All posts by wacondalakeumc

What is the Gospel?

The Gospel Defined

“And they were preaching the gospel there” (Acts 14:7 NKJV).

What is the gospel? We know we should preach the gospel and live by the gospel, but do we know what the gospel is?

A literal translation of the word “gospel” is good news. Now, sometimes before we can appreciate the Good News, we first have to know the bad news.

Here’s the bad news: We’re all sinners. The Bible says, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23 NLT). And 1 John 1:8 tells us, “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth” (NLT).

If you’re sharing your faith with someone, don’t assume they’ll necessarily know what sin is. In the Bible, we can translate the word “sin” in different ways. We can translate it as “trespass,” which means to cross the line. Another translation comes from the Greek word hamartia, which means “to miss the mark.”

“hamartia” To miss the mark.

Greek

When the Bible says that we’ve sinned or missed the mark, it means that we’ve fallen short of God’s standard for humanity. And what is that standard? It’s perfection.

Are we perfect? No, we aren’t.

That is where Jesus comes in. Because God knew we could not hit this mark, because God knew we could not be perfect people, Jesus died on the cross for our sin. That’s the good news. Romans 5:6 says, “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners” (NLT).

Here’s the first verse every Christian should memorize: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16 NKJV).

That is the gospel in a nutshell. Share it with someone. Let’s not turn the Good News into bad news by the way we deliver it, distort it, or leave out parts of it. Let’s deliver the explosive, dynamic, gospel.

A Prayer to Feel God’s Nearness

By Tiffany Curtis

“The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them. The LORD watches over all who love him” – Psalms 145:18-20

Like many people out there, I live far away from my hometown and blood relatives. I grew up in northeast Ohio and now live in central Virginia, making the distance between myself and my parents, grandparents, cousins, friends, etc. about an 8-hour drive. I have one sibling who also resides in Virginia, but we live just over two hours apart. The distance between us all makes intentional communication extremely important. If we don’t make an effort to reach out to each other, we could potentially go days, weeks, even months without ever speaking to each other.

Thankfully, the technology we have today makes it easy to stay in touch with people, no matter how close or far they are. If I want to talk to my parents, I can easily call or FaceTime them. If I want to check in on a friend, I just send them a text. 

The issue then lies in the moments where I don’t just want to call or text loved ones, but to be in their presence. To have that quality time and comforting feeling that we only get when we are physically in the same place. How great would it be if our technology went one step further, and we could not only call our loved ones, but transport them into our home, car, or coffee shop whenever we needed them. 

Though we may never have the ability to do this with our friends and family here on earth, we do have a Father who is able to meet us anywhere, anytime. All we have to do is call on Him, and He hears us and is present with us. Even when it doesn’t feel like He is near, He is always watching over us, ready to be right at our side when we call on Him. 

Psalm 145:18, inspirational image

But just because He is always near, doesn’t mean we should apathetically sit and wait for Him to show up. Every relationship needs communication in order to thrive, including our relationship with God. Just like with our loved ones, we must put forth the effort to intentionally communicate with the Father. If we stay in constant communication with our friends and family, shouldn’t it be an even bigger priority for us to have this same communication with our Savior? 

Make an intentional effort to speak to the Father today and every day. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate, well-thought-out message; talk to Him about your day, your struggles, your triumphs. God desires to draw near to us just as much as we desire to feel the comfort of His presence.

As Psalms 145:18 says, “The Lord is near to all who call on him.” This is His promise to us – that when we call on Him, He is near. No 8-hour drive, no connecting flights, and not just through a cell phone screen. He is right here, right now. 

Call on Him today – He is already so much nearer than you think!

Let’s Pray:

Lord Jesus,
Thank you for hearing us when we call on your name! How reassuring it is to know that we serve a God who is all-powerful, yet still hears our faintest cries. Thank you that, even when we don’t realize it, you are near to those who love you. You want a relationship with us, which is an amazing thing!

Help us to be intentional when it comes to communicating with you. It is so easy to become apathetic or negligent with our prayer lives, but prayer is our lifeline to your presence! Let us fully realize the importance of regularly talking with you. You are our greatest source of comfort and strength.

Lord, help us to feel your nearness today. No matter where we are or what we’re doing, you have given us the ability to call on you and to feel your presence. Thank you for not being a distant God, but one who desires for us to draw closer and closer as you pursue our hearts.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Photo credit: ©SalemDesign/BethanyPyle

Tiffany Curtis is the Faith Editor of Crosswalk.com. She has a B.A. in English with a minor in Business from Liberty University. Her goal is to share Christ’s love and help others grow in their faith through her work as a writer and editor.

Forgiveness.

“Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.”   1 John 3:18 NLT

Thoughts for Today
 Has someone you cared about mistreated you? Hurt you deeply? Even though years may have passed, you might still harbor resentment and anger. And that unforgiveness is most likely affecting other relationships—maybe even your whole outlook on life. Try as you might to forget the offense, you find yourself rewinding and reviewing again and again.

You will never be able to overcome the hurt of the past and move on freely with your life until you forgive the offender.

Consider this …
Determine to be active in your pursuit to forgive. Begin to change your thought pattern about the person. Ask God to help you see this individual with eyes of love, looking beyond fault and seeing need. When you speak about the person, speak of needs and strengths—not offenses and weaknesses. Pray for this person and, if possible, take action to do something nice for him or her.

Forgiveness is not easy, especially when the hurt is deep. It helps to remember what Jesus did for us. Even though we certainly didn’t deserve forgiveness, he died on the cross to pay the price for our sin. He offers us forgiveness as a gift. Let us be willing to offer others the gift of our forgiveness.

Prayer
Father, help me to be active in my pursuit to forgive. Help me to see this person through your eyes. Help me to speak and think good and not bad about him. Help me to offer the gift of my forgiveness. In Jesus’ name …

These thoughts were drawn from … Free to Grow: Overcoming Setbacks and Disappointments by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min. The purpose of this group study is to help people overcome disappointments and setbacks that have arrested or are presently hindering their emotional and spiritual development. The group study will help participants understand how to be set free so that they can grow and become all that God has designed them to be. Note: This curriculum was written especially for small groups and we encourage people to use it that way. However, it can also be used effectively as a personal study for individuals or couples.

Why do United Methodist pastors change churches?

The beginning of July marks the beginning of the United Methodist New Year. Pastors have either been reassigned to their current church, they or the congregation have asked for a move, retirement, etc. Sometimes people don’t understand why we do what we do. This article gives a good background at how we came to be an itinerant church.

 

Image of a circuit rider, courtesy of the General Commission on Archives and History for The United Methodist Church, Drew University.
Image of a circuit rider, courtesy of the General Commission on Archives and History for The United Methodist Church, Drew University.

Our unique system of deploying clergy has its roots in the earliest days of Methodism. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, preached up to 40,000 sermons in his lifetime. He was an “itinerant” preacher, traveling from town to town in England, setting up Methodist societies.

“John Wesley believed that itinerant preachers who moved from place to place were more effective than those who settled in, grew comfortable, and wore out what they had to say,” says the Rev. Belton Joyner.

In a letter to the Rev. Samuel Walker in 1756, Wesley wrote, “We have found by long and consistent experience that a frequent exchange of preachers is best. This preacher has one talent, that another; no one whom I ever yet knew has all the talents which are needful for beginning, continuing, and perfecting the work of grace in a whole congregation.”

In the early days of Methodism in America, a pastor — most often a circuit rider — might be appointed to half of a state or more. His appointment might be for only three months, after which he moved to another circuit. Thousands of the oldest United Methodist congregations today trace their history to a circuit rider.

These riders traveled from place to place to begin Methodist societies. Eventually, especially after the establishment of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1784, most of these societies became congregations. This practice continued and became the basis for the itinerant system The United Methodist Church uses today.

This content was produced by Ask The UMC, a ministry of United Methodist Communications.

Receive. Remain. Respond.

Receive. Remain. Respond.
By Meg Bucher

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” – 1 Peter 3:15 NIV

“Did you even stop to notice what I was doing before you barged into my space, here?” I abruptly asked my daughter mid-sentence.

We often share descriptive discussions, but when she bursts into my train of thought unannounced, I struggle to keep up with the conversation. I prefer to be an active participant in these épilogues, but she often launches right in without any warning. When I ask her to start over, confessing I wasn’t listening, hurt and frustration fill her sweet face. She simply does not understand why I can’t instantly drop everything to give her my full attention.

1 Peter 3:15 encourages believers to do the diligent work of developing our faith in Christ. We do this by allowing the Lord to capture our attention, and by leaving room in our lives to listen to Him as He speaks. Our relationship deepens as we pursue Him daily in His Word and through prayer. He will also place other people perfectly in our lives to speak Truth to, love, and challenge us to step up and respond to them with love. The firm foundation of our faith prepares us to react in the way this verse commands. When we follow Christ, it’s important to be approachable, and interruptible! Only He knows what each day will hold, and He faithfully prepares us to respond when we make time to receive, and remain in, His Truth.

prepared-answer-sq

Acts 16:14 tells the story of a woman named Lydia: “One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshipper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” (ESV)

Lydia responded immediately, and was baptized alongside everyone in her house! Why does it sometimes take longer for some to respond than others? Moses doubted he could fulfill what God called him to do. Peter denied Jesus. Thomas doubted. Sometimes, we fall under the mistaken impression that God’s calling to serve, especially in ministry, only looks a certain way or is attached to a specific set of talents. We’re not responsible for the way others respond to God, but for following His unique call on our lives.

The prophet Ezekiel sat for several days after the LORD called him to prophecy. He had experienced the glory of God, and it has physically drained and spiritually challenged him! He needed time to sit and digest what God had revealed to and instructed him to do. Our response to God will reflect the One abiding in us when we open our ears to hear and receive His Word. When we remain with Him, allowing His presence, wisdom, and truth to envelope and adjust our perspective to align with His, we are better able to submit our gut response for one obedient and aligned to His will for our lives.

Jesus didn’t wait until we were sinless to die for us, because it never would have happened. He has never required our perfection in exchange for His perfect sacrifice.

We are all missionaries, purposed workers for the Kingdom of God. It’s important to let our minds marinate with their Creator. He may have a quick response prepared for us today, or a slow mulling over. However He chooses to work in our lives, His timing always trumps our gut response.

Receive His Truth. Remain in His presence. Respond in Love.

A Prayer for Father’s Day

A Prayer for Fathers on Father's Day - Your Daily Prayer - June 19

A Prayer for Fathers on Father’s Day
By Emma Danzey

Deuteronomy. 6:6-9 says, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

It’s time for Father’s Day again. This is a time when we celebrate the men in our lives who have parented us, mentored us, and loved us. Whether you have had a positive or negative experience with a biological father, we can all thank God for the men who have fathered like Him and loved others as their own. Ultimately though, only God the Father Himself is the perfect dad.

Let’s Pray:

Dear Father,

We thank You for the gift of fathers. Thank you for creating the family unit. We praise You for present dads who are spiritually investing in their kids. We pray for protection from the work of the enemy in their homes. We pray that you would give these men wisdom and insight with every situation that comes their way. We ask that these men know that they are valued and seen. We pray for them to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We pray that they would be men of integrity to model You. We ask that you would give them patience, compassion, and mercy. 

God, we pray for men who are parenting alone. Would you help them to know that You are near? Give them strength to love like You. We pray for men who have abandoned their homes. Please transform their hearts by the power of Your Holy Spirit to repentance. Bring them to a healthy place and help reconciliation occur. We pray over those men who are not biological fathers but have stepped into someone’s life as a father. Would you bless them and help them to feel loved and accepted in this role. Guide them with Your Spirit to make decisions that would honor and point to You. Please be with fathers who have regrets. Help them not to focus too much on the past, but to humbly ask forgiveness, live in the present, and work toward the future. Please comfort the fathers who have lost children. Help them to mourn and grieve in the safety of Your arms. 

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 reminds us that fathers are to actively share Your gospel to their children each day. Your Word is so important in the home. We pray that fathers will hide Your Word in their hearts. We pray that they would share these truths with their kids. We pray that they would regularly model faith and teach the gospel in their homes.

Lord, You say in Psalm 103:13. “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.” Please enable fathers to have compassion for their children. Help them to remember how much mercy and kindness You have shown to them. 

Psalm 127:3-5 says, “Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.” God, You tell us that fatherhood is a heritage and a reward from You. Children are a blessing and a joy to have in life. Help fathers everywhere remember that this role comes with a lot of responsibility, but a lot of blessings too. Amen.

Blessed is the man, inspirational image

Take Comfort in the Day of Your Distress

By: Lindsay Tedder

“The Lord is good, a stronghold in a day of distress: He cares for those who take refuge in Him.” Nahum 1:7

After a week of pure parenting torture, I hit my limit. It was a solid week of tantrums, defiance, meltdowns, hitting, kicking, screaming, refusing to sit in a time out, teachers telling me that his behavior was poor in school that day. I reached the precipice of Mount Overwhelmed, when I had to carry him out of Christmas play practice because he was sobbing in the front row of the church.

He had hit his limit.

The next day was the worst day of parenting I have ever experienced. Everything above happened in rapid-fire sequence in a matter of minutes. My husband and I tried everything to calm the chaos, literally everything. You name it, we did it and none of it worked. When my husband took our son for a “car ride” that we hoped would turn into a nap, I broke.

I began wandering around my house aimlessly. It was a disaster. I had to step over toys strewn all over the floor in order to clean up the art supplies and activities that were on every single surface. Puzzle pieces peppered the floor in the living room. It felt like the playroom had sneezed and my house was the tissue.

I had to capitalize on my alone time and make some semblance of normalcy in my home. As I meandered from room to room, I began to stare off in the distance. I knew I wasn’t ok. This week had done me in, and I had nothing left to give. I tried to do the housework. I tried to clean up the toys, but I just couldn’t do it. I felt as if I was about to walk out the front door and never return. I knew that was not possible. I knew I could never run away, despite how desperately I didn’t want to exist in that moment.

I grabbed my Bible. I begged God to reveal the truth to me. I pleaded and petitioned. With one hand on my Bible and the other on my tear-soaked face, I flipped open to the place where my finger had naturally gravitated. Nahum. Great, I thought. This should be really good, God. Can’t wait. Despite my sarcasm, I continued to read.

I will admit, Nahum has never been on my must-read list. In fact, I don’t recall ever reading it in the past. But that sorrowful day, Nahum became my sanity, my comfort. As my fingers spread across the words on the page, I felt like my Daddy was giving me a big squeezy hug. “The Lord is good.” Yes, He is. I know that. This is a truth that I can hang on to right now. He is a “stronghold in the day of distress.” Ok, Dad. You’re talking about today, my day of distress. “He cares for those who take refuge in Him.” Ahh…I see what ya did there, God. Today, I am taking refuge in You because it is my day of distress.

The conversation swirled through my mind. After reading and processing the words, my tears began to dry up, my shoulders began to feel lighter, and my mind was able to stop racing. The Lord, who is good, became my stronghold in that day of distress.

Did you know that Nahum in Hebrew means “comfort?” Wow. It is so incredible to me that my Father knew that Nahum’s words would reach me, thousands of years later, during my day of distress. As I reflect on this day and the way my Dad stepped in and showed me such limitless love and comfort, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude, but my heart can’t help but wonder why it took me getting to the place of debilitating desperation to take refuge in Him. What could my week have looked like if on day one, I turned to Him? Why do I wait? Why do I try to figure it out by myself first? The glory of God is that He wants me to seek Him FIRST. Not as a last resort. Not when the thought of abandoning the beautiful life He gave me is at the forefront of my brain. First.

Are you in a day of distress? Seek Him. Petition Him. Beg Him to reveal truth and comfort to you. And after He does, stop taking the weight of the world on your shoulders, girlfriend. Stop feeling the need to do it yourself first. We serve a God who tells us that isn’t necessary and it’s time we believe Him.

The Corinthian Creedby Shawn McEvoy

Be on your guard, stand firm in faith, be men of courage, be strong; do everything in love. –  1 Corinthians 16:13-14

********While this devotional is geared towards men, I felt like there were a some good thoughts for everyone, not just men.***********

Today’s verse hangs on a board on the wall of my son. But years ago, long before my son was even an inkling, I came across that verse as I was sending my own father one of many letters I composed over the years to share with him the importance of salvation, and the value of life in Christ. My sister, mother, and I came to know the Lord in 1980, but it took another 17 years, seven months, and 26 days worth of praying, heart softening, and brokenness for Dan McEvoy to surrender.

And it wasn’t this letter or the above verse that pushed him into it. No, this letter I was writing simply to tell him how blessed I was to have begun dating a woman (who eventually became my wife) for whom faith came first, and I was giving God all the glory and credit and all that good stuff, and probably telling him how God delights in blessing those who trust in Him.

With the letter I enclosed a quick-and-dirty page of graphic art involving the aforementioned verse from Corinthians in some fancy font, with a clip-art picture of a sailboat, kind of as a visual aid to my letter, indicating, I suppose, what it was like for the man of God to live in this world under the Captaincy of Christ.

Well, so. After he died in 2001, I found that letter and piece of “art” in my father’s desk, looking as if it had been read and glanced at often. Something in me knew then that if I were ever to have a son, I’d commit to raising him to manhood under these same five principles:

  • Be on your guard. Be ready, be alert. Expect God to be involved, expect Satan to attack. Let the wonder of creation still catch your eye.
  • Stand firm in faith. Be unmoved because you know intimately that of which you believe in. Become biblically literate.
  • Be a man of courage. Fear is not from God (2 Timothy 1:7), so go your way boldly. The worst that can happen – even death – still ends in victory and glory for the Christian.
  • Be strong. Physically, yes, let’s take care of ourselves, and present our bodies as holy. But remember that the Lord is the strength of the strong (Ephesians 6:10), and that “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
  • Do everything in love. Here’s your motivation, because he that doesn’t love doesn’t know God (1 John 4:8), and the world shall know you by your love (John 13:35).

So when Jordan was born, and we had the dedication service at our church, that’s the verse we selected to have read. When he was about two-and-a-half, he started reciting it by memory and making up arm/hand motions to go with it. We call it our “Man-Creed.” 

But here’s the secret: these couple verses from the closing of Paul’s first letter to Corinth aren’t first-and-foremost for Jordan… they’re for me.

When I first realized that, it caught me, ironically enough, “off my guard.” I had been more than happy to tell my own father how to “be a man,” and was perfectly willing to raise my son to be one according to the Word. How, I wonder, did I intend to do so without living out the credo, making it my own?

The Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible comments upon the 1 Corinthians passage thusly: “[Paul] shows that they ought to make their hopes of salvation to depend not on Apollos or any other teacher; that it rests with themselves.” Yes, and on how I am willing to live, or better, whether I am willing to let my life be of greater worth than my words.

I don’t know about the other guys out there, but it definitely helps me to have something to live by, to recite, to write on my heart, ponder the meaning of, and connect to other scriptures as I strive to be a man after God’s own heart. And it doesn’t hurt that this creed I now try to follow is affecting its third generation in my family.

Happiness Isn’t Required to Rejoice

By: Meg Bucher

“This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” – Psalm 118:24 ESV

“Don’t draw from the pile when there’s a wild card in your hand.” My husband repeated the proper UNO rules to my nine-year-old, as our oldest drained all the hot water for her shower.

“Mom… it’s your turn.”

Life is transitioning from when bedtime was a pretty reliable staple to an era where our kids stay up later than we can. Change can tempt us to assume something is wrong. Our youngest needs to move until her head hits the pillow, which pushes every parental button trying to decompress at the end of the day. Instead of battling her behavior, we play UNO. We celebrate who she is alongside her, and peace prevails.

Psalm 118:24 says, “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (ESV) Not tomorrow. Not yesterday. This is the day. Though change can be challenging and transition trying and tiring, we are to rejoice and be glad in it. So often we pray for it to end, or for things to return to what we once knew. But life keeps moving. For those of us who love and follow Jesus, we’re always growing in maturity towards a heart like His. It sounds as beautiful as it is, but the everyday reality of growth pushes us out of our comfort zones.

Rejoice” in the original Hebrew, means to rejoice, exult, be glad, but also to tremble in fear. We can be fearful or uncomfortable without losing our joy. When we rejoice in the Lord, knowing our joy is rooted in Jesus, we are glad. It reminds us He’s got us. He has a plan, a purpose, sits sovereign overall and loves each of us.

Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” (ESV) Always, including in times of suffering (NIVSB), “rejoice always.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16) The verb in these verses could be used as a salutation, or at the beginning of letters. Imagine if we greeted each other with “Rejoice!” Why shouldn’t we be glad? We have a Savior who has conquered death so we may live a full life here on earth, and on to eternity with Him in heaven.

When the daily grind turns everyday joys into mundane annoyances or change and transition threaten to rip up the roots of peace amidst uncomfortable circumstances …rejoice! Rejoice, not to minimize hard times and tragic pain, but to re-center our souls on the hope of Jesus.

Life will constantly shift, banking around sharp curves and sneaking up on us with challenging seasons. But God remains the same. Jesus walks through it all with us. Our rejoicing doesn’t have to look like a worship concert. It doesn’t even have to don a smile. The life-giving stirring of our souls comes from simply recalling what we know. There’s nothing extraordinary about playing Uno on the couch while we watch tv, but it reminds us peace doesn’t have to look organized or make sense. We just have to remember to pause and let it reign over our circumstances and solutions.


Meg Bucher writes about everyday life within the love of Christ. She stepped out of her comfort zone, and her Marketing career, to obey God’s call to stay home and be “Mom” in 2011. From that step of obedience her blog, Sunny&80, was born, a way to retain the funny everyday moments of motherhood. Meg is also a freelance writer and author of “Friends with Everyone.”  She loves teaching God’s Word and leading Bible study, being a mom, distance running, photography, and the Cleveland Browns. Meg resides in Northern Ohio with her husband, two daughters, and Golden-Doodle.

The Stir

By: Lysa Tuerkerst

You know what my favorite part of the Easter miracle is? It’s hard to choose a favorite, but I have one.

It’s the stir.

The stir no one saw.

That first second Jesus twitched beneath the burial clothes and death lost its sting. Hope, glorious hope rose in that second when the world still felt the weight of death. Hope twitched. Hope moved. Hope stirred. And Jesus arose.

God reminds us of the stir in so many ways.

A branch looks dead and yet a stir is happening in places we can’t see. Places that soon burst forth green life.

A drought threatens to dry out the life of everything planted and yet a stir is happening in places we can’t see. A wind shifts, a cloud bursts, and heaven pours forth.

A woman is told her womb will not and yet a stir is happening in places we can’t see. Her baby will come through a stranger’s womb and in an instant her arms are filled.

The stir no one saw.

The stir we so often miss.

The stir we so desperately need to remember.

The stir was.

The stir is.

The stir will forever be.

Even when we can’t see it.

He is risen, my friend. And because He is risen we can know there is a stir happening behind whatever tomb threatens to close over our hope today.

Yes, there is a stir happening in places we can’t see. He is risen indeed.