Sunday, January 25, 2015

Growing Like Jesus

“…And Jesus matured in wisdom and years, and in favor with God and with people” (Luke 2:52)

Many years ago, I remember a children’s church song based on the verse above that went like this: “And Jesus grew in wisdom. And Jesus grew in stature. And Jesus grew in favor with God and man.” I remember our daughter singing this in children’s Sunday School years ago at our church in Augusta, GA. And now, having a new grandchild, I can watch with fondness as she, too, grows.

If you think about it, all of us are interested in growth: the mother weighing her child; the farmer watching his fields; the child wanting to become “big,” the town boasting of its population or importance in a region; and even a church reporting its statistics. All such growth can be measured -- in ounces, pounds, inches, figures, etc.

Although spiritual growth does not lend itself to the same sort of measurement, it is nevertheless just as important these -- in some cases, arguably more so, for without spiritual growth we can actually die spiritually. The problem I see in many people is that our spiritual growth often ceases long before we recognize that that is happening, leading us to think we are spiritually strong when, in fact, we are not.

Consequently, what’s needed to prevent this is a frequent checkup. For example, if we are still praying in the words of little children, or if our knowledge and understanding of the Bible remains elementary, or it we can testify to no spiritual experience beyond conversion (or can’t even testify to that!), or if our worship has become routine, or if our awareness of the line between right and wrong has become blurred, or if we yield with greater ease to temptation, then these are signs/symptoms that we have ceased growing in our spirits, and that something must be done about it, whether its to join a Bible study, begin doing daily devotions, attending worship more often, having a more positive attitude about life and the church than before, etc.

The point is that we’re not made always to stay the same in our human bodies. So why should we think our spiritual bodies should do so, either?  As the scripture above reminds us, the report that Jesus grew and matured is one of the most important insights in the Bible. It reminds us that there is no such thing as standing still with God or in our understanding of His holy scripture. If we are to remain Christian, then we must grow. Are you growing in understanding, faith and trust? Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Let Peace Begin With Me

“Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.” (Psalm 34:14)

The biblical story of Pilate asking the crowd to choose between releasing either Barabbas or Jesus metaphorically also asks them to choose between the way of violence and hate (represented by Barabbas), and the way of love and compassion (represented by Jesus). (Read this story in Matthew 27:15-23, Mark 15:6-15, Luke 23:18-25, and John 18:39-40)  In many ways, this choice haunts us today, and challenges each of us to ask ourselves, “What part am I playing in enabling peace and love to win out over violence and hate?”

The plot of the 1986 movie The Mission highlights this choice between choosing the way of love or choosing the way of violence, and how – just as with Jesus – too often we choose the latter. The very last scene of the movie shows a 18th-century religious leader in Paraguay who had ordered the removal of missionaries by force questioning those who carried it out why the brutality and slaughter that ensued was necessary. One of them replies, “You had no alternative, your Eminence. We work in the world, and the world is thus.” The religious leader replies, “No, SeƱor Hontes. Thus have we made the world…. Thus have I made it.”

So, before we go around complaining about what someone else is not doing to bring peace, we need to first look deep inside ourselves and ask what we are doing to help foster it, and to make sure our actions are not the inadvertent cause of strife and hatred. The words of a famous hymn say it well:

"Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me;
 Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be.
 With God our creator, children all are we.
 Let us walk with each other in perfect harmony.
 Let peace begin with me; let this be the moment now.
 With every step I take, let this be my solemn vow:
 To take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally.
 Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”
[--Words by Sy Miller and Jill Jackson (1955), cited from the United Methodist Hymnal #431]

May this be our prayer as we struggle in our world to choose the ways of Jesus (the “prince of peace”). Always remember that God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Bible in 50 Words

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105)

God made
Adam bit
Noah arked
Abraham split
Joseph ruled
Jacob fooled
Bush talked
Moses balked
Pharaoh Plagued
People walked
Sea divided
Tablets guided
Promise landed
Saul freaked
David peeked
Prophets warned
Jesus born
God walked
Love talked
Anger crucified
Hope died
Love arose
Spirit flamed
Word spread
God remained.

Some of you didn’t think I could be this short, did you? Truth be told, I found this in an old newsletter from my home church, Fayetteville First U.M.C. (GA), date and author unknown. And even though this is really an oversimplification of holy scripture, it still reminds us of the fact that the Bible is God’s tool, given to us to find our way to Him through a relationship with Jesus, and to be our source of hope and strength for life.  

I hope you’ll be present as we begin our new sermon series “Making Sense of the Bible” January 11 - February 1st.  And if you don’t already, I invite you to join me in reading the Bible daily and lettings its words form you in God’s will and ways for your life.  A good place to start are the daily readings shared in The Upper Room devotional guide -- pick up a paper copy of the January/February issue in the Narthex or Crossroads, or read it online and/or sign up for the daily email edition HERE

Remember, God loves you and I do, too!


Sunday, January 4, 2015

O God, Our Help In Ages Past

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations…” (Psalm 90:1)

1.         O God, our help in ages past,
            our hope for years to come,
            our shelter from the stormy blast,
            and our eternal home.

2.         Under the shadow of thy throne,
            still may we dwell secure;
            sufficient is thine arm alone,
            and our defense is sure.

3.         Before the hills in order stood,
            or earth received her frame,
            from everlasting, thou art God,
            to endless years the same.

4.         A thousand ages, in thy sight,
            are like an evening gone;
            short as the watch that ends the night,
            before the rising sun.

5.         Time, like an ever rolling stream,
            bears all who breathe away;
            they fly forgotten, as a dream
            dies at the opening day.

6.         O God, our help in ages past,
            our hope for years to come;
            be thou our guide while life shall last,
            and our eternal home.

            [--Isaac Watts (1719), UMHymnal #117]


As we begin a new year, always remember that the same God who has been with and for you in your past will guide and direct you in your future!  And never forget that God loves you and I do, too!  

Sunday, December 28, 2014

From Little Things

“You, O Bethlehem…  who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel.” (Micah 5:2)

Many of you already know that my wife and I spent most of this past Friday evening and all day Saturday at Kennestone hospital waiting on the birth of our first grandchild.  Knowing “the date” was near, we knew there was certainly the possibility that the baby would be born near Christmas, but with the “official” due date not until January 8, most of us didn’t think it a very realistic possibility.  And yet, at 5:33pm on Saturday, December 27, Hannah Lynne was born.

For those of you who are already grandparents, forgive the self-indulgence, but I’m sure you can agree that it certainly is an amazing feeling to experience your own child becoming a mommy or daddy for themselves!  Jennifer and Zach will make great parents, but as I have been at the hospital since then watching little Hannah, it strikes me how prophetic were the words of the article I shared in our church’s Advent Devotional (the one my daughter Jennifer edited).

Pardon me sharing its words again, but here is what I wrote back in November when I was asked to submit an article…

------------------------------------ 
"Good things come in small packages."  We've all heard that many times.  But it was never so true as in the place where Jesus was born.  In the time of Jesus' birth, the town of Bethlehem was a relatively insignificant place -- one of a hundred or more small, old, poor, sleepy villages that dotted the landscape of Palestine in that day... not exactly a place for the birth of the "King of kings and Lord of lords!"

And yet, as is shown time and time again throughout scripture, God often choses small and seemingly insignificant things to teach us something of the values and priorities of His kingdom -- ones which often seem opposite and counterintuitive to those of our world.  They teach us that with God, out of weakness can come strength, out of insignificance can come importance, out of nothingness can come some "somethingness," and that out of despair and poverty can come the greatest hope and true riches the world has ever known. The "little town of Bethlehem," you see, is a metaphor for each of us, reminding us that no matter how small, insignificant, unloved or unappreciated we may feel, we are valuable and special to God, and that our lives matter to him!

So, as you open (or have opened) gifts this Christmas Day, remember that the greatest gifts we can receive (or give) are not necessarily the largest or most expensive, but the ones which impart the value and blessings of God with them -- it’s the small, unexpected blessings of life that often are the ones that are the most meaningful.  So today, give someone around you a “Small Christmas” blessing!

Prayer:  O God, thank you that you came that first Christmas not in power but in smallness.  Teach us this Christmas to appreciate and value the seemingly "small" things and experiences of life and of our world, so that we might truly inherit your kingdom. In Jesus' name, Amen. ....
---------------------------------

Little did I know that -- for me and my family -- those words about being on the look out for “small Christmas blessings” would refer to Hannah’s birth.  Yet, we believe that that is, indeed what God had in mind for us this Christmas. 

So, even though Christmas day is past, what “small Christmas blessing” are you experiencing in your life this holiday?  It doesn't have to be as obvious as a new baby, but if you have one to share, please reply back to this article and share it as a way of saying thank you to God.  And always remember that God loves you and I do, too!

The Twelve Days of Christmas

“God is love… [and] God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.” (1 John 4:8b-9)

I've shared this before, but its worth sharing again... Usually when we hear the song The Twelve Days of Christmas,” we think of it as a fun secular song to be sung before Christmas. But at least some scholarship claims that it has distinctly religious origins, and was meant to be sung not before but after Christmas.

The story is that when King Henry VIII formed the Anglican Church in England back in the 16th-century, Roman Catholic Christians were not allowed by law to worship openly (they weren’t allowed to do this until 1829). So, in an effort to find a way to teach their faith to their children without the risk of persecution, English Catholics composed this song that had two levels of interpretation: (1) a harmless, secular, surface meaning with which we all are familiar; and (2) a spiritual interpretation that was originally known only to English Roman Catholics.

It’s the second interpretation that we Christians need to remind people of today, for each item in the carol was actually a “code phrase” to help teach a religious reality. The “twelve days” refer to the 12 days of the Christmas season in the Christian liturgical calendar – beginning with December 25th and ending on January 6th (the day of “Epiphany”). The “true love” is God, the giver of all good gifts (See Matthew 7:11 and Luke 11:13).

The other gifts represent...

1) “Partridge in a pear tree”-- a partridge bird sitting up high in a tree was said to be easy prey for hunting in medieval times, so it’s appropriate that the first and greatest gift represents God’s greatest gift to us: Jesus Christ, who sacrificed himself as easy prey on our behalf.

2) “Two Turtledoves” –Symbolize the Old & New Testament. Recall also, that Mary & Joseph offered 2 turtledoves as a sacrifice in the Jerusalem Temple when Jesus was dedicated to God (Read Luke 2:22-24).

3) “Three French Hens” – represent either the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), or the three things that I Corinthians 13 says abide... “faith, hope, and love.”

4) “Four Calling Birds” – represent the four great early evangelists who told Jesus’ story through their writings... the writers of the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

5) “Five Golden Rings” – symbolize the first five books of the Bible (Hebrew “Torah”=Law), upon which all our faith is based (remember that Jesus himself said he had not come to “abolish the law, but to fulfill it” --Matthew 5:17).

6) “Six Geese A-Laying” – since they are in the process of creating new life, these represent the six days of creation from Genesis 1.

7) “Seven Swans A-Swimming – the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit referred to in Romans 12:6-8.

8) “Eight Maids A-Milking” – the eight Beatitudes found in Matthew 5:1-12.

9) “Nine-Ladies Dancing” – the nine fruits of the Spirit described in Galatians 5:22-23.

10) “Ten Lords A-Leaping” – Since England in Medieval times was ruled by the laws of the King and his “lords,” this represented the “laws” of the Christian faith: the 10 Commandments.

11) “Eleven Pipers Piping – stand for the eleven faithful disciples (the 12 minus Judas Iscariot).

12) “Twelve Drummers Drumming – represent either: the twelve tribes of Israel; or (more commonly) the twelve points of the Apostle’s Creed.

Whether or not this story is 100% accurate, it’s clear that this song can convey all of these reminders for those who have “ears to hear them” in this way. So, as we continue the Christmas season (which always includes New Year’s Day), may you be filled with a reminder of the many good “gifts” God gives to us, not only at Christmas but into the new year, as well. Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

'Twas The Week Before Christmas

“A child has been born for us, a son given to us…”
(Isaiah 9:6)

“‘Twas the week before Christmas when all through the town,
Men, women and children were running around,
Giving left signals and then turning right,
Shopping and spending much money all night.

Elbowing in at the counter of toys,
Buying up gifts for their girls and their boys.
The meaning of Christmas is clear in our city:
Mail carriers and clerks never get any pity.

Father is groaning; his checkbook turns red,
While visions of bankruptcy churn in his head.
Mother is baking cake after pie, saying
“If I see one more pastry, I think I will die.”

Only for children it can’t come too soon.
They’ll talk about next year on Christmas at noon.
With all of the holes in our nerves and our shoes,
The meaning of Christmas we almost will lose.

But then comes the strains of that music so light
And soon we are humming the tune ‘Silent Night’.
Our minds take us back twenty centuries past,
And the meaning of Christmas comes through to us at last.

No hurry, no bustle, no trees with their lights,
No honking, no hustle, no toys gleaming bright.
But Jesus our Savior, in Bethlehem born,
Becomes the true meaning of our Christmas morn.”

       [--Author Unknown, cited from an old Fayetteville (GA) First United Methodist Church newsletter]

How do you and your family experience Christmas? I pray that at at least some level, you will make the difficult but rewarding choice to remove yourself from the rat race long enough to both remember and actually experience the true meaning of the season.

Don't forget to join your fellow church family at a Christmas Eve service (4:30pm, 8:00pm, or 11pm) to celebrate Jesus, "the reason for the season."  Always remember that God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas Mission Offering

"[You are to] do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life" (1 Timothy 6:18-19)

The following is a copy of a letter from myself and our Finance Chairperson Alan Wrenn  that our whole congregation should have received by mail this past week.  I share it again in the interest of encouraging your participation...

------------------------------------------------------------------

Dear Members & Friends of East Cobb UMC:

These are challenging yet exciting times both in our world and in the lives of people all around us.  The world seems to be changing faster than we can catch up.  Yet, in the midst of all the change, God’s Word and faithfulness remain steadfast.  As a result, ministry in His name is always fruitful.  Consider, for example, some of the ways that your investment in God’s work through our church has enabled us to achieve God’s mission for us in 2014.  Your gifts have enabled us to…

         Reach nearly 350 people each week through our three principle worship services, Wednesday Night Supper, and other opportunities for fellowship and networking  …GATHERING to embrace God and others
         Impact over 450 people weekly through 45+ small groups and community ministry resources, including continued significant growth of our Lighthouse Academy Daycare Center… GROWING in faith, hope and love
         Welcome 40 new members and over 150 regular guests, and be in ministry to over 550 people weekly through various local church mission ministries, and to even more through special opportunities like Mountain T.O.P., annual Great Day of Service, Family Promise, M.U.S.T., and others  …GOING into our world to serve and share Jesus

Consequently, the Christmas season is an ideal time for us to pray about ways we can share in year-end giving that will continue to make a real difference in people’s lives:

(1) First, we celebrate your faithfulness this year to our 2014 General Ministry Fund -- thank you!!!  If you are behind on your annual financial commitment, please remember that the holidays are a great time to “catch up”!  And even if you are up to date, it’s also a great time to make additional gifts in order to take advantage of current tax laws.

(2) As one idea, we’re excited to continue the ECUMC Christmas tradition of designating offerings collected at our Christmas Eve services as a Christmas Mission Offering. This year the focus of that offering will be Imagine No Malaria, a ministry of our own United Methodist Church that seeks to eradicate malaria in Africa – this ministry is described in the brochure you can download below, or you can also find out more HERE.  We ask that, in the spirit of Christmas, you prayerfully consider joining us in giving “over and above” your general fund tithe or gifts to this special offering during one of our three Christmas Eve services (or before if you won't be in town).  Please mark your checks/envelopes “Christmas Mission Offering”, or donate online HERE.

Thank you for your faithfulness in praying for, attending, serving in, and giving financially to His Church this year.  We trust that God will honor your faithfulness as you continue to grow in His kingdom.  We wish you, your family, and all your loved ones a Merry Christmas and a Happy 2015!




Sunday, December 7, 2014

12 Great Christmas Gift Suggestions NOT Advertised on TV


“God so loved the world that He gave His only son…” (John 3:16)


1) Give your parents the words "I love you."

2) Give your children a full day of your time.

3) Give an ear to someone who needs a listener.

4) Give a hand to someone less strong.

5) Give an old friend an unexpected visit or letter.

6) Give a former neighbor a telephone call.

7) Give a kind word to a weary sales clerk.

8) Give a prayer for peace in the world.

9) Give more gifts you have made; fewer money has bought.

10) Give the money you save to someone in need anonymously.

11) Give yourself time to reflect on this holy season.

12) Give God thanks for sending His Son as the Redeemer of His world.

During this holiday season, let’s all remember that the best and most meaningful gifts we can give (and receive) don’t come from stores, but from ourselves. They are relational gifts – gifts that connect deep meaning to and for our relationships with one another.

After all, isn’t that the kind of gift God gave to us on that first Christmas (a relational one)? He didn’t send a retail gift… He sent us Himself, wrapped in cloth, lying in a manger as a baby. This season, let’s focus on doing the same for each other! Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Wanted: The Peace of Advent

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
 
If you’ve been keeping up with the news lately, you know that there’s a lot of frustration and discontent in our world lately over a variety of different things… all of which have led to more and more violence and bloodshed all around us.  Whether its the rioting around our own country sparked by last week’s Grand Jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri, increased violence and shootings on school campuses, or even the continued beheadings of civilians by the ISIS organization in Iraq, the discontent and frustration levels have begun to reach dangerous levels.

If there’s ever a time when our world needs the peace of “Advent” (the Christian season the four weeks leading up to Christmas day), it’s today!  The word itself is actually derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming”, and references the three “comings” of Jesus in and throughout history:
            1) IN THE PAST …as a babe in Bethlehem.  We listen to the words of Old Testament  prophets who promise a coming Messiah.
            2) IN THE PRESENT …as the one who comes and meets us in our hearts and lives today,
            3) IN THE FUTURE …as the one who will come again one day to make all things new and to establish His kingdom of peace and justice upon the earth once and for all.
 
Since Jesus came as the “prince of peace,” then more than ever, Advent is a time for each of us to encourage and promote the kind of peace that is described in the words of Matthew 5:9 (above). Peace doesn’t mean we have to agree with everyone around us, but it means that we make it our practice NOT to do harm to others either through our actions or our words.  It means we seek BE the peace that we want to see enacted in our world.  It means that instead of complaining about and pointing out what others are NOT doing to promote peace, we need to first ask ourselves if we are doing things that discourage it, and ask what things we need to start doing to better encourage it.
 
In other words, Advent is a time for those of us who claim the name “Christian” to live by our own Master’s command first to BE peacemakers ourselves.  I hope that rather than give in to the frustration and pessimism of our world’s lack of peace, this season of Advent (at least) you will join me in seeking to be a person of peace yourself.  Always remember that God loves you and I do, too! 

Monday, November 24, 2014

The UN-Christmas

Each year, too often it seems that many of us get so caught up in the hustle and bustle that we can’t really enjoy the holiday season.  We stress about what to buy, what to wear, which parties to attend, and will be able to pay for it all next month!  We add even more activity on top of already packed schedules, compare ourselves to what others are doing, and then we wonder why we’re more depressed and more suicidal this time of year than at any other.

And yet, if we look beyond the secular hustle and bustle, we’ll find that the Advent and Christmas seasons -- truly understood -- actually confront us with spiritual realities that challenge our assumptions about how to find ultimate meaning and hope in life (Hint: it’s not found in the things above!).

So this season, join Pastor Brian November 30 - December 21 on a spiritual journey at East Cobb United Methodist Church as we together unwrap the unexpected gifts God offers us through his son Jesus in a new series called "The UN-Christmas." 

Discover “gifts” that give peace and can change our lives.  Discover how the true meaning of Christmas is counter to what is advertised in stores and on the internet.  And best of all, discover the ultimate meaning and hope that God alone can provide during this holiday!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Art of Thanksliving


“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name.” (Psalm 100:4)


“The art of thanksgiving is thanksLIVING. It is gratitude in action.



It is thanking God for the gift of life by living it triumphantly.

It is thanking God for all that men and women have done for you by doing things for others.

It is thanking God for happiness by striving to make others happy.

It is thanking God for beauty by helping to make the world more beautiful.

It is thanking God for inspiration by trying to be an inspiration to others.

It is thanking God for health and strength by the care and reverence you show your body.

It is thanking God for the creative ideas that enrich life by adding your own creative contributions to human progress.

It is thanking God for each new day by living it to the fullest.

It is thanking God by giving hands, arms, legs, and voice to your thankful spirit.

It is adding to your prayers of thanksGIVING,... acts of thanksLIVING.”

[-Wilfred A. Peterson]What great words to live by this Thanksgiving holiday! Let’s all strive together to live out our thankfulness through the way we live our own lives – through what we say, what we do, how we treat one another, how we help one another, and even how we work with one another! As you read this article, my prayer is that you and your family will have a blessed Thanksgiving holiday, and that you’ll remember to “give thanks to God, and bless His name” through how you live your very life! God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The World's A Better Place Because...

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

From time to time, all of us give excuses for not stepping out and being daring to help win a dying world to Christ. But think about how the world is a better place because of how some people in history said “yes” to God:

    The world is a better place...
            ...because Michelangelo didn't say, "I don't do ceilings."
            ...because Moses didn't say, "I don't do rivers."
            ...because Noah didn't say, "I don't do arks."
            ...because Jeremiah didn't say, "I don't do weeping."
            ...because Amos didn't say, "I don't do speeches."
            ...because Ruth didn't say, "I don't do mothers-in-law."
            ...because David didn't say, "I don't do giants."
            ...because Peter didn't say, "I don't do Gentiles."
            ...because Mary didn't say, "I don't do virgin births."
            ...because Paul didn't say, "I don't do letters."
            ...because Jesus didn't say, "I don't do crosses."
                                                            [--Dr. Leonard Sweet]

Generosity is about saying “yes” to God and answering His call to help “make the world a better place” as we offer to Him use of our spiritual gifts, talents, resources (financial or otherwise), personality, dreams, and even our experiences.  Remember that we are who we are today because others ahead of us were generous with who they were and what they had. 

God has already said “Yes!” to each of us by the giving of His own son Jesus for us – we’re called to say “Yes!” back through the offer of ourselves.  So, how will you say “yes” to Him by helping to make the world a better place through your church? 
How will you choose to live in your life so that the world is a better place? I pray that you will join me in making a commitment to this through your response to our "Living Generously" Stewardship journey. If you missed Commitment Sunday today, I invite you to prayerfully consider responding using our ONLINE COMMITMENT CARD HERE.  Remember, God  loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)
          
             “A mighty fortress is our God,
                        A bulwark never failing;
            Our helper he amid the flood
                        Of mortal ills prevaling. 
            For still our ancient foe doth 
                        seek to work us woe;
            His craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate,
                        On earth is not his equal.

            Did we in our own strength confide,
                        our striving would be losing,
            Were not the right man on our side,
                        the man of God's own choosing.
            Dost ask who that may be?  Christ Jesus, it is he;
            Lord Sabbaoth, his name, from age to age the same,
                        And he must win the battle.

            And though this world, with devils filled,
                        should threaten to undo us,
            We will not fear, for God hath willed
                        his truth to triumph through us. 
            The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
            His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure;
                        One little word shall fell him.

            That word above all earthly powers,
                        No thanks to them, abideth;
            The Spirit and the gifts are ours,
                        thru him who with us sideth. 
            Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
            The body they may kill; God's truth abideth still;
                        HHis kingdom is forever.”
                   [--Martin Luther (1529), from The United Methodist Hymnal, #110] 

Though the words are old, they are as timeless as ever – God, and God alone, is the only source of true security and strength that will not let us down in life.  So, in what (more importantly, in WHOM) are you placing your ultimate trust?  Remember that God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Thoughts on "Doing Nothing"

Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN
where Evangelist Sam Jones
held "Quitin' Meetings"
“To all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.” (Matthew 25:28)

Dressed as a rag doll, 24-year-old Melody Schick sat with a teddy bear cradled in her left arm and staring into space from a revolving platform as hundreds of shoppers watched in a Dallas shopping mall. Only her eyes moved. Then, five hours and 43 boring minutes later she rose slowly and tried to smile. Miss Schick had just beaten the previous true life world record for sitting still of 5 hours and 32 minutes! She was now in the record books!

Unfortunately, many Christians also compete for this record weekly. Some have been metaphorically “sitting still” for years, never becoming involved in the work of Christ through their local church (or any other ministry). Though they might criticize their church frequently for “what it’s not doing,” they seldom (if ever) participate or volunteer to help in its ministries. So, while there are a lot of Christians who are busy “doing nothing,” there are no Christians who have “nothing to do.”

Rev. Sam Jones, the famous 19th-century Methodist evangelist from Georgia for whom Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium (better known as the original “Grand Ole’ Opry”) was built was known to hold “Quittin' Meetings” -- services where people could stand up and confess things they were going to give up and “quit.” The story is told that at one of these, following his challenge to worshipers to “quit” something, a man stood up and confessed, “Preacher Jones, up until now as a Christian I've been doing nothing,... and today I'm going to quit!”

When we become members of a United Methodist Church (ours included), we make vows that we will support Christ’s work in our world through it by sharing our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. So, for our annual stewardship commitment on Sunday, November 16th, I invite you to prayerfully consider the ways that you will grow the giving of your service and resources, so that you’ll be “doing something” for Christ through your church this next year. Not only will it be a blessing to others, but you’ll be blessed yourself as you do it! Remember that God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

LIVING GENEROUSLY

"If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?” (Luke 9:23-25)

What did Jesus mean when He said, “Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it?” How often do we stop to consider the commitment Christ expects? He’s not talking about writing a check or checking a box, but a life that is completely focused on giving to others what He has so graciously given to us.

Beginning October 26 and continuing through November 16th, we hope to address some of these questions and ideas as we begin a stewardship journey titled Living Generously. This will be different than others we have done in the past, in that it will include a series of short films that tell the story of one imaginary family (the Donovans) as they seek to understand what it means to live the words of Jesus. Each week we’ll see a glimpse of their journey as they take risks, experience suffering and joy, and find themselves transformed by the call of Christ. You won’t want to miss a single Sunday!

We all know that life is busy, making it easy for our hearts to be distracted by the demands we face. And while each of us has many blessings, often our attitudes are less than grateful. So, it is our sincere hope that this series prompts us to take an inventory of the blessings God has entrusted to each of us.  As we do, we pray that we’ll all be inspired with a new awareness of God’s goodness.

On November 16th, we’ll all have the opportunity to share how we have been impacted. In the meantime, though, we ask you to join us in praying that God will prepare our hearts to hear His message of transforming generosity, to commit to being present in worship each week to do so!  Always remember that God loves you and I do, too!




Sunday, October 19, 2014

Who Are You?

“Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you, I give people in return for you, nations in exchange for your life.” (Isaiah 43:4)

Who are you?  It’s an important question in a world of over 6 billion people, each struggling to discover our own unique identity and self-worth.  And if we don’t know who we are, then for good or bad, the world we live in will tell us.

That’s why it’s so important for us to be clear about our own identity as children of God -- each special, each unique and valuable to Him.  In Luke 12:6-7 Jesus says, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

Mother Teresa put it this way: “In our efforts to listen to God's words to us, we often neglect what might be called his ‘first word’ to us.  This is the gift of ourselves to ourselves:  our existence, our nature, our personal history, our uniqueness, our identity.  All that we have, and indeed, our very existence, is one of the unique and never‑to‑be‑repeated ways God has chosen to express himself in space and time.  Each of us, because we are made in God's image and likeness, is yet another promise that he has made to the universe that he will continue to love it and care for it.” 
                                     [--Mother Teresa, Leadership,magazine Vol. 10, No. 4]


Who are you?  You are a child of God... precious, honored, and loved in His eyes.  Never forget that you have a great identity as a member of God’s family!  And always remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Living Generously -- Experiencing the Life that Truly is Life!

"They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share,... so that they may take hold of the life that really is life." (1 Timothy 6:18-19).

What did Jesus mean when He said, “Whoever loses his life for My sake will find it?” How often do we stop to consider the commitment Christ expects? He’s not talking about writing a check or checking a box, but a life that is completely focused on giving to others what He has so graciously given to us. Join us October 26-November 16th as we address these issues and more in a new series called Living Generously.

This series will be different than others we’ve done, in that a significant portion of worship will be spent following the story of one imaginary family through a series of short movies as they seek to understand what it means to live and practice the words of Jesus. Each week we’ll see a glimpse of their journey as they take risks, experience suffering and joy, and find themselves transformed by the call of Christ. And through it all, we’ll come to learn about -- and be challenged to practice -- the “life that truly is life” (1 Timothy 6:18-19).  So, mark your calendars now and plan to participate!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

New Jerusalem Here Today

I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God…. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying ‘Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind.’” (Revelation 21:2-3)

“I saw the Holy City
Descending from the sky
So brilliant with the light of God
The city is His bride
There is no temple in this town
No sun, no moon, no lamp
For God's own glory is it's light
Illuminated by the Lamb
And God Himself will wipe the tears
From every weeping eye
No death, no pain, no mourning cry
And every tear made dry

CHORUS:
And now our God will dwell with them
The new Jerusalem
And He Himself will walk with them
The new Jerusalem

And so let all of those who thirst
Come now and drink for free
And to the one who overcomes
Come now and you will see
Behold the old has passed away
Now everything is new
The Alpha and Omega's words
Are trustworthy and so true
And God Himself will wipe the tears
From every weeping eye
No death, no pain, no mourning cry
And every tear made dry

CHORUS”
            [--Michael Card from his 1997 album Unveiled Hope]

The future we have to look forward to as God’s people is one of unending hope, blessing and joy – one where all the trials, tribulations, and things that make this present world a challenge will not exist. I don’t know about you, but that’s one I look forward to!  (Not that I want to leave right now, but I have no fear or doubts about the place after this life)

However, while still on earth, each of us today has a responsibility as people of faith to do what we can to bring a little piece of the “new Jerusalem” to our part of the world – to help bring the presence of God closer to people around us; to bring God’s hope, joy, and blessing from heaven of the future to people on earth in the here and now.

So, as we conclude our series on the book of Revelation, I pray that you will not only know and rest in the faith of Jesus that can ensure you a place in the “new Jerusalem” above, but will also do what you can through your words and actions to bring a little bit of that “new Jerusalem” to the lives of those around you here on earth! Remember that God loves you and I do, too! 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

GOD WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU


“Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

           “Be not dismayed whate'er betide,
            God will take care of you;
            beneath his wings of love abide,
            God will take care of you.

Refrain:  God will take care of you,
            through every day, o'er all the way;
            he will take care of you,
            God will take care of you.

            Through days of toil when heart doth fail,
            God will take care of you;
            when dangers fierce your path assail,
            God will take care of you.

(Refrain)

            All you may need he will provide,
            God will take care of you;
            nothing you ask will be denied,
            God will take care of you.

(Refrain)

             No matter what may be the test,
            God will take care of you;
            lean, weary one, upon his breast,
            God will take care of you.

(Refrain)

            [-Civilla D. Martin, from The United Methodist Hymnal, #130]

As we continue our series on the book of Revelation, I pray that you will always choose to look to and trust in the one who supplies all that we could ever want or need, even when we are in the midst of the "beasts" of the difficulties and challenges of life!  Remember that God loves you and I do, too!