06/01/2016 Transitioning to a New Blogsite

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,


08/01/2018 Jesus Prayed As If It Made a Difference

Here is an excerpt from chapter 6 of Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? by Philip Yancey.

After surveying Jesus’ practice of prayer, I realize that his example does answer one important question about prayer: Does it matter? When doubts creep in and I wonder whether prayer is a sanctified form of talking to myself, I remind myself that the Son of God, who had spoken worlds into being and sustains all that exists, felt a compelling need to pray. He prayed as if it made a difference, as if the time he devoted to prayer mattered every bit as much as the time he devoted to caring for people.

A physician friend of mine who learned I was investigating prayer told me I would have to start with three rather large assumptions: (1) God exists; (2) God is capable of hearing our prayers; and (3) God cares about our prayers. “None of these three can be proved or disproved,” he said. “They must either be believed or disbelieved.” He is right, of course, although for me the example of Jesus offers strong evidence in favor of that belief. To discount prayer, to conclude that it does not matter, means to view Jesus as deluded.

In keeping with his race, Jesus truly believed that prayer could change things. Romans of the time prayed to their gods as one would finger a good luck charm, not really expecting much. The skeptical Greeks derided prayer, their playwrights weaving foolish, ridiculous, and even obscene prayers into their plays to provoke the audience to uproarious laughter. Only the stubborn Jews, despite their tragic history of unanswered prayers, contended that a supreme and loving God ruled the earth, listened to their prayers, and would someday respond.

Comments? Please post them to this blogsite.

Today’s music video features Carman.

Grace Upon Grace,

07/31/2018 Entirely God’s

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

Let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. —James 1:4

Many of us appear to be all right in general, but there are still some areas in which we are careless and lazy; it is not a matter of sin, but the remnants of our carnal life that tend to make us careless. Carelessness is an insult to the Holy Spirit. We should have no carelessness about us either in the way we worship God, or even in the way we eat and drink.

Not only must our relationship to God be right, but the outward expression of that relationship must also be right. Ultimately, God will allow nothing to escape; every detail of our lives is under His scrutiny. God will bring us back in countless ways to the same point over and over again. And He never tires of bringing us back to that one point until we learn the lesson, because His purpose is to produce the finished product. It may be a problem arising from our impulsive nature, but again and again, with the most persistent patience, God has brought us back to that one particular point. Or the problem may be our idle and wandering thinking, or our independent nature and self-interest. Through this process, God is trying to impress upon us the one thing that is not entirely right in our lives.

We have been having a wonderful time in our studies over the revealed truth of God’s redemption, and our hearts are perfect toward Him. And His wonderful work in us makes us know that overall we are right with Him. “Let patience have its perfect work….” The Holy Spirit speaking through James said, “Now let your patience become a finished product.” Beware of becoming careless over the small details of life and saying, “Oh, that will have to do for now.” Whatever it may be, God will point it out with persistence until we become entirely His.

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Today’s music video features Carman.
Radically Saved

Grace Upon Grace,

07/30/2018 The Other Side of the Dialogue

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 5 of Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? by Philip Yancey.

In prayer I speak haltingly at first, “slow of speech and tongue” like Moses. I open my soul, exposing by will what God already knows by wisdom. The psalms tell of panting with an open mouth, of thirsting for the living God, of longing for God as parched earth longs for water. They sound like letters from a heartsick lover, and at the core that’s what we seekers are. I tell myself that God is inclining an ear to my prayer, and over time I learn to believe it. I see that God, like most of us, cares mainly about being loved, believed, trusted, honored.

As I persist at prayer, I recognize an answering partner who takes up the other side of the dialogue, a kind of internal alter ego representing God’s point of view. When I want revenge, this partner reminds me of forgiveness; when obsessed with my own selfish needs, I am struck with the needs of others. Suddenly I realize I am not talking to myself in this inner dialogue. The Spirit of God is praying within me, communicating the will of the Father.

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Today’s music video features Lou Fellingham.
God of Mercy (Prayer Song)

Grace Upon Grace,

07/29/2018 This Old House

Over the past several years, learning about my family genealogy has become of greater interest to me. Earlier this month, I was able to trace one branch of my family tree back several more generations than I had previously. I had already known about my great grandmother Mary “Molly” Eleanor Bowman Orebaugh, but it wasn’t until doing some further research two weeks ago that I learned not only the identity of her parents but also of her paternal grandparents and two more generations of Bowmans before them.

After learning the names of my fifth great grandfather and of his wife, I soon learned that they had been born in Germany and that they were immigrants to the colony of Pennsylvania shortly before 1750 aboard a ship known as Patience. His name was Johannes Georg Bauman, and her maiden name was Maria Barbara Keller. In the early 1770’s, they moved into the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, and the spelling of their last name had been anglicized to Bowman. He was known as George Bowman.

Furthermore, I learned that he had built a small log farmhouse in Timberville in 1773. His grandson, John, built an addition on to that house in 1820. To my amazement, I learned that the house was still in existence! It had been donated to the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton more than a decade ago. It had been dismantled, moved and reconstructed as a permanent display.

Yesterday, Rebecca and I were able to go to see this reconstructed house that was originally built seven generations ago by my 5th great grandfather Bowman. It was quite an experience to walk around inside the original 3 rooms of this house dating back 245 years and then inside the 198 year-old addition built by my 3rd great grandfather Bowman.

We also traveled to Timberville to visit the grave sites of three generations of my Bowman ancestors, including that of John who added the room to the house in 1820.

Thank You, Lord, for what I have learned so far about my family’s heritage.

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Today’s music video features Andrew Peterson.
Matthew’s Begats

Grace Upon Grace,

07/28/2018 God’s Full Attention

For the last few days in these blog posts, I have been sharing excerpts from Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? written by Philip Yancey.  Here is how he concludes a chapter entitled “The God Who Is.”

Prayer that is based on relationship and not transaction may be the most freedom-enhancing way of connecting to a God whose vantage point we can never achieve and can hardly imagine. Quoting a psalm, Peter assures us that “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer.” We need not bang a drum or bring animal sacrifices to get God’s full attention; we already have it.

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Today’s music video features MercyMe.
Even If

Grace Upon Grace,

07/27/2018 Hearing God in Silence

Dayspring Silent Retreat Center-Germantown, Md
In the following paragraphs from Chapter 4 of his book Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? Philip Yancey tells about his experience on a silent retreat.

The author Brennan Manning, who leads spiritual retreats several times each year, once told me that not one person who has followed his regimen of a silent retreat has failed to hear from God. Intrigued and a bit skeptical, I signed up for one of his retreats, this one extending over five days. Each attendee met for an hour each day with Brennan, who would give us assignments for meditation and spiritual work. We also met for a daily worship time during which only Brennan talked. Otherwise we were free to spend our time as we wished, with one requirement: two hours of prayer per day.

I doubt I had devoted more than thirty minutes to prayer at any one session in my life. The first day I wandered to the edge of a meadow and sat down with my back against a tree. I had brought along Brennan’s assignment for the day and a notebook in which to record my thoughts. How long will I stay awake? I wondered.

To my great fortune, a herd of 147 elk (I had plenty of time to count them) wandered into the very field where I was sitting. To see one elk is exciting; to watch 147 elk in their natural habitat is enthralling. Yet, as I soon learned, to watch 147 elk for two hours is, to put it mildly, boring. They lowered their heads and chewed grass. They raised their heads in unison and looked at a raspy crow. They lowered their heads again and chewed grass. For two hours nothing else happened. No mountain lions attacked, no bulls charged each other and locked antlers. All the elk bent over and chewed grass.

After a while the very placidity of the scene began to affect me. The elk had not noticed my presence and I simply became a part of their environment, taking on their own rhythms. I no longer thought about the work I had left at home, the deadlines facing me, the reading that Brennan had assigned. My body relaxed. In the leaden silence, my mind fell quiet. . . .

I said few words during my two-hour prayer time that day, but I learned an important lesson. Job and the Psalms make clear that God finds pleasure not only in human companions but in the manifold creatures on this planet. A scene from nature that stands out as a highlight for me, God “sees” every day. I had gained another glimpse of my place in the universe, and God’s the view from above.

I never saw the elk again, even though every afternoon I searched the fields and forest for them. Over the next few days I said many words to God. I was turning fifty that year, and I asked for guidance on how I should prepare my soul for the rest of life. I made lists, and many things came to mind that would not have come to mind had I not been sitting in a field for hours at a time. The week became a kind of spiritual checkup that pointed out paths for further growth. I realized how many afterimages of God I still bore from childhood, and how I responded to God with a certain reserve, perhaps even with distrust. I heard no audible voice, and yet at the end of the week I had to agree with Brennan that I had heard from God.

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Grace Upon Grace,

07/26/2018 Self-Exposure in Prayer

Here is another excerpt from Chapter 3 of Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? by Philip Yancey.

It occurred to me one day that though I often worry about whether or not I sense the presence of God, I give little thought to whether God senses the presence of me . When I come to God in prayer, do I bare the deepest, most hidden parts of myself? Only when I do so will I discover myself as I truly am, for nothing short of God’s light can reveal that. I feel stripped before that light, seeing a person far different from the image I cultivate for myself and for everyone around me.

God alone knows the selfish motives behind my every act, the vipers’ tangle of lust and ambition, the unhealed wounds that paradoxically drive me to appear whole. Prayer invites me to bring my whole life into God’s presence for cleansing and restoration. Self-exposure is never easy, but when I do it I learn that underneath the layers of grime lies a damaged work of art that God longs to repair.

“We cannot make Him visible to us, but we can make ourselves visible to Him,” said Abraham Joshua Heschel. I make the attempt with hesitation, shame, and fear, but when I do so I feel those constraints dissolving. My fear of rejection yields to God’s embrace. Somehow, in a way I can only trust and not understand, presenting to God the intimate details of my life gives God pleasure.

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Today’s music video features The City Harmonic.

Grace Upon Grace,