For me Charles Wesley is my favorite poet. A lot of people have not read his hymns or poetry. Charles Wesley was the younger brother of John Wesley and they both founded the Methodist Movement within the Church of England in the 18th Century. My Wesleyan professor in seminary, Dr. Hal Knight, once commented that if you wanted encouragement for your faith you should talk to John Wesley, however if you needed pastoral care, someone to grieve with, someone to console you, go to Charles Wesley. Both Wesley brothers were essential for the Methodist Movement to grow as it did and does today. For that reason I will share some of his writings from time to time. Whenever I have been truly inspired. I hope you all like it and may it help you mature in your faith through the Holy Spirit. ENJOY… Read More
Have you ever noticed that Paul rarely talks about Satan? Jesus, particularly in the Synoptic Gospels, engages Satan directly or indirectly quite often. Paul does not. The role that many Christians assign to Satan, Paul seems to assign to Sin. To be clear, he isn’t so interested in particular sins (though he does address these […]
Lent is the seven weeks leading up to Easter. It is a solemn season where we travel toward Jerusalem and the cross with Jesus. It is during this time that our prayers and thinking shift. Starting on Ash Wednesday (March 1) we begin to contemplate the meaning of the cross. The cross in its time was a device of torture. It was designed to make a human suffer for as long as possible till the human hung on it died. During Lent, we contemplate our own mortality. From the dust of the earth we were created and when we die we will return to the dust. This is not to say that we our hopeless. The cross also gives us tremendous hope. The cross was also the instrument that God used to save us. Christ died to set us free from bondage of sin. Up until the cross, sin was the ruler of our hearts. Now that Christ died and rose again sin is no longer the slave master. Read More
I find myself saddened this past week. I am saddened at the state of humanity that I am witnessing in the U.S. since the Presidential election. The media is calling it a historic race between the two candidates. I really didn’t see anything historic in the good sense. In my limited age of watching presidential races the only historical thing I saw was the culmination of hatred on both sides. Never have I seen debates and commercials that vilified the other side they way this race went. I do not even think “mud-slinging” is a good way of putting it. Mud-slinging would be a step up to what these two candidates did and said to each other. The sad reality to all this is that we have let two political parties divide the nation and the hatred that was seen in the election race is continuing after the election, but instead of the two candidates going at each other the public has followed the example of their nominees. This just goes to show you how impressionable humanity is when they allow a bad example to guide their morality and self-worth. Read More
There are some things about my mother Eileen Husted that you should know. All my life my mother has been a fairly large women with a very loud voice. She is someone who is not afraid to talk to anyone. And these days you can see her at her house in her home town watching grandkids or sharing her daily life with her sister who lives across the street. Like all kids I went through the stages of life with my mom. At one time she was only girl of my life, then other times she was my biggest embarrassment. No matter how I felt about my mom, most people like her. She has that kinda personality. I am sure most of you who are reading this can apply the same feelings toward your mother, at least I hope so. Read More
Prayer: Lord, Teach Me More – John 15:12-17
In 1959 a song written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller debuted on the music charts sung by The Clovers. The song’s title was “Love Potion No. 9.” The song only made it to #23. The song is about a man who can’t find love and so turns to a Gypsy who gives him Love Potion No. 9. After he took the potion he started kissing everything in sight which led to him kissing a cop, who then took his potion. There was some controversy over the song which is why it probably did not do well on the charts. Since the lyrics express the man kissing a cop, the song was banned by some radio stations. Anyway, this song would later influence a movie with the same title in 1992 starring Sandra Bullock and Tate Donovan. Both the song and the movie point out a very interesting concept. You cannot force love. No potion will bring true love. Only the freedom of choice brings about true and perfect love. I bring this up because love is an essential aspect of prayer that we must choose to learn. Read More
Prayer: Lord Teach Me… – Luke 11:1-4 & 18:1-8
Would anyone like to come up and pray for us before we get started?
How did you know what to pray for? Where did the words come from? Were you thinking of the words as you came up? Were you hoping that you said the right things? You probably wouldn’t know it, but I bet a lot of people have these thoughts in their heads. As a pastor you think that I could just pray on the spot no matter what is going on. This is both true, but a little misleading. Sometimes when we pray in groups my mind will wonder toward the time that I will pray. I think of the wording and the intentions of my words. I think of what others have not said. I consider how my prayer will speak to others in the group. The problem with this is my mind is not completely focused on prayer. Now my heart is focused on prayer, but my mind isn’t. Now this does not happen all the time, but part of prayer is learning what to say. Read More
Yesterday I started my Lent Sermon Series entitled “Prayer!” It will consist of 5 sermons with the theme of prayer at the center of each sermon. I don’t normally write my sermons, but something moved me to write out this series. Not that I believe that I am a great preacher, but I have really enjoyed putting this series together. Anyway, some of my congregants wanted me to post my sermon on my blog. So I will do that each week for this series. Now Lent runs 6 Sundays, but one of the Sunday’s I will be at a spiritual retreat at a Monastery in New Mexico, so there is only 5 sermons. You can read it if you want, or just ignore my sermons. Even though I wrote out my sermons does not mean I preached it verbatim, but what I post is the bulk of the sermon. Also, please excuse my punctuation and spelling. Enjoy!!!
Prayer: The Heart of the Matter – Ephesians 1:3-10
What is prayer? If I was to ask you to teach me to prayer where would you begin? How would you describe it? Do I sit, stand, kneel, lay down to pray? Do I pray alone or with others? Do I remain silent or do I speak it out loud? The most basic understanding of prayer that I found is, “A devout petition to God or an object of worship.” Wow, how underwhelming! A devout petition to God or an object of worship. Does this seem to answer all our questions? Another understanding is that prayer is a “religious observance.” How exciting! If someone was to ask you “what is prayer?” is this where you would start? If not where do you start?
Some might say that prayer is how we talk or communicate with God. In fact I remember how prayer was explained to me as a youth, “Prayer is like making a phone call to God.” Isn’t that nice; prayer is like picking up the phone dialing a number and talking to God. What if I dial the wrong number? What if the line is busy. I can just picture heaven having a connection room where angels are like telephone operators connecting millions of lines to God’s phone. He probably has different phone colors depending on the situation with a big red phone that only rings when something cataclysmic is going to happen. Is this the best example we can give? Or do we need to dumb down prayer so that people will understand? Or do we dumb down prayer because WE really don’t have a full grasp on what prayer is?
I think that prayer is hard for us because we have never truly sought the depth of prayer in our lives. I remember a man named Darrel who was dying and he didn’t know if he had ever prayed because he never understood prayer. This might sound sad, but I bet if you looked deep within yourselves you might just have the same fears. No, I believe we have so much trouble with prayer because we truly do not understand WHY we pray. So lets get to the heart of the matter.
To get to the heart of the matter about prayer we must look at our own existence. Why are we here? Why did God create us? These questions seem like they do not fit with prayer, but I assure you they have everything to do with prayer. In the beginning God created everything and called it good, but when He created humanity in His own Image, He called it very good. All of us, all of humanity was created in the Image of God. Thats right, all humanity that was and will be are created in the very Image of God. From the most perfect human to the most devilish human, we were all created in the Image of God. This was God’s purpose for humanity, to be His Image in creation. We believe this, either all humanity was created in the Image of God or none of us were. But, what is this image?
The best way to understand God’s Image is what we call “Holy Love.” God’s image is Holy Love. God is Holy. He is completely set a part from everything else because there is nothing like God. God is outside of everything. He is perfect and nothing compares with God. He is Uncreated. He has always been and will always be. God is love. Unconditionally perfect in compassion, grace, joy, and justice. He brings happiness and compassion. He gives forgiveness and acceptance. He proclaims favor and encouragement. He is gentle and kind, who does not easily get angry and never remains angry. He is patient, hopeful, faithful, and always has His creation at the center of His thinking and feeling. But most of all Holy Love is transformative. It transforms and creates. It changes and molds everything it comes in contact with. If I was to explain God to someone I would use Holy Love and we, all of humanity, are created in the Image of Holy Love. This is why Paul explains God’s plans in Ephesians as “bringing all things together in Christ, both on earth and in heaven.” Through God’s Image all things are united and equaled and changed to co-exist together in Holy Love.
The problem is that we are not like this image. It seems like every time we turn around we fail to be the Image in which we were created in. But here is the good news and here is where prayer receives its meaning, “God chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless in God’s presence before the creation of the world. God destined us to b e his adopted children through Jesus Christ because of his love.” This is the heart of prayer to become holy, blameless and God’s children through the love of Jesus Christ. We pray because it is what we were created to do. When we pray our hearts join Jesus’ heart to bring “honor and praise to God” who is Holy Love. Prayer is the “heart language” of our very being. The Psalmist got it right when he stated, “How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord of heavenly forces! My very being longs, even yearns, for the LORD’s courtyards. My heart and my body will rejoice out loud to the living God!” Listen to it again… Now that is prayer. Prayer comes from the depths of our very being. It cries out to the One that we are drawn to. Saint Augustine of Hippo said it best, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in thee.” I will say it again… Even though we are not like the Image God created us to be, our essence or heart yearns for this. Our hearts yearn and long to be in the very presence of God and to be like Him. Our sin redirects this yearning toward something else, but prayer redirects it back. Prayer undoes the sin in our lives!
I think now we can start to see why prayer is so important. Prayer is not just something that we do. It is not just communicating with God. It is not just a religious action. In fact prayer is not something we do at all. Prayer is the heart language of our lives. Prayer is not something we do, but something that is done to us. To understand prayer properly is to consider this. Is prayer something we do, or does prayer do something to us?
You see we understand that prayer is a Means of Grace. It is a channel that God has ordained so that God can give or bestow to us His grace and love. Grace is always transformative. If grace does not change and transform you then it is not grace from God. It might have the same characteristics, but God’s grace is always transformative. As our scripture explains, “We have been ransomed through his son’s blood, and we have forgiveness for our failures based on his overflowing grace, which he poured over us with wisdom and understanding.” God died so that we would be transformed back into the Image of Holy Love. Our hearts desire to become the Image of God because the One who created our hearts wants us to be His Image in creation. Prayer is our hearts crying out to God and to the world to reveal this same want. Prayer is our heart language and through our prayers we are transformed because in prayer we encounter the very Presence of God.
Yesterday was an amazing day. I got to take my daughters training wheels off her bike and teach her how to ride a bike. I believe that this must be some kind of rite of passage for fathers. To teach their children how to ride a bike brings about a certain pride. I really don’t know how to describe it. It seems silly to think that I would receive a sense of pride to watch my daughter fall off her bike, but then turn around and get back up again. It is amazing to see my daughter, who is a real girly girl, fall and not cry and keep trying. Then I think to myself, “I taught her to ride her bike.” Just a day later now and she is a pro at riding her bike. She can now start without my help, turning without falling, and getting to enjoy life on a bike. She gets to feel the freedom of the wind blowing in her hair and laugh as she screams, “watch me daddy.” I have experienced a lot of moments of joy, but this one is definitely a top moment.
I think one of the best feelings I got yesterday was the fact that she asked me to teach her. She came to me and said, “Teach me…” When someone asks you to teach them, they are putting a lot of trust in you. They are putting their trust in you to lead and direct their path. One of my greatest fears that I have in life is to lead people down a wrong path. As a minister I believe that all pastors should have this fear. One way I get through this fear is to pray, “Lord, if I am wrong, change my ways. Change my way of thinking and acting. Change what I believe. Teach me the right path that leads to your glory.” Psalm 119:33-34 states this, “LORD, teach me what your statutes are about, and I will guard every part of them. Help me understand so I can guard your instruction and keep it with all my heart.” How many of us pray like this? Lord Teach Me…
Over and over again in the Gospels, Jesus is called Teacher. Jesus is the Great Teacher. As Matthew states it many times, “Jesus traveled throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues. He announced the good news of the kingdom and healed every disease and sickness among the people.” A good and faithful follower of Christ should always ask God, “Teach Me.” We should never lose the thirst and hunger for God’s teaching. One of my favorite examples that the Disciples gave us was when they asked Jesus to Teach them how to pray (Luke 11). By asking God to teach us, we truly show a sign that we have put our complete trust in God. Where are you struggling in your life? In what way does God need to teach you? As the Psalmist says, through God’s teaching our hearts are able to be moved and changed. From our heart comes our actions, re-actions, and thoughts. Our heart guides and leads us. Only a heart transformed can follow Jesus completely. A heart transformed is always asking God, “Teach Me…”
When we follow God, I truly believe that He takes amazing pride in us. Especially when we cry out, “Teach Me…” Yes, we will fail and we will fall, but when we allow God to teach us it will not always be like this. Soon we will be like Anna who falls, but gets back up and tries again and then rides like a pro, all through God’s instruction. When was the last time you turned toward God to teach you? When have you cried out to God for instruction and teaching? We should never forget that we have so much to learn. We have so much to be taught. Remember, God would never teach you if He didn’t believe in you. God believes in you. God has faith in you. When you ask God “teach me,” He will not disappoint. May you never lose your thirst for His teachings. May you find and feel the freedom that comes from His ways and instruction. May you always cry out, “Teach Me…”
As I sit here in bed next to my wife who is asleep, I remembered that I have not made a post in a week or so. It is not that I haven’t wanted to, it is just finding the time. This has been a very busy week. My brother has visited us this week and now one of my sisters in Christ is visiting. In between visits is cleaning and catching up on work that I put off while people visit. Along with the work I put off are the trips to doctors that were scheduled for the family and visits to parishioners in the hospitals. Lets just say that it has been a busy week. Now it is midnight on Saturday night and this is when I decide to write a post. Well I guess if that is the time that fits, then do it. Read More