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!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Holy, Holy, Holy!!!

And the four living creatures,… day and night without ceasing they sing,’Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come.’” (Revelation 4:8)

“Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! 
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
Which wert, and art and evermore shalt be.

Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide thee
Though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see
Only thou art holy; there is none beside thee
Perfect in power, in love and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! 
All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth and sky and sea.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!
            [-Reginald Heber, 1826, from The United Methodist Hymnal, #64]

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, Holy, holy is He
Sing a new song to Him who sits on heaven's mercy seat
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, Holy, holy is He
Sing a new song to Him who sits on heaven's mercy seat

Refrain: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come
With all creation I sing praise to the King of kings
You are my everything and I will adore You

Clothed in rainbows of living color
Flashes of lighting rolls of thunder
Blessing and honor strength and glory and power be
To You the only wise King

Refrain

Filled with wonder awestruck wonder
At the mention of Your name
Jesus Your name is power, breath and living water
Such a marvelous mystery.
Oh, You're worthy, mystery; You are worthy

Refrain
            [-Jennie Lee Riddle, performed by Phillips, Craig & Dean (2009 album Fearless)]

Whether it’s expressed in a traditional hymn or a contemporary Christian song, the language of heaven is praise.   We sing songs of praise here on earth during worship partly to express our own love and feelings for God, and partly prepare us for what we’ll be doing for eternity.


As we continue our series on the book of Revelation, may prayer is that you will experience a piece of heaven in the expressions of praise we have during our worship services. Remember that God loves you and I do, too! 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Tips For Spiritual Health

“Like a newborn baby, desire the pure milk of [God’s] word.  Nourished by it, you will grow into salvation, since you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Peter 2:2-3)

A person who commits their heart and life to Jesus starts a new life that is similar to that of a newborn infant.  But as with babies, our spiritual life cannot grow by itself – there must be specific things we do to nourish and grow in it. Several years ago, I ran across the following list of things that we can do to maintain and grow in spiritual health, just like an infant:

1) Daily Food – take in the “pure milk of God’s word” (scripture) through daily study and meditation (1 Peter 2:2).

2) Fresh Air – Pray often or you will faint.  Prayer is the oxygen of the soul (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

3) Regular Exercise – Regularly put into practice what you learn in God’s word (James 1:22).

4) Adequate Rest – Rely on God at all times in simple faith (Psalm 37:7).

5) Clean Surroundings – Avoid evil company and anything that weakens you spiritually (1 Corinthians 15:33-34).

6) Loving Care – Be an active part of a church family where you can benefit from spiritual encouragement and Christian fellowship (Hebrews 10:25).

7) Periodic Checkups – Regularly examine your spiritual health (1 Corinthians 11:28).

As we continue our sermon series on the book of Revelation, remember that these “tips” were ones that some of the churches of Revelation forgot to do, and they ended up with spiritual problems. I pray that you’ll not follow their example but will instead follow these on your way to getting and staying spiritually healthy! Remember that God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Faithfulness of God

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

  “Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
   There is no shadow of turning with thee;
   Thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
    As thou has been, thou forever wilt be.

   Great is thy faithfulness!  Great is thy faithfulness!
   Morning by morning new mercies I see;
   All I have needed thy hand hath provided;
   Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!”
[-- Lyrics from The United Methodist Hymnal #140]

   “Be still, my soul: the Lord is on your side.
    Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
    Leave to your God to order and provide;
    In every change God faithful will remain.
    Be still, my soul: your best, your heavenly friend
    Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

    Be still, my soul: your God will undertake
    To guide the future, as in ages past.
    Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake;
    All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
    Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
    The Christ who ruled them while he dwelt below.”
[--Lyrics from The United Methodist Hymnal #534]


Over and over the scriptures speak of the faithfulness and steadfastness of God in the middle of a world of change.   Because of that steadfast faithfulness, none of us need to fear no matter what changes or transitions occur around us.  

In the words of Psalm 46:2, “Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.”  After all, while none of knows what the future holds, we DO know WHO holds the future!  

So, no matter what it is you are facing in life today, give thanks to and trust God, and never let fear of the future keep us from the joys and blessings of the present!  Remember, God loves you and I do, too! 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Pastor's Top Ten List

“Be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.” (James 1:22)

Thoughts and sentiments that we preachers would love to hear more often…

10.       Hey, it’s MY turn to sit in the front pew!

9.         I was so caught up in the sermon, I never 
            noticed that the service went 10 minutes 
            over!

8.         Personally, I find sharing my faith with others more enjoyable than golf.

7.         Pastor, I’ve decided to give our church the $200 a month I was spending on the 
            lottery.

6.         I want to volunteer to be the permanent Sunday School teacher for the Middle 
           School class.

5.         In addition to our Conference Apportionments in our church budget, let’s give
            more than that to missions!

4.         I love it when we sing songs and hymns that we’ve never sung before.

3.         I was thinking “somebody ought to do something about that,” and then I thought
            “I’m going to do something about it!”

2.         Pastor, we’d like to send you to that Bible conference in the Bahamas.

1.         Pastor, would you help me discover some ministry that the Lord could use me in?

[-Modified from a 1996 newsletter article by Rev. Don Underwood from 
  Bowdon First UMC, Bowdon, GA]


Although I didn’t write these, they certainly express sentiments that I can sympathize with!  My prayer is that we would be a church filled with people who seek God and seek to find a place where they can serve Him!  Remember that God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Money-Talk

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)


“The preacher never stopped talking about money.

The congregation clutched their billfolds and squirmed.

He told them not to worry so much about stuff that’ll rot and rust.

He told them that the folding stuff was not the currency to buy meaning and happiness.

He singled out one man and told him to sell everything and then give the proceeds to the poor.

He had them shaking their heads when he said, “Happy are the poor.”

As a result, some of the best dressed stomped out, their noses in the air.

A few of the wealthy and powerful slipped quietly into a back room and had a contract put out on the young preacher’s life.

And it only cost them thirty pieces of silver.”

            [--George White in his article “Money Talk” in alive now magazine (May/June 1986)]

According to Jesus (the “young preacher” in the story above, in case you didn’t figure it out), there’s no more deeply and thorough subject in the Bible than how we handle our money and possessions. 

So, does your giving through East Cobb UMC accurately reflect your commitment to God?  Is it sacrificial, generous, and a regular?  Or is it a mere token… the left-overs of whatever you don’t need anyway, given whenever you “get around to it”?  God wants (and deserves) more than our left-overs and an occasional consideration by us.


If you’re not already, I encourage and challenge us all to remember that where we put our “treasure”, our heart follows – making the converse also true:  if our heart is with God, our “treasure” show follow that, too.  My prayer is that your giving will be generous and truly match the heart you have for God. Remember, God  loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Stephen Ministry At East Cobb UMC

“[God] consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4)

If you are not already aware, Stephen Ministry is a lay caring ministry of our church that enables fellow members to care for one another in the way Paul describes above. With over 1000 members, it’s impossible (and impractical) for our Pastors to be able to take care of all the congregational care needs of our church. So, our Stephen Ministry is therefore one of the vital complementary components of our overall Pastoral Care system.

Our ministry here at East Cobb UMC is a part of an interdenominational ministry that began in 1975 in St. Louis, MO and is now in over 10,000 churches around the world who have collectively trained over half a million Stephen Ministers in that time (including 10 currently in our church). Find out more about this ministry HERE.

Stephen Ministers themselves are fellow church members who’ve gone through 50 hours of training to provide confidential, one-to-one Christian care for people who’re facing a crisis or simply going through a tough time. Whether it’s the loss of a loved one, loneliness, cancer, a layoff, relocation, divorce, a spiritual crisis, recuperation, single parenthood, or any of countless other life challenges or hurts, our Stephen Ministers are here to care for you!

Your Stephen Minister will meet with you once a week for around an hour to listen to you, care for you, pray with and for you, and provide emotional and spiritual encouragement. Men are matched with male Stephen Ministers, and women are matched with female Stephen Ministers. The caring relationship is free, and lasts for as long as you need care – it’s a powerful way either to receive help yourself, or also a great way to help a friend, neighbor, co-worker, or relative who’s been struggling in any way.


To find out more about either...(#1) how you can become a Stephen Minister, OR (#2) how you or someone you know could be matched with one of our church’s confidential Stephen Ministers, either email our Stephen Ministry, speak in person with one of our Stephen Leaders (Jody Kershner or Eileen Forrester), or to Pastor Jim or Pastor Brian. Our Stephen Ministers are here for YOU!  Always remember that God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Back to School... Back to Church

“Return to me and I will return to you, says the Lord of heavenly forces.” (Malachi 3:7b)

Last week our children went back to school to start a new school year.  That should be a reminder to the rest of us that it’s also time to start back to church if we’ve gotten out of the habit over the summertime!  And just so everyone feels welcome and “at home”, here are some special new things we’ll be providing this Fall:

--Cots will be placed in the Narthex for those who say ‘Sunday is my only day to sleep late’

--Steel helmets will be provided for those who say ‘The roof would cave in if I ever came to church!’

--Blankets will be furnished for those who say the church is too cold, and fans will be given to those who think it’s too hot.

--We’ll have hearing aids available for those who say ‘the preacher talks to soft’, cotton for those who think that he talks too loud, and a few “Slow Down” road signs for those who think he talks too fast.

--There will be TV dinners for those who say they can’t go to church and cook lunch for their family at the same time.

--We’ve renovated part of our Sanctuary to have grass and trees for those who feel closest to God in nature, and part of the grassy area will have a putting green for those who think that Sunday morning should be for golfing.

--We’ve turned some of the pews to face backwards, so that those who say ‘I’ll come to church when I get my life turned around’ will feel at home without ever having to do that.

--We’ve also built several small, private rooms connected to the Sanctuary for those who say that they worship God at home alone, by themselves.

--And finally, the Church will be decorated with both Christmas poinsettias and Easter lilies for those who have never been to church without them.

Okay, I admit it… we’re not really doing all of these things.  But it does highlight some of the many silly excuses we use for not coming to church.  This Fall as our children head back to school, why not put away your excuses and renew the habit of coming back weekly to the place where you can meet and grow with God, fellowship with people who care about you, and find a sense of purpose and meaning to life. 

“Seven days without worship make one weak!”  I hope that won't apply to you!  Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Be Still and Know...

Airplanes shot down over a war zone,… other planes lost at sea or downed by bad weather,… war in the Middle East and rumors of war in the Ukraine,… murders and other violence…. If there is ever a time when our world needs to the presence of God it is today.  Hear the words of hope offered in Psalm 46…

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns.

The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Come, behold the works of the Lord; see what desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.

‘Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.’ The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”

May you and I learn to “be still and know” that God is in charge, even in spite of the chaos of our world!  Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Priceless Gifts to Give for Free

By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)

As we begin a new sermon series on “Spiritual Fitness,” we’re beginning with a focus on the spiritual practice of being open to God’s grace.  As the scripture above points out, grace is a gift.  With that in mind, we’re also called to share it with others.  As I was preparing my message, I came across this list of “Priceless Gifts to Give for Free” from an anonymous author…

1. The gift of listening... Try giving this to someone in need. And you must really listen. No interrupting, no daydreaming, no planning your responses. Just listen

2. The gift of signs of affection... Be generous with your hugs, kisses and gentle squeezes of the hand. Let these tiny actions demonstrate the love inside of you.

3. The gift of a note... It can be as simple as "I Love You" or as creative as a sonnet. Put your notes where they will surprise your loved ones.

4. The gift of laughter... Just cut out a cartoon, save a clever article. Your gift will say, "I love to laugh with you."

5. The gift of compliment... A simple "You look good in blue" or "Good supper" can be of greatest value to those who may feel they are being taken for granted.

6. The gift of a favor... Help with the dishes, run an errand, etc.

7. The gift of leaving alone... There are times in our lives when we want nothing better than to be left alone. Become more sensitive to those times and give solitude.

8. The gift of a cheerful disposition... Try to be cheerful around those you love.

9. The gift of a game... Offer to play your loved one's favorite game. Even if you lose, you'll be a winner.

10. The gift of prayer... Pray for your loved ones and let them know you pray for them.


I pray that these ideas will inspire and challenge you to pass on the “gift” of grace that God has already given to you!  Remember that God loves you and I do, too! 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

LAVISH LOVE - Camp Meeting Luncheon

“They said…‘Why waste the perfume? This perfume could have been sold for almost a year’s pay and the money given to the poor.’ And they scolded her. Jesus said, ’Leave her alone…She has done a good thing for me.’” (Mark  14:4-6)

Mark 14:1-9 tells the story of a time when, during a dinner hosted by Simon the leper for Jesus and his Disciples, a woman interrupted, bringing a jar of costly perfume, opened it, and poured it over Jesus’ head. Simon, the Disciples, and other guests were floored!  Didn’t she know how expensive that nard was, and that a much more efficient and beneficial use of it would have been to sell it and use the money to help the poor and needy?! If you know the story, then you also know that Jesus’ answer was equally surprising:  this woman has “done a good thing for me,” he said. “She has done what she could,” and that “wherever in the whole world the good news is announced, what she’s done will also be told in memory of her.”

This story illustrates the concept and practice of LAVISH LOVE – that there are times, places, and situations that sometimes call for us to go a bit overboard in our actions and behaviors in order to demonstrate love for others.  It illustrates that at times “ordinary” acts of love just won’t suffice – that we occasionally need to do extraordinary things in order to demonstrate our love (we sometimes refer to this as “going the extra mile.”)

Well, at about 12:15pm on Sunday, July 20th, our church will be sharing “lavish love” for our “spiritual parents” and partners in ministry at Marietta Campground by hosting a catered “old fashioned” picnic following our combined 11am worship Camp Meeting service across the street from our church. There will be fried chicken, mac and cheese, green beans, potato salad, dessert, drinks and all the “fixins” to enjoy. But most importantly, it will be an opportunity to get to know and interact with the tentholders of Marietta Campground as we help them celebrate 177 years of ministry! (For those who don’t already know, our church came out of Marietta Campground back in 1872, which makes them our “spiritual parent,” and we their 142-year old “spiritual child.”)

There may be some who say that our free hosting of this catered event is an exorbitant (or perhaps unnecessary) expense on our part. But your leaders and I disagree. Instead, we believe it to be one way we at East Cobb UMC can show “lavish love” for our Campground friends – a small way for us to say “thank you” and “we love you” to the ministry who spiritually “birthed” us as a congregation all those years ago.

So, whether or not you normally attend 11am worship at ECUMC, I hope that on Sunday, July 20th you will join us in worship celebrating our heritage and partnership under the arbor across the street at 11:00am, and then join us for our catered picnic following the service. Even Jesus commended occasional “lavish love” when it’s done in the right spirit – So I hope you’ll join me in sharing this at Camp Meeting on Sunday, July 20th! Remember that God loves you and I do, too!


(To find out more about all the services and events of Camp Meeting this year, visit their website HERE

Sunday, July 13, 2014

All About The Bible

“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

It’s been said that “The Bible is the best-selling, least read, and least understood book in human history.”  Many people know about the Bible, and think we know what’s in it.. But most don’t actually take the time to find out!  For example, did you know…

…that the word “Bible” actually means “Book”, and is actually a compilation of 66 separate books, each written for a different purpose over a period of approximately 1600 years (from about 1500 BC to AD 100), by perhaps hundreds men (and maybe even a few women)?

…that the 66 individual books are written in at least 10 differing literary styles (such as law, history, poetry, prophecy, apocalyptic, gospel, epistle, etc.), none of which is meant to be read and/or interpreted exactly alike?

…that the current listing of books in the Bible wasn’t established until 367 AD, that those books weren’t divided into Chapters until 1238, and that the Chapters weren’t separated into Verses until 1551?

…that the entire Bible has been translated into over 500 languages, and that at least a portion of the Bible has been translated into over 2500 languages?

…that the English language is home to around 75 different Bible translations?  And while the King James Version (KJV) was the first widely-used English translation, today other translations are much more popular, including the New International Version (NIV), New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), and Common English Bible (CEB) that we use in worship each week. (Note: popular versions like the “Good News Bible” and “The Message” are actually Bible paraphrases, and not true Bible translations).

…that though the Christian Bible has been written over a long period of time by many people, no other single book has transformed so people or affected so much of history as much as it has?

Want to know more? The best way to learn about and experience the transformative power of the Bible is to do so in community.  To that end, our church offers “Disciple” Bible Study as one opportunity.  If you never have, I pray that you will consider taking one of the “Disciple” classes now forming, and that if you have had one, that you’ll consider taking one you haven’t yet had (there’s at least one new study this year). Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

[For more information the “Disciple” Bible Study opportunities that begin this August, CLICK HERE]

           

Sunday, July 6, 2014

America, The Beautiful

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord…” (Psalm 33:12)

“O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved & mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for halcyon skies, For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties Above the enameled plain!
America! America! God shed his grace on thee
Till souls wax fair as earth and air And music-hearted sea!

O beautiful for pilgrims feet, Whose stem impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat Across the wilderness!
America! America! God shed his grace on thee.  Till paths be wrought through wilds of thought By pilgrim foot and knee!

O beautiful for glory-tale Of liberating strife
When once & twice, for man’s avail Men lavished precious life!
America! America! God shed his grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain The banner of the free!

O beautiful for patriot dream That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed his grace on thee
Till nobler men keep once again Thy whiter jubilee!”

--Words by Katharine Lee Bates (written in 1895, published in 1913);
   Melody by Samuel Ward

Did you know that there are actually that many verses?  As we celebrate Independence weekend, let these words challenge and inspire you.  Remember that God loves you and I do, too!


Sunday, June 29, 2014

15 Things God Won't Ask

“Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave” (Matthew 20:25-28)

Here are 15 Things God Won’t Ask when we reach heaven:

1.    God won’t ask what kind of car you drove, but will ask how many people you drove who didn’t have transportation.
2.    God won’t ask the square footage of your house, but will ask how many people you welcomed into your house.
3.    God won’t ask about the fancy clothes you had in your closet, but will ask how many of those clothes helped the needy.
4.    God won’t ask about your social status, but will ask what kind of class you displayed.
5.    God won’t ask how many material possessions you had, but will ask if they dictated your life.
6.    God won’t ask what your highest salary was, but will ask if you compromised your character to obtain that salary.
7.    God won’t ask how much overtime you worked, but will ask if you worked overtime for your family and loved ones.
8.    God won’t ask how many promotions you received, but will ask how you promoted others.
9.    God won’t ask what your job title was, but will ask if you performed your job to the best of your ability.
10. God won’t ask what you did to help yourself, but will ask what you did to help others.
11. God won’t ask how many friends you had, but will ask how many people to whom you were a true friend.
12. God won’t ask what you did to protect your rights, but will ask what you did to protect the rights of others.
13. God won’t ask in what neighborhood you lived, but will ask you treated your neighbors.
14. God won’t ask about the color of your skin, but will ask about the content of your character.
15. God won’t ask how many times your deeds matched your words, but will ask how many times they didn’t.                                   [--Author Unknown]

To this list, I would add that God also won’t ask whether we were Democrats, Republicans, or Independents.  He won’t ask whether we were conservative, liberal, evangelical, progressive, or moderate.  He won’t ask whether we were gay or straight, supported “Obamacare” or not, where we stood on local and national gun laws, or whether we worshiped in “traditional” or “contemporary” ways.

He’ll simply want to know if we had (and have) Jesus in our hearts, and if we did our best to practice loving others the way Jesus did. That’s the standard by which we’ll be judged when we reach heaven. So, how will your life be remembered and celebrated when you reach the “pearly gates”? And what are you doing to make that a reality now / today?  Remember, God loves you and so do I!