Archive for July, 2016

Prayer Life…

prayer5Pastor Brennan Manning tells a story about a man who was dying of cancer.

The man’s daughter had asked the pastor of the church to come by and pray with her father. When the pastor arrived, he found the man lying in bed with his head propped up on two pillows and an empty chair beside his bed. The pastor assumed that this man had been informed of his visit. “I guess you were expecting me,” he said.

“No, who are you?”

“I’m the new pastor at your church. When I saw the empty chair, I figured you knew that I was going to show up.”

“Oh yeah, the chair,” said the bedridden man. “Would you mind closing the door?”

Puzzled by this, the pastor shut the door.

“I’ve never told anyone this, not even my daughter,” said the man. “But all my life I have never known how to pray. At Sunday worship services I used to hear the pastor talk about prayer, but it always went right over my head…”

“I abandoned any attempt at prayer, until one day, about four years ago my best friend said to me, ‘Joe, prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with Jesus. Here’s what I suggest. Sit down on a chair, place an empty chair in front of you, and in faith see Jesus on that chair. It’s not spooky because he did promise, ‘I’ll be with you always.’ Then just speak to him and listen in the same way you’re doing with me right now.”

“So, pastor, I tried it and I’ve liked it so much that I do it a couple of hours every day. I’m careful, though. If my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, she’d either have a nervous breakdown or send me off to the funny farm.”

The pastor was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the old man to continue on the journey. Then he prayed with him and returned to the church.

Two nights later the daughter called to tell the pastor that her dad had died that afternoon.

“Did he seem at peace?” he asked.

“Yes, when I left the house around two o’clock, he called me over to his bedside, told me one of his corny jokes, and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back from the store an hour later, I found him dead. But there was something strange, pastor. In fact, beyond strange…kinda weird. Apparently, just before daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on a chair beside the bed.”

What a wonderful story.

Prayer can be a difficult thing to comprehend or even to accomplish, but it doesn’t have to be. As this story explained, prayer is just a conversation with Jesus Christ. It’s an open line of communication, and like any other form of communication, it is a two-way street. Listening is an integral part of the conversation.

Whether you use a particular form of prayer, or just an empty chair, prayer is a conversation with God, a line of communication.

Pray your praise for all that God has done in your life, in the lives of those around you, and in this world.

Pray through your failures, through your falling short, and through your sins.

Pray thanksgiving that God has forgiven all of those sins.

And ask, seek, and knock for God’s guidance in your life and for those things you see as needs, always knowing that it’s God’s plan that you desire. And knowing that God desires to give you so much more than you could ever imagine. His plan is good, he is good.

He is a good, good Father.

Be Still

majesty6Psalm 46:10-11 says this; “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress”

I recently got back from a vacation with my family to northern Michigan. We traveled through Wisconsin, the upper peninsula, over the Mackinaw bridge, and finally to our destination in Bay View, Michigan. We spent about a week and a half away, spending quality family time with each other. We did touristy things like visiting Mackinac Island, swimming in a COLD lake Michigan, chocolate tours, lavender farm tours, shopping in downtown Petowsky, and many others.

We kept busy with all this activity, but there were plenty of times that we spent at the house where we were staying, just playing games, watching movies, and reading.

And then there were moments like early morning coffee, scripture reading, conversations, and quiet time. Then there were sunset walks along the shores of Lake Michigan, either alone or with the family. And even a great night at something they call a “dark sky” park. This is a park which is dedicated to eliminating light pollution for spectacular sunset and star viewing.

It was in these moments when I heard this scripture passage, “Be still and know that I am God and I am with you.”

Now you have to know something about me and that is that I have not been on a family vacation for quite some time. In fact, it has been about ten years since we had been able to go as a family. I was either too busy working, to many activities, and over the past few years, I had school at seminary. There was no time for vacations, not to mention the lack of money to go anywhere.

But during this vacation I realized something during those quieter times, either alone or with the family, that it doesn’t have to be a full blown vacation, hundreds of miles away from home. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune, breaking the bank. All that is needed sometimes is a little time together with family to reconnect, and then a little time alone with God to reconnect with him.

We at Lanark UMC, earlier this year, spent some time on our out of control lifestyles, and the biggest thing that came out of that sermon series is the fact that we need to slow down and allow communication with God. But if we are too busy to take the time for this, we will never here the still small voice of God, who truly desires for us to connect with him.

Well, I was able to connect over this past couple of weeks. I saw beauty all around me, from Lake Michigan and all it has to offer, to sunsets, stars, forests, animals, smiles, and the faces of my family. I heard God speaking through the laughter, shouts of joy, waves crashing, and the gentle rain falling. God was all around me.

But then I realized something, God has always been around me, just as he is all around you. All we need to do is take a little time to stop, to be still and know that he is God.

So I want to encourage you to take 15 minutes out of your day, morning or evening or even in-between. Stop, or at least slow down, be still, and know that God is all around you. Look for him, listen for him, breathe him in.

“Be still and know that I am God!”

harvest-is-plentifulLuke chapter 10 begins with Jesus calling the 72 to go and proclaim the kingdom of God. To travel to different towns and preaching the gospel, just as he calls us today.

Jesus called the seventy-two. He called them to get out of bed, get outside their houses, put on their sandals, and to go for a walk. He called them to go into the towns that he himself was going to in a little bit. He sent them out 2 x 2 to visit these places and to proclaim that the kingdom of God was near. After all, Jesus was coming to that town real soon.

But we need to notice some of the instructions that Jesus gave to these first missionaries. First of all, he sent them by two’s. Certainly safety was an issue as Jesus even says in verse 3 “I am sending you as lambs in the midst of wolves.”

Jesus also tells them to pray earnestly. Pray for more workers, more laborers to proclaim the kingdom of God.

Now Jesus goes on with more instructions for these 72 people traveling. I think we’ve heard this before. Jesus says “Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road.” In other words, trust in God for all that you will need, because it will all be provided.

Jesus then instructs them on all of the things they should do while they are staying with people in the towns they are visiting. Stay in only one place, heal the sick and proclaim the kingdom of God.

So they leave, they travel to all of those places Jesus sent them to, proclaiming the kingdom of God and healing the sick. And after all of these journeys, they return to Jesus to tell of all that has happened.

Well, here are the 72, back from their trips, filled with story upon story of all the things that happened while they were away. They healed people, proclaimed the good news, and even cast out demons. We know this because of verse 17; “Lord, even the demons are subject to us!”

Jesus steps in and reminds them that it was Him that gave them the power and authority over the demons and other things and that they should not rejoice because the spirits are subject to them, even though they are, through the power of Jesus Christ. But that it’s because their names are written in heaven, in the lamb’s book of life.

Don’t rejoice because of your position and authority over the evil things of this world, rejoice in the one thing that you could not do for yourself. No matter how hard you try, no matter how many good deeds you do, no matter where you are in status of this world, the one thing you cannot do for yourself is to save yourself.

That was done for each and every one us on the cross of Christ. It is through his blood stained cross that we are saved, that we are redeemed, and that we have the ability to lay claim to eternal life. That’s what we rejoice in. We rejoice in what God has already done for us.