The End, or…

 

A final blog post by Pastor Vance Rains…

Congratulations!

You’ve made it to the end – DAY 40 – of the 40-day Summer Stretch!

No more daily devotions to do.  No more journaling.  You don’t have to keep reading Romans 12.  No more daily blogs to read.  No more challenges to try.  No more Facebook posts to read and comment on.  No more books to read.  No more challenging sermons.

It’s over.  You can now return to your normal, same-old, non-stretching, every-day life.

Or… instead of this being the end, could it be the beginning?  

Now that you are loose and limber, from all of this stretching, maybe you’re prepared for something new.  Now that you’re in the habit of doing daily devotions, there’s no reason to stop.  Now that it’s become normal to challenge yourself spiritually, maybe you’re ready to challenge yourself even more (maybe there are some challenges on the list you never got around to – do it now!)  Now that you’ve made some new spiritual friendships, maybe you could keep those relationships going and growing.  Now that your mind has been expanded with new spiritual thoughts and ideas, find some new ones to explore!

And, I promise, there are some more challenging sermons on the way!

What if day-40 isn’t the finish line?  What if day-40 is the starting line?  What if all of this stretching has been preparation for the race that is still in front of us?

On this 40th-day, allow me to offer some questions to reflect on…

  • What have you learned about God during these 40 days?
  • What have you learned about yourself during these 40 days?
  • How has your faith deepened and grown during these 40 days?
  • What, during these 40 days, has challenged or stimulated the most growth in you?
  • If you continued one practice from these 40 days, that would help you to continue to grow, what would it be?

I’m reminded of Philippians 3:13-15,

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Press on, my friends!  Don’t quit now!  This isn’t a spiritual finish line.  This is just the beginning of an amazing adventure of faith, that will continue for eternity.  If you can grow and learn this much in 40 days, just imagine what God can do in you in a year, in a decade, in a life-time!

In the words of the great Bob Marley…

I’m a rebel, soul rebel
I’m a capturer, soul adventurer…

These past 40 days are only the beginning a great, eternal soul adventure!

So, press on, my fellow soul rebels and adventurers!  Press on!  Let’s live by faith!  Let’s go capture it, together!

 

Straight Roads Ahead

Today’s Scripture is Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV),

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Today’s blog post is by Lisa Gonzales, Director of Children’s Ministry…

From as far back as I can remember, I went to church.  I was born and raised in a Methodist home and, not only did we go to church on Sundays, but we often went on Wednesday nights and Saturday nights too.  All my best friends went to church.  Youth Group was my social life.  I was a part of the Wesley foundation at UCF.  I attended and worked at the Warren Willis United Methodist Church Camp for many, many years.  I got married in the Methodist Church I grew up in (by a Catholic priest, but that’s for a whole other blog.)  Plus, all 3 of my kids were baptized in a Methodist Church (here!), by the time they were all 6 months old. Not to mention –  the cherry on the top – I now WORK at a Methodist Church.

Now, you would think I could quote more than one Bible verse (John 3:16). You would think I get up promptly at 5:30am every morning to do my daily devotion, journaling, and prayer time.  You would think I say nothing but kind and loving words to my children.  You would think I would be searching for ways to help others, serve others, share God’s love with others on a daily basis.  You’d think a person like me must have it all together because for years and years and years she has heard about this wonderful person named Jesus and has surrounded herself with the church.

But I don’t.

I have a long way to go.  My road is a bumpy one. I still have a lot to learn about trusting the Lord and submitting my whole self to Him.  It’s hard.  I imagine it might be even harder for someone who, maybe, has not been wrapped in the comfort of church and a loving family.  But we all try.  We all commit ourselves to coming back to church every Sunday.  We buy new devotional books and pretty journals in the hopes of starting fresh.  We try new Bible studies and take notes during Pastor Vance’s sermons.  We listen to Way FM in our cars and pray for our friends and family who are struggling.

All I can say, is keep doing all those things, friends.  I’m proud of you.   You made a decision today to read this blog.  You opened the link in hopes of once again hearing how wonderful our God is and how He can help us. By doing these things, you are trusting in the Lord – He is making your path straight – even if you think you’re just plugging along a very bumpy road.  So, blow the dust off your Bible (again), pick up that pretty journal, open one of your many daily devotionals to today’s date and read it, and keep trying.

Straight roads ahead!

 

Daily Anticipation

Today’s Scripture is Psalm 24:1 (NIV), 

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it the world, and all who live in it;

Today’s blog post is by Monica Hidalgo, Director of Traditional Worship,

Psalm 24 is a psalm of anticipation. David, the shepherd king, is anticipating the arrival of the LORD.

During the last few weeks I have really had a chance to reflect; to inspect and challenge myself in so many ways often anticipating an “experience” through my stretching. What have you experienced? What has really been challenging? What have you failed at? What have you conquered?

One of my successes has been the ability to really see people. Not just the poor and the needy – the list goes on. Not them,  but him and her… to see the individual; their story, who they are and that they belong to God just as much as I do.

God can show up in your life today in an unexpected way. Will you recognize Him? Or like the busy people of Jerusalem, will that moment pass you by? Will we be too caught up in the day to day stuff? Will we be too distracted by social media to recognize the Holy Spirit?

This one verse is such a huge reminder that we all belong to the Kingdom. Let’s take our attention off the mundane things of this world and focus the eyes of our hearts on the Lord. Seek Him daily. The King of glory may be passing by today.

My prayer: Come, Lord Jesus, come. I open my eyes, my heart and my mind to you. I want to see you at work in my daily circumstances (all of them :/).  Help me to anticipate you appearing in my life today. Grant me a pure heart so I can recognize you. Amen.