Trinity UMC's Sister Church in Ankara, Turkey

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About Me

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I serve as pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Annapolis, MD. I'm married to beautiful Paula, mother of my 4 sons and one daughter. I was a systems engineer before entering ministry 29 years ago.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Hallelujah! Christ Arose!

Low in the grave he lay, Jesus my Savior,
Waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!
Up from the grave he arose, with a mighty triumph o’er his foes;
He arose a victor from the dark domain,
And he lives forever with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

- Robert Lowry, 1874 (United Methodist Hymnal, #322)

Imagine you had never heard the Easter story before. Walk with me through the words of this wonderful hymn. Allow yourself to experience the emotions of someone hearing these great truths for the first time.

The first line is almost unbearably sad. Jesus is dead. He came to be our Savior, and now he is in the grave. How can a dead man save anyone? He is gone, our hope is gone, all seems lost.

But wait. The second line speaks, not of loss, but of waiting. Waiting implies hope. When the time is right, at “the coming day,” something is going to happen.

The second line also calls Jesus, “Lord.” That’s a huge step past “Savior.” Anybody can be a savior in the right circumstances. Even a dog can save somebody’s life. But no matter how grateful you are to be rescued, you’re never going to call the dog your lord. In order to fully grasp the significance of Easter, we do have to recognize Jesus as our Savior, who rescues us when we cannot save ourselves. But we also have to acknowledge him as Lord, as Master, as the one who has the right to direct our lives and command our allegiance. Recognizing and acknowledging this, and living in line with it, is the most basic meaning of being a Christian.

The third line gets to the reason why we’re singing. “Up from the grave he arose.” Jesus didn’t stay in the grave. He came back to life. He came back from the dead!

But Jesus didn’t just come come out of the grave. He came “with a mighty triumph o’er his foes.” This is not some reanimated corpse or zombie apocalypse. This is life, a whole new kind of life, a life this world hasn’t seen since the Garden of Eden.

“He arose a victor from the dark domain.” Jesus allowed himself to be taken captive into the depths of Satan’s kingdom of death. Then he didn’t just escape death. Jesus defeated death! He faced the worst the devil could do, in the devil’s own stronghold, and Jesus arose victorious.

“And he lives forever. . .” When death is defeated, life is eternal.

“. . . with his saints to reign.” This isn’t just talking about Peter and John and Mother Teresa. When the Bible uses the word “saints,” it means everyone who has decided to trade life in their own strength for life in Jesus Christ. If we are in Christ, and Christ is reigning in heaven, then from the viewpoint of eternity, guess where we are? In heaven, reigning with Christ. God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6).

Easter is not just about the resurrection of Jesus. It’s about resurrection and eternal life for every person who puts their faith in Jesus. It’s about hope and new life and never-ending joy, not just for Jesus, but for everyone who follows him.

That’s why we sing on Easter, and every Sunday.

“He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!”

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Holy to the Lord

Prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” - 1 Peter 1:13-16

Lent, the season of the church year in which we find ourselves all this month, is traditionally a time for self-examination. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” But as we examine ourselves, what are we looking for?

When most people think of Lent, if they think of it at all, they think in terms of giving up something. They may promise not to eat sweets or red meat. They may give up television or romance novels. It may be something they feel they ought not be doing anyway, or it may be something that is perfectly acceptable, but giving it up will be a sacrifice. One reason for doing this is so that every time we want a piece of candy, or whatever we gave up, we should be reminded of Jesus’ much greater sacrifice for us.

It’s always good and valuable to remind ourselves, “Jesus loves me so much that he sacrificed his life for me.” But behind that is a deeper question. “Why did Jesus have to make that sacrifice for me?” Beyond the fact that all human beings are tainted by the sinful rebellion that is inbred into our race, this question should lead us to examine ourselves for the particulars of our own part in that sinfulness.

God created us to be holy. “Holy” is not theological jargon for “goody-two-shoes.” Holy doesn’t mean, “never have any fun.” Holy doesn’t imply thinking you are better than everybody else, or that anybody who doesn’t follow your particular list of rules is on the wrong side of God. Actually, the literal meaning is, “set apart for a special use.”

When I was growing up we had two sets of dishes in our house. We had the dishes we used every day for every meal. They lived in easy reach in the kitchen cabinets. We were reasonably careful of them, but if one broke, it was more an inconvenience than anything else.

Then we had the special dishes. They lived in the china cabinet in the dining room, and the rare times they appeared on the table you knew something big was up. These dishes were set apart for a special use. You could say they were “holy to special meals.” To use one of those special dishes for a bowl of cereal or a peanut butter sandwich would almost be a sacrilege. We handled those dishes very carefully.

In the same way, as Christians our lives are to be set apart as “holy to the Lord.” There are some things that are appropriate for Christian lives, and some that are not. We need to handle these special lives we have been given very carefully.

Lent is a set-apart time for examining ourselves to see if there are areas where we are allowing our set-apart status to be compromised. God created you to serve and honor him, in your home and your work and your community as well as in church. There are certain things that the world considers acceptable that God tells us are inappropriate for those dedicated to him. Lent is a time for asking ourselves, “Am I letting myself in any way be contaminated by the world?”

1 Peter 3:13-16 is a great outline for self-examination. Ask yourself: Do I keep my mind prepared to hear from God and act for him? How is my self-discipline? Are my hopes and dreams set on the promises of God? Is my desire to please my heavenly Father by doing what he wants? Have I shed the old desires that used to control me before I knew the Lord? Do my thoughts and words and actions demonstrate that I have set my life apart for God? Does my life honor the holy God?

Don’t let this exercise end up in self-condemnation. The whole point of the Holy Week to which Lent leads us is that Jesus took our condemnation on himself when he died on the cross. There is no condemnation left for you to bear. Instead, there is grace and forgiveness and love and a fresh start. Lent leads, not to death, but to resurrection! So take the sins and failures and opportunities for improvement that you uncover, and offer them to God. Receive in exchange the power of the Holy Spirit to help you do better. None of us can make ourselves holy. The Spirit – the “Holy” Spirit – does that in us. Learn to sense his moving in your life and flow with it. (This is what we help each other learn the second and fourth Sunday evenings at Flowing in the Spirit. We’d love to have you join us!)

You may find that Lent turns out to be the most joyful season of all!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

How Does God Heal?

“These signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name . . . they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” – Jesus, in Mark 16:17-18

God heals in many ways. Most healing happens through the natural healing mechanisms God built into our bodies. Our immune system fights disease. White blood cells battle infections. Broken bones knit. Wounds are covered with fresh skin. Emotional and spiritual healing is not so automatic, but God provides for it nonetheless.

Sometimes we need help with healing. God has given us wonderful gifts of medicine and surgery and therapy and other interventions, and the people who are skilled in them.
Prayer for healing is not over against these other God-given means of healing. Rather, it complements and works with them.

Sometimes God chooses to answer our healing prayers by speeding up natural healing or increasing the effectiveness of medical treatment. Sometimes God chooses to answer our healing prayers by immediately making us feel better. If you feel that you have been divinely healed of an issue for which you have been under doctor’s care, do not make any change in your medication or other treatment protocol until you check with your doctor.

Sometimes it seems God has healed one problem and left another alone. Sometimes it seems that prayers need to pile up over time, then suddenly something happens. Sometimes there is a warm feeling or a tingling or some other physical sensation during healing prayer. And sometimes it may seem that God has done nothing at all. Those experienced in this ministry say that about half the people who are healed through prayer report feeling nothing special during the prayer time.

God heals in many ways, some of which we may not even recognize as healing. Our part is to be obedient by praying, or by asking someone to pray for us. The Bible says, You do not have, because you do not ask. (James 4:2)

Where can you ask for healing prayer? Church is a natural place. I love to see people praying for each other during the coffee time. Bible studies, prayer meetings, even committee meetings are wonderful opportunities for prayer. Healing prayer is part of our Communion services (the first Sunday of every month) and the Flowing in the Spirit gatherings (the second and fourth Sunday evenings). Many people are healed as others pray for them in their homes or even in the grocery store. Any place you can pray, you can pray for healing.

One time specifically set aside for healing prayer is during the Annapolis Healing Rooms. Individualized prayer from trained intercessors is available at a variety of times and places. You can find more details online at annapolishealingrooms.blogspot.com.

Jesus taught us to pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. There is no sickness in heaven. Let’s pray and trust God to bring that about more and more on earth as well.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Spiritual Football

Do you not know that all the runners in a stadium compete, but only one receives the prize? So run to win. – 1 Corinthians 9:24

Football season is upon us. It strikes me that football provides a good analogy for the spiritual contest between the church and the devil. In football it’s all about winning, through offense, defense and special teams. In church it’s all about H.I.M.: Hosting God’s presence, Imitating Jesus, and Making him known.

We know how a team moves the ball and scores in football. Here’s how the church moves the ball and scores in our spiritual battle.

Hosting God’s presence
• The church moves the ball every time we give more weight to what God wants in worship than to our own desires.
• The church moves the ball every time we give more weight to what will be attractive to those who need to find God than to those of us who already know him.
• The church moves the ball when our gatherings are as diverse as our community.
• The devil throws the church for a loss when we argue or complain about how we worship.
• The devil throws the church for a loss when people in the community say, “Those folks aren’t like me, I’m not sure I’d be comfortable there.”
• The devil throws the church for a loss if church services or other gatherings can be perceived as boring or artificial or self-serving or human-centered.
• When new folks say, “Wow, I felt God there,” that’s a touchdown!

Imitating Jesus
• The church moves the ball when a Christian imitates the character of Jesus through the fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control (Galatians 5:22-23).
• The church moves the ball when a Christian imitates the wisdom and God-consciousness of Jesus through hearing and following the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:14).
• The church moves the ball when a Christian imitates the power of Jesus in praying for people to receive a miraculous touch from God (John 14:12; Mark 16:17-18).
• The church moves the ball every time a Christian tries something new for God.
• The church makes a big play when a Christian finds his or her fit in God’s plan.
• The devil throws the church for a loss every time Christians allows fear or doubt to laziness to keep them from doing any of these things.
• The devil scores big if a Christian says or does anything that a non-Christian knows isn’t right, so they say, “See, I knew it, all Christians are hypocrites.”
• When a non-Christian notices a Christian acting like Jesus, that’s a touchdown!

Making him known
• The church moves the ball every time a Christian develops a genuine caring relationship with another person.
• The church moves the ball every time a Christian invites a new person to Jesus or a church activity.
• The church moves the ball big every time a Christian gains new skill or confidence in helping others know Jesus or grow in Jesus.
• The devil throws the church for a loss whenever a Christian is afraid to try something new.
• The devil throws the church for a loss whenever he keeps a Christian from doing any of the things mentioned above.
• The devil throws the church for a loss whenever he convinces people that only “trained professionals” or highly unusual volunteers can do all these things.
• When a Christian helps someone find his or her fit in God’s plan, that’s a touchdown!

Winning the game

• The devil will win if the church ever becomes so ingrown and self-centered that we stop doing the new things that are needed to attract and keep new people, because if that happens we will gradually shrink away into irrelevancy and, eventually, disappear altogether.
• The church wins the game when we keep reaching new people and helping them do the things that move the ball on the devil.
• If we can ever reach the place where ordinary everyday church folks are starting up groups that help new people know Jesus, in their homes or workplaces or schools or wherever, that’s winning the Super Bowl!
• And if those new people turn around and start their own new groups that reach even more new people, that’s a dynasty! And that’s what God had in mind when he created this team.

A football team wins by constantly practicing the fundamentals. A church is the same way. Come to practice every Sunday, so you can be prepared to go out and win the game!

Blessings,

“Coach” David

Monday, August 22, 2011

How to Put On the Armor of God

I've been preaching a sermon series called The Greater One, which talks in practical terms about how to make real in our lives the fact that the one who is in us is greater than the one who is in the world (1 John 4:4). The audio for the 5-part series can be found on the website trinityannapolis.org.

As part of the most recent installment, on the armor of God, I prayed an example prayer of how I put on the armor of God. Several people asked for copies of that prayer. So for those who might be interested, I post it here.

Here’s how I pray it, based on Ephesians 6:10-19:

Lord God, thank you for your presence with me this day. As I prepare for the day, I put on the whole armor of God, according to the Bible.

I put on the belt of truth, that I may not deceive nor be deceived, nor deceive myself, but know the truth to be set free by it, and speak the truth in love to set others free.

I put on the breastplate of righteousness, that everything I say and do and think and feel may be righteous in your sight, O Lord.

I put on the shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace, that I may be prepared for whatever happens to go in peace, stand in peace, and spread the gospel of peace in peace. Let me be prepared spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically, and logistically. Let me make preparation a priority, and give me foresight to prepare.

I take the shield of faith, that I may quench the flaming arrows of the enemy. Give me discernment to recognize them and their source, wisdom to deal with them, faith to quench their flames and deflect their points, and faith to stand and to go in peace. Give me faith to believe all you have for me to believe - all the promises of the child of God, and faith to believe for miracles and healings; faith for all you have for me to receive - blessings and favor and fruitfulness and health and long life and abundance and love and friends; and faith to do all you have called me to do.

I take the helmet of salvation, that I may have the mind of Christ and the holy boldness that comes from knowing that I'm saved. Lord, give me your thoughts, your ideas, your attitudes, your feelings and emotions and responses, your creativity, inspiration, priorities, disciplines, wisdom, compassion, insight, foresight, understanding, perseverance, leadership skills, prayer skills, miracle skills, people skills, management skills, family skills, communication skills, everything I need to do what you have called me to do.

I take the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. Please give me a growing love for your word, an ability to read it and understand it and apply it and obey it and teach it and convey it and impart this to others.

Help me pray at all times in the Spirit, that I may remain in constant communication with you. Please open my spiritual eyes, that I may see in the spirit realm. I want to see you, see what is happening and what you are doing so I can fall in line with it, see dreams and visions, see people as you see them, including myself. Open my ears to hear your voice, so I can speak your word and follow your guidance. Let me know your will and your way with clarity, accuracy, confidence and timely obedience.

Lord, I offer myself for whatever you have for me this day. Thank you that you are always with me. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Pray this every day and I guarantee it will change your life!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Dream On!

Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope. – Ephesians 3:20

God’s church, which is the body of Christ and the temple of the Holy Spirit, has been working on this earth for just short of 2000 years. So why hasn’t the message of Christianity been spread and demonstrated and accepted in every corner of the globe long before now? I’m sure there are many factors, but I’m convinced that one of the major reasons is something that may surprise you.

Lack of faith? That’s certainly a problem – few Christians take the time and effort to build and use the faith God gave each of us. Lack of prayer? If anything is more important than what I have in mind, prayer would be it. But I’m thinking of something else.

Perhaps the biggest reason the church has not reached its potential, perhaps the biggest reason most Christians never reach their potential, is the failure to do one simple thing: dream.

Moses dreamed of delivering his people from slavery. Nehemiah dreamed of rebuilding the demolished city of Jerusalem. Esther dreamed of saving her people from genocide. Paul dreamed of spreading Christianity throughout the Roman Empire.

What would have happened if they never had those dreams? What would have happened if they never followed through on them?

I want you to especially notice one thing, because this is the part that surprised me when I realized it. None of those were things that God specifically told them to do. Moses, Nehemiah, Esther and Paul dreamed up those things by themselves.

I’m not saying that God was opposed to what they did. In fact, God wanted those dreams to be fulfilled. My point is that those four, and countless others throughout history, didn’t just sit around waiting for God to tap them on the shoulder. They were close enough to God that they would not dream of doing things for selfish reasons or against God’s will. But they were free enough to follow their dreams.

(Yes, I know God appeared to Moses in a burning bush, but that was after Moses already tried to rescue his people in his own power. I know God called Paul to be a missionary, but it seems that it was pretty much up to Paul where he went – only once is it recorded that he was called to a specific place. There is no indication of any kind of divine commissioning for Nehemiah and Esther.)

Jesus said, “I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends” (John 15:15). God doesn’t want you to think of working for him, like an employee. God wants you to think of working with him, like a friend.

In other words, don’t sit around waiting for God to say, “Go do this job for me.” Instead, God says, “I have all kinds of important projects going on. I’m educating children. I’m fighting hunger and poverty and disease. I’m importing some of the beauty of heaven to earth, in art and music and craftsmanship. I’m expanding freedom and justice. I’m rescuing and protecting and defending people. I’m making goods and services available to make people’s lives easier. I’m doing all kinds of things, all over the world. I’d love to have you work with me. What sounds interesting?”

One of the great characteristics of God is that God is creative. God made you in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). That means God made you creative. Creativity starts with a dream. So dream!

I believe one of the main jobs of a church, and of a pastor in particular, is to encourage and help the people of God to dream God-size dreams and then carry them out. We have not always done a good job of that, and the world is the worse for it. But it’s never too late to start.

What is your dream?

Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” You can never dream bigger than God can fulfill. You may not get to see it through to completion – somebody said, “The only things worth doing take more than a lifetime.” But if you don’t get it started, who will?

Dreaming with you for God’s kingdom,

David

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Dream On!

Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope. – Ephesians 3:20

God’s church, which is the body of Christ and the temple of the Holy Spirit, has been working on this earth for just short of 2000 years. So why hasn’t the message of Christianity been spread and demonstrated and accepted in every corner of the globe long before now? I’m sure there are many factors, but I’m convinced that one of the major reasons is something that may surprise you.

Lack of faith? That’s certainly a problem – few Christians take the time and effort to build and use the faith God gave each of us. Lack of prayer? If anything is more important than what I have in mind, prayer would be it. But I’m thinking of something else.

Perhaps the biggest reason the church has not reached its potential, perhaps the biggest reason most Christians never reach their potential, is the failure to do one simple thing: dream.

Moses dreamed of delivering his people from slavery. Nehemiah dreamed of rebuilding the demolished city of Jerusalem. Esther dreamed of saving her people from genocide. Paul dreamed of spreading Christianity throughout the Roman Empire.

What would have happened if they never had those dreams? What would have happened if they never followed through on them?

I want you to especially notice one thing, because this is the part that surprised me when I realized it. None of those were things that God specifically told them to do. Moses, Nehemiah, Esther and Paul dreamed up those things by themselves.

I’m not saying that God was opposed to what they did. In fact, God wanted those dreams to be fulfilled. My point is that those four, and countless others throughout history, didn’t just sit around waiting for God to tap them on the shoulder. They were close enough to God that they would not dream of doing things for selfish reasons or against God’s will. But they were free enough to follow their dreams.

(Yes, I know God appeared to Moses in a burning bush, but that was after Moses already tried to rescue his people in his own power. I know God called Paul to be a missionary, but it seems that it was pretty much up to Paul where he went – only once is it recorded that he was called to a specific place. There is no indication of any kind of divine commissioning for Nehemiah and Esther.)

Jesus said, “I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends” (John 15:15). God doesn’t want you to think of working for him, like an employee. God wants you to think of working with him, like a friend.

In other words, don’t sit around waiting for God to say, “Go do this job for me.” Instead, God says, “I have all kinds of important projects going on. I’m educating children. I’m fighting hunger and poverty and disease. I’m importing some of the beauty of heaven to earth, in art and music and craftsmanship. I’m expanding freedom and justice. I’m rescuing and protecting and defending people. I’m making goods and services available to make people’s lives easier. I’m doing all kinds of things, all over the world. I’d love to have you work with me. What sounds interesting?”

One of the great characteristics of God is that God is creative. God made you in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). That means God made you creative. Creativity starts with a dream. So dream!

I believe one of the main jobs of a church, and of a pastor in particular, is to encourage and help the people of God to dream God-size dreams and then carry them out. We have not always done a good job of that, and the world is the worse for it. But it’s never too late to start.

What is your dream?

Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” You can never dream bigger than God can fulfill. You may not get to see it through to completion – somebody said, “The only things worth doing take more than a lifetime.” But if you don’t get it started, who will?

Dreaming with you for God’s kingdom,

David