Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Sign For All...

“I have made you a sign for the house of Israel…” (Ezekiel 12:6)

After nearly two years of work, our church sign team (a joint sub-committee of our Trustees and Strategic Planning Team) presented plans for our new permanent outdoor monument sign to our Administrative Council for their consideration (see proposed drawing above). I have the pleasure of reporting that it was unanimously approved by that body, and that we’ll be proceeding forward with construction plans and construction bidding as soon as possible. If all goes according to plan, we hope to break ground sometime in late summer and have it completed by mid-late Fall.

As the second part of our long-range facility development plan (the first being the doors installed last year), our new sign will be a beacon inviting the thousands of cars that drive past daily to a closer walk with God through the programs and ministries of our church. In addition to a lighted version of our church logo, the sign will contain a LCD board that will rotate various messages, graphics and full-color video to all who drive past. It will also include six smaller rotating ministry boards on each side that will highlight prime ministries of our church (such as Lighthouse Academy and our Kenyan ministry) on a more permanent basis.

The stacked-stone architecture is one that will not only enhance our visibility from the street, but will set the tone for future renovation and building projects that we hope to begin in the near future. The sign will be complemented by beautiful landscaping and a retaining wall.

While the complete funds for this project are already available and approved by Administrative Council from our recent Georgia D.O.T. settlement, we will nevertheless still be inviting our whole congregation to participate in its funding through various projects yet to be determined – look for more about this in the coming months.

While this new sign will certainly generate new interest in our church from people in our community, the real benefit from it will come when guests not only enjoy the ministries, programs, and worship services they attend after being enticed by something they see on the sign, but most importantly by the welcome and hospitality they receive when they visit here for the first time.

In this sense, the new outdoor monument sign will merely point people to US, who are a flesh-and-blood “sign.” You and I are a “sign for the house of Israel” (as the scripture above points out) – it is up to you and I to point people to God, so that He may transform their lives and shape them into His will. May each of us live in such a way that we become God’s “sign” to the world for Him! Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

When God Created Fathers

“Fathers, don’t exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. [Instead,] take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master.” (Ephesians 6:4, The Message)

When the good Lord was creating fathers, He started with a tall frame. A female angel nearby said, "What kind of father is that? If you're going to make children so close to the ground, why have you put fathers up so high? He won't be able to shoot marbles without kneeling, tuck a child in bed without bending or even kiss a child without a lot of stooping.” And God smiled and said, "Yes, but if I make him child-size, who would children have to look up to?"

And when God made a father's hands, they were large and sinewy. The angel shook her head sadly and said, "Large hands are clumsy. They can't manage diaper pins, small buttons, rubber bands on ponytails or even remove splinters caused by baseball bats." And God smiled and said, "I know, but they're large enough to hold everything a small boy empties from his pockets at the end of a day, yet small enough to cup a child's face."

And then God molded long, slim legs and broad shoulders. The angel nearly had a heart attack. "Boy, this is the end of the week, all right," she clucked. "Do you realize you just made a father without a lap? How is he going to pull a child close to him without the kid falling between his legs?" And God smiled and said, "A mother needs a lap. A father needs strong shoulders to pull a sled, balance a boy on a bicycle or hold a sleepy head on the way home from the circus."

God was in the middle of creating two of the largest feet anyone had ever seen when the angel could contain herself no longer. "That's not fair. Do you honestly think those large boats are going to dig out of bed early in the morning when the baby cries? Or walk through a small birthday party without crushing at least three of the guests?" And God smiled and said, "They'll work. You'll see. They'll support a small child who wants to ride a horse… or scare off mice at the summer cabin or display shoes that will be a challenge to fill."

God worked throughout the night, giving the father few words but a firm, authoritative voice and eyes that saw everything but remained calm and tolerant. Finally, almost as an afterthought, He added tears. Then He turned to the angel and said, "Now, are you satisfied that he can love as much as a mother?"

And the angel shut up…
[--Attributed to Erma Bombeck]

If you haven’t already, be sure to take time to thank God for the fathers of your life -- those who gave us birth and those who are like fathers to us. Remember, we honor God as we honor them! And never forget that God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Annual Conference Is Here!

“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 week as you read this article, over 2800 delegates representing the 1000 churches and 360,000+ United Methodists in North Georgia will have gathered at the Classic Center in Athens, Georgia for the “North Georgia Annual Conference” with the theme “Engaging In Ministry With the Poor.” Jim Perry, Cindy Campbell, Peter Kaimathiri and I are attending as our clergy representatives from East Cobb U.M.C., and Lee Bierce, Lisa Haman, and Dennis Mbogori are serving as our laity delegates.

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, Jim Perry, Cindy Campbell, and Peter Kaimathiri to East Cobb UMC as your 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” (part of our denomination’s “Imagine No Malaria” initiative to raise $75 million to eliminate malaria deaths in Africa by 2015); and more! Plus this year, from our number we’ll be electing clergy and lay delegates to attend our denomination’s “General Conference” (held once every four years) next May 2012.

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 (as well as “real time” updates) on our North Georgia Conference website (Click on the "2011 Annual Conference" box at bottom left. Also, thanks 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 5, 2011

Celebrate Vacation Bible School!

“Jesus called for them and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.’” (Luke 18:16)

As you read this article, our children are in “Hometown Nazareth: Where Jesus Was A Little Boy,” this year’s Vacation Bible School (V.B.S.) – find out more HERE . But did you know that the idea for V.B.S. came from a Methodist over 100 years ago? Sunday School teacher and wife of a Methodist Minister, Mrs. D.T. Miles of Hopedale, Illinois felt that children needed more time to learn about the Bible and their faith than was available on Sunday morning.

So in May 1894, responding to this need, and to the complaints of boredom in the summer from community children, she got approval to use a schoolhouse to instruct 37 children for four-weeks in “the proper use of the Bible” in what is believed to be the first V.B.S. The curriculum also included singing, storytelling, contests, physical exercises, and marches.

Although started by a Methodist, the idea soon caught on, and by 1907 a national association of Vacation Bible Schools was formed that included persons from many different Christian denominations. Today churches everywhere plan V.B.S. as one of the most important outreach and children’s ministries of the year.

So I hope you will join in expressing many thanks to our Children’s Pastor Cindy Campbell, our Children’ Ministry Team Leader Mark Haman, and to all of our many teachers, workers, and volunteers for the hard work that they have put into ensuring that this year’s V.B.S. is a success. Through it, our church is touching the hearts and lives of many children for the God’s Kingdom. God loves you and I do, too!