Category Archives: Response

Can I help you?

As a pastor for the past 21 years, I would LOVE to be able to see exactly what my listeners in the congregation are thinking… and where they are in their faith journey to help steer my praying (my private praying mostly, but also the public prayers) and to guide my sermons to help where people really are. HOWEVER, we can’t see these thought bubbles in real life! We only have two resources in this: people sharing directly with the pastor about concerns, questions, and struggles, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. 
Because of the Holy Spirit, we do “get it right” quite often as we follow the Spirit’s leading and “nudging.” But what JOY when people talk directly with us and we can work directly with the Spirit to meet needs, offer clarification, provide comfort, extend a listening and caring ear, and pray personally with someone. 

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Filed under Bible, Church Leadership, Grief, prayer, Reflection, Response, sermons, worship

King Arthur and the Great Courses

I just finished the course titled King Arthur: History and Legend published in 2015 by The Teaching Company as one of their Great Courses series. I thought I already knew the basic story/chronology of King Arthur and his knights, wife, court, and kingdom. HA! I was pleasantly surprised as I watched and listened to these 24 course lectures by Arthurian expert Dorsey Armstrong of Purdue University.

I have often appreciated the Great Courses series, but most have been connected to my “job” as a pastor either in some administrative role, public speaking skill, counseling or philosophy background, or some connection to the church or religion in general throughout history. This was one of the few where I “took” the course just for the fun of learning something new.

I was able to do that because The Teaching Company has come up with a pay one price and get access to all their newer streaming video courses… And they offered a one month free trial, which is how I connected! Check it out!
https://www.thegreatcoursesplus.com

(And no, they didn’t reward me or give me something to get me to give them a positive review.)

While I’m in this trial time of their Great Courses Plus program, I’ve also been learning about How to “Read” (and write) Egyptian Hieroglyphs, hearing some of the behind the scenes stories about the American Founding Fathers, and the basics of playing guitar.

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Faith AND Works?

When I grew up, many people tried to claim that all I had to do was believe in Jesus and pray the sinner’s prayer and I was good to go… forever. While that’s a great starting point, I was challenged by James’ words: “So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” -James 2:17 (NLT)

And today, I ran across this Christian writer from antiquity who summed up the knowledge part of faith and the role of the “works” of faith really well:

“Even though knowledge is true, it is still not firmly established if unaccompanied by works. For everything is established by being put into practice.” – St. Mark the Ascetic, Philokalia, vol. 1, p 126, #12.

Maybe “faith put into practice” is a better way of thinking about faith and works! If our faith is based on on our head knowledge, it’s dead! But if we can put the faith we believe into practice, then we’re REALLY living out our faith!

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Call To Me…

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” –Jeremiah 33:3 (NIV)

Last month I had the chance to sit in on one of the adult Sunday School classes here in my new church setting. The discussion was already underway, so I just listened and discovered they were talking about Romans and someone had drawn a comparison to something in Ezekiel. The idea raised was pretty interesting so I decided to look it up later on. But when I actually made it to some alone time that evening, I accidentally opened up to Jeremiah, chapter 33 to be specific. And verse three (quoted above) just captured my heart and mind!

And that quick, I “heard” God offering me that same opportunity he had given to the prophet some six centuries  before Jesus’ birth.

Jeremiah had been arrested and confined in Jerusalem during the time that the Babylonian Nebuchadnezzur had besieged the city. Jeremiah heard God’s calls for the nation to repent, and he faithfully shared those divine messages, but they fell on deaf ears. Furthermore, the leadership of his nation, King Zedekiah, wasn’t listening to sound counsel, nor was he turning to God to repent and do things God’s way. Jeremiah had to have  moments of doubt and wondering and grief and sorrow over what he could see was coming for his beloved land.

Now-a-days we are half-way around the world and over two and a half millenia have passed since Jeremiah’s day. I have days when I wonder what’s going to become of this land I love so much. Nobody seems to want to hear the call to repentance that God still extends to all. The leadership in our political parties and in official government positions seem intent at times to not only reject God’s ways, as laid out in the Bible, to actively promote the violating of any “rule” God might have laid down. Some of us have been wondering where this is all going to end… especially in light of what seems like hopeless choices for the election of various officials throughout our governmental system… or even our church organizations, allegedly “the people of God” and yet seemingly intent on turning our back on anything God has asked of us… at least if it involves repentance from sin.

This verse, as it JUMPED OUT at me that night, reminded me that my first responsibility in those moments of wondering about the future, or my country, or even my church, is not to cry out in frustration or to vow to vote for this one or that one or to try to come up with my own plans to “keep the peace.” Rather, Jeremiah 33:3, reminds me that my PRIMARY responsibility as I look around at all that’s happening is to…

… simply call out to God.

“Call to me and I will answer…”

And that quickly, the anxiety begins to lift a little and Jesus’ inviting words flood back into my memory:

28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”   —Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

Jeremiah, even though he was facing overwhelming odds and great certainty that everything was falling apart, could call out to God and lay down his burdens before his lord. As I look at the uncertainty of my life, my nation, my health, my church denomination, my wife and children’s futures, my finances, even my own mental health… I can call out to my God and lay out all my burdens before Him… and give those burdens to him! He’ll take on those burdens and give me rest… and hope… and peace… even in a world that seems like its going to pot.

Oh yes, Lord! Remind me again and again that there is NO reason for me to carry all my cares, concerns, and burdens alone. Remind me to CALL to you and then lay these other things down to you as I simply draw closer to You, to learn from you and hear You. And I can then trust You to answer me and show me Your ways… even though I cannot see them from here. AMEN!

 

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Filed under Bible, Church Leadership, Eschatology, Mental Health, Methodist, prayer, Response

Ask In My Name

Chambers COMPLETE WORKSYesterday I came across The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers, a book I picked up back in 2002. One section is the book of prayers published after Chambers’ death under the title Knocking at God’s Door. Chambers’ wife created this book by pulling some of her husband’s personal, spiritual prayers he had written out at the beginning of each day into his diaries.

The prayer she assigned to today picks up its theme from John 14:14 (Revised Version 1885):

“If ye shall ask Me anything in My Name, that will I do” (RV). It is all so mysterious, O Lord, and all so simple — I pray, and believe that Thou dost create something in answer to and by the very means of my prayer, that was not in existence before.”

I’ve known this verse for years… but never thought about it quite like this. My prayer is the impetus for God to create an answer for whatever it is I prayed about! My prayer is the spark that gets the answer started! NO WONDER the book of James (4:2) says that the reason we don’t get what we most desire or need is because we don’t ask for it! The engine doesn’t do much until it is started!

I also am aware that there is that disclaimer in there that says we don’t get just anything we ask for… but rather, when we ask in Jesus’ name, the Father will do whatever we ask. I take it that means that if I know something is clearly NOT in God’s will, then I can expect no result from praying for that thing. Asking in His name implies I come alongside Jesus and ask for the very things he’s offered… the very things that carry out his will on earth… and I get to be a part of what He’s doing!

–Chambers, Oswald. The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers. Discovery House Publishers, associated with RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, Michigan. copyright 2000. (Complete Works

–Chambers, Oswald. Knocking at God’s Door: A Little Book of Prayers. 1957. in Complete Works pages 635-652. August 19th entry found on page 646.

 

 

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Weeping Jesus

     In January of 2002, my family visited the National Memorial in downtown Oklahoma City. After we explained to our girls the horrific story of the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building, we began walking through the memorial that has since been built on the spot where the building once stood. I have never been so moved as I was that day.

     At each end are huge gates… one representing the moment before the bombing (9:01 a.m.) and the other representing the moment after the attack (9:03 a.m.). And in between those two gates… in between those two moments… was the blast and its aftermath. Each of the lives lost is symbolized by an empty chair bearing the name of one of the 168 victims. Walking around the reflecting pool, looking at the chairs and the remains of the one piece of wall that still stands, I slowly began to realize that the chairs were of different sizes… and I remembered that 19 of those killed were innocent children at play in their day-care center. And I was struck by the horror of it all over again.

     At each end of the memorial site stand two church buildings that had also been damaged in the blast. Across the street at the eastern end is the United Methodist Church, which included an open chapel on the grounds when they rebuilt, complete with helpful brochures, healing pamphlets, and even free Bibles, offering the peace of Christ and the hope of Jesus to any who want to leave the terror behind.

     Across the street at the western end is a Roman Catholic Church, that commissioned a memorial of their own when they rebuilt: a statue of Jesus, with his back to the grisly destruction, weeping.  weeping Jesus

     Jesus Christ, weeps in the face of such hatred that would be so violent and murderous. He turns his back to such evil and destruction. God cannot stand sin… sin cannot abide in his presence. According to the Gospels, God the Father hid his face from His own Son when He was bearing our sins on that cross so long ago.

     Engraved on the gates of the Oklahoma City Memorial are these words: “We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever…May all who leave here know the impact of violence…”

     We need to remember. Especially in light of the unimaginable events that we have since lived through lately. Bombings. Riots. Protests. Police shootings. Shootings of police. A truck deliberately crashing into pedestrians. Mass murder at a nightclub. A teen gunman in a mall luring people to their deaths. And that’s just the last few weeks in non-war zones. And looking ahead, we see events like the political rallies and even the Olympics coming up soon and wonder if we’re destined to endure even more heartbreak, sorrow, and terror.

     Terrorism is well named. For it is terror we feel when faced with these unthinkable, cowardly acts of violence. There is no protection it seems, no hope, no safety, no peace, when faced with terror.

     Yet, we are reminded by these two churches, and by the Scriptures, that even though our Lord despises and rejects such hatred, He is never untouched by the pain and the suffering. His back may be turned to evil, but his face is filled with tears of compassion and love. He promises to walk through the darkest of times hand-in-hand with any one of us who calls on Him and allows Him to bring us His peace and His comfort.

     We celebrated Christ’s victory over sin and death just a few months ago at Easter. But a key part of the Easter story is remembering the beatings, whippings, and gruesome death He endured. We remember his broken body and His shed blood as He turned His back to a cross and allowed Himself to be nailed to it in order to once and for all time purchase our eternal freedom. Since God cannot allow sin into His presence, and every one of us has sinned, we were all doomed for an eternity separated from God… an eternal death. But Jesus Christ, the only one who ever walked through life without ever sinning, took our place… facing death and hell so that we could be freed from that judgment of eternal death. Like when someone chooses to pay off a debt for you that you knew you’d never be able to pay.

     In this time of uncertainty, when the terror and fear and sin is so clearly visible, it is time for us to return to the weeping Jesus, and remember His death until He comes again.

 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

This was my pastor’s newsletter in our church’s bi-monthly newsletter, The Circuit Rider, (August/September 2016), First United Methodist Church, Carmichaels, PA. (Based on an original devotional I wrote in 2002).

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Remembering Aunt Nancy

I posted this on my Mixed Genes blog on February 12, 2016. In honor of Aunt Nancy’s 70th birthday today, I wanted to repost it here…

Last week, on February 1, 2016, my Aunt Nancy (Mix) died. It’s taken me almost two weeks to be able to begin to write.

My earliest memories have Aunt Nancy interwoven throughout them. In that time when Mom and Dad had separated, and yet before my brother had been born, there was a time when Mom and I lived in an

Dayton & Nancy 1963

Dayton & Nancy 1963

apartment in Coudersport. I remember being all dressed up because Grandma and Grandpa Mix AND AUNT NANCY were coming to visit. I remember constantly checking the window to see if they had arrived yet. I loved visiting Grandpa and Grandma, but I was EXCITED to play with Aunt Nancy. To this day, I can remember her smile… and her giggle.

Part of my love of reading and books have an early Aunt Nancy memory as well. I only had a couple of weeks of first grade left and she gave me a Children’s First Dictionary for my birthday. I read that thing front to back and back to front. And she had me read words and kids’ definitions to her as well. I knew that she had trouble seeing, but it was still years before I understood that she could no longer even see me at that point.

In the time when I was home from college, we would still read books together. In fact, we had taken one of our road trips down to Olean to the Christian Bookstore and I read the titles as we walked down the aisles of the store. We discovered one by an author I had never heard of named Janette Oke. She decided the one we wanted was her book Once Upon A Summer, following an orphaned adolescent boy named Joshua. I remember we tossed around what a cool name that was, and I thought maybe I might name my son Joshua someday. And over the next couple of weeks, we would sit in the living room and I would read the book aloud.

It was such a great idea that Grandma and Aunt Nancy would read Janette Oke’s novels together for years and years.

Every once in a while, Aunt Nancy and I would take off for a store or a mall. Olean, Erie, Elmira. After Gay and I were married, we added the Altoona and Johnstown malls to our itinerary as well. Everything went pretty well, except for two problems we had to overcome: I could guide her wherever she wanted to go except the restroom. So I would check out what the mens’ room looked like, describe it to her, and suggest that the womens’ room was probably similar. She never got lost and always came back safe. The other obstacle was trying to explain to Grandma Mix that she could be safe “out there.”

Probably one of her favorite activities was talking on the phone with Aunt Roena.  She also loved spending time with her family. Every so often she would sneak up behind me and put her ALWAYS COLD fingers on my neck and just giggle. Of course, I tried to return the favor as often as possible.

According to the Bible, in Proverbs 13:12, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Eventually Aunt Nancy came to the realization that the time to leave the nest had come and gone… and there was a gradual sinking and growing depression… and then confusion… and eventually delusions.

Monday evening, after I got the call saying she was gone, my wife, Gay, commented that there was once a movie entitled: “When Stella Got Her Groove Back.” Not that either of us had ever seen it, but Gay could just envision Aunt Nancy arriving in Heaven as “When Aunt Nancy Got Her Giggle Back.”

Almost twenty years ago, for Aunt Nancy’s fiftieth birthday, Gay wrote a poem for her. Here it is…

An Ode to Aunt Nancy

Here’s to a lady born as a Mix,

Whose birth as a girl gave her brothers a fix!

Nancy Jo Anne they gave as her name,

And spoiling her rotten was their favorite game.

Tea parties with Ted, cleaning the pens,

4-H blue ribbons for prize-winning hens –

Her life on the farm was simple and sweet,

The love of her family made it complete.

But to her, life was not always kind;

A childhood ailment left her sight blind.

Not one to be stopped by what it brings,

She clearly saw life through other things.

Her listening ears heard more than was said,

And in giving wisdom her loving heart led.

Not one to go out much, never too fancy,

To each generation she is known as Aunt Nancy.

Her lap has held babies, by count, quite a few,

And they came to know her loving heart, too.

Her giggle, her smile, her sense of humor,

Her ability to know the truth from a rumor

Has enriched our lives with her sense of wit

(Sometimes she doesn’t know when to quit!).

She’s hard to surprise this aunt who knows all

And loves to go shopping at any old mall.

But that’s not her only shopping pleasure:

The Avon Book is full of wonderful treasure!

And so, on this day, fifty years from her birth,

We celebrate her life, her love, and her mirth.

By G. Mix, 6/24/96

Obituary of Nancy J. Mix from the Olean TIMES HERALD

Obituary of Nancy J. Mix from the Olean TIMES HERALD

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