52 Weeks (Week Three)

66982At Asbury this year, we are taking part our in 52 Weeks, 52 Verses challenge. Each week of the year, we are memorizing a different Bible verse. As we learn the Bible together as a church this year, I know, we know that God will bring us closer to Himself and show us more and more of who He is.

I heard a preacher say recently, if we don’t know God’s known will (the Bible) then we will never know His unknown will. If we want to know what God wants for us, calls us to, we need to listen and learn His word!

The passage for this week is the first of three weeks that we will spend memorizing Psalm 121. This week is verses 1-2:

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

This is a Psalm that the people would sing as they went up to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is on the top of a mountain, so no matter where you came from, north or south, you when “up” to Jerusalem.

So, we lift up our eyes to the hills, from where our help comes. Up the hills reminds of God, because God was associated with the temple and Jerusalem.

And our help comes from God, who made heaven and earth.

We look up. And looking up, we are reminded that God is our help. God is our savior. God is our strength. God is our hope.

Today, look up. Look up. Your help comes from God. The maker of Heaven and Earth.

Look up. And you will find your help in God, no matter where you are!

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones, and you thought our app, you can now watch our worship services from Asbury too!

52 Weeks (Week Two)

66982In Week Two of our 52 Weeks, 52 Verses, our verse for this week is Matthew 9:13. This is on of those verses that can really change the way that we look at God, ourselves, and other people. Take time this week to think about it, pray about it, and listen to what God wants to say to you through this verse.

Listen to what it says:

Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Two things pop out to me when I read this passage.

First God says that He desires mercy, not sacrifice. That’s what God wants from us in our dealings with others. Mercy. This week, as we memorize this verse, will we make an effort to show mercy?

Mercy is something that is not deserved. We are merciful to folks that don’t deserve it, that may not even want to be merciful to. God shows us mercy, undeserved.

Let’s show that same mercy to someone this week.

Second, Jesus said I came for sinners. Jesus came to help the weak, the sick, the sore. When you feel like God can’t love you because of what you’ve done, remember this.

It was you He came to save.

This week, as we memorize this verse, let’s think about these things.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones, and you thought our app, you can now watch our worship services from Asbury too!

Naughty or Nice

naughtynice

This is our church sign at Asbury right now.  Now this isn’t just plug for Asbury (though we’d love to have you worship with us sometime!) This sign makes me smile every time I see it?  Why?

Is it simply because it’s a play on the “naughty or nice” part of the Christmas season?  Maybe.  But, mainly because it expresses something that I (and Asbury) believes fully about God.  God loves nice people.  God loves naughty people.  God loves all people.

And God wants to be in a relationship with all people.  Because God so loves the world.  The naughty and the nice.

Santa comes to check if you are naughty or nice.  Jesus came to save the naughty, and the nice.  Because He loves both.  And both need Him.

Listen to what Jesus says in Luke 19: 9-10:

And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Jesus came, seeking out the lost.  The broken.  The needful.  Because He loves them.  He cares for them.  And they are His.  He was born to save them.

He was born to save us.  No matter where we are.  No matter what list we are on.  That may matter to the world, or to Santa.  But it doesn’t matter to God.

Naughty or nice, it doesn’t matter to God.  He doesn’t love us because we are good.  He loves us because He is good.

Never forget that.  Ever.  He simply loves you.  No matter what.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones.

** Special thanks to Meghan Milligan for taking this picture

Light in the Darkness

This is the first day I’m in the office at Asbury since the storms hit the other night.  It’s been an intense few days here in the Pine Belt and at Asbury.  The storms blew through at about 5:00 or so Sunday night.  I’m not sure exactly. We were having a talent show for our Relay for Life efforts when it hit. We had a 150 – 200 folks crowded in our church hallway when it came.

We saw where it hit, and we started going out to look.  The major damage seemed to be around Oak Grove, downtown Hattiesburg, downtown Petal, a subdivision not too far from Asbury.  We found out very quickly that our youth pastor, Jeff West, and his wife Ashlie lost their home in downtown Petal.  Other members had their homes destroyed or severely damaged.

You’ll be hearing more about this in the coming days. But I want share with you two moments of grace in the midst of all fo this.
555921_10200485581851114_1960314999_nFirst, look this picture to your left. There was a family whose home was destroyed. They literally just made it into a closet before it hit, and that was the only room in their house that still had a ceiling.  Home is a total lose.  A window blew out and gashed the husband pretty bad.  They are literally fortunate to be alive.

As we were cleaning yesterday, we noticed this. Part of their fence is in the perfect shape of a cross. And it’s in the form a cross. Even in the storm, God is present with us.  He never leaves nor forsakes us.  He is with us always.

Second, the storm hit at 5 or so Sunday. At 7 a.m. Monday morning, approximately 150 Asbury folks were out serving. We literally swamped parts of the town with service. We tarped close to 40 roofs. We cut and hauled off trees.  We clean out.

We were Salt and Light.

I have never been more proud to be pastor of this church than this week.  I said this on Facebook this week:

Dark is dark. Light is brighter. Where is God in tragedy? Guiding the feet of everyone that runs to the trouble, not away from it #saltandlight

That’s right.  We have been the church this week. And we are going to keep doing it.  Light shines, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones.

The Puzzle – Love Podcast

The sermon podcast for Sunday, July 31, 2011 is up on Asbury Church’s website.  This is the last sermon in our series about Spiritual Gifts – “The Puzzle.” This series talks about spiritual gifts and this one deals with the gift of that is the one that all Christians should have, and is the greatest of all the gifts.  Love. The text for this sermon is 1 Corinthians 12:29-13:13.  You can listen to it by clicking here, or you can listen to it here on this blog by clicking below. And, as always, you can subscribe to my sermon podcasts through iTunes.

The Puzzle – Mercy Podcast

The sermon podcast for Sunday, July 31, 2011 is up on Asbury Church’s website.  This is the fifth sermon in our series about Spiritual Gifts – “The Puzzle.” This series talks about spiritual gifts and this one deals with the gift of Mercy. The texts for this sermon are Luke 10: 29-37 and Micah 6:8.  You can listen to it by clicking here, or you can listen to it here on this blog by clicking below. And, as always, you can subscribe to my sermon podcasts through iTunes.

The Puzzle – Helps Podcast

The sermon podcast for Sunday, July 10, 2011 is up on Asbury Church’s website.  This is the second sermon in our series about Spiritual Gifts – “Puzzle.” This series talks about spiritual gifts and this one deals with a gift that is prevalent at Asbury Church – Helps. The text for this sermon is Luke 10: 38-42.  You can listen to it by clicking here, or you can listen to it here on this blog by clicking below. And, as always, you can subscribe to my sermon podcasts through iTunes.

Connections: Friends Podcast

The sermon podcast for Sunday, May 22, 2011 is up on Asbury Church’s website. This is the fourth our sermons in our new series “Connections.”  This month we’ll be talking about the “Connections” or relationships that define us.  This message deals with “Friends.”  The text is 1 Samuel 20: 41-42.  I also have a little riff in the beginning of the sermon about what to think about the world not ending on May 21, 2011.  You can listen to it by clicking here, or you can listen to it here on this blog by clicking below. And, as always, you can subscribe to my sermon podcasts through iTunes.

What I’ve Seen Today

I can’t sleep.  It’s Sunday night.  Normally I’m exhausted after a long day of worship, visiting with folks, meetings, and chasing the kids.

I can’t sleep tonight. So, I do what I do when I can’t sleep. I write.

I can’t sleep tonight because of what I’ve seen today.  I’ve seen something amazing today.  I’ve seen God at work.

I’ve been lucky enough to have served God in ministry since 1998.  I’ve been under appointment (i.e. a preacher) since 1999.  I’ve had the great privilege and honor of serving some amazing people and churches in these years.  At Boyle, Linn, and Litton UMCs, those sweet folk taught me how to grow up and be a pastor. At Coy UMC, I found my voice and learned how to preach. At Ripley FUMC, I had the honor of seeing what can happen when a church really tries to impact its community.

I’ve been lucky to serve some great people.

Today, though, I can’t sleep. Because I saw God at work here at Asbury Church.  I saw Him in our children as they led us in worship.  I saw Him in the praise team as they communicated the grace and mercy of God through song.  I saw Him in a line for lunch that literally stretched out of the worship center. I saw Him in the laughter and joy of those same folks waiting in line to eat.  I saw Him the hands of folks working the kitchen as they served a teeming mass of people lunch. I saw Him in the fact that so many people, people I literally didn’t know stayed after worship to fellowship, to laugh, to just be together as the Body of Christ. I saw Him in children running to get Easter Eggs and sliding down slides.  I saw Him in the youth gather back tonight, eating crawfish listening to music and enjoying the company of fellow sisters and brothers in Christ.

There’s an old song my wife used to sing some in church – “There’s a Sweet, Sweet Spirit in This Place.” Today, I saw the effect of that spirit.  I saw God move in the lives of people. I saw people draw close to God and close to each other.

I saw God move in church today. And I am so thankful that my eyes have gotten to see it.

And I can’t wait until next week to see what He’s going to do here at Asbury.

I can’t sleep tonight. And I’ve never been more happy about it.