Sunday, July 27, 2014

Priceless Gifts to Give for Free

By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)

As we begin a new sermon series on “Spiritual Fitness,” we’re beginning with a focus on the spiritual practice of being open to God’s grace.  As the scripture above points out, grace is a gift.  With that in mind, we’re also called to share it with others.  As I was preparing my message, I came across this list of “Priceless Gifts to Give for Free” from an anonymous author…

1. The gift of listening... Try giving this to someone in need. And you must really listen. No interrupting, no daydreaming, no planning your responses. Just listen

2. The gift of signs of affection... Be generous with your hugs, kisses and gentle squeezes of the hand. Let these tiny actions demonstrate the love inside of you.

3. The gift of a note... It can be as simple as "I Love You" or as creative as a sonnet. Put your notes where they will surprise your loved ones.

4. The gift of laughter... Just cut out a cartoon, save a clever article. Your gift will say, "I love to laugh with you."

5. The gift of compliment... A simple "You look good in blue" or "Good supper" can be of greatest value to those who may feel they are being taken for granted.

6. The gift of a favor... Help with the dishes, run an errand, etc.

7. The gift of leaving alone... There are times in our lives when we want nothing better than to be left alone. Become more sensitive to those times and give solitude.

8. The gift of a cheerful disposition... Try to be cheerful around those you love.

9. The gift of a game... Offer to play your loved one's favorite game. Even if you lose, you'll be a winner.

10. The gift of prayer... Pray for your loved ones and let them know you pray for them.

I pray that these ideas will inspire and challenge you to pass on the “gift” of grace that God has already given to you!  Remember that God loves you and I do, too! 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

LAVISH LOVE - Camp Meeting Luncheon

“They said…‘Why waste the perfume? This perfume could have been sold for almost a year’s pay and the money given to the poor.’ And they scolded her. Jesus said, ’Leave her alone…She has done a good thing for me.’” (Mark  14:4-6)

Mark 14:1-9 tells the story of a time when, during a dinner hosted by Simon the leper for Jesus and his Disciples, a woman interrupted, bringing a jar of costly perfume, opened it, and poured it over Jesus’ head. Simon, the Disciples, and other guests were floored!  Didn’t she know how expensive that nard was, and that a much more efficient and beneficial use of it would have been to sell it and use the money to help the poor and needy?! If you know the story, then you also know that Jesus’ answer was equally surprising:  this woman has “done a good thing for me,” he said. “She has done what she could,” and that “wherever in the whole world the good news is announced, what she’s done will also be told in memory of her.”

This story illustrates the concept and practice of LAVISH LOVE – that there are times, places, and situations that sometimes call for us to go a bit overboard in our actions and behaviors in order to demonstrate love for others.  It illustrates that at times “ordinary” acts of love just won’t suffice – that we occasionally need to do extraordinary things in order to demonstrate our love (we sometimes refer to this as “going the extra mile.”)

Well, at about 12:15pm on Sunday, July 20th, our church will be sharing “lavish love” for our “spiritual parents” and partners in ministry at Marietta Campground by hosting a catered “old fashioned” picnic following our combined 11am worship Camp Meeting service across the street from our church. There will be fried chicken, mac and cheese, green beans, potato salad, dessert, drinks and all the “fixins” to enjoy. But most importantly, it will be an opportunity to get to know and interact with the tentholders of Marietta Campground as we help them celebrate 177 years of ministry! (For those who don’t already know, our church came out of Marietta Campground back in 1872, which makes them our “spiritual parent,” and we their 142-year old “spiritual child.”)

There may be some who say that our free hosting of this catered event is an exorbitant (or perhaps unnecessary) expense on our part. But your leaders and I disagree. Instead, we believe it to be one way we at East Cobb UMC can show “lavish love” for our Campground friends – a small way for us to say “thank you” and “we love you” to the ministry who spiritually “birthed” us as a congregation all those years ago.

So, whether or not you normally attend 11am worship at ECUMC, I hope that on Sunday, July 20th you will join us in worship celebrating our heritage and partnership under the arbor across the street at 11:00am, and then join us for our catered picnic following the service. Even Jesus commended occasional “lavish love” when it’s done in the right spirit – So I hope you’ll join me in sharing this at Camp Meeting on Sunday, July 20th! Remember that God loves you and I do, too!

(To find out more about all the services and events of Camp Meeting this year, visit their website HERE

Sunday, July 13, 2014

All About The Bible

“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

It’s been said that “The Bible is the best-selling, least read, and least understood book in human history.”  Many people know about the Bible, and think we know what’s in it.. But most don’t actually take the time to find out!  For example, did you know…

…that the word “Bible” actually means “Book”, and is actually a compilation of 66 separate books, each written for a different purpose over a period of approximately 1600 years (from about 1500 BC to AD 100), by perhaps hundreds men (and maybe even a few women)?

…that the 66 individual books are written in at least 10 differing literary styles (such as law, history, poetry, prophecy, apocalyptic, gospel, epistle, etc.), none of which is meant to be read and/or interpreted exactly alike?

…that the current listing of books in the Bible wasn’t established until 367 AD, that those books weren’t divided into Chapters until 1238, and that the Chapters weren’t separated into Verses until 1551?

…that the entire Bible has been translated into over 500 languages, and that at least a portion of the Bible has been translated into over 2500 languages?

…that the English language is home to around 75 different Bible translations?  And while the King James Version (KJV) was the first widely-used English translation, today other translations are much more popular, including the New International Version (NIV), New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), and Common English Bible (CEB) that we use in worship each week. (Note: popular versions like the “Good News Bible” and “The Message” are actually Bible paraphrases, and not true Bible translations).

…that though the Christian Bible has been written over a long period of time by many people, no other single book has transformed so people or affected so much of history as much as it has?

Want to know more? The best way to learn about and experience the transformative power of the Bible is to do so in community.  To that end, our church offers “Disciple” Bible Study as one opportunity.  If you never have, I pray that you will consider taking one of the “Disciple” classes now forming, and that if you have had one, that you’ll consider taking one you haven’t yet had (there’s at least one new study this year). Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

[For more information the “Disciple” Bible Study opportunities that begin this August, CLICK HERE]


Sunday, July 6, 2014

America, The Beautiful

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord…” (Psalm 33:12)

“O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved & mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for halcyon skies, For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties Above the enameled plain!
America! America! God shed his grace on thee
Till souls wax fair as earth and air And music-hearted sea!

O beautiful for pilgrims feet, Whose stem impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat Across the wilderness!
America! America! God shed his grace on thee.  Till paths be wrought through wilds of thought By pilgrim foot and knee!

O beautiful for glory-tale Of liberating strife
When once & twice, for man’s avail Men lavished precious life!
America! America! God shed his grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain The banner of the free!

O beautiful for patriot dream That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed his grace on thee
Till nobler men keep once again Thy whiter jubilee!”

--Words by Katharine Lee Bates (written in 1895, published in 1913);
   Melody by Samuel Ward

Did you know that there are actually that many verses?  As we celebrate Independence weekend, let these words challenge and inspire you.  Remember that God loves you and I do, too!