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!



Sunday, June 22, 2014

A United Methodist Church Split???

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-5)

Some of you already know that for the last few months there has been increasing talk about the possibility of our beloved United Methodist Church splitting into two (or more) new denominations following our upcoming 2016 General Conference (Read more about these discussions HERE).

While the subject was intentionally not the subject of any official discussion or action at the recent North Georgia Annual Conference that I and other delegates from our church attended last week in Athens, nevertheless over 600 clergy and laity from our Conference (myself included) have voiced strong opposition to schism in an unofficial petition (Read it HERE), claiming that such a split will not realistically solve the theological and practical challenges that face us as a denomination.

And yet, at the same time, I and many others also believe that maintaining the current “status quo” will be equally insufficient going forward – splitting is not the answer, but something must change.  One influential pastor/leader of our denomination has proposed a “local option” solution that may have merit, and that many have already voiced support for (Read it HERE). And yet, others are opposed to this proposal, as well (Read HERE).

While I am honestly still wrestling with exactly where I stand, I do know this:  neither Methodism as a tradition nor the church of Jesus Christ in general has ever been defined solely by its positions on specific social issues. 

In his 1749 sermon “Catholic Spirit, the founder of Methodism John Wesley wrote “although a difference in opinions or modes of worship may prevent an entire external union, yet need it prevent our union in affection? Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences. These remaining as they are, they may forward one another in love and in good works” (Read Wesley’s entire sermon HERE).  

What’s more is that in his tract The Character of a Methodist,” Wesley states that “The distinguishing marks of a Methodist are not his opinions of any sort. His assenting to this or that scheme of religion, his embracing any particular set of notions, his espousing the judgment of one man or of another, are all quite wide of the point. Whosoever, therefore, imagines that a Methodist is a man of such or such an opinion, is grossly ignorant of the whole affair; he mistakes the truth totally.”  Instead, he goes on to say, “a Methodist is one who has ‘the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost given unto him;’ one who ‘loves the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his mind, and with all his strength. God is the joy of his heart, and the desire of his soul; which is constantly crying out, ‘Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee! My God and my all! Thou art the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever!’" (Read Wesley’s entire tract HERE).

The bottom line is that our identity as people of faith should be determined not by our loyalty to a particular theological or social position, but by our open commitment to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  Does that mean that we as Christians may have to “agree to disagree” about some (important and controversial) things?  Absolutely!  Does it mean that in doing so we have compromised the gospel?  Not a bit!  Even the first followers of Jesus had to “agree to disagree” about things from time to time as they established the Church (For example, Acts 15:36-41). 

I don’t know what the future holds for our denomination, but I do know that Jesus will still be Lord over His church, whatever form that takes!  Please join me in praying for unity (not uniformity, but unity) as we go about the primary business of “making disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”  Always remember that God loves you and I do, too!


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day Scriptures

As we celebrate Father’s Day, here is collection of just a few inspirational Bible verses that are especially for men and fathers:

Deuteronomy 1:29-31
“Then I said to you, ‘Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The LORD your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the desert. There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.’” (NIV)

Joshua 1:9
Be brave and strong... Don't be alarmed or terrified, because the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (CEB)

Malachi 4:6 
[God] will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers. (NIV)

Psalm 103:13 
As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him. (NIV)

Proverbs 3:11-12
Don't reject the instruction of the Lord, my son; don't despise his correction. The Lord loves those he corrects, just like a father who treats his son with favor. (CEB)

Proverbs 10:9
The man of integrity walks securely, but one who takes crooked paths will be found out. (NIV)

Proverbs 23:22 
Listen to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old. (NRSV)

Ephesians 6:4 
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (NRSV)

Colossians 3:21 
Fathers, do not provoke your children, or they may lose heart. (NRSV)

This Father’s Day, be sure to take time to thank God not only for your father but also for the father-figures in your life.  Remember that God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

2014 North Georgia Annual Conference

“And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

This coming week (June 9-12), over 2800 delegates representing the 1000 churches and 365,000+ United Methodists in North Georgia will be gathering at the Classic Center in Athens, Georgia for the North Georgia Annual Conference with the theme “Together We Make Disciples.” This year Peter Kaimathiri and I are serving as our church=s clergy representatives (although Peter will be absent as he is still in Kenya), and Lee Bierce and Pat Holcomb are serving as our laity delegates. In addition, Cindy Campbell and Frieda Brown will be present as at-large delegates from our Atlanta-Marietta District.

Each year’s Annual Conference makes important decisions that affect every United Methodist church in our geographic area: approval and ordination of new clergy and retirement of older ones; appointments of pastors to local churches are finalized (we celebrate that our Bishop -- Michael Watson -- has reassigned myself and Peter Kaimathiri to East Cobb UMC as your appointed pastors for this next year); adoption of the conference budget; support for and reports from conference missions and ministries; exciting worship and bible study opportunities to enrich our spiritual lives; present our “Bishop’s Offering” (Global AIDS fund and the Experimental Leadership Institute for our camp and retreat ministry); and much more!

Upon our return, we’ll be available to report on important decisions that were made, and how these might affect us as a congregation.  In the meantime, you can find more information about Annual Conference (including videos and other resources) by CLICKING HERE.

Thank you for your prayers, both for ourselves as your representatives, and for the Conference itself.  Always remember, God loves you and I do too!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Parable of the Lobster

“God is our refuge and strength.... Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change....” (Psalm 46:1-2)

As our church staff undergoes significant change this summer as we say “goodbye” to some friends and “hello” to new ones, I thought it would be helpful for us all to remember the blessings and challenges of CHANGE – of being willing to stretch and become more than we already are.  The following modern day parable is a follow up to that message, and comes from Rev. Carolyn Wittwer of the New York Annual Conference by way of Rev. Doug Smith, former Pastor of First United Methodist Church of Morristown, Tennessee:

Long ago, when the world was very new... there was a certain lobster who determined that the Creator had made a mistake.  So he set up an appointment to discuss the matter.  “With all due respect,” said the lobster, “I wish to complain about the way you designed my shell.  You see, I just get used to one outer casing, when I’ve got to shed it for another; very inconvenient and rather a waste of time.”  To which the Creator replied, “I see.  But do you realize that it is the giving up of one shell that allows you to grow into another?”

“But I like myself just the way I am,” the lobster said.  “Your mind’s made up?” the Creator said.  “Indeed!” the lobster stated firmly.
“Very well,” smiled the Creator.  “From now on, your shell will not change... and you may go about your business just as you are right now.”  “That’s very kind of you,” said the lobster, and left.

At first, the lobster was very content with wearing the same old shell.  But as time passed, he found that his once light and comfortable shell was becoming quite heavy and tight.  After a while, in fact, the shell became so cumbersome that the lobster couldn’t feel anything at all outside himself.  As a result, he was constantly bumping into others. Finally, it got to the point where he could hardly breathe.  So with great effort, he went back to see the Creator.

“With all due respect,” the lobster sighed, “contrary to what you promised, my shell has not remained the same.  It keeps shrinking!”  “Not at all,” smiled the Creator.  “Your shell may have gotten a little thicker with age, but it has remained the same size.  What’s happened is that you have changed inside, beneath your shell.”
The Creator continued: “You see, everything changes... continuously.  No one remains the same.  That’s the way I’ve designed things.  And the wisest choice is to shed your old shell as you grow.”  “I see,” said the lobster, “but you must admit it is occasionally inconvenient and a bit uncomfortable.”

“Yes,” said the Creator, “but remember, all growth carries with it both the possibility of discomfort... and the potential for great joy as you discover new parts of yourself.  After all, you can’t have one without the other.” “That’s very sensible,” said the lobster. 

“If you’d like,” offered the Creator, “I’ll tell you something more.” “Please do!” encouraged the lobster.  “When you let go of your shell and choose to grow,” said the Creator, “you build new strength within yourself and in that strength you’ll find new capacity to love yourself... to love those around you... and to love life itself.  That is my plan for each of you.”

How is God calling you to stretch and change in your life?  in your faith?  What new thing(s) is He challenging you with lately?  In what ways are you being called to be more than you have been?  My hope and prayer is that even though change is often difficult and uncomfortable (even for a church staff), you and we will all welcome it as a tool from God to help us become who He wants us to be.  Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

2014 Bishop's Offering

“Posterity will serve [God]; future generations will be told about the Lord, and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.” (Psalm 22:30-31)

Many of you are aware that each year our Bishop of North Georgia United Methodism (Michael Watson) designates an annual “Bishop’s Mission Offering” to be collected by North Georgia United Methodist churches in the weeks leading up to Annual Conference, and then shared by each church’s delegates at a worship service during Conference.

This year, Bishop Watson has announced that our 2014 Annual Conference Bishop’s Mission Offering will support two worthy efforts to help young people thrive:  the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund (UMGAF); and ELI, the Experiential Leadership Institute of the North Georgia Conference Camp and Retreat Ministries. These two ministries address uniquely different aspects of physical, emotional, and spiritual health for young people, and this year’s Bishop’s Offering will be shared between both of them.

Look for the bulletin inserts in our weekly worship bulletins to find out more information about these projects, or CLICK HERE for information online.

I invite you to join me in participating in this special opportunity t make a difference in the lives and futures of young people with an over-and-above-your-regular offering financial gift.  To contribute, please make your check payable to East Cobb UMC and designate either it or cash to our “Bishop’s Mission Offering.” 

We’ll be collecting funds through June 8th, and will present our church’s combined check during the offering time at the Annual Conference afternoon worship service on Wednesday, June 11th.  Remember that God loves you and I do, too!