Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)
These verses have long been my favorite verses in Scripture. In fact, Philippians is by far one of my favorite writings in our Scripture. Paul has been encouraging the Philippians to continue the race and not give up. The goal for Paul is “knowing Christ and the power of His resurrection and participating in His sufferings” (3:10). Although, as we hear, he has not quite obtained all this. He may understand the goal; he may see it on the horizon, but he doesn’t quite feel as if he knows Christ and the power of His resurrection. If anything, that is in fact a motivator rather than a demotivator.
I know at times in my life I may have a goal; and it seems so unattainable that I just give up on it. One time I wanted to learn to play the guitar. Well, I got into it; and realized there was so much to learn that I got overwhelmed and let the dream go. Yet, Paul knows he’s not there but keeps putting one foot in front of the other. Deep down Paul is captivated by Jesus and the life Jesus has to offer. Even if it seems so far away, the reward is worth it. He’s not going to let his past get in the way. He’s not going to let his failures overrule his heart. He sees ahead of him the power of Christ’s resurrection and won’t give up on it. It’s worth it.
I want that kind of tenacity in my faith. For many, these past couple years have been trying on our lives and our faith. It’s easy to throw our hands up and give up. Yet, imagine what it will be like to know the power of Christ’s resurrection in your life, in your family, and in our congregation. Such a vision is motivating to me. I hope wherever you find yourself, you hear Paul’s words as an encouragement not to give up. Keep pressing forward. It’s worth it.
PS...what’s your favorite Bible verse?
Rev. Nathan Kilbourne
The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”—1st Kings 19:11
I often tell people that I run my mouth for a living. I’m only half kidding when I say it. I’m often asked to present, explain, answer questions, chit-chat, or otherwise talk. I’ve been told I’m well suited to this. I’ve also been told that I may be too well suited. My grandfather loved to quote John Wayne to me. He’d say, “Boy, you're short on ears and long on mouth.” This was his way of telling me to be quiet. It took me a long time to understand that, probably because I was talking when he said it.
Fast forward a few decades, and I discovered that verbosity might be genetic. I have a daughter and a granddaughter who can start a sentence first thing in the morning and finish their point on Tuesday. All that talking—all those words—may or may not be useful, but what they aren’t is “quiet”.
Another thing I learned after all these years is that my grandfather was quoting the Duke, but that John Wayne was quoting Zeno (by way of Diogenes—that’s a fourth level reference for you) who coined the old saw, “The reason why we have two ears and only one mouth is so we might listen more and talk less.”
Listening is important. One might say it is MORE important than talking. Listening is the skill that allows us to really understand others. It forces us out of ourselves and into someone else’s experience. Good listeners make other people feel important, understood, and accepted. If only listening were easy. You see, it’s not enough to not talk while some one else is talking, you actually have to focus and process what they are saying. What most of us do in a conversation is not listen, but merely pause talking so someone else can take a turn.
The Austrian pianist, Alfred Brendel, reminds us that, “The word 'listen' contains the same letters as the word 'silent'.” In order to listen—to really listen—we have to become silent: with our mouth, sure, but also in our mind. We need to stop the noise in order to really understand someone.
This relationship advice works just as well when we apply it to God. We’ve been learning how to hear God, but if we’re going to find answers; if we’re going to find direction; if we’re going to understand His will, we must listen to what He is telling us. This week I urge you—in your prayer time and as you go about your day—stop the noise, seek mental and physical silence, and listen. God is speaking to you.
These were the General Rules of the Methodist movement when it began in England. When John Wesley first set them out for the people called Methodist he understood, as Ruben Job says in his book The Three Simple Rules, “one could have all the structures and systems right but could lose the power of God that translates into a Christ like life.” To guide Methodists on a path toward a Christ like life, Wesley outlined a simple rule of life for them. They summed up not only what it meant to be Methodist, but a pathway toward faithful following of Jesus Christ. These rules were front and center among small group meetings and guided discussion as to how each was striving toward or away from Christ.
In a moment in time in which life seems to get more complicated and the future is certainly unknown, I find in myself a pull toward simplification and a need for establishing a firm foundation again of who I am as a follower of Jesus. It is in these rules, that I find a faithful friend to guide me toward more faithful living in this complex moment. Rev. Dennis Spence, when he started as the interim as I began leave, mentioned his goal as the interim pastor was our General Rules – Do No Harm, Do Good, and help people stay in love with God. Those words stuck with me as it reminded me of my calling as well as a Methodist Christian and pastor.
With this in mind, I want to invite you on a journey over the next three Sundays to explore with me the General Rules of the Methodist Movement. Each week, one of the sermons will focus on a General Rule. Moreover, as part of this exploration, our youth will be helping us. Particularly, on Nov. 15th, we are having Youth Sunday. During this service our youth will be leading us in understanding the General Rule of “Staying in Love with God.” Through skit, scripture, song, and sermon, we will hear be encouraged and strengthen to stay in love with God and what this means. I would encourage you to tune in not only to support our youth but to learn from them!
If you want to get a head start or unsure about the General Rules of the Methodists, there are some great resources available. You could pick up Rueben Job’s book, The Three Simple Rules for cheap and easily read it in a day. You can also read the Rules in their entirety by following this link: In fact, if you want to know more about them or read them in their entirety, you can learn more here: https://www.umc.org/en/content/the-general-rules-of-the-methodist-church. While some of the detailed descriptions may seem outdated, the general rules still stand as a good guide to faithful life in Christ.
I pray you are blessed as we journey toward a simple path. May we Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.
"The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays"
- Søren Kierkegaard
I diligently attempt to start my day with prayer, but I suspect I do it differently than most. Though I probably should, I start my day with prayer later than I typically "start my day". Yes, there are the breath prayers and short petitions, "Lord, help me here"-but it isn't until I get into my office that I usually offer up my start of day prayer. There, in a drawer that I can get into without even looking, is a small hand-held cross that fits in the palm of my hand, and I can wrap my fingers around. The New Horizons Sunday School class gave it to me a few years ago during the Christmas season, and it has been a blessing ever since.
The prayer that I like to start my day with is seldom a litany of my to-do lists. Yes, I do have a written list of people that have asked to be specifically named in prayers. Yes, there are the fears and hopes that weigh heavily on my heart. But most often my prayers are more along the lines of, "Lord, give me the wisdom to know the right things. Lord, give me the courage to make the right decisions. Lord, give me the strength to follow where you send me and the ability to help those whose paths I cross. Lord, help me to be the person you want me to be."
I know this sounds almost Solomonic. It's not supposed to. I'm not really wise enough to have gotten to this point without making a LOT of mistakes and poor decisions. Eventually I achieved the willingness to let go of MY petty wants and focus on what I believe Jesus taught us about going into a private audience with our Creator.
Too many people think that prayer is a great opportunity to win the Heavenly Sweepstakes. "Lord, smite my enemies, reward me for asking, take away the obstacles that I, myself have either created or feel powerless to change...oh, and could you give me the Powerball numbers." After all Jesus told us that if we truly believed and asked, God was waiting to grant our requests. Earlier the Bible says that He will "open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it." (Malachi 3:10 KJV).
I can't help but think we confuse what a blessing really is. It's not a seven-figure investment portfolio (though I wouldn't turn one down): it's a peace that passeth understanding; a confidence that we are children of God redeemed by a Savior that gave Himself for us when He was innocent and blameless. Feeling this in our hearts-in our bones-that's a blessing.
I know that when I start my day asking God to keep me focused; I have better days. I know when I pray for His will and not mine; I'm closer to Him. I know that I DON'T know so many things, but I ask God to help me learn. I ask because I'm told to. He gives because He promised. Praise God.
Peace and Love,
I simply wanted to take a moment and celebrate all the good things I've been seeing here at our Church. I have witnessed God doing some great things. So often we get caught up in the work of the church or in the details of things happening, that we may not see what God is doing. Every now and then I try to take a moment to step back and take a look at what God is doing. So let me share a couple of ways I've seen God's handiwork.
As many of you know, a couple weeks ago, we had an adult baptism and reaffirmation of faith. It was awesome to welcome Chuck Taylor and Kimberly Williams into our congregation. Then, the very next Sunday, we welcomed Lisa Adams and her two daughters, Savannah and Kinsey, into the life of our congregation. Lisa comes also as a reaffirmation of faith. That is three adults who are making commitments to follow Jesus and be part of the church! A number of Methodist churches don't even have a single adult baptism in an entire year. I see God doing amazing things!
Also, we are seeing more faces in worship. Our average worship attendance two years ago had fallen to 164. This was when we had a singular combined service. By the end of this past year we began to see an uptick in worship attendance and began trending upwards. This is mainly because the last six months we've seen more people and more faces. We ended 2019 with 166 averages. This year, we are already averaging 177 in our worship services. All to say, God is working wonders. Last year, we also saw 113 first time guests as I've mentioned. Wow! Numbers don't tell the whole story, but it certainly tells me the Spirit is at work among us.
This past Sunday, the Chancel Choir sang "I Choose Love" and "Lean on Me." My heart was moved. God's Spirit was moving. In the Traditional Service, we witnessed loads of food come in for the "Souper Bowl" pantry blessing. It was amazing to see.
All to say, I already see God doing great things for 2020 with us and through us. Jesus is being worshiped and people are coming to know and follow Jesus, and we are barely are a full month into the year. Let's keep up the good work. Let's witness God's Kingdom grow and expand!