Monday, September 27, 2010

Called to Serve

“Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend
the orphan, plead for the widow....” (Isaiah 1:17)

One of our tasks and callings as people of faith is to touch and make a difference in the physical and material lives of people around us in our community and world. We’re called to follow the example of Christ by serving others, not simply be served ourselves. Growing up, I remember singing the words to one hymn that put it well:

“Look all around you, find someone in need,
Help somebody today
Tho’ it be little – a neighborly deed,
Help somebody today!
Help somebody today, somebody along life’s way;
Let sorrow be ended, the friendless befriended,
Oh help somebody today!
[--“Help Somebody Today” (Cokesbury Hymnal #67), by Frank Breck, 1932]

The founder of Methodism John Wesley is said to have encouraged something similar nearly 200 years before when he wrote the following
“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can,
In all the ways you can, in all the places you can,
At all the times you can, to all the people you can,
As long as you ever can.”

This coming Saturday (October 2nd) from 9am-1pm, our church will be having our annual “Great Day of Service.” Over 200 members and friends will be involved in various activities and events that intentionally serve our fellow human beings both in our own community and throughout the world. I hope you’ll be present along with me to make a difference in the lives of others on this special day! Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Howie Finds His Place!!!

Did you miss this past Sunday's comical video "Finding Your Place" starring Mark Haman and myself (da-da!!!)? Ok, so it's not up for an Academy Award, but it is a humorous way to see the value of discovering and using our Spiritual Gifts first before we try to go out and do all sorts of ministries. If you missed seeing it, here it is!!! ...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Do You Know Your Spiritual Gifts?

“There are varieties of gifts,… but it is the same God who activates them all. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:4,6-7)

The Bible teaches that each and every Christian is given Spiritual Gifts to help life effective life and ministry in our world. Unfortunately, many believers not only don’t know what their gifts are, but don’t know how to use them, resulting in frustration and disillusionment in their life and work. That’s why last week in worship we began our discussion of the S.T.R.I.D.E. principles of Christian faith by learning about the equipping Spiritual Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

If you missed church last week, or are not in one of our “Serving From the Heart” classes, you can click here to take a short online Spiritual Gifts Assessment to discover your gifts. In the meantime, though, enjoy this humorous parable from Leslie Flynn about the importance of the variety of gifts within the overall health and effectiveness of Christ’s body (the Church):

“The event is a conference of carpenter’s tools, where Mr. Hammer is presiding. Several suggest he leave the meeting because he is too noisy. Replies the Hammer, ‘If I have to leave this shop, Mr. Screw must go also. You have to turn him around again and again to get him to accomplish anything.’ Mr. Screw then spoke up. ‘If you wish, I will leave. But Mr. Plane must leave too. All his work is on the surface. His efforts have no depth.’ To this Mr. Plane responds, ‘Mr. Ruler will also have to withdraw, for he is always measuring folks as though he were the only one who is right.’ Mr. Ruler then complains against Mr. Sandpaper, ‘You ought to leave too because you're so rough and always rubbing people the wrong way.’

In the midst of all this discussion, in walks Jesus, the Carpenter of Nazareth. He has arrived to start His day's work. Putting on His apron, He goes to the bench to make a pulpit from which to proclaim the gospel. He employs the hammer, screw, plane, rule, sandpaper, and all the other tools. After the day's work when the pulpit is finished, Mr. Saw rises and remarks, ‘Friends, I see that all of us are workers together with the Lord.’”

[-Leslie B. Flynn, Nineteen Gifts of the Spirit, p. 34]

I’m thankful that, like these tools, we as human beings are created by God with diversity and variety. We’re not all alike (thank goodness!), but we do have a common purpose. As Paul puts it in the scripture above, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” So, do you know YOUR Spiritual Gifts? More importantly… are you USING them in and for God’s service? Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Parable of the Lobster

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

Last week in worship we talked about 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 this year? 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, you’ll welcome it as a tool from God to help you become who He wants you to be. Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Job Or A Ministry?

“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)

How can you tell if something you’re doing is just a “job”, or if it is an actual “ministry”? Ask yourself these questions to see…

“If you are doing it because no one else will, it’s a job.
If you are doing it to serve the Lord, it’s a ministry.
If you are doing it just well enough to get by, it’s a job.
If you are doing it to the best of your ability, it’s a ministry.
If you will do it only so long as it doesn’t interfere with other activities,
it’s a job.
If you are committed to staying with it, even when it means letting go of other things, it’s a ministry.
If you quit because no one praised you or thanked you, it was a job.
If you stay with it even when no one seems to notice, it’s a ministry.
If you do it because someone else said it needs to be done, it’s a job.
If you do it because you are convinced it needs to be done, it’s a ministry.
It is hard to be excited about a job.
It is almost impossible NOT to get excited about a ministry.
People may say “Well done” when you do your job.
The Lord will say “Well done” when you complete your ministry.
An average church is filled with people doing jobs.
A great church is filled with people involved in ministry.”

[-From the newsletter of Mt. View UMC in Kingsport, Tennessee]

I’m glad to be part of a “great church” filled with people willing to do true ministry! As you’re hopefully already aware, during the month of September all East Cobb members and friends have the opportunity to prayerfully consider being part of one of our leadership teams for next year. Instructions on how to nominate yourself or someone else can be found in our “Join In The Ministry of God’s Church” brochure that you can find in the Narthex or download here. In the meantime, remember that whatever it is that we do or are called to, let’s do it as ministry with the world through God’s church. Remember that God loves you and I do, too!