Sunday, May 29, 2011

Disciple Bible Study

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

As God’s people, one of the tools we’re given to discover, grow, and mature in Christian faith is the Bible. Unfortunately, many spiritual people have never unlocked the power of this God-given tool because they’ve never taken time to actually study it in-depth with others.

Disciple” Bible Study is a popular, interdenominational small-group experience that has enabled literally hundreds of thousands of people over the last 25 years to do just that. Through daily readings and a 2 ½ hour guided discussion once per week, participants not only come to understand the Bible better, but come to discover its relevance and power in and for their daily lives, while at the same time developing rich and long-lasting friendships with fellow participants. I’ve personally witnessed many lives changed and transformed in remarkable ways through this study.

Granted... “Disciple” is not for the casual Christian. It requires hard work, commitment, and diligence – but the rewards are literally “out of this world!” I’ve heard many spiritual people talk about their desire to grow in and learn more about faith – being part of a “Disciple” group is one of the best ways around to help each of us do just that! (Click HERE for more information about “Disciple”)

So if you’re serious about your faith growth and want to find out more, then I invite you to worship on Sunday, June 5th for our annual “Disciple Sunday” to hear how this study experience has impacted the hearts and lives of some of your fellow church family, and how you can experience it for yourself beginning this Fall 2011. Your life will never be the same after you take a “Disciple” Bible Study class! So what are you waiting for? Remember that God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

"Imagine No Malaria" OFFERING

“And let us consider how to encourage one another to love and good deeds...” (Hebrews 10:24)

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 named “Imagine No Malaria” as the 2011 Annual Conference Bishop’s Mission Offering. “Imagine No Malaria” is an initiative of The United Methodist Church with the goal of raising $75 million to eliminate malaria deaths in Africa by 2015. (Find out more about this initiative HERE, and how our Conference is partnering with it HERE).

Malaria itself is a disease that is entirely preventable. We already possess the treatment and preventative measures to eliminate deaths from malaria around the world. Fifty years ago, more than 2 million people were dying each year from smallpox all over the world—today that number is zero. Imagine what we will be able to say about malaria in 20, 10 or even five years. With the promise and the hope of the people of The United Methodist Church (and our small part in that), we have an opportunity to collaborate in a global effort to overcome malaria --a goal world leaders hope to accomplish by 2015. One person can save thousands of lives. Just imagine what 11.5 million United Methodists can accomplish!

Consequently, I’m inviting you to join me in participating in this special opportunity 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 5th, and will present our church’s combined check during the offering time at the Annual Conference afternoon worship service on Thursday, June 16th. Please join me as we seek to make a difference with the poor of the world through the eradication of this disease!

Remember that God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Have You Had Your Aldersgate?

“...Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved...” (Acts 2:21)

In 18th-century England, a man named John Wesley searched for more out of life and more from God in many ways: by serving the poor and those in prison; as a missionary to the Indians in the British colony of Georgia; through a strict adherence to a religious discipline; and others. However, each of these things left him feeling empty and unfulfilled. It wasn’t until what we today call his “Aldersgate experience” that Wesley found the answer he’d been searching for. He describes it this way in his Journal from May 24, 1738:

“In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate-Street, where one was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation: And an assurance was given me, that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

Like Wesley, many people today are searching for more out of life, and going about it by trying to be “good people” and do “good things” for others. While these are certainly important, each of us must discover (as Wesley did) that only through a personal relationship with God through Jesus can find that for which we’re searching so desperately.

As we remember the anniversary of Wesley’s “Aldersgate” experience coming up on May 24th, I invite you to let his testimony become yours by allowing God to “warm” your heart through faith in Christ Jesus. If you haven’t already, invite Christ to be your Savior today! Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Christian Response to the Death of Osama Bin Laden

"But I say to you that listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you, and pray for those who abuse you." (Luke 6:27)

Today I woke to the news that Osama Bin Laden -- #1 on America's list of "Most Wanted" -- was dead. Part of me was glad: for the last 9+ years, our nation has waged a costly war on terrorism largely due to his influence, and as part of our response to the deadly chain of events orchestrated by him which took place on 9/11/2001.

You may remember that those attacks united Americans in a way that no other recent event had done -- evidenced by the many American flags that popped up all over the place for a while after the attacks. Consequently, since that time (for the last 9 years), I have flown a miniature flag in my front yard by our mailbox, vowing not to remove it until Bin Laden was no more. Now that he's gone, I struggle again with whether or not to remove it -- it was, after all, a flag flown in support of our nation, not just as a statement against a particular enemy. So for now... the flag will remain.

And yet, another dilemma remains... while part of me is glad that Bin Laden is no more, at the same time I have struggled with whether "gladness" was an appropriate response by a Christian pastor to a death... even to the death of someone as violent and twisted as Bin Laden -- He was, after all, a "child of God," too! Perhaps you've shared this same struggle. What I've come to realize today is that while we may be "relieved" by this news, it is not something we need to celebrate too much.

What it instead points out to me is not only the brokenness and sinfulness of our world, but also the broken and sinful nature of my own heart: we live in a world which contains people like Bin Laden who exercise their free will to terrorize; and a world in which even we as God's people struggle with the "appropriateness" of their demise. This struggle highlights the fact that we are all sinners in need of God's grace... me, you, my neighbors up and down my street, my fellow church members, our local, state and national leaders (including our President, regardless of what political party you identify with), the people who cut us off on the freeway, and yes... even Osama Bin Laden.

So, whatever your feelings about this "victory," let it be a reminder to you of your own human frailty -- that we are all dust, that none of us is who he or she needs to be, and so ALL of us stand in need of a Savior. Jesus came to be that Savior. Have you allowed him in (even in that dark place in your own heart that secretly struggles with things like "celebrating" the death of Bin Laden)? Invite him in today, and allow Him to become the "Prince of Peace" of your life.

Perhaps the best Christian response I've seen to the death of Bin Laden was sent to me by our Minister of Music and Worship Arts -- CLICK HERE to read and pray this powerful prayer, and let it impact your life the way it has mine. Always remember that God loves you, and I do too!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Storms of Life: Bitter or Better

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock.” (Matthew 7:24-25)

This past week, the Southeastern United States experienced a series of devastating storms. Tornadoes, wind bursts, and violent thunderstorms produced winds of over 100 miles per hour in some places, leveling houses, businesses, and tossing vehicles and other debris through the air, killing over 300 people, injuring several thousand, and causing millions of dollars worth of damage in towns across Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, and other places. Meteorological records confirm that this was the deadliest set of storms to hit America since 1932.

Though our own community of Marietta and eastern Cobb County was spared this time around, we have nevertheless experienced other strong storms with high winds over the last 3-4 weeks. Thankfully, no one was hurt and no property damage was reported along with those storms -- other than our “temporary” church sign being blown over three times, with the final time destroying its base, forcing us to leave it lying on the ground for the time being! Still, living in and around the Atlanta area most of my life, I can’t remember the last time we’ve had quite so many windy days and stormy nights!

Contemplating all of this has reminded me of one of Jesus’ famous parables from Matthew 7. In, Jesus says that if we’ll listen and then act upon his words, we’ll be like a wise man who built his house upon a foundation of rock, so that when “the rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house,… it did not fall.” And he goes on to warn that if we do not listen to and act upon his words, we’ll be like a foolish man who built his house upon a foundation of sand, so that when “the rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house… it fell -- and great was its fall!”

I’ve unfortunately known people (including more than a few church members) in the latter category… people who fall apart emotionally, mentally, and spiritually when they get hit with a tough challenge of some sort. For example, perhaps they lose their spouse, lose their job, get a bad grade on a test or job review, lose a project bid, or are rejected in some way. In other words, all of the struggle and hardship that they go through causes them to become BITTER and angry at life, at the world, at others, and even at God.

By the same token, I’ve also known many people who have placed their faith and trust in Christ to such a degree that when they’re hit with hard times like those above, they do not fall apart, but who instead persevere through these things. They are people who allow the tough situations and circumstances of life to make them BETTER through (and even because of) these challenges.

So, what is your life built upon… a foundation of rock (genuinely trusting God) that enables you to weather the storms when hard times come? …Or a foundation of sand (trusting in worldly happiness and success) that may cause you to give up at the first sign of trouble? My prayer is that you’ll choose to put your trust and faith in God, so that when the stormy days and windy nights (e.g., the hard times) come (and they will) you’ll be able to persevere!

Remember that God loves you and I do, too!