August, 2018

“And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.”

2 Corinthians 9:8

As I sit to write this article I find myself doing something I have done a great deal of in the past few weeks, staring at a computer screen. As many of you know I am currently in my final stages of working towards    being an Ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church. A significant part of that process involves each candidate writing their own Theological Statement. This is a rather significant paper, in both length and  content, that is to  include answers to a number of questions presented by the Board of Ordained Ministry and the Book of Discipline. So as I said I have spent a fair amount of time over the last few weeks staring into the confines of this screen.

However, in  reflecting on this experience of writing and sharing my experience I have come to realize something. I am so very grateful for all of you at Emmanuel. Many of the questions revolve around my  experience, or things I have learned in my first few years in the ministry and I have found that I have been truly blessed during this first appointment I have found myself in.

As the Scripture above notes, God is truly able to provide us with an abundance of      blessings. I have felt and experienced that myself in our time worshiping and  serving and ministering together. It has been my honor to serve with you and my hope and prayer is that we are able to continue   moving forward with the mission of the church. That we are able to recognize the gifts we have been given and that we are able to share them abundantly with the world around us.

Our name, Emmanuel, says it all. God is with us. God has been with our Church and has blessed our Church in many ways, for many years. Let us continue to share that blessing with the Blissfield community and the world at large.

God Bless,

Pastor Devin

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July, 2018

“When you search for me, you will find me;

if you seek me with all your heart”

Jeremiah 29:13

I am writing this on what up to this point has been the hottest day of the Summer. Temperatures topping 90 degrees, humidity at just about the same numbers, it is hot out there. Right about now the only thing that most of us are seeking is a room that has the A/C cranked up, or a nice cool pool.

I do hope you were able to find one of those two during this stretch of hot days. However, I also recognize that finding that cool space will really only care for our physical needs, it will do little for our spiritual ones. To tend to those needs we must search in a different way, a way that often doesn’t require us to move at all.

The verse from Jeremiah that I shared above is a snippet of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent to those who were living in exile in Babylon. These were a people who were struggling with their faith. They didn’t know who they were or what the future held for them. Jeremiah knew of the struggles they faced so he wanted to encourage them to not lose hope. His message was simple, God has not forgotten you, so don’t forget about God. He wanted the people to know that even with the hardships they faced God was with them, they only needed to search for him with all of their heart and they would find him.

Few of us know what it is to live in exile…but all of us know what it is to go through hardships and to feel like God is not there. The summer months are an easy time to half-heartedly search for God. To not get the response we want and dismiss it as God is not there. My friends, I want to remind you, like Jeremiah reminded his people all those years ago, that God is still there. God is always there.

God has not turned his back on you, on me, or on the church. I want to encourage all of us during these hot, sweaty, sticky summer months to continue to search for God. Invite that presence into your life so that if can tend to all of our needs, physical, emotional and spiritual.

Make it a point to spend time in the Scriptures, in prayer, in song, in fellowship, however it is that you experience God don’t let the summer months slip by without searching for a deeper relationship. I’m willing to bet that when you find that presence, when you find God, you will feel refreshed in a way that no A/C or pool can ever compare.

Blessings,

Pastor Devin

To read the rest of the July newsletter, click here:  July 2018

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June, 2018

“for the Lord will be your confidence

And will keep your foot from being caught.”

-Proverbs 3:26

As we enter this month of June, many people’s thoughts turn to one thing: Summer break! This means different things to different people. To students it means a several month reprieve from the classroom. To many it means a summer vacation, or time away from work to recharge. To all of us it is a welcome season of warm weather and a chance to enjoy the beauty of God’s  creation. But before we can truly get to summer, there is one thing that comes that all students dread… Final exams! It is an inescapable fact that those tests will come. For many college students they have already completed them but for others they still loom in their future. While I no longer am a student I, too, am looking at some testing in my near future, in the form of ordination paperwork and interviews with the Board of Ordained Ministry.

I don’t know what it is about tests that almost always elicits negative emotions. I suppose it is the fear of failure that we all have experienced. A fear of being told we aren’t good enough or don’t know enough, or that we simply aren’t enough. Sometimes that fear can be a crippling thing, it can prevent us from thinking with a clear mind leading to a self sustaining loop of fear.

As I reflected on my own fears this week, I found myself in the book of Proverbs. And while Solomon has many wise and encouraging words throughout the book I came across verse 26 (that I began this article with). This was the message that I

needed this week. The reminder that that no matter what I face, no matter what any of us face, the Lord will be with us. The Lord will be your confidence. The Lord will be with you to look that fear in the face and then to move past it. The Lord will guide your steps and will not let you be caught up in the traps of fear and doubt.

Maybe you have a test before you, whatever form that test may take. Maybe, like me, you are a little fearful of that test, afraid that you aren’t enough. My friends, let me assure you that you are enough. You are enough because the Lord is with you. The Lord will be with you before, during, and after whatever trial you may be facing, and no matter where you find yourself, the Lord our God still goes with you and loves you. That is the reassurance I hope you can hold on to this day and every day. Let us give thanks for that love that knows no end.

God Bless,

Pastor Devin

To read the rest of the June newsletter, click here:  June 2018

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May, 2018

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

-2 Corinthians 5:7

We take a lot of things for granted , don’t we?  We expect when we turn on the faucet that water will come out, and not just water but hot water will be ready on demand when we want it. We expect that when we plug something into the wall it will have power, that electricity will flow into it and allow us to use that device. We expect that when we put the key in the ignition the car will start and take us where we want to go. We expect when we tap those buttons on our phones we will be instantly connected to someone, anywhere they may be in the world. We could probably continue to list things we expect to happen until this newsletter was full. But the truth of the matter is that few of us understand how all those things actually are accomplished. We may have a basic understanding of some of those processes, but few of us understand all the intricacies of what makes those things possible. Even with our lack of knowledge we still believe that those things will happen.

When it comes down to it our faith life is not a whole lot different. We do not fully understand God and God’s ways, yet we still believe. Sometimes that belief, that faith, doesn’t come easy and we may struggle to believe. If you’ve ever felt that struggle you are not alone. If we want to be honest with ourselves we’ve all had that struggle at some time in our lives. However, I came across these words this week and they really struck me:

I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining.

I believe in love even when I don’t feel it.

I believe in God even when He is silent.

Those words were found scratched into a wall at Auschwitz. In one of the worst places, worst situations an individual could have ever found themselves. Yet whomever this person was still KNEW that God was with them, even if they couldn’t feel it or hear it in that moment. That, my friends, is faith. Sometimes it goes beyond all reason or understanding. Sometimes those who don’t have it or are struggling with it will think it is crazy to believe. But as Paul wrote to the   Corinthians, “we walk by faith, not by sight.” Sometimes all we can do is take the next step, not knowing where it will lead.

No, I do not fully understand God and God’s ways. I don’t have the processing power in my brain to do so. But I do have faith in God. A God who is good, a God who loves each and every one of us. Let us continue to hold tight to that faith, that belief in things we cannot see, even through life’s valleys until we emerge on the other side into the light of God’s love.

God Bless,

Pastor Devin

To see the rest of the May newsletter, click here: May 2018

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April, 2018

The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”

–Luke 24:5

The irony is not lost on me that as we celebrate Easter Sunday this year it will also be April Fools Day.  I have been a part of various discussions among clergy and laity whether or not the two events should be combined or if doing so somehow sullies the importance of the day.  I don’t have strong feelings either way, but as I have taken part in those discussions in the past couple weeks my thoughts turned to that first Easter morning.

As those women went out to the tomb where Jesus was laid they were fully expecting it to be nothing more than a visit.  A time to mourn, a time to reflect, a time to pay their respects to the man who had done so much in their lives. But as they arrived at that tomb they had their first shock…the stone had been rolled away.  While this was unexpected they went into the tomb only to receive an even bigger shock…the body was gone! Was this some kind of joke? A sick and cruel prank by the Romans? An attempt to further discredit Jesus?  I’m sure their minds were reeling as they struggled to understand what was going on.

But then finally clarity arrives.  The angels appear and offer the absolute best case scenario for this confusing scene the women have stumbled upon…”Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”  I can only imagine the wave of joy that swept over those women in that moment. The realization that their friend, their teacher, their Lord was not dead, he was not laying in a tomb but instead he is alive again.

I hope and pray that all of us can experience a little of that joy for ourselves this Easter Sunday.  That we too can remember we do not look among the dead for our Lord because no fooling, He is ALIVE.

God Bless,

Pastor Devin

To see the complete April newsletter, click here:  April 2018

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March, 2018

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time.”

-1 Peter 5:6

How many of you find yourselves getting a little antsy this time of year? We’ve been through those winter months, seen the pretty snow (and are happy to see it go), and the weather is giving little teases of those warm days to come. Having a house full of small children I have discovered that cabin fever is a very real thing. I never realized that bouncing off the walls could be such a real, literal thing. Everyone is just waiting for the chance to get outside again and enjoy the fresh air, blue skies and space to run.

I also think I start feeling a little antsy because of where we find ourselves in the Christian year. My favorite day to worship and celebrate is just around the corner, Easter Sunday. It is easy for me to want to gloss over the 6 weeks of Lent and get to the BIG day. Like a kid with his presents before him I don’t want to waste time reading the card, I want to tear into the wrapping paper and get to the good part, get to the gift.

But this morning like a loving parent does God reminded me to slow down. Sure the good stuff, the gift, is coming, but take the time to read the card was the message I heard as I read my devotion. It included the verse from 1 Peter above. Be humble before God. I read it as God telling me don’t try to race from one thing to the next jumping from one mountain top experience to the next. Take time in this season to enjoy what it has to offer. God will exalt, will lift you up to those mountain top high’s when the time is right.

My hope for all of us is that we can take the time to slow down and enjoy the season, the place we are in. There is always the “next big thing” to look forward to. But there is also time to enjoy where we are. Easter is coming, there will be singing, there will be worship, there will be a celebration of our risen, living, Lord and Savior. Lent is intended to be a time of preparation, preparing for the celebration that is to come. On the UMC.org website under the heading of ‘What is Lent’ we find:

Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection. In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism.

Today, Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves for others.

Join me this month in preparing for the coming of Easter. Not by rushing through it giddily counting the days off the calendar, but rather by taking time to focus on God. Take time to reflect on all that God has provided, on the fact that the God of the universe, creator of all things, loves you and wants to have a relationship with you.

Thanks be to God this day and always,

Pastor Devin

To read the rest of the March 2018 newsletter, click here.

 

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February, 2018

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”

-Colossians 3:23

Let me set the scene for you here… As I sat down to write this for the monthly newsletter I had just dropped Everett at school then walked over to the church through an unexpected snowfall. I opened the door to the church only to realize the temperature inside the church was not much higher than that outside of it (I am extremely thankful for the efforts of those who have been working to get this remedied!). Upon sitting down at my desk I realized I had left my charger for my laptop at home and only had a fraction of battery left. All said, it was not the greatest start to my Monday morning. But as is the norm,  God has a way of stepping in and bringing my focus back where it needs to be.

As I stared at the blank screen before me, I realized I had not read through my normal morning devotion yet. As I opened it up, I was greeted with the above verse from Colossians. As I said, God has a way of stepping in. I can say with 100% certainty that, as my day started out, my heart was not in it. I was looking at my to-do list and the circumstances around me and letting them control my attitude. Then I saw Paul’s words to the Colossians.

I couldn’t help but remember that Paul was writing to the Colossian church while in prison.

And yet while he was in the most dire of situations himself, he is encouraging others to always give their all, do the work and remember that we aren’t called to serve people, but rather, to serve the Lord.

Paul’s words did the trick, they reminded me that no matter what the task is we should be doing it for the Lord. This verse snapped me out of my Monday morning funk and that really is my hope for all of us. That when those days come that you just aren’t feeling it, you too can find encouragement and motivation in the Scriptures. It may not be this specific verse from Colossians, but I encourage you to spend some time in the Word, let God speak to you, let God be the one who encourages you each and every day. And then I hope you’ll join me in getting to work, not for people but for the Lord.

Blessings,

Pastor Devin

To see the rest of the February 2018 newsletter, click here.

 

 

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January, 2018

“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

Happy New Year! I hope that this letter finds you still reveling in the Joy of the Christmas season as we welcome 2018. I’m sure I am not alone in that in the closing days of 2017 I enjoy looking back at the year that was. I think it is human nature to look back, remember and see what has been accomplished, as well as the growth that has taken place in our and our loved ones lives. I just happened to be flipping through my camera roll the other day, listening to some Christmas music, when a song you may be familiar with came on; John Lennon’s Happy X-Mas.

I’ve heard it plenty of times before (I can thank my Dad, who is a Beatles fan for that) but as I listened to it, the words struck me:

“So this is Christmas

And what have you done

Another year over

And a new one just begun

These lyrics stood out to me because I think they speak a very important truth: “What have I (you) done?” That is a question that each of us would have to ask and reflect on personally to really come to an answer. But I think it is an important one as we enter this new year.

It can be easy to become beholden to the expected order of things, doing what our calendar tells us to do, day in and day out. Before we know it, Easter is here, then the 4th of July, then it’s Thanksgiving, then Christmas and, look at that, another New Year is coming.  We find ourselves with another year over and a new one just begun wondering what have we done.

I do know that we just celebrated the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I cannot think of a better time to sit down and reflect and pray about the year to come. What does 2018 look like for us as individuals, as families and as a Church? How can we continue to move forward with the mission that Jesus gave us to “go and make disciples?” How can we intentionally live into God’s call for our lives? Personally, I am excited to see what God has in store for us as a Church and I hope and pray that our efforts this year will bring honor and glory to God’s Kingdom.

Later in Lennon’s song, he continues:

“A very Merry Christmas

And a happy new year

Let’s hope it’s a good one

Without any fear”

I wish those same sentiments for each and every one of us, let us go and make it a good one, unafraid of what the future holds.

God Bless,

Pastor Devin

Click here to read the rest of the January 2018  newsletter.

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December, 2017

“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

“Good news of great joy” … couldn’t we all use a little bit of that? Maybe you are like me and you would really like to get to that good news and great joy right here, right now. If we are being honest we all probably feel that way a little bit. We live in a world and a culture that tells us to have what we want when we want it. I am not so old that I don’t still remember the excitement I felt on those Christmas mornings. Seeing all those presents and the stockings waiting there by the tree. Of course, it was something I looked forward to, something I wanted to get to as quickly as possible each year.

But these last few years I have found myself looking forward to the Advent season with new eyes. I am no longer in as much of a rush to get through the Advent season,. Rather, I want to take time and soak it all in, to savor what it has to offer. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, we will be spending time looking at the Hope, Love, Joy and Peace this season has to offer. I assure you there is “good news of great joy” to come, but  I invite you to join me in not just rushing through this season of anticipation but rather to take time to stop and enjoy it.

The days ahead have been described as the most wonderful time of the year and for us as Christians they truly are. Not because of the presents or parties but because we know what is coming, Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, our Savior.

We already know the gift we will receive this Christmas season, but knowing does not make it any less exciting. My hope and prayer for each of us is that we don’t let our anticipation of what is to come get in the way of enjoying the time we have now.

Merry Christmas and God Bless,

Pastor Devin

(To read the rest of the December newsletter, click here: December 2017 )

 

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November, 2017

23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds”

–Hebrews 10:23-24

How many things can you say you do in your life unswervingly?  That is there is no variation, no change in how you do them from day to day, week to week, month to month?  As much as humans are creatures of habit I am willing to bet that there are not many of us who can say we do many things unswervingly.

That is why I love the verse that I started this article with.  It challenges those of us who profess to have hope in the Lord.  It challenges us because if we are going to claim to have Faith in Jesus there is only one way to do so, unswervingly.  It is the only choice because as the Scripture told us, “he who promised is faithful.”  Jesus is unswerving in his promise and commitment to us, and we are challenged to respond in kind.

Now don’t get me wrong that is not an easy thing to do.  While many may find it easy to be faithful when things are good doing so when things go south is another story entirely.  Many of us are likely to stumble and fall during those times, but here is the good news, we don’t have to face those difficult times alone.

That is what the second verse from Hebrews reminds us.  That as Christians we are a part of a community that should encourage and support one another through those difficult times.

I have been grateful to be a part of a community that has for a long time spurred me on to “love and good deeds.”  My hope and prayer is that we can continue to be that community, for each other, and for a world that is sorely in need of some love and good deeds.

Let us be unswerving in our commitment to Christ now and forever,

Pastor Devin

(To read the rest of the November Newsletter, click here: November 2017 )

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