“The Ins and Outs of Lent”

It’s March and depending on how you look at it, spring is either here or just around the corner. If you are a weather aficionado, someone who loves to pore over the maps meteorologists produce showing the high and low pressure systems coming our way, then you know that spring is here. March 1 is the start of meteorological spring. On the other hand, if you go by the astronomical calendar which looks at the rotation of the earth around the sun, you’ve got until March 21, the day the sun runs parallel to the earth’s equator, before you can say spring has sprung. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take spring as soon as I can get it—give me the meteorological calendar anytime.

Either way you look at it, March can be a month of extremes. We could have snow, or temperatures in the 80s. The old-timers tale about March comes to mind: “in like a lion and out like a lamb.” I found this poem by Lorie Hill that expresses these extremes:

In Like A Lion, Out Like A Lamb

March roars in

like a lion so fierce,

the wind so cold,

it seems to pierce.

The month rolls on

and Spring draws near,

and March goes out

like a lamb so dear.[1]

These “ins and outs” associated with the month of March made me think about Lent. According to the church calendar, Lent covers most or all of the month of March. (It all depends on when Easter falls, which depends on when Passover takes place). For Christians, Lent is a season of reflection. We are to think more deeply about our relationship with God, about our shortcomings and our mortality—“you are dust, and to dust you shall return”—and about the God who gives us life through Jesus Christ. We reflect on the Passion, the pain and suffering Jesus endured for us. And if we do that in a meaningful way, we are humbled by what God did for us so that we can have an abundant life.

Like the month of March, the season of Lent begins with lions on the prowl.

  • At the start of his ministry, Jesus is baptized, then the Spirit drives him out into the wilderness to face a time of testing by Satan and the harsh desert environment. (Mark 1:9-15)
  • Jesus speaks harsh words to Peter—“Get behind me, Satan!”—when the well-intentioned fisherman rebukes Jesus for saying the Son of Man must suffer and die in Jerusalem. (Mark 8:31-38)
  • In the Temple courtyard, Jesus cracks the whip, literally, and tosses tables to chase away the animals and moneychangers who have dishonored the house of God. (John 2:13-22)

image001With all this temptation and trial, confrontation and conflict, you’d think the lions would come out on top. Not so. In the end, the Lamb of God emerges, broken by the lions of Rome, and lays down his life for a broken humanity.

So as you think about Lent remember that it comes in like a lion all right, but it goes out with the Lamb of God rising on Easter Day.

Join us on April 1 to celebrate our Risen Savior!

Pastor Bob

[1] Lorie Hill, “In Like A Lion, Out Like A Lamb,” Scrapbook.com, https://www.scrapbook.com/poems/doc/694.html.


“Picture That”

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” That’s a question we frequently ask our children. Or, if we fail to ask them, they are quick to tell us what they want to become: a firefighter, a police office, a teacher, an astronaut, a baseball player. I’m sure these old standbys are still popular. And I’m sure they’ve been supplemented by more recent professions that weren’t around “back in the day,” like—computer programmer (not a hacker), videogame designer, social media analyst, or soccer player.

Times may have changed but the imagination of children has not. Ask them what they want to be and right away they will picture themselves in that role, as that person they want to become.

Then we grow up. Reality strikes. Not everyone can be an astronaut/ baseball star/ videogame designer. Fair enough. But do we lose the ability to dream big, God-sized dreams for ourselves? Do we lose the ability we had as children to envision what we might become?

The Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the church in Galatia about what happens to a person when they identify their lives with Jesus:

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Picture that: A life no longer my own, but one that now belongs to Christ.

image001One of my recent devotional readings used the Galatians passage to make this stunning statement:

“Do you love the Lord with all your heart? He accepts us as we are now, and slowly molds us toward His image of what we can be. He knows us as we will be, and works to conform us to that image.”[1]


In case you missed the stunner, here it is: “He knows us as we will be…”

If we stop to think about who we are now, we should cringe at the thought of what God sees. But the good news is, who we are now is not all God sees. In fact, it’s not the main thing God sees when God looks at us. God sees what we will become in God’s future. We are works in progress, but God sees the finished product. In good Wesleyan terms, God sees us as our “perfected” selves, made perfect in love by Christ and in Christ.

Jesus told his disciples to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). It’s not something we do our own. It’s what we allow God to accomplish in us when we give our lives to Christ. This is not an easy thing because it requires death. It takes death of the self (“I have been crucified with Christ”); and it takes surrender of our worldly appetites, loyalties and allegiances.

It is not easy. In fact, it is a daily struggle to place ourselves in the will of God. When we do, the picture God has in mind for us becomes clearer. The image of God in us is restored. And the image of Christ takes shape in us.

Give over to God all that drags you down.

Give over to God your struggles, bad habits, and unwanted desires.

Give over to God your shortcomings, hurtful relationships, and pain.

Give over to God your puffed-up sense of self-importance and pride.

And receive the gift from God—forgiveness and acceptance as beloved children of God, sisters and brothers of Christ.

Picture that!

Pastor Bob

[1] Celtic Daily Prayer, (London: Collins, 2005), 609.

“The Christmas Difference”

Original versionWhat a difference a week makes! And what a contrast between the silent night, holy night of Christmas Eve and the hoopla of New Year’s Eve. Two nights, separated by seven days, and celebrated in markedly different ways. Consider:

On New Year’s Eve, there are lights in the sky as cities and towns around the globe launch fireworks to celebrate the birth of a New Year. At Christmas, a star provided the light that guided wise men to the place where Jesus lay.

On New Year’s, shouts and cheers of joy reverberate in the streets as crowds of people, some packed together like sardines, revel in the change of years. At Christmas, the streets of Bethlehem were empty, the inns were full, and the only shouting came from a young peasant girl as she gave birth to her firstborn son.

On New Years, we sing “Auld Lang Syne,” (the phrase can be translated as “old long since” or more simply “long, long ago”) to bid farewell to the old and usher in the new. On Christmas, the shepherds heard angels sing “glory to God in the highest” as a way to say farewell to the old age that separated God and humankind, and welcome the new age of Emmanuel, God with us.

With New Year’s come resolutions and promises to make positive changes in our lives in the coming year; we hit the “refresh” button on those parts of our lives we want to change. With Christmas comes the fulfillment of God’s promise to never leave us; with the birth of Jesus, God gives us the way to “refresh” our lives by forgiving our sins and making us new creations.

The New Year’s spirit of joy and sense of newness will last a short time, about as long as a New Year’s resolution. But the joy, hope, peace and love that come from God through Jesus will last a lifetime.

To keep the joy and peace of Christmas in our hearts all year long requires that we yield our lives to God. Every day, we have to make way for God in our lives, to get ourselves out of the way so that God’s self can be formed in us. It’s hard, to be sure, and we have to work at it constantly. But that, after all, is what being a disciple of Jesus is all about.

The message of Christmas is one for the entire year. It’s God’s way of saying, in the words of Jesus: “My peace I leave you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives…Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

Let’s make a Christmas difference all year long. Let’s start by making a difference in our lives with a simple prayer like this: “Jesus, make me more like you this day. Let me carry the love, the joy, the hope and the peace of Christmas with me every day; and with your help, let me share them with those I meet. Amen.”


Pastor Bob

Celebrating God

Each year in the United Methodist Church, we have an opportunity to share the many ways God is at work in our faith community at a meeting called the Church Conference (sometimes Charge Conference).  The following selection is from my report for 2017.  Enjoy!


“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples.”  (John 8:31)


We live in God’s Word so we can live out God’s Word.  That’s what it means to be disciples of Jesus.  Living in the Word means learning what Jesus has to say to us through Bible study, prayer, worship and connection with others.  Living out the Word of God puts faith into practice.  We serve others out of our love for God.  Living in, living out.  It’s as natural as breathing only now, we are breathing in the Holy Spirit of God and breathing out blessing on others.  Thanks be to God for the new life that is in us through Jesus, the Word for the World.

Over the past year, the disciples of Jesus at Weller UMC lived in the Word and lived out the Word in numerous ways.  Every effort was a team effort, and thanks are due to all our team leaders and team members for their faithful service to the Lord.

  • The 2017 Confirmation Class ran over a period of 12 weeks and “graduated” 10 youth, 8 of whom joined the church.
  • Vacation Bible School hosted 15 to 20 “superheroes” for God each night and imparted God’s love in creative and memorable ways.
  • We continued our partnership with Sabillasville Elementary School with several volunteers in the classrooms and a book drive that gave out over 360 books to the 120 students for summer reading.
  • Our handbell choir rang out praise to God while the voice choir sang out the glorious news of new life in Jesus during our Christmas and Easter cantatas.
  • The Missions Team led us out in service to Mission Central, the Food Bank, and other nearby charities.
  • The Renovate 185 fundraising campaign reached the $47,000 mark (out of $100,000) and replaced two air conditioning systems in just four months.
  • We are on track to meet 87% of our apportionment payments for the year, up from 72 % last year and 28% just four years ago, demonstrating our commitment to be in ministry to all the world.

This year was especially joy-filled for me as I completed the requirements for full membership in the Order of Elders and was ordained at annual conference in a service I will always cherish and remember.  I thank the Weller UMC family for the grace and love you have shown me and my family these past four years.

2018 will witness continued growth in Christ as we learn more from Jesus through Disciple Bible Study and sermon series that will inform and form our spiritual journey together.  We will seek a new vision for Weller, and we will continue to welcome all who seek the love and grace of Jesus, equip them for service, and reach wide to share God’s love.  Living in the Word, living out the Word.  It’s as natural as breathing.  Praise God!

“Time With God”

“But when you pray, go into your inner room, shut your door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen.” (Matthew 6:6)

Here we are at the beginning of August and I’m wondering how it got here so fast.  I know, I know; “time is fleeting.”  And it seems to pass faster the older I get.  There are lots of other truisms about the passage of time; naturally, I don’t have time to quote them.  But seriously now, August?

With seven months of the year behind us, it’s time for a checkup on our use of time.  How have you been using yours?  William Penn, the real estate mogul, Quaker and founder of the Pennsylvania colony, is quoted as saying:

“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.”  (William Penn)

I’ve found that to be too true.  There are times in my life when I’ve wasted this most precious resource and gift from God.  The excuse I use is that I don’t have enough time to take care of the important things.  But the truth is, you make time for what’s important.

Since I’m finding some great quotes on the internet, here’s one more that’s worth thinking about:

“There’s only one thing more precious than our time and that’s who we spend it on.”  (Leo Christopher)

I like this one.  It turns the question of using time inside out.  It’s not so much how you spend your time but who you spend it with.  Who do you spend your time with?  Family?  Friends?  Are you spending some quality time with God?

2017-06-19_FeaturedArtOneJesus knew the importance of spending time with God.  “After he had sent them away, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.  When evening came, he was there alone” (Matthew 14:23).  Jesus knew that in spite of his busy schedule with the crowds (or, really, because of it), he needed time with God.  Jesus understood the only way to know the will of the Father was to spend some time away from the busyness of the world.  That way he could listen for the voice of God, receive the affirmation of his loving Father, and draw strength for the work of the Kingdom.

We, too, need spend time with God every day.  It doesn’t matter when you pray (morning, noon, evening or night); and, it doesn’t matter how you pray (out loud, silently, standing, sitting).  What matters is who you spend the time with.

Be blessed.  “Pray without ceasing, pray.”

Pastor Bob


“The Main Thing”

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Steven Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” (John 12:46)cross_6708c

The last month contained some real highpoints for Weller UMC, and for me, personally, as your pastor. At this year’s Annual Conference, it was a joy and privilege to be ordained as an Elder in full connection in the United Methodist Church. This was the culmination of many years answering God’s call to ministry, and I continue to thank God each day for the gift of ministry and the blessing to be your pastor. By God’s grace, we have come thus far; and by God’s grace, we have more to do together in the years to come.

Two other highpoints in the life of this faith family were the reception of new members through the confirmation class and those who joined the church at the end of June. These were joy-filled moments for us as we acknowledged and celebrated the grace of God at work in these lives as they become/join us in the journey of faith in Jesus Christ.

As I reflect on these moments, I am struck by the powerful, yet simple, questions we answer to profess our faith in Christ. As a refresher, these words from the Covenant for Baptism and Reception into the UMC are:

  • Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?
  • Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?
  • Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?

The answer, in each case, is “I do.” And with this, we pledge ourselves to follow the lead of Jesus, to serve God in and through the church by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

These words, and those that follow in the service, focus us on the main thing that God is about in the world: salvation, redeeming what was lost, restoring the image of God in humankind, making all things new. This is “the main thing” that Jesus came into the world to accomplish. And it is the main thing that we, as the church, are called to keep doing in the name of Our Lord.

This month marks the start of my fifth year as pastor of Weller UMC. As we enter this new year together, let us make “the main thing the main thing,” in the words of leadership mentor Steven Covey. Let us, in the words of the book of Hebrews, “fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Let us commit to following Jesus ever more closely in the coming year so that we draw closer to God and we reach out to those whom God sent Jesus to save—the least, the last, the lost.

God’s salvation is for all. Let us keep on following Jesus into God’s future. And may we continue to be channels of God’s grace flowing into the world by the Spirit of Him who came to save us all.


Pastor Bob

“A Time for Love”

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7)

This is the month for love, or so the greeting card companies and candy makers would have us believe. (Personally, I think every month is the month to remember our spouses or sweethearts, and to be thankful that God has gifted our lives with their love). But February stands apart. Come the 14th, on Valentine’s Day, millions of us (myself included) will remember those we love with a card and with chocolate (is there any other kind?) candy.

In the book Forgiveness, Finding Peace Through Letting Go, pastor and author Adam Hamilton encourages us to use special days like Valentine’s Day to tell our spouses just how much we appreciate them. This goes a long way toward keeping our love “ledgers” focused on the credit side. Add up the ways your loved one blesses you this Valentine’s Day. Do away with the debit side of the ledger, those irritating or annoying things your spouse or loved one does. Do this, and you will practice love and forgiveness the way God in Christ loves and forgives us.

img_3258But don’t let your love stop there. Jesus also commanded his followers to love their neighbors as themselves. That is way easier said than done because it means loving people who are not like us, people who don’t look like us or talk like us, people with whom we may disagree strongly on certain issues. (Remember the “Good Samaritan” was a contradiction in terms to first century Jews). Nonetheless, Jesus commands us to love those who are different from us. “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13:34). Note that he doesn’t ask, plead or beg us to love others—this is a command.

Learning to love is hard. But learning to love is life. It is learning to see the sacred in another person who is made in God’s image, especially when that image does not conform to our own. When we love one another, this is the life of God in Christ Jesus that is our life as his disciples.

As we mark Valentine’s Day this year, my prayer is that we will practice love the way God in Christ showed love toward us—unselfishly, wholeheartedly, unconditionally.

And I pray that in a time when people in our communities and our nation are so divided, so ready to cast stones at those they perceive as enemies, that we stop and take a fresh breath of God’s Spirit. Let us learn to recognize the image of God in the other; respect the differences, rejoice in what brings us together; and, continue to stand for mercy and justice for all people. Let us learn to love others—it may be the hardest thing we do this year.


Pastor Bob