First United Methodist Church

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Devotion: God in the Storm

If you are reading this today, count yourself lucky. It means you have power to turn on your computer and a WiFi connection to read this email. I don’t know what the aftermath of this Hurricane Idalia will be and whose homes and churches will be damaged and whose homes and churches will be spared. I don’t know if we will lose power, or have school canceled for another day or if most of the damage will be north of us. I have been a Floridian all my life and I have lived through many hurricanes, but one thing I always look forward to during Hurricane season is the calm right after the storm. There is something so visceral about the stillness that follows. Maybe it is because my soul desperately needs the pause and the moment to take a deep breathe. Or maybe because it is a moment of humility because no matter how strong, educated, healthy, on my game or “successful” I feel that I am, these storms remind me that life is fragile, and that nature is a powerful force that does what it wills. Ultimately, these kinds of storms remind me, that I am NOT in control.

On Monday, I went to Sam’s Club for gas and a few items we were running low on and almost 2 hours later, I finally left because of the chaos, the crowds, the mild panic (of others, not me) and it got me thinking about how others face these storms. Is there a sense that if I buy enough snacks, water bottles, batteries, and adult beverages; that I can face anything and can control my outcome? I would hope not, but I find myself sometimes slipping into the lies the world tells us when we face the unknown. The power of God, the presence of the Spirit and the calm after the storm always bring me back to this amazing story from 1 Kings 19 where the Prophet Elijah is running for his life and God tells him to wait and listen for the Lord will pass by. Read it with me please:

“And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

 (I Kings 19:9b-13)

Now while I hope that we will not experience a literal great wind, earthquake and fire, I do know that we will experience these metaphorical storms in our own lives if we haven’t already. There will be seasons when the problems just keep coming, when there feels like no break in sight and where it seems like we could be destroyed at any moment. I think it is worth noting that while in this story from 1 Kings the Lord wasn’t in those particular examples, the Lord is with us in the spiritual and emotional storms of our lives. But like the end of the hurricane, when there is the calm that follows the storm, I invite you to look for God in that moment.

While the wind is whipping around you, give God thanks that you have a faith that grounds you to the firm foundation and while you may be tossed, you will not break. When the earth is shaking beneath you and everything that was once ordered is now in disorder, give God thanks that you have a chance to test your limits in the chaos and that you have been given the wisdom to see things from a new perspective. And when there is great fire, know that the strongest medals on earth are only shaped, changed and refined in the flames and so we too can see how God shows up to transform, challenge and leave us looking more like Jesus after we have walked through a tumultuous time. But today I want to rest in the truth that God is there in the sheer silence; in the calm after the storm.

What is God saying to you in the silence? Are you listening closely enough, and are you open to the voice that is most quiet? Because, the voices that are easiest to hear are often those voices to whom I should listen to least. And the listening I need to hear most is often the hardest to hear, because it is quiet, and like God to the Prophet Elijah, it speaks only in the stillness after the whirlwind has passed.

Whether you have just walked through a fire, an earthquake, a whirlwind, or another Florida hurricane; are you listening to the stillness, are you tuned into the quiet, are you sitting in the calm ready to hear the voice of God?

Stay safe and keep listening.

If our campuses are back open again on Thursday, I invite you to join me on the Winter Park campus, in the parlor anytime between 11am and 1pm. Bring your own lunch or snack and join with me and others for conversation around any of the latest devotionals.

Hurricane Idalia

Our hearts go out to those affected by Hurricane Idalia. During this time, you can help too! Please continue to pray for those affected and consider contributing by creating a UMCOR Cleaning Kit or by giving to their disaster fund.  

UMCOR Cleaning Kits

Help those affected by floods, hurricanes and tornadoes to begin the overwhelming job of cleaning up. Click the link below to receive step-by-step instructions on how to assemble cleaning kits.

Please bring your Cleaning Kits to the church by Thursday, Sept. 7. You can drop them off in the front office Sept, 5-7 9am-4pm or in the red bin in the courtyard.

UMCOR Relief Fund

UMCOR is the humanitarian relief and development arm of The United Methodist Church. Please prayerfully consider donating to UMCOR’s U.S. Disaster Response, where 100% of your gift goes directly to disaster relief.

4 Ministries You May Not Know About

Devotion: To Doubt or Not To Doubt

I’ve encountered a popular theological view that suggests that to believe in God, one must trust the Bible completely and not question what it says or what God says. But what if you question God, faith, or even the scriptures? Does the first chapter of James truly instruct us not to doubt? A great article by Pete Enns sheds light on how doubt can play a part in the lives of Jesus’ followers and might provide some helpful perspective:

“I get a lot of great, honest questions from my students on almost a daily basis. Here is one from yesterday:

“How do you read James 1:6-7, particularly as it concerns doubting… it seems as though James is saying that those who doubt God’s power are like waves and whatnot. Is this a specific theology of the time, or is it really saying TO ME that I should never doubt?”

Here is what we read in James 1:6-7: But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

Well, that seems clear as crystal: doubt = bad. So I told this student, “Get with the program, pal. You can read the Bible just as well as I can, and you know that any shred of doubt makes God very, very, very angry. I hope you can live with yourself.”

Yes, everyone here thinks I’m hilarious.

I didn’t say that, of course, largely because I wrote this book The Sin of Certaintywhere I argue that doubt is normal, biblical, and spiritually beneficial. So here’s what I actually said.

First, different biblical authors have different perspectives. I don’t think we should read one author as canceling out another (like Job or some Psalms). It’s important, therefore, to try to understand not simply what James is saying but why he is saying it. Which brings us to…

Second, James is speaking in the context of “trials” and the “testing of your faith” (James 1:2-3) in what was thought to be the end of the age. Like other New Testament authors, James likely thought of Jesus’s resurrection as stage 1 of a 2-stage process that would come to completion soon. In that context of “suffering, though the time is near,” a tone of warning and  “pull yourself together, man!” is the expected rhetoric.

That context, however, is not one that I or my student share. We have, rather, more in common in this sense with Old Testament authors for whom no end was in sight, which afforded plenty of opportunities to struggle with their faith (e.g., Lament Psalms, Job, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations). So, James is valuable (of course) but not for every context, and so doesn’t simply trump Qoheleth, Job, or a psalmist. Scripture is diverse and multivalent (which loops us back to the first point).

Third, the Greek word there translated as “doubt” does not mean what it has come to mean too often in our western rationalist society, namely intellectual uncertainty: some intellectual struggling/questioning brought on by life experiences, bouts with depression, personal tragedies, etc.

The Greek word is diakrinō and connotes (don’t worry, I looked this up) a “divided loyalty,” which, as we saw in #2, is a particularly pressing concern in James’s context.  James seems to be saying something like, “Stay resolute in this time of great urgency. Believe in God. Do not get carried away by your circumstances.”

My student was asking me whether it was wrong to struggle with faith and have doubts. My answer is no.

That doesn’t mean you celebrate doubt or force it to appear. It just happens, and when it does, there are plenty of biblical moments to identify with.

By Pete Enns: This article was originally published on February 3, 2017.”

I have found it helpful to contemplate on the humility of Jesus. He was known for their patient, gentle, and humble nature rather than strict adherence to religious dogma or perfect knowledge. I am particularly inspired by the soldier who declared, “I believe, help my unbelief,” I aim to make this my continual prayer.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Philip

ASP Mission Trip 2023

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This July, a group from our church went on a mission trip with Appalachia Service Project (ASP). This organization is committed to making homes warmer, safer, and drier for low-income families in Central Appalachia. At the beginning of the week, they worked on installing exterior siding and inside trim, and closed gaps in the floor. The homeowners were a mother and daughter, Brenda and Ruby, who graciously offered our team lunch throughout the trip to strengthen relationships and show their appreciation!

During downtime, our team took an afternoon trip to Blue Hole Falls for a dip in the cold mountain water. By the 5th day, they were able to finish the siding on the house and finish almost all of the rooms they worked on inside!

On the last night, our group attended a picnic where they enjoyed a performance by a bluegrass band. Their final devotion was a lesson about spreading God’s love and serving beyond ASP. It was an impactful week for all. God is GOOD!

Devotion: Time is a Gift

A lot can happen in a year…

On Friday we are celebrating that our sweet Elizabeth Pearl will be one year old…I know, can you believe it?! Time is flying and I feel like I am often just trying to catch my breath as I watch it all unfold around me.

Maybe you can relate, but with each of our children, it seems that time is passing faster and moments, sweet moments are over and done with before I can really savor them. I have been a wife now for 13 years, a pastor for 12, a mother for 7, and yet each year goes by faster than the one before.

Do you often think too, time, slow down?

What are the moments in life you wish to slow down more? Last Sunday as I watched our students and teachers prayed over in worship, I wanted to savor that moment and relive it again. Later that morning, when the Choir was singing “Be Thou My Vision” before the sermon, I wanted to hold onto that moment a little longer too. Or many, many moments with my own children, when they are hugging, or laughing, or singing, or creating…I try and remain present in a bit longer, knowing how fleeting it is.

But is there wisdom in what we prioritize or spend our time what about time as followers of Jesus? How does the Bible suggest that we use time to the best of our ability? Time is a commodity, is it not? How can we steward it well?

When I think about the life of Jesus, I am amazed that the first section of the New Testament really only covers about 3 years of Jesus’ life and ministry. And so much of the Gospel stories are similar stories told with a different voice over those three years.  And then I remember how thankful I am to be starting year four at this church and how much I have grown and learned along the way. And it begs the question, if time seems to fly by the older we get, how do we savor the time God gives us? How do we remain present in the everyday knowing it is a gift, even if it is a challenge?

Jesus taught us a lot about time and modeled for us priorities. In the three years of his life and ministry, we see that Jesus takes a lot of time to converse, eat and pray. He places himself around others and he gets to know their story. He took seriously the holy act of eating as fellowship and slowed down when it came to meal-time. Lastly, he prayed consistently, at odd hours and whenever he was feeling most depleted.

If I take His example and weave it into my life, here are a few things that will change in my rhythm and pattern of life to better emulate the honoring of time that I see lived out by Jesus. First, I will know less people but in a deeper way. I laugh every time I hear someone talk about how Jesus’ best miracle was having 12 close friends in his mid-30’s because it is spot on in my own life as well. At last I checked, I have over 2,200 friends on social media, but hardly any of them know me deeply. Therefore, if I want to honor God with my time, I will spend more time this year with fewer people because I want to know people on a heart-level more than just in a superficial way. I will not avoid friendships of course, but I will prioritize who I pour into most knowing that there is only so much time in the day.

Secondly, I will enjoy eating more. Great idea, right?  I hope I am not the only person that struggles with this, but will choose to slow down and savor my meal and make eye contact with the people I share the table with. I will pray before meals and make the other persons laugh as we share in the meal together. I will think about the hands that grew and cooked the meal I am enjoying and I am going to sit and slow down more while I eat.

Lastly, I will pray more, or should I say, I will worship more. One thing I have started to do more is study the lyrics of the worship songs in my play list. Music is a love language for me anyways and so I have found that when I am lucky or free enough to listen to worship music in the car, when I am parked or at a stop light, I read a bit of the lyrics so that while I sing along it becomes a prayer of sorts.

Ultimately, as a wife, mom and pastor, I am having to reorient every season to a Christ-centered calendar and to really making a conscious effort to honor God with my time. There will never be enough time in life, but when I remember that all of time is God’s gift to us anyways, it takes away some of the pressure and replaces it with grace.

I found these words wise as I reflect on how to best use the time that God has given me and I hope it blesses. This is The Message version from the end of Ecclesiastes 5.

18-20 After looking at the way things are on this earth, here’s what I’ve decided is the best way to live: Take care of yourself, have a good time, and make the most of whatever job you have for as long as God gives you life. And that’s about it. That’s the human lot. Yes, we should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what’s given and delighting in the work. It’s God’s gift! God deals out joy in the present, the now. It’s useless to brood over how long we might live.”

One question to ponder this week, what is one thing you will adjust in your everyday schedule to honor God more with your time?

If you don’t have plans tomorrow, August 17th, I would love for you to bring your own lunch and join me anytime at church between 11am-1pm to unpack this more.

Have a blessed week!


Financial Update from Pastor David