April, 2020

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed.
1 Peter 4:12-13

Anyone else feel like you can relate to Peter’s words and you find yourself in the middle of a bit of an ordeal? These past few weeks have been anything but business as usual. We have seen things change on an almost daily basis as we have learned new terms like “social distancing”, as well as having a constant stream of reminders before us on proper hand washing etiquette. Many of the things that have been asked of us are not easy. Not being able to gather at the church for worship or other events, not being able to go to our favorite restaurant, or even stop by a friend’s house for a visit, all of these are things that we miss having the freedom to do. It is as if something strange is happening all around us.

It would be easy to let this surprise ordeal catch us off guard and to remain in the quiet of our own homes isolated away from one another. Or we can make another choice. We can remember that we are never alone. And above and beyond that the One who is with us knows a thing or two about suffering. We are in the home stretch of the Lenten season, normally we would be planning a number of worship services for this time. Times for us to be together, to reflect, to repent, to remember what Christ did for all of us.

Jesus knows the pain of isolation, Jesus knows what it is to suffer. If you find yourself struggling in this time it is OK. You are in good company. Know that you are not alone. Christ has sent the Spirit to empower us and encourage us for just such a time as this. The church doors may be closed for the time being, but Christ’s church is not contained by the four walls of any building. We are Christ’s church, each and every one of us and in these most unusual times we can still be glad, we can shout for joy, we can celebrate God’s glory revealed amongst us and through us. We are a resurrection people, it is the reason we normally have a glorious celebration together on Easter morning. While we may not be able to gather together this year, we can still celebrate the awesome gift that is Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. We can be people who live in the joy and hope that this season brings. I hope that you find that joy in the days ahead. I hope you can find time to focus on Christ. Spend time in the Scriptures, read the Passion story for yourself. Read it with fresh eyes and a heart open to the wonder of God’s love.

Easter is coming! Thanks be to God,
Pastor Devin

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March, 2020

Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.”

Psalm 32:11

How many of you put conditions on doing things in your life?  When the weather gets warmer I’ll get out and walk more. As soon as I feel better I’ll get around to finishing that project in the basement.  Right after the holiday I’ll clean up my diet and eat better. When things slow down at work I’ll find more time to spend with my family. When I have some more in savings I’ll be able to give to the Church (or charity, or other group).  

I am willing to bet that all of us are guilty of one of these or something similar at times in our lives.  We often spend our days looking at what is next, or what is possible in some picturesque future that we want to imagine is coming.  In doing so we often miss what is right before us. We short change ourselves, others around us, and sometimes God.  

I think perhaps that is why King David’s words in Psalm 32 stood out to me this week.  He is not placing any conditions that need to be met or any outward circumstances that need to be achieved before he can celebrate in the Lord.  Instead he tells us that regardless of circumstance or hardship we should, “be glad in the Lord and rejoice,” that we should, “shout for joy.”  

I hope King David’s words can ring in our ears during this season of Lent.  It is easy to want to skip ahead to Easter morning and celebrate Christ’s glorious resurrection, but in doing so we can miss out on the here and now.  I hope you can find times throughout this Lenten season to be glad, to rejoice, and to shout for joy without putting conditions on it. This Lent may we practice living in the present, sharing Christ’s love with each other and those we encounter.

Blessings,
Pastor Devin

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February, 2020

He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Luke 10:2 

     Have any of you ever set out to do a job or a task but the simple thought of doing it makes your head hurt? 

     Raking a yard full of leaves; sanding and touching up the outside paint; digging through the attic, garage, or basement to remove years worth of accumulated stuff, these among other jobs are not things we generally look forward to doing.  Sometimes looking at the size of the task, the amount of work to be done, the time that will be necessary to do it, the needed tools or skills, perhaps even the cost of completing it, it can often be overwhelming. Sometimes it can lead us to delay starting the task, hoping against hope that someone, something may magically appear to make it easier, or better yet they will do it for us.  Or other times we might half-heartedly start in on the task. Begrudgingly doing the work, not giving it our all or our full attention, quickly looking for a reason to stop and do something we would rather be doing.

     The verse above from Luke is spoken in a similar vein. Jesus is preparing to send out his followers because he knows that the harvest across the land is plentiful, but there is no way he can do the work alone, even his assembled group is not large enough for the task before them. I often think back to Jesus as he started his ministry here on Earth. How when Jesus started he literally had a one man team. He was it. I imagine it would have been easy to look out across the landscape, to see how far he would have to travel, to realize that there were people far and wide in every direction in need of a Savior, it would have been easy to look at the enormity of the task and simply think this is too much.  How can I hope to make a difference, how is that even possible?

     But, we know that Jesus, even if he did have those questions swirling in his mind, he did go.  He took one step, and then another. He found his first disciple, and then another and another after that.  He went one day at a time, looking for one more lost sheep to bring home to his Father. This verse from Luke comes when Jesus acknowledges that he can only do so much, no matter how hard he tries he is still only one individual person.  And as he says there is a plentiful harvest to be reaped. So he does what any good teacher or leader will do, he calls forth those he has taught and instructed and sends them out to continue the work he has started.  

     I believe all these years later that Jesus is still standing there, looking out at the landscape, realizing that in all directions there is still a plentiful harvest to be had.  So Jesus still turns to his followers, those who have experienced his teaching, his love, his grace for themselves and he says, “Help me. Our Father’s children are still lost in the darkness, help me find them.”

     We can make any number of excuses, the job is too big, there are not enough laborers to do it, I don’t have the skills necessary, we can make the excuses, or we can do as Jesus did and take the first step.  Find the first person to start a relationship with. To talk with and share with and when the time is right to introduce them to our Lord and Savior. The one man who started this all, the one man who still tirelessly works to bring each and every lost sheep home.

God Bless,
Pastor Devin

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January, 2020

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

2 Corinthians 5:17

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

I know, I know, you may be thinking Pastor is still hung up and basking in the wonderful glow of our Christmas Eve Worship and refusing to move forward.  Well you are right that I am still filled with the joy of the time we spent worshiping together and celebrating Jesus’ birth. But I am not hung up and refusing to move forward because the truth is Christmas is not just one day, but a season of twelve days that goes from sunset on Christmas Eve (Dec. 24) through Epiphany (Jan. 5).  In doing a little research I found that the gift giving in some cultures even continues throughout all 12 of those days of Christmas, PLEASE no one share this information with my kids! But I decided that depending on when you receive this I still have a few more days to wish you a Merry Christmas, and I am going to make the most of them!  

Of course we also have another significant day on the calendar, or actually it will be the first day on the calendar for us as we change from our 2019 to our 2020 calendars.  Something about new years and the promised fresh start always seems to bring people hope, and to be clear I think hope in any shape or form is never a bad thing. However, as I was glancing through a devotional book the verse above from 2 Corinthians caught my eye.  As Christians we are all about new life and new creation. Jesus even told Nicodemus that to enter the Kingdom of God one must be, “born from above”. As we finish our Christmas celebrations and start this new year together, I hope we can all live in to our status as one born from above.  Take a quiet moment as we start this new year to remember your own faith journey. Remembering that when you accepted Christ for yourself you became a new creation born in Christ. My hope for all of us is that in remembering our own 2nd births we may relive that excitement and joy, but also that we may have the desire to share our story with others, to invite them into the one and only relationship that can truly transform their lives.  

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year,

Pastor Devin

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December, 2019

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.”
–Luke 2:10

I recently had a conversation with a woman who lives just down the street from the Church. They had actually stopped in during our Trunk or Treat and appreciated the hospitality and warm welcome they received. In the midst of our conversation she shared how difficult things have been as of late and she was fearful that she wouldn’t be able to have anything for her kids on Christmas morning. In what I can only describe as a nudge of the Spirit I asked her if we could help make Christmas happen for them. There was a moment of silence before she was able to respond but the appreciation I could hear in her voice came through loud and clear. In that moment I think she was able to experience a glimpse of that “good news and great joy” that the angel spoke of when it appeared to the shepherds. You see, she had been afraid; afraid of not meeting the expectations of her kids, afraid of the feelings of failure, afraid of how she was going to give her kids a little joy this Christmas.

So my friends the ball is in our court. At my prompting she is putting together a list of a few items for each of the kids (clothing and toys), and I encouraged her to put a few items for herself as well. We will be putting them onto individual notecards and placing them out on the table in the Narthex. I hope that each of us can be in prayer for this family and as the Spirit moves you to consider taking one of those cards and picking up the item listed on it. Bring it in (wrapped or unwrapped either way will work) with the notecard attached and put it in the office by Dec. 15th and we will make sure all the items get to the family. I know there are no shortage of places that money, gifts, and time can be donated this time of year. I will never question the worth of any of those opportunities, but I hope you will join me in helping to support a family right here in our neighborhood.

As we enter this season of Advent I hope all of us can take time to appreciate and embrace the peace, hope, joy, and love of the season as we prepare to celebrate our Lord and Saviors birth.

God Bless,
Pastor Devin

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November, 2019

“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.”

Psalm 9:1

I recently saw a video of a little girl.  She couldn’t have been more than 4 or 5 years old.  In the video, her Mom was asking her, “What do you love?”  For the next few minutes she listed all the friends and classmates she loved, all the toys, all the food, all kinds of things that she loved.  Finally, her Mom asked her, “do you love me?” And the little girl straight up ignored her! She was much more interested in something going by outside the car window and even with repeat prompting from her Mom she never answered the question.  The video ended with the mother’s exasperated sigh as the little girl continued to be interested in everything except answering her mother’s question.

We could easily draw some parallels between that encounter and to Jesus asking Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”  Especially knowing Peter’s response of, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Maybe that little girl thought her Mom’s question was silly to ask because of course she loves her Mom.  Maybe the little girl didn’t like being forced to express her love. Whatever the reason the mother seemed a bit dejected when her daughter refused to answer the question. It made me wonder as we enter the month of November, a time commonly associated with thankfulness, how often do we truly express our gratitude to our Heavenly Father?  Do we, like Peter, reply, “you know that I’m thankful” or do we like the little girl sometimes ignore the question entirely and fail to express our thankfulness?

The Psalmist states that, “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.”  That is my challenge for all of us this month. To truly give thanks to the Lord with your whole heart. To tell of the wonderful deeds you have seen in your own life.  Not to treat it as a given, but to express it with your words and your actions. If you have one of those wonderful deeds you would like to share I would love to hear about it.  I would love to have some of them shared with the rest of the church during a service this month. If you don’t want to get up and speak yourself I would be more than happy to have you write it down and I’ll read your experience for you.  Ask your children if they have something they want to share, I would be happy to have them share what they are thankful for as well. My hope is that we can be comfortable sharing those “wonderful deeds” with one another so that when the opportunity presents itself we will be able to share them with others as well.  If you are willing to share catch me after a service or call/email me so that we can share our thankfulness with one another.

Feeling thankful and blessed,

Pastor Devin

For more information, please check out our November 2019 newsletter.

 

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October, 2019

12 There is one body, but it has many parts. But all its many parts make up one body. It is the same with Christ.

27 You are the body of Christ. Each one of you is a part of it.

1 Corinthians 12:12 & 27

The last few weeks have been anything but boring around Emmanuel.  It seems to happen every September. As summer winds down and those hot temperatures begin to give way to the cool morning air the calendar starts to fill up.  There are activities and ministries and studies and meetings all that have kept people coming and going. And I for one love seeing it. I love to see the life in the church.  People coming, people going, laughter shared among friends, tears shed during times of struggle. It does my heart well to see it.

It has been during these times of busyness, whether it be a Sunday morning, a Wednesday evening, or a meeting of one committee or another, that I was reminded of Paul’s words to the church at Corinth.  He reminded them that while there is one body, it is made of many parts. That reminder served me well to recognize that all those things that take place are important. The times for worship, the times for business, the times for fellowship, the times for fun, the times for grief; all of them are a part of the church and its life and all of them can be done for the glory of God.

There are a number of different parts at work at Emmanuel.  But the thing I love about this Church is that I truly believe all of those parts are working for the same purpose.  To live in to our mission of, “Loving God, Loving Others, and Making Disciples of Jesus Christ.” Each of us is a beautiful, wonderful creation, made lovingly by God.  But when we come together, when we act as one, we are so much more. We become the body of Christ, we become Christ for the world around us.

We have recently been going through a time of seeking God’s will.  We have joined with First UMC for times of fellowship and prayer, seeking God’s will for the United Methodist Churches presence here in Blissfield.  Those talks have been very beneficial and I hope they are going to continue. We are going to continue to seek God’s will and ask for God’s leadership in putting all the different pieces and parts that make up the body in the places where they can best serve.  I know that God is not done with us yet, not by a long shot. There are still plenty of people in our neighborhoods, our schools, our places of work that need to hear the message of hope that is the love of Jesus Christ. I pray that we together as the one body can continue to work toward the goal of bringing people to the cross so that they too can have a relationship with our Lord and Savior.  Thank you for being the hands and feet that make Emmanuel move, let us continue to move forward for the glory of the Kingdom.

God Bless,
Pastor Devin

To view the rest of the October newsletter, click here.

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September, 2019

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children,

you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

-Matthew 18:3

I know it may be cliché to say it, but being a parent is truly one of the most amazing adventures. I was thinking about this as I realized that a little later this month I will have been a parent for seven years now. I don’t quite know where seven years have gone. I do know that there is quite a bit more gray in my hair today than I had seven years ago. But, I also know that it has been full of good times, full of laughter and celebration, full of memories that I will cherish forever. But like any good adventure, it does not mean that everything has always gone perfect. There have been struggles and arguments, frustrations and tears. But, in spite of all those things, I know that I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Watching my children learn and grow, watching them ask questions about the world around them, watching them come to understand who God is for themselves, it has been an experience like none other.

Perhaps this time of reflection is why Jesus’ words from Matthew 18 jumped out at me so much this week. The disciples wanted to know who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. I don’t know what they were expecting the answer to be, perhaps those who knew the Scriptures the best, or those who had given the most to the poor and needy, or any other number of things the disciples saw as worthy of being called the greatest. While I don’t know what they expected, I am certain that they never would have guessed that Jesus would place a child among them and point to that child as to what they should aspire to.

“Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” My hope for all of us in the days ahead is that we can become like children. That we can look with awe at the world around us, to see the good that is God’s awesome creation. That we can humble ourselves before God and before one another in recognition of the awesome love of our heavenly Father. That we can welcome all of God’s children into Christ’s Holy Church, whether they be the newly born, or they are in need of being born again.

In keeping with the “Like a child” theme this month, I will be choosing a different child’s book for each Sunday. I will share the story with the kids during their time in service and will likewise structure my message around the themes in the story. I hope you can join us in the weeks ahead, that all of us might again become like children.

Blessings,

Pastor Devin.

For the rest of this month’s newsletter, please click here:  September 2019

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August, 2019

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

–Romans 12:2

Hall of fame football coach Lou Holtz once said, “In this world you’re either growing or you’re dying, so get moving and grow.”  While I do appreciate his sentiment I think that it is missing an important piece, moving just for the sake of moving is not really growth, nor is it beneficial to anyone.  We know through the Scriptures that Jesus kept a pretty busy schedule. He was on the go quite regularly, traveling from town to town, simply put he was on the move. But, the thing that is easy to forget in all the journeys of Jesus that we read about is that He also took time to slow down and rest.  He took time to step away, to pray to God, to seek God’s will for what He should do next. He didn’t stay stagnate for long, but He did take the time that was needed for discernment and understanding to occur before continuing forward on the journey.

Attached to this month’s newsletter is the Vitality Assessment Report we received as a part of the Local Church Assessment program we recently went through.  Copies of it have been available, but I wanted to be sure that as many people as possible have a chance to see it.  The report recognizes the good and fruitful ministry that has taken place here at Emmanuel, but it also recognizes the challenges we face.  Challenges of financial need, building maintenance, and how best to continue to serve within the Blissfield community. The Lead team is in discussions as to what we can do as a church to address some of these questions, but the questions are not for the Lead Team alone.  They are for all of us. My hope is that we will all take some time in the coming weeks to prayerfully consider and discern how we as individuals, and we as the Church can “get moving and grow,” not for our own benefit, but to bring glory to God and God’s Kingdom.

Please know that I am always willing to sit down and discuss this, as are the members of the Lead Team.  If you have any questions or comments about the Assessment letter or anything else my door is always open.

God Bless,
Pastor Devin

To read the rest of this month’s newsletter, please click here:  August 2019

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July, 2019

“The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped. “

Proverbs 11:25 (MSG)

This week I found myself standing on a beach, my youngest daughter strapped to my chest, blissfully asleep, while I watched my two younger daughters and wife dip their toes into the still slightly chilly waters of Lake Erie.  As I watched the scene play out, the warm sun shining down, the sound of the waves crashing in on the shore, the squeals of delight as the water reached their little feet, I realized just how blessed I am. I am blessed to live my life with my people, Team Pteranodon as we like to call ourselves.

I am also blessed to serve with and alongside such wonderful people here at Emmanuel.  As this newsletter goes to print in July it will have officially been 4 years that I have been here.  In some ways it still seems like it was just yesterday that I took to that pulpit for the first time, in other ways that pulpit feels so familiar and comfortable, it’s almost like home to me now.  I hope you have similar feelings about the past 4 years of ministry that has taken place. I truly believe we have done much good in our community and throughout the world as a part of Christ’s church.

While I may be feeling a bit nostalgic I am not looking to the future with rose colored glasses on.  I fully recognize the difficulties that lie before us. As a denomination and as a church here in Blissfield.  We have done great things together, but we must continue to look to the future and how best to be that beacon of light that Christ called us to be.  Yes there are challenges to face: financial, our building, people to fill volunteer positions, and of course the ongoing denominational struggles.

But, even with those unknowns in our future I still find myself full of hope for the people we call Methodists here in Blissfield, MI.  I find hope because this is a church that strives to bless others, a church that strives to help those in need. We do not have endless resources, but I truly believe we have made great use of what we have in the past, and we will continue to do so into the future.

Thank you for walking this path with me.  Thank you for your continued commitment to Christ’s church.  Thank you for being a blessing to this world.

May God’s abundant blessings be with you now and always,

Pastor Devin

To read the rest of this month’s newsletter, please click here:  July 2019

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