“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



“Looking Backward, Looking Forward”

slide1“It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,’ says the White Queen to Alice.” Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

“Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my Gospel.” Apostle Paul, 2 Timothy 2:8

It’s nearly the start of a new year, which means it’s time for taking stock. The newsfeed on my cellphone is full of the kinds of articles you’d expect to read this time of year. There are lists of the years best and worst in sports, entertainment, world politics, food and more. As I write these words, one article from the Wall Street Journal in my newsfeed is titled: “Best and Worst Ads of 2016: The Things We Can’t Unsee.” How true.

Every year is full of things that happen in the life of the church. Most are good things as we proclaim the life-renewing message of Jesus the Christ in a community, and for a world, that is broken and hurting and desperately in need of Good News. Some things we might like to forget. But like the news article about the advertisements, we cannot “unsee” what has happened in the last year. We can, however, redeem what has passed for the future—for God’s future. “I once was lost,” go the words of one of the greatest hymns ever, “but now I’m found; was blind, but now I see.”

So at the risk of overloading you with another list for 2016, here are some of the ways Weller UMC contributed to God’s mission of redeeming what has passed for the God’s future:

  • Missions: We had several trips to Mission Central where volunteers helped sort and organize in their warehouse; donated to local charities; supported Food Bank; Angel Tree for 25 children; Operation Christmas child collected 112 shoeboxes for children.
  • For children: Sunday School classes led by dedicated teachers and the great fun of VBS in June; dedicated a playground behind the Weller House.
  • For Youth: In addition to Youth Group meetings in the spring and fall, several youth and adults went on a mission trip in August; also took part in a retreat at Camp Manidokan in November with Good Shepherd UMC.
  • Puppet Ministry: The Potter’s Hands gave inspiring messages during worship and held a community show at the church in March.
  • For Adults: Three adult Sunday School classes met during the year; several short term Bible studies during the year.
  • SES: Our partnership with Sabillasville Elementary School continues with a lunch for teachers hosted by Deerfield UMC, several volunteers working with children, and our May-June book drive that collected books for all the children to take home over the summer.
  • Renovation: We painted the halls, Fellowship room, stairwell, office, library, and nursery, and we re-carpeted the Education Wing hallway; replaced bad concrete at the church and parsonage; sponsored an Eagle Scout project for the Weller House.
  • Music: Two beautiful cantatas at Easter and Christmas by the gifted voice and handbell choirs.
  • Fellowship: Several events included the ever-fun Talent Show and the delicious Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.
  • Apportionments: We met our goal for 2016 by paying $15,000 of a nearly $21,000 apportionment that connects us with the global mission of the church. That’s up from paying $6,000 on a $21,500 apportionment in 2013. What great progress!

I’m sure I missed some things but these were a few of the memorable events in the life of the people called Weller UMC in 2016. I give thanks to God for each of you and for all of us together because together, we do so much for the Lord to bring hope, healing and wholeness to our community.

We also need to look ahead to a future full of hope and promise because of what the Lord has done for us. “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the Dead,” wrote the Apostle Paul. When we remember Jesus, we are—in that odd phrase—remembering the future. We remember Jesus is God’s future brought into our present. Jesus shows us what it means to live the life God intended for us from the beginning; a life full of love, peace, mercy and grace; a new life that is ours now and for eternity.

As 2017 dawns, I look forward to sharing another year of beautiful ministry together. I believe God has a lot in store for the people known as Weller UMC in the coming year. Pray for the year to come. Pray in the name of Jesus. Pray without ceasing.

Be blessed,

Pastor Bob


“A Christmas Physics Lesson”

After reading Luke’s account of the nativity once again, I was struck by the amount of motion that takes place in the story.  People and events are moving fast as the birth of the Christ child approaches.  And so is God.

For instance, Luke begins his telling of Christ’s birth with a word going out from the Roman emperor: “In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered” (Luke 2:1).  That command set people in motion—they must go to their appointed towns and villages to be registered.  We always focus on Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem, but we seldom stop to think they were not alone.  Many others must have been on the move in those days trying to get to their hometowns.  People in motion.  That was a lyric from a 60s song: ¹“All across the nation/ Such a strange vibration/ People in motion.” A word goes out; people in motion; and they come home.

Then there’s the part about the angels and the shepherds.  The angels go out to the shepherds in the fields.  They have a word too—a word from God: “I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11).  The shepherds respond by going “with haste” to find the baby lying in a manger, just as the angels foretold.  The word goes out; shepherds in motion; they come home to the love of God in the Christ child.

Each of the actions in the story has a response.  It’s almost like Matthew is rewriting one of the laws of physics—“for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”—to fit the nativity story as God’s law of love: “for every action of God’s love, there is a human reaction.”

What reaction?

“When [the shepherds] saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them” (Luke 2:17).

“But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:18).

“The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen…” (Luke 2:19).

Amazed.  Treasured.  Pondered.  Glorify.  Praise.  How else to respond to such great Good News?  Christ is born in Bethlehem.  Emmanuel!  Now God is with us.

image001As we approach Christmas this year, I’ll be thinking about all the motions we go through to get ready for the big event: the shopping, the cooking, and the traveling (for some).  But I’ll also be thinking about the God who set in motion the greatest love story of any and all time.  The Word from God goes out into the world: “to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”  And once again, I will be amazed.  I’ll treasure this word and ponder it in my heart.  I’ll give glory to God and praise my maker for this exceptional act of love and grace.

And I’ll sing a new song: “All across Creation/ there’s a new vibration/ God in motion.”  And I’ll come home to the love of God in Christ Jesus.

How about you?  God is moving in your life.  Are you ready to come home?

Pastor Bob

¹Scott McKenzie, “San Francisco,” 1967, Metro Lyrics, article on internet, http://www.metrolyrics.com/san-francisco-lyrics-scott-mc-kenzie.html





Chances are most of us have not had to stand a watch; that is, a shift were you were on guard or responsible for something. Those who’ve been in the military or worked as a first responder (police, fire, EMT), however, probably have had plenty of experience on watch.

Standing watch was very common in the ancient world. People on watch worked through the night to make sure an enemy would not sneak up on their town as people slept. Watchtowers were employed to guard important locations or to keep an eye out for approaching enemy forces. Those who stood the watch were given words to use as passwords—anyone with the right word could “pass” or enter the town. Those without the right word, well…good luck.

Over time, watchwords became more like guiding principles for people to follow, kind of like a motto or guiding principle. For someone standing a night watch, “vigilance” might be a good watchword to encourage them to stay awake (although “Caffeine” might be a more appropriate choice). Colleges and universities have their own form of watchwords in their school motto. Mine was a French word, “Essayons,” which means, “I will try.” Maybe that sounds better in French. My class motto is a good one: “By Courage and Strength.”

Watchwords are meant to tell us something about what we value, about what is (or should be) guiding principles for us. They are sometimes handed down by those with a track record of wisdom and experience.

In the letters to Timothy, the Apostle Paul provides some sage advice to his younger protégé about how to be an effective pastor. Paul likely was in prison in Rome, having suffered much for the sake of the Gospel for many years. Before he departed this life, Paul wanted to pass on worthwhile advice to Timothy and to encourage him to stand firm in the faith.

The Second Letter to Timothy contains several passages with guiding principles for Christian life and ministry. Three of those passages are the subject of October’s sermon series entitled “Watchwords.” Watchwords for the faith we can discern from these passages are:

  • Unashamed, 2 Timothy 1:1-14. “But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him” (2 Tim 1:12).
  • Remember, 2 Timothy 2:8-15. “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David—that is my gospel, for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained” (2 Tim 2:8-9).
  • Breathe, 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5. “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:15).

We will explore these watchwords for the faith, what they meant to the first generations of Christians, and how they can inspire and strengthen us today.

Beloved, may you always remain in the love of God, the grace of Jesus Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.


Pastor Bob


“The Prophets According to Pokemon”

We just finished a sermon series on some of the Old Testament prophets: Elisha, Amos and Hosea. These men, and others like them, were much sought after in ancient Israel. People listened to them because they wanted to know, “Is there a word from the Lord?” Folks then believed the prophets had special insights into the heavenly realms—God’s space—that others did not. The words of the prophets pulled back the veil separating the two worlds: the earth below and the heaven above. Through the prophets, God revealed another reality—God’s preferred future for God’s people.

pokemon-go-device-3-1280x2194png-c754e0_640wBy now, most everyone has heard of the wildly popular cell phone-based game Pokemon-Go. The game requires players to go to different sites on a map where they find Pokemon (imaginative cartoon creatures), and capture them using their cellphone cameras. This type of game is known as “augmented reality” because it enables people to operate in two worlds: the virtual world of the game and the real world. With Pokemon-Go, you get to see into another reality.

The wild popularity of “augmented reality” in Pokemon-Go reminded me of one of the stories involving the prophet Elisha. Israel was at war with its neighbor, the Kingdom of Aram. Elisha had been warning the King of Israel about the movements of the Aramean army, so the King of Aram sent troops to capture the prophet in the town of Dothan.

When Elisha’s servant awoke one morning and saw the enemy’s horses and chariots encompassing the town, he cried out to Elisha, “Oh no, my Lord! What shall we do?” Elisha answered: “Do not be afraid, for there are more with us than there are with them.” Elisha prayed for God to open the eyes of his servant and then he saw the hills were filled with horses and chariots of fire all around. In the end, God enabled Elisha and his servant to walk through the enemy lines to freedom.

Elijah 6.18-20_Elisha’s story reminds us that there is another reality at work in our world. It’s the spiritual realm, the Kingdom of God that has come near in Jesus Christ. Like the Pokemon-Go game, we cannot see the “augmented reality” of God’s world all the time. But through Jesus, the veil is drawn back, the reality of God’s mercy and grace are revealed, and we can glimpse the glory of the living God.

“Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see,” the prophet Elisha prayed for his servant. Jesus opened the eyes of the blind—the eyes of those who were physically as well as spiritually blind. And they saw the glory of the Lord. May we live with eyes that are open to the reality of the living God in our lives.

Remember, too, that no matter what struggles you are going through in life, “there are more with us than there are with them.”

You can read the story about Elisha in the Bible, 2 Kings 6:11-23.