5 Ways to Pray on the 4th of July…
1. Give thanks for your freedom and favor.
What a blessing it is to enjoy the freedoms we too often take for granted and the blessings that attend us in this country.
2. Pray for those who protect our freedom.
Remember those who fought and died for our freedom in the past and those soldiers, sailors, and those whose service protects us today.
3. Pray for our nation’s leaders.
Paul, the early church leader, wrote, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior” (1 Timothy 2:1-3, niv). If he were writing today, Paul would probably include not only the president and other national officials but also members of Congress, governors, judges and others in positions of authority both locally and nationally.
4. Remember those in oppressive or disadvantaged circumstances.
As we express gratitude for our freedoms, we should also remember those who live in different circumstances where war, oppression, discrimination and injustice divide and dominate. We have recently been reminded of this in our own country. Even as you rejoice in your blessings, cry out to God for those who suffer.
5. Find new freedom in forgiveness.
There is no bad time to forgive someone but there are few better times than on a day when we celebrate freedom. Take a moment to consider whether there is someone you can forgive or something in your life that you can let go. Or perhaps there is someone you need to ask forgiveness from. Why not include in this year’s celebration a new level of freedom by shaking off the shackles of unforgiveness or regret—perhaps even seeking God’s forgiveness or forgiving yourself, and experiencing the truth of Romans 8:1-2: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2, niv).
adapted from: guideposts.org
Article by Scott Drury, FMF Financial Services, Regional Representative.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…. (1 John 4:18, NIV)
In 2014, Ebola swept across three West African nations like a scourge, terrifying and deadly. Fear gripped the world not unlike today. Millions suffered through quarantines. The media echoed with similar calls for travel bans, border closings, and anger over missteps by world leaders and health care officials. Although Ebola and COVID-19 are not similar as viral diseases, the responses to fear remain sadly the same—riots over quarantines; attacks on those trying to help; rumors of geo-political plots.
I was in Liberia on July 27, 2014, the day it was globally reported that Dr. Kent Brantly and his SIM colleague Nancy Writebol had contracted Ebola. That was the day fear came. Traveling with a gospel team, we had made a significant connection with leaders of a remote, unreached Gola village to bring clean water and show the Jesus film. Standing on the border posing for photos, we received texts of the news and shortly thereafter were escorted from the gates. We returned to deserted and fearful streets of Monrovia.
In the days that followed, I struggled with real anxiety, but was able to complete my project and return home to twenty-one days of social distancing and daily temperature checks. Writebol simply struggled to survive after putting her life on the line to serve the Liberian people. Many vilified her for taking foolish risks and advocated for the isolation of West Africa, tacitly advocating for the deaths of hundreds of thousands. But by God’s grace those voices did not prevail. Writebol and the spirit of perfect love she represented did. Lives were saved and an even worse catastrophe was averted.
In 2017, I met Writebol and shook her hand. It isn’t often you get to meet a hero of the faith. She was back in Liberia serving God and the people she loved. I was there among thousands of Gola people to celebrate clean water and hundreds of new believers. Love had driven fear away in a miraculous way and God was blessing us with a wonderful harvest.
Perhaps you are feeling discouraged, anxious, and maybe even a little angry these days. Don’t lose heart. Let me encourage you to embrace Writebol’s example. If you can’t serve on the front lines of the pandemic now, embrace and support this next generation of Writebols who are. No matter what the circumstance, you can choose to be part of God’s miraculous story of love and redemption. A harvest awaits.
The people refused to enter the promised land, for they wouldn’t believe His promise to care for them. Instead, they grumbled in their tents and refused to obey the Lord. Psalm 106: 24-25
During these unprecedented times, it may seem like we are in a wilderness. Like the Israelites, we would rather grumble and complain instead of trusting God to care for us.
I believe sometimes God takes us on a journey to a new place – one that requires us to close our ears to the voices of doubt and to TRUST Him. Sometimes God will ask us to climb mountains. He may take us to places where we feel unsafe to help increase our TRUST factor. The climb can be higher and harder than expected. At times it may even seem impossible or depressing.
I was able to live out this lesson as I climbed Mount Sinai to see the sunrise on a recent trip to the Middle East and Holy Land. It was there I learned that sometimes God has me climb in the dark, TRUSTING Him to light the path bring companions who will journey with me. I also learned that once I reached the top (what I think is the destination), the journey wasn’t over. It really had just begun. I also needed to climb down the mountain to deliver the story God had given me to share.
What does your TRUST factor look like? Are you TRUSTING or grumbling? Are you equipping yourself for the journey God has you on through good stewardship of your heart, mind, and soul? Are you sharing your story?
Commit EVERYTHING you do to the Lord – TRUST Him – and He will help you. Psalm 37:5
I will TRUST in Him and not be afraid – the Lord God is my strength and my song; He has given me victory. Isaiah 12:2
Contact Carol: https://fmffinancial.org/carol/
GOD IS AT WORK ALL THE TIME!
Recently two separate reports came my way and I thought it was so interesting to see how God’s work continues regardless of the time, place and issues at hand. The first is an excerpt from an East Michigan Conference (EMC) report that was included in their 1919 Annual Conference Minutes:
“During the first part of the year we were greatly handicapped in our work by the dread disease, Spanish Influenza. Nearly all of our churches were closed for weeks and not a service was held. This had a depressing effect on the spiritual condition of the work. But, notwithstanding all we have had to encounter, almost all of the preachers have held special meetings on their charges and with some result and in our judgment, we think the work is on the upgrade… It is with a sense of pleasure that we close the year’s work and take a retrospect and see how the Lord has blessed by giving us grace and physical strength to execute the work assigned us.” (From the Marston Memorial Historical Center; see more HERE)
Second, Superintendent Tom Dougherty (North Michigan Conference) shared the following encouraging words despite not being able to hold their Annual Conference last weekend as originally scheduled:
“The North Michigan Conference is looking forward, even as we minister today from homes and empty church buildings. Most of our churches have increased their presence online. We are discovering new friends while ministering to our church families through new and old fashion methods of connecting.
We are positioning ourselves for great cooperate worship relaunches while engaging in new ministry processes that will continue when we are free to worship together again . . . . We are fully involved with the realities of the here and now and looking forward to a year of expansion.”
God is at work in Michigan and around the world!
Regional Vice President
Do you have a report of how God is blessing during these unprecedented times? Reply back to us and tell us your story!
GATEWAY ANNUAL CONFERENCE
As we all continue to stay at home during this coronavirus pandemic, we are keenly aware of what we are doing less. We see other people less, shop for groceries less, buy gasoline less. But there are also increases during this time. Knitting, completing puzzles, cooking and exercising at home, and online learning have all increased. One of the things that has increased dramatically is creativity. Examples abound of people finding creative solutions to the many new problems that have confronted us these past weeks.
This is the time of the year when Free Methodist conferences usually begin holding their annual conferences. This spring social distancing presents superintendents with a challenge of how to make that happen. Superintendent Ben Tolly’s creative solution to that problem was to use YouTube and Zoom to conduct the 2020 Leadership Summit for the Gateway Conference on April 18. Those who put together this year’s Leadership Summit are to be congratulated. It worked very well. The leadership team along with Supt. Tolly and Bishop Cowart put together a great program for all to benefit. Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abAio04mAxo&feature=youtu.be
Leadership Summit speakers cited a number of verses from Isaiah 43. Verses 2 and 3 read “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” These words give us encouragement that God is with us as we pass through this very trying time. Until we can meet together again may you feel the constant strength of the Lord!
– Cary Holman, Regional Representative
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” Exodus 20:8
Not long ago, many of us lived our lives during an average week with very little rest. Every day, including the weekend, was filled with lots of activity and our calendars were pressed with priorities. Then, everything changed. A little-known virus rearranged our lives. A common event caught the world by surprise and we have been finding ourselves dismayed as to what to do with ourselves. We simply did not see it coming. But God did!
In my childhood, I can remember days of very little activity on the Sabbath. Other than going to church, I remember subtle family activities, being together, reading scripture, praying, and plenty of space for God. It was truly a day of rest. One Sabbath I can remember feeling rogue when a group of church friends played softball on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. I do not remember many stores being open. If they had been open, my family would not even have thought of going. We always had Sunday meals together at my house or my grandparents’ house. I do not remember a single exception!
Our states used to enforce “blue laws” or “Sunday laws”. For religious reasons, these laws were designed to restrict or ban activities such as business or shopping on the Sabbath. The primary purpose was to encourage the observance of a day for worship and rest. In more recent decades, most states have relaxed or repealed these laws which were so highly valued by our culture … even by labor unions and trade associations. A broad study published by MIT and Notre Dame economists in 2008 found the repeal of blue laws led to decreased church attendance, decreased donations to churches, and increased alcohol and drug use among religious individuals.
Today we are being forced into a somewhat similar situation of restrictions under completely different circumstances. To some it seems to be a daily reoccurring bad dream, and to others it is a blessing! We have all kinds of “white space” in our calendars. Last Sunday, for the first time ever, I was not in a church building on Easter Sunday. Yet I was blessed to virtually take in my local church service and four other services in churches from coast to coast!
It is becoming difficult to remember what day it is … nearly every day seems the same. We are “socially distancing” and trying to figure out what it means to make good decisions as we look ahead. So, what do we do with all of this white space? It is my prayer that we declare it God’s space, a new Sabbath! It can mean more time with God and our family, creating a new normal for your spiritual life and family life.
Even now that our freedom to move about has been subdued, we can appreciate the daily benefits of what God has for us. Use this space for prayer and reflection. These days of reduced scheduling can be used as a “reset button”. With all the debate on how to reopen our country, perhaps we should be praying and asking God to reorder our lives as acountry under God, to help us be closer to Him and closer to our families. As we begin to prioritize the opportunities ahead, perhaps we can figure out new ways to keep connecting with each other. The church is not a building … the church is not a steeple … the church is not a resting place … the church is a people!
It is my prayer that not too long from know, we will be together again. Until that day, may God help us to find Him in every moment of every day. It’s the Sabbath!
-article by Tim Burkhart, VP of Estate and Gift Planning at The Free Methodist Foundation
This Easter will certainly be one to remember! Even though many of us are sheltering at home, we have heard many creative ways people are connecting and expressing their worship. No matter where we are, Easter is not cancelled. He is Risen!
If your church has an online church service, we encourage you to attend. In addition to attending your local church, you might also want to look in on another Free Methodist congregation. Perhaps you grew up in a different FM church, or were married in a special place. Never before have so many churches been so accessible! Our staff members have visited quite a few. We have been encouraged to experience such diverse and amazing worshipping communities across the country. The Free Methodist Church is alive and well!
To find a particular Free Methodist congregation, use this link: https://fmcusa.org/find-a-church. Enter the name of a specific church, or the city and state where you wish to find a church, then click on the pinpoints that appear on the map. There will be a link to the church’s website where you can find out about online services.
Ideas to Celebrate Easter 2020:
Watch some of your favorite Easter movies. Take time as a family to reflect on the movie and share.Create your own family worship service. Put different family members in charge of music, scripture, prayer, drama and teaching. Ask shy family members to be in charge of recording the service.Create a “worship jar” with favorite songs, scripture, prayers and devotional readings. Draw one at a time and create your own worship service order. Watch the sunrise as a family. Record it with your phone, play Easter music, sing, pray and read scripture.Create a family testimony video. Have each family member take 60 seconds to share about God’s provision, what Jesus means to you, and what Easter means. Record, compile and share the clips.Use various online means or phones to connect and worship remotely with family members that are farther away.Take a picture of yourselves worshipping and post to your favorite social media.
HAVE FUN CELEBRATING JESUS, OUR RISEN LORD AND SAVIOR! HAPPY EASTER!
HONORING CHRIST THE KING THIS PALM SUNDAY
All glory, laud, and honor to thee, Redeemer, King
To whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring
Thou art the King of Israel, Thou David’s royal Son
Who in the Lord’s name comest, the King and Blessed One
The current pandemic has led many people to think about estate planning issues. For both old and young, this is an important topic. Do you have a will? A trust? Are you prepared for a season of incapacity with a financial power of attorney and a health care power of attorney? Have you made your wishes known through a living will?
Settling these issues can be simple and will bring you peace of mind instead of anxiety. FMF Financial Services is available to help by answering questions, praying, or assisting you with an update to your documents. Please contact us to let us know how we can serve you today.
God is proving Himself faithful in His promise to use all things for the good of those who love Him. The following letter is just one example of this from Rev. Darrel Riley, one of our retired superintendents.
An open letter to my family and friends.
I’ve intended to write a letter like this for some time. But like most good intentions it was easy to push it off until tomorrow. I want to change that today.
I am writing these words to my family and friends. No, I am not infected with the coronavirus, but I do recognize that life is short and important things need to be said out loud. I want to say how incredibly blessed I am to have you as a friend or family member. I was born into a family with amazing parents and wonderful brothers and a sister. I have been blessed with an incredible wife, and in-laws, two great sons and a beautiful daughter in-law. The list of the extended family and friends could go on and on. I want to thank you all for not only being a part of my life, but adding joy and fulfillment to my life.
My hunch is that we all have things that we intended to do or say, but like my good intentions, we put it off for tomorrow waiting for the “right time”. I hope this letter will communicate that now is the “right time”. So here are some of my challenges for these uncertain days.
- Do not leave anything unsaid. Express your appreciation and love for those you care for. Have that conversation, make that call, send that letter, card, email or text. Don’t live with the regret of things left unspoken that either you need to say, or someone else needs to hear.
- If someone has wronged you, forgive them. You are the only one who suffers by holding on to that grudge or hurt. Just forgive them and move on.
- If you have wronged someone, go to them and ask for their forgiveness. It will set you both free.
- Make sure your affairs are in order. As a pastor, I have come to realize that in most families, end of life issues often go unspoken. Does your family know where the important financial, insurance, and legal documents are kept? Do you have a will? Is it updated? Do you have a living will? Does your family know what your end of life choices would be? If you have ideas of how your funeral or memorial service should be handled, do your loved ones know? If not write it down or tell them what you would like.
- While preparing for the end of this life is important, preparing for eternity is an even more important consideration. The fact of the matter is that we all have a terminal condition. We will die someday, some of us sooner than others. While we are enjoying this wonderful life, we have a choice to make that will determine where we will spend all eternity. Knowing Jesus as Savior gives us the assurance of spending eternity with Him and loved ones who have put their faith in Jesus. Additionally, as we live our everyday lives for Jesus, He promises to provide direction, guidance, and peace. That is especially good news in difficult days.
- If you have not accepted Jesus or if over time you have just drifted away from a daily walk with God, please feel free to call or email me. If I can be of any help or encouragement to get you reconnected with Jesus, I would be honored to talk with you.
I believe that in terms of the current coronavirus crisis “this too will pass”. I suspect that most of us will have many years before either we face death or Jesus returns, but until then please make each day count. Say and do the things that need to be said and done now while you have the opportunity. Focus on the lasting things of life – character, values, sharing life together, and serving others; don’t sweat the other stuff – it is all temporary. I love you all and I want to thank you for your love, support and encouragement through the years.
May God Bless you all!
WOW! What a powerful letter! As Rev. Riley says, now is a good time to review important paperwork. If we can be of assistance to you in updating your trust, will, financial power of attorney, or health care power of attorney / living will, please do not hesitate to contact us. If you do not have an estate plan in place, now is the perfect time to start! Your loved ones and the ministries you love will be grateful for the plans you put in place. We would be happy to connect you with your regional representative. Call us at 800-325-8975.
While non-essential businesses across the nation are being ordered to close, we want to assure you that FMF Financial Services is ready to serve you! We are so grateful for technology that allows us to connect in spite of the challenges and distancing. We will continue to join you in doing all we can to “flatten the curve”, but please do not hesitate to contact us via phone, Zoom, text, fax or email.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
What does the COVID-19 outbreak mean for FMF Financial Services?
FMF Financial Services is open and continues to fully function to meet the needs of our valued clients.
In our home office in Spring Arbor, Michigan, our staff members are maintaining regular business hours (M-Th 8-5; F 8-4). However, our office doors are closed to clients and visitors and we will be engaging clients on an appointment only basis, preferably by email, telephone or video conferencing. Please call 517-750-2727 or 800-325-8975 to speak with the person(s) with whom you wish to engage.
For our regional representatives, it is somewhat business as usual! Our regional staff routinely works on a remote basis with clients as well as with our home office in Michigan. While some church visits have been postponed, regional representatives are ready to meet with clients by phone, email, or video conferencing.
Do you have a little more time at home these days?
This may be a good time to look at your documents to be sure that your trust, will, durable power of attorney, health care power of attorney, and living will are up to date. Our staff members are ready and available to resource and assist with your questions. Please contact us at 1-800-325-8975 and ask for your regional representative.