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Sharon

A good friend of mine named Sharon died of cancer just before Ericka and I left on vacation. She was 75-years-old.

I got to know her because she was roommates with another lady from our church at the local nursing home. I would visit each week and over time I got to know her and sometimes I would visit with her just as much as I would visit with Marion.

I think she cried every time I prayed with her. She was such a sweet lady. One day she was terribly worried because her medicine made it hard for her to concentrate and so she couldn’t pray very well anymore and sometimes when she would try to pray at night she would end up falling asleep. She was afraid that God would be mad at her. I’ll never forget it, or the look of relief on her face when I told her that certainly wasn’t the case. I’ve never seen someone so relieved.

I stopped by to see her and pray with her on Thursday evening. She was having a hard day, but otherwise she was doing well. By Sunday morning she had died. It came as quite a surprise. You never know what visit will be your last.

Please pray for my friend and her roommate Marion. They got to be good friends over the last few months and I know this won’t be an easy adjustment for her.

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So, Wednesdays are usually pretty full days for me because I have to try and get some stuff done for later in the week but I’ve also got to prep for a youth group meeting that we have at 6:00pm.

Each week there are a handful of elderly women at different nursing homes and long-term care facilities that I try to visit.

And this week I found myself wishing that I didn’t have to do it. Not because I don’t like the ladies or anything, but just because time was tight and I had visited them so many times already that I just didn’t want to try to switch into a whole different gear and hop in the car and make the rounds.

I ALMOST didn’t do it. I could have justified it a hundred different ways and I don’t think I would have been wrong to take a break this week.

BUT, I figured I would break it up and make a quick trip and visit half of them before youth group and then try to do the other half another day this week.

So I went… and I’m so glad I did.

At my first stop my friend’s brother was also there visiting her and so I got to meet him for the first time and it turns out that he is friends with my uncle and was at my aunt’s funeral that I spoke at. He immediately recognized me and you could tell that funeral had left an impression on him and he was so thankful that I would stop and talk with his sister as often as I did. In particular, he was very thankful in light of that fact that her pastor won’t come and visit her but I will and she’s not even a member of our church.

I ended up talking with this gentlemen and his girlfriend for about 15 minutes out in the parking lot before we left. We talked until it got so cold we were shivering. As I left, I could tell that God was in it in a very big way. And I was thankful I had come. It was an encouragement to me in many ways.

Then I went to the nursing home in town to visit with an old friend of our family who babysat me when I was a little kid. She has advanced┬áParkinson’s Disease and recently had to be admitted because her daughter just couldn’t take care of her at home anymore. She’s a Christian but still a pretty “young” one in a sense. She’s pretty much confined to her chair and has to have someone feed her because she shakes too bad to feed herself. I have a Bible at my house that her daughter have to my parents to give to me when I was like four years old.

We talked about how hard it is to lose your independence and have to be served instead of doing the serving. I can tell that it is very hard for her to be there and away from her home.

Before I left I asked if she would pray for me and then I would pray for her, and for a moment she hesitated. I forgot how nervous people can get praying in front of “the pastor” because I don’t think of myself like that at all. But she said, “Yes” and she prayed one of the most honest, heartfelt, and simple prayers I have ever had anyone pray for me in my whole love. I was in tears by the time she was done. I did my best to pray for her and then we talked for a little while and I left.

I think I have this whole thing backwards. I don’t think I visited anyone on Wednesday, I think they visited me and God came with them. And just to think that I ALMOST didn’t do it. What a fool I can be.

What are you ALMOST not going to do today, this week, or this month because even though you know it would be honoring to God you just don’t feel like you have the time or energy to do it? Would you reconsider? Don’t worry about doing everything, just do that ONE thing and see what happens.

Oh Lord, may we be faithful in the small things. Faithful in the small things, for your name’s sake, that your Son might be praised and that we might grow in grace just as much as those we seek to minister to. Please help Bev and Mary and even me to remember that we are never alone, for you will never leave us nor forsake us. Amen.

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Kids Choir

This Sunday we are going to have the little kids sing a few songs and play a song or two with the hand-bells. These services usually brings in a handful of extra people who don’t normally go to church so please pray that God would speak to them through his Word while they are with us.

I will be in Matthew 8:5-13. It will be the second sermon in a two-part series. The first part was titled “Distance” and I talked about the distance between Jesus and God according to the centurion who approached him… and just in case you’re wondering that distance was zero. And that’s why Jesus had more power than the entire Roman Empire.

This Sunday we’re going to talk about the distance between each other that results from distance between us and God, and how that gap is bridged by grace through faith in the saving power of Jesus Christ.

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13).

I need prayer that I would go shorter this Sunday than I have the past two Sundays. My sermons lately have been nudging up near 50 minutes a piece.

We just won’t have the time for it this Sunday as we’ve got communion and some special music as well.

Pray for clarity, conviction, and faithfulness to Jesus in under 30 minutes. That sounds funny, but it works.

Thanks.

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1 Page Sermon

So, last Sunday we restarted our series from the Gospel of Matthew and picked up in Matthew chapter 8.

First I thought about doing one sermon on all three miracles found in verses 1-17.

Then I decided I would at least split it up into two and do one sermon on verses 1-4 and then one sermon on the rest.

So I started working on the sermon and as I went I knew that I had too much material, but I had no idea how to break it up and never really thought much about it because I was a bit under the gun for time.

So I ended up with ten pages of handwritten notes when I went up into the pulpit.

I looked down at the notes at the beginning and then after about 30 minutes I looked down again only to find that I was only about 2/3rds of the way through the FIRST page. I think I actually laughed out loud.

I informed the congregation that we were going to have to split this up because I was still on page 1 of 10 and we’d be here until the evening prayer meeting if I kept up at this pace.

I didn’t know how I was going to end, but I figured God would give me the words if I started talking, so I did, and so did he.

It wrapped up nicely with a good application, and then we sang a couple of songs at the end, and dismissed right on time.

In hindsight, somehow as I was talking the Lord helped me to split the sermon into two distinct ideas without overlapping them too much at all. The division I couldn’t see before hand forced itself upon me as I was preaching.

Now I have most of next week’s sermon done already.

But here’s the real kicker. And I didn’t think of this until I had to start wrapping up the sermon during the service last Sunday…

I’ve been asked to speak at another church’s youth retreat this next Sunday and I was trying to figure out how I would find the time to prepare two sermons this week.

Jesus, you’re so sneaky. I love you. Thanks a lot.

What a loving Savior we serve.

If you haven’t been blown away by a passage of Scripture lately, take a look at Matthew 8:1-4. And then go back and read Matthew 1-7, and read it really close. And then look at the next number of miracles that Jesus does in 8-9. Then figure out how they’re all connected. And then give Romans a Galatians a read as it talks about the Law.

Jesus is amazing. God is brilliant. We’re so lucky that he is our God.

Lord, we come to you for the cleansing and the healing that we so desperately need. Rebuke the influence of sin and Satan over our lives. Show us how unclean we are and how willing you are to receive us and cleanse us. Help us to submit to your will in regard to the details of how you choose to overcome the power of sin in our lives; whether that’s immediately, gradually, or at your return and the resurrection of the dead.

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

 

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The Other Side of Christmas

Well, I don’t know about you, but it sure is nice to be on the other side of Christmas. It was awesome and wonderful, but it was also exhausting in many respects. Lot’s of stuff going on, not to mention complete craziness at UPS. That’s always a nice start to the day.

On Christmas Eve we had about 140 people at church. There were more visitors than regulars. It was an awesome evening and a great opportunity to share the gospel.

On Sunday morning our attendance was WAAAYY down. I think people got their shot on Christmas Eve and then got some sleep and some peace and quite on Sunday. I probably would have done the same thing if I wasn’t the one who had to preach.

But Christmas morning was one of my most enjoyable services in a while. The sermon came together quite nicely and I felt as though the Lord was really using it my life as well as a number of those from our congregation who were present that morning. I taught from Colossians chapter 3 about putting on the new man and being clothed in Christ on a daily basis.

I got a little laugh from the folks when I actually used the phrase “blinged-out in Jesus” during the service. Not sure where that came from. It certainly wasn’t in my notes. Must have been the Holy Spirit. If it was, it seems like he was having a little fun on Christmas morning himself.

Enjoy the Lord.

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At-Risk Youth Group

Last year we had one JH aged kid who needed someone to study the Bible with him on Wednesday nights. I volunteered, spent a couple months getting to know him, and then we broke for the summer.

Before school started I picked out a curriculum that would be just perfect for us.

Then, instead of having one fairly tame kid who has grown up in the church, I find that I have two new at-risk cousins to minister to.

Then one of their siblings starts to come, and one week he brings his girlfriend.

So my youth group of 1 turned into a group of 5 and then the one boy broke up with his girlfriend so now it’s down to 4, which is still significantly more than what I was expecting.

I had an older volunteer come to one of the meetings and we talked afterwards. You could tell by the look on his face that he was just floored. I asked him what he thought, and he was amazed by all their energy and he wanted how I learned to handle those situations so well.

I just smiled, as a thousand memories flashed through my mind.

Some things never change.

However, on a more serious note, I simply do not have the time to lead this youth group, and I am now in far over my head. I can keep it up until the summer break, but that’s it at best.

I have some older folks who would be willing to lead the group just to help me out, but we both know they won’t be able to handle it.

So, we’re currently at a loss. Please pray that God would provide someone to shepherd these precious kids in their walk with God.

Also, I have a very important meeting with someone who was a member of our church many years ago but who now attends elsewhere. We are friends for various reasons, and I know God wants me to talk to him about some things. Pray that the Lord would lead and that he would speak and that his will would be done. That’s all because that’s truly all we need.

Much appreciated.

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Graceful Praying

Writing a sermon on Graceful Praying from the book of Ephesians for this weekend and then we begin Advent.

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