Graduation 2006 – How Time Flies!

Tonight is graduation for Magna Vista High School. Now none of my children are graduating this year, but next year at this time, hopefully, one will. It’s hard to believe that our oldest daughter is beginning her senior year this fall. She hopes to attend Indiana Wesleyan University when she graduates.

How time has flown. This summer marks several events in my life. It’s been 25 years since I graduated from high school.

Twenty years ago this summer, I toured with the Continental Singers. I played bass guitar on Tour A. The tour took us up the west coast to Seattle. We then toured Alaska for ten days and returned to the mainland. Once we returned to Seattle, we took a four week tour through western Canada. Then our tour took us back down the coast to Los Angeles. This tour solidified God’s call to the ministry. I had always felt that God was calling me into music ministry.

As a part of that calling, I then attended IWU and graduated from there ten years ago this past April. How time flies when you’re following what God wants you to do. God was not done with me yet. I still thought music and worship was going to be my full-time calling. God had other plans. Just last year I finally finished taking classes through the Wesleyan Church and was ordained last summer.

So forgive me as I get nostalgic. It won’t be long before my wife and I celebrate 20 years of marriage together. God has been good and it has been a great journey so far. I look forward to what God has in the years ahead as we continue on the journey of following Him.

The Boldness of Stephen

Like many Wesleyans, our church is reading participating in The Year of the Bible program. I like that many in our church are not only reading through the Bible this year, but are also trying to read with new understanding. I have read sections of the Bible that I have never read through before. Isn’t interesting how we gravitate toward our favorite books. Case in point, I usually gravitate toward the Psalms or one of letters in the New Testament. When we do that we forget what else is in the Bible. Some have been surprised as we have read through the Bible this year.

This morning we read Acts 6. We often think that the early church didn’t have internal problems. We consider most of them outside problems. The church in Acts was growing quickly and the first rumbling are heard in Acts 6. The Greek-speaking believers were set against the Hebrew-speaking believers, because the Greek-speaking believers we being discriminated against. It’s cool to see how they solved the problem quickly. One of the keys I see is that they quickly pulled together. They appointed seven to take care of the food distribution problem. The disagreement was quickly settled and as a result the gospel continued to spread. I think it’s interesting that because the Holy Spirit had come in power the apostles instinctively knew what to do. We took a look on Sunday of the power of the Holy Spirit; how men who were impulsive and competitive, when filled with the Spirit, worked together for the spreading of the gospel without fear. Just after this we hear the story of Stephen, “a man full of God’s grace and power,” who performed miracles and signs. Oh to be like Stephen. He was a man after Jesus’ own heart and full of the Holy Spirit. A man who stood up against the liars and told them how it really was. That’s my prayer today. To have the boldness of Stephen…

Sunday Sermon Starter

This will be one of those posts that get us thinking about Sunday morning’s topic. This Sunday I will be preaching from 1 Peter 1:13-25 (NLT)

This week as we take communion, we want to focus on celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our worship this week will reflect this thought. So often we only focus on the sacrificial price that Jesus paid on the cross when we take communion. This week we will focus on the victorious Christ, who conquered sin, death, hell, the grave.

Something to think about for Sunday. Is celebration a bad thing when it comes to communion?Before you answer let me give you the definition from dictionary.com.

cel·e·brate

  • To observe (a day or event) with ceremonies of respect,… or rejoicing.
  • To perform (a religious ceremony)
  • To extol or praise.

We have several things to celebrate when we partake in communion. Can you think of what they are based on the Scripture above? If you don’t attend Preston Wesleyan, I will follow up on this post on Sunday afternoon to see where we go with this.

When Days Don’t Turn Out As Planned

Today started out like any normal day. It was time to get the oil changed in the mini-van. So I took the van down to the local garage. While the mechanic was changing the oil, he commented that the tires were worn down to the belts. Well, that was not the kind of news I was expecting. I’ve been around long enough to know that tires and an alignment was going to cost some money today. The good thing is we had the money for it. The other side of me was depressed because we had good plans for that money. The long story short is we got the tires replaced and did the alignment as well.

The thought that kept running through my head today is “what happens when life doesn’t turn out as planned.” One of the things is that we have to keep it in perspective. This was not a terrible tragedy. I have an aquaintance who is facing a much more difficult week than I am facing. Several weeks ago I posted about a new CD my wife got for Mother’s Day. The CD is from the band Casting Crowns and it is titled “Lifesong.” The theme of the CD, in my opinion, is worship. How do our lives reflect worship to our God? One of the songs has been getting some airplay on the radio is “Praise You In the Storm.” How do we continue to praise God when we are going through trials of life? Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (The Message)

“So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever. “

What a way to put things back in perspective. Another song that God uses to remind me of this is Matt and Beth Redman’s “Blessed Be Your Name.” The name of the Lord is blessed in our good times – when the “world’s all as it should be”, and the name of the Lord is blessed in the desert times, “on the road marked with suffering.” Job writes, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be stripped of everything when I die. The LORD gave me everything I had, and the LORD has taken it away. Praise the name of the LORD!” Remember that life will not always work out as planned. We may have our share of disappointments. We may even have more than our share of disappointments in our own eyes, but let’s remember to praise God even in the storms of life.

Virginia Transplant

The title of this blog comes from an aquaintance I met several years ago. His blog is titled Atlantic Transplant. Dean grew up in the area of New York, where we moved from. We got to met each other while he was preaching at a small campmeeting that I was involved in. He now lives up in the maritimes of Canada. As it states on the subtitle, God has called us (me, my wife and my family) to Martinsville, VA to shepherd the congregation of Preston Wesleyan Church. For the first time in my life, I have spent more than a week south of the Mason-Dixon line. The slogan for Martinsville/Henry County is “We Love This Place.” That has become true in our lives. You don’t have to drive far to see the wonderful Blue Ridge Mountains.

So now you know more about the title. What do I plan to write here. That has been a work in progress and will probably continue to be a work in progress. Sometimes, I’ll just offer a random thought. I’ll share interesting links that I get from others, such as the Biblical Pronuciations link. Sometimes, I’ll write about the church, or about worship. Maybe sometimes I give you something to start thinking about for the sermon the next week. In all that is written though I desire to give God the glory. That is my desire in life. Please, join me in this journey.

Having trouble reading all those names in the Bible?

Many of you who attend Preston Wesleyan Church have been reading through the Bible this year. This includes struggling through those difficult Old Testament names. Well, help is on the way. Thanks to my friend Mark Wilson, you now have a tool to pronounce those difficult names. Go ahead and follow this link, Biblical Words Pronunciation, and have some fun with it. No, this is not my thought for the day. This is just a bonus.

Sunday Night Thoughts – June 4

It’s been two weeks since I first started blogging. This past week has been a week of writer’s block. I’ve started several times this past week to put up a new post, but nothing came of it. Some of you may wonder, “Why blog?” After this past week and putting up with writer’s block, I wonder why myself. The answer comes partially from tonight’s Spiritual Formation class at our church. Tonight we looked at the spiritual discipline of journaling. One of the best places to look for early examples of journaling is in the Psalms. Here we have writers putting down their thoughts in very open and transparent ways. It has always been difficult for me to express my thoughts and even more difficult if I know others will be reading them. This blog is an attempt to overcome this weakness. The challenge I’ve given to myself this week is to journal through this blog each day. Another thing that I have challenged myself to do is to become a better writer. You become a better writer through practice. Yes, each week I have to prepare a sermon, but I also like the challenge of coming up with something of meaning on a daily basis. Tomorrow, I’ll take a look at the title of this blog and some of the topics I’ll write about.

Are You Connected?

Just two weeks ago we celebrated together the fifty-seventh anniversary of our church. This morning we want to look an even more important birthday or anniversary. We want to take a look at the beginnings of THE church. When we take a look at the disciples in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we discover that they are fallible men and women. Peter had all kinds of issues; one of them was foot-in-mouth disease. He spoke and then asked questions. Peter was impetuous. The other disciples were not without their faults. James and John were constantly competing for the privilege of being right next to Jesus in the new kingdom. Thomas was a doubter. The list continues. This is amazing considering that they had Jesus himself with them.

As we’ve been reading through John this week, Jesus tells his disciples that he is about to leave them, but at that time he also promises a helper; a comforter; and advocate. They don’t understand it at the time. Let’s fast forward a few weeks. Just before he leaves, he gives them instruction to stay in Jerusalem. He tells them to wait for the helper that has been promised. His disciples asked Jesus in verse 6 of Acts 1, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

7He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Jesus made many promises of his return to get those who followed after him. In several places he tells us to be watchful and pray for his return, which makes this interchange interesting. Jesus tells them, “You don’t need to know the time, but here’s what is important. You will received power from the Holy Spirit and you are to be my witnesses throughout the world.”
In the next paragraph, Jesus is taken up to heaven. The disciples were looking into the sky wondering where he went. As they are doing that two men dressed in white show up and ask, “What are you doing, just looking up into the sky. It’s time for you to get busy doing the work Jesus has commanded.” Now those words aren’t in there, but they could be. Jesus had just finished saying that the disciples didn’t need to know the time of his return, that was for God to know. One of Jesus’ last commands is known as his great commission, “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” Sometimes we want to get caught up in watching and praying. We do a very good job at that, but Jesus also told us that He is going to prepare a place for us. That place is heaven. I’ve heard it several times since I have been here. Our chief aim in life is to go to heaven and take as many as we can along with us. We need to be about the Father’s business of changing lives. Yes, it is hard work, but that is what Jesus has commissioned us to do. So let’s get busy, time is getting shorter.

Just after that, the disciples return to Jerusalem. They gather in an upper room (a guest house as it was). Luke records the names of the eleven that are left, but he also mentions that “14They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” In my studies and if we look a little further on in chapter one, we will discover that there were more gathered around Jesus than just the twelve named disciples. Peter suggests that they need to pick Judas’ replacement. The qualifications are that they had to have been with them since Jesus was baptized and also witnessed the resurrection. This is not the first time that Luke records more than the twelve being disciples of Jesus. It’s also not the first time that women are included among the disciples. There were about 120 men and women disciples gathered in the upper room that day waiting for the coming gift that Jesus promised. Jesus told them that they were to be witnesses, but they had to wait until the gift that He promised was given to them. That’s where we pick up the story in the 2nd chapter of Acts.

Acts 2:1When the day of Pentecost came; they were all together in one place. 2Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
5Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? 8Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? 9Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11(both Jews and converts to Judaism Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
13Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

We’ll continue in just a moment. The early church was all together in one place, praying for God’s gift. Sometimes we’re so interested in getting God’s work done, that we forget to ask for the enablement of his Holy Spirit. Here they were unified in task and the Holy Spirit comes. What was the first thing that happened after they received the Holy Spirit? They began to speak in other languages that they did not know. That’s quite a gift. These eleven were not educated men. They hadn’t taken other languages in school. These were fishermen. They were common men and women. Notice what happens when the Holy Spirit is released among us. In verse 5, there were God-fearing Jews from all over the world in Jerusalem and they came together to see what was happening. What they found was men and women speaking about the wonders of God. And each person who had gathered heard about the wonders of God in their own language. I think that is pretty cool. Look at the power that is available to us when we get connected to the Holy Spirit. Is it any wonder that the church seems powerless today? We need the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. So what else happened that day? Let’s continue…

14Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
22 Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25David said about him: ‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 26Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, 27because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. 28You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’
29 Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. 32God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. 33Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand 35until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’
36 Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

Wait a second. Is this the same Peter who denied Jesus because He feared for his life? Yes, it is. This would not be the last time that Peter would be so bold. The Holy Spirit coming into our lives changes us and changes us completely. We don’t hear much about transformation anymore. No, we hear things like, “We sin in thought, word and deed everyday.” When this is said, it’s not talking about those who haven’t received Christ into their lives. This is Christians talking. “If sin remains in us,” John writes, “then we do not have fellowship with the Father.” When Jesus comes into our life we are radically transformed. Paul writes, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation…the old has gone, the new has come.” This transformation comes about as a result of Christ’s transforming work in us through the work of the Holy Spirit. Look what happens now…
37When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
38Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
40With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
We further believe that there comes a time in each Christian’s life when God calls them to a deeper life. God calls us into deeper water so to speak. We can only do that through the working of the Holy Spirit. Remember last week I said that there is nothing we can do to clean ourselves up for God? Jesus wants us just as we are and he will do the cleaning up. You will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The people gathered in Jerusalem were cut by Peter’s words and wondered what to do. When the Holy Spirit is living and active in our lives there will be conviction in the unbeliever’s life. The Holy Spirit came and the church was never the same. Let’s finish this morning with some familiar words.
42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Today, we celebrate the Holy Spirit coming to the early followers of Jesus. The same Holy Spirit that came to them is available to us. Are you plugged into the power that the early church was plugged into? Look at all the miraculous things that the early church did. This same power is available to us today. Will you grab hold of it?