First Steps – January 24, 2022

William Tyndale translated the Bible into English during the 16th Century.  He believed every person could read and understand the scriptures if they had it written in their language.  Eventually, he gave his life for his beliefs.  In one of his sermons, he said:

Love is not the cause of forgiveness.  Forgiveness causes love.  The more we are forgiven, the more we love…but when the gospel of Christ demonstrates how God loves us first, forgives us, and has mercy on us then we love again. As the saying goes, ‘Summer is near because the tree blossom.’  The blossoms do not bring summer.  Summer brings the blossoms.

Reflecting on his sermon, I realize the order of things. Often, we think we are to generate love for others as if we have a vat of love that we simply draw from for our relationships. Unfortunately, I don’t think that vat exists—it would be nice if it did.  However, when we are loved first—the New Testament describes this love in the form of God’s forgiveness—then our heart changes to the point that love naturally flows out of that change.  

If it is difficult to love others, spend time focusing on forgiveness.  Allow God to love first, receive his love through his Spirit. Don’t worry about the relationship with others until you fully receive God’s love. Then, every other relationship will take care of itself.   
 
 


This Week’s Readings:
* Monday – Luke 21
* Tuesday – Luke 22
* Wednesday- Luke 23
* Thursday – Luke 24
* Friday- Acts 1

Prayer Requests:
* Continued Blessings in the New Year 2022!
* Strengthen the St. Paul United Methodist Church family.
* Heal those who are sick and protect those who are not.
* Give our leaders extra wisdom as they navigate this pandemic and economic uncertainty.
* Help those seeking to find their way.
“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 – January 17, 2022

“When nothing whereon to lean remains, when strongholds crumble to dust; when nothing is sure but that God still reigns, that is just the time to trust. ’Tis better to walk by faith than sight, in this path of yours and mine; and the pitch-black night, when there’s no outer light is the time for faith to shine” (LB Cowman).

There are countless people in the Bible who illustrate this unyielding trust in God: Abraham, Asa, Paul—to name a few. I like Cowman’s imagery that behind it all, there can be a trust in God to see one through whatever comes. How unfortunate it is when one thinks that faith is what remains after all other doors have been opened, only to find dead ends. No, faith is what sees one through in all circumstances, through every door. It is the eyes by which one sees. The fact that it remains after all attempts at life are exhausted is to miss the boat of what God desires and does through the Spirit. 

I like the way Jesus expressed it in Mark 8, “For whoever wants to save his/her life will lose it, but whoever loses his/her life for my sake and for the gospel will save it. What does it profit a man/woman to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his/her soul.” One doesn’t need to wait till all options are depleted to trust. Trust in the beginning and allow that to guide.  
 


This Week’s Readings:
* Monday – Luke 16
* Tuesday – Luke 17
* Wednesday- Luke 18
* Thursday – Luke 19
* Friday- Luke 20

Prayer Requests:
* Continued Blessings in the New Year 2022!
* Strengthen the St. Paul United Methodist Church family.
* Heal those who are sick and protect those who are not.
* Give our leaders extra wisdom as they navigate this pandemic and economic uncertainty.
* Help those seeking to find their way.
“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 – January 10, 2022

Complete this sentence: This year I want to be…..

How we answer this question says a great deal about what we will do throughout this year.
Here are some possible answers:

I want to be a better friend.
I want to be the one that brings my family closer together.
I want to be more faithful.
I want to be more loving.
I want to be more forgiving.
I want to be a peacemaker.
I want to be a better witness.


Answers will vary and we might have more than one answer to the question. Regardless, if we don’t know what we want to be, then the odds are we will never be more than what we are right now.

This week, consider with me what you want to be. Ask God to give you a vision, a glimpse of what can be. Then begin on the path of becoming.

 


This Week’s Readings:
* Monday – Luke 11
* Tuesday – Luke 12
* Wednesday- Luke 13
* Thursday – Luke 14
* Friday- Luke 15

Prayer Requests:
* Continued Blessings in the New Year!!!
* Strengthen the St. Paul United Methodist Church family.
* Heal those who are sick and protect those who are not.
* Give our leaders extra wisdom as they navigate this pandemic and economic uncertainty.
* Help those seeking to find their way.
“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 – January 3, 2022

A few days just before Christmas, I spent a few hours in a hospital. My dad has cancer and periodically I take him for his cancer treatments. On his most recent visit, something interesting happened.

While sitting in the waiting room, the TV was on and was loud enough to be heard over people talking. There was a hospital worker telling a story describing his experience of living and working through a hospital merger. Another worker was describing working at a hospital during 9/11 and the fear associated with that day. Directly to my right, a husband and wife were arguing about medicines taken and who was coming to their Christmas dinner. Yet, there were these two women (a cancer patient waiting for her treatment and her daughter) that were listening to the Bible read from a phone app.

I actually thought I was witnessing a modern-day parable—in a world of chaos where noise abounds for everyone and everywhere, one can still hear the Word of God. It is never as loud as the surrounding voices, but it has the ability to penetrate the ear when one is ready to hear. I could clearly hear the Bible being read, though I was closer to the TV and the other people were extremely loud.

Sometimes I think God is speaking all the time, and we are simply not willing to listen. Isaiah 30:27 says, “Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, ‘This is the way you should go,’ whether to the right or to the left.” We long for His voice in shouts like fireworks, hoping it would drown out all other sounds. Perhaps God speaks all the time in whispers for the purpose of closeness and intimacy with him.

This week, listen intently. Look deliberately for the one speaking in whispers. There we can find the lover of our souls.

 


This Week’s Readings:
* Monday – Luke 6
* Tuesday – Luke 7
* Wednesday- Luke 8
* Thursday – Luke 9
* Friday- Luke 10

Prayer Requests:
* A Happy New Year for all!!!
* Strengthen the St. Paul United Methodist Church family.
* Heal those who are sick and protect those who are not.
* Give our leaders extra wisdom as they navigate this pandemic and economic uncertainty.
* Those seeking to find their way.
“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 – December 27, 2021

Blaise Pascal, the seventeenth-century mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer, and philosopher astutely said, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”

Yet, many seek to fill their lives with material things or money. If not something material, they seek contentment in a fictitious view of themselves which is presented to other people. The hope is their “social media” self will bring them the happiness long desired. Pascal was right, true happiness, contentment, and joy can only be filled by the one who can make any and all whole.

Therefore, set your face toward Christ today. Make it a purpose to seek him in the new year. Be intentional, purposeful, and diligent. The Prophet Jeremiah understood this when he wrote, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Chapter 29:13).
 


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

Please Pray for:
• An end to the Covid Crisis.
• Our children as they cope with world issues.
• All ministry events inside and outside the walls of St. Paul.
• Families in crisis.
• Loved ones battling illness.
• Those seeking to find their way.
• The St. Paul Church family.
• The United Methodist Church family.
• Our leaders, our country, and our world.
“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 – December 20, 2021

The other day while walking past one of our Christmas trees, I looked down and realized that it needed more water. The tree-stand was almost empty. Naturally, I filled the stand full of water for the fourth time in a week. While pouring the water, I immediately said to myself, “Well here is a modern-day parable.”

Let me elaborate:
There once was a man who bought a Christmas tree for decoration. He came home, put the tree in the stand, and his family decorated it with beautiful ornaments and lights. Knowing that the tree was cut from its roots, the man knew that the tree would need water to keep it alive as long as possible, at least through the month of December. He knew that the tree needed the water and the moment the stand was empty the tree would die immediately. So, every time the man walked by the tree, he made sure it had plenty of water, thus keeping it alive as long as possible.

Like any parable, there might need to be an explanation:
We are like the tree, we need water to live, we have to monitor the water intake continually filling, or we will be like a dying tree where leaves fall off and we lose our beauty.

Spiritually speaking, we need the life-giving water that comes from God’s Spirit. Failure to continually fill our insides will only produce decay.
 


This Week’s Readings:
* Monday – Rev. 1 | Rev. 2 | Rev. 3 | Rev. 4
* Tuesday – Rev. 5 | Rev. 6 | Rev. 7 | Rev. 8 | Rev. 9
* Wednesday- Rev. 10 | Rev. 11 | Rev. 12 | Rev. 13 | Rev. 14
* Thursday – Rev. 15 | Rev. 16 | Rev. 17 | Rev. 18
* Friday- Rev. 19 | Rev. 20 | Rev. 21 | Rev. 22

Please Pray for:
• An end to the Covid Crisis.
• Our children as they cope with world issues.
• All ministry events inside and outside the walls of St. Paul.
• Families in crisis.
• Loved ones battling illness.
• Those seeking to find their way.
• The St. Paul Church family.
• The United Methodist Church family.
• Our leaders, our country, and our world.
“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