First Steps – October 3, 2022

For almost 20 years I have been part of a group of clergy who have worked hard to form and maintain a proper Sabbath boundary. Born out of a recognized need in our own lives, we started meeting a few times each year for study, service, and relaxation. Eventually, we started teaching other clergy groups how to maintain a healthy balance between work, family, and self-identity. The need for a proper balance is not limited to clergy, it is a human need and one that most struggle to maintain.

How many people perceive their sense of self from what they do? Their work defines them and they can’t perceive anything other than their work. Unfortunately, when work fades, the house of cards comes tumbling down. It is incredibly difficult to rebuild a new identity when for years it has been nonexistent because one has only viewed things through the lens of a job.

As backward as it sounds, taking time for yourself to create and maintain a healthy balance makes someone more productive in their profession. People are more focused when there is a healthy balance between work, rest, and play. When there is a healthy balance, people are happier, more relaxed, and less anxious. Work is something one does; it is not who one is. Though it takes effort and time to establish Sabbath boundaries, it is well worth it.

A person’s real strength and wisdom are knowing when boundaries need to be established. Ask God to help you establish what God wants to give to you—a life of balance of work, rest, and play.




 
This Week’s Readings:
*Monday – 1 Peter 4
*Tuesday – 1 Peter 5
*Wednesday – 2 Peter 1
*Thursday – 2 Peter 2
*Friday – 2 Peter 3


Prayer Requests:
*Teachers, students, and parents coping with anxiety.
*Heal those who are sick and protect those who are not.
*Comfort those who are grieving and in distress.
*Wisdom for our leaders as they navigate through uncertain times.
*Guidance for those seeking to find their way.
*Continued Growth Inside and Outside the Walls of St. Paul UMC.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done.” – Philippians 4:6


First Steps – September 26, 2022

“Get through it to get to it”—Admiral Barry Black (Chaplain to the US Senate).

Some things in life can’t be dodged, avoided, or sidetracked for they must be faced.  It has been my experience that when faced with those decisions or circumstances it is better to reach a place of resolve and journey forward step by step.  Unfortunately, people mistake the slow process of one step at a time with inertia.  They are worlds apart.  Although the process is slow, one step at a time is still moving forward.

The Israelite leader, Moses, would agree.  After leading the Children of Israel out of Egypt he was faced with the Red Sea (Exodus 14).  Some wanted to return to Egypt resulting in slavery.  Others wanted to sit still and do nothing.  However, God told Moses to journey forward.  Step by step, little by little, they pressed.  With each step, they faced different obstacles, one by one, until eventually, they saw the boundary of the Promise Land.  

Sometimes one must get through it to get to it.  What is promised is not the number of steps traveled or the length of time it takes to reach the end, but that God will be with you throughout the journey. Remember this for it is a great blessing.

I remind you of this because you might be in a situation that looks daunting and insurmountable.  Don’t run from it.  Resolve yourself to the journey before you and trust that God will be with you every step along the way.  



 
This Week’s Readings:
*Monday – James 4
*Tuesday – James 5
*Wednesday – 1 Peter 1
*Thursday – 1 Peter 2
*Friday – 1 Peter 3


Prayer Requests:
*Teachers, students, and parents coping with anxiety.
*Heal those who are sick and protect those who are not.
*Comfort those who are grieving and in distress.
*Wisdom for our leaders as they navigate through uncertain times.
*Guidance for those seeking to find their way.
*Continued Growth Inside and Outside the Walls of St. Paul UMC.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done.” – Philippians 4:6


First Steps – September 19, 2022

September 19, 2022

A wise man once said:
“If we run from one danger, another one will catch us. If we recover from a fever, we have merely been spared suffering paralysis or something. After you have struggled to preserve your life and limbs, you are helpless to hold on to them. Death is inevitable. During the time when Christians were martyred, some denied their Lord to save their own lives. Are any still alive today? They lost everything.

Consider events in the future as already done. They will result in little or nothing, just like events in the past. Think about what remains for you. Either you have God, or you have nothing.”


A bit direct, maybe a little harsh and fatalistic, but worth considering, nonetheless. I like the bit about considering tomorrow’s events as if already taken place. Some things in life we can’t control or dodge, all we can do is decide how we will face them. Consider what remains – either we have God, or we have nothing.



 
This Week’s Readings:
*Monday – Hebrews 12
*Tuesday – Hebrews 12
*Wednesday – James 1
*Thursday – James 2
*Friday – James 3


Prayer Requests:
*Teachers, students, and parents coping with anxiety.
*Heal those who are sick and protect those who are not.
*Comfort those who are grieving and in distress.
*Wisdom for our leaders as they navigate through uncertain times.
*Guidance for those seeking to find their way.
*Continued Growth Inside and Outside the Walls of St. Paul UMC.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done.” – Philippians 4:6


First Steps – September 12, 2022

At least once a month I am asked what is more useful, an active life of service for God or a contemplative life in reflective study of God. Though one may phrase the question with different words, the root inquiry is which style of life is better. My answer is always the same, but it normally creates a puzzled look on the face of the inquirer because my answer is “yes.”

Both are useful and needed. Both are united in forming the same yield, a mature follower of Jesus. The more one studies, the more the Holy Spirit will call them to action. The more one acts, the more the Holy Spirit impresses upon them to study. The two are connected the same way that the seasons of the year are connected. One leads to the other only to circle back to the previous.

It is not that Martha was more important than Mary (see Luke 10:38-42) nor Mary more important than Martha. Sitting at the feet of Jesus (Mary) has its place just as creating a hospitable house (Martha). Both are needed to be a disciple of Christ. Therefore, we are people of action just as much as people of reflection. Value each one equally and know that there will be seasons of action and seasons of reflection. Embrace them both.




 

This Week’s Readings:
Monday – Hebrews 7
Tuesday – Hebrews 8
Wednesday – Hebrews 9
Thursday – Hebrews 10
Friday – Hebrews 11


Prayer Requests:
*Teachers, students, and parents coping with anxiety.
*Heal those who are sick and protect those who are not.
*Comfort those who are grieving and in distress.
*Wisdom for our leaders as they navigate through uncertain times.
*Guidance for those seeking to find their way.
*Continued Growth Inside and Outside the Walls of St. Paul UMC.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done.” – Philippians 4:6


First Steps – September 5, 2022

 I had lunch with a family member the other day and this person said they are reading the Bible, from cover to cover, for the first time. This is the first attempt in reading the entire Bible. After our lunch, I thought of St. Augustine’s love for the scriptures. He wrote:

     To be a student of the Bible you need to read it. Even if you can’t understand all of it, you will do well to read all of it. Get to know these books. Memorize a few passages. Become familiar with Holy Scripture.
     Once you know what is between the covers of the Bible, you can begin to study it more intelligently. Important teachings regarding faith and living are clear first lessons. This light will eventually help illuminate the more difficult parts. The things you are sure about will help you with the things that seem uncertain…comparing various translations can make a difficult verse easier to understand. One may be explained by the other. Both may contain something valuable to a careful reader.
    Faith is the most important ingredient in Bible study. Someone said, “If you don’t believe, you won’t understand.” 
(On Christian Doctrine).

The North African Bishop is correct. To understand it, we must read it.  There is no equivalent substitute. The more we become familiar with the scriptures, the greater our understanding. Be a student of the Bible.


 

This Week’s Readings:
Monday – Hebrews 2
Tuesday – Hebrews 3
Wednesday – Hebrews 4
Thursday – Hebrews 5
Friday – Hebrews 6


Prayer Requests:
*Teachers, students, and parents coping with anxiety.
*Heal those who are sick and protect those who are not.
*Comfort those who are grieving and in distress.
*Wisdom for our leaders as they navigate through uncertain times.
*Guidance for those seeking to find their way.
*Continued Growth Inside and Outside the Walls of St. Paul UMC.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done.” – Philippians 4:6


First Steps – August 29, 2022


      A sick person is not necessarily sick all over. Certain organs may be perfectly healthy.  Someone may be desperately ill and still have good eyesight.  While some bodily members may be weak, others are very strong.
     It is the same way in the spiritual life. One may be healthy in this and that area, but not in another. There is always some imperfection. 
     For this reason, Christians are instructed by their Lord not to be judgmental of others. Regardless of who or what they are, the rule applies. They could be outcasts of society, bad people.  But we are to consider everyone the same way.  Never judge, despise, and classify another person. Regard everyone as flawless.  If someone is crippled, see that person as not crippled.  It is an indicator of purity of heart when you can look at a sinner and have mercy, notice a weak person, and feel compassion.
     Christians will have an attitude that is simply different from secular people.  Their minds work another way.  They belong to another world.  We belong to Christ.  


This is a small piece of a larger homily whose author is lost to history; however, I think it is good advice, particularly in relationships and marriages. The preacher’s advice of “never classify another person, regard everyone as flawless, [know that you] belong to Christ” are assets in any relationship.  

Put these to practice!  See where it leads you…I would guess to greener pastures.   
 


 

This Week’s Readings:
Monday – Titus 2
Tuesday – Titus 3
Wednesday – Jude1-25
Thursday – Philemon 1-25
Friday – Hebrews 1


Prayer Requests:
*Teachers, students, and parents as the school year continues.
*Heal those who are sick and protect those who are not.
*Comfort those who are grieving and in distress.
*Wisdom for our leaders as they navigate through uncertain times.
*Guidance for those seeking to find their way.
*Continued Growth Inside and Outside the Walls of St. Paul UMC.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done.” – Philippians 4:6