Asbury United Methodist Church, Cinnaminson, NJ
Monday, November 20, 2017

> Pastor Desk

    In our church's quarterly newsletter, The Ambassador, Pastor John leads each issue with a message of inspiration, often involving one of his famous or favorite stories.  Due to popular request, we have archived these messages from past issues and present them here for your repeated inspiration and enjoyment, as well as sharing them with family, friends and neighbors, both local and around the world.
  
To read Pastor John's message, just click on the issue below:
 
 
 
 
 
 
Dear Members and Friends,
  

God is doing exciting things at Asbury United Methodist church! It is always a joy to see one of our seasonal Ambassador Newsletters come together! Increasingly, as our Church grows, we have more and more to share with you about what God is doing here at Asbury.

What are some of the exciting things that God is doing at Asbury?

-We have final approval from Cinnaminson Township for our building expansion! Bids have been received and the Building Committee is nearing the point of making a recommendation to choose our General Contractor. Soon we will be scheduling a Congregational meeting in order to move forward with groundbreaking!

-Over the summer, a Children's and Youth Ministry team was formed. Activities have included some quality events including....an inter-generational luncheon (where the children served the meal), a mystery night and campfire, a Progressive Fast Food Dinner, as well as children's activities such as Penguin Pandemonium, Incredible Edible Bible Fun, Iddy Biddy Bible Buddies and more! If you missed these times together and are curious, the best thing to do is to come out and experience our next event which is the Hallelujah Family Night and Sleep Over scheduled for Friday, October 27th, beginning at 7:00 PM. Even if you can't sleep over, you are welcome to come out for a great evening program!

-Our Church's involvement with Natural Church Development (NCD) is an opportunity for Asbury to be a part of a powerful movement of God's Spirit. NCD is about universally valid church qualities being applied to the specific life of our local Church. These quality characteristics....Empowering Leadership, Gift Oriented Ministry, Passionate Spirituality, Functional Structures, Inspiring Worship Service, Holistic Small Groups, Need-oriented Evangelism, and Loving Relationships all have a direct relationship to both the quality and the quantitative growth of our Church. Stay tuned!! There will be more shared about NCD in the days ahead!

-Each Sunday, you can feel the presence and power of God as people come to worship and hear His word. I believe that Asbury United Methodist Church is a "Filling Station." People come to experience the living God in a loving Christian community!

As we look to new building possibilities in ministry, may Jesus grace us, guide us, and bless us into the future which He has prepared!!!

 
 
In His Amazing Grace,
         Pastor John
 
Summer, 2006
 
Dear Members and Friends,
    

Please read on and remember . . . .

           

Some churches have parking problems, some other churches don't.

Some churches have kids running around making a lot of noise; some other churches tend to be very quiet.

Some churches usually have more expenses than money; some other churches don't need to spend much money because not much is going on.

Some churches are growing so fast you don't always know everybody's name; in some other churches everybody has known everybody's name for years.

Some churches enthusiastically and generously support missions; some other churches keep it all at home.

Some churches are filled with tithers; some other churches are filled with tippers.

Some churches evangelize; some other churches fossilize.

Some churches are always planning for the future; some other churches live in the past.

Some churches seek new ministries and new methods; some other churches don't want to.

If you are active in some church, why don't you take a moment and pray for it today.

Some people pray for their church, and some others never quite get around to it.

 

Source unknown

PRAY!

 
In His Amazing Grace,
         Pastor John
 

Spring, 2006
 
Dear embers and Friends,

 

I remember as a child visiting my Grandparents (on my mother's side) way down in South Jersey. Grandmom and Grandpop were very active in their local Methodist Church and when we visited with them, my brother and I would go with our grandparents to Church.

One Sunday while we were visiting, there was an after Church meeting to discuss expanding the Church facilities. I can still see the rolled up building plans in Grandpop's hands and hear the discussion of the meeting. As I recall, the meeting was right out of the Bible....unfortunately, right out of Numbers 13-14 when the majority of the "advance team" told the Israelites that taking the promised land was impossible (In contrast, Caleb and Joshua, in the minority advised that taking the land was doable in the Lord). It was a gathering of what I would today call "poor mouthing" and "impossibility thinking." I don't see how it can be done." "We can't afford it." "This is not possible." The amazing thing was that in the meeting it was mostly the younger generation that was against the building plan! I can still see the "daggers" in the eyes of a younger middle aged woman who gave the impression that my grandfather was crazy for having such an idea as wanting to expand the Church! That day, the building plan was soundly and sadly defeated. This was not Good News for that little Church!

Caleb, Joshua, and my Grandfather (read Numbers 13-14) saw something that the others couldn't or wouldn't see! They saw the promise of God! Compared to the others, Caleb, Joshua, and Grandpop took themselves a little less seriously and took God a lot more seriously. I plan to preach on this text/topic sometime in March. The message will be called "Minority Report."

We are building! Thankfully, we are well past the decision point of "Do we build?" Indeed, Asbury's expansion is part of our promised land that God has for us! We are getting closer to beginning construction, hopefully by the Fall of this year! Faith in God, His power, and our active partnership with Him, has gotten us this far! Faith in God, His power, and our active partnership with Him will get us into our expanded facility. Please           Pray! Give! Invite! Enjoy what God is doing! Exercise your faith
in God! IT'S HAPPENING!

Than you Jesus for what you are doing in our midst! Thank you Jesus for grandparents who took me to Church! To God be the Glory!

In His Amazing Grace,
         Pastor John
 

 
Dear Members and Friends,
     Recently, I came across the following story....
A man is climbing a mountain, at the top of which he hopes to find God. By ascending the heights, the seeker expects to leave all the cares and miseries of life behind in the valley.
But while he climbs, God is coming down the mountain into the toil and grief.
In the mists of the mountain God and the man pass one another.
When the man reaches the mountaintop, he will find nothing. God is not there. What then will he do? He knows the climbing was a mistake, but in agony of that recognition, will he fall down and despair? Or will he turn to retrace his path through the mists and into the valley to where God has gone seeking him?
We will wait a long time seeking the perfect encounter with God. Like the above story, Christmas is about God sending Jesus to come and be among us. He wants to meet us where we are and not some imaginary place where we would like to be!
 
“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name Him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.” Matthew 1:23
 
I invite you to seek a fresh encounter with the Lord this Advent and Christmas season. Start with Jesus right where you are! Are you in bad circumstances? Health difficulties? Family/Relationship problems? Are you hurting? Don’t despair! Just let Jesus in. He changes things!
 
And thus that manger poor
Became a throne;
For He whom Mary bore
Was God the Son.
 O come, then let us join
The heavenly host,
To praise the Father, Son,
 And Holy Ghost.
                                         - Traditional Christmas Carol
 
In His Amazing Grace,
         Pastor John
 
Fall, 2005
 
Dear Members and Friends,
  

It is an exciting time to be at Asbury United Methodist Church. We are God's people and a part of God's purpose! The Capital Funds Campaign for the Phase I addition has gone very well. At present, we have $220,159.00 in pledges, of which $27,708.00 has already been received. Currently in the Building Fund we have $161,241.14 and we anticipate upcoming transfers from the Egg Program, Memorial and Cemetery accounts to further enhance this fund. Indeed, we are getting closer to a larger Fellowship Hall, Kitchen, Sanctuary and new Chapel/Parlor. For all who are giving financial gifts and have made pledges, thank you and Praise the Lord!!

The burning question I hear in my heart and among us is....Just how close are we? Here is a quick sketch of some of the steps which need to take place to get us into the actual "bricks and mortar" of our addition....

           Site plan and application before Cinnaminson Township. (A Site plan is being presented to our Building Committee on October 12th at 7:30 PM (all are welcome to attend!). Once the Site plan is approved by our Building Committee, application will be made for approval from the Township.

           Seeking approval from the newly formed Township Historical Commission. (We plan to go before the Commission this Fall.)

           Securing financing (inquiries have already begun).

           Putting the job out for bid to Contractors.

           Final Building and Financing plan to be presented to Asbury Church Conference and the Capital District Board of Church and Building Location.

           Most importantly, as people of God, we need to continue to pray for the Holy Spirit's guidance on this exciting journey!

These are the major steps ahead of us on the road to ground breaking!

IT'S HAPPENING!

            I will build my Church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.

Matthew 16:18

  
 
In His Amazing Grace,
         Pastor John
 

Spring/Summer, 2005
 
Dear Members and Friends,
 

One of the first movies I ever saw in my life was Lilies of the Field starring Sydney Poitier as Homer Schmidt A couple of years ago, I rented the movie to review some of the scenes I had remembered in my young mind Who can forget the beautiful Amen song which Homer sang to the nuns? Or the "Catholic breakfast" consisting of the single egg and cup of black coffee? Or the English lessons Homer offered to the nuns (i.e. I stand up....I sit down)? Or furthermore, the fierce determination of the mother superior who knew that God had called her to build a chapel (pronounced shapel in her German accent)?

I remember the stages that Homer went through in building the chapel.

Stage 1 - He wasn't sure he wanted to do it. Stage 2 - He wanted to do it by himself. Stage 3 - He let others help him. Finally, the end of the movie arrives and the audience sees that a beautiful chapel has been built by God through (and sometimes despite) the main characters of different backgrounds and many helpers. As a little child, I can still remember feeling the awe at the end of the movie of seeing the chapel complete with the people sitting inside!

Phase 1 of our building campaign is here! It is amazing the various backgrounds of each of us whom God has brought together. We have been Catholics, Episcopalians, Disciples of Christ, Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostal and Independents. Some of us were not raised in the Church or any type of faith. And yet, here we are in Asbury United Methodist Church. We are God's people and He is building His Church.

In the early 1960's, very faithful people of our Church pushed (and pulled!) to move the sanctuary to its present location and added our present education building and fellowship hall. Thank God they were faithful and did this!

I believe there is a similar moving of God's Spirit right now as we move forward with our Phase 1 plan to expand our Sanctuary, add a parlor/chapel, and add much needed space to our Fellowship Hall. One day we will feel the joy of sitting in our newly expanded building But let's not wait for the joy as God blesses and uses us to build His Church!

 
In His Amazing Grace,
         Pastor John
 

Spring/Easter, 2005
 
Dear Members and Friends,
 

One of my favorite Scripture passages is found in 2 Corinthians 11:7b-10. St. Paul had a "thorn in his flesh;" some type of physical difficulty which he asked God earnestly and repeatedly to heal. I've sometimes wondered, why is it that in the New Testament every seeker who encounters Jesus gets healed but this marvelous Saint ends up with a thorn in the flesh?! I believe the best answer on this side of heaven is found right in this passage. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 11:8a)

I pray that the following story will speak to your heart as it did to mine

In 1992, Cliff Aaron was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that results in blindness. Aaron, a businessman and father of three, feared that he would be unable to support his family. He feared having to depend on others.

By August 2003, Aaron was legally blind, but still capable of performing his job. He arrived at his office building one morning and got on the elevator. Suddenly, the elevator stopped. The electricity went out, leaving everyone in the dark. The other people in the elevator began to panic. But Cliff, who was used to functioning in darkness, calmed them down. He relied on his more acute sense of touch to find the alarm button on the elevator. His ears, more finely-tuned than those of his sighted colleagues, picked up the sounds of conversation nearby, leading him to surmise that they were stuck between floors, within reach of help. He pried open the elevator doors.

Everyone on the elevator got out safely that day because of Cliff Aaron's calm, competent leadership. Cliff's blindness forced him to rely on his other skills, skills that his colleagues did not have.

Guideposts, March 2004 Into The Unknown, by Cliff Aaron found in Dynamic Preaching, Feb. 2005, p.62

How are you weak? Where do you most need the Lord's help? Did you know that we can be the strongest in the broken places of our lives? Have you found the joy of leaning on Jesus?! St. Paul certainly did for he wrote, So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 11:8b-10)

 

On of my favorite choruses is the following:

Learning to lean.

Learning to lean.

I'm learning to lean on Jesus.

Finding more power than I'd ever dreamed.

I'm learning to lean on Jesus.

Learning to Lean, John Stalling, 1976 Hartwarming Music/BMI All rights reserved. Used by permission of Benson Music Group, Inc.

 
 
In His Amazing Grace,
         Pastor John
 

Winter/Christmas 2004
 

Dear Members and Friends,
Recently I came across the following story in a message by a minister named Mark Buchanan....

Brett Hart wrote a story called "The Luck of Roaring Camp"..

Roaring Camp is a mining town at the turn of the century, and it's a wild, forsaken place.

Roaring Camp is thronged with brawling, cussing, surly, mean--spirited men who work hardall day and fight and drink hard all night. There are all these men and one woman, Cherokee Sal. Cherokee Sal dies giving birth to a little baby. Suddenly these scarred, hard-fisted men have this squalling, wriggling, diaper-filling little baby on their hands, and they don't quite know what to do. They wrap her up in rags and put her in a box. But that doesn't look right, so they send a man 80 miles west, and he comes back with a hand-carved rosewood cradle. They put the little baby in it wrapped up in her rags but that doesn't look right. So they send another man to Sacramento, and he comes back with a lace and silk blanket. They bundle their baby in that and put her in the rosewood cradle. "But look at how dirty that floor is." So they do something they've never done before. They break out the buckets and the water and the soap and the brushes, and they get down on their hands and knees, and they scrub. After they wash the floor, they look up. "Oh that wall is horrible." They scrub the wall and then see the grimy windows. They polish those up. "Now it's all looking so good we may as well hang curtains."

They take their little baby in her rosewood cradle and her silk and lace blanket to the entrance of the mineshaft when they go down to work. But the mineshaft looks grim, dreary, sordid next to the beautiful baby, so they put an arbor up and they plant a garden and they put out a little bench to make it beautiful. When they're down in the bowels of the mountain, they find beautiful shiny stones and bring them up for the baby. But handing them down they look at all the soot on their hands. The general store starts to do a booming business in soap and cologne and shampoo and razor blades. The baby changes everything.

....... The baby changes everything.

I have a quick Advent/Christmas question for you. Has the baby, The Christ child changed everything in your life?! Praise God, there is still time!
 
 In His Amazing Grace,
Pastor John
 
(return to Top)
 
 
 

Fall 2004 

 Dear Members and Friends,

Recently, I came across the following in one of my "Preaching magazines." 
Found originally on the internet, these are the 
TOP TEN SIGNS YOU MAY NOT BE READING YOUR BIBLE ENOUGH .................................

10)       The (pastor) announces the sermon is from Galatians...and you check the Table of Contents.

9)         You think Abraham, Isaac and Jacob may have had a few hit songs during the 60's.

8)         You open to the Gospel of Luke and a WWII Savings Bond falls out.

7)         Your favorite Old Testament Patriarch is Hercules.

6)         A small family of woodchucks has taken up residence in the Psalms of your Bible.

5)         You become frustrated because Charlton Heston isn't listed in either the Concordance or the Table of Contents.

4)         Catching the kids reading the Song of Solomon, you demand: "Who gave you this stuff?"

3)         You think the Minor Prophets worked in the quarries.

2)        You keep falling for it every time when Pastor tells you to turn to First Condominiums. And the number one sign you may not be reading your Bible enough:

1)         The kids keep asking too many questions about your usual bedtime story: "Jonah the Shepherd Boy and His Ark of Many Colors." (1)

 

Fall is in full swing. There is a place (many places) for you at Asbury....

-     In morning Worship (9:30 a.m.).

-     In Prayer meeting and Bible Study (Tuesday afternoons at 1:00 p.m. and evenings at 7:30 p.m.).

-     In Choir (7:00 p.m. on Thursdays).

-     In Sunday School for all ages ( 5th grade and younger, at 9:30 a.m., Youth and Adult Classes at 11:00 a.m.).

-     At Sunday morning altar rail prayer (a small group prays for and with the Pastor each Sabbath morning at 7:30 a.m.)

-     In the United Methodist Women (First Mondays at 7:00 p.m.).

-     In the United Methodist Men (Upcoming retreat Saturday, October 30th - see Newsletter article for more information).

-     At Christian Scrapbooking held the 2nd Monday of each month at 7:30 p.m.

-     And More! (I know I am forgetting some great things--please forgive me!)

              All of these opportunities to grow and fellowship in the Lord are here at Asbury! Please take advantage of them!

 

  In His Amazing Grace,
   Pastor John
 

 


Summer, 2004
 

Dear Members and Friends,

A few years back in an Adult Sunday School study on The Ten Commandments, we met a person named Johnny Lee Clary. Recently, in one of my preaching periodicals, I came across his story again. Read on and be blessed

Johnny Lee Clary was raised by an alcoholic mother and a violent father who deliberately schooled him in the finer points of hatred. After his father's suicide and his mother's abandonment, Johnny Lee found a "family' in the local Ku Klux Klan By age fourteen, he was rising in the Klan ranks. He set his sights on becoming Imperial Wizard, one of the highest positions in the Klan

One day, Johnny Lee had the opportunity to publicly debate Reverend Wade Watts, a pastor and the local leader of the NAACP. Johnny Lee relished the thought of "putting a black man in his place." But Johnny Lee floundered in the debate. Not only couldn't he answer the Reverend's reasoned arguments, but he also couldn't handle the love and compassion that flowed from this man. Rev. Watts' words echoed in Johnny Lee's ears: "I just want you to know that I love you and Jesus loves you."

Johnny Lee and his fellow Klan members began a campaign of harassment against Rev. Watts and his family. They made death threats against him, broke out the windows of his home, set fire to his church, and threatened his children. Rev. Watts responded to every outrage with love and humility. He almost seemed to enjoy the threatening calls from Johnny Lee.

Johnny Lee finally attained his goal of Imperial Wizard status, but suddenly his Klan activities repulsed him He was sick of his own hatred. He dropped out of the Klan and wandered aimlessly for the next few years.

One night, while contemplating suicide, Johnny Lee picked up a Bible and began to read it. That night, he gave his life to Christ. He joined a multiracial church and began studying the Bible. But it took a few more years before he worked up the courage to call Rev. Watts again.

It had been ten years since he had called the Watts household, but Rev. Watts recognized his voice immediately. The love in his voice washed away Johnny Lee's fears. He told Rev. Watts of his new life as a Christian, and Rev. Watts invited him to speak at his church. Today, Clary is an ordained pastor who runs Colorblind Operations, Inc., a ministry of healing for those caught up in hatred or substance abuse.

The Day I Met God, Edited by Jim and Karen Covell and Victorya Rogers (Sisters, OR: Multonomah, 2001), pp. 13-20 found in Dynamic Preaching. (Knoxville: Seven Worlds Corp.) July/Aug/Sept 2004, pp 75-76.

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. John 13:34 ---Such love, when it is shared freely, changes lives. Go God go!

 

 

 

In His Amazing Grace,
   Pastor John
 
 
  

 


Easter/Spring 2004

Dear Members and Friends,
     Growing up, my older brother Fred and I would sometimes make a trek to the local delicatessen, “Joe’s,” where there was a good selection of soda, candy, and tasty cakes. In fact, at Joe’s there was an old-time soda fountain where the syrup was added and stirred around to make your soda. I remember the bottom of the soda was always the sweetest part of the drink! 
     One day, when we were about 11 and 9, Fred and I began to make the quarter mile trip to Joe’s. We ran to get there and Fred (not surprisingly) was a good distance ahead of me. That day, there was a large and unfriendly group of kids at the midpoint between our house and Joe’s. Fred got through without a problem, but they stopped me and wouldn’t let me continue. Fred saw what was going on, returned and ended up fighting the biggest kid in the group so that I could pass through. I can still hear the sound of my brother “getting the wind knocked out of him” when the bully hit him in the stomach. Indeed, there was some mercy on Meadow Road that day as the fight came to an end and we continued onto Joe’s. What I remember most is that my brother, though already through to our destination, came back and took a punch for me so that that I could go through.
     Many are talking about The Passion of Christ. I see an analogy here. Jesus was already through....He had eternal joy and oneness with the Father. Yet, He came back for you and me. He volunteered for the Mission. He took many blows, punches, indignities, and the sins of the whole world onto the Cross, so that you and I can “get through” and experience eternal life.
     In the words of Isaac Watts . . . 
When I survey the wondrous Cross on which the Prince of Glory died....  love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.
 
In His Amazing Grace,
 Pastor John
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Winter/Christmas 2003

 

Dear Members and Friends,

Advent and Christmas season is upon us. Soon we will be hearing many of our favorite Christmas carols Sometimes the stories of how these carols came to be written are as beautiful as the songs themselves. Here is one such story of a dearly loved Christmas carol....

Phillips Brooks was an unsuccessful teacher. His students didn't respect him. Brooks wrote to a friend that he was "tired, cross, and almost dead" after a particularly hard day at school. (I'm sure some teachers can relate to his feelings!)

Soon afterward, Brooks was fired from his job. At this time, he wrote, "I don't know what will become of me, and I don't much care." But that isn't the end of Phillips Brooks' story. He became a Christian,and his faith gave him confidence and joy. Then Brooks went on to become a successful and effective preacher, one of the finest preachers of the 19th century. One day he sat down and wrote a Christmas hymn: 

Oh little Town of Bethlehem how still we see thee lie, 
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by, 
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light,
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

 Phillips Brooks knew about hopes and fears, and he knew about new beginnings. Such beginnings are available to anyone who will allow Christ's love to flood their hearts.

William P. Barker, A Savior for All Seasons Old Tappan:, NJ Fleming H. Revell Company 1986, p. 39 found and expounded in Dynamic Preaching, Oct/Nov/Dec/2003 Vol. 18, #4, pp. 77-78 Seven Worlds Corporation, Knoxville, TN

In His Amazing Grace,
 Pastor John
 
 
 
 

 


Fall 2003

 

 

 

Dear Members and Friends,

As I write this, the 2nd anniversary of September 11, 2001 has passed_ In many ways our grief and sorrow is still fresh. Indeed, we shall not forget this tragedy; especially those who gave their lives on this fateful day. 

It was late in the afternoon, two Thursdays after the September 11th event that I received a call to help provide pastoral care at the Twin Tower site. From the moment I received the call, I knew I had to go. Gwen agreed and sent me off with her love, prayers, and concern We arrived in Jersey City and spent the night in a Port Authority building. The following morning as we were getting our picture and special identification, I had my first up close experience of the devastating personal loss_ A lap top computer sitting on top of a file cabinet flashed pictures of those who had lost their lives as Ray Charles was singing `America the Beautiful' in the background. These good people had simply gone to work that Tuesday morning.

 A police car from Haddon Heights, New Jersey drove us in through the `closed' Holland Tunnel. It was a gray and rainy September day. The police car dropped us off about 5 blocks from `Ground Zero'. We showed our special identification at the barricade and proceeded.

 My first reaction to what I saw was `So this is what war looks like'. I have never seen such devastation! Painstakingly, structural steel and debris were being removed, literally one piece at a time. I was instructed to make myself available to the many rescue workers and volunteers by walking in the `warm zone' at the Site (not too close to get in someone's way, not too far as to be totally removed from the situation). I spoke with a few people, but overall, it didn't seem like many people wanted to share at the time. So I ended up taking what turned out to be a long prayer walk around the perimeter of Ground Zero_ This encompassed many blocks. As I continued to witness the disaster, I said my prayers and even sighed and groaned my prayers as the Scriptures encourage us to do (Romans 8:26). And yet, there came a point in my walk where I began to wonder if I was doing the right thing.. Should I be talking to more people?... Was I doing enough? Should I be doing something else? It was in the midst of this questioning that the Lord showed me a bumper sticker placed on the side of a little corner newsstand that stood out amidst the disaster. God may as well have flown a banner across the sky for it spoke clearly to my soul! The bumper sticker said "Prayer Changes Things".

 I have carried this message with me since that day! I do not know how helpful I was but I do know that God helped me and countless others by His presence and witness. Prayer changes things!.

 Does this speak to you? To a particular heartache, hurt, pain, or difficulty? Indeed, we remember those who gave their lives on September 11, 2001. We thank God that their lives in Jesus' love will never end. We pray that terror will be fought with the weapons of the Gospel (i.e. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). In closing, I offer this simple fact in our Christian faith. Prayer changes things!

  In His Amazing Grace,
   Pastor John

 


Summer 2003

 

"My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness. " Corinthians 12:8

 


Dear Members and Friends,

St. Paul walked with God. He had a problem. He asked God for relief. He prayed and prayed. Yet this saint's "thorn in the flesh" was not removed. The response he received is what we now know as 2 Corinthians 12:8 (see above). St Paul would never be undone or scandalized by his thorn. God's grace would be sufficient.

A Pastor tells of a young woman in his congregation who developed cancer when she was very young. The disease left her unable to have children. She responded to this heartbreak as people often do, with increased faith in God. Her testimony: "That hole in my life keeps me focused on God." 1

We all have holes in our lives, don't we'? The marriage that is a continual challenge, the boss that won't let up, the child (big or small) who breaks your heart, not to mention divorce, death, and the difficulties of everyday life.

A wonderful Christian by the name of Barbara H. Leonhard writes the following...

Several years ago, when I was feeling quite overwhelmed with ongoing health problems, the loss of ministry I loved and the very unexpected death of my nephew, I worried that I was not able to minister effectively.

One day, someone asked if there was anything at all in my ministry that I felt my present experience enabled me to do well. I realized that, as a spiritual director, I was hearing people more clearly than ever before. Something about my own experience of "weakness" enabled me to be more compassionate with other people in their struggles—the gift of strength in weakness.

St. Paul tells us that his "thorn in the flesh" was not removed. What changed was that he came to recognize the presence and the strength of God within that very situation. The promise that he heard from Christ was, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness. "2

Pastor Ed Dobson, a minister I was privileged to meet several years ago, was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease in the year 2000. He asked a pastor friend of his to anoint him with oil and to pray for his healing. The two men discussed that the Lord sometimes answers our prayers in just the way we want Him to and sometimes He doesn't. Sometimes we receive the healing in other ways.

Pastor Dobson's friend offered the following advice: "You need to get lost in the wonder of God. If you'll get lost in that wonder, who knows what He'll do for you."3

"My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness."

1 - Paul Smith, Romans 8:28: God's Plan For Our Good (Chicago: Moody Press, 2000), pp. 163-166, found in Dynamic Preaching, July, 2003, p. 14
2 - Barbara Leonhard, "The Bible: Light to My Path." St. Anthony Messenger Magazine Online, May, 2002, American Catholic, org found in Homiletics, July, 2003.
3 - "Leave Room for God," an interview with Pastor Ed Dobson, 
-  Leadership, Fall, 2001, p.34 found in Dynamic Preaching, July, 2003, p.16

In His Amazing Grace,
 Pastor John

 

 


Easter/Spring 2003

 Dear Members and Friends,

I came across the following story recently. It spoke to my heart. May it speak to yours too…

 Years ago, R. G. Lee told a powerful story about a mountain school that had a hard time keeping a teacher. It seems there was a group of big, rough boys who took pride in running the teacher off. The biggest and roughest of them all was named Tom.

A new young teacher won over the boys, however, by letting them write the rules for the school--which were strictly enforced with a rod. For example, cheating would be punished with five strokes of the rod, and stealing with ten strokes, both to be given with the offender's coat off.

Everything went well until one day Tom's lunch was stolen. A frail little boy in

hand-me-down clothes that were too big for him admitted his guilt. The school rules demanded that he be whipped. When the teacher called the little fellow up front, he came whimpering and begging to leave his coat on. The pupils insisted he obey the rules and take off his coat. When he did, a deathly silence settled over the room, for he had no shirt on and his emaciated body looked like skin stretched over bones. The teacher gasped and dropped the rod. He knew he could never whip that little boy.

Suddenly, big Tom strode up and stood between the two. Ill take it for him, Teacher, for after all it was my lunch he stole." He shrugged out of his coat.

At the third blow the switch broke, and the teacher threw it in the corner and said, "That's all, school dismissed."

The frail little boy laid his hand on big Tom's arm and through his tears said, "Thank -you, Tom, it would have killed me."

 Who could help but be moved to gratitude by someone willing to take your place--take your punishment--suffer your consequences?

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes. (John 3:16)

Corrie ten Boom put it like this: "In the forest fire, there is only one place where the fire cannot reach. It is the place where the fire has already burned itself out. Calvary is the place where the fire of God's judgment against sin burned itself out completely. It is there that we are safe."

Such love, when it is accepted, is so profound that it changes and grows us! In this Lenten and Resurrection season, may we embrace this love and let it be the story of our lives!

 Special thanks to Dynamic Preaching and R. G. Lee, Grapes From Gospel Vines (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1976)

In His Amazing Grace,
 Pastor John
 
 

 


Winter/Christmas, 2002
 
Dear Members and Friends,
 

One of my favorite lines is "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." What does this mean at Christmastime?! I believe the following story speaks volumes....

Pastor Clifford Stewart of Louisville, Kentucky sent his parents a microwave oven one Christmas. They were excited. Now they, too, could be a part of the instant generation. However, when his Dad unpacked the microwave and plugged it in, they were stumped. They couldn't figure out how it worked. Literally within seconds, the microwave transformed their smiles into frowns! Even after reading the directions, they couldn't make it work. Two days later, Stewart's mother was playing bridge with a friend and confessed her inability to get that microwave oven even to boil water. "To get this darn thing to work", she exclaimed, "I really don't need better directions; I need my son to come along with the gift!"

"When God gave the gift of salvation, says Pastor Stewart, "He didn't send a booklet of complicated instructions for us to figure out; He sent His Son."

Dynamic Preaching, p. 72, Dec. 1998

This is what we celebrate at Christmas! "She will bear a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins."

Matthew 1:2

 

  
 
In His Amazing Grace,
         Pastor John
 

Fall 2002

 Dear Members and Friends,

Author Lloyd Ogilvie sees in this a picture of the Christian whose spiritual vitality has shriveled up. He says that such a person has become a "Cut Flower Christian". On our Newsletter cover, we see the words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ... To bear fruit we must abide in Him...

I offer two quick stories of connection that I pray will speak to your heart...

My Grandmom Doll (Dad's mom) attended Sunday School well into her eighties (until health prevented her). Guidepost magazines and daily devotionals filled her home. She stayed  connected and did not give up on learning as a part of her staple diet of being connected to Jesus Christ. Her attendance, devotion, and spiritual discipline still speaks a powerful witness to this day!

Bruce Wilkerson, in his book, The Prayer of Jabez describes a time in his life when he was a new leader in the ministry Walk thru the Bible. He felt out of control, weak, and unsure of himself. He went to receive counsel from a wise spiritual man. He shared with the man about his circumstances and his feelings. "Son," the wise man said to him, "That feeling that you're running from is called dependence. It means you are walking with the Lord Jesus." The counselor paused for a minute and then added, "Actually the second you're not feeling dependent is the second you've backed away from truly living by faith." Bruce Wilkerson didn't like what he heard. He responded, "You're saying, that feeling that I just can't do it is what I am supposed to be feeling?"

The counselor responded, "Why certainly young man, that's the one all right!" Wilkerson sums up the learning he received from his experience this way, "In the Kingdom of God. dependence is * another word for power."

I pray that we will be planted, connected, and Spirit-filled Christians; wholly dependent on Him for purpose, meaning, and success in life.

I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit because apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

* Our Daily Bread, 9/2002 The Prayer of Jabez

In His Amazing Grace,
 Pastor John
 
 
 
 
 

 


Summer 2002

 Dear Members and Friends:

As we approach the days of summer, the following story blessed me. Read on and enjoy ...                   

On a hot summer day, what's the most refreshing treat you can imagine? Ice Cream. That's what hits the spot. And that's what people wanted on a hot, sticky day in the summer of 1904. People at the St. Louis World's Fair had walked for hours in the hot sun, and they were ready for something to cool them off. That's why they were lined up for what seemed like miles in front of the booth of Arnold Fornachou to get a taste of his frosty ice cream.

The problem was that Arnold's ice cream was so popular he quickly ran out of paper bowls. The moonlighting teenager scrambled to keep his potential customers by washing and reusing the few ceramic bowls he had on hand. But no matter how hard he worked, many people grew tired of waiting and wandered off in search of another treat. That's when an unlikely partner emerged to save the day.

His name was Ernest Hamwik, a pastry chef who had grown up in Damascus, Syria. In the booth next to Arnold's he was selling a wafer-thin Persian confection called a zalabia. That is....he was offering them but no one was buying them.

When Ernest saw his neighbor's plight he was struck with a great idea. Grabbing a warm zalabia, he twisted it into a cornucopia shape and rolled it in sugar. Then he ran over to Arnold's booth and offered it to him. Still scrambling to wash bowls and wait on customers, Arnold didn't understand what the older man had in mind. But when Ernest handed an ice cream scoop atop a confection cone to a waiting customer, Arnold instantly got the message. A huge smile spread over his face, and in no time, the two men were working side by

side—Ernest made "edible bowls", Arnold scooped ice cream. Back then, they were called World's Fair Cornucopias, and they were the hit of the fair. 

Today, we simply call them ice cream cones and they're still a hit. So the next time you're looking for relief on a hot summer day, think of Ernest and Arnold, and celebrate their partnership by taking a friend out for an ice cream cone.

As Bill. McCartney, founder of Promise Keeper's writes, "We have not come to compete with one another, but to complete one another."

Please pray with me, "Go, God, Go in our hearts, homes, and Church as we find summer refreshment and prepare to partake and partner in the Gospel of Jesus Christ anew!"

ENJOY THE SUMMER

In His Amazing Grace,
 Pastor John
 
 
 
 
 

 


Easter/Spring 2002

 Dear Members and Friends,

Recently I came across this story in one of my preaching journals. Read on and be blessed....

A little boy is about to have open heart surgery, "Tomorrow morning," the surgeon began, "I'll open up your heart    

"You'll find Jesus there," the boy interrupted.

The surgeon looked up, annoyed. "I'll cut your heart open" he continued, "to see how much damage has been done...."

"But when you open up my heart," said his young patient, "You'll find Jesus in there."

The surgeon looked to the parents who sat quietly. "When I see how much damage has been done, I'll sew your heart and chest back up and I'll plan what to do next."

"But you'll find Jesus in my heart," the young boy insisted. "The Bible says He lives there. The hymns all say He lives there. You'll find Him in my heart."

The surgeon had had enough. "I'll tell you what I'll find in your heart," he said coldly. "I'll find damaged muscle, low blood supply, and weakened vessels. And I'll find out if I can make you well." "You'll find Jesus there too," the young fellow continued. "He lives there."

The surgeon left.

The surgeon sat in his office, recording his notes from the surgery, "Damaged aorta, damaged pulmonary vein, widespread muscle degeneration. No hope for transplant, no hope for cure. Therapy; painkillers and bed rest. Prognosis, here he paused, "death within one year."

He stopped the recorder, but there was more to be said. "Why?" he asked aloud. It was clear he was speaking to God. "Why did you do this." You've put him here; you've put him in this pain; and you've cursed him to an early death. Why?"

And thus a dialog began between the surgeon and God. And in that dialog this frustrated physician began a new understanding of God's Providence and love.

The surgeon wept.

Now he sat by the boy's bed; the boy's parents sat across from him. The boy awoke and whispered, "Did you cut open my heart?"

"Yes," said the surgeon.

"What did you find?" asked the boy.

"I found Jesus there," said the surgeon.

 Dynamic Preaching, April/May/June, 2002, P.13-14 Found on the Internet

In His Amazing Grace,
 Pastor John
 

 


Christmas/Winter 2001

 Dear Members and Friends,

I recently came across this story in one of my Preaching Journals. This is an excerpt from a message entitled *Your Heart a Manager.Read on and be blessed....

Rose Kennedy is the much admired matriarch of the Kennedy clan. There are very few people in American public life who have endured more heartache than Rose Kennedy. She lost both a son and a daughter in plane crashes. Two other sons, John and Bobby, were assassinated. Her only other daughter is severely retarded and must live in an institution. And her son, Ted, was caught in a horrible scandal when he was involved in an accident in which a young woman died.

In spite of all her heartaches, Rose Kennedy is a woman of great faith. Pastor Jess Moody reports a conversation he had with Mrs. Kennedy. She recalled that after the birth of Rosemary their retarded daughter, she gave up on God. She withdrew from life. One of Mrs. Kennedy's maids lovingly confronted her about her attitude. She told Rose Kennedy ...you’ll never be happy until you make your heart a manger where the Christ child may be born. Mrs. Kennedy fired that maid. But she couldn’t forget her words. That night, Rose Kennedy knelt by her bed and prayed that her heart would be a manger where the Christ child could be born. From that day on she had a new peace and perspective—and she rehired her maid.

Does the Christ child need to be born afresh in your heart? If so, the right time is now!

{Jess Moody Club Sandwich Goes Great with Chicken Soup (Nashville: Broadman and
Holman Publishers, 1999), pp.29-34 found in Dynamic Preaching, Vol. 26, #4, Seven Worlds

In His Amazing Grace,
 Pastor John
 
 
 
 
 
 

 


Fall 2001

 Dear Members and Friends,

In the aftermath of the recent terrorist attacks on our nation, I was given this piece entitled "On Monday" by two of our Church members. Here are some excerpts:

 On Monday there were people fighting against praying in schools. On Tuesday you would have been hard pressed to find a school where someone was not praying.

On Monday there were people trying to separate each other by race, sex, color, and creed.

On Tuesday they were all holding hands.

On Monday we were talking about heroes as being athletes.

On Tuesday we relearned what hero meant.

On Monday people argues with their kids about picking up their room. On Tuesday the same people could not get home fast enough to hug their kids.

On Monday people were upset that their dry cleaning was not ready on time.

On Tuesday they were lining up to give blood for the dying        On Monday politicians argued about budget surpluses.

On Tuesday grief stricken they sang God Bless America.

On Monday we emailed jokes.

On Tuesday we did not.

 

It is sadly ironic how it takes horrific events to place things into perspective, but it has. The lessons learned...the things we take for granted, the things that have been forgotten or overlooked....

On Monday - pray and be thankful.

On Tuesday - pray and be thankful.

On Wednesday - pray and be thankful.

On Thursday - pray and be thankful.

On Friday - pray and be thankful.

--Author Unknown

Dear Jesus —Teach us to number our days,  that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 96:12)

In His Amazing Grace,
 Pastor John
 

 


Spring 2001

 Dear Members and Friends,

      Recently, I had the privilege of giving a Lenten breakfast youth message with Pastor Charles Anderson of St. Paul's United African Methodist Episcopal Church in Palmyra. The theme for this year was `You have a friend in Jesus' and the particular topic for our week was `Faithful Friends'. As we were preparing to give the joint message, Pastor Anderson and I talked and keyed in on the question `What's the difference in our lives and in our actions when we have Jesus in our heart? Then a prior experience came into my mind...

Years ago, I was taking a jog in Trenton and made a right hand turn to go up an unfamiliar street. Almost immediately, I knew I had made a mistake as three youths started to run along side of me with the obvious intent to assault me. It was very clear that I had to keep running to have any chance of not getting beaten up. As I did my best to keep moving, I tried to do some talking to the guys (i.e. Haven't we met before at the County Jail? - where I was doing Chaplaincy work at the time], but without much success. I remember getting hit hard on my face and then all of a sudden hearing a honking horn, and then someone getting out of their car and challenging the attackers. The Good Samaritan had an infant in his car and despite any danger to himself or his child, put himself right in the middle of this situation and defused it! By the grace of God, I left with barely a scratch and an overwhelming feeling of God's protection and friendship through this very kind man.

Then a prior experience came into Pastor Anderson's mind...

As an older child, when his Dad was stationed in the military, he found himself in the state of Washington and very much in the minority as a person of color. One day he remembers being at a playground and being harassed by other people there. But then, two of God's people entered in and challenged the boys who were giving him a hard time and delivered him from his would-be attackers. To this day, he still remembers the kindness of these two boys and God's protection upon him.

So what's the difference when someone has Jesus in their heart? My attackers were black and my Good Samaritan was black. Pastor Anderson's attackers were white and his Good Samaritans' were white. Neither of us ever heard our Good Samaritans' testimonies but both of us saw Jesus in their hearts. As it is written..."I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another." John 13:34. By the grace and mercies of God, what can ever divide people who have Jesus in their heart! May we be about building bridges of love in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Now that's friendship!

In His Amazing Grace,
 Pastor John
 
 
 
 
 

 


Spring 2000

 When Your Opinion Doesn’t Count

I can't think of a more insensitive act than for the spiritual leader of a Church to say to God's people "Your opinion doesn't count". We all want to be heard. We want to be understood. We want our opinions to matter, even to have impact! And I believe that this is a good thing to desire! However, I offer one exception  

What about when you cannot forgive yourself? You have repented      you have turned to God and asked his forgiveness. You have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior and yet your own voice or perhaps the voice of the accuser (i.e. Revelation 12:10) is a constant reminder of your past sins and shortcomings. Too often you find yourself burdened with guilt over the past. In this case, I believe that God's opinion, not yours, is the one that matters.

God says, "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow" (Isaiah 1:18). God says that we are transferred into the kingdom of his beloved son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13b-14). Jesus said on the Cross, "It is Finished" that is, your sins have been `Paid in Full'. (John 19:30). God-offers you a new beginning (2 Corinthians 5:17). As it is sung in a beautiful Christian song...

I need no other argument,I need no other plea,It is enough that Jesus died.

And that he died for me!

 Indeed, in some matters, we need to defer to a higher authority; in this case, God! For the believer in Jesus Christ, regarding the forgiveness of sins, a contrary opinion really doesn't count. Praise God!

 P.S. If the devil reminds you of your past, remind him of his future

In His Amazing Grace,
 Pastor John
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 


Christmas 1999/New Years 2000

Dear Members and Friends,

Recently, I ran across a story about a ten-year-old boy who was     watching the construction of a manger scene...the wise men, the shepherds, the sheep, the oxen, Mary and Joseph. He seemed puzzled and the teacher who was constructing the manger asked the child if there was something that was bothering him. The little boy responded "What I'd like to know is: Where does God fit in?"

To be sure, this can be a convicting question to ask ourselves during the Christmas season as well as at any time of the year. To ask this question can make us feel guilty (i.e. Oh no, I'm doing a poor job of fitting God into my life!) or even more pressured and burdened (i.e. Oh no, another thing to do, `fitting God in'!) And yet, it is very clear that from a Christian perspective, Christmas cannot stand without Jesus. Indeed, `He is the reason for the season.'

It is humbling that GOD stoops to actually try and fit into our lives. If you ever doubt this, look again at the baby Jesus in the manger. Or look again at your own life and God's wooing you into relationship with Him. This is more than just cute love. It is radical love. This love is soul saving and life changing! And it is quite a thing to celebrate in this season of Christmas! Personally, I do want to feel guilty or burdened or pressured, I just want in to the Kingdom of God! I want this radical soul saving and life changing love! How about you?

 "But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid, for see----I am bringing you
great news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the City
of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord."

Luke 2:10-11

Have a blessed Christmas and New Year season!

 

In His Amazing Grace,
 Pastor John
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 


Early Fall 1999

 Dear Members and Friends,

Autumn is a very special season in the life of the Church for it is a time of beginning again. Indeed, just by glancing at the Ambassador, one can see the many opportunities available to us as people of faith here at Asbury. Whether it is worshiping God on Sunday, learning for all ages in Church School, praying and reading God's Word daily, singing in the choir, serving on a committee, reaching out to others in Jesus' name, and or gathering together on Tuesday Night to go deeper into the Christian faith, I want to say to each of you "Go for it"!

Years ago, I heard a definition of Hell that I will never forget; `God showing me all the opportunities that I missed.' Recently, I came across a piece that touched my heart, and I hope touches yours. In my telling you to "Go for it', I do it with an abiding respect for each of us in our daily struggles, and moreover, in the power of God to bless and recycle these struggles to His Kingdom's Glory.

Asking To Be Changed

Sometimes people will say (or think) things like, "Your prayers did not work, but thanks," as if a person could be praying for only one thing. A miracle. A cure. But in the hardest situations, all one can do is to ask for God's mercy: Let my friend die at home, Lord, and not in the hospital. Let her go quickly, God, and with her loved ones present. One Benedictine friend, a gentle, thoughtful man who has been in constant physical pain for years and is now confined to a wheelchair, says of prayer, "Often, all I can do is to ask God, `Lord, what is it you want of me?" From him I have learned that prayer is not asking for what you think you want but asking to be changed in ways you can't imagine. To be made more grateful, more able to see the good in what you have been given instead of always grieving for what might have been. People who are in the habit of praying know that when a prayer is answered, it is (almost) never m a way that you expect.

—Kathleen Norris, in Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith...(parenthesis added by author)

 As we begin again this year, let us be in prayer for each other, our families, and for Asbury to be an increasingly vital part of the Kingdom of God.

In His Amazing Grace,
 Pastor John
 
 
 
 
 
 

 


Lent/Egg Season 1999

 Dear Members and Friends,

Many of you knew Don Petrie, a long time member of Asbury who was promoted to glory three years ago on February 8, 1996. In addition to always being here on Sunday, Don would often stop by the office during the week while doing errands (chores as Don would call them) or to accomplish one of his many projects for our Church. I can still hear Don saying "It's me" as he walked down the hallway. Occasionally, Don had a question which he would ask me in a combination of small talk and gentle challenge. Playfully, yet seriously (and not always on my best day), Don would ask me "Are you living the victory?" Now I never asked Don exactly what he meant by `living the victory'. No doubt, if Don had been with me in seminary, he would have been asked to unpack his question and to define exactly what he was asking. But church is not seminary, and moreover, I never asked because I knew what he meant!

Are you living the victory? That is, are you rising above the `whatevers' of life and enjoying a rich, full fellowship with God? Clearly, `living the victory' will look different in different lives, but it will always embody the fullness of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. This is not complicated! For Don, one manifestation of `living the victory' was simply being able to keep singing songs of faith throughout the day. And how about you? Can you walk and talk and even sing with God throughout the day? In the presence of your problem, your concern, your disease, or your difficulty, how will God have you living the victory in your life?

As we arrive in this Lenten/Resurrection season, we know that Jesus has made living the victory possible for us. He has done it for us, and yet in a life of Christian faith, Jesus leaves many of the details up to us. How will God have you living the victory in your life? I pray that Jesus, the Holy Spirit and you have a great journey together!

In His Amazing Grace,
 Pastor John
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 


Christmas '98/New Year's '99
 
Dear Members and Friends,
   

As Christians, I believe there is a time of being born again in each of our lives, that is, a time of decision when we accept (or reject) Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Very simply, this can be summarized as choosing to say yes to our Lord. Recently, this poem caught my eye. It reinforces my belief that as Christians our yes response to God is destined to get a lot of practice in our lifetimes! Read on and enjoy!

SAY "YES" AT CHRISTMAS

 

And Mary said, "Yes" when the angel came, not knowing all it would mean.

For "yes" was only the beginning.

"Yes" to giving birth in a cold, dark stable, while cows and sheep looked on.

"Yes" to a sword that pierced her soul, as her Son died on a cross, while she looked on. And Mary said, "Yes, let it be."

But do I? Do I say, "Yes" when God calls to me? Oh, not through an angel who comes in the night, But maybe a pastor

who asks if       lead Sunday school class;

Or a former friend

who calls to mend our broken relationship; Or a stranger

who wonders if I might spare some change for food. And for a moment as I ponder what to say,

does God's purpose flicker like a flame in a sudden breeze,

to be snuffed out by "no,"

or to burn even brighter with the power of "yes"? For "yes" is only a beginning.

"Yes," I'll give my time to sharing God's Word.

"Yes," I'll end a quarrel by forgiving another, and myself. "Yes," I'll share what I have with one in need.

For somehow I know that even to the small questions,

God needs to hear my "yes"

as much as He needed to hear Mary's.
Perhaps that's why Jesus comes to the world a baby,

a baby full of questions, needs and desires. When He asks to come into my heart this Christmas,

will I say, "Yes"?

--Gina Bridgeman

 Christmas Greeting from Guideposts -Special thanks to Ethel Labar

Have a blessed Christmas and New Year!

 
 
In His Amazing Grace,
         Pastor John
 

Fall, 1998
 
Dear Members and Friends,
 

As a child, it always amazed me that my Grandmother, on my father's side (Gra'mom Doll) went to Sunday School. After all, I was raised in a church where the kids did Sunday School but the adults did not. And yet, here was Gra'mom doing Sunday School each week. Ultimately, I believe she exceeded over 50 years in her adult class. Imagine all the attendance pins she could have worn!

Clearly, I learned a lesson from Gra'mom Doll early on that growing and learning in Jesus is a Christian's life long task. And I may add Grandpop Speakman, (on Mom's side) became a lay preacher after his retirement. Praise the Lord! God is not through with us yet! The best is yet to come!

It's that time of year again when our activities wind up. The air gets crisper, the days get shorter, the nights get longer, and our souls are to get brighter as another year begins in the Church. Dear friends, I pray that you and I respond to God's gentle voice and nudgings in our lives. Let's take time to enjoy Jesus. Let's make time for the things of God. And may God open the eyes of our hearts to see the opportunities he sets before us here at Asbury and in the Kingdom of God.

I once heard an inspiring preacher say that his definition of hell would be God showing him all the opportunities he had missed in his life. So I close by telling you how Grandmom Speakman would often pray. She would lift a hand to God and Grandmom literally believed that her hand got warmer as she placed her hand in the Lord's and prayed her simple prayers of faith. As you place your hand in God's and I place my hand in God's, the Lord has some marvelous things for us. Indeed there is and there will be great joy among Christians that we traveled not alone but together in Him!

Will you pray with me? Lord help us to see and respond to the opportunities You are giving to us in our personal lives, in our families, in our workplaces, and in Your Church, in Jesus Name. Amen.

   
 
In His Amazing Grace,
         Pastor John
 

Lent/Egg Season 1998
 
Dear Members and Friends,
 

"Hit the Devil with whatever stick is in your hand".

I'll never forget hearing the preacher say this during a message. It got my attention and I've never forgotten it!

In my short time on this earth, I've learned that there is good and that there is evil in this world. Very clearly, when Jesus taught us to pray "deliver us from evil" he was taking a serious view of the enemy's presence and power. Indeed, our Lord counsels us to actively pray for deliverance from the power of evil.

This is the season of Lent, traditionally a time of penitence (feeling or expressing remorse for one's misdeeds or sins). In many ways, you can't experience the blessing of grace until you realize how much you need it. And when you know you need it (i.e. coming to the end of ourselves) you then are open to receiving the good news of Jesus Christ; that He died on the Cross for your sins (in your place) and offers to you new life. In short, a good Lent (a good season of self-examination and repentance) can lead you to a great Resurrection experience.

This Lent and Resurrection Sunday, I will be taking a look at seven topics that can help us to enter into the Godly process of self- examination, repentance, and resurrection joy. These topics are studying God's Word, Godly Fasting, Praying, Confessing, Submitting and Serving, Solitude, and Giving. These will be subjects of upcoming Sunday Messages.

"Hit the devil with whatever stick is in your hand". If we take these topics (these sticks) seriously in our lives, and as we focus on our Lord, we'll trust God for His blessings. After all, the biggest stick is still two pieces of wood joined together on which the prince of Glory died for us all. The enemy has not and never will recover from this blow!

 

   
 
In His Amazing Grace,
         Pastor John
 

Summer, 1998
 
Dear Members and Friends,
   

One of my favorite stories is about an older man who walked to church on a very rainy Sunday morning. While taking off his wet coat in the church foyer, someone commented to him that they were so glad that he had decided to go to church that morning. He commented, 'I didn't decide this morning, I decided forty years ago.'

I want to offer a word of encouragement to members of the Body of Christ by saying that you are expected to attend church each Sunday. It is a snare to make this decision each week when in actuality you made that decision when you joined the Church (i.e. we dedicate ourselves to give our prayers, presence, gifts and service to Christ's body, the Church). If you are traveling or if you vacation or summer at a certain place, find your church there too. Attend worship wherever you are and be blessed! May the Lord richly bless your Summer (especially the Sundays).

Hebrews 10:24-25 


P.S. Here's a good post-script for God's people           

We must learn to live under God's smile, knowing that human smiles are mere frosting on that divine cake. Our sense of purpose and success must come from our identity as Christ's servants.

 
 
In His Amazing Grace,
         Pastor John
 

Fall, 1997
 
Dear Members and Friends,
  

To be a part of something that God is doing is exciting. To quickly get to the point, I believe God is doing revival. Hearts are being warmed. Lives are being changed. Satan's strongholds in our lives' are being broken. God is doing it!

Recently, I had the privilege of being part of a large group of men in Washington, D.C. Many things have been said about this Promise Keepers' event. One thing is for sure, God's spirit is moving in our land and in our churches! It is not a conservative thing, nor a political thing, nor even a man thing. It is a God thing and if you are spiritually aware, you will see the manifestation of God's spirit in a variety of ways (not limited to any one event or movement).

Personally, the following will help you to hasten revival in your life.

1.Confess every know sin. (I know I am seeking revival when I stop confessing the sins of others and confess my own sin instead).

2.Put aside every doubtful habit.

3.Obey the Holy Spirit promptly.

4.Confess Jesus Christ publicly.

Any when people experience revival, you can expect to see the following

- Passion for God.

- Abounding joy in the Lord.

- Increased intercessory prayer.

- Regular commitment to fasting

- Hunger for the Bible.

- Increased family spiritual life.

- Generous support of God's work in money and time.

- Concern for reconciliation (biblical unity).

- Regular pattern of confession sin and repentance.

 

God is doing it! The Lord Jesus Christ has a portion with your name on it. He wants you blessed and full of His spirit. God has a plan for your life and for His Body, the Church. Pray revival and say amen to God doing it!

 

  
 
In His Amazing Grace,
         Pastor John
 

Summer/September, 1997
 
Dear Members and Friends,
   

Summer is a glorious opportunity for us in many ways. The pace of life slows down, and even if only for a short respite, this slower pace feels kinder and gentler to our souls. As a Christian and a Pastor, I view the summer as a special time to experience God's love for us.

This summer, the Sunday messages will be based on Romans 8. From Romans 8, we get these rich verses of Scripture.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

(8:1)

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

(8:14)

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing

with the glory about to be revealed to us.

(8:18)

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God,

who are called according to his purpose.

(8:28)

If God is for us, who is against us?

(8:31b)

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

(8:37)

nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to

separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(8:39)

Whether you're home or away, spend much time with our Lord this summer. Let your batteries be recharged, your spiritual gas tank filled, and may your heart be right with God.


 

 

 

 
Yours in Christ,
         Pastor John
 

Easter, 1997
 
Dear Members and Friends,
   

Recently, I heard an excellent message by a Pastor named Stuart Briscoe. It is entitled "Why Christ Had to Die". Here is a short excerpt…

           

Many years ago when the children were small, we went for a little drive in the lovely English countryside, and there was some fresh snow. I saw a lovely field with not a single blemish on the virgin snow. I stopped the car, and I vaulted over the gate, and I ran around in a great big circle striding as wide as I could Then I came back to the kids, and I said, "Now, children, I want you to follow in my footsteps. So I want you to run around that circle in the snow, and I want you to put your feet where your father put his feet "

Well, David tried and couldn't quite make it. Judy, our over-achiever, was certain she would make it; she couldn't make it. Pete, the little kid, took a great run at it, put his foot in my first footprint and then strode out as far as he could and fell on his face. His mother picked him up as he cried        I said, "Pete,
come here". I picked up little Peter and put his left foot on my foot, and I put his right foot on my foot. I said, "Okay, Pete, Let's go." I began to stride one big stride at a time with my hands under his armpits and his feet lightly on mine.

Well, who was doing it? In a sense, he was doing it because I was doing it. In a sense there was a commitment of the little boy to the big dad, and some of the properties of the big dad were working through the little boy.

In exactly the same way, in our powerlessness we can't stride as wide as we should. We don't walk the way we should We don't hit the target the way we ought. It isn't that at every point we are as bad as we could be. It's just that at no point are we as good as we should be. Something's got to be done.

The message of Easter is it has been done. You can be justified. You can be saved from wrath. You can be saved by his life. All that is the message of grace 

Praise God! Through Jesus we are delivered and blessed. The only question which remains is this one    "How will the incredible, matchless grace of Jesus Christ be received and
lived out in your life?" To God be the Glory!

Copyright 1997, Stuart Briscoe, used with permission

 
 
In His Amazing Grace,
         Pastor John