There all along

For the last 6 weeks I have known I needed to order coffee filters for our 3 burner Bunn coffee maker.  They take a bigger filter, not a standard household filter.  I’ve even used paper towels to make coffee, so as not to completely run out of the few remaining filters we had.  There was no good reason I had not ordered new ones.  I just never did.  You can imagine my surprise when I was looking for something in the storage room at the church this morning and I found a box with 500 filters in it, in the corner of the room.  It was there all along, and I had not realized it.  I am in that room nearly every day, yet had never seen it.  This brings to mind a story from the Bible (Genesis 28) when Jacob said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” 

Today is the Saturday of Easter weekend.  It is hard to imagine which day would have been worse for the disciples – Friday when Jesus was crucified or Saturday when the weight of what had happened hit them and they believed they would never see Him again.  Sometimes the day after is worse than the day of.  What the disciples did not realize is that they would discover Jesus the next morning.  And that would be the last time in history that anyone had to be separated from Him.

He is near.  He is here.  If you are His and do not feel His presence, your feelings are lying to you.  Because Jesus does not lie.  He says in Matthew 28:20, “…be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  He is near.  He is here.

I invite you to take in this song from Kari Jobe:

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Followers who don’t really follow

I have been blogging for about 8 years.  Over that time I have had about 300 other bloggers “follow” my blog.  At first, I clicked the obligatory “follow” for the person who followed me.  Then I realized 99% of them were not really following me – not really interested in what I was writing.  I realized they were only trying to get me to follow and read their blog.  And it still happens.  Only now I rarely follow anyone back.

It makes me think of how we follow Jesus.  Are we truly desiring to follow Jesus? Or are we really just interested in the fringe benefits that He can provide?  Are we just interested in the blessings He can bring?  The answer to this question is evident when He does not meet our expectations.  Do we still follow and worship Him when the answer to our request is no?

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Posted in Hard times, Obstacles | 2 Comments

Knowing your audience

It’s tough to preach on Sunday mornings because there is such a wide variety of people in the pews.  Every Sunday at Wesley Chapel, among those attending are lost people who need to be saved, discouraged Christians who need to be encouraged, and lukewarm Christians who need a kick in the pants.  When I go to the mission, while there is still variety, I am preaching to a bunch of people who live at the mission.  When I preach in Haiti, while there is variety among the people, the common thread is I am preaching to people who live in a tough, tough place.

This coming Easter Sunday I am preaching my first community Easter Sunrise Worship since I arrived 5 years ago, which will be at the Pinto Mennonite Church.  Unlike the three services we have at our church on Easter morning, which will have a lot of people who only come to church a few times a year, the people at Pinto will be primarily be committed Christians.  What do committed Christians need to hear?

We must never change or dilute God’s Word, but we must always find ways to reach the people God has placed in our path.  How I speak to them at the mission is different than Haiti which is different than the church.  You have opportunities to proclaim Jesus to different people in different settings.  As He gives you opportunity, I pray He would give you the courage and wisdom, and even the simplicity, to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.

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One thing leads to another leads to God

In the 1980’s Diane and I attended Sistersville First United Methodist Church.  Fast forward 30 years and the son of the pastor at Sistersville connected with us to come to our church in Short Gap to talk about being called to work with the Jesus Film this past fall.  Yesterday we received a book from the young man.  Part of the book is about how the Jesus Film has impacted the world.  That inspired me to share on Facebook the link to the film in Haitian Kreyol (creole).  That link is here.  That led Pastor Rob Grady from First Baptist Church in Mason, WV to share it with two of his friends who are doing long term evangelistic mission work in Haiti.

I am always amazed how God strings together seemingly unrelated things to do His work.  Because we had that pastor 30 years ago, and through a million different events that have occurred since then, people will undoubtedly be watching the Jesus Film in Haiti today in their own language.

It is a snowy day in the WV mountains.  Perhaps you will want to watch it in your language today and then share it.

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You’ve Been Warned

Better get your bread, milk, and eggs, and do not wait until Monday.  Route 28 Discount Store will be closed on Monday and Walmart will be chaos.  Grady’s One Stop in Fort Ashby will be open and people will surely be stocking up.  The Short Gap Volunteer Fire Company will have the chains on their emergency vehicles.  The people of Wesley Chapel UMC might decide to move their egg making from Tuesday and Wednesday to one big day on Monday next week.  You guessed it.  Short Gap Snowmageddon 2018.  We have avoided the last couple of big dumps that impacted the northeast.  This forecast is no robin snow, defined as the first light snow after the robins come back, but a heart attack snow, a deep, wet snow that causes heart attacks in people who shovel.  We have been warned.  You have been warned.

We can do nothing and hope the forecast is wrong.  Or we can prepare.  As the time gets closer, and the forecast is still a foot of snow, it would be absurd to go on as if nothing was going to happen.  There is a forecast in the Bible that people treat with indifference.  The Bible tells us that Jesus is coming back and He is going to judge the world. On the one hand, He will receive unto Himself those who have accepted and received His offer of forgiveness and reconciliation with the God who created us.  On the other hand, He will cast into the lake of fire those who have not accepted the truth of the Bible and taken Him up on His offer to forgive us through His sacrifice.

I understand being skeptical.  I am a skeptic.  But I have chosen to believe there was a man named Jesus, that He was the Son of God, and that He came to die on the cross as a sacrifice for my sin.  And through His grace I am forgiven.  I have chosen to follow Him and lay down my life for Him as an offering of gratitude.  I believe the forecast is true.  What do you believe?  Are you prepared?

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You gotta be careful

This morning at the church egg making I overheard a guy I have never seen before.  He said he was on unemployment for a few weeks until he got called back to his job.  When you are drawing unemployment you have to make contacts about employment so it appears you are actively seeking a job.  He said he had to be careful where he checked for work because some places he went wanted to hire him.  (This is another crazy thing for anyone from Haiti or Africa to read, where they are starving for work.)  If you are not careful, they will hire you.

This makes me think of church.  There are big churches you can attend where you can blend in and nothing is expected of you.  There are other churches that have pastors who will never challenge the congregation to a “closer walk with Thee” — who preach a Christianity that expects nothing of you.

I believe in a Christianity that expects something from the saved.  I take Jesus at His word when He said, “If you want to be my disciple, pick up your cross and follow me”.  Do not misunderstand what I am saying.  I am not saying that one is saved by picking up their cross, but when we are saved there is a cross to pick up.  If you want to be a lukewarm, mediocre Christian, you had better be careful hanging around Wesley Chapel.  You might be convinced, as I have been, that lukewarm and Christian do not go together.

It is way too easy to spend your entire life studying/thinking about a walk with Jesus and not walking with Jesus.

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Getting them all riled up

Yesterday as I began to preach at 8:50, I told the early church folks that just because we got out at 9:20, I did not shorten my sermon.  We were just ahead of schedule.  At 9:38 when church was over, I told them it was their fault that we did not get out at 9:20 because they kept talking to me and each other about the sermon and Scripture. I preached from John 3:16-18 yesterday, which would seem to be a safe, agreeable Scripture:

“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God.”

For me, the controversy came down to this: Is it enough to believe without obeying?  I read that the original Greek word “pisteuo” can also be translated “obey”.   (Strong’s Concordance says: those who acknowledge Jesus as the saviour and devote themselves to him.)  I also read that in over 200 instances of the word appearing in the New Testament, the King James translators consistently translated it “believe”.  My question to the congregation was, what if it means obey or trust or follow?  What if the meaning behind pisteuo is really “Anyone who devotes themselves to Him is not condemned.”

It seems as though there are a lot more people who believe in Jesus than obey, trust, and follow Him.  Can people believe without following?  Of course.  Is that enough?  That is the question.  Believing without following would seem to me to be a broad path as in,

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life, and only a few find it.…”

Which path are you on?  Are you a believer and/or follower?

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Posted in Opportunity, sermons | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment