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06/01/2016 Transitioning to a New Blogsite

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I began blogging in August 2012.  At the time I was serving in the second month of my sixth year as the appointed pastor of Monroe United Methodist Church. It was already a time of spiritual renewal for me and of renewed spiritual vitality for the congregation, and the blogging was the result of both and also became a means for further renewal personally and for the congregation.

Forty-five months later, my journey with Monroe UMC is nearing an end.  I will be retiring the blogsite that I began in August 2012 because I chose to use “Monroe UMC” as part of the domain  name, and it will no longer be appropriate for me to connect with readers using that domain name since I will no longer be serving the congregation as pastor beginning on moving day on June 29th.  Although no new posts will be added to that blogsite after June 28th, readers may still access the blogsite after that date to view the hundreds of posts published since August 2012:  Monroe UMC Blogsite.

Josh Dalton will be serving as the congregation’s new pastor beginning on June 29, 2016.  I pray that the congregation will welcome, love and support him.

Today I am launching this new blogsite, and I will continue to blog on this site through the end of the transition and beyond.  If you wish to subscribe to receive future posts from this blogsite, you may do so at your own initiative.

I am grateful for the nine years that I have served as the pastor of Monroe UMC and look forward to God’s preferred future for me and for the congregation as we part on June 29th.

Grace Upon Grace,
George

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01/17/2018 Snow Much Fun!

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Today turned out to be a snow day for many of us in central Virginia.  Although some people had to report to work, area schools were closed as snow began by daybreak and continued to fall until late in the afternoon.  Neighborhood roads were treacherous.

Rebecca and I are blessed that our two grandchildren live in our neighborhood and that we could walk on our neighborhood roads to be with them today.  For 6 month-old Benaiah, it was his first experience with snow.  For 3 year-old Nora, it was an opportunity to build “Elsa’s Castle” in the snow.  The snow was too powdery to make a snowman.

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Toward the end of the day, Nora got her first rides on the same sled that Rebecca had as a child.  She took turns riding on the backs of Rebecca, her Aunt Hannah, and mine as we sledded down a neighborhood road.  She could be heard singing “Jingle Bells” multiple times.  We had snow much fun!

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Thank you, Lord, for a snow day to enjoy with grandchildren!

Question:
Do you have some treasured memories of fun in the snow as a child?

Please share your childhood memories of fun in the snow and other comments by posting to this blog site.

Today’s music video features a 6th grade honor chorus.
Snow Day

Grace Upon Grace,
George

 

 

01/16/2018 The Voice of the Nature of God

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Here in its entirety is today’s reading from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers.

When we talk about the call of God, we often forget the most important thing, namely, the nature of Him who calls. There are many things calling each of us today. Some of these calls will be answered, and others will not even be heard. The call is the expression of the nature of the One who calls, and we can only recognize the call if that same nature is in us. The call of God is the expression of God’s nature, not ours. God providentially weaves the threads of His call through our lives, and only we can distinguish them. It is the threading of God’s voice directly to us over a certain concern, and it is useless to seek another person’s opinion of it. Our dealings over the call of God should be kept exclusively between ourselves and Him.

The call of God is not a reflection of my nature; my personal desires and temperament are of no consideration. As long as I dwell on my own qualities and traits and think about what I am suited for, I will never hear the call of God. But when God brings me into the right relationship with Himself, I will be in the same condition Isaiah was. Isaiah was so attuned to God, because of the great crisis he had just endured, that the call of God penetrated his soul. The majority of us cannot hear anything but ourselves. And we cannot hear anything God says. But to be brought to the place where we can hear the call of God is to be profoundly changed.

Question:
What do you think about the following two statements? “God providentially weaves the threads of His call through our lives, and only we can distinguish them. It is the threading of God’s voice directly to us over a certain concern, and it is useless to seek another person’s opinion of it.”

Please reply to this question and offer other comments by posting to this blog site.

Today’s music video features a song about Isaiah’s call.
The Call of Isaiah

Grace Upon Grace,
George

01/15/2018 Stranger Than Fiction

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As Mark Twain is credited with pointing out:

Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn’t.

If you saw the last 10 seconds of yesterday’s National Football League playoff game between the Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints, then you witnessed something that had never happened before in NFL history and that was stranger than fiction. An NFL postseason game ended with a 4th quarter walk-off touchdown. That would have been unbelievable enough, but the play was not really designed to score a touchdown….it was intended to gain enough yardage to set up a desperate attempt for a long field goal to win the game.

It was a surreal moment that stunned everyone, including the winning team and their fans. Even the quarterback, Case Keenum, who launched the ball to the receiver was in disbelief at the result of the play.

To make matters even more interesting, the name of the play that was called in the huddle was “7 Heaven,” and Keenum had previously bounced from team to team and had not experienced much success before this season.

During a post-game interview on the field, a giddy Keenum said it would probably rank as the third best moment in his life behind giving his life to Jesus Christ and marrying his wife.

It was certainly a moment that surprised the multitudes who were watching and brought great delight to many.

Question:
Can you recall a moment when the unlikely happened and it brought great delight to you?

Please reply to this question and offer other comments by posting to this blog site.

Today’s video features the game-winning touchdown for the Minnesota Vikings.
7 Heaven Pass Play

Grace Upon Grace,
George

01/14/2018 Moral & Spiritual Slumber

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Here in its entirety is a reading from a daily devotional based on the writings of A. W. Tozer.

Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God–I say this to your shame.
1 Corinthians 15:34

My aim is to awaken some from the rut. I know it is impossible to awaken everybody, but I hope to awaken some. I use the word awaken here advisedly and carefully because the Bible contains significant teaching gathered around the word sleep. There is first of all natural sleep. “He grants sleep to those he loves” (Psalm 127:2). “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8). . . . I am thinking of moral sleep and spiritual sleep. Moral sleep is suggested in First Corinthians 15:34, “Awake to righteousness and sin not” (KJV). There is such a thing as moral sleep. It is entirely possible to be displeasing God and grieving the Holy Spirit by being asleep morally; that is, by permitting what should not be allowed. Most people do not want to hear this. They want something added to what they have. They do not want to be told that they are permitting something that should not be allowed. In other words, they are doing what they should not be doing. But you ask, “Is it true of Christians? Do you believe that many Christians are doing this?” I have no hesitation in saying that all the symptoms in the church today point to Christians doing things they should not be doing and failing to do what they should be doing. That is the positive and the negative–sins of commission, sins of omission. To be unaware of these sins is to be morally asleep.

Question
Do you agree with the following statements?

I have no hesitation in saying that all the symptoms in the church today point to Christians doing things they should not be doing and failing to do what they should be doing. That is the positive and the negative–sins of commission, sins of omission. To be unaware of these sins is to be morally asleep.

Please post your responses to this question and all other comments to this blog site.

In today’s music video a song by Keith Green meets William Booth’s “Vision of the Lost.”
Asleep in the Light

Grace Upon Grace,
George

01/13/2018 Inner Darkness

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Have you ever been in total darkness? I can remember two experiences of being in total darkness as an adult. Pardon the pun (or the paradox!), but the two experiences were as different as night and day!

During the first occasion, I was inside a cavern with a group taking a tour. The guide told us what was about to happen. While the artificial light was cut off, the guide continued to talk. It was only a minute or so before the light was cut back on.

During the second occasion, I was by myself late at night in a church building when suddenly the power in the neighborhood went out. There was no warning and there was no announcement about how long the electricity would be off. It took me several minutes to negotiate finding my way out of the office, then out of the building, then to my car in the parking lot.

Both of those experiences involved outer darkness. The first was primarily fun and educational. The second was frustrating and challenging. Pardon another pun, but both experiences were “enlightening.”

What about inner darkness? Over the years, various persons have contemplated and written about the dark night of the soul. Usually, this image of the dark night of the soul refers to spiritual dryness and is relatively temporary. However, Mother Teresa’s diaries appear to reflect that she experienced spiritual dryness for most of the last 50 years of her life.

Although Oswald Chambers does not use the word “darkness” in today’s reading from “My Utmost for His Highest,” that is exactly what he is talking about. He is talking about the inner darkness of our souls. Here is an excerpt.

As you journey with God, the only thing He intends to be clear is the way He deals with your soul. The sorrows and difficulties in the lives of others will be absolutely confusing to you. We think we understand another person’s struggle until God reveals the same shortcomings in our lives. There are vast areas of stubbornness and ignorance the Holy Spirit has to reveal in each of us, but it can only be done when Jesus gets us alone. Are we alone with Him now? Or are we more concerned with our own ideas, friendships, and cares for our bodies? Jesus cannot teach us anything until we quiet all our intellectual questions and get alone with Him.

The “vast areas of stubbornness and ignorance the Holy Spirit has to reveal in each of us” are no more visible or perceptible to us than the back of my hand was visible to me in total physical darkness inside the cavern or inside the church building!

Question:
What do you think about the following statement?  “Jesus cannot teach us anything until we quiet all our intellectual questions and get alone with Him.”

Please reply to this question and offer other comments by posting to this blog site.

Today’s music video features Third Day.
Soul on Fire

Grace Upon Grace,
George

01/12/2018 The Last Conceit to Go

imageHere in its entirety is today’s reading from the daily devotional My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers.

Have You Ever Been Alone With God?

When they were alone, He expounded all things to His disciples. — Mark 4:34

Our Solitude with Him. Jesus does not take us alone and expound things to us all the time; He expounds things to us as we can understand them. Other lives are parables. God is making us spell out our own souls. It is slow work, so slow that it takes God all time and eternity to make a man and woman after His own purpose. The only way we can be of use to God is to let Him take us through the crooks and crannies of our own characters. It is astounding how ignorant we are about ourselves! We do not know envy when we see it, or laziness, or pride. Jesus reveals to us all that this body has been harbouring before His grace began to work. How many of us have learned to look in with courage?

We have to get rid of the idea that we understand ourselves, it is the last conceit to go. The only One Who understands us is God. The greatest curse in spiritual life is conceit. If we have ever had a glimpse of what we are like in the sight of God, we shall never say – “Oh, I am so unworthy,” because we shall know we are, beyond the possibility of stating it. As long as we are not quite sure that we are unworthy, God will keep narrowing us in until He gets us alone. Wherever there is any element of pride or of conceit, Jesus cannot expound a thing. He will take us through the disappointment of a wounded pride of intellect, through disappointment of heart. He will reveal inordinate affection – things over which we never thought He would have to get us alone. We listen to many things in classes, but they are not an exposition to us yet. They will be when God gets us alone over them.

Question:
What do you think of the following statement?
“We have to get rid of the idea that we understand ourselves, it is the last conceit to go.”

Please post your responses to this question and all other comments to this blog site.

Today’s music video features Madilyn Paige.
Irreplaceable

Grace Upon Grace,
George

01/11/2018 Comforted to Make Us Comforters

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Today, grief has cast its shadow on our family as our oldest daughter, her husband and their children said goodbye to a treasured canine companion, Maci.

In our times of grief, God is surely at work even though we may not be particularly aware of it. Today’s reading from Streams in the Desert compiled by Lettie Burd Cowman, is a good reminder of the work God is doing. Here it is in its entirety.

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. (Isaiah 40:1)

Store up comfort. This was the prophet Isaiah’s mission. The world is full of hurting and comfortless hearts. But before you will be competent for this lofty ministry, you must be trained. And your training is extremely costly, for to make it complete, you too must endure the same afflictions that are wringing countless hearts of tears and blood. Consequently, your own life becomes the hospital ward where you are taught the divine art of comfort. You will be wounded so that in the binding up of your wounds by the Great Physician, you may learn how to render first aid to the wounded everywhere. Do you wonder why you are having to experience some great sorrow? Over the next ten years you will find many others afflicted in the same way. You will tell them how you suffered and were comforted. As the story unfolds, God will apply the anesthetic He once used on you to them. Then in the eager look followed by the gleam of hope that chases the shadow of despair from the soul, you will know why you were afflicted. And you will bless God for the discipline that filled your life with such a treasure of experience and helpfulness. selected

God comforts us not to make us comfortable but to make us comforters.
John Henry Jowett

They tell me I must bruise
The rose’s leaf,
Ere I can keep and use
Its fragrance brief.

They tell me I must break
The skylark’s heart,
Ere her cage song will make
The silence start.

They tell me love must bleed,
And friendship weep,
Ere in my deepest need
I touch that deep.

Must it be always so
With precious things?
Must they be bruised and go
With beaten wings?

Ah, yes! by crushing days,
By caging nights, by scar
Of thorn and stony ways,
These blessings are!

Question:
What do you think about the following statement?
God comforts us not to make us comfortable but to make us comforters.

Please post your responses to this question and all other comments to this blog site.

Today’s music video features Cece Winans.
Comforter

Grace Upon Grace,
George