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You Don’t Have to be Home Alone…

A favorite Christmas movie is the kid’s move, “Home Alone.”  It’s a comedy about a little boy named, “Kevin,” who, as part of a big family, is accidentally left behind when his family leaves for a European vacation.  The comedy occurs as this little boy repeatedly messes up the plans of a couple of bumbling burglars by setting up all these wild traps. 

What captured my attention was what happened on Christmas Eve as Kevin is all alone.  He goes to church and meets an older man who is unhappy about family problems.  As the two talk, Kevin admits feeling guilty because right before his family left he told his mom in a fit of anger, “I wish you would just go away!”  and now he was missing her terribly.

The old man then said, “You’re in church now and this is the place to come when you’re feeling bad about yourself.”

He was right, wasn’t he?   The church is the body of Christ and it would have never come into existence if it wasn’t for Christmas.  It’s the place to come when we need comfort; when we need forgiveness; when we need strength; when we need direction; when we need a new start. 

In 1939 a man named Robert May worked in the publicity department for Montgomery Ward stores. He was asked to come up with a new story for Christmas so he mixed two stories… the story of Santa Claus and the story of the Ugly Duckling and came up with a new story called, “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

You know why we like the Rudolph story so much, don’t you? Not just because it’s a cute story that was made into a catchy tune. No, we like this story because it’s about rising above defeat. It’s about turning a defeat into a victory.  Rudolph was teased and taunted because of his red nose… but then in the end, he becomes the hero.

Jesus came into the world as a baby.  He came into a world in which people felt down and out without any hope.  But Christ came to give us hope and confidence that with Him nothing is impossible.  He showed us from the manger to the cross that His love is the most POWERFUL and REDEEMING THING IN THE UNIVERSE… and that if we would simply believe and trust Him; nothing can defeat us. 

This Christmas I invite you to come and let us adore the one who is able to give us abundantly beyond anything we can think or imagine (Eph 3:20) and in His presence let us receive the ultimate healing that comes from His grace. 

Merry Christmas,

Bill

DAYENU

As we approach our National Holiday of THANKSGIVING, Psalm 136 has been on my heart:

Psalms 136:1-9, 23-26
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
           His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
           His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords.
           His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to him who alone does mighty miracles.
           His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to him who made the heavens so skillfully.
           His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to him who placed the earth among the waters.
           His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to him who made the heavenly lights.
           His faithful love endures forever.
 …the sun to rule the day,
           His faithful love endures forever.
 …and the moon and stars to rule the night.
           His faithful love endures forever.
He remembered us in our weakness.
           His faithful love endures forever.
He saved us from our enemies.
           His faithful love endures forever.
He gives food to every living thing. 
           His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of heaven.
           His faithful love endures forever.

I love the way the Message paraphrases it, “His Love never quits.”  I think that’s what God wants us to hear this Thanksgiving.  HIS LOVE DOESN’T QUIT!   Isn’t that awesome!

Back in the early 70’s Kris Kristofferson wrote a song titled, “Why Me, Lord?” He wrote the song in response to all the negative people who go through life having a pity party saying, “Why me, Lord?” and he reversed it and put a positive twist to it, “Why me, Lord, What have I done to deserve even one of the good things you’ve done.”  

I believe you can say, “Why me,” in two different ways.  Somebody once said, “Anything short of hell is grace.”   That’s rather strong language and has some rough edges, but I agree with the statement.  The Bible clearly teaches that “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” and that “the wages of sin is death.”  

My prayer for all of us is for this Thanksgiving to be a time in which all of us can take inventory on HOW GOOD GOD IS!  

The Jews have a word DAYENU (Hebrew:דַּיֵּנוּ) that means, “It would’ve been enough,” that they sing during Passover.  As they remember the FAITHFULNESS of God they sing,

“If God had delivered us out of Egypt, but had not parted the Red Sea.
DAYENU.”
“If God had parted the Red Sea, but had not fed us manna in the wilderness
DAYENU.”
“If God had fed us manna in the wilderness, but had not led us to Sinai
DAYENU.”
“If God had led us to Sinai, but did not give us the Tora
DAYENU.”
“If God have us the Tora, but did not give us the Promise Land
DAYENU.”
“If God gave us the Promise Land, but did not give us the Temple
DAYENU.”

… and I would add, “If God gave us His Son to die for our sins and give us His righteousness… DAYENU (It would’ve been enough!!)

Let us give thanks to the Lord for He is Good.   His LOVE endures FOREVER!

Thankful to be your pastor,

Bill

Kairos 38 Eastham

October 24-27th was Kairos #38 in Eastham (Just outside of Huntsville Texas). It was a special, eye opening walk. It was a awesome thing to see these men who have been hardened by the prison system begin to open up and respond to God’s GRACE!

What’s in Your Spiritual Wallet

Bill Stegemueller preaching at Medina United Methodist Church in a message entitled, “What’s in Your Spiritual Wallet,” taken from Ephesians 1:3-7

The Apostle’s Doctrine…

From the Heart of Bill

A couple of months ago  I opened up a dialogue on what made the early church so EFFECTIVE in reaching people for Jesus Christ.  We looked at Acts 2:42-47 and talked about FELLOWSHIP and PRAYER.  This month I want us to focus on the importance of the APOSTLE’S DOCTRINE

Acts 2:42–47 (NKJV) — 42 And they continued steadfastly in the APOSTLES’ DOCTRINE and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

What does it mean when it says that the church continued steadfastly in the APOSTLE’S DOCTRINE?  This is referring to the inspired teachings of the apostles which was delivered orally at first and is now preserved in the New Testament.   They were eager to learn everything they could about the Lord.

Notice this was something they CONTINUED STEADFASTLY in.    Just as they continued with FELLOWSHIP and PRAYER.  They also continued in the APOSTLE’S DOCTRINE.

I love the fact that Medina United Methodist Church has always been hungry for the whole counsel of God.  That’s one of the reasons we are very intentional about studying the Bible expositionally.  That is, book by book; chapter by chapter; verse by verse not skipping over the uncomfortable portions of Scripture.

No, the original apostle’s are no longer with us, but they left us the inspired written word that we can have access at any time.  That is HUGE! 

I encourage us to CONTINUE STEADFASTLY in the word of God. 

Remember my challenge as we work through the book of Ephesians?  There are six chapters in Ephesians.  Let’s read through the book (a chapter a day) every week in preparation of our Sunday Study.  Then let’s reread it and reread it; over and over again with the goal of not just knowing it, but OWNING IT and letting it be a part of it. 

Ephesians has been called, “The Grand Canyon of Scripture,” it is as DEEP as it is WIDE and it (through the Holy Spirit) will change your life. 

See you in Church as we continue to BE THE CHURCH!

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Bill

The Wealth, Walk, and Warfare of the Christian

Bill Stegemueller preaching at Medina United Methodist Church in a message entitled, “The Wealth, Walk, and Warfare of the Christians,” taken from Ephesians 1:1-3

Team Ministry Part 2

Bill Stegemueller preaching at Medina United Methodist Church in the second of a two part series, “Team Ministry,” taken from Ephesians 4:10-18

Team Ministry Part 1

Bill Stegemueller preaching at Medina United Methodist Church in a message entitled, “Team Ministry,” taken from Colossians 4:7-9

From the Heart of Bill: Prayer

From the Heart of Bill

Last month I opened up a dialogue on what made the early church so EFFECTIVE in reaching people for Jesus Christ and we looked at Acts 2:42-47 and talked about FELLOWSHIP.  This month I want us to focus on the importance of PRAYER.

Acts 2:42–47 (NKJV) — 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in PRAYERS. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

The early church had demonstrated a dependence on God in their daily practice of prayer.  Prayer is many things.  It’s not just talking to God, it’s LISTENING to Him.  In other words, it’s INTERACTING with Him. 

Sometimes I think we make prayer more complicated than it needs to be.  Prayer is simply interacting with God and as you develop what I call a “God Consciousness,” you can pray at all times and in all places.  It doesn’t matter if you’re standing or sitting.  It doesn’t matter if your eyes are open or closed.  It doesn’t matter if you pray out loud or silently.   When you think of prayer as INTERACTING with God, prayer becomes as natural as breathing.

Brother Laurence was a French Priest who lived in the 1600’s and he put together a collection of teachings called, “The Practice of the Presence of God.”   The book is Public Domain and can be read and downloaded for free.   In his book, Brother Lawrence writes about little and big ways that we can practice the presence of God.   For example when you sin (and we all do…) why not turn that sin around into something POSITIVE.   It’s important that we confess and repent of sin, but why not also pray…

               “Lord, thank you for reminding me what I am apart from You.”

Do you see the TWIST?  Taking something BAD and turning it around for GOOD.  That’s Biblical.  When Joseph’s brothers repented of the sin of selling Joseph into slavery, Joseph’s response was, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”  (Gen. 50:20)   Romans 8:28 says, “That we know God causes ALL things to work together for good…”   Why not take that principle and use it in our prayer lives?

Practicing the presence of God IS PRAYING.   I also believe that’s what the Bible means when it tells us we need to WALK IN THE SPIRIT.  (Gal 5:16)

WALKING IN THE SPIRIT can be FUN!  Walking in the Spirit means that whatever situation you walk into, you are interacting with God and sizing things up in the spiritual realm.  Dialoguing with God, “What is it you want me to know about this situation?  How do You want me to Pray?  What is You want me to say?  What is it you want me to Do?”

As you WALK IN THE SPIRIT, I encourage you to keep this church and its pastor in your prayers.   Things are going well for us as a church.  The tendency when things are good is not to pray as much.  Prosperity can be a curse when it gets our eyes off God.   That’s why the Christians in China are praying for us.  They view our prosperity as a curse and to a certain degree they’re right.   I know that I go after God with a lot more intensity when things are going BAD than when things are going GOOD (more on this next month…)

Hebrews tells us that we need to always FIX our eyes on JESUS the author and the perfector of our faith.  (Hebrews 12:2)

My prayer is that we PRACTICE THE PRESENCE of God as individuals and as a church. 

Shalom,


Bill

Praying with Purpose

Bill Stegemueller preaching at Medina United Methodist Church in a message entitled, “Praying with Purpose,” taken from Colossians 4:2-6