Tonight we launched our prayer meeting at McCrae Brook Wesleyan Church.  I know that sounds old school, but I believe in the power of corporate prayer and I believe that the church needs to pray corporately and not just on Sunday morning during worship.  I know that I am excited about this evening.  We had a good turnout, but more importantly we prayed…no Bible study.  Yes, we sang a few songs, and I read a few scriptures to focus our time, but then we prayed.  What an amazing time as we prayed for our schools, prayed for our community and prayed for our church.  And we prayed for renewal in our communities.  We have two communities close by – the borough of Eldred, PA and the Village of Portville, NY.  I like this quote that I found about prayer and it includes four types of prayer.

A dynamic praying church must be built from the inside out, employing all four levels of prayer: the secret closet, the family altar, small group praying and finally, the congregational setting.

Developing your Secret Closet of Prayer, Richard Burr, p 19.

If we are to be effective as believers, we need to be a people of prayer.

Labor Day

Today we celebrate the unofficial last day of summer. In many places the kids have been back to school for several weeks. Here in Pennsylvania they just went back to school a week ago. Just across the border in New York State, they start tomorrow. As I mentioned last night, the leaves are just beginning to change color. But those are not the reason we celebrate Labor Day. Over the last few days I’ve noticed all the “Labor Day Sales.” As that is the reason we celebrate. The retail industry doesn’t know a holiday it doesn’t like to commemorate with a sale, but that’s a subject for another day.

Today we celebrate the American worker. Our country is full of hard working people. Sometimes we forget that. Many of those hard working people are working today…on their day. Most of those work in some kind of retail capacity, but other – such as nurses and doctors, firefighters, the police work on this day as well. I was reminded of that on my run this morning. It was so quiet as I headed out, because many workers were staying home.  In the first two miles, only four cars passed me and one of those was Pam on her way to walk.

Today lets remember the hard workers of America…and be especially nice to those you meet who are working today!

Sunday Night Thoughts

Sunday Night Thoughts

Here we are on the first Sunday night of September.  Tomorrow is Labor Day and most are enjoying a long 3-day weekend.  For our family it is the first 3-day weekend that Anna, James, and I have experienced in over a year.  It is strange having a Saturday, Sunday, AND a Monday off.  Yes, I know for the pastor Sunday isn’t really a day off, but we have had a great afternoon relaxing and sabbathing.

This past week was really the first “normal” week since we arrived in Eldred and we are starting to figure out our routine.  On Tuesday we did go to Buffalo to visit a family member of someone from our church.  On the way home we stopped by the Galleria Mall – which is an upscale mall outside of Buffalo.

This week I have several meetings with pastors.  I will be meeting with the other local Wesleyan pastor for lunch on Tuesday and on Wednesday we meet with the Otto-Eldred Ministerium.  We will start looking at the Thanksgiving Service, go over how our lunch went and also look at Baccalaureate for next year.  It is good to be involved with the area clergy.

It looks like we are going to get back into summer time temps – even though we have seen the first of the leave start to change color – it is that time of the year and that time of the year will come here earlier than it did in Virginia.  As I write, the sky is already dark – another sign that summer is coming to an end.

Tomorrow we plan on exploring some things in Pennsylvania. One of those being the Kinzua Skyway.  Yes there will be pictures.  We may explore Smethport on the way back as well.  Smethport’s claim to fame is that is our county seat.

We are also looking forward to our first weekly prayer meeting at McCrae Brook.  This will be a time of focused prayer and worship. We are going to change it up by holding it in our fellowship hall – to give it a different feel.

We had a good service this morning and I was encouraged that we had several younger people and some out-of-town guests.  God is up to something and we are praying for Him to do His work.

That’s about all I have for this week.  See you next Sunday night!

Prayer for the Week

Prayer_Banner_22-760x176Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Receiving and Giving Grace

Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost

Proper 18 (23) (September 4, 2016)

  • First reading and Psalm
    • Jeremiah 18:1-11
    • Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
  • Second reading
    • Philemon 1:1-21
  • Gospel
    • Luke 14:25-33

Philemon 1-21 | New Living Translation (NLT)

This letter is from Paul, a prisoner for preaching the Good News about Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy.

I am writing to Philemon, our beloved co-worker, and to our sister Apphia, and to our fellow soldier Archippus, and to the church that meets in your house.

May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

I always thank my God when I pray for you, Philemon, because I keep hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ. Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.

That is why I am boldly asking a favor of you. I could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do. But because of our love, I prefer simply to ask you. Consider this as a request from me—Paul, an old man and now also a prisoner for the sake of Christ Jesus.

I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Onesimus. I became his father in the faith while here in prison. Onesimus hasn’t been of much use to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us. I am sending him back to you, and with him comes my own heart.

I wanted to keep him here with me while I am in these chains for preaching the Good News, and he would have helped me on your behalf.But I didn’t want to do anything without your consent. I wanted you to help because you were willing, not because you were forced. It seems you lost Onesimus for a little while so that you could have him back forever. He is no longer like a slave to you. He is more than a slave, for he is a beloved brother, especially to me. Now he will mean much more to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.

So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, PAUL, WRITE THIS WITH MY OWN HAND: I WILL REPAY IT. AND I WON’T MENTION THAT YOU OWE ME YOUR VERY SOUL!

Yes, my brother, please do me this favor for the Lord’s sake. Give me this encouragement in Christ.

I am confident as I write this letter that you will do what I ask and even more!

Here we have the shortest of Paul’s letters, co-written with Timothy.  So short that the entire contents is presented to us today.  It is less than 500 words. If typed in Microsoft Word in Times New Roman 12 pt. font with 1″ margins, it would take just one page.

This brief letter appears to be written to Philemon and several of his co-laborers and to the house church that they led.  Paul and Timothy use a typical greeting – I love Paul’s salutations, “May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.” We often think of that as a benediction rather than an opening.  What if we greeted each other that way?  What difference would it make.  He ends the letter the same way.

Following the salutation, Paul writes something again that is very typical for his letters. It is a prayer for Philemon and thanksgiving for the way that the Lord is working in his life.  We learn that Philemon is a faithful believer – that he is generous, that he loves people, and that he is kind – showing the love of Jesus to the people.

After that prayer is where the letter gets interesting. It takes a different turn than Paul’s other letters.  Paul now makes a rather urgent appeal on behalf of Onesimus. Paul calls him my child.  It looks like Paul has been doing some discipling of his own while in prison – in chains for the gospel.  It appears that Onesimus at some point in the past ran away from Philemon and we aren’t given any background on that.  From what we can gather from Paul, it doesn’t seem like he was much of a servant and really not worth much. Paul states that Onesimus wasn’t much use to you in the past.

Apparently the discipling that Paul has been doing has caused a great chance in Onesimus’ heart – so much so that Paul would rather keep him to help in the work of furthering the gospel, but Paul know that wouldn’t be right. It would be wrong to keep another man’s servant.  It appears from what we can gather that Onesimus is willing to go back, but I would guess that he is just a little concerned to go back because of the circumstances under which he left.  Paul is writing this letter on his behalf and as a Christian brother asking Philemon to accept Onesimus back – but not as a slave or a servant – because Onesimus is willing to come back – but as a beloved brother in Christ – Paul says he is now a man, I beleive meaning that Onesimus has matured.  Paul goes one more step and asks Philemon to accept Onesimus as Philemon would accept Paul.

What a great picture of the body of Christ – what a great picture of what Christ has done for us. We ran away from God, but Christ pursued us. Through the work of the cross and the power of the resurrection and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we have been welcomed back into the family – we have matured. Sometimes we think that God might not want us back, but Jesus has “written” to him on our behalf and now we are called sons and daughters – we are brothers and sisters – we are co-workers in the cause of Christ.

Going back to Paul’s original words about grace.  Onesimus has received quite a gift from Paul.  Now Paul is asking that Philemon extend grace to Onesimus and receive him back as not a slave but a brother in Christ.  So many times it is easy to get our feelings hurt – believe me I am talking as one and the same.  I wear my feelings on my sleeves.  Yet Christ is asking us to extend grace to those who need it – and who doesn’t need grace? We are even asked to extend grace to those who have hurt us in the past – that’s hard and yet it is what Christ did for us – while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). We were enemies of the God and God extended us grace through Christ. It doesn’t get anymore sobering than that.

Who do you need to extend grace to today?

50 Women Every Christian Should Know

063650About a year ago Anna and I saw this book at a Christian book store, 50 Women Every Christian Should Know by Michelle DeRusha.  I finally decided to buy it and read it. This is a book that all Christian women should read because it reminds us how women influence the world for Christ. It is a great source for people who do not believe in women in ministry.  One of the most interesting things I learned about this book was how much influence the Methodist church had throughout history. Not only that, but this book shows that women can show the love of God. There was a large diversity of women in this book.

I feel that this book missed two really important women who were missing Elizabeth Elliot. Her first husband, Jim Elliot, was killed in 1956 while attempting to make missionary contact with the Auca (now known as Huaorani; also rendered as Waorani or Waodani) of eastern Ecuador. She later spent two years as a missionary to the tribe members who killed her husband. Returning to the United States after many years in South America, she became widely known as the author of over twenty books and as a speaker in constant demand. Elliot toured the country, sharing her knowledge and experience, well into her seventies.[1]

Dr. JoAnne Lyon  – Former General Superintendent of the Wesleyan Church and current ambassador for the Wesleyan Church. Dr. Lyon serves on the board of directors of many organizations as representative of The Wesleyan Church including the National Association of Evangelicals Executive Committee, Christian Community Development Association, National Religious Partnership for the Environment, Asbury Theological Seminary Board, Council on Faith of the World Economic Forum, the President of The United States Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

As the founder and CEO of World Hope International, Alexandria, VA, she directed the faith-based relief and development organizations into over 30 countries to alleviate suffering and injustice.