Christians are all called “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” This is not only the United Methodist mission statement but it is a command that Jesus gave his disciples in Matthew 18:18b-19 when he said…All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’” 

As a pastor, I see my role as both an administrator of the church and as a guide to help others become disciples and to grow into stronger disciples. The day-to-day administration work helps provide organization, communication, preparation, and structure to support our mission. Sunday sermons and Bible studies are tools I use as a pastor to help disciples grow closer to God. Outreach, visitation, and community service are other ways that I use to make disciples and help them grow in their relationship with God. These are the ways in which I live out our mission. Think about the ways you are supporting our mission and the ways God is using you to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” In what ways are you making disciples of Jesus Christ for the (positive) transformation of the world?

All Christians are disciple-makers because there are people looking at us and learning from our examples, whatever those examples may be. We can make disciples of bitterness, anger, frustration, and division. As we see increasing debates and complaints online and in print, we have witnessed a transformation in our world toward increasing discontent. As we have seen examples of violence multiply, we have witnessed a transformation in our world toward more crime. 

We can make positive transformation happen. We prove we are disciples of Jesus Christ by the ways in which we daily love, think, speak, and act as Jesus Christ. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we become disciple-makers of Jesus Christ. Those are the disciple-makers that will transform the world for the good.

Be a disciple-maker for Christ!

Pastor Don

Love and Peace

Last Sunday we visited the subject of compassionate love in 1 John 3:11-19. Then, Monday, I led a Bible Study in the jail on the Book of James. In both of these circumstances, I was reminded of the need to understand ourselves, understand worldly reactions, and the need to allow God to create change within. 

We tend to let pride, fear, and our past experiences get in the way of love. I know all too well how easy it is to allow circumstances and people in my past to guide how I react to people in the present. When we are triggered by what people say and how people present themselves, it’s often because either their words, or their demeanor reminds us of one who has caused us harm. So, it is difficult to hear what that person is saying as anything other than an effort to cause harm. We know such people exist. Therefore, it makes it challenging to discern when one is doing this on purpose, or if we are merely reading them that way.

That’s why John talks about the necessity to be different than the world in our attitudes and actions. James, who wrote his letter about 40-50 years prior to early Christians addressed the problem of argumentativeness among believers. Whether fueled by past trauma, prideful determination, or just plain misunderstanding, James encourages all of us to learn to tame our tongues in such a way that our words don’t cause hard feelings and battles among believers (James 3:1-4:12).

Submission and humility before God is the key to love and peace with one another (James 4:6-10). What does that do for us? Submission and humility are the first steps to allowing God into our hearts, so that we may get to the root of what is keeping us from loving others as we should. Submission and humility open our souls to repentance and to true lasting change. 

In this Lenten season, may we all continue to work toward submission and humility before God so that we may truly and consistently live in love and peace with one another.

Pastor Don


Gratitude is vitally important to our spiritual and mental health. I encourage you to keep a journal and to write each day things for which you are grateful. Just think about what each one of us has survived. We have survived traumatic experiences, loss, heartache, pain, and in some cases, sickness. As we turn to the Old and New Testaments, we see several examples of those who have experienced great trauma and yet, have been able to not only survive but thrive, thanks to an attitude of gratitude.

1 Thes. 5:16-18, says “Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (NRSV). It is easy to give thanks when everything is going well. When times are hard, we have to work harder to find that for which we are grateful. As we turn to the experiences of others and meditate on what is going well in our own lives, we will get better and the art of gratitude.

I am grateful for faithful leaders, friends, and family who have forgiven errant actions, words, and attitudes. I am grateful to serve among those who believe in the all-sufficient grace of God, the divinity of Jesus Christ, and the comfort, power, and gifts of the Holy Spirit.

I am grateful for my education and for all I have learned in every church in which I have served. Gratitude carries and sustains me. We have lost much but we have also survived much. Through all our losses and challenges, may we always remember to be grateful!

Pastor Don

Itching Ears

There is a deep and intense hunger in our souls. We know we need to fill our hungry ears with that which will sustain and strengthen us. The problem is that we are impatient. We want instant fulfillment. We want fast-food answers that satisfy us and we are prone to jump at the first thing that makes us feel good. 

Our hungry ears become itching ears that cling to the first thing that makes them feel better. Itching is an irritation, while hunger is a yearning to be filled. Itching ears are irritated. Scratching an itch feels good but if you do it too much, infection sets in. 

There is a deep anxiety that seeks anything that will bring relief. Itching ears don’t take the time or expend the energy to ensure the truth or usefulness of what they are hearing. They look for quick relief instead of long-term enrichment. Itching ears cling to what I call “junk food” teachings that only teach health, wealth, prosperity, and blessings. They neglect the life-sustaining bread of God’s Word that teaches the worth of persecution, the importance of endurance, and the necessity of increasing holiness. Rebukes and corrections do not satisfy itching ears, but they will serve as bread to the hungry soul. 

Just like we have to take time to nourish our bodies, we have to slow down and take the time to seek out the necessary ingredients to nourish our souls. Paul tells us in 2 Tim. 3:16, “All scripture is inspired by God.” So, every time we have the opportunity to hear God’s Word, we should take it in urgently, hungrily, and reverently. We may differ on interpretation but we do so with reverence. We, who are hungry for sustaining nourishment for our souls can’t jump to convenient interpretations that only scratch an itch. As people hungry for true nourishment, we must work to learn the context in which the scripture was written, as well as the intended audience.

Why shouldn’t we give into that which we know will make us feel good and draw in the crowds? Why not give in to the easy fix that satisfies us right now and that scratches our itch? Though these messages feel good when we hear them, they bring false and incomplete hope. They shelter us from the hard truths of the world and fail to prepare us for the suffering we all must one day endure. Teachings that do not challenge us, hold us back from growing stronger in our faith and closer to God. 

Paul tells Timothy to  “continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it.” To continue learning about what you believe, your faith has to be on a firm foundation. If you trust the foundations of our faith, why not continue to urgently seek more of the truth to fill your hungry ears? Why settle for shallow words that make you feel good for a moment when you know you need more? We have to keep learning the things of God to get and stay spiritually healthy.

The truth is hard to hear sometimes because it cuts to the depths of our souls. Just as it is easy to give in to junk food when we are hungry, it’s easy to give in to quick sound bites and flowery words that make us feel good. Putting in the effort to seek nourishment instead of scratching an itch reaps long-term benefits for one’s soul. We have to be concerned about the long-term effects on our souls. As continuing to scratch an itch causes infection, and a constant diet of junk food is harmful to our bodies, a constant diet void of deep and challenging truths from the Word of God infects our souls and weakens our spirits. 

If you are not taking in every opportunity to hear and learn from God’s Word, start small but start now. Take notes in the sermons you attend with the expectation that God has something for you within each message. Each week, we hear the Scriptures. Listening with hungry ears will bring nourishment to your soul.

If the words of the hymns do not excite you, slow down and take the time to understand them. I promise that if you think about what you are singing, you won’t be able to help but sing with more strength and volume. In our hymns, we remember in Whom (we) Have Believed,) that the “Word is a Lamp” to our feet, that the Scriptures contain “Wonderful Words of Life.” Our hymns nourish our souls by reminding us of our victory in Jesus, of God’s Amazing Grace, and of so much more.

There must be an urgency with which we approach our time together every Sunday. There must be an urgency to come to fellowship, to go to the table, to sing to God, and to hear the Words of God. We take in Scripture knowing it has an essential purpose: to make us “proficient, equipped for every good work.”

While it is tempting and easy to give in to teachings and experiences that make us feel good at the moment, we have to put in the hard work necessary to satisfy our hungry ears and nourish our souls. We have to keep learning the things of God to get and stay spiritually healthy. 

The lure may be strong to run to fast-food doctrines. Fear, anxiety, and busyness can cause you to settle for other things that do nothing more than scratch and itch. As Jim comes to lead us in our closing hymn, please hear and receive this invitation. Slow down, come to God, and pray. Pray that the itch turns into a hunger. Pray that God restores your hunger for that which is holy. Pray that God awakens the desire to come more often to church, to sing the hymns with joy and strength, to receive Jesus’ invitation to come to His table, to see every part of the service as an act of worship and to take every opportunity to listen and learn from the Word of God.

Scripture Reference: 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

Acceptance Awareness

There are many who struggle with acceptance awareness. Overcome with shame from past mistakes, we are prone to lose self-respect, self-love, and self-acceptance. Our loss of care for ourselves grows in our speech and actions, and we turn increasingly inward to shield ourselves from love. Left unchecked, we can become angry, bitter, and isolated.

There is a shift that has to occur. Instead of denying acceptance, we must be aware, amazed, and grateful for it. This acceptance begins with our awareness of God’s prevenient grace. God tells the prophet, Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations’ (Jer. 1:5). God created us. God reached out to us first. Not only that, God sets us apart from a world of hate and corruption appointed to love others. To do that, we have to love ourselves first. 

Jesus said, says, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” Jn. 15:13. God sent Jesus Christ, God’s only Son to die for you. Yes, for you. God’s love is expansive, unconditional, and healing. It’s time to step out of the darkness of self-doubt and self-loathing. Step into the light of God’s love and acceptance.

May God bless your journey,

Pastor Don.

Photo credit: Keegan Houser on Unsplash

Refusing To Be Comforted

If you think you are the only one who feels down and helpless sometimes, listen to what the psalmist says in Psalm 77: 1-4 and verses 8-9.

1 “I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, that he may hear me.

2 In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted.

3 I think of God, and I moan, I meditate, and my spirit faints. Selah

4 You keep my eyelids from closing; I am so troubled that I cannot speak.

8 Has his steadfast love ceased forever? Are his promises at an end for all time?

9 Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” (NRSV).

Sometimes, we wonder why we have to endure such hardships. We can’t understand why our troubles keep piling up with no end in sight! With the psalmist, we cry out loudly to God, thinking greater intensity and volume may make a difference. At night, as we think about the day, when we should be stretching out to relax our bodies for sleep, we tense our muscles and stretch out to God out of anxiety, fear, and anguish. 

Our souls are most at rest when our lives are stable. We are comfortable when we feel secure and in control. So, it’s no wonder that when life deals brutal blows, we find it difficult or even impossible to feel the comfort we once had. The more brutal, the more difficult it is for us to believe God’s love endures, that His promises are true, and that God’s grace and compassion still abound.

When life’s brutality hits us, it takes a lot of faith to continue to reach out to God. It’s easy to go to church and lift up our hands during the good times but when troubles come, we are tempted to give into depression and hopelessness. 

There is always hope. For a season our souls may refuse to be comforted but God’s presence will continue. We may feel unloved sometimes, but God’s steadfast love endures forever (Ps.136) and his promises are true. God has not forgotten us. God’s grace and compassion are neverending. Don’t give up hope! Comfort will return in time.

Receive that promise!

Pastor Don

Mature in Christ

   In his letter to the Colossians, the Apostle Paul connects maturity in Christ with wisdom. The problem is that without knowledge, wisdom is impossible. Take Paul for example. Before Jesus stopped him on the road to Damascus, he acted upon his limited knowledge of God. His zeal led to the persecution and death of many Christians. Once he knew the truth, his zeal was redirected and his actions changed. In fact, his change was so drastic that his name was changed from Saul to Paul. 

     Knowledge was the first step. His actions proved his wisdom and led to Paul’s maturity in Christ. Among other things, Paul learned that in Jesus Christ is found “all the fullness of God” (Col. 1:19). With this knowledge, wisdom led Paul to spread the word about this and other great truths he learned about Jesus Christ. Paul learned that faith in Christ creates an inner change that is outwardly observed.

     To be mature in Christ is not only to know about Jesus but to be changed by our knowledge of Jesus. Knowing Jesus draws us away from anger and divisiveness and closer to holiness, love, and grace.

     To be mature in Christ is to allow ourselves to be changed by our encounters with Christ. You have heard of Jesus Christ. The challenge now is to get to know Him better. With open hearts, our eyes are opened and we see God in a new light. We are invited by Paul to see the image of God in Jesus Christ. The same one who lived among us, healed us, fed us, and brought us comfort, died to set us free from the power of death and hell. God wants a connection with us that grows stronger each day. May God help us move past our selfishness and immaturity. May God help us all be mature in Christ.

God bless you,

Pastor Don. 

Love With All…

There is a recurring theme in the New Testament that ties faith and love together. In Luke 10:27, Jesus said that the path to eternal life is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself.” 

It seems many have overcomplicated salvation and have made connecting with God difficult for others. If we say we believe the words of Jesus Christ, then we have no business adding requirements for salvation that do not exist. No special prayer has to be said, no outline has to be followed. On the other hand, repentance is clearly required, as the call to repent is found in both the Old and New Testaments. One question left unanswered is, repentance from what exactly? 

One problem is that too many fill in the blank for others. There are those who take the grace of God for granted and feel entitled to do and say what they want. There are also those who add additional rules and regulations on others. We see both extremes. We see people making Christianity too burdensome and we see others foregoing the idea of repentance completely. Where do we find the balance? Based on what Jesus says in Luke 10, I believe we find it in our devotion to God and others. 

When I love God with ALL my heart, my words and actions are guided by God’s love. When I love God with ALL my soul, selfish desires are overcome. When I love God with ALL my strength, my energy is focused on living our lives for God. When I love God with ALL my mind, my thoughts are guided by God, rather than by the world and my own desires. When I love my neighbors as myself, I make better choices, speak with more patience, and give because I care. Let us come and bring others into life eternal through Jesus Christ, our Lord, with love.

God bless you,

Pastor Don

Scripture Reference: Luke 10:25-37

Photo credit: https://www.freeimages.com