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What Price, Lord?

18th Day of Lent

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

I was shocked and afraid beyond measure when the doctor said that my son had to be delivered at 30 weeks or both of us would die in short order. I selfishly wanted the beautiful new baby experience you see in the movies, but God had his own plans. Instead I had a hasty emergency C-section for which I was under general anesthesia, didn’t get to meet my son for almost two days and he then spent nearly 8 weeks in the NICU.

I was deeply immersed in the corporate world and focused almost solely on worldly treasures. I felt like I was a good person and I considered myself a Christian. However, that was not my central focus. The NICU experience stopped me on a dime. It was terrifying and heart-wrenching and left me feeling abandoned: by all the people who didn’t know what to say, by the colleagues who I thought loved me but who barely cared about this struggle and even by God. The NICU doctor kept saying “God is good” day in and day out as we faced challenge after challenge, but I didn’t feel so sure. What did I do to deserve this?! Why does my son have to pay this price?!

My husband and I weren’t worshipping regularly at the time, but in our season of trouble we wanted prayers! God sent us many blessings through those prayers. He showed his presence through the words and hugs of support from the nurses and doctors, through family and friends who stood by my side and also through the Church. For all of those blessings and the gift of my beautiful boy, I could not be more thankful. Many of you know my handsome, healthy, big, strong boy and you would never guess that he was a three pound NICU preemie for the first two months of his life!

God had a phase two for this plan though; he sent for my heart through the Mom’s Group. The moms brought us dinners when we were in NICU and when we came home. They contacted me just to check in. They tried to understand. For TWO YEARS they regularly reached out and asked me to join them at meetings. I couldn’t feel alone. They wouldn’t LEAVE me alone! I did eventually join the Mom’s group, found my faith and from there became more active in the church. My relationship with God has continued to grow stronger and more focused since.

I often ask myself if I would be the mom or the Christian I am today if I hadn’t endured this trial. God had to knock me down hard in order to pull me back up and closer to Him. I will never know the reasons for everything in my life or in this world, but I push myself to remember that God is in control. If I trust in Him, even the challenges that I think I will never survive may end up unfolding like the petals of a rose to reveal God’s perfect, beautiful plan.

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for the babies you bless us with through NICU, having been born in your perfect timing. Thank you for the doctors and nurses who provide their earthly care. Please bring comfort to families with a baby in NICU and also to families whose babies come home to you instead of with their parents. May all of your children hear your call for their hearts. Amen.

Kristi Swanson

What Do I Do Now?

17th Day of Lent

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

Andy & I came back to church when our kids were young – we thought they needed to grow up in the church, as we had, so they could make informed choices as adults. Of course, we needed it just as much - or more - than they did. Life was good at the time, careers on track, house in the suburbs, two kids and four grandparents near enough for regular Sunday dinners.

As we became more involved in the church and Adult Sunday School, we began to learn in subtle ways how some of the families had been touched by tragedy, but maintained a strong faith. These were great examples to cling to when our own family was touched – my mother, at age 83, simply stopped breathing while taking a nap after routine surgery. I never asked God “Why?” because by then I knew that there would not be a satisfactory answer. However, I did know that she had a strong faith and was certainly in heaven with her Savior. My father was also a wonderful example of strength and acceptance.

For the next several years, we were the classic example of the ‘sandwich generation’, raising the kids and, together with our brothers and sisters, managing the households and appointments for our remaining parents. Eventually Dad moved to assisted living and Andy’s parents required 24 hour in-home care. Through it all, our church family was a blessing – there was always someone who had walked that road before and was able to offer some sane advice.

Then in April of 2015, routine blood work showed an issue with Andy’s liver. After a series of tests, by July, the doctors diagnosed advanced liver cancer. We knew he would not survive, but a trial at the National Institutes of Health promised some additional time.

Again, I didn’t ask God “Why”, and I don’t think Andy did, but I think I found a better question, one that can have an answer – “What do I do now?” In the short term, we pursued the available treatment, leaned on our church family, loved our families and traveled a bit. It seemed the only thing to do, but also the right thing to do. God gave us the strength to see it through.

After Andy died in October 2016, again I asked God, “What do I do now?” The answer was clear: “live – I still have plans for you”. Part of that is to continue to love my children – they are adults now, but still need advice occasionally. Part of that, I believe, is also to be one of those ‘examples’: to show that after any tragedy, with God’s help, you can continue to live a life of purpose.

Prayer: Awesome God, thank you for your many blessings, including a church family that provides daily love and support through all our trials. Give me strength each day to show that love to others. I pray in the most precious name of your son, Jesus. Amen

Pat Dodson

What Are You Doing Here?

3rd Sunday of Lent

I Kings 19:1-15

N3rd Sundayow Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.

All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.

The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night.

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

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.”

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. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 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?”

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.”

The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram.

What Does God Have in Store for Me?

16th Day of Lent

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

We ask God questions because we want assistance. We want help getting through the life that He has provided for us. We ask if we could be the best on the team, if we could get that big raise, or promotion. However, God works in mysterious ways. For instance, God could instead of giving you a promotion, give you a raise in faith. When you ask for something, it is showing that you believe He will take care of you and provide.

We’ve had our questions answered by God, but what about His questions. God can also ask questions. It can be as big as to build an ark or as small as to give to those in need. I know that I have seen God ask me questions that may not make a huge difference in our world but will bring joy. A few years ago, when I was in third grade my parents wanted me to play the drums. At first, I was not happy. I was with the same teacher for about a year and a half and I hated private lessons because I did not have anyone to play with. I asked my parents if I could go to the music school near our house. So, I stopped doing weekly private lessons and I went to try out for a band and see if we play well together. The first group was two girls, a singer and guitarist. Two of us thought it would be a cool idea, but one person did not like it so we did not become a band. After waiting for about a month, there was a post about another group looking for a drummer. So, my dad signed me up. At first, I was not happy about it because I was beginning to focus more on the violin. This group had the same singer from before, but a new guitarist and an amazing teacher, Al. Now I didn’t know this at the time, but we would end up becoming a band and we all became very close friends. We even booked a few gigs! This was an example of God calling me to do something that I would one day love to do and be able to share with others. Now I even fill in with the Praise band, Kidz Rock choir, and with JNS sometimes. He wanted me to have a great time and meet new people. Starting out on the drums really helped me when I began teaching myself other instruments.

In a way, we are like cheese and God is the whole burger, fries, and the milkshake. Without Him, we are incomplete. He uses us to share our gifts and talents in various ways.

Prayer: Lord, I thank You for You are the God of the impossible. You can do all things. Help me trust in You and be patient in times of doubts. Teach me to see difficulties in my life from Your perspective, as part of your plan. Amen.

Riley Miller

(Age 13)

Why Don’t You?

15th Day of Lent

But the Lord said to me, "Do not say, 'I am only a youth,' because everywhere I send you, you shall go, and all that I command you, you shall speak." Jeremiah 1:7

During the summer of 1996, I helped lead a miserable youth mission team in the mountains of Tennessee with an organization called Mountain TOP (Tennessee Outreach Project). It was miserable for many reasons but chief among them was the standing, moldy water in the girls shower stall that was the basis for incessant complaining among the teen girls that were on the team – especially the younger, middle school girls. Another significant reason the team was so miserable is that the mission organization had advertised that it offered Christ-centered programming as a part of the day to day activities; however, we experienced nary a prayer or testimony given by the very tired staff we encountered and most of the worship that was offered was geared towards high school youth (which meant I spent most of my time trying to corral the younger teens serving on the trip). Fortunately, God was still working in and through that miserable week and many of the youth are now grown-ups with a vital faith of their own. More         importantly, God also used this miserable experience to ignite in me a holy discontent for the existing youth mission opportunities that were available.

That fall, I found myself enjoying a meal with two friends who were also engaged in youth ministry in Virginia – Todd Freneaux and Barbara Russell. As we sat around the table at Outback enjoying our bloomin’ onion, we also began sharing our mission experiences from that summer. We discovered that it had been a miserable summer for all of us and so, we found ourselves asking the question, “Why isn’t there a better mission experience for middle school youth?” When we left, none of us had an answer to the question but we all continued to ponder it. Later, I felt God asking me, “Why don’t YOU start a better mission experience for middle schoolers?” As I prayed about it, I came up with lots of excuses… the youth are too young; we don’t have the start-up funds; who would be willing to send their youth to a new mission experience; we don’t have a place to do the ministry or a clue about how to find the people to help! The list went on and on. And yet, I kept avoiding the main problem… FEAR! Instead of trusting God and focusing on what God could do, I was crippled by my own fear.

The next time we met for coffee, we were all pretty fidgety and began to talk all at once… “I think God wants us to start a summer mission experience for middle school youth!” And, that’s how it all began. You see, sometimes, God can use our miserable experiences to accomplish great things for the kingdom. Jeremiah Project officially opened its doors for ministry as a non-profit in 1998 with two back-to-back, weeklong mission experiences for middle school youth. Since then our mission has become, "Transforming lives for Christ through student mission, ministry, and leadership development” and approximately 6,000 youth have served on summer mission work camps, more than 5,000 have attended the mid-year Journey retreat weekend, and 61 tenth graders have graduated from the yearlong leadership initiative, LEADfour:twelve. Wow! God is so good! And, this summer, we are venturing again into new territory as we launch a work camp experience for Sr. high youth in Jonesville, VA.   Sometimes, I wonder how my life would be different if I had ignored God’s question altogether or had stubbornly just said, “No!” And, I will be forever humbled by how many young people’s lives, experience of faith in Christ and understanding of mission might be different too without Jeremiah Project coming to fruition. What a blessing indeed it is to listen for God’s still small voice reminding us that so much is possible when we have faith in what God can do through us, no matter what age we might be at the time.

Prayer: Dear God, this Lent help me to hear the questions you are asking me to consider and to be open to how you might use my miserable experiences as a way to bring glory to You. In the name of Christ, Amen.

Pastor Abi

JP Logo

 

To learn more about Jeremiah Project go to: jeremiahproject.org

Why?

14th Day of Lent

As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9

There is not one person that is reading this devotional that has not asked God that question.    

There are some things we know and understand or maybe I should say we have learned. If you put your hand on a hot stove you will burn your hand. If you are running and don’t look where you are going and run into a tree, you are going to get hurt. If you drop a brick on your foot, it is going to hurt. We have all done stupid things and have gotten hurt. Some of them have been by accident and other things because we have decided to go ahead and see if we could do it without getting hurt. What are some things you have done and have gotten hurt? Well I thought I could …… but it didn’t quite work out.  

We usually don’t ask God “Why?” when things like that happen (in spite of our stupidity).  

Usually the questions of - “Why God ?” - come up when in our ‘thinking’ it doesn’t make any sense. I could make a full page of “Why’s?” and still not be able to provide any good answer. Why did …… have to die?   Why did I get sick – (you can name the sickness)?   How about - - “Why Me Lord, Why Me?”   And then there is the ever popular – “God, why did you allow this to happen?”

A person has been smoking for X number of years and gets lung cancer and dies. Ok, we can understand what has happened. But what we can’t understand is the person that has not smoked, or been around any of those things that we associate with causing cancer, gets lung cancer and dies?  

Do you think it bothers God when you honestly ask such a question? No. Is He going to love you less because you asked the question?   No. He will continue to love you. God showed you how much He loves you in sending His son, Jesus, to die on the cross for you. He is the mighty God. Yell, scream, holler, shout, cry, whatever. Like an angry child that doesn’t want to be held, God wants to hold you in his arms and comfort you. He understands your frustration and hurt. He is also saying - “Trust Me.”

So when we ask “Why God?”, we should also say “Lord I don’t understand but I will continue to trust you and look to you for strength and help.”

Prayer: Gracious and loving heavenly Father, you know that I struggle with many questions in life, the “Why’s” of the things that I do not understand. Thank you for your amazing unconditional love and for your forgiveness throughout my tantrum and anger. You are Holy and worthy of praise. I ask for your help as I put my faith and trust in you. Amen

Earl Amstutz

Whom Shall I Send?

13th Day of Lent

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” Isaiah 6:8

My transformation to a Christian in my 20s was not instant and I took baby steps at first. I used to attend church typically only when it fit my social calendar and the words like “Bible study”, “small group” or a “mission” were simply not in my vocabulary. I did not have my priorities straight. But by God’s grace I was on a path toward discovering God and His love for me.   Along that path my husband Joe and I experienced the wonder of our sons being born. We got involved with a church and believers while we lived in Asia and then back in the US, got hooked on a small group and Bible study concept. For the last decade we have been active in our St Thomas church, often including our sons. We have participated in local and international missions and the Walk to Emmaus program. We worship with others whenever we can here in Manassas and on our travels. I am grateful to have learned that reprioritizing my life actually brings more inner peace and stability for me and my family and I can be useful to others. I am thankful for my family and all my sisters and brothers in Christ who help me up when I feel down.

Often, the words below come to my mind, the words and melody of a special song “Here I Am, Lord”.

Verse 4:

I will break their hearts of stone

Give them hearts of love alone

I will speak my words to them

Whom shall I send?

Chorus:

Here I am, Lord,

Is it I, Lord?

I have heard you calling in the night

I will go Lord, if you lead me,

I will hold your people in my heart.

My family and I no longer plan our church activities around our social life but rather our social life around God’s church. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”   Philippians 4:7

Prayer: Dear God, I know my time and energy are precious gifts from You. I pray for Your guidance to help me use these gifts wisely. You know me from the inside out, Lord, and what You are offering is just what I need. It is my relationship with You that I need the most in my life. “Here I am, Lord. Send me!” It is in You that I find peace and hope. Amen.

Zuzana Steen

How Am I Living My Life?

12th Day of Lent

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot. Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

When I first discussed the topic of this year’s devotions with Pastor Abi, I was intrigued and had several ideas immediately come to mind. I spent time pondering the options, prayed about it, and thought I knew what I was supposed to talk about, but I was wrong. This is not the devotion I initially set out to write. A few days ago, I found out that a friend and former co-worker had suddenly passed away. Gerald was 34 years old and had what was thought to be a minor heart condition well controlled with medicine. He was active, took his medication and followed his doctor’s orders. He was a wonderful man, intelligent, witty, caring, and possibly the funniest person I have ever known. His son, Jonah, will turn three on my birthday in May and his second child ( they opted not to find out the gender) is due to be born in April. His passing was completely unexpected, happening one night in his sleep, and no one saw it coming or had a moment to prepare.

I suspect many of you are thinking that I’m asking God why this happened, but that’s not the question ringing in my mind. Of course there is a part of me wondering why Gerald had to go now when he had so many things to live for here on earth, but God has chosen this time to question me. “What are you doing?”, is what I keep hearing and know God is asking me what I’m doing to live life to the fullest, praise him with all I have, and better prepare myself for when He calls me home. It’s humbling to realize that I can’t truly answer Him or even myself right now. Oh, I tried at first to come up with the right answers, but quickly realized I was really making excuses. Tomorrow, next week, as soon as I can, and a few similar phrases came to mind, but God waved them all away. He saw me for the phony I am and would not let me off so easy.

So, now I’m faced with having to take a long look at myself and realize I am not living right. I spend too much time working and not enough time loving. I take on too many responsibilities, but fail to be responsible to myself. I go to church, sing in the choir, usher, attend committee meetings, etc., but don’t spend nearly enough time with my bible or in prayer. I am on a fast track that is little more than a circle going nowhere, and not following a true path. I also need to slow down and admire the scenery along the way and enjoy the fellowship of my friends and others I meet along the way. For all of this, I ask God and all of those I hold most dear to forgive me, continue to have faith in me, and allow me the opportunity to show you I can do better.

Prayer: Dear gracious and most loving Heavenly Father, I confess that I am lacking in many areas. I have not always listened well to what You had to say or followed what You want me to do. Thank You for allowing me the opportunity to try to correct this behavior and do better in the future. I ask that You watch over all who are reading this devotional and help them to hear the questions You are asking of them. Guide them and allow them to find peace, love and strength in all they do. Please allow all of us to work together to face what is to come in our lives and in the life of the United Methodist Church and to be better prepared when you decide to call each of us home. Amen

Deb Crawford

Do You Trust Me?

11th Day of Lent

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 2:5-6

Life can sometimes seem so overwhelming. We are pulled in multiple directions everyday. Whether it be work, school, extracurricular activities, family life, and the day to day of maintaining a home, it can all easily overcome us. To top that there are often periods of big decision-making such as: What school should I attend? Should I move my family? Should I take this job? Should I retire now? Where should Dad live now that Mom has passed? Then there are the normal stresses of paying bills, managing the kids, juggling homework, performing well in school, working a job to provide for yourself and family; it can be easy to grow weary with all of life piling on.

Faith gives us strength to make it through these periods of stress and worry. I have had my fair share of decision making and stress through the busyness of my life. I find comfort knowing there is a God who is always there and will provide the guidance and answers I need in those moments. Whenever I start to grow weary of my never ending to-do list and the worries of life, I often find God asking me, do you trust me? Haven’t I always provided everything that you really need? We serve a mighty God who is above all of our earthly struggles, which helps me put my life in perspective. I believe over time, God has continued to give me an inner peace that has seen me through the rough patches of life. There is comfort and hope knowing I can trust God through the beauty and messiness of this life.

Prayer: Dear God, We thank that you are a God who is above the chaos and stress of our lives. Help us to remember in the moments when life seems so overwhelming that you are God and we can trust you. Give us an inner peace that clings to you always. Help us to trust you with all of our hearts and to submit to you so that you may make our paths straight. Thank you for the love and grace you continue to show us daily. In Jesus name we pray. Amen

Caleb Mathews

What Is That In Your Hand?

2nd Sunday of Lent

Exodus 3:13-4:5

2nd SundayMoses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’

“This is my name forever;  the name you shall call me  from generation to generation.”

“Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.’

“The elders of Israel will listen to you. Then you and the elders are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God.’ But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. 20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go.

“And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed. Every woman is to ask her neighbor and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing, which you will put on your sons and daughters. And so you will plunder the Egyptians.”

Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?”

Then the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” “A staff,” he replied. The Lord said, “Throw it on the ground.”

Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. Then the Lord said to him, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. 

“This,” said the Lord, “is so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has appeared to you.”

Letter from Rick Cooke - March 1994

10th Day of Lent

Letter from Rick Cooke, Chairperson Administrative Board - March 1994

To the future congregation of Manassas St Thomas:

While I am writing this letter as chairperson of the Administrative Board, it is really a letter from all of us in the congregation of this church as we dedicate this new building in March of 1994.

If your historians have kept records accurately you will already know the church was formed by joining two congregations, St Thomas UMC and Manassas UMC in 1989. St Thomas had an active congregation and a physical limit to its ability to grow at its location on Westmoreland Avenue. Manassas UMC had a small congregation, but a beautiful and valuable piece of property on Sudley Road. With the prodding of the District the two churches joined together and the congregation set out on a building program at the Sudley Road site.

A building committee was formed, much input was sought from the various work areas and a plan was put together. In 1992 construction was begun on the new facility, adjacent to the old Manassas UMC building.

We went through much trial and tribulation in getting to the point where we were able to dedicate the new     building. The old Manassas UMC sanctuary was crowded as our congregation grew. We averaged around 450     people in the two services in early 1994 before the move. We had four adult Sunday School classes and a full     complement of youth and children’s classes. The overcrowded conditions had us meeting in the church secretary’s office and the sanctuary as well as two portable trailers adjacent to the old sanctuary. The church office was the former pastor’s residence that we had converted into offices and youth meeting rooms. Needless to say we looked forward to moving into the new facility.

We had a vision of what we wanted this church and this facility to be. You can judge if our vision was broad enough and if you are fulfilling the dream we had. Our vision was a church that was active in the community, not just a place for us to come on Sunday and worship together. Our programs and budget were to involve us in sharing the love that God gives us with others. Our vision was not to minister only to ourselves but to others through programs of sharing and outreach and service projects.

We wanted a strong Christian education program for children and adults. Our four adult Sunday School programs would expand to six immediately, and there would finally be enough room in the new building for growth in the children’s and youth programs. We have additional adult Bible study programs at various times during the week and now there would be room for them to expand.

And we wanted to grow. We began 1994 with 1073 members on the church role and 270 active families. Our budget was $562,825 and $168,000 of that was for mortgage payments on the new building. We hoped by the end of the year that we would grow in membership by 5 to 10 percent. Our ultimate goal is to reach 2002 members by 2002. In 1994 we began to look at ways to expand our membership and, more importantly, the participation of our members in the various programs of the church.

In the copy of the Charge Conference in 1993 that accompanies this letter in the time capsule is a listing of the   people on the various committees and work areas that labored so diligently in planning for the new building, getting it built and putting programs together for our church to move forward from this point . Much of the philosophy and thinking of the leaders of the church were contained in the reports that were made part of that charge conference. Again, you can judge our vision and our dream. Hopefully we laid the groundwork for a church that continues to be strong, to be involved in the community and concerned for the welfare of others. While it was our dream, it is your legacy.

From 25 years ago we send our wishes for God’s blessing on this church and its people.

Sincerely,

Rick Cooke, Chairperson, Administrative Board

Why Not?

9th Day of Lent

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Proverbs 3:5 

cartoon

During my Mom’s battle with cancer, this cartoon gave her perspective on dealing with her situation.  Throughout the years since, I have often recalled the “Why Not?” part when “Why Me?”  thoughts creep in.

Most of the time when there’s a “Why Me?” moment, it’s bad news and the “Why Not?” serves as a humbling reminder.  But what if we looked at the “Why Not?” as a positive?  When God puts an opportunity to serve in our path which question will we most often choose – Why me? Or Why Not?

Trusting God is essential to embracing Why Not?  Our Food Pantry ministry would not exist today if Why Me? had blocked the road to Why Not? How many blessings would have been missed if our mission teams didn’t respond Why Not? In the recent sermon series on Neighboring, Pastor Abi challenged us to trust God and reach out to our neighbors – Why Not?  This summer we will offer 4 weeks of camps for children in addition to VBS – Why Not? 

Brad Archer of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church writes: “Trust in the Lord is a faith that lets us boldly serve.”  God will always direct our paths and lead us to consider Why Not? as a means of doing the ministry we are called to do.

Prayer: Father God, Help us to trust and rely on You in every circumstance.  May we look at each calling that You place on our hearts as a Why Not? full of possibilities and live each day seeking the joy that comes from surrendering to Your Will.  Amen

Pat Brown

Where Are You, God?

8th Day of Lent

I cry aloud to the Lord ; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.  I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble. When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know my way.  In the path where I walk men have hidden a snare for me. Look to my right and see; no one is concerned for me.  I have no refuge; no one cares for my life.  I cry to you, O Lord ; I say, "You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.  Psalm 142:1-4

Too many times I have heard of people getting angry with God over a situation in which He did not answer their prayer in the way they thought He should.  A child died, a parent developed dementia, a spouse was killed in a car accident.  There are probably thousands of situations in which God does not do as asked.  And the question lingers:  Why did God let/cause this to happen ?  How could a so-called loving, omnipotent God . . . . . ?   And the person not only leaves the church, they totally lose their faith in God.  Actually that is the true tragedy - not the tragic situation, but the broken relationship with God, and at a time when He is needed the most.  Without God the person may well remain angry and bitter and become increasingly morose. Only God can truly bring healing, comfort and peace - the peace that passes understanding.  And only God can supply the strength to endure.  The apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12 about what he referred to as a "thorn in the flesh" which he asked God to remove.  God's reply was not to remove the thorn, but to tell Paul,  "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness." 

You may have heard the story of Horatio Spafford, the man who wrote the wonderful hymn, "It is Well With My Soul."  In 1873 Mr. Spafford and his family were scheduled to sail on the Villa Du Havre to Europe.  At the last minute he was unable to go because of work, but his wife and four daughters went on without him.  Tragically the ship sank and all four daughters were killed.  His wife was among the survivors.  He immediately booked passage on another ship and sailed to Europe to join his wife.  The powerful song was a result of that tragedy.  Spafford and his wife went back to Chicago and had three more children, one of whom died very young of scarlet fever.  After losing five children the family emigrated to Jerusalem and began ministering to Jews, Muslims and Christians in a soup kitchen, a hospital, and an orphanage.  One version of the story says that the orphanage is still there to this day and bears their name.  God turned their tragedy to good for His glory.    

Charlotte Elliot, who wrote, "Just As I Am" was disabled for life at the age of 32.  And Fanny Crosby who wrote over 8,000 hymns was blind from birth, but she never ceased to praise her Jesus with all of her heart.   God turned their tragedies to good for His glory. Did these people get mad at God?  Maybe.  Did they yell and scream at God?  Possibly.  Did their circumstances destroy their faith?  NEVER! They demonstrate that to turn away from God is the biggest tragedy of all.

On the last night of Jesus' earthly life He went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray.  His prayer is found in John 17 and I would encourage you to read it.  You might think that because Jesus is God it wasn't  that big of a deal .  And of course the point is that it didn't have to be:  He could have walked away.  But Jesus was living in human form, and the beating, torture, and crucifixion were every bit as painful for Him as it would be for you or me.  And He begged God to take that cup from Him - to not make Him go through with it.  Of course, Jesus is also God.  He knew He had to go through with it and He knew why.  Matthew 26:39  Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."  This is the only way for you and me - everyone who would believe in Him - to have eternal life. 

Don't ever think God hasn't suffered and doesn't understand:  He has and He does.  And we owe Him everything.  As Paul discovered, God's grace is sufficient, no matter what the circumstance or how painful.

Prayer: Most Holy God,  it is sometimes easy for us to forget that You are Holy, You are Sovereign, You are God.  In our troubles and sorry we forget the very deep love you have for us that was shown to us in Jesus and all He has done for us, suffering to death, even death on a cross.  Oh God, in our darkest hour and deepest need help us to "turn our eyes upon Jesus and look full in His wonderful face" so that our faith will not waver.  Great is Thy faithfulness.  In the holy and precious name of Jesus.  Amen.

Jane Amstutz

Who Am I That You Surely Love Me?

7th Day of Lent

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  Psalm 139:14

This verse tells us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. I wonder -  does this only apply to the great people of the earth, such as King David. Am I included in this wonderful artistry? I’m certainly not anything more than an ordinary person. Would God spend his precious attention making me?

Even when I feel so imperfect, I can look at myself and imagine that this Psalm speaks of God’s creativity. Every movement that I can see and feel all the way down to cells, nerves, molecules, all that I can’t see. It is miraculous how all this works. God’s wonder is evident in every little detail of our own selves.

It is much easier to falter when looking outward towards the wonders of those around us. If I can get my head around the idea that God’s creation is in me, then it is clear that I also have to get my head around the idea that God’s creation is in all my neighbors too. As I look outward, I can feel God asking me if I have forgotten the second of the greatest commandments. How could I possibility feel my own imperfection and still see God’s creativity unless I can do the same for my neighbors?

Prayer:  Lord, my prayer is that we truly love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind. And then that we love our neighbor as yourself.  Amen.

Steve Burnett

What Does God Ask of Me?

6th Day of Lent

I cry aloud to God, that he might hear me. What is man that thou art mindful of him? Psalms 76:1 & 9:4

What things does God ask me...to seek, to knock, to find, serve, to go, to worship and to spend time with Him, to love as He loved, picking up our cross to follow Him.  If we are serving so much that we neglect to spend time with Him, we need to repent to make that right in our lives.  God once moved me to Germany to show me that.

Women often see the demonstration of the rice and the walnuts.  If you put the walnuts in first, the rice will fit in the jar.  If you don't everything will not fit.  It is a representation of the start of the day with God and the things He wants you to do (the walnuts) and everything else will fit (the rice).

He also asks me not to worry but to trust Him with the hard things of life.  How often I need to be reminded to trust God to work for good in my life and have faith that He will.  Recently He has helped me with care and finances for my dying mother, to settle a family trust and to help my son who was on a rocky road and now has a diagnosis of stage one paranasal sinus cancer.  So He helps me trust Him with the big things as well as the small.  Romans 8:28, "We know in everything God works for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose".

We are all being called.  How many times have we asked God, what next?  He always shows us which way He would have us go.  He uses many ways to show us.  But through the Holy Spirit, like the old hymn states, "He leads me by His own hand."

One big thing as humans we ask, why.  Why did my sister, Janet die at 42, leaving three young children?  It tends to be our first question as God lets us voice our displeasure even though He gave His only 33 year old son for our behalf.  Or a young child of a devout Christian, my friend Yvette, dies.  We in our confusion ask the same.  Then we must call upon an extra measure of faith and grace that help us through the tragedies of life.

Losing my parents seemed like a natural progression, even as it reminds me that I am in the last generation of life and that now I am the matriarch.  Mortality - what does that mean to us as believers?   

We learn to rejoice in all things even as the pains of this life interfere.  My hips may be hurting due to bursitis and my back, neck or legs may be complaining.  But I can still say, "This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it."  We have faith In a better place that God has prepared for us.  And like the apostle Paul we can know that to live is Christ and to die is gain.  We can serve and live for Christ as long as we are able.  He will give us the grace to live out each day.

Prayer: Lord help us to listen to your voice and understand your answers as we seek your face in this life. Equip us for a closer walk with you, in Jesus name, Amen.  

Mary Petrilla

Why Do the Heathen Rage?

5th Day of Lent

Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?"  The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision."  Psalm 2:1-4 

Do you often long for a lot more of the good when watching the daily news.  I am appalled at the things said daily in the media that scorn much of the instruction the Lord laid down for his people, whom he loves and created.  When I remember the things that I was taught as a child and as a youth, I often wonder whatever happened to common sense and gratitude, and just plain good manners in a nation so blessed as ours.  It sometimes seems that many of  our nation's  leaders prefer arguing  and throwing insults back and forth to getting anything done for the good of our nation and the world.  I am heartsick that so many of the commandments of God our maker and the teachings of Jesus are held in total disregard and even attacked as "out of fashion" or "not relevant for today".  Yet we read in God's Holy Word that he does not change like shifting shadows, and that His Word stands forever since Christ His only Begotten Son and our Savior reins forever as King of All, as voiced in more verses of the second Psalm. The entire psalm makes it clear that a wise king should be instructed, serve the Lord , and honor the Son , because He has the ultimate control and power.  

Whenever I begin to feel discouragement about the decadent practices that are touted as "good" in the world today, yet are disobedient to the commands of our God, I go to the Father with a prayer and to his Holy Word for encouragement and blessed assurance that He is in control and He will repay those who do not regard His instructions.

Prayer: Father God, Lord of the universe,  we love you, we praise you, and we bless your righteous Name.  Hallelujah and glory to you, Lord Christ. Come, Holy Spirit; guide, teach and  help us to stay connected to you every moment of our day, as we live out our lives in a constantly changing world, where we experience the same challenges as believers of ages past. Thank you for the mystery of faith, and our redemption, bought by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross of Calvary where he took the punishment instead of laying all our own sins on us, as we deserved.  What mercy!  Thank you that You, the triune God do not change. Help us to serve you as long as we live and grant us forgiveness so that we might be with you forever. Amen. 

Carolyn Glade

  

What Is Your Name?

1st Sunday of Lent

Genesis 32:22-32

That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.  Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”  The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”  Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”

But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.  So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.

What Are You Doing?  

4th Day of  Lent

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. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 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 19:11-13

Make time for the quiet moments as God whispers and the World is loud.  These words are framed in our house and it reminds me daily of the quiet moments that we need in order to hear God's voice.

Some of you may have already heard me speak of this story before, but it is well worth telling again. Many years ago, I had God speak to me through a license plate. I don't remember the exact year,  but I do remember where it happened and why it happened. As an Environmental Health Specialist for the Virginia Department of Health, one of my duties was to conduct field inspections of sewage disposal systems and water wells for newly constructed homes in Prince William County. Once the field inspections are completed, then all the required documents, inspection forms and Operations Permits are typed up and signed. This process normally takes a few days before the signed Operation Permits and other documents are  given to the Building Department for the required Occupancy Permit to be issued to the property owner so that they can legally move into their new home.  

It was a warm Friday afternoon before the long Memorial Day weekend and I was completing a final inspection of a home off Davis Ford Road. Everything was in order and all the necessary inspections had been completed. All the requisite forms from the trade professionals as well as water sample results and water well log were in the file. The only thing standing between me and final authorization were the typed up inspection forms and signatures on the Operation Permit. As it turned out, the property owner was at the house and we began discussing when they were going to move in. He indicated that the moving truck was in-route and that they were planning on moving in that afternoon. His wife and kids were in another car and were following the moving company and that they should be at the house within the hour.  I was dumbfounded and thought to myself, well that's not going to happen because the inspection forms still needed to be typed up and then the necessary signatures would need to be placed on the Operation Permit forms etc, etc, etc….  plus my Supervisor and Manager had both taken the day off for the Memorial Day weekend and it was already 3 pm in the afternoon.   I think you can see where this is going...............

The property owner said , “There has to be something you can do. I have the moving truck and the men to move the furniture in the house and my wife and kids are here and .......”.  I told him that I would see what I could do to help him through this situation and walked back to my truck.

Cell phones were becoming common place and after talking TO myself for a few minutes, I decided that this was just something that I could not leave alone. I called the Building Officials and explained the situation. They indicated that if we had all the necessary papers and with my verbal authorization over the phone they would  issue a move-in permit for furniture only. I went back and explained this to the property owner and he was thankful for my help and said that he could at least get his furniture in and that he could stay the weekend with relatives.  

As I write this now, this all seems so silly but at that time I felt convicted to help this family through this situation in anyway that I could.  On the drive back to the office, I felt that I had not followed the protocol of the office and was beating myself up over this, and that I would have to explain what I had done to my Supervisor on Monday. It was at that moment that a car passed me with license tag that read UR4GVN and at that moment again, a  smile came to my face with an understanding that I had done the right thing.  To this day, that license tag is etched in my mind and reaffirms that God does indeed whisper to us in quiet ways.     

Prayer: Dear God, when things aren’t going the way I think they should be going, or when I feel trouble at my back, remind me to close my eyes and let your whisper strengthen my spirit. Amen

Will Ameen 

Who Am I?

3rd Day of Lent

Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”  Exodus 3:11

I have attended St. Thomas United Methodist for many years and have seen the call for devotionals in the church bulletin every year.  I have always considered writing a devotional and then thought, “Who would want to hear what I have to say about God?  I’m not a minister or a leader in the church.”

Well, I’m not sure if what I have to say is important enough to write about or not.  However, in the words of one of my favorite hymns, “Here I am Lord. Is it I Lord?” 

This year I have tried very hard to answer the call in the night that leads me to follow the Lord.  I have started helping with the Food Bank by picking up food, joined the Children and Youth committee, and taught Sunday School.  Each of these experiences scared me at first but each experience has helped me grow in my faith and bond with the wonderful people here at St Thomas.  I have a role to play here and in the world. 

So while I still often answer God’s call with the question “Are you sure?”, I will do my best to overcome my fear and take on each challenge that God calls for me.  Each one of us has the duty to follow God and answer his call with a “I am here. It is I.”

Prayer: Lord, ease my fears and help me to answer your call more often. Amen

Mandy Burnett

Where Are You?

2nd Day of Lent

When they heard the sound of God strolling in the garden in the evening breeze, the Man and his Wife hid in the trees of the garden, hid from God.   God called to the Man: “Where are you?”  Genesis 3:8-9

I am a Wesleyan by choice. Even though I was baptized and confirmed in another denomination, Wesley’s teachings on grace captured my heart as a young adult. In Genesis 3, we read that when Adam and Eve disobeyed the Creator’s command and fell from grace, they attempted to hide. Yet, God took the initiative in seeking them, asking, “Where are you?”

Why the question?  Certainly Almighty God Who sees and knows all doesn’t need a GPS to find His erring humans! “Where are you?” The offer of restoration and renewal begins with confronting the reality of sin and its consequences (Genesis 3:10-21). Yet, our God, ever rich in mercy, provides animal skins for Adam and Eve to cover their nakedness. This provision, requiring the sacrifice of an animal, foreshadows the perfect sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God Who would come to take away the sins of the world (John 1: 29; Hebrews 9:14). 

Not only for Adam and Eve, but throughout redemption history, God gives loving instructions and boundaries for living by faith in the midst of creation marred and broken by the fall of humanity. When we are tempted to hide, grace reminds us God’s “perfect love casts out fear” (I John 4:18) and “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

 “Where are you?”  It’s a great question to ponder this Lent.  A very wise pastor once challenged me to keep on seeking a deeper relationship with the Lord, to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18). He said, “There’s always another course in God’s school of grace.”

There is always more to experience of our faithful God Who continues to pursue a love relationship with us!  May we continue to be challenged by the truth of God’s grace-filled inventory question, “Where are you?” 

Prayer: Faithful God, help us not shrink back from Your loving questions. Thank You for taking the initiative to seek us, offering us relationship and all we need for the living of these days.  In the Name of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. Amen.  

Rev. Pat Tony

 

Lenten Devotional Intro

lenten devotional

A Word of Orientation to This Year’s Lenten Devotional

Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday.  Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lencten which means “spring.”  The season is a preparation for celebrating Easter.  Historically, Lent began as a period of fasting and preparation for baptism by converts to the Christian faith and then became a time for penance by all Christians.  Because Sundays are always little Easters, the penitential spirit of Lent should be tempered with joyful expectation of the Resurrection.  In other words, we observe a holy Lent with a perspective and understanding of the end of the story -- Jesus rises from the grave and conquers death!  This orients us and helps us stay focused on what’s most important.

As you move through the season of Lent, you will notice that we are also moving through the witness of Scripture.  We have organized the devotions from the members and staff of St. Thomas in order of the books of the Bible — moving from Genesis and the Old Testament into the Gospels and the letters of Paul in the New Testament.  Because this is our 25th year of ministry in our current building and sanctuary, we have also included four letters from the youth and adult leaders of the congregation that helped to build our church in 1994.  These letters were part of the time capsule that was opened at our 25th Anniversary Celebration on March 3, 2019.  You are invited to ponder their hopes and dreams for us now as the future congregation to whom they were writing.  What questions might arise for us about our identity, calling, and ministry in this particular time and place?

Lastly, you will notice artwork woven throughout the devotional this year in connection with the Sunday Scripture readings that will be explored in worship each week as we move through the questions God asks us.  Each of these images was chosen by members on the team of volunteers who serve on the newly convened Worship Design Team.  This faithful group works in tandem with the Senior Pastor and the Worship Committee to help plan and execute the creative elements that are woven into each new sermon series. 

During the season of Lent, you will notice that the brass elements we typically use in worship have been removed from the altar and the Sanctuary — the altar cross, the candle stick holders, and the offering plates.  Instead, somber colors such as purple and ash gray and rough-textured cloth, candlesticks and baskets are being used to help us remember the rough journey Christ took to the cross.  And, a new, simple wooden cross was created to help us remember the wooden cross that Jesus was nailed to on Good Friday.  In these ways, through artwork, worship elements, and the devotions you’ll find that the people of St. Thomas have shared their gifts and their faith so that we might grow in grace and deepen our spiritual practices both individually and together. 

To God be the glory!  Amen!

Worship

Sundays:

8:15 AM Traditional 
9:40 AM Contemporary 
11:00 AM Traditional

Tuesdays:

6:30 PM Prayer and Communion 
(September - May)

Contact

St. Thomas UMC
8899 Sudley Road
Manassas, VA 20110
703-368-5161
info@stthomasumc.org 

Our Haymarket Campus

Worship: Sundays at 10 AM
Gravely Elementary School

Office: The Old Bank Building
Haymarket, VA

haymarketchurch.org

 

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