Sunday, April 28, 2013

The World Is A Better Place Because...


Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,  ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’” (Isaiah 6:8)

From time to time, all of us give excuses for not stepping out and being daring to help win a dying world to Christ. But think about how the world is a better place because of how some people in history said “yes” to God:

    The world is a better place...
            ...because Michelangelo didn't say, "I don't do ceilings."
            ...because Moses didn't say, "I don't do rivers."
            ...because Noah didn't say, "I don't do arks."
            ...because Jeremiah didn't say, "I don't do weeping."
            ...because Amos didn't say, "I don't do speeches."
            ...because Ruth didn't say, "I don't do mothers-in-law."
            ...because David didn't say, "I don't do giants."
            ...because Peter didn't say, "I don't do Gentiles."
            ...because Mary didn't say, "I don't do virgin births."
            ...because Paul didn't say, "I don't do letters."
            ...because Jesus didn't say, "I don't do crosses."
                                                            [--Dr. Leonard Sweet]

Generosity is about saying “yes” to God and answering His call to help “make the world a better place” as we offer to Him use of our spiritual gifts, talents, resources (financial or otherwise), personality, dreams, and even our experiences.  Remember that we are who we are today because others ahead of us were generous with who they were and what they had. 

God has already said “Yes!” to each of us by the giving of His own son Jesus for us – we’re called to say “Yes!” back through the offer of ourselves.  So, how will you say “yes” to Him by helping to make the world a better place through your church?  How will you “be BOLD” in Generosity?  (Read more about our “be BOLD” capital campaign HERE)  Remember, God  loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Describing Church

“The righteous are as bold as a lion." (Proverbs 28:1)

What kind of church do we want?  Many people would answer that they want a church that "meets our needs."  Of course, this is certainly one aspect of what a church should provide.  But the church that attends only to perceived needs of its people is probably missing out on the fullness that God created them to have.  Consider the words of a book I once read that posed the question this way:

"Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, just for a day or two, our churches were described as... risky; revolutionary; dangerous; ruthlessly honest and open; unconditionally loving; radical; rowdy; not quite off the page, but certainly in the margins; challenging; adventurous; unpredictable; curious; life-changing; stirred up; paradoxical; a place that will accept you just as you are; contagious; flat out crazy in love with God; people who make lots of mistakes because they take new risks; people who are free to be themselves and even admit their doubts; people who pray unceasingly; people who laugh, cry, and feel all their feelings; people who are willing to be fools for Christ's sake..."
         [--From the book Through the Wilderness]

I don't know about you, but that’s the kind of church I want to be a part of, because that's the kind of faith we're called to have as Christians not only in today's world, but throughout the history of the church.

Today, however, I’m especially thankful that it also accurately describes our church -- East Cobb United Methodist Church -- as we embark on a 24-month spiritual and financial campaign called “be BOLD” that will begin to give us the resources we need to take the next step in God’s vision for our church.

CLICK HERE to find out more about our “beBOLD” campaign -- what it is, why we’re doing it, and why we’re doing it now.

In the meantime, my prayer is that each of us will live into the description above of God’s church as we seek to be BOLD for Him! Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Look For The Helpers & Trust God


My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust” (Psalm 91:2)

In light of the dual tragedies in West, Texas and at the end of the Boston Marathon earlier this week, it’s helpful to remember that belief in God does not keep us safe from harmful things, but that even in the midst of harmful things, God is here with us.  What we have to do is look for His presence even in those situations.

Many of you may have already read or seen the quote from  Mister Rogers’ Parenting Book that went viral after the Newtown, CT tragedy.  In case you haven’t, I share it again in response to the Boston bombing as words of hope:  “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping."  [--From Huffintonpost.com, April 16, 2013, “Look for the Helpers”]

So, where is God in the midst of tragedy?  He is literally “in the midst of tragedy” in and through the actions of “helpers,” and through the prayers of people like you and me. Along this same line, Psalm 91 expresses this same kind of confidence in God’s protection -- a protection that’s not for our physical well-being, but a protection of our souls and spirits, assuring us of God’s presence even in the midst of tragedy:

You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.’ For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence; he will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, or the arrow that flies by day, or the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or the destruction that wastes at noonday.”

So, I encourage and invite you to join me in being a “helper” by praying for the people of Boston.  Our Sanctuary will be open this Wednesday (April 17) from 5-7pm for drop-in prayer for this very purpose.  I hope you will join me then.  And always remember that God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Jesus Is On the Loose!

“The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.” (Luke 24:34-35)

A few years ago, Bishop Mike Coyner (a Bishop in our United Methodist Church) shared an experience he had while leading a  children’s moment during worship in which he was talking with the children about Easter.  He asked “What did it mean that the tomb was empty?”  And without missing a beat, one of them  replied enthusiastically “It means that Jesus is on the loose!”

Mike takes it from there:  “That child was right.  Easter is not about worshipping a Risen Christ who is captured in our stained-glass windows, or in our wonderful choir cantatas, or in beautiful Easter lilies, or even in dynamic sermons proclaiming ‘Christ is Risen!’  No, Jesus cannot be contained in our celebrations of Easter.  He is on the loose!  He is out ahead of us!  He is already leading the way into new life.  In fact, the message of Easter seems to be, ‘You just missed him.  He was just here, but he is gone already.’  What do we do with such a Jesus?  He won’t stay long in any one place.  He is always moving on to the next place of need.

I heard a story a few years ago about a church that voted to open its doors to a homeless shelter.  This caused quite a controversy in that staid, respectable, religious congregation.  In fact, one woman who opposed the idea confronted her pastor in great anger by yelling, ‘If Jesus knew you were letting those dirty people into our church, he would roll over in his grave!’  She had missed the whole point of Easter:  Jesus isn’t in his grave.  He is on the loose.  And he is leading us to do ministry in hard places, with difficult people, in circumstances that are not easy…..

So, let’s take time to celebrate Easter.  But then let’s hurry on to try to catch up with Jesus, because he’s still on the loose!”

[--Bishop Mike Coyner, cited in the newsletter of Trinity-on-the-Hill UMC (Augusta, GA) April 20, 2001, Vol. 48, Issue 15]

Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Introducing "be BOLD"!

One of the characteristics of the people of God is boldness. Whether it’s Moses boldly leading the people of God out of Egypt, or King Solomon boldly leading the people to build the Jerusalem Temple, or the apostle Paul boldly planting new churches throughout the Roman Empire, it’s clear that God’s people are called to be bold in word, faith, and action.
 
One-hundred-forty-one years ago, our predecessors demonstrated such boldness when they stepped out to establish a new Methodist faith community in the eastern part of Cobb County — the result was our church. And since that time, we’ve continued to seek and find bold ways to connect and share Christ with our community.
 
But although our current programs, ministries and facilities have served us well, in the future they will be increasingly ineffective in connecting us to the changing people and needs of our local and world community. Our buildings are dated, our parking lot is in disrepair, and many of our spaces no longer meet the growing needs of both our own congregation and of those in our community who connect with us through them.
 
That’s why I’m pleased to introduce BE BOLD, a 24-month spiritual and financial campaign that will begin to give us the resources we need to more boldly connect with our community into the future through a series of construction initiatives to add new ministry space and update our current ones.
 
You’ll find here various links to information about the campaign, including:
 
 
 
 
4) A ONE PAGE SUMMARYof the campaign purposes
 
5) A link to our main CAMPAIGN VIDEO
 
Remember that we as God’s people are called to boldness. At East Cobb UMC, we already have a bold past, we live boldly in the present, and we’re called to be bold for our future. So, as we embark on this journey, I invite you to join me in BEING BOLD for God!
 
Pastor Brian

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Spring Garden

“For everything there is a season, and a time for very purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted…(Ecclesiastes 3:1-2)

Springtime is the time to begin to plant things.  Some of us plant flowers, bushes, grass, trees, etc. We fertilize them, water them, and hope that it doesn’t turn cold again before they begin growing.  It’s a wonderful time of the year, when plants and trees begin to bud and eventually bloom, and when we prepare for the coming of summer.

But in addition to planting physical gardens, have you considered that Springtime is also a great time to plant spiritual gardens for ourselves, as well?  The following is a playful rendering of that kind of planting that’s been around for a while, but I share it again in the hopes that it will not only bring a smile to your face but also a warmth to your soul.  This Springtime, in your heart…

Plant three rows of peas:
            Peace of mind; Peace of heart; Peace of soul

Plant four rows of squash:
            Squash gossip; Squash indifference;
            Squash grumbling; Squash selfishness.

Plant four rows of lettuce:
            Lettuce be faithful; Lettuce be kind;
            Lettuce be happy; Lettuce love one another

Plant at least three rows of turnips:
            Turn-up for service when needed;
            Turn-up to help one another;
            Turn-up the music and dance.

Also plant five rows of thyme:
            Thyme for fun; Thyme for rest; Thyme for yourself;
            Thyme for your family; Thyme for worship.

Then, after you’ve finished planting, water freely with patience and cultivate with love.  Remember that you reap what you sow, to plant lots of good seed, that there may be much fruit in your spiritual garden!

Always remember that God loves you and I do, too!