Category Archives: Messages by Pastor Mike

Now and Then

I’ve been looking in the sky a lot lately.  I like the astronomical things.  We just passed Astronomy Day on May 2nd, and the final super moon of 2020 will be on Thursday, May 7th.  Since we live near a lot of natural lights it can be hard to see the meteor showers.  I’m not a die-hard watcher.  But I’ve been looking in the sky a lot lately.

 I read a story recently when Halley’s comet appeared almost a century ago in 1910.  Maybe you recall when it came around again back in 1986.  As the story goes, a small boy was with his father and mother and he saw it: Halley’s Comet.  It made a deep impression on him and he said, Wow, I want to see that it again.  His father said, “Well, it won’t happen.  Astronomers say it won’t return for 76 years and people don’t live that long.”  The little boy said he thought he would.  His first name was Norman.  His middle name was Vincent.  His last name was Peale.

Dr. Peale lived to be 95 and before he died, he did see Halley’s Comet come back again, but in all the years he wrote his books, preached at Marble Collegiate Church in New York City, and in his radio and TV appearances, every so often he would tell them about seeing Halley’s Comet when he was a little boy and what his father said, and he said to his parents:  I’m going to live long enough to see it come back again.  And his father said, “Well, that isn’t nearly so important as to what you believe God is going to do in your life between now and then.”

What is God going to do in your life between now (today) and then?  Whatever the then is to you.  It may be a week from now or a decade.  It may be after graduation. Or, when the stay-at-home order is lifted. What would you like God to do?  Ask God to help you.  May is the month of graduations.  The month to thank, love and remember Mothers.  The month to remember those who perished in wars so that we could even have the opportunity to have a life now and life later.  The month of Pentecost and the Holy Spirit being poured out. God can use anything to accomplish God’s purposes and often uses what’s around us.   — Pastor Mike



The Holy Spirit Brings Truth to our Minds

The Holy Spirit…will be your teacher and will bring to your minds all that I have said to you.  — John 14:26

Listen to and sing UMH 393 Spirit of the Living God.  Try UMH 331 Holy Spirit, Come Confirm Us with music by nationally noted United Methodist organist, choir director, and composer V. Earle Copes who was born in Norfolk VA.  Copes was a Consultant on the 1966 UMH and 1999 UMH. Then go to TFWS 2142 Blessed Quietness and for a treat, type in Progressive Church – Blessed Quietness on YouTube.  The audio is hard to hear but the pace, energy, and rhythm are perfect.

     I’ve learned that one way God speaks through us is ideas.  God gives you thoughts.  He gives you suggestions.  God puts impressions and notions in your mind.  All these are meant to build you up into the person God intends for you and for the Kingdom.  When the devil talks to you, that is temptation.  When God talks to you in your mind, we call that inspiration.
      The Holy Spirit is our Teacher and Counselor.  The Spirit is like a personal life coach and so much more.  I have had coaches, counselors, mentors, and ministry coaches in my life and I gauge them all by the Perfect Teacher and Counselor.  I’m constantly asking God, “What’s next, God?  Holy Spirit, what do you want me to do?”  That’s a dangerous question, because God will always have something for you to do.
       Notice it says bring to your minds. I understand that to mean the Holy Spirit speaks directly to your mind.  I have never in my life heard God speak in an audible voice.  I guess God doesn’t need to go through my ears though I have heard God’s truth and love from others.  He goes directly to my mind.  His Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we really are God’s children (Romans 8:16).
       I want to encourage you to stay in God’s word.  When you take the time to read, meditate, and fill your mind with God’s Word and God’s work, you are storing the truth and the story of the Trinity in your mind, and then the Holy Spirit can bring it to mind at just the right time.
       Our minds are filled with everything – constant updates on COVID-19 and the plethora of information on so many things.  Even every bad joke (which my kids always remind me).  It’s all in there.  You need to balance it with truth.  Then the Holy Spirit can bring God’s truth to mind, reveal that Blessed Quietness to you, and show you the way you should go.  Please know this:  Jesus is really here for you, for us.  He knows our need.  We really have access to a lot through the Holy Spirit. – Pastor Mike


Gutsy Love

Gutsy Love
Listen to and sing UMH 287 O Love Divine, What Hast Thou Done written by Charles Wesley, Methodist hymn writer extraordinaire and 18th child of Samuel and Susannah Wesley (whew!).  The tune SELENA was applied to this hymn by Isaac Woodbury 108 years later.   For a deeper understanding and appreciation for this hymn, click HERE.  For contemporary songs, try David Crowder Band’s How He Loves Us and Francesca Battistelli’s Beautiful, Beautiful.
     God is love – and through the life of Jesus we see that love in nonstop action.  Sometimes it’s calm and gentle, at other times it overturns temple tables in a rage, standing up for justice and reverence.
     Christ demonstrated His love for us at Golgotha.  As How Great Thou Art reminds us, “He bled and died to take away my sins.”  He told us we can’t love both God and mammon (an Aramaic word that means riches, wealth, and anything to which one lusts).  He reminded us that those who obey His two commandments are the ones who love Him (John 14:15-17).  These are not easy, sterile descriptions of a mild, lukewarm love.  They speak of a gutsy, willing-to-do-anything love, the same kind of love Jesus had for his disciples, for us and this world, and that took Him to the cross. 
     Jesus also taught us that those who have been forgiven much will love much (Luke 7:47).  Worship is a response to this gutsy love.  Meeting in-person is the ideal experience for worship and certainly what we are used to doing, but there are times when it isn’t possible because of work, travel, illness, caring for others or a pandemic.  I think that in these times it helps to have the whole picture of Christ’s heart and character:  the active, compassionate, tender, teaching, healing Christ, and also the sacrificial Christ who is suffering, dying, rising, ascending and reigning. 
     I am glad to hear that many of you are finding ways to worship online and support one another. Our President has extended the federal guidelines through April, so we are making plans to have all April Sunday services online, either in real time or tape delay.  We will send out an email letting you know is happening. Our Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church is helping with resource lists.  Your ideas have been very helpful to me, too.
     These are times that will test our support for Bethany when we can’t be together in person, and for one another.  God will help us and see us through, but it will take a determined, stubborn, gutsy love to care for one another, be in community, and keep Bethany strong in love, in prayer, in ministry and financially.  With our online worship presence, we are “startin’ from scratch” in a hurry, and I take comfort in the fact that
     The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, God’s mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning, great is thy faithfulness. – Lamentations 3: 22,23.
     I ask you to join with me in the love that flows freely and absolutely from heart, mind, and soul in response to all we have received.  A consuming, gutsy offering of love and life made in reply to God who first loved us.    – Pastor Mike     

What Is Your Focus?

Listen to and sing UMH 298 When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (HAMBURG), a classic hymn and tune which has been in Methodist hymnals for more than a century.  Try UMH 299 When I Survey the Wondrous Cross to the beautiful ROCKINGHAM tune.  The ROCKINGHAM predates the HAMBURG tune.  The UMH 349 Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus was first published in England and inspired by Isaiah 45:22.  It is the chorus to the hymn The Heavenly Vision.
       What is the focus that gives direction to your life?  For educators, it seems to be the S.O.L. results, for students the S.A.T. scores, for investors the Dow Jones Average or the NASDAQ ratings, for business executives the “bottom line,” for coaches the final score, and for race car drivers the finish line.
       Lent comes each year to challenge us as to what is the primary focus in our lives.  We are nearing the end of Lent; this Sunday April 5th is Palm Sunday and we turn our eyes to Jesus’ Passion.  I remember the first time I watched The Passion of Christ.  It wrecked me.  It stayed with me for days.  It also made me realize that I had put more time and focus than necessary on things other than on Christ and my personal relationship with Him and what He did for all of us. I was reminded just how intensely God loves us and how persistent God can be about wanting to have a people who are devoted to Him.  God is serious about this. This God will have a family and a people, even if the price is quite high. 
       We live in a time of strict social distancing (to use Governor Northam’s well-chosen words in his Executive Order 53).  It would not surprise me if this is to be the new normal for April and May.
I know it is difficult for you, particularly for those who live alone.  My heart goes out to those whose work has stopped and are dealing with loss of income.  The reality of this must create feelings of anxiety and uncertainty for the present and future. Some of you are not able to see and hold your loved ones. I pray that God will uphold you in these days and lead you in the direction that will be best for you and your family.  Our faith provides the basis of strength and hope for the future.
       I also encourage each of you to find some good guide for your prayer and meditation as we move toward Easter.  Practice those disciplines that will help you to truly focus on Jesus.  Check out our Facebook page, church web site, weekly emails, video messages and worship.       
       The chorus from our hymnal is so true!
                Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face,
                And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.
       It is good to be with you in ministry.  Thank you for your faithful financial support of Bethany, for watching over one another in love, and your prayers for one another and our world. – Pastor Mike     


I will think on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, and on Your wondrous works. – Psalm 145:5.

     Listen to and sing UMH 160 Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart (MARION); try UMH 161 Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart (VINEYARD HAVEN, Dirksen was the longtime organist and choirmaster of Washington National Cathedral), and TFWS 2088 Lord, I Lift Your Name on High.
     Every time we bow our heads or lift our voices or wonder at the beauty of nature, we find ourselves before the glorious splendor of His majesty.   I believe that even as Jesus is in my life and in yours through the person of the Holy Spirit, He is also on His throne looking out at the people in Heaven. He is not content with that number; Christ wants more people to know Him.
      We read in the Old Testament that God promised Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars (Genesis 22:15-19).  God’s family is made up of Abraham’s descendants, both Jew, Gentile, and Arab; the Family Tree can be found in Genesis, Matthew, and Quran; all who choose to believe that God is God and will do what God says God will do.
     There are so many more yet to come into that glorious splendor, so many more who will see God’s wonderful works!  Pray today for someone you know who had hardened their heart to God, to Jesus, and to the Holy Spirit.  Pray that they will give themselves to Christ and trust Him for now and for eternity.  A glorious splendor awaits them and all who remain faithful.  One day, when we are standing before Christ, we will be amazed to see the glory, majesty, and splendor of Heaven, a place created for all who love Christ and for all who have chosen to be called by His name.  Until then, we will be content with bowing our heads in prayer, lifting our voices in song, loving one another, and looking at the glorious splendor of His creation.  — Pastor Mike

Shooting Prayers

Frank Laubach, the 20th century Congregational Christian missionary, mystic, and champion of literacy, was a man of deep prayer.  He had a prayer technique he called shooting prayers:  inwardly and silently praying for that person as he talked with them.  Since prayer is two-way communication, he would receive from God a word of direction, blessing, or encouragement. On some occasions, God would reveal to him things he could not have possibly known about that person.  More often, a need would flash across his mind that would later be mentioned or alluded to by that person.

I am shooting prayers to you during this pandemic.  I am praying for your time at home, at work, with your family, and your time by yourself.   Let’s continue to pray for one another and watch out for each other in these days! –  Pastor Mike