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

What Matters Most In Life

“For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion

nor disregard of religion amounts to anything.

What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.”

(Galatians 5:6 The Message)

There once was a rich man whose lands produced bountiful harvest. He thought, “I don’t have enough space to store all my goods. What should I do?” God had blessed him so much he did not know what to do with all he had.

“Here is what I’ll do – I’ll tear down my barns and I will build larger ones. Then I will rest, eat, drink and be merry,” he decided. But God reprimanded the man, saying, “You fool. This night your life will be demanded of you and then to whom will all your things belong?” (Luke 12:16-21).

This man only thought of making himself happy. It did not occur to him that God had blessed him so he could be a blessing to other people – maybe he received all those blessings from God so he could share with the poor and the needy. In our time, such a man could give in support of orphanages; help to eradicate hunger in the world; help stop the spread of malaria in Africa; support breast cancer research; support the educational dreams of inner-city children; or support the work of the church: spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Instead of sharing his bounty, all the man decided to do was build a bigger barn, today’s equivalent of saying, ‘I will put my extra stuff in storage. I won’t give any of it away. I will keep on adding to what I have.’ The man missed out on what matters most in life – faith expressed in love for others.

In the first two verses of 1 Corinthians 13, God says the same thing in different ways. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith than can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”

God says, if I don’t live a life of love, nothing I say will matter; nothing I know will matter, and nothing I believe will matter. Words without love are just noise. All the knowledge in the world cannot compensate for love, and all the faith in the world is worth nothing without love.

“For in Christ … what matters is faith expressed in love.” (Galatians 5:6). Our faith in Christ and our love for Christ is expressed when we seek out ways to help the least, the last and the lost improve the quality of their lives and connect them with Christ. God says if you miss that, you have missed the most important thing in life.

When our days in this life are over we will stand before God, and God is going to evaluate our lives. He is not going to look at our bank accounts, he is not going to look at our list of accomplishments, he is not going to look at our grades, he is not going to look at all our sports trophies nor awards and he is not going to look at our resumes. God is going to evaluate our lives on one basis – our love for Christ and our love for others.

The heart of the matter is to love Christ enough to express his love to others. The Scripture says, “If I say I love God and hate other people, I am not telling the truth.” (1 John 4:20). I cannot say that I am right with God and be out of sorts with other people. My relationship with God affects my relationship with my spouse, children, neighbors, brothers and sisters, in-laws, and my co-workers. My relationship with God affects my treatment of the poor, the homeless, the sick, and even the way I treat my adversaries.

The only thing that matters to God is whether we love Christ and whether that love is expressed in our love for others. The Scripture says, “let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18).

Many Blessings,

Pastor Mike

The Secret Of A Great Life

 

“The Secret of a Great Life”

What kind of year are you having so far – a good year or a great year?

Jim Collins, former Stanford University professor, and national bestselling author, wrote a book entitled Good to Great. According to Jim, “Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.”

Jesus calls his disciples not just to a good life, but also to a great life. He said in John 14:12, “The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the father.”

In the economy of God, greatness has to do with works of service. On Wall Street and on Main Street greatness is attributed to money, influence, connection and power. Not so with the Lord! He says, “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Mark 10:43).

The secret to a great life, then, is service to others. Think of some of the great people you know – chances are many of them are committed to serving others. Jesus himself “came not to be served but to serve” (Mark 10:45). Until we learn to serve others, we will limit ourselves to what is simply a good life.

Our understanding of service begins at home. The home is a training ground for what we expect in the world, and genuine service in the world is an extension of our homes. Therefore, we must teach children:

  • To make up their own beds
  • Take out the trash
  • Wash the dishes
  • Pick up after themselves
  • Help with housework
  • Lend a hand when needed
  • Volunteer at the local food pantry.

In addition, those of us who are parents should of course lead by example.

Not long ago I tried to turn on a tape recorder I had owned for some time and it would not work. After a little investigating, I realized because I had not used the recorder in quite a while, the batteries were corroded and had leaked all over. Not only were the batteries ruined but the tape recorder was also damaged. Likewise, you and I were created for service. When we do not extend ourselves in service to others we become corroded, damaged on the inside.

Serving others is the way to serve God. Jesus said, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me . . . As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:35-37 and 40). When we serve others, we seize our opportunity to serve God.

The more you serve the greater you are. Think of the great Mother Teresa who dedicated herself to serving the people on the streets of India. Not everybody can be Mother Teresa, but everybody can serve. Our church has many opportunities for service. Let us explore together how you might be in service to God and therefore raise your level of living from good to great!

Many Blessings,

Pastor Mike

 

Weeping May Last For A Night

“Weeping may last for a night,

but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5).

A number of years ago, someone came up with the great idea of putting playrooms in pediatricians’ offices. Oftentimes parents bring their sick children to the doctor and have to wait to be seen. The playrooms are designed to distract children from the pain of their problem until the doctor can see them. These playrooms give the children (and their parents) joy through a tough situation.

That is the way God works. Though things may not be going the way we would like them to on the surface, God has designed a “playroom” in our souls. In the midst of our troubles, He intends for his joy to distract us from our pain until He makes provision for us.

In John 17:13 Jesus prayed, “I am coming to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” Jesus prayed that we would have his joy within us. He wants us to have his joy, because the joy of the Lord is our strength.

I must mention that there is a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is short-lived but joy is long lasting. In John 16:21 Jesus teaches us the enduring nature of joy. He says, “When a woman is in travail she has sorrow, because her hour has come; but when she is delivered of the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a child is born into the world.”

I have seen this picture of a woman in labor up close and personal. I was in the delivery room for the birth of each of my three children and I must say labor looked like it really, really hurt! Giving birth is an agonizing experience. However, in an instant a mother’s pain becomes joy as she meets her baby for the first time. Jesus says that is the way times of trial work.

Today, there is much pain and grief in Pakistan because of the Easter Sunday suicide bombing, but Pakistan will rise again. That is what Jesus promised the disciples as well. The disciples would see Jesus die on the cross, but they would later experience his resurrection. God delights in performing resurrections in our lives. We do not live in a world without pain but God promised to take our pain and turn it into joy.

The Bible says, “weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). If I had the option, I would order the joy without the suffering. Yet, Jesus said, that is not the way it works. Joy comes not from a change of circumstances – joy comes from having Jesus in our hearts.

Have you discovered joy through a personal pain that has allowed you to form a deeper relationship with God? Have you discovered the joy of releasing fear of death and looking instead to certainty of an eternity with God? Have you discovered the joy of knowing that whatever happens you are going to be all right because God is with you?

Jesus prayed that you would have his joy in you. Do you?

Many Blessings,

 Pastor Mike