Lenten Reflection

During my recent travels in Asia, I was amazed by several things. First, the words “Merry Christmas” that greeted visitors arriving in the Beijing airport as well as in various public squares. How surprising to see these words in a nation that prides itself on being communist. Then, as I traveled through Thailand and Cambodia, almost every private and public bus, taxi cab and boat driver had a picture of Buddha and often words of honor to him stenciled on the roof of their vehicle, or flowers of veneration hanging from their interior mirror or from their ship’s bow. Local shops sported small shrines to Buddha with incense. Everywhere I went I could not forget that there was a spiritual belief that was central to the people. I reflected on how interesting it was that so much effort and dedication was placed on the veneration of a man who never claimed to be god but who just claimed to find a path to enlightenment. Upon returning to the states, I found myself longing to see such devotion to Jesus Christ, God who became flesh. I was hopeful as I arrived at O’Hare International airport in Chicago and was greeted by a display of stained glass windows from churches depicting images of Jesus as well as a chapel for prayer. However, outside of these elements in this nation which is titled Christian, I’m saddened by the few reminders or lack of emphasis on Christ — the one who opened the way for eternal life.

 The Lenten season is a good time to reflect on how central a place Jesus holds in our lives. Are we filled by our relationship with him? Are we proud to acknowledge him as our Lord and savior? Are our lives centered on bringing him honor and glory? This season reminds us that we serve a God who is real and alive, who has conquered sin and death. May we commit ourselves more fully to him as well as reflect to the world our love and devotion for Christ.   ~ Pastor Mitch



Greetings from SE Asia

Over the past week, I’ve been blessed to see some amazing things as I’ve traveled across China and Thailand. However, next to the privilege of spending time with my son has been the joy of meeting and conversing with people from literally all over the world: a young man from Nepal studying in Nashville who regularly visits family in Wichita — we exchanged contact info; two men from China on the plane, a woman in Thailand who dropped everything and gave us a ride, and just today a woman from Holland. In many of these conversations, I’ve enjoyed getting to visit about faith. At the same time, my heart is saddened by the lack of people knowing about the good news of Jesus and often even about God. This has resulted in a number of my prayers being offered for these individuals to hear God’s invitation for relationship through Christ. Thanks for all of your prayers for Stephen and I. We continually see God going before us. I look forward to seeing all of you soon!  ~ Pastor Mitch



Do You Believe It?

Recently, during a Church Council meeting I shared a devotion about the importance for believers and us as a church to keeping our hearts and minds focused on Jesus. It is so easy to become overwhelmed by the trials and cares of this world that we lose a true heart passion for Christ and his good news. Paul continually wrote and spoke to early believers about remaining alive in their faith. He did this because he was convinced Jesus was the answer for the world.

 Do we believe this today? Do we truly know Christ and his transformational power is what the world needs?

 I believe when this is at our core it will affect our prayers for others, especially the lost, how we treat others, as well as how we see the importance of sharing our faith in word and deed. We no longer just want others to get by, but we want them to experience the “true life” that comes through Christ. Paul was motivated by this belief as reflected in Romans 1:16:  I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes—first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

 I want to challenge you to join me in praying that our hearts would be like Paul’s – that we would grow more in love with Jesus individually and that our hearts would be committed to wanting to be used to help others connect with Jesus and his “true life.”     Standing with you,   Pastor Mitch



Hands, Feet, and Voice

During some holiday downtime I was pondering on people in our area who are not a part of a church. I was thinking of how we as a congregation and more specifically how I as an individual could reach out to them in a way that might encourage them to come closer to Jesus. My conclusions were fairly simple. First, we can pray. All around us God places many people. It is good to ask God to stir our hearts for those he wants us to be in prayer for. Pray boldly that they would hunger to know Jesus and that they would come to embrace the relationship God has come to offer them.

 Second, we can work to form new relationship. Yes, I said work. Forming new relationships takes energy and effort. We have to intentionally look for ways we can add more people to our relationship circle. This may mean we need to spend less time with some of our Christian acquaintances and begin to invest more in those who are not a part of a faith circle.

 Finally, we need to invite new people to experiences where they can encounter Christ and relationship with other believers whether it be worship, a social event, a church ministry, lunch, or some other spiritually engaging opportunity.

 As we begin this New Year may we all intentionally work to be the hands, feet, and voice of Jesus’ Good News to those who God is wanting to bring home to His family.     ~Pastor Mitch



JOY

As Advent began, I found I was nowhere near possessing “the Christmas Spirit.” However, I have found that as we have moved through the season, my heart has become more and more full. I attribute this change primarily to two things. The first has been a more intentional focusing on Christ and opening my heart to his presence in my life. The second has been in hearing about and seeing the joy people experience as they encounter God’s love whether as a giver or a receiver. This was evidenced to me on Sunday night as a group of more than twenty people caroled at various homes. The joy that I saw in both the giver’s and the receiver’s hearts was such a testimony to what happens in peoples’ lives when they share the Good News of Jesus Christ and the love he came to bring.  May your hearts be full with Christ as you experience the reality of Christ and God’s love during this Christmas Season!                             ~ Pastor Mitch

 Behold I bring you tidings of great joy which will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord.     Luke 2:11



HOPE

Hope — with it we can face trials, overcome obstacles, and experience renewed joy. Without it we often find ourselves defeated, aimless, and depressed. The Christmas season has a way of accentuating one or the other of these extremes in people’s lives. For this reason the angels’ words to the shepherds are so timely, “For behold I bring you tidings of Good News which shall be for all the people, for unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior which is Christ the Lord.” These words still breathe hope into the listener today. God has come in Christ to walk with us, to be our companion in times of trial, to lift us up over obstacles, and to fill our hearts with joy as we place our faith and trust in him. As we daily place our trust in Christ, Christmas becomes an amazing season which calls us to hope as well as offers us hope through the Good News of Jesus Christ to those around us. May your hearts be filled with hope as you continually trust in and set your eyes on Jesus.      ~ Pastor Mitch



Count Your Blessings

I love the season of Thanksgiving! Maybe it’s because of the many wonderful memories I have associated with this time of year, but I also believe it is because of the focus on thankfulness, especially to God for all his many blessings. Today I’m reminded of a great hymn written by an Episcopal Methodist preacher, Johnson Oatman Jr., “Count Your Blessings.”  I want to encourage you to take some moments to read through the verses. As the Holy Spirit brings things to mind, take a moment to thank God for the blessing and allow him to stir up a spirit of praise and gratefulness in your heart.  Praising God with you!       ~ Pastor Mitch

 Count Your Blessings

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

 

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?

Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.

 

When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings. Wealth can never buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

 

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be disheartened, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.



Jesus, what do you want to say?

Over the past month we have been talking a lot about working to reframe our moments in light of Jesus. Though this discipline has the ability to produce awesome results, the reality is that it can be quite difficult in the course of our ordinary lives. The major obstacles are becoming aware of our need to set our eyes on Christ, staying mindful of him long enough to become aware of what Jesus is saying or nudging us to do, and finally deciding to believe how he would have us see the moment and live into it.

 Once we make time to set our mind upon Christ, the next most difficult thing is to bring our emotions into submission unto him. Roaming thoughts and elevated feelings tend to block our seeing and hearing Christ. Taking time to corral and lay these at Jesus’ feet opens us up to hearing his voice. Personally, I find it helpful to ask, “Jesus what do you want to say?” and then listen quietly for his voice. Once you sense a response, write it down, claim it, and then invite the Holy Spirit to empower you to live into how Christ is directing you to see and live the moment.        ~ Pastor Mitch

 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:  And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.  Ps 139:23-24



60/60

Over the last several weeks, I have been challenging the congregation to invest in some soul work — to experience a Soul Revolution. As followers of Christ, we live in a world that often combats our faith moving us slowly out of the heart position God wants us to experience – a position in which God’s children are living free of fear, worry, loneliness, anger, or feeling insignificant. I want to encourage you to continue to practice stopping every sixty minutes for sixty seconds and make space for Jesus. Invite him to be a part of whatever you are going through and listen for what he wants to say. Is God calling you to think or act a different way? Does he want you to embrace or let go of something? Does God want to fill your heart or mind with a different feeling or thought? Allow time for God to increase or restore to you his thoughts or desire for himself and plans for you. I realize developing this practice is not easy, but when we can learn to more and more allow God to be a part of our lives we will find our hearts filled with increased peace, love, joy, and fulfillment. So keep working to “get your 60/60 on” as you move toward a SOUL REVOLUTION!  ~ Pastor Mitch



Soul Revolution

Sunday we began the new series SOUL REVOLUTION. We considered the importance of seeing our lives from God’s vantage point – free of fear, worry, loneliness, anger, or need for approval. So often these things creep into our lives and take control of our hearts and minds. However, we see in scripture that Jesus came to set the captive free. Periodically, we need to stop and ask the question, “Where is God in this moment?” Can I allow him to have control of whatever I’m walking through? This kind of discipline provides the opportunity for God’s life-giving spirit to flow in and through us all day long. Sunday I challenged the congregation with a 60-60 experiment — to spend sixty seconds of every waking hour thinking about God for the next sixty days. Granted, this action is not our normal “go to.” We have to work to retrain our minds to focus on God. I encourage you to daily journal how you are doing with keeping Jesus in your thoughts. It would also be helpful to invite another person to ask you about your progress. I truly believe that as we allow our lives to be filled with more and more of God we will truly experience a SOUL REVOLUTION.  ~ Pastor Mitch