First Steps – July 24, 2017

How do you prepare for prayer? At first glance, why would we prepare for prayer? The important thing is praying—speaking and listening to God. On that level, one doesn’t need to prepare because the most important thing is to pray. However, because prayer involves both speaking and listening—and not just our wish list, then preparing for prayer could be just as important. It can create the right disposition of the heart so that one can hear the voice of God.

In that light, let me offer two possible ways of preparation:

The Use of an Icon or Symbol. Often I will hold a cross or focus on an image (picture, stain-glass window, etc). Just focusing on the image for a few minutes, allows me the mental and emotional space that is needed. It helps me quiet myself. I find that I’m more ready to pray when I do this.

The Repetition of Words. It doesn’t have to be a chant, although the purpose of chanting is to create a prayerful space. It can be something so simple as “Lord have mercy” or “God is good.” Say it slowly, over and over, for a minute. Allow it to move your heart to a place that is ready to speak and hear from our Creator and Redeemer.

I invite you to read the Bible with me – This week’s reading:
Monday – John 1
Tuesday – John 2
Wednesday – John 3
Thursday – John 4
Friday – John 5

Please pray for:
* The St. Paul UMC Capital Building Campaign.
* The United Methodist Church.
* Our Nation and Leaders.
* St. Paul Youth who are participating in Global Missions.
* Teachers and Students as they prepare to return to school.

First Steps – June 26, 2017

I’m sure you have heard the saying, “Practice makes perfect.” This adage holds much truth and wisdom. The idea is if I do something over and over again, then I will achieve whatever goal I set out to reach. This modern proverb wasn’t lost on the early church fathers and mothers. One father linked time in mediation with immediate action so that nothing was lost. He wrote:

“After a time of meditation, immediately begin to put into practice the resolutions you have made. Don’t wait another day to get started. Without this application, meditation may be useless or even detrimental. Meditate on a virtue without practicing it, and you will mislead yourself into believing that you have actually become someone you are not. If I have resolved to win the heart of my enemy by being gentle toward that person, I will try to find a way this very day to be friendly to him. If I am not able to see that person face to face, I will at least pray for him.”

Living as a Christian is practicing our faith. The more we do it, the more mature we become which yields greater affinity with Christ. The practicing requires both meditation (reflection) AND follow-through (action). Begin this week! sk the Holy Spirit to speak to you during your prayers and to help you follow through as you walk with Him.

I invite you to read the Bible with me – This week’s reading:
Monday – Hebrews 7
Tuesday – Hebrews 8
Wednesday – Hebrews 9
Thursday – Hebrews 10
Friday – Hebrews 11

Please pray for:
Capital Campaign
United Methodist Church
Summer Ukraine Mission Trip (June 16-July 3, 2017)
Summer Children and Youth Activities
The Unwillingly Absent

First Steps – June 21, 2017

“What do I really desire from Christ?” Have you ever thought of that question? William Law, an English mystical clergyman, answered it this way:

How is it that Christ helped the lame and the blind, the lunatic and the leper, the publican and sinner? It is because of their desire for it. They came in authentic faith. Christ responded to them, “Your faith has made you well.” Therefore, what we really desire is the real issue.

Law would say, they wanted Christ for the next world and for the current world. They wanted a changed life so that everything is altered: a new way of thinking, acting, and speaking. This change is so radical that the blind see, the lame walk, and the mute speak.

He would continue by stating that being saved is nothing other than being made like Jesus. It is to gain his humility, meekness, and self-denial. It involves doing God’s will and seeking to please God alone.  He would often wonder that if one is not able to plead with the same intensity of the sick (who came to Christ), then maybe one needs to consider if they really want Christ as their savior.

So, I ask you again, “What do you really desire from Christ?”

I invite you to read the Bible with me – This week’s reading:
Monday – Hebrews 2
Tuesday – Hebrews 3
Wednesday – Hebrews 4
Thursday – Hebrews 5
Friday – Hebrews 6
Please pray for:
Capital Campaign
United Methodist Church
Summer Ukraine Mission Trip (June 16-July 3, 2017)
Summer Children and Youth Activities
The Unwillingly Absent

Keeping Sabbath

Summer provides an opportunity for Sabbath. Many will frequent the beach, the mountains, or some other destination for needed rest and relaxation.  During these breaks, we are afforded the opportunity to recharge our bodies, physically, mentality, emotionally, and relationally. Frankly, we need it. At the same time, don’t neglect your spirituality. Sabbath breaks weren’t designed to be an absence of a spiritual component. From the very beginning, God and Sabbath are linked. We need to take a break from our normal routine because we are more than a commodity. People are not things. Sabbath reinforces this core understanding of how God values a person.

Therefore, as you travel this summer, look for spiritual opportunities to stay connected. Here are a few to consider:

  1. Worship—Perhaps there is a church near to where you are traveling. If not, don’t forget our St. Paul’s online ministry. You can live stream our worship services or watch one that has been archived.
  2. Private Devotions—There are countless devotional books, magazines, or resources that travel well. They provide an excellent opportunity to focus your thoughts towards God.
  3. Journals—Writing your reflections is very similar to writing prayers. It creates a God-centered antenna. It teaches you to look for where God is working in your life.
  4. Online Bible Studies—Our RightNow Media Resource has thousands of studies where you can chose the subject, the time, and pace by which you can participate.

Consider these ways to stay connected as you travel. Keeping Sabbath is important. As you do, look for ways to grow in your faith. God bless.