Tag Archives: discernment

Michelle Bauer ~ What God Sees in Your Heart

The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”

But Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.” The Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.”

Samuel did what the Lord said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, “Do you come in peace?” Samuel replied, “Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.”

Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.”

So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.” So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”

So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. – I Samuel 16: 1-13

The ripples of Saul’s rebellion have left the prophet Samuel sad and disoriented. At the beginning of the passage, God encourages Samuel to rest from his grieving. What are you grieving today? Talk with God about what might bring you comfort.  

What else do you notice about Samuel’s relationship with the Lord? What is the last thing you heard from God? How hard or easy is it for you to hear from God? Talk to God about the growth you’d like to experience in this area.  

In what ways was David not the stereotypical candidate to be king? What qualities did David have that would make him a godly king? Consider your own story, personality, physical characteristics, skills and talents, education, and experience.  What pieces of who you are make you a likely candidate to seek after God? Ask the Spirit to show you what God sees when he looks at you.  Sit quietly and wait for God to speak to you.

God instructed Samuel to look past appearances and directly into David’s heart. What did Samuel see when he did this? How would you describe your heart to someone who was interested in knowing you at that level?

Imagine yourself as a part of this story. Are you one of the older brothers being passed over? Are you David running in from the field wondering what the emergency is? Are you Samuel trying to discern God’s voice? What do you see or feel from placing yourself in the different perspectives?

After his anointing, the Spirit of the Lord came on David in power. What do you think that experience was like for David? Do you experience the Spirit of God at work in your life? If you sense any resistance, talk to God about that too.

David may have become a king of Israel and a forefather of Jesus, but he was far from perfect.  His story includes some great triumphs but maybe more rock bottom moments. Scripture, though, proudly describes him to us as “a man after God’s own heart.”

Despite his many (and monumental!) sins, David made a life-shaping decision to follow God, and he never gave up – not even in the face of mortal danger or utter failure.  His goal was to be a student of God’s heart and he gave his life to it.

You, too, are invited to become a person after God’s own heart. Be encouraged! Today is the perfect day to begin, or to begin again, on your journey towards God’s heart. Don’t let a recent failure, your age, your story, your perceived inability, or anything else keep you from it.

Elizabeth Glass Turner ~ Consolation and Desolation: Old Wisdom for Tired Protestants

Summer is a season for seeing people we normally don’t get to visit much: family reunions in park pavilions, vacation at a camp where we hug people we only see once a year, travel to relatives several states away.

The widespread family of faith isn’t really all that different, and sometimes when the flowering tree is in bloom and the breeze moves slowly under the weight of humidity, we bump into spiritual relatives we don’t see very often. They are strange and familiar at the same time, like an aunt you see every few years who wears different clothes than your mother or grandma but carries recognizable features, a familiar laugh, an identical profile.

Now that we’re historically removed from burning each other at the stake, for the past half-century Catholics and Protestants have been venturing into the park pavilion with nervous, eager smiles, carrying potato salad and ready to try an afternoon’s visit for brief family reunions – so to speak. No, we still don’t share the Eucharist, yes, most Protestants still have deep misgivings about the fine line of venerating Mary or asking Mary to intercede, and praying to Mary as Co-Redemptrix; and yes, many Catholics still have deep misgivings about Protestants’ tendency to swing back and forth theologically with every knee-jerk trend under the sun; but you don’t bring up famous family fights of holidays past at the one time of year everyone’s together for a few hours, and overall ecumenical efforts on the parts of Catholics and Protestants have been a very good thing indeed.

Which brings me to Ignatius on a site largely shaped by Wesleyan Methodist theology. Sometimes you bump into a distant relative and wonder how you’ve never connected before. Ignatius is that guy.

Assuming you have Google and Amazon, one can let you research a bit about him on your own time; today, large likelihood of being Protestant reader, we’ll briefly sketch an appreciative note on his concepts of consolation and desolation. Some wisdom is deep and hard and rich but at the same time feels like good old-fashioned common sense: this is that kind of wisdom.

It cuts against the #blessed trend, it cuts against cynical pessimism, and it cuts against the insidious assumption that anything we experience in our life must result from our own smarts or stupidity, holiness or hollowness. It is deeply personal without being damningly individualistic.

Simply put, “For Ignatius, the ebb and flow of consolation and desolation is the normal path of the Christian life.” There will be times of consolation – when there is a sense of noticeable, personally experienced growth or blossoming, when God’s presence seems close and the means of grace seem easy and quick at hand. There will also be times of desolation – similar to the “dark night of the soul” – when, whether from wrongdoing, or attacks of the enemy, or times of struggle or challenge, God’s presence seems distant or even simply absent, when our growth seems stalled or the habits that sustain us feel unusually heavy.

Ignatius counsels that in a time of consolation, followers of Christ should practice gratitude; resist self-satisfied pride, by remembering how limited we were during seasons of desolation; capitalize on the presence or abundance of energy available; and determine not to back out on the resolutions we’re making while things are going well, when later they do not. If Ignatius had been a midwestern farmer, consolation might be described in part as, “make hay while the sun shines.”

He also counsels that in a time of desolation, followers of Christ should practice the habit of recalling God’s faithfulness in prior times of desolation; resist the temptation to see suffering as pointless; resist desolation through meditation and prayer; avoid making big decisions, “because desolation is the time of the lie—it’s not the time for sober thinking. That is, in our disheartened state, we’re more prone to be deceived”; pay attention to the spiritual insights found during desolation; and confidently look for the quick return of a season of consolation. If Ignatius had been a leader in Great Britain in World War II, desolation might be described in part as, “We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…”

Yet Ignatius manages to avoid painting seasons of consolation and desolation as solely discerned by individualistic feelings, and gives wise counsel for how to discern when a choice, circumstance, or perspective moves us toward God and others, and when a choice, circumstance, or perspective is moving us away from God and others.

Overall, for Ignatius, Christians shouldn’t be surprised when desolation gives way to consolation, and we shouldn’t be surprised when consolation again gives way to a period of desolation; but, whether we perceive it or not at the time, God can use both to form and fashion our character and our loves, and the more prepared we are to encounter either season, the better we will endure the challenges that come with both abundance and affliction.

Do you know any tired American Protestants who might take heart from this old wisdom? It certainly has relevance for the constant question, “why do bad things happen to good people?” It has relevance for the “health and wealth” preachers. It has relevance for the “self-made man” portrayals. It has relevance for the depressive Goths tempted to believe that desolation is the season of truth, not the time of the lie. It has relevance for large church pastors who are too preoccupied with attendance, scale, and platform. It has relevance for the tired nun, the tired mom, the tired aunt. It has relevance for someone you know in your life who is going through something awful that you can’t understand.

Good things come to those who –

To those who what?

To those who wait.

“Wait,” Ignatius murmurs over a paper plate of fried chicken on a hot summer afternoon at the ecumenical family reunion. “Your time of consolation will give way – so store up now. Your time of desolation will resolve – so resist at every turn.”

(Good things come to family reunions, too.)

Sometimes, if you’re tired, finding an old relative (or a dead one) will give you some new perspective. Whether you’re in a season of consolation or desolation – thank God for Ignatius.

Justus Hunter ~ Letting Go of Your Own Influence: Thy Will Be Done

There are two difficulties with our prayer, “Thy will be done.” We fret over the first, but the second is far more dangerous.

“What is Your will? How do I know it? Where can I find it? Is this Your will?” This is the first difficulty. The second accompanies it, and often escapes our notice.

There is a forgotten moment in Elijah’s early career. First the widow’s jars of flour and oil never fail. Then her son, once dead, revives at Elijah’s prayer. Later, Elijah defeats the prophets of Baal. Those prophets, masters of spectacle, cannot reach their gods’ ears. Elijah’s God silences them. And when Elijah’s God comes, a consuming fire on Mount Carmel, the prophets of Baal are wiped out, along with the spectacle of their gods. The Word of the Lord silences them, and at that Word, heard once again by God’s chosen people, the drought breaks, rain falls.

But that Word, the Word on Elijah’s lips, was not so clear in the forgotten moment between the miracle of the widow and the miracle of fire. In that moment, two men meet before a Mountain.

After many days the word of the Lord came to Elijah, in the third year of the drought, saying, “Go, present yourself to Ahab; I will send rain on the earth.” And so Elijah went to present himself to Ahab. The famine was severe in Samaria. Ahab summoned Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace. (Now Obadiah revered the Lord greatly; when Jezebel was killing off the prophets of the Lord, Obadiah took a hundred prophets, hid them fifty to a cave, and provided them with bread and water.) Ahab said to Obadiah, “Go through the land to all the springs of water and to all the wadis; perhaps we may find grass to keep the horses and mules alive, and not lose some of the animals.” So they divided the land between them to pass through it; Ahab went in one direction by himself, and Obadiah went in another direction by himself. As Obadiah was on the way, Elijah met him; Obadiah recognized him, fell on his face, and said, “Is it you, my lord Elijah?” He answered him, “It is I. Go, tell your lord that Elijah is here.” And he said, “How have I sinned, that you would hand your servant over to Ahab, to kill me? As the Lord your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom to which my lord has not sent to seek you; and when they would say, ‘He is not here,’ he would require an oath of the kingdom or nation, that they had not found you. But now you say, ‘Go, tell your lord that Elijah is here.’ As soon as I have gone from you, the spirit of the Lord will carry you I know not where; so, when I come and tell Ahab and he cannot find you, he will kill me, although I your servant have revered the Lord from my youth. Has it not been told my lord what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the Lord, how I hid a hundred of the Lord’s prophets fifty to a cave, and provided them with bread and water? Yet now you say, ‘Go, tell your lord that Elijah is here’; he will surely kill me.” Elijah said, “As the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself to him today.” So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him; and Ahab went to meet Elijah. – 1 Kings 18:1-16

Like Elijah, Obadiah is a servant of the Lord. Like Elijah, he defies the Canaanite gods of Jezebel, the Baals and the Asherah, gods tolerated by Ahab, King of Israel. Like Elijah, Obadiah defies the king. But he does so secretly. Obadiah defies Ahab in the king’s own court. He conspires against Jezebel’s plotting. In a time of drought, he secrets water away for prophets pursued by the queen.

Like Elijah, Obadiah’s faithfulness is dangerous. He is a faithful servant of the Lord in the house of Ahab. He risks himself for the Lord’s prophets. In this work, secrecy is his ally. He hides the prophets, fifty to a cave. He hides them.

Obadiah’s secrecy was his faithful service. He knew God’s will: hide the prophets. And he followed God’s will, risking martyrdom. Jezebel silences prophets. But Obadiah guards the word of the Lord on the prophets’ lips. He preserves them, and in preserving them, he preserves the Lord’s word.

When Elijah comes, however, Obadiah is caught. He is caught between two other lords. “Is it you my lord Elijah?” he says. But Elijah replies, “It is I. Go tell your lord Ahab that Elijah is here.”

How often we find ourselves caught between Ahabs and Elijahs – caught between lords, uncertain how to serve the one Lord?

Of course, to us, the decision between Ahab and Elijah is obvious. But it was not so clear for Obadiah. Has not Obadiah been serving both the Lord and Ahab to this point? Not only that, but his obedience to Elijah, another lord, risks the failure of his prior faithfulness. What will happen to the prophets if Obadiah is found out, if Obadiah dies? Who will preserve the Word of the Lord on the prophets’ lips?

Obadiah is uncertain. He is not uncertain as to his Lord – that is clear. It is the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. It is the God whose Word is on the lips of the prophets. But what does faithfulness to this God look like in this moment? How does he choose between his prior faithfulness and this new Word?

This is the second difficulty of “Thy will be done” – that God’s will for one moment will become our idol in the next.

We focus our attention on easy idols. We love to preach against the Baals and the Asherah. We preach against injustice and immorality. But we’re afraid to speak of the idols that tempt us most: what God is doing through me, my gifts, my ministry, God’s will for my life.

How easily “thy will” becomes “my will.” Beware: the idol of “my will” is difficult to kick down. “God, if what you’re doing now doesn’t confirm, if it doesn’t extend, if it doesn’t expand the good works you began for me, I’m not interested. God, what about my sacrifices? What about my responsibilities? What about my gifts? What about my…”

“What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Cor 4:7) What do you have that was not a gift? Do not mistake your gifts for possessions. They came from the will of God, and there they must remain.

This is the second difficulty of “Thy will be done” – the temptation to turn “Thy will” into “my will.” Obadiah confronts this second difficulty. He pleads for himself. He pleads for his faithful service to God. And once again, the Word of God confronts him. “Go, tell your lord that Elijah is here.”

“So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him.” So ends the story of Obadiah. His departure is as sudden as his appearance. But even if his appearance is brief, his lesson lasts.

Obadiah could have usurped the Word of the Lord. Had he not won the right? While Elijah was away, in Zarephath, Obadiah was sleeping under the same roof as Ahab and Jezebel. Obadiah was hiding prophets. Obadiah was risking death.

And yet he obeys. And yet he submits. Confronted by the Word of the Lord, his prior service to God disrupted, his gifts, influence, and life risked, Obadiah obeys.

Another day, another man confronts the will of God before another mountain. Jesus prayed the prayer he taught his disciples, “Thy Will be done.” “Not my will, but Thine.” And in his prayer, he overturns our most tantalizing idols. He shows us that we too can pray that prayer – “Thy Will be done.”

But God, look at what I can do for you. Look at what I’ve begun. What about my gifts? You don’t give them in vain, do you?

All the gifts of God are ordered to a greater gift: the gift of Christ-in-me, so that all things might be conformed to the pattern of Christ, the One through whom God is reconciling all things to himself.

Unless we hold God’s will as Christ held his Father’s, our gifts corrupt. They grow into the most sinister of idols, more powerful than the Baals.

Obadiah came, and encountered the word of God. His will submitted to God’s, and in his obedience he prefigured Christ. Christ came, and was the Word of God. His will was the will of the Father, and the power of his obedience empowers our own.

Christ’s prayer in the garden, “Not my will, but thine,” silences the false gods and overturns the idols. Christ’s prayer in the garden, “Not my will, but thine,” empowers our own prayer – “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” The prayer is there in Obadiah’s silence. The prayer is now on our lips.

And so we pray, and we pray, and we pray, and we pray … and we teach our children to pray, just as we were taught: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done…Not my will, but thine.”

This post from our archives first appeared on Wesleyan Accent in 2017. Featured image: St Peter in Prison, by Rembrandt.

Otis T. McMillan ~ Navigating Challenges: Trust, Act, and Expect

Be God-conscious at all times: with confidence, seek the Lord’s direction

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-6

Solomon speaks of complete trust in the Lord. He is helping us to understand that there is safety in being God-conscious at all times. Every decision made should be made with complete consideration of God. As we do, he will direct our path in the proper direction.

Before decisions are made, seek the mind of God. As you acknowledge the Lord, you can be assured that he will direct you in the right direction. With complete trust, remain God-conscious at all times. Your trust will lead to the right decision.

Faith is not always waiting; it may demand action. You are a part of the plan.

 “And when she could no longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river’s brink.” – Exodus 2:3

Knowing that her newborn son was to be sacrificed, Jochebed, with boldness and creativity, developed a plan to save him. After hiding the child for three months, she built a small “ark” for him and placed him into the water. Miriam, the infant’s older sister, was sent to observe what would happen. By the providence of God, the daughter of Pharaoh was there to take the child to safety. God’s plan was fulfilled.

You are a part of God’s plan. There will be times you will be called upon to act in boldness, with creativity. Your actions will be coupled with the providence of God, resulting in God’s will being accomplished.

Don’t put a limit on the blessings God intends for your life: expect more. You will not be disappointed.

“Then he said, ‘Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbors, even empty vessels; borrow not a few.’” – 2 Kings 4:3

Being left with nothing but a small amount of oil, a widow seeks the help of Elijah. She reminds him that her husband was a faithful servant of the prophet and that his death has left her and her two sons with practically nothing. Elijah commands her to gather from her neighbors empty jars, emphasizing “not a few.” What they gather will determine the extent of the blessing they receive. They are not to limit God.

As the Lord directs your steps, do not limit what he intends for your life. With faith leading you, extend your efforts beyond what appears possible. God, having no limits, has a level of victory that goes beyond your ability to conceive. Expect more, you will not be disappointed.

Shaun Marshall ~ Learning How to Tell Your Story

This powerful sermon by Rev. Shaun Marshall comes from Genesis.


Edgar Bazan ~ Relaunch

In the past, I’ve talked about reset as the ability to embrace and move into the new things that God has for us by not allowing the hurts of the past to hold us back. We can’t change the facts of the past, but we can change how we feel about them and how we allow them to affect us today. It’s possible to reframe our past experiences into a story of redemption by looking at them and talking about them through the lens of Jesus’ love and grace.

The outcome is that, as we experience redemption, we are able to move into the new life God has for us; we stop keeping our future a hostage to our past. We free our future by allowing God to redeem our past and reframe our whole lives around a new story of hope, redemption, and new life.

Today, I want to talk about our future. When I use the word “relaunch,” I mean the action, the opportunity, or the decision to try again that which has not been going well.

Our text comes from Isaiah 43:18, 19:

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

The context of Isaiah’s writing to the people of Israel takes place at a bleak period in Israel’s history. They were in captivity, conquered by the Assyrians who had become the dominating military and political power of the region. They had lost everything they thought they would keep forever, and they were homesick for the land and the blessing God had promised them.

This happened because they were suffering the consequences of wrong choices against each other and God. Israel had abandoned everything they once represented as God’s people; they had become selfish and unjust. They had missed the mark of their mission and calling as people of God. They had forgotten time and time again that the blessing given to their father Abraham and their mother Sarah was meant to be stretched out to all the families of the earth and that this was the reason for their existence, their purpose and goal as people of God. They failed because they forgot who they were meant to be. Instead of pursuing their purpose, they settled with ephemeral comforts and tried to become like everyone else.

No doubt Israel was discouraged because they thought this was the end of them. They were stuck – emotionally, mentally, and spiritually – in their past, unable to see the new life and opportunities that God was opening up. God was speaking hope and encouragement to them in the midst of their darkest times.

God wanted them to know that even though they were suffering, they were not forsaken. God wanted the people of Israel to understand that the hardship they were experiencing would not be the end of them. God wanted to give them a fresh start, a new beginning in their life, a relaunch, so to speak. By telling them, “forget the former things,” God was saying, “it is time to move on.”

Maybe that is where we are! We may feel we are stuck, that we have failed people we love – including God – so many times that we are just getting what we deserve. If God dealt with us based on what we deserve, we wouldn’t be here. No, God deals with us with grace, to bring out the best of us and make us whole again.

God is not in the business of annihilation, but of redemption. Our God does not dwell in the past, for he is always doing a new thing. Don’t ever believe that God doesn’t want anything to do with you. If you think that you have no future, I have good news for you. God is saying, “it’s not over, I have plans for your life. I am about to do something new for you,” because God is always on the move, and he is always calling us forward.

Today, I am saying this so you can not only believe it, but so that you can also fully embrace a new life.

How can we embrace this new thing that God wants to do in our lives?

We begin by realizing that our God is forward thinking. Consider: the moment things went wrong at the beginning with Adam and Eve and their sin, God introduced a plan of salvation. Every time people got it wrong and messed up God’s work, God would continue to keep his plan unfolding. When Jesus called the disciples, and everyone else for that matter, he did it so they would follow a new path, a new way of living. He called them forward. So it is with us!

This tells us that God is far more interested in our future than in our past, that we are not a final product, and that God wants to do something new in us every day regardless of what has been. Some people think that all God wants to do is remind them of the things they have done wrong. God is more interested in your future than in your past. God is always working a future for us.

One of my favorite movies of all time is Back to the Future. In this movie, when Marty goes back to the past, he stands out. He knows things and has seen things and acts differently because he is from the future. In the first film, there are some scenes where he is thought of as weird for making peculiar decisions because his peers don’t understand where he is coming from.

In the same way, we can view all of us, Jesus’ followers, as people of the future. Let me explain. If you jump back 2,000 years to when Jesus was walking the earth, a majority of the Jewish people believed in the resurrection of the dead. They believed that at the end of time, when God set the world right, the righteous would be resurrected and vindicated. The twist is that Jesus accomplished that in the middle of the history, not at the end. God did for Jesus in the present what Jewish people thought he would do for all at the end. So, in the resurrection, it’s like Jesus became a person of the future.

In the same way, everything else Jesus has done for us – how he brought a new world, a new way of living – is about bringing the promises of the future into the present. With this, God calls us to live as our future selves right here in the present, to step into what God says is true about us, and to stand out.

We don’t have to wait for our best life to happen someday; it can begin to happen right now if we step into it. Most of the things that get in the way are our choices. I know you are thinking, easier said than done. And you are right.

How do we relaunch our lives to embrace the new thing that God wants to do in our lives? Let’s look again at the story of Israel and the challenge they had.

The problem that this story presents may help us to understand why we too struggle to embrace new life today: they forgot who they were meant to be. They lost their way. They allowed things to get in the way that disrupted their purpose and sent them onto a path God did not intend for them.

The miracle in the middle of this story and all of our stories is that God never gives up on us. God is always working to give us a future. God is always invested in our healing, redemption, and restoration so we can get back on track.

This is not just about wanting to save us but wanting to give us a good, abundant life that accomplishes the desires of God’s heart and our hearts. God has written in our hearts his goodness and creativity, all the best he wants for us.  

What is your heart telling you today? What are the things that have gotten in your way, in your marriage, your family? What are the thoughts, the dreams, the desires of your heart that have been lost or forgotten over time?

Many of us have learned to have our faith in God –and that is a beautiful gift. Our faith in God grounds us in the hope for tomorrow. But let me add something else that has do with the voice of our heart: our faith in God does not mean we must doubt ourselves. Our faith in God ought to lead us to trust ourselves too. Our faith in God leads us to know not only how much we are loved but also why we were created.

Here is where many of us struggle. Do we know how much we are worth? Do we know how large our life is meant to be? Let me tell you something. Self-doubt forces us into lives that are too small for our dreams. We settle too soon. For the most part, our lives are about safely conforming to what has been, rather than building up new and wild dreams. And we doubt ourselves because we focus on our weaknesses, on our mistakes, on what people think and say about us, rather than on the beautiful ways we were created and gifted by God.

To this God says: “Forget the former things!” My friends, this word today is God telling us, “remember who you are, who you are meant to be. I am always with you.” God knows that when we live in doubt and undervalue ourselves, we give up on what we are meant to be, on any pursuit of our heart’s dreams. But we are the only creation in the universe that was created after God’s own image. Are we to reject that? No, we need to embrace it because by doing so we honor and glorify God.

Today, God is telling us to stop doubting ourselves and to find our strength and purpose. I believe that God placed dreams in our heart as the fuel to move and encourage us to live forward, and that God is overjoyed when we pursue those desires.

Can you hear God’s voice in your heart? What is God saying? How is God encouraging you right now? What dreams have been placed in your heart?

Often, when we pray over and over again for the same thing, it is not because God is failing to give us an answer, but because we have not heard the answer we want. What if this year we go with what we have already been told, with what is in our hearts, as scary and challenging as it may be?

I finish with this. To relaunch is not to keep things the way they are but to endeavor into new things. When God says “I am making a new thing,” that new thing is for you… you are not forgotten. What we think is the end is actually the beginning of the next chapter. It is time to move on to what’s next. You can only grow if you allow a new chapter to be written in your life. To relaunch is not about replaying the same old song but learning a new one.

If we welcome God’s love and grace in our lives; if we have faith in the future he has promised us; if we know that God is for us and not against us, then no matter what situations we face, we will be able to engage with them in a positive way, because we know that we have life ahead of us, and that whatever the former things were, they have no claim over us anymore: we have moved on from them.

I invite you to look for the courage to act on the dreams God has placed in your heart, on what you are meant to be. Maybe you are like a bird who for a long time has had thoughts of flying but is in a cage. Here, the door is open. God created us to spread our wings toward the bright sky he created for us to enjoy. May your choices reflect your hopes for the future and not the fears of your past. Live tomorrow today. Amen.

Wesleyan Accent ~ Love God with All Your Mind


This weekend we feature a sermon on loving God with all your mind. Enjoy this teaching from guest preacher Sue Sweeney on grace, lectio divina, and neuroplasticity at Catalyst Community Church in Rowlett, Texas.

This sermon begins around minute mark 23:00.




Note: the Featured Image is from WikiMedia and is titled “Pensare.”

Wesleyan Accent ~ Why We Argue

Note from the Editor: Today’s post comes from guest contributor John Turner, a United Methodist worship leader and spouse of Managing Editor Elizabeth Glass Turner.

Why do we argue?

Is it so that we can win a competition, and feel the adrenaline rush of victory?  Is it to make another person feel ashamed of themselves?  Is it to make sure other people know what we support, or don’t support?  Is it because if we don’t, the other side will be the only ones talking?

Facebook, Twitter, and even our face to face conversations are filled with arguments. Should we have more gun regulation?  Should we have less?  Should we stop people from coming across the border?  Is it too hard to become a citizen already?   Are the Democrats using dirty tricks to gain political advantage?  Are the Republicans ignoring injustice because it helps them politically?

Whose side are you on?

Many have seen people attacked with cruelty and cold-hearted rage over these disagreements.  Some people have decided they don’t want to be a part of it anymore and stay away from social media, at least for a time.  Is this the way we should respond, as Christians?  Should we stay out of the mud, so that we don’t offend anyone?  So we don’t get hurt?

Why do we argue?

“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:11-16 (NASB)

So, if we are to be insulted and persecuted, we must engage with people, right?  We must have a visible presence in the world if people are going to want to falsely say evil against us.  So shutting down is not the answer.  We cannot hide.  We are needed.  We must be light.

Without the light, how will people know where they are?  Or where they are going?  Or what they are doing?  People are grappling with difficult problems, and decisions must be made.  Should things change, or stay the same?  If something must change, how?  What should we do about the new problems that the changes create?

How will people make these decisions in the dark?

Why do we argue?

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

If we should argue, we should do so because we love.

Because we want others to be able to grow.  Because we want them to be able to rejoice in the truth.  Sometimes, because they are hurting themselves or others.  Sometimes, because false beliefs can lead to mistakes, which can lead to unnecessary and unproductive pain.  Once again, the answer is that it is not about us.

How does it feel when we discover we are wrong?  When we have argued, perhaps for years, and discover we are completely and utterly wrong?  It is painful.  It is embarrassing.  It is hard.

So how should we feel when someone else is wrong, and does not see it?  Angry?  Disgusted?  Annoyed?  And, what about if they finally see it, and understand how they were wrong?  Happy?  Victorious?  Frustrated at how long it took?


We should be grieved.  We should feel the pain that they feel and seek to comfort.  Which one of us has not also been wrong at one time or another?  And knowing that, we should also be humble and careful to listen when we argue.  This also could be one of those times.

We argue because we love.  But how do we argue?

We should argue with patience.  We should argue with kindness and not out of jealousy.  We should argue without arrogance, but by maintaining everyone’s dignity.  We should not try to gain anything from it, and we should not let ourselves be provoked into hurting others.  We should not hold it against people for the names they call us, or the way they treat us, and we should not be glad when our opponents make a mistake or get hurt.  Instead, we should hold on to the truth, even if it means helping our opponent’s argument.  We should bear with each other, believe each other, hope for each other, and endure each other’s pain.

Let us stop arguing like children, and begin to do so as adults.

Edgar Bazan ~ May All Your Plans Be Successful

There is a prayer that I recently discerned to pray: God, may all your plans for me be successful.

The rationale behind this prayer is that I want to position myself and do everything that is in my power to let God fulfill his plans in my life.

Notice that I did not say “my plans,” but God’s. This is a risky prayer by all standards. Basically, I am putting myself at the mercy of God! And you know what – that is the best place I could ever imagine to be.

However, sometimes I make it really hard for God to do this. Can you relate? We delay God’s success in our life. Don’t we? And because of that, we end up losing opportunities to fulfill God’s plans for us.

This message goes along the lines of what Billy Graham said: “End your journey well. Don’t waste your life, and don’t be satisfied with anything less than God’s plan.”

So it is my hope, whether it is today or in the next few days ahead, you too may find your way back to your life purpose and pray the prayer, “may all your plans be successful in my life, God,” because God indeed has a plan for you.

The question we all have asked in this regard is the key: What’s God’s plan for us?

Let’s look into this.

Our Scripture reading today is Matthew 4:1-17. Here, Matthew narrates the story of how, after he was baptized and recognized by God as his beloved Son, Jesus is taken by the Spirit of God to the desert, to the wilderness to be put to the test. After this time of trial, – 40 days to be precise – he then inaugurated the beginning of his ministry here on earth by proclaiming: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

In this story, Jesus faced three tests or temptations. I believe there is a powerful connection between one of them and the proclamation of repentance and God’s kingdom that speaks to us about this idea of God’s plans for our lives.

Of the temptations, one dealt with hunger, another with trust in God’s provision, and the last, with love or faithfulness to God. The first one is the one on which I am focusing today because I believe this one in particular is relevant to the proclamation of Jesus about God’s kingdom.

This first temptation went like this:

[Jesus] fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

After 30 years of preparation, Jesus was almost ready to begin his ministry. Only one more thing was needed. To be completely ready to bring healing and salvation to this world, Jesus needed to be tested. And in this first test, we have the devil basically telling Jesus: It has been 40 days since you tasted any food, why are you starving when you can easily feed yourself?

Of course, the devil couldn’t care less about Jesus’ needs; he wanted to talk Jesus out of his purpose, out of God’s plans, into trouble, and even worse, into sin.

What we see here, then, is that the purpose of Jesus’ temptation or test was about challenging his trust in God’s plan and his complete dependence on God.

Would Jesus take a shortcut? Would he stay faithful to the Father’s will? Would he fall into doing things the devil’s way instead of God’s way? It would have been so easy for Jesus – the Son of God – to turn stones into bread. But in doing so, in choosing the bread, he would have compromised God’s plans for him.

My friends, how many times does bread get in the way of God’s plans for us?

Let me explain.

I believe that in this particular story bread represents a compromise of God’s plans. It is choosing something else before what we know God has said about us or has asked about us. It is the yielding or given up too soon because we can’t wait or endure God’s processes in our lives any longer.

What’s your bread? Is it comforts, satisfaction, or pleasure? Could it be wealth, fame, recognition, or any other? Just like actual bread, these are not bad, but if they take precedence over God’s plans for us, they will become a stumbling block in our lives.

Of course, all of these have merit and are valuable, and they may very well be part of God’s plans for us in one way or another; they are not intrinsically bad. However, they are finite endeavors that provide temporary comfort. Any of these, sooner or later, will need to be replaced with a new something else.

You see how difficult it is to refuse the temptation to feed on the bread because we can. But by doing so, we delay, interrupt, or miss altogether the plans of God for us. What is even more sad about this is that sometimes without even realizing it, our relationship with God is only a means to get the bread; we couldn’t care less about God’s desires and will for us.

But the bread did not get in the way of Jesus, for he said, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

This is what I want for me, my family, and I pray you may have it too: I don’t care if I am tempted with bread, crackers, or tortillas, the Word of God comes first, and I won’t compromise my relationship, witness, faith, and character for what is a mere temporary comfort.

This is what we can learn from Jesus’ temptation with bread: sometimes God will make us sacrifice something we want in order to secure our heart for the greatest good – himself and his purposes. What we will be given instead is much more valuable than any goal or plan we could have created for ourselves.

The point is not that God wants to keep us away from the things we want or need, but that we are willing to sacrifice them if they get in the way between God and us. When we submit ourselves to God’s Word, everything else falls into place and all the good plans God has for us become a reality. It is then that our prayer, “may all your plans for me be successful,” begins to take shape and becomes a tangible reality.

Now, what comes out God’s mouth? Words, right? But, what is God saying? I know God has unique words for each one of us just as God has particular plans and purposes for all of us. But there is a universal and constant word that God speaks that defines God’s plans for each one of us. This is the basis for everything that God wants to do in our lives, and without it, nothing can be done.

Here is where Matthew 4:17 helps us to discern this.

God’s plans for Jesus were about saving humanity from death and sin. And the first action Jesus took after being tempted by the devil was to proclaim this simple yet profound revelation, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is what the devil wanted to keep Jesus away from: the proclamation of God’s kingdom and its arrival. This is what Jesus would have had left undone if he had chosen the bread when he was tempted early on.

This proclamation of repentance and God’s kingdom was a calling to people then as much as it is a calling for us today: to realign themselves with God’s Word and live in a new kingdom of heaven kind of life.

This proclamation is simple yet profound: “Repent!” he said first.

To repent is to make a radical reversal in life and realign with God. To repent or realign is a dynamic term that is more than a one-time event. Of course, there must be an initial turning to God, but repentance is not only a one-time crisis moment but rather an ongoing way of life.

We could more accurately capture Jesus’ message by translating 4:17 “Realign your life continually to God’s ways.”

Jesus’ words are an invitation and command to make sure our lives are in alignment with God’s character. This realignment involves turning away from obvious evils and sins, but more important than that, it also involves an ongoing assessment and shifting to virtues that represent the character of God and his kingdom – things like being kind and compassionate (Ephesians 4:32), living above reproach (1 Timothy 3:2), attending to the needs of others, especially the least fortunate (Proverbs 19:17), giving thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18), praying for our friends and even enemies, loving our neighbor as ourselves – basically, everything we see Jesus doing and saying in the gospels. This is what aligning with God means.

So, when Jesus was tempted to eat the bread when he knew it was not the time to do that, he was for all practical purposes keeping himself in alignment with God’s plans. Because of this, Jesus blessed all humanity for all eternity because he himself was the greatest follower of God the Father.

Perhaps our challenge or struggle to see God’s plans for us fulfilled is not a lack of faith, but a lack of obedience and alignment with God’s Word.

My friends, this word is for all of us. Can we learn from this? Your life, everything you are, your thoughts, your strengths, your dreams exist for a purpose greater than yourself. Your greatest achievement in this life is to leave a mark of blessing in people’s lives, to leave this world better than you found it. And all of these can happen if we let God be successful in achieving his plans in our lives.

What we see in Jesus is the key to understanding what God wants for us and from us in order for God’s plans to be successful in our lives as they were with Jesus. If we sow in faithfulness and obedience, we will reap in blessings, in God’s promises.

Whatever your career, your education, your skills, and your dreams in life are, glorify and honor God through them by letting him be bigger in your life than everything else.

Now, I recognize how this may be challenging and perhaps even scary to do: surrender everything to God? Don’t be afraid to surrender your most wanted dreams, desires, and possessions to God. I know some people fear, if they give to God, what will there be left for them? What they don’t understand is that when you do surrender to God and confess, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God…” God is going to multiply the blessings in your life, and your cup will be overflowing.

Don’t believe me? Here is the proof: So, Jesus was tempted with bread, right? How ironic is that, because later we see that Jesus’ ministry was heavily centered around bread, feeding it to people and multiplying it miraculously.

What you are surrendering to God today may be the very thing that God will give you in abundance to bless many.

Don’t make the mistake of believing that if you submit yourself to God in all that you are and all that you have that somehow you are going to lose. When you unleash the Word of God in your life, pray to God, “May all your plans for me be successful,” and follow him as your shepherd, and you will lack nothing.

Jesus said best when he said in John 4:34, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.”

This is the invitation today: stop eating the bread that is getting in the way between you and God. Get back to the path. Get yourself together, and realign with God’s plans for you. Has it been a day, a year, maybe five or 20 years since you gave up on what you knew in your heart God wants to accomplish for you, in you, and through you? Well, you can start making it right today. Yield to God.

What is your calling? I pray for you: May all God’s plans for your life be successful. Amen.