Sunday Night Thoughts

Sunday Night Thoughts

The final Sunday of the summer is in the books.  This was a different kind of week in our new location since I didn’t have to prepare a sermon.  We had missionaries who are heading to Czech Republic be with us today.  That means I had some time to do some other things.

Fall is slowly, but surely coming to the Twin Tiers (We are in the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania and the area of New York State that is just above us is called the Southern Tier) Together they are known as the Twin Tiers since they rely on each other.  Many of the people who live in this area of Pennsylvania, hop across the border to shop in nearby Olean, NY.  The leaves have begun to change color. We really haven’t had too many cold mornings, although we did have one 38 degree morning so far.  Last night we had some excitement – for a few moments we were under a tornado warning.  According to the NWS, this area gets about two tornado warnings a year.  This one was unusual in that it was late in the summer. We are going to have a couple of 80 degree days early this week.  I never expected that up here.

We had our second board meeting since arriving and then on Thursday, Pam and I headed to Hamburg, NY to attend our first Leadership Development meeting for the district.  It was good to get to know some of the district pastors better.  Following that meeting, we went to the district office for new pastor’s orientation.  Our district office and the meeting were just a mile or two from New Era Field (the home of the Buffalo Bills) who just so happened to be playing the New York Jets on Thursday Night.  It was a bit crazy as we tried to get out of Buffalo.  We are getting used to the trip now and it doesn’t seem near as long.

We had a really good service this morning as we hosted Kevin and Cindy Austin.  From the moment we walked in we could sense the Holy Spirit working.  Following the service we were able to have lunch with the Austins here in the parsonage.

This afternoon, we (me) decided to go for a long walk – at least longer than usual.  It ended up being over 5 miles – and it was hot – for New York (We walked on a trail at St. Bonaventure University) at this time of year – and humid.  It took the energy out of all of us.  So now we are all resting as we get ready for a new week.

That’s about all I’ve got tonight – have a great week!

Prayer for the Week

Prayer_Banner_22-760x176Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Living in All Godliness and Holiness

9636492-1474037475970_640x640Proper 20 (25) (September 18, 2016)


1 Timothy 2:1-7 | New International Version (NIV)

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus,who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles.


Wow! Paul writes quite a bit in these seven verses.  How timely is the first sentence in our passage this week.  Two weeks ago, our church started a corporate prayer emphasis.  By that I mean that on Wednesday nights, we gather as a church body and we pray.  Our format for the evening is simple.  Usually I will start with some sort of scripture, then we will sing some songs to help us focus us and lead us into prayer. Following that time of musical worship, we take time to receive praises and prayer requests.  And following that, we pray.  I think it is important for us to pray as individuals and it is important for us to pray as a body.  The first few weeks have been amazing and it has drawn our church together and I look forward to our continued times of corporate prayer.

As I look at this passage, Paul instructs us to pray for all people – our petitions – our intercession – and thanksgiving — should be for all people.  That doesn’t seem too hard until he adds that we should be praying for kings and those in authority.  I don’t think I have to say too much about this year’s election season – except that we – Christians – need to be in prayer.  We need to ask for wisdom and discernment for who we should elect to office.  It’s interesting in this passage that Paul says to pray for those in authority – what he doesn’t say is that we should pray for those in authority that we like or we agree with – it says to pray for all people in authority.  Perhaps the reason that we are in the place that we are today is because we are far too willing to give our opinion of how things are going in politics rather than pray – just pray – and live lives of quietness and holiness.  That is not to say that we shouldn’t be involved.  I think back to how the Wesleyan church got started – back in 1843.  Five men who saw the injustice of slavery and saw that their church – their denomination wasn’t going to do anything about it, started a new movement.  It was dangerous to do what they were doing – especially as the movement moved to the south.  This new movement of churches was intent on pursuing holiness and pursuing justice.  It wasn’t long after slavery was abolished that these same Wesleyan Methodists allowed their church in Seneca Falls, NY to be used for the first women’s rights convention – headed up by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  Wesleyan Methodists were on the forefront of proclaiming scriptural holiness and pursuing justice.  And to be sure these early Wesleyan Methodist certainly held to proclaiming the gospel that Jesus came for all.

Which by the way is Paul’s next point.  God desires that all people should be saved and come to the knowledge of truth.  Jesus said he was the Way, the Truth, and the Life and that no one comes to the Father except through Him. This is what Paul meant by Jesus being the mediator between God and man.  Jesus – fully God – fully man gave himself up as a ransom – most of us are familiar with what a ransom is…a ransom is to obtain the release of (a prisoner) by making a payment demanded. We were dead in our sins and Jesus made the payment that was required = the sacrifice for our sins – Jesus is part of the new covenant that doesn’t require a constant sacrifice of blood for our sins.  Jesus paid the price once and for all – transcending space and time.  Remember what Paul writes in Romans 12:1 – Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Christ died for all – Christ died to save us all – God desires that no one perish in their sins.  Christ was the ransom for all.

It is for this purpose that we were saved – to spread this Good News to people everywhere – in our valley – in our communities – in our townships and counties – and around the world.

Sunday Night Thoughts

Sunday Night Thoughts

As I write this, the sun is shining beautifully on the hill across from the house.  We have a beautiful picture window that faces it, so I can see it from the dining room where I am typing this.  The days are beginning to get shorter and tonight we get our first real taste of cooler weather. We are supposed to wake up to 42 degrees in the morning.  I’m going to take advantage of that and go for a long run – I love long runs on Monday mornings.

It has been a good week. This past Monday we spent Labor Day doing some touristy things. The first thing we did was go to the Kinzua Bridge.  (click on the link for more info.) We continued our tourist trip by going to Bradford, PA and visiting the Zippo/Case Museum.  It was interesting to see the history behind these famous lighters and knives.  That was how we spent Monday.  Tuesday I had a good meeting with another Wesleyan pastor as we talked about partnering together.  Wednesday morning we met with the local Otto-Eldred Ministerial.  We looked at our community Thanksgiving service and about putting together a Baccalaureate service this spring.  I am looking forward to how that is going to work out and would ask for your prayers.

Wednesday night we had our first prayer meeting at McCrae Brook.  We met in the basement of the parsonage which also serves as our fellowship hall and now our prayer meeting room.  I was very encouraged by the turnout.  I really believe that God is up to something here and these prayer meetings are just the start.

Thursday evening, Anna and I were asked to be guest worship leaders at Hillside Wesleyan in Olean.  Hillside is pastored by Rick Long and he invited us to lead worship at their Thursday evening service – this is an acoustic styled service with a conversational-dialogue style teaching.  We were joined by an acoustic bass player.  It was good to worship with our fellow Wesleyans.

As you can see it was a busy week and add to that we were trying to help James because his hard drive died in his laptop, so yesterday we headed up to Houghton to help him get that corrected.  Then we came home and went to a cook-out with members of our church.  It has been a warm, humid week and last night we had thunderstorms.

That led to a change in the weather.  Today has been much cooler than the days leading up to it and tomorrow, as I already mentioned we will wake up to 42 degrees.

We had a good morning of worship this morning at McCrae Brook.  It was one of those sermons that I struggled to put together.  Although I believe it was worth it.  It was well received.  This afternoon we relaxed and I watched Buffalo Bills football.  The Bills are the local team here and all the stores have Buffalo Bills merchandise.

That’s about all I have for this week.  Have a great one!

15 Years

9111

Today marks the 15th anniversary of 9-11.  I saw something interesting this week.  For those who are entering high school this year, 9-11 didn’t happen in their lifetime.  I was thinking that for most college freshmen, they have never lived when there wasn’t a war on terror. James was 4 years old – most freshmen this year would be a year younger.  A 9-11 remembrance has always been part of their lives.

It really is hard to believer that it has been 15 years, since that fateful morning.  It was a clear blue sky in Upstate New York and I was in my office working on a sermon for the following Sunday.  Pam came over to tell me that a plane had flown into one of the two towers.  15 minutes later she came over to tell me a second plane struck the other tower. This was too much to be an accident – especially considering the weather in New York on that morning.  As I reflect back – both of those were flights originating in Boston and flying to the west coast.  There is a high probability that both flights that ended up flying into the towers that morning flew very close (albeit at a much higher altitude) to our small rural church in Upstate New York.

It was following that second crash, that I went in to our house and started following the terrible news.  For the next few hours the news would only get worse.  Next a plane flew into the Pentagon – then a plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.  What next — Pam had gone to get lunch for us – I was scheduled to go into work at noon at RadioShack.  James was nearby as the first tower fell – I cried for the people.  Then the other tower fell and I hugged James and held him close.  That was the main focus of our time at work that day as we helped our customers – most whom were in shock as well.

I remember the day almost as vividly as the day it happened 15 years ago.  To close this post tonight I want to share Psalm 91:

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;

    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”

Running Update

running legsSo the good running pattern that I established in August has continued into September, despite the fact that September here feels much like a Virginia August (at least at the moment.) It looks like our weather will be taking a turn for the cooler over the next week.

After August’s trendsetting pace, I have followed that up with 50 miles already for the month.  This is despite the fact that I have failed to get in any long distance mileage – at least yet.  I plan on taking advantage of Monday’s low in the 40’s to get out and do something long – like 10 miles.

In racing news, I have decided to run the Purple and Gold 5K at Houghton College during Parent’s Weekend in October.  I was originally planning a half marathon for that date – but our son asked if we were coming to parent’s weekend and we said yes.  While a 5k is not a half-marathon, it is a race and I haven’t done any of that lately, so I am looking forward to it and it’s only $10.

I’m hoping I can keep up the mileage. It looks as if the heavy duty mileage is finally making a difference.  Perseverance – pressing on – that is what it is all about.

Mercy

paul-and-timothySeventeenth Sunday After Pentecost
Proper 19 (24) (September 11, 2016)


1 Timothy 1:12-17 | New International Version (NIV)

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.


Mercy – compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.

Over the next few weeks we will be looking at some select passages in both Paul’s letters to Timothy.  This week we look at the theme of mercy.  Last week I wrote about receiving and giving grace.  We often think of grace and mercy as the same thing, but they are different.

Here’s the definition of gracethe free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.

So as you can see grace and mercy go together, but they are different.  God showed mercy when he forgave us our sins – we could have been punished form them, but he showed us his mercy because of his grace – God’s free and unmerited favor.  There is nothing that we could do to earn salvation. In fact, everything that we did earns us death.  The Bible tells us the wages of sin (what we earn) is death, but the free gift of God (grace) is eternal life.  Grace and mercy go well together.  I am eternally grateful and thankful that God forgave my sins – I like the fact that Paul said that he acted in ignorance toward Jesus – persecuting his people – and yet Jesus showed great mercy.  When we think of God’s great mercy, we need to think of his great patience with us.  Paul mentions that toward the end of our passage.  Paul considers himself the worst of sinners – not worthy of what Jesus did for him.  I think we all need to think that way.  The hymn writer Isaac Watts wrote:

Alas and did my Saviour bleed

And did my Sovereign die

Would he devote that Sacred Head

For such a worm as I.

I know thinking of ourselves as worms when it comes to being sinners isn’t popular today, but when we do, it really reminds us of God’s great love, God’s amazing grace, God’s great mercy that was poured out on us.  I’m reminded of another song (At Calvary) mercy there was great and grace was free – pardon there was multiplied to me…

No wonder God is so worthy of our praise.  I love how Paul finishes out this section of his letter in thanks to God – when we think of God’s great mercy…

 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever!  Amen!