have been preaching a sermon series called Catch: Three Important Questions: Why do people need Jesus Christ, why do people need the Church, and why do people need Kemble Church. On May 24, 2018, I surveyed 15% of our worship service attendees from the 8:30 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. worship services. I asked them the question: Why do people need Kemble Church and here is what they said:

  1. At Kemble, we can fellowship with people from many different walks of life but, with one common belief in Jesus Christ and God's word.
  2. People need Kemble Church because of the consistent and relentless efforts of our Pastor who cares deeply about our spiritual growth in growing us closer to Christ through prayer, and the reading of the Bible. 
  3. Kemble Church is a place where you grow spiritually, in the presence of like-minded people, who truly care and love one another, and are there for you in your deepest trials. 
  4. I can literally feel myself being brought closer to God.
  5. Kemble has become a very friendly and welcoming church. The Kemble Church family is supportive especially in times of need. I have found my church family to be always there for me.
  6. Kemble gives me hope. For many years of my life, I had felt defeated. I had a very “poor me” mentality. I often wondered what I had done to deserve some of the sadness I had experienced. Kemble has helped give me hope and see life in a more positive way. Seeing my children get involved in the community outreach programs truly restored my hope. I thank Kemble for its strong community ties and programs that allow us to give back. This is something me and my children need in our lives. 
  7. At Kemble, I have a family who cares about me, who rejoices with me, who cries with me, who lifts me up, who supports me, who loves me.
  8. At Kemble, you will find warmth and inclusiveness.
  9. Kemble welcomes diversity and is building so many programs to offer to our community.
  10. At Kemble Church, you will never walk alone. You will receive God's help and the members' support. 
  11. Kemble offers great programs; women’s group, men’s group, community outreach (community lunch for the poor, clothing drive, music camp, fall festival, friends & family Sunday), bible study, children’s church, and more.
  12. We have a Men’s Discipleship group, where we literally study the Bible and yet we reach out to the Community with a monthly lunch, primarily for the poor and homeless.
  13. Kemble is a place where people can find peace away from their worries from the outside world - a place to share and participate in worship.
  14. I need Kemble because Kemble is a home away from home. It is a place where I can be as happy, relaxed, and comfortable as in my own home. 
  15. If you are struggling with difficulties in your life such as depression, mental illness to name a couple, Kemble will give you the opportunity to find in our house of worship, just what the doctor ordered. 
  16. I am comfortable here; I can be who I am while I work to become who God wants me to be.
  17. I have found some of the dearest friends of my life here at Kemble.  Friends that are more like family, who accept me as I am and love me even when I am not quite so lovable.
  18. Once I saw how open and friendly Kemble was, and how genuine and caring; I knew it was where I needed to be. 
  19. Kemble is a place to have your eyes opened to the needs of others, and a place to begin to "love your neighbor as yourself" through group volunteer opportunities that can provide greater service to the needy than one can do alone.
  20. At Kemble, you will find many committed, supportive, and sympathetic people of faith with whom to share the journey.
  21. Kemble Church allows me continuing opportunities to align my will with God's will.
  22. Kemble Church has an early learning program to offer young families.
  23. Each Sunday, the Pastor's sermon is thought provoking with a topic that relates to various Scriptures that deepen my faith. I often reflect on the Scripture during the week when situations arise, where I need to make critical decisions when interacting with other people and need to make important choices. 
  24. Kemble Church provides me with a community of Christians that I can fellowship with.
  25. Kemble has afforded me the opportunity to further my journey in seeking God through actions and service - and for that, I will be forever grateful.
  26.  WE ALL CAN USE A LITTLE KEMBLE!!!

We are leaning into our mission, which states that "Kemble Church is a welcoming, faithful, and caring Christian community offering hope and support to make a difference in the world through God's word and our deeds."

Every Blessing,

Pastor Mike

Holding On, Letting Go

“Jesus said (to Mary), ‘Do not hold on to me,

for I have not yet returned to the Father.’ ”

(John 20:17 NIV).

Ms. Francis was babysitting 4-year-old Teddy and humming the hymn “Up from the Grave He Arose.” “What’s that song?” asked Teddy. “It’s about Jesus,” Ms. Francis replied. “Do you know about Jesus? “Yes! He died” Teddy said. “He did die,” Ms. Francis agreed. “But then what happened?” Teddy answered with a smile “He got up!”

The Greek word for resurrection is “Anastasia,” which literally means “to get up again.” Little Teddy was right. Jesus got up on that Easter Sunday morning. Death could not keep him down. The grave could not hold Him. The powers of darkness gave way to a brand new light of Easter.

Mary Magdalene saw Jesus early Easter morning. Understandably, she was overwhelmed with joy. After all that had happened – Jesus’ cruel, brutal, agonizing death on a cross and hasty burial – here Mary was in the presence of Christ once again. Her midnight had been turned into day. Gladness took the place of her sorrow. Her tears were suddenly wiped away.

When Mary saw Jesus she instantly reached out to Him, but Jesus backed away and commanded: “Do not hold on to me!” Jesus’ remark is translated as “Do not touch me” in the King James Version and “Do not cling to me” in the Jerusalem Bible. Why would Jesus deny Mary Magdalene the opportunity to hold Him, to touch Him, to cling to Him?

Jesus in His infinite wisdom recognized that Mary was having a serious problem.  She wanted to resume her past association with Jesus. She wanted to go back to the good old days. She wanted things to return to the way they used to be. In the past, Mary enjoyed spending time with Jesus, being witness to his righteous and mighty acts, and breaking bread together. When Mary saw Jesus on Easter, she assumed they would pick up right where they left off.

Mary’s problem is a common one. Sometimes we are anxious to cling to old ways and we fail to perceive that God is doing a new thing. Isaiah reminds us: “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:18-19).

God is doing a new thing in the Church and in the world today. The question is, “Do you perceive it?” 

Mary Magdalene represents those who hold on to the past and hinder themselves from experiencing new life and new possibilities. What new thing was God doing that Mary needed to perceive? Consider these three points:

First, Mary needed to recognize that she would no longer have permanent access to Jesus on earth. In John 16:7, Jesus told the disciples, “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Holy Spirit will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” Jesus explained to the disciples that having the Holy Spirit come to them was more to their advantage than having him walking with them in the flesh. Mary needed to become aware that Jesus’ physical presence on earth was coming to a close. God was doing something new and Jesus did not want Mary to miss it.

Second, Mary needed to understand that Jesus’ presence with her and others would be by way of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was very clear with his followers/the disciples. He told them, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” While Jesus would no longer be with his followers/the disciples physically, He would be with them through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

A few years ago there was a famous commercial with the tagline: “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh-what-a-relief-it-is!” The commercial advertised Alka-Seltzer – a medicine designed to relieve upset stomachs. In a reaction that is quite volcanic, the Alka-Seltzer tablets fizz and bubble when dropped into water. What Jesus wants us to know is this: When people accept Him as Savior, God drops the Holy Spirit into our nature. The Spirit’s presence is designed to soothe upset lives, upset minds, and upset circumstances. God wants us to discover “oh-what-a-relief-it-is” to have the Holy Spirit within us.

Finally, Mary needed to understand that Jesus’ bodily presence would be with His heavenly Father. “I have come from God,” Jesus told them, “and I am going back to God.” Do not hold on to the past, Mary, because God has more in store for you. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

What are you holding on to that is hindering you from living out the fullness of God’s plan? What are traditions, beliefs, attitudes, or lifestyles you are holding on to that Jesus wants you to let go of? My prayer for you is that God would give you the power to let go of those things that stand in the way of a progressing relationship with Him. God wants to bless you. God wants to use you. Let go and let God!

 Many Blessings,

Pastor Mike

 

 

The Lenten Challenge 2018

Then Jesus said to them all, “If anyone wants to follow Me, he must give up himself and his own desires. He must take up his cross every day and follow Me" (Luke 9:23).

The early Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church that before the Easter celebration there should be a forty-day season of spiritual preparation.

Therefore, I call upon the Kemble Church family, friends, and constituents to join The Lenten Challenge:

The Lenten Challenge 2018

Lent is a time for going more deeply into Christian discipleship. It is a season for increased devotion to Christ that lends itself to worship, prayer, study, and introspection. Something is just not right if Christian people are not in church and engaged in Christian discipleship during Lent.

I am issuing a Lent Challenge to all Kemble Church members, friends, and constituents to participate in daily scripture reading, weekly Bible Study and worship, and giving to the poor during Lent.

Instead of giving up sweets, I invite you to take up the daily reading of Scripture, involvement in a weekly Lenten Study, and participation in weekly worship. By infusing your life with the reading of God's Holy Word, the Lenten Study, and participation in weekly worship, you can really honor Christ and seek a deeper faith experience this Lent.

I invite all Kemble Church members, friends, and constituents to a deepening of our relationship with Christ over the six weeks of Lent.

Scripture Reading - 40 Days In the Gospel Of Jesus Christ

  1. Daily call-ins begin Ash Wednesday, February 14 through Saturday, March 31, 6 am - 6:30 a.m.
  2. Dial-in Number: 515-739-1038
  3. Access Code: 503009, followed by the # key

Lenten Study – Rediscover Jesus by Matthew Kelly

Beginning February 21, 7:00 p.m.

Holy Angels Parish/St Patrick Lower Church

Sunday Worship Services

Kemble Church Sanctuary

Sundays: 8:30 a.m. & 10:45 a.m.

A Gift for the Poor

I encourage as many as are able to give an offering to support the Neighborhood Center in Camden and the Greater Woodbury Cooperative Ministries Food Pantry.

Pray!

Pray for your personal Lenten Journey. Pray for the needs of our global community, our country, your local community, the Church and your family. Pray also about your Lenten offering to the Neighborhood Center in Camden and the Food Pantry in Woodbury.

Our personal devotion, prayers, and our support for the poor will make a tremendous difference in our lives and in the lives of people locally, nationally, and around the world.

Every Blessing,

Pastor Mike

A Time To Plant

A Time To Plant

"For everything, there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to plant" (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 3a)

When I was a teenager, several of my aunts and uncles lived on farms. Farming was their way of life. They raised cows, goats, pigs, and chickens. They planted citrus fruits, bananas, pumpkins, and yams. They understood and relied on the changing seasons for their livelihood.

Since moving to Woodbury, New Jersey my neighbor tends to a tomato garden in her backyard each year around mid-May. She plants tomato seeds and erects a wire fence to protect her garden from rabbits. She waters her garden, and checks on it frequently during the following months. I can see her garden from my kitchen window, and for many months I do not see any tomatoes. Finally, sometime late summer, I see her picking tomatoes from her garden.

God says, "For everything, there is a season . . . A time to plant, and a time" to reap what is planted (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 3a). What season is Kemble Church in? As I try to discern the answer to this very important question, my intuition leads me to believe that Kemble Church is in the planting season. We are in the seed-time season.

We are seeding in our community garden:

  1. A blended worship service each Sunday at 10:45 a.m. with the potential for a more contemporary service that is relevant to millennials and other younger generations.
  2. Kemble's Kitchen Community Lunch that shares God's bounty with the hungry and homeless each month, for "As you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine," Jesus said, "you did for me" (Matthew 25:40).
  3. Kemble's Kitchen Community Lunch Worship Services that touch the hearts and souls of our guests.
  4. Kemble's Free Summer Music Camp that gets to the heart of our vision to make children and youth the face of Kemble church.
  5. Bethel for Kids Children's Church every Sunday that invites children to come to Jesus.
  6. Kemble's Fall Community Musical Showcase (free entertainment, free food, and free dessert) as we share Kemble's heart with the City of Woodbury.
  7. Kemble's Winter Clothing Give-a-Way Drive in October 2017 that provided almost two tons of winter and all-season clothing for homeless and needy people of our community.
  8. Investment in a marketing consultant to assist us in gaining visibility for our church.

Kemble Church is in the Seed-time Season

A little boy went to visit his grandparents who live on a farm in South Carolina. He was happy to spend the entire summer on the farm with his grandparents. When he arrived in June, the seeds were already in the ground.

Unfortunately, when he was leaving in August to return home, harvest time had not yet arrived. He was very disappointed that he would not be around for the harvest. The timing of his visit did not line-up with the farming seasons.

In 1 Corinthians 3:6 we read Paul "planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth" - the increase. Kemble Church has shown that we are on the path towards much growth.

Kemble Church is ripe for a season of great growth - a growth spurt even! One of the ingredients for great growth is the health of the soil. Our spiritual health as a congregation will determine our growth potential. God calls us to be on a spiritual path. Are we on that spiritual path?

Let us do our part and trust God who makes things grow. God, our Gardener, intends for Kemble to grow far beyond what we can think or imagine.

Every Blessing,

Pastor Mike

Radical Hospitality

Pastor’s Blog

 “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers” (Hebrews 13:2).

What did Samuel and the Samaritans have in common? They practiced radical hospitality (1 Samuel 9:22/John 4:40). What teaching did Peter and Paul have in common? They taught Christ's disciples to practice radical hospitality (1 Peter 4:9/Romans 12:13).

Before I began my pastoral duties at Kemble Memorial United Methodist Church, Sherron Laurrell wrote a fine article introducing my family and me to the Kemble Church family. During the interview, Sherron asked me, “What can the members of Kemble do to make you, Pamela and your daughters feel welcome quickly?” I expressed my hope that Kemble members would invite us into their hearts and homes.

The early Apostles encouraged the churches to “practice hospitality." The word hospitality means “strange love.” The directive is to be loving and kind to strangers. “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2). My family and I welcome this spiritual gift of hospitality from the Kemble Church family, and it is inspiring to know that the practice of this spiritual gift, radical hospitality, is not limited to the Harriotts. 

Kemble Church members’ hearts and homes are open to others. I have seen first-hand the time, talents and treasures you give to provide a safety net for needy families, the homeless, the poor and the destitute. Jesus teaches that the mark of true disciples is love. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Hospitality is love in action.  Hospitality is welcoming the stranger. Hospitality is opening your hearts and homes to others, sharing with God’s people, and creating new places for new people.

Many thanks to John Sooy, Mary Jane Warfle, and Norma Warren who will open their hearts and homes to host the Advent of the Savior Bible Study "All I Want For Christmas." Each person has agreed to welcome ten Kemble members and friends into their homes this Advent: November 28, and December 5, 12, and 19th. Many thanks to Carol DeLucas, Donna Lightcap, and Robyn Austin and Donna Catando who will serve as facilitators for the Advent Study. Kemble members will practice radical hospitality this Advent as we break-bread and study God's word together.

An in-church sign-up process begins on November 12th. Each member will have the opportunity to choose the home he or she would like to attend for the Advent of the Savior Bible Study (John's, Mary Jane's, or Norma's). Once you make your choice, each member is expected to attend the four sessions at the same home with the same group. Switching from home to home is discouraged.

Early online or phone sign-up is available for the Advent of the Savior Bible Study. You can reserve your place at one of the homes by calling the church office at 856-845-1627, or by sign-up online at www.kembleumc.org. Kemble Church members' hearts and homes are open to all.

The children of the Kingdom will hear the Lord say, “Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). We represent Christ when we practice radical hospitality.

Every Blessing,

Pastor Mike

So If The Son Sets You Free, You Are Free Through And Through

“So if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through”

(John 8:36, The Message).

If you have ever been to a circus, one of the things you will notice is that great big elephants are being held captive by a little chain around one of their ankles connected to a post. It is amazing to think that such a little chain, connected to such a little post, could restrain such an enormous animal. An elephant could simply take a swipe at the chain and either break the chain or pull up the post.

But circus elephants don’t just break chains and uproot posts. When they were babies, their trainers taught them that when they felt the chain, they were supposed to submit. Thus, baby circus elephants never receive an opportunity to experience their true greatness, their true identity.

Like circus elephants, we are restrained by so many things in life that prevent us from experiencing true greatness, our true identity. We hear about the power we have through our Creator, but a little chain holds us down. Why is that?

A few weeks ago we celebrated Pentecost, a celebration of God's Spirit being poured out on all people. God's Spirit is associated with power. There is no power on earth that is greater than the power of the Holy Spirit. To be quite frank, no one can live a truly victorious life except with the help that comes from the power of the Holy Spirit. To convey the meaning and significance of the “Spirit-filled” life, John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, used the phrase “holy and whole.”

Becoming holy and whole is what happens when we follow Christ. “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" (2 Corinthians 5:17). It is the holy and whole life that is the Spirit-filled life. Holiness is both personal and social: personal as it relates to our relationship with Christ and social in relations to our work with the poor, the powerless and the marginalized.

In thinking about the process of becoming holy and whole, I am reminded of the story of the farmer who moved to a big city. The first time he saw a mall he was with his son and his wife. He said with enthusiasm, “I’ve got to see this place. I’ve never seen anything like it!” As the farmer and his family were wandering around the mall, they came across a bank which had a large vault inside.

They didn’t quite know what a “vault” was because the farmer was used to saving his money by hiding it under a mattress or burying it in the backyard. As they were trying to figure out what the vault was, an old lady entered the bank. Slowly and with the help of her walker, the old lady approached the vault and went inside. Seconds later, a beautiful young woman strolled confidently from the vault.

From the farmer’s perspective, he saw an old lady goes in, and a gorgeous young woman comes out! He leaned over to his son and said, “Hurry up, go get your mother.” He wanted an instant transformation for his wife.

Just as the farmer’s wife would not have been immediately transformed, nor will we be immediately transformed through our “Spirit-filled” life. Holiness and wholeness do not happen instantaneously; however, we do have control over the pace at which the process takes place. We speed up or slow down the process depending upon our willingness to become more like Christ.

According to the Scripture, "like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness, then you’ll grow up mature and whole in Christ" (1 Peter 2:2). When we grow in Christ, we allow the Holy Spirit to break the chains that hold us captive then we are free to experience our true greatness, our God-given identity.

Many Blessings,

Pastor Mike

 

Make Prayer Your First Response

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything . . . 

Then you will experience God’s peace.”

(Philippians 4:6-7 NLT)

Former Philadelphia Eagle wide receiver and radio announcer, Mike Quick, sparked my interest during the YMCA 25th Annual Gloucester County Mayors' Prayer Breakfast on December 1, 2016. As a former Chairperson of the YMCA Christian Emphasis Committee, I served on the Mayors' Prayer Breakfast Committee, which plans the Annual Prayer Breakfast event.

For the 25th annual event, we invited Ed Herr, President of the snack foods giant, Herr Foods, Inc., to be our special guest speaker and Mike Quick as co-speaker to talk about family and prayer. Both men, who are longtime friends and happened to have lost their mothers last year, took turns sharing life lessons they learned from their mothers.

Mr. Quick's words resonated with me as he shared how his mother lived a life of prayer, taught him how to pray and insisted he make prayer a priority in his life. He recounted many situations in his life when he called his mother to ask for advice and his mother would say, "Son, just pray." Mr. Quick recalled complaining about some injustice he was encountering, and his mother's response was, "Son, just pray."

He called his mother to ask her opinion about a possible date, and to that, she would say, "Son, just pray." No matter what the concern, he was lovingly reminded to "just pray." Mr. Quick convincingly shared that his mother's advice has been the guiding star in his successful career as a former wide receiver and now radio announcer.

The advice of Mr. Quick's mom captures the very words of the Apostle Paul to the church in Philippi: "Don't worry about anything; instead pray about everything" (Philippians 4:6). Paul was particularly concerned about the disagreement between two Christian women in the church, Euódia, and Syńtyche (Philippians 4:2). Paul's advice for handling conflict in the church is to spend little or no time on the seat of anxiety. Instead, he encourages Christians to spend much time in the secret place of prayer.

Similar to that of Mr. Quick and the church in Philippi, I too have been influenced to pray about everything. In 1978 while traveling from Montclair, New Jersey to Tulsa, Oklahoma, as a student of Oral Roberts University, I stopped for the night in St. Louis, Missouri. During the night the Lord spoke to me in a dream and impressed upon me that when faced with a circumstance, challenge, concern or condition, I was to make prayer my first response.

Ordinarily, I was the kind of person who became anxious and acted first, then prayed later. God spoke to me that night and said, "I want you to make prayer your first response." "Seek first God's Kingdom and his righteousness" (Matthew 6:33).

While there is a host of actions and reactions that a person can take in response to life's challenges and concerns, including those of the church, God's command is to seek his guidance through prayer first. The Holy Spirit reminds me to make prayer my first response ever since that memorable night in St. Louis. Along with Mike Quick, I can attest to the fact that you will not only receive God's favor and divine guidance for your life but also, along with countless others, you will experience God's peace when you elevate the role of prayer in your life. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Let's pray!

Pastor Mike

Put On The Full Armor Of God

“Put On The Full Armor Of God”

(Ephesians 6:11)

When I was five years old, I missed several days from school because I was sick. I had a temperature of more than one hundred degrees. As I lay in bed, my little body drenched with perspiration, I was becoming increasingly listless.

I lived in Jamaica at the time, and I don’t remember being visited by a doctor. I do remember, though, being visited by my grandmother. We called her Granny; others called her Grandma Fletcher. She was about eighty years old.

Granny was known in our family and her church as a “Prayer Warrior.” Prayer Warriors believe that, as disciples of Jesus Christ, they have enlisted in the Lord's army and therefore have an assignment to pray – a ministry of prayer. Granny believed that prayer is a spiritual weapon that can overcome the fiercest enemy.

There are many enemies in life. Sometimes the enemy is sickness, sin, or even Satan. Sometimes the enemy is a school bully or a terrorist plotting an evil act. The enemy could be a spirit of intolerance, injustice, hate, or prejudice.

My grandmother defeated the enemy of sickness that very day she came to visit me. Granny laid her hand on me. She prayed for me to get well. No sooner than she left the room, the fever broke. I got up, had some soup, regained my strength, and the next day I returned to school.

I firmly believe God is calling each of us to be "Prayer Warriors." To be a Prayer Warrior, I must learn to pray. Every disciple of Jesus should learn to pray – Jesus taught his disciples to pray (Luke 11:1). John Wesley, the founder of The United Methodist Church, said, “God does nothing except in response to prayer.” God’s word explains that there are enemies, (spiritual forces) that will not be defeated except through prayer.

My restoration of good health depended upon my grandmother’s prayer. Someone else's life situation depends on your prayer. The way forward for the United Methodist Church depends on our prayers.

Bishop John Schol invites all United Methodists in Greater New Jersey to join him in "Praying Our Way Forward." The Council of Bishops' prayer initiative began January 1, 2017, and continues through Spring, 2018. Each conference is registered to participate for a week of prayer, and Greater New Jersey has been assigned the week of January 29, 2017. I have registered our church's commitment to pray each day of this week. Please join Bishop Schol, Greater New Jersey Methodists, and me in praying our way forward for the unity and mission of The United Methodist Church.

If politicians could solve the problems in our communities, our communities would be better places. If money could solve the problems of life, America would have fewer problems. If weapons of war could bring peace, the world would be a peaceful place. In contrast, God said in his word “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16b).

Therefore, “put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:11). Someone’s life depends upon your prayer.

Let's pray!

Pastor Mike