Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Safe Families for Children

“True devotion, the kind that is pure and faultless before God the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their difficulties and to keep the world from contaminating us.” (James 1:27)

In the last week of 2007, Chicago was shocked by the actions of a young mother who quietly exited a train with her 3-year-old daughter leaving behind her two sons, ages 6 and 4.  Fellow passengers frantically attempted to get the mother’s attention, but she walked away, abandoning her young boys. Similar incidents of parents being unable to care for their children occur with greater frequency than many of us are aware, and not just in big cities. 

Here in LaGrange/Troup County, as well, many parents often find it difficult to adequately care for their children during times of crisis. For example, under current economic conditions, many families experience financial crisis, unemployment, and homelessness. Often these situations result in, or are made worse by, other hardships such as family violence, drug or alcohol use, physical or mental illness, or incarceration.

“Safe Families for Children” [www.safe-families.org] is a volunteer movement across the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Africa that connects the children of parents in distress with host families from local churches who’ve answered God’s call to open their hearts, arms and homes to serve vulnerable children in need.  

The experience starts at church, where host families are invited not only to change the lives of a fellow family for the better, but to enrich their own with untold blessings by living out the gospel of Jesus Christ. By hosting vulnerable children temporarily (on average slight less than 40 days) along with support from the church, this extended family environment helps keep children (usually 5 years old or younger) safe and reunite families (93% return to their parent or relative).

Since its beginning in 2003, Safe Families has placed over 20,000 children in host families in over 1000 participating churches across the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Africa, and Sunday, April 30th our church will officially be added to this number as we become a partner congregation of this international ministry (sponsored locally under the umbrella of Twin Cedars Youth and Family Services).

I hope you will join me on that day not only during worship but also for the “no-strings-attached” luncheon at 12Noon in the Fellowship Hall where we’ll have a brief program sharing more details about this ministry and how you can be a part of it.  The Bible is clear that – among other things -- one of our tasks as followers of Jesus is to look after the needs of at-risk children and other vulnerable people (the “orphans and widows” of the James 1:27 scripture, above).

I am excited that our church (through the leadership of our Missions Committee) has chosen to partner with Twin Cedars to become a “Safe Families for Children” church. To find out more about how you can become involved, be sure to attend worship and the luncheon on Sunday, April 30th, or if you have to miss that day you can email missions@lagrangefumc.org.  Always remember that God loves you and I do, too!

He's Alive!


Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen!” (Luke 24:5)

Growing up as a young Christian, I remember one of the most meaningful songs I heard on the radio was a Contemporary Christian rock ballad by Don Francisco called “He’s Alive!”  It later went on to become the 1980 Dove Award’s Song of the Year. Because it is written in ballad form, you don’t need to know the tune to enjoy the power of its words:

“The gates and doors were barred and all the windows fastened down,
I spent the night in sleeplessness and rose at every sound,
Half in hopeless sorrow half in fear the day,
Would find the soldiers crashing through to drag us all away.
Then just before the sunrise I heard something at the wall,
The gate began to rattle and a voice began to call,
I hurried to the window and looked down to the street,
Expecting swords and torches and the sound of soldiers feet,

There was no one there but Mary so I went down to let her in,
John stood there beside me as she told us where she'd been,
She said they moved him in the night and none of us knows where,
The stone's been rolled away and now his body isn't there.
We both ran toward the garden then John ran on ahead,
We found the stone and the empty tomb just the way that Mary said,
But the winding sheet they wrapped him in was just an empty shell,
And how or where they'd taken him was more than I could tell.

Something strange had happened there but what I did not know,
John believed a miracle but I just turned to go,
Circumstance and speculation couldn't lift me very high,
Cause I'd seen them crucify him and then I'd watched him die,
Back inside the house again all the guilt and anguish came,
Everything I'd promised him just added to my shame,
But at last it came to choices I denied I knew his name,
Even If he was alive it wouldn't be the same.

But suddenly the air was filled with a strange and sweet perfume,
Light that came from everywhere drove shadows from the room,
Jesus stood before me with his arms held open wide,
And I fell down on my knees and clung to him and cried,
He raised me to my feet and as I looked into his eyes,
Love was shining out from him like sunlight from the sky,
Guilt and my confusion disappeared in sweet release,
And every fear I'd ever had just melted into peace.

He's alive, He's alive, He's alive and I'm forgiven,
Heavens gates are open wide.
He's alive, He's alive, He's alive and I'm forgiven,
Heavens gates are open wide.
He's alive, He's alive, He's alive and I'm forgiven,
Heavens gates are open wide.   He's alive!”

[--Written & performed by Don Francisco, 1980 Dove Award Song of the Year
© Warner/Chappell Music Inc., Universal Music Publishing Group]

May the news that Jesus is alive bring hope and joy to your life today!  Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Paradox of Jesus

Think of yourself the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God, but... instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death – and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion.”  (Philippians 2:5,8, The Message)

On that first Palm Sunday, with all the shouts of “Hosanna!” and “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”, one would have expected Jesus to enter Jerusalem on a mighty horse --a symbol of might and power. 
But instead, he chose a lowly donkey.  Before he could come as a King to reign, he had to come as a Savior to die.   Consider the many contrasts of Jesus' life, described by one writer:

            “He who is the Bread of Life began his ministry hungering;

             He who is the Water of Life ended his ministry thirsting;

             Christ hungered as a human, yet fed the hungry as God;

             He was weary, yet he is our perfect rest;

             He paid tribute, yet he is a King himself;

             He was called the Devil, yet he cast out demons;

             He prayed, and yet he is the one who hears our prayers;

             He wept, and yet he is the one who dries our tears;

             He was sold for 30 pieces of silver, yet he redeems sinners;

             He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, yet he is called 'The Good Shepherd';

             He who is the Resurrection gave up his own life, and by dying, he destroyed
                  death itself.”

As we approach Holy Week (beginning April 9), it is good to recall the wondrous love that God has for each one of us in giving his only son for our salvation.  Remember, Jesus suffered and died then so that we might have victory and life today as Christians.
Our salvation might be free to us, but it cost Jesus everything! Blessed, therefore, is Christ, who comes in the name of the Lord!  Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Called to be Peacemakers

“It is to peace that God has called us.” (1 Corinthians 7:15)

In today’s world of polarized politics and church-life, too often we are caught between people and groups that feel they have to take sides – that they are “right” and everyone else is “wrong.”

While there are certainly times that it’s important to stand up for “right” and fight the “wrong” in our world, these times actually occur less often than many of us think, and more often than not the things we feel we have to stand up and “fight” about are in the end relatively petty, selfish, and often self-centered issues that do not really matter one bit in big scheme of things.

In the 18th-century the founder of Methodism John Wesley once urged his Methodists “as to opinions that do not strike at the root of Christianity, we [should] think and let think (from Wesley’s tract The Character of A Methodist)… meaning that if something is not absolutely central to who we are and what we do as followers of Jesus, then we need to be “big enough” and mature enough to allow others to have opinions, beliefs, and practices that are different than us without us feeling threatened by those.

Jesus paralleled this attitude when he himself said “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9).  And many years later, Saint Francis of Assisi offered this now famous prayer for us to become peacemakers:

         “Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
                        Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
                        Where there is injury, pardon;
                        Where there is doubt, faith;
                        Where there is despair, hope;
                        Where there is darkness, light;
                        and where there is sadness, joy.
            O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
                        To be consoled, as to console;
                        To be understood, as to understand;
                        To be loved, as to love;
                        For it is in giving that we receive,
                        It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
                        And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”               

            [–Saint Francis of Assisi, 1182-1226]

My prayer is that we would all learn from Jesus, Saint Francis, and John Wesley how to be makers of peace with all those around us! Always remember that God loves you and I do, too!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Praying Our Way Forward

This past week, our North Georgia Conference Bishop, Sue Haupert-Johnson sent the following letter to each United Methodist Church in our Conference inviting us to be in prayer March 19-26 for the work of the "Commission on a Way Forward"...  

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

Dear brothers and sisters of the North Georgia Annual Conference,

We have been invited to enter into a week of prayer for the Commission on a Way Forward from March 19-26. The 32-member Commission on a Way Forward was appointed by the Council of Bishops following General Conference 2016 to study matters of human sexuality and to strengthen the unity of The United Methodist Church. It is our honor and privilege to be the part of our sacred connection that surrounds the Commission on a Way Forward with fervent prayer during this special week, and to continue to remember them in prayer daily in the months to come. We invite you to be part of our North Georgia prayer movement in the following ways:

1.  A special web page has been set up for you to post public prayers for all to use in their times of personal prayer at www.ngumc.org/PrayingOurWayForward. Please submit your prayers to communications@ngumc.org. ...

2.  The Council of Bishops has been praying for The Way Forward Commission for months, and each bishop has agreed to remember them in prayer at a certain time each day. I have been praying for them each night at 9 p.m. During the North Georgia week of prayer, I invite you to join me in prayer at 9 p.m. each night from March 19-26 so that we all are united in this sacred activity. I have been praying for each member individually, for God’s wisdom and direction, and for the group’s work together. 

Each day, as I travel throughout our annual conference, I have the joy of witnessing first-hand the life-changing work God is doing through our connection by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amazing ministry is going on in so many places! Our connection, while not perfect, is a precious gift from God to celebrate and preserve. I covet your prayers for The Commission on a Way Forward and our United Methodist Church.

Yours in Christ,
Bishop Sue

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I pray that you will join me in praying for this endeavor as we lift up the work and mission of our church to God!  Always remember that God loves you and I do, too!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

What Is Stephen Ministry?

“[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)

Stephen Ministry is a newly reactivated lay caring ministry of our church that enables fellow members to care for one another in the way Paul describes above.  With over 1100 members, it’s impossible (and impractical) for myself and Pastor Blake 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 Congregational Care Ministry. Find out more about this ministry HERE.

Stephen Ministers themselves are fellow church members who’ve gone through 60 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 (*see below). 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 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 how you or someone you know can be matched with one of our church’s confidential Stephen Ministers, either email stephenministry@lagrangefumc.org, speak in person with our Stephen Leader Miriam Kelly, or either to Pastors Blake or myself.
Our Stephen Ministers are here for YOU!  Always remember that God loves you and I do, too!

(*)  Stephen Ministers are not licensed counselors, therapists,  or mental health professionals.  They are trained and supervised Christian lay care-givers

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What "Bone" Are You?

“Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)

“A Church typically consists of AT LEAST SIX BONES:

1.     WISH BONES… those who wish ‘someone else’ would do all the work.
2.    JAW BONES… those who do all the talking but little else.
3.    KNUCKLE BONES… those who knock everything that anyone else tries to do.
4.    LAZY BONES… those who show up as the work is finished.
5.    BUSY BONES… those who ‘belong’ but are always tied up on their own projects and with their own needs.
6.    BACK BONES… those who get under the load and do the work that’s necessary to get the job done.”

What “bone” are you at LaGrange First UMC?  As many of you already know, one thing our church is focusing on this year is “becoming the volunteer church we used to be.”  While we all certainly value and appreciate the work that our staff do year-round, their job is not -- after all -- to DO ministry but to help empower, encourage, and equip God’s PEOPLE (all of us!) to do it.

Do you recall the vow you made when you became a member of LaGrange First UMC to support the work of Christ through your church by your “SERVICE” (along with our “Prayers, Presence, Gifts, …and Witness”)?  This means that while praying, worshiping and being active in a small group, giving financially, and sharing our faith are all important, we are also called to serve others through one or more ministries of our church. 

With that in mind, you’ve hopefully been seeing articles in our newsletter, bulletin, Sunday School news and other places about new places and opportunities for you to volunteer to do God’s work through your church.  Remember: Healthy churches are always looking for volunteers (unhealthy churches simply pay staff to do the work).  As such, we are therefore currently in need of volunteers for:
     1) our Children’s Ministry (Children’s Church helpers, Nursery assistants, Sunday School class teachers and helpers);
     2) weekly setup & breakdown of our “Morning Glory” contemporary worship service;
     3) Audio/Visual ministry, to help run sound, lights, and multi-media during all our Sunday worship services
     4) Seasonal singers to join our Adult Choir to prepare for and sing in our upcoming community Easter cantata.

You’ll see an article elsewhere in this newsletter not only with more information about all of these, but also how you can volunteer for them. I not only invite and encourage but also go so far as to challenge each of you to try one of them out, remembering that as God’s people in God’s church, we are all called to work for the Lord through some ministry in His church.

I pray that you are -- or will consider becoming -- a “backbone” of our church in the coming months ahead, so that others can experience Him through the ministries of which you are a part!

Remember that God loves you and I do, too!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Who to Welcome???

“Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7)


Recently there’s been a lot of conversation in the news about who it’s appropriate to welcome in our society.  What about illegal immigrants?  What about refugees from Muslim countries?  What about transgender persons in the Boy Scouts? 

While I certainly respect the right of anyone to have their own thoughts and opinion about such matters, those of us who claim the name “Christian” also have a responsibility to look to Jesus for our cues in our responses.

A careful study of scripture reveals that Jesus welcomed harlots and others sinners, people who disagreed with him (such as the religious leaders), people who some considered to be the “enemy” (such as the Romans), and even those who would go on to betray him (such as Judas). Bottom line: Jesus welcomed ALL.

And from that example, we as God’s people are called to do the same, regardless of what our government or pop society do. Welcoming others in the name of Christ doesn’t mean that we have to agree with their beliefs, values, or behaviors.  But it does mean that we offer them respect and hospitality just as Jesus did for all people who he met.

A few years ago, someone shared a blog that (sort of tongue-in-cheek) described this kind of radical hospitality and welcome that we’re to imitate and have as God’s people:

“We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, yo no habla Ingles.  We extend a special welcome to those who are crying newborns, skinny as a rail, or could afford to lose a few pounds.

We welcome you if you can sing like Andrea Bocelli or like our pastor who can’t carry a note in a bucket.  You’re welcome here if you’re ‘just browsing,’ just woke up, or just got out of jail.  We don’t care if you’re more Catholic than the Pope, or haven’t been to church since little Joey’s Baptism.

We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast.  We welcome soccer moms, NASCAR dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters.  We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted.  We welcome you if you’re having problems, or you’re down in the dumps, or if you don’t like ‘organized religion” - we’ve been there too.

If you blew all your offering money at the dog track, you’re welcome here.  We offer a special welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or because grandma is in town and wanted to go to church.

We welcome those who are inked, pierced, or both.  We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid, or got lost in traffic and wound up here by mistake.  We welcome tourists, seekers, doubters, bleeding hearts… and you!”
            [--From “Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Community, cited in the Blog of Jon Acuff (www.jonacuff.com/stuffchristianslike/2012/07/how-to-welcome-people-to-your-church)]

Wow!  Those are tough words to live up to!  But they describe an attitude that we are to offer to all people as God’s church, for -- in the words of Paul’s scripture above -- “just as Christ welcomed [us]… [we are to] welcome one another.”  Dear Lord, may it be so at our church and among all the churches of God! Remember that He loves you and I do, too!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Grow Through Worship. Stave Without It


“Do not neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some,
but encourage one another, and all the more as you
see the Day [of the Lord] approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25)

I’ve heard it said somewhere that an action repeated for at least 21 days can create a habit.  Well, I want to challenge everyone reading this article to make a “habit” this new year of being in God’s House each week for corporate worship, fellowship, and learning.  Perhaps your life has gotten busy and you’ve “gotten out of the habit” of being in worship.  Maybe you’ve cherished a few extra minutes of sleep on Sunday morning, or have grown accustomed to tuning in to a favorite television ministry or church service in your pajamas, with coffee mug in hand.  Or, you might have unwittingly developed into a “C&E Christian” (attending only at Christmas and Easter).

But as the scripture text above reminds us, there’s simply no substitute in our own personal, emotional, and spiritual life for participating together with sisters and brothers in the worship and praise of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  With it, we experience God’s presence in a powerful way, and lives are touched and changed through it.  Without it, we starve our spirits. The same can be said of not only corporate worship but also in small classes and groups for prayer, Bible learning, and fellowship.  In other words, when we worship, fellowship, and learn together at church, we’re fulfilling our own church’s purpose of being “Christians SERVING in love, CARING with compassion, and SHARING (Christ) with boldness."

So, I hope you won’t miss out on the blessing God has in store for YOU through regular participation in weekly worship and small group fellowship and learning!  I plan on being here, and I look forward to seeing you, too, as we all make a “habit” of “meeting together” at church each week!  Remember that God loves you and I do, too!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

New Year's Gift

"If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

“In your hand has been placed a priceless gift. Look at it closely. There is no price maker stamped on it. It cannot be weighed, because no scale can balance its value. A king's ransom in comparison is as nothing yet it is given to beggar and prince alike. The giver asks only that it be used wisely and well.

This jewel, rare and unique, is not displayed in any shop window. It cannot be purchased, cannot be sold. No other treasure holds the possibilities this gift offers -- none can surpass its golden splendor.

Of all gifts, this is one of the most precious. It has been offered many times before; today, from the depths of a limitless love it will be given again. It will be left to you to find the golden thread running through it. Only with great care will the jewel retain its luster. Carelessness, ingratitude and selfishness will tarnish the brilliance, break the unspoiled thread, mar the perfection.

Guard it closely, lest through weak fingers it slip from the hand. Look often at its faultless beauty. Accept it as it is offered from the heart of the giver. Consider it is the most treasured of possessions, for of all gifts it is by far the greatest. It is the gift of the New Year.”

           [--Cited from timothyreport.com,  December 27, 2004]

As we begin a new year, I hope and pray that you will keep and use each moment to God’s glory. If you’ve gotten out of the habit of weekly worship, now’s an excellent time to start back. Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

New Preaching Rotation

Beginning January 8, 2017, Pastor Brian and Pastor Blake will experiment with rotating their preaching schedules into four week blocks. For example, one pastor will preach for 4 weeks in our "Morning Glory" contemporary service while the other pastor preaches in both our traditional services in the Chapel and Sanctuary. After their four week series ends they will then switch to preaching in the service(s) they did not preach in during the previous 4 weeks.

Both Blake and Brian are excited about this new rotation because it will:

1) It will increase the momentum during each of their sermon series’
2) It will accentuate both of their unique preaching styles
3) It will allow for both members and friends to choose either the preaching style or worship style that best fits their spiritual needs.

We pray that this rotation will stretch your faith and allow you to experience God’s diversity through our many worship opportunities!  If you have questions or suggestions during this trial period (through the end of Spring), please contact Brian and/or Blake.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

'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 both to remember and actually experience the true meaning of the season.

As part of that choice, I hope you'll join myself and your fellow church family to celebrate Jesus, "the reason for the season." at one of our Christmas Eve Candlelighting services (5:00pm Family Service with Children's Pageant or 11:00pm Traditional Service with Holy Communion) and/or on Christmas Day for our 10:30am casual Christmas celebration.  Always remember that God loves you and I do, too!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Travel Tips for Advent

“A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’” (Isaiah 40:3)

The Christian season of Advent (the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day) is often called a season of preparation.  Not only are we preparing for the holiday of Christmas physically (with decorations, Christmas cards, shopping, parties, etc.) but also spiritually (by looking within ourselves for how God wants us to grow in our love towards Him and others).

With that in mind, a number of years ago I read an article detailing several “travel tips” that can help us spiritually “prepare” for our “journey” through Advent:

1) PACK LIGHTLY: One of the indicators that our annual Christmas buying neurosis has gone wrong is this idea that those who give the most, and get the most, matter the most.  Such mistaken reasoning leads us to teach our children that Christmas is the annual bash we put on for ourselves, all the while trying to believe Bethlehem’s boy child is the “reason for the season.”  …But this myth can’t be disguised forever.  This year, why not pack lightly?  Rather than “shopping til you drop,” drop to your knees and ask the One Who Comes what he would have you do to make ready HIS coming.

2) WALK SLOWLY: Am I the only person who notices how rushed we get the closer “it” gets?  Was it only a few weeks ago that we started seeing signs saying “only 44 more days”?  Slow down.  Take time to sip cider with your mate.  Hug your kids.  Tell them the Advent-Christmas story and then live the story before them.  Refuse to sing Silent Night from a noisy heart.  Simply put, make the powerful emotions of these days your servants, not your master.

3) LISTEN CAREFULLY:  Someone you love very much is talking, saying something really important, maybe even life-changing.  Listen carefully and, who knows, you may hear the night wind speak to the little lamb saying “a child is born.” I can’t prove it, much less illustrate it, but I’m almost certain that most of us on the journey miss half the joy because we’re too busy talking; the sound of our own importance has drowned out the promise of “I am coming soon.”

4) LOOK WISTFULLY:  Where, you ask, should I look?  My best advice is:  none of the obvious places.  Those who traffic in seasonal things know what easy prey most of us are.  “Get them in the stores, turn on the music and lights, plop the man dressed in red in the middle of it all and, bingo, it’s Christmas.”  But the truth is that only those who look wistfully beyond what IS to the One who COMES really experience the mystery and miracle of Advent.  Why? Because Advent is a journey we take into the reality of the journey God made in Christ.  That journey, which included stops at such places as a stable, a hillside, a cross, and an empty tomb, had one purpose:  to love the likes of you and me back to the God who created us.

So, journey on, fully aware that at destination’s end is the one who loves you and gave himself for you.  “Even so, come Lord Jesus!”
            [--Shared by Dr. Timothy Owings in an editorial in The Augusta
            Chronicle newspaper (August, GA), December 1997]

As we continue to prepare for Christmas this Advent season, I invite you to allow these “tips” to become a reality in your life, as I seek to have them do in my own! Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Monday, November 21, 2016

What I'm Thankful For


 “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:18)


This past year I have had much to give God thanks for.  Here are just a few.  I am thankful...


...for a wife who models the love of God by loving me just as I am, warts and all!
…for a daughter who makes Trish and I proud not only because of what she does but more  importantly because of who she is and the beautiful woman of God she’s become.
…for our daughter’s fiancĂ© who Trish and I will be proud to call “son” next June for being the good fiancĂ© he is to our daughter and the great father he already is for our granddaughter.
…for our nearly 2 year old granddaughter who is so full of life, energy, excitement and curiosity about the new world that she is discovering.
...for parents who raised me in church to love, understand, and eventually follow the ways of God.
...for a church family who loves, supports, and prays for both my family and myself daily.
...for all of my fellow staff members -- Blake, Andy, Darian, Harrison, CJ, Grayson, Avery, Rick, Dodie, Patti, Lisa, Scott, Jordan, Eddie, and Jane -- who, together with me, share in the cause and work of Christ through our church.
…for church members who love me in spite of the fact that we “go over” in worship far too many Sundays due to long-winded preaching!
...for Sunday School and Bible study teachers/leaders who live out their faith in the selfless way they lead and teach.
...for committee and ministry team chairpersons and members who give “above and beyond” to the work of Christ through their participation in and leadership of our church’s ministries.
...for the “behind-the-scenes” members of our sound, multi-media ministries and those who help prepare our bulletins and newsletters in the essential work that they do.
...for the members of our praise team, adult, and children’s choirs for the blessing and inspiration they share through their music.
…for all the volunteers and staff of our church nursery who give tirelessly of themselves to make sure our children are safe and happy.
...for church members who roll up their sleeves and pitch in to be part of "the answer", rather than whining about what someone else is not doing to fix "the problem."
...for all the great volunteers who lovingly help in all of our Sunday night and Wednesday evening activities
...for church members who are willing to make God a priority
through their financial giving to His church.
...for fellow Christians who’re willing to step outside themselves by participating in serving 
and/or sharing ministries both locally and overseas.
…most importantly, for God who gave his son for me to give me forgiveness and salvation when I didn’t deserve it, and for giving me life and hope in the midst of a hectic world!

Of course, there’s many, many more, but have you “counted your blessings” lately?  When you do, I’m sure you’ll find that, like me, you have many things for which to “give thanks.”  Let us all strive to live out our thankfulness this Thanksgiving holiday!  Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

FOR WHAT ARE YOU THANKFUL???

Thursday, November 10, 2016

LFUMC’s “Stop Hunger Now” Event

“When they had plenty to eat, he said to his disciples, ‘Gather up the leftover pieces, so that nothing will be wasted.’ So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves that had been left over by those who had eaten.” (John 6:12-13)

Some quick facts about world hunger:

● Approximately 792.5 million people in the world do not get the food they need to live a healthy life.  That’s nearly one out of every nine people on earth, with 98% of those living in developing nations. In sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, one in every four people are hungry.

● Hunger kills more people each year than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.

● Nearly 50 percent of people living in extreme poverty are 18 years old or younger, and poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five – 3.1 million children each year.  

● 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world, with 23 million in Africa alone. The poorest 20 percent of the world’s children are about twice as likely as the richest 20 percent to be stunted by poor nutrition and to die before their fifth birthday.
                        [--Sources cited at the “Stop Hunger Now” website]

These figures regarding world hunger are alarming. Thankfully, our world today possesses the science and technology to properly address this dilemma, if we will but choose to do so. That’s why I’m pleased to invite you to participate in a new ministry hosted by our church called “Stop Hunger Now,” a world-wide interfaith initiative begun in 1998 by a United Methodist pastor and designed to help people in developed communities like our own combat hunger and starvation in developing communities around the world.

This coming Sunday (November 13) from 9:30-11:30am in the MMC, we’ll be packing 12,000 meals (2000 packets x 6 meals per packet).  We’ll begin in the Chapel at 9:00am with a short worship celebration, then at 9:20am move into the Fellowship Hall to continue “worship-in-action” through the packing event, which will provide a service great opportunity for appropriate for children, youth, college students, and adults.

Though the event itself will serve in place of both our two early morning worship services and most of our church’s Sunday School classes, our 11am service will take place as usual in the Sanctuary.  Also, while this is the first time our church has sponsored this event, some of you may already be familiar with it from previous events hosted both by LaGrange College and by other area churches.

Remember, Jesus fed over 5000 with the simple offering of one little boy’s lunch.  On November 13, we’ll be preparing meals to feed even more than that!  Perhaps this is what Jesus had in mind when he spoke the words of John 14:12-14, “whoever believes in me will do even greater works than these [that I do].”

So, dress casually and join us at 9:00am in the Chapel on November 13th as we seek to “stop hunger now” in the name of Jesus!  And don’t forget that God loves you and I do, too!

[P.S., to find out more about this initiative, visit their website HERE] 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Top 10 Truths No Matter Who Wins the Election

1.                  The Bible will still have all the answers.
2.                   Prayer will still work.
3.                  The Holy Spirit will still move.
4.                  God will still inhabit the praises of His people.
5.                  There will still be God-anointed preaching.
6.                  There will still be singing of praise to God.
7.                  God will still pour out blessings upon His people.
8.                  There will still be room at the Cross.
9.                  Jesus will still love you.
10.              Jesus will still save the lost when they come to Him.

BONUS: No matter who holds the title of president, God is still KING!!

P.S. God approves this message

(Always remember that God loves you and I do, too!)