Many of us had our spiritual lives revitalized and refreshed during our recent Renewal services. Using an analogy commonly found in Scripture, the Holy Spirit lit a revival fire in and among us. The question now becomes, how do we keep the revival fire burning?
The founder of our denomination, John Wesley, had his own heart strangely warmed by God’s power and grace. That divine encounter brought about a spiritual awakening that birthed the people called Methodists. To keep the revival fire burning among early Methodists, Wesley suggested they avail themselves to what he called “the means of grace,” which are God-ordained ways in which we encounter the Lord’s power and presence and receive His goodness and grace. Last year, we studied them in a sermon series called, “Living Grace-Fully.”
We currently find ourselves in the season of Lent. It is a time of preparation for the celebration of Easter by reflecting on what it means to be a follower of Jesus. This special time of the year provides us a marvelous opportunity to renew our commitment to Christ and use the means of grace to keep the revival fire burning – both in our individual lives and in our life together as a church. Let me briefly describe what they entail.
Prayer: John Wesley claimed this was “the grand means of drawing near to God.” It is the primary way in which we develop our relationship with God since all relationships require good communication. Prayer should be practiced both publicly and privately and should express praise, thanksgiving, confession, and intercession. During Lent, find ways to pray in solitude and with other Christians.
Bible Study: Scripture provides “fuel for the fire” as the Word of God and the Spirit of God form a potent combination. On Sunday mornings during Lent, we are exploring the New Testament book of 1 John. I hope you are following along as we read the daily devotional, “This Is How We Know” by J.D. Walt. If you are not, consider reading through the New Testament book on your own or find an alternative Bible reading plan.
Worship: Something very significant happens when God’s people meet together. Using the fire analogy, it is like embers being stirred together into a blaze. Please make a commitment to be in worship every Sunday during Lent.
Fellowship: John Wesley was convinced this was the key to Christian growth, so group fellowship became an indispensable component of the Methodist movement. The revival fire was stoked as early Methodists got together weekly for Bible study, singing, testimony, and prayer. If you’re not already in a small group, Lent is a marvelous time to give it a “test drive” (contact Mindy Clemons, firstname.lastname@example.org, for more information).
Fasting: John Wesley encouraged early Methodists to observe at least one day of fasting each week. While largely neglected in our modern world, fasting (which is abstaining from food for spiritual purposes) serves to remind us of our relationship with and dependence on God. Would you consider setting apart one day or at least one meal each week to fast and seek the Lord?
I believe God is doing something very special in the life of our congregation. I am convinced the Lord will do an even greater work if we engage in these means of grace on a regular basis. So let’s fan into the flame the gift of God’s Holy Spirit and keep the revival fire burning – during Lent and beyond!
Craig CarterLead Pastor, LHUMC
In Acts 3:19, Peter addresses a crowd in Jerusalem and proclaims, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” (NIV) I think we would all agree that, as a result of living in the world in which we do, we oftentimes find ourselves tired and worn out. So we all sense the need to be renewed and reinvigorated. Yet many of the remedies we employ don’t bring us the relief we long for and instead, leave us feeling even more exhausted. But God’s Word provides us the means by which we may find genuine refreshment. It involves turning from our normal, worldly ways and turning toward God. Thought of another way, it is taking time out from our daily lives in order to spend time with the Lord. When that happens, He washes away our sins and renews us with His Spirit. While this sort of activity should take place on a continual basis, we also need for it to happen occasionally in a more concentrated way. It is my hope and prayer that our Renewal conference scheduled for February 10-13 will do exactly that and provide us with a genuine “time of refreshing” from the Lord.
I am very pleased to have my friend and mentor, Rev. Mark Nysewander, coming to lead our time together. Mark is the teaching pastor of the Riverstone Church in suburban Atlanta and has served as a United Methodist pastor, evangelist, missionary, and church planter. He has authored four books and has had a tremendous influence on my life and ministry.
Renewal will begin with a Saturday morning seminar, 9 am – 12 noon, on what spiritual revival looks like and how we can prepare for the next great awakening. Sunday through Tuesday, we will have evening services starting at 6pm with teaching on the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing personal and church renewal. Our worship ministry team will lead the singing at each service and is putting together music that will direct our attention toward God in a variety of styles and formats. All Renewal events will take place in the Transmitter Sanctuary.
I’m especially pleased we are offering a children’s program during our Renewal services. While we are seeking the Lord through worship and teaching, the children will discover “The Gospel According to Dr. Seuss.” The fast-paced program will include Bible lessons and fun activities based on Dr. Seuss books, along with times of praise and worship. In addition, dinner will be available for purchase on Monday and Tuesday evenings for $5 per person ($20 maximum charge per family) to make it easier for families to attend. The nightly activities will always end by 7:30 pm.
Please join me in praying for Renewal as we turn to God for a fresh outpouring of His Holy Spirit. Each night, from 5:00-5:45 pm, we will gather in the Chapel to intercede for our services and seek the Lord’s blessing. Also, if you’d like to serve as an altar worker, either for our regular worship times or Renewal, come to one of the intercessory prayer training sessions that will be held immediately following our morning services on February 4.
I strongly encourage you to do whatever is necessary to free up your schedule so you can attend Renewal. Invite a friend or neighbor to come with you. May we experience a marvelous “time of refreshing” that can come only from the presence of the Lord in our midst. Praying to that end…
Ilook forward to what God has in store for us as a congregation in 2018. We will get things started in a grand way with our Imagine Celebration at all services on January 7. This past fall, we imagined what life would be like if we managed our money God’s way. Through participation in Financial Peace University (FPU) classes, many persons learned how to live within their means and found freedom from debt and worry. On January 7th, we will celebrate how lives were transformed through the experience and “imagine” what might happen when we choose to honor God with all He’s entrusted to our care – not just our money, but our time, talents, and relationships as well. You won’t want to miss this fun and exciting start to the New Year.
We will follow up that celebration with a three-week sermon series called, “Imagine Great Relationships.” Using the Great Commandment as a guide, we will explore how we can fulfill Jesus’ directives to love God, others, and ourselves. I believe we will all benefit from these lessons since life is all about relationships and the Kingdom of God is a kingdom of right relationships.
I am very excited about our “Renewal 2018” that is planned for early February. My friend and mentor, Mark Nysewander, will be coming as our guest speaker. Mark is the teaching pastor at the Riverstone Church in suburban Atlanta and has served as a United Methodist pastor, evangelist, missionary, and church planter. He is the author of four books and has had a tremendous influence on my life and ministry. I really look forward to you meeting him and benefiting from his anointed ministry. On Saturday morning, February 10, Mark will teach a 3-session seminar on the coming of God’s Kingdom and the return of Christ. Then he will serve as the preacher at our Sunday morning services and special nightly services, Sunday through Tuesday, February 11-13. Mark will describe what revival looks like and how we can avail ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit. More details will follow, but for now, please mark your calendars, reserve the dates, and plan to attend. There will be activities for children during the evening services and nursery care will be provided.
As you can see, we are going to get off to a fast start in 2018. I believe we are in for an exciting ride, so “buckle your seat belts” and prepare to see God do His life-changing work. Please join me in praying for the Lord to bring renewal and revival to the Lynn Haven United Methodist Church so we, in turn, can make a difference for Christ and change our community and world. To God be the glory!
I love Sunday morning worship. There is just something about coming together with the people of God, singing praise, hearing the Gospel proclaimed, and being reminded that we are adopted sons and daughters of the living God that puts a smile on my face. While I love what that moment is each and every week, there is a concern that always lives within me on Sundays. The concern is that when the Spirit moves and the feeling of God’s presence is palpable that experience becomes the end goal for which people long.
While a good feeling on Sunday morning is a positive thing, it cannot be the end of worship. Rather that good emotion should launch us towards continuous transformation into Jesus’ image (2 Corinthians 3:18). As those moments transform us they should then transform our actions and cause us to create new doorways to make & grow disciples of Jesus Christ.
Now I don’t know if you noticed it or not but I dropped the word “should” two times in the previous two sentences. Often people use that word “should” to identify lack, where life isn’t being lived as it is supposed to be lived. On this occasion however I use this word should as a mechanism for celebration of what our worship has been and the direction in which it is leading us.
In the recent past during worship services our congregation has heard much about the changes we desire at Fusion. As a result of God moving in hearts and minds, people have responded beyond good feelings. Individuals have since offered financial, time, and spiritual resources to transform Fusion so that we may use it to transform Bay County.
Because of the way past worshipful moments have led to present transformative actions, I’m thrilled to report we’re in the middle of many positive changes at Fusion. We’re seeing the long needed HVAC upgrade realized, have a new and improved nursery facility, will soon have inflatables to use weekly for children’s ministry and weekday recreation events, and have a number of new activities going on, not the least of which are children’s flag football leagues and adult soccer leagues.
While it is a gift to see each of those tangible things transforming in front of me, what is more significant is that I’m already getting to share time with members of our community who, until now, haven’t been a part of Fusion. I’ve been able to share with numerous parents that when they bring their kids they’ll be in a place that is safe and fun, but more significantly is a Christian community where they are welcome. Likewise, I’ve been able to gather at midfield before flag football games and pray over children that they may know and grow in the knowledge of Christ.
As exciting as all of this is, it is not the end, but rather just the beginning of a new cycle of worship. You see when we take moments like this to give thanks for all that God is doing through his people at LHUMC it specially prepares us for even more amazing worship that will lead to new change in us as individuals and as the body of Christ. For those reasons, I thank you for what we’ve been able to do, hope to see you at Fusion through the week and at worship on Sunday, and even more than that look forward to the future God has for us. All of this tells me that the best is yet to come.
Rudy OlivoFusion Campus Pastor, LHUMC