Monday, August 30, 2010

Reach Your STRIDE

“Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2a)

Do you ever struggle (or have you ever struggled) to find your place in the world? in your work? in your family? in your church? Do you sometimes have difficulty understanding your purpose or feeling fulfilled in what you do in these places? If you’ve wrestled with questions like these (and most of us have), then there’s an answer waiting for you this Fall at East Cobb UMC!

Beginning this Sunday, September 12 and continuing through Sunday, October 31, our church will be embarking on an eight-week spiritual journey talking about how God has gifted each of us in various ways to address the questions above. Through a series of weekly sermons, testimonies, “Serving From the Heart” groups, and resource materials, you’ll discover how the S.T.R.I.D.E. principles of Christian stewardship and faith can help you “Reach Your STRIDE” in becoming the man, woman, youth, or child that God created and called you to be. It will all culminate with a grand celebration at our morning worship services on Sunday, October 31, 2010.

Remember, growing and maturing is one of the key themes and practices of Christian faith. As Paul’s words in Hebrews 12 say, we’re called to continually stretch beyond who and what we’ve been in our past in order to become what God wants us to be in our future. In other words, don’t rest on the laurels of your past, but get up and stride towards the finish! I hope and pray that you’ll join me on this journey as we together “Reach [our] STRIDE” as God’s church! Never forget that God loves you and I do, too!

Monday, August 23, 2010

All About Me???

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to
the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

Last Sunday’s message challenged each of us to consider how much our lives as Christians are often wrapped up (even unintentionally) in the self-centeredness of our society and culture (Click here to read the message). As a follow up, I want to share several additional observations: the first involving The Lord’s Prayer; the next two from readings that challenged me in my own thinking.

You cannot say The Lord’s Prayer and even once say “I”
You cannot pray The Lord’s Prayer and even once say “my”
Nor can you pray The Lord’s Prayer and not pray for another
For when you ask for daily bread, you must include each other
For others are included in each and every plea
From beginning to the end of it, it does not once say “me”!
[-From a 1984 Fayetteville First UMC (GA) newsletter]

“The fastest growing religion in the world is not Islam or Christianity… but radical consumerism. It promises transcendence, power, pleasure, and fulfillment even as it demands complete devotion.… American Christians have incorporated their devotion to consumerism with their Christian faith. Yet every step we make towards [it] is one step farther off the path of Jesus the Liberating King.”
[-From ADVENT CONSPIRACY by Rick McKinley and others, pp. 21-22]

“The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night… For when these replace an appetite for God Himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable.”

Wow! Strong words that cut right to our heart -- or more precisely, right to our behaviors and practices! Still, it’s the call we’re asked to follow. So, may God give us the courage, power, and boldness to seek this kind of true freedom from his Holy Spirit in each of our lives! Remember that God loves you and I do, too!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Homecoming Coming!

“Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!.. [For] I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you,... says the Lord.” (Zephaniah 3:14 & 20)

Homecoming (Noun): “A return home; the return of a group of people... to a place formerly frequented or regarded as home.” (Mirriam-Webster Dictionary)

Homecoming” is a great tradition in many churches throughout America. It’s a time to invite former church members, pastors and staff back “home” for a special time of fellowship and worship and eating to celebrate a common history and heritage. Homecoming worship usually involves lots of great, rousing singing, inspiring special music, occasional special presentations, and a challenging sermon preached by a former pastor or staff minister.

It’s a time to reminisce about the past (what the church was like in the “good ole’ days!”), to celebrate the present (how the church has changed to meet current needs), and to be challenged with plans and visions for the future (how the church plans to grow to meet the needs of future generations). In fact, it’s a foretaste of the great “homecoming” celebration that Zephaniah describes in the scripture above.

Here at East Cobb U.M.C., we celebrate this great tradition once every five years on the final weekend in August. Well, the time has arrived! So, mark your calendars for Saturday, August 28 from 4:00-8:30pm, where our church will be celebrating our 138th birthday with special Homecoming events of fun, food, fellowship, and worship featuring the preaching of former pastor Rev. Jack Gillespie.

I hope you’ll make plans now to be present then. It’s a day in the life of your church that you won’t want to miss, so I hope to see you there! Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

"Gadgets and Gizmos... Oh, My!"

“If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions,
and give money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." (Matthew 19:21)

This past Sunday in our “American Idol” sermon series I shared a message about the dangers of technology. Those of you who know me well know that this was a difficult sermon not only to deliver but also to prepare, as I myself am a great lover of technology of all sorts. Yet, as I shared in the message, I’ve also come to realize how dangerous technology can be when we (like the man in the Matthew 19 passage) allow it to get in the way of our relationships with God and others. When that happens, technology (like any “possession” in the scripture) has become an “idol” in our life, and we may need to take some drastic steps to get out from under its control.

While many of you were present and heard how I believe Jesus’ words help us avoid (or break free from) this idol, I wanted to share my main three points again for the benefit of those who weren’t present, and just to reinforce it for those of you who were! (Note that these are in reverse order from the sermon):

1) Learn to SET LIMITS on the technology that you absolutely must have -- manage it in such a way that it doesn’t create barriers to your relationships with others or with God. That may mean limiting the time you spend on email, the internet, texting, on Facebook or Twitter, etc. If this doesn’t help you get control of your use of technology, you may need take a second, more difficult step…

2) CUT BACK and learn to live with simpler types/pieces of technology. “Sell” your “attitude of possessiveness” that makes you think you have to have all the newest, coolest stuff that’s out on the market when in fact you could live with something simpler than that. In spiritual terms, surrender your wants to God and trust that He’ll provide you with what you need.

3) Finally, there are times when we may need to GIVE UP our use of some pieces of technology altogether. This is obviously the most radical solution, but if setting limits and cutting back don’t help you get control over your use of some types/pieces of technology (like TV, the internet, texting, or social media), then you may need to seriously consider not using them at all!

Obviously there is much more that can be said about each of these suggestions (and in fact I did say much more in the full text of my sermon found in my sermon archive here). However, I hope that even this short posting has challenged you to prayerfully consider this further. The key is that God wants each of us to be free of the idolization of technology so that we have more time to devote to our families, friends, and the work of His kingdom on earth! Remember, God loves you and I do, too!