Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Advent Conspiracy Coming...

Are you tired of the hectic rat race of the holiday? Are you frustrated with how consumerism has stolen the soul of Christmas, reducing it merely to a retail circus that depletes our pocketbooks and defeats our spirits?

Well, this year take a stand! Join the growing movement of Christ-followers who are choosing to make the holiday season what it should be – a joyous celebration of Jesus’ birth that enriches our hearts and the world around us.

This Sunday (November 28th), we’ll begin a new series called Advent Conspiracy that will continue through Christmas Eve in which we’ll learn how to substitute consumption with compassion by practicing four simple, but powerful, countercultural concepts. I hope you’ll join us for these very special services as we prepare for Christmas 2010. Remember that God loves you and I do, too!


Monday, November 15, 2010

In The Works #3

“Without a vision the people perish...”
(Proverbs 29:18, KJV)

Twice this year already (in February and June) I’ve shared articles about some of the ministry and facility-related initiatives that are currently “in the works” and in various stages of development at East Cobb UMC. Today I again want to share a brief update about just a few of these that may be of interest to you:

● We hope you’ve been enjoying the new weekly e-newsletter. Although we’re still printing and mailing paper copies to any who request them (as well as all our homebound members), the online version is enabling more people to have access to the events and activities of our church in a more timely manner. If you have suggestions or ideas for its improvement, please email nancy@eastcobbumc.org.

● Hopefully you’ve been noticing our new church logo appearing on a variety of communication materials. While we’ve shared a “soft” rollout of the new logo so far, in January we’ll have a more aggressive campaign to officially acquaint our entire congregation with it, and to help you see how it can be used as a great evangelism tool for us as God’s church.

● Now that the new logo has been adopted, work will begin early next year (2011) on a comprehensive redesign of our church website.

● The week of November 29-December 3, the new doors for our Education and Activities buildings (11 doors total) will be installed. This work is just one part of our long-range facility development plan.

● Although the temporary outdoor signage for our church keeps getting torn down by the constant DOT roadwork, our sign sub-committee is continuing to work on temporary solutions to clearly identify our church from Roswell Rd.

● In the meantime, work continues as we prepare both plans and permits for a new permanent outdoor monument sign. The rezoning of our facility that we’ll need for our new sign is currently on the docket to come before the Cobb County Zoning Commission later this month. After that, we’ll better know the kind of sign we’ll be able to build. The new sign is also part of our long-range facility development plan.

● You’ll notice that the DOT has already poured the curbs for the new deceleration lane and top commercial entrance to our upper parking lot. We are thankful to Steve Ragsdale, Steve Hughes, and Stan Lassiter for their work through our attorney on behalf of our church to acquire these additional accommodations from the DOT for their road expansion. The DOT will soon also begin work on a commercial lower entrance, as well.

● Our Strategic Planning Team continues its work on a 5-year Strategic Plan for our entire church. We have now acquired the expertise of an architect to help us phase our long-range facility development and expansion, and in early 2011 we’ll be sharing the initial thoughts about this phasing with the entire congregation for input, suggestion and comment. The two pieces of this plan that are already in progress are the new doors and our eventual new outdoor/monument sign.

As I’ve said before, all of these are in various stages of development, and some will require approval from various levels of our church’s leadership along the way. To find out more detail about any of these initiatives (or if you have input, ideas, or expertise that you’re willing to share to help accomplish them), please email or call the church office (770-971-3643 or office@eastcobbumc.org), and we’ll have someone from the appropriate group respond to your specific question(s).

In the meantime, continue to pray for your church leaders as they seek God’s will and wisdom for all of us, and remember that God’s mission for us of being “A Mosaic of God’s Family: Gathering, Growing, and Going” is one that will require all of us to do our part in order for it to be accomplished. Remember that God loves you and I do, too!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Veterans & the "Armor of God"

“Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:11)

If you are reading this on November 11th, then you’re reading it on “Veteran’s Day” – the day we honor and remember the sacrifice and selflessness of those who serve and defend our country in our armed services. It was originally celebrated as “Armistice Day” -- November 11, 1918, the day that ended what was once called “war to end all wars” (World War I) – and its purpose was to remember those who had died in that conflict. In 1954, Congress changed the focus and scope of the day, and renamed it “Veterans Day.” Since that time, it’s purpose has been three-fold: remembering those who fought and died in all wars; celebrating all veterans; and promoting an enduring peace for all time.

In the Bible, the apostle Paul described the Christian life in military terms: in Ephesians 6, he says we should “put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

While Paul’s words here are meant to be understood metaphorically (rather than literally), it’s worth noting that Paul chose military language at all to describe a life of faith. His point is that life is very much a “battle” against the harmful spiritual forces of our world (things like fear and hopelessness), and that the disciplines of our faith are very much like the hard discipline and training of military personnel.

We have many veterans in our own congregation who we want to honor. So, as we celebrate and remember them, let’s also remember that we’re all called to be “veterans” of faith by “fighting the good fight” (1 Timothy 1:18). Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

I invite you to pray this prayer for our Veterans: “Righteous God, you rule the nations. Guard brave men and women in military service. Give them compassion for those who confront them as enemies. Keep our children from hate that hardens, or from scorekeeping with human lives. Though for a season they must be people of war, let them live for peace, as eager for agreement as for victory. Encourage them as they encourage one another, and never let hard duty separate them from loyalty to your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.”

[-"Prayer for Those In Military Service” found in the United Methodist Book of Worship #542]

Monday, November 1, 2010

Daylight Savings Ends This Weekend

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25)

On Sunday, March 13, 2010, we started “saving daylight.” On that day we set our clocks, watches and electronic devices ahead one hour, “giving” ourselves an extra hour of daylight. We “lost” an hour of sleep on that Sunday, but for the next eight months we were able to stay outside a little longer by simply manipulating the clock. The number of hours in the day were not actually increased, but it seemed as if the days were longer. This coming Saturday night/Sunday morning (November 6th) we will finally get to set our clocks back one hour, thereby “retrieving” the hour of sleep that we “lost” in March.

While on earth, Jesus taught about the senselessness of worrying about the times. He illustrated his point in his “Sermon on the Mount” when he said “Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” (Matthew 6:27). While worrying may not add any time to our lives (in fact some studies reveal that worrying can actually take it away), nevertheless years have been added through the combined efforts of medical science, proper nutrition and exercise, and education. Not only are we living longer, but the quality of life has improved significantly in many ways.

And yet, even with all this advancement, we cannot actually “retrieve” time. It is fleeting. It cannot be stopped by adjusting a watch, nor can it be speeded up simply by marking off a day ahead on a calendar. Instead, today is what we have. Yesterday is already a cancelled check. Tomorrow is merely a promissory note.

So, this Saturday night when you set your clock back an hour, what do you plan to do with that extra hour other than sleep? Watch more TV? Spend more time on the computer? Why not take extra time to talk and converse with your family members? What about reading your Bible that’s been collecting dust, or spending an extra hour in prayer? And in addition to these, what about adjusting your clock appropriately so that you won’t be late for Sunday School and worship the next morning -- nothing in this life is more precious and valuable than the brief time we spend together in fellowship with one another and in worship of God. Think about it (I hope you agree), and then… do it! Remember, God loves you and I do, too!