Sunday, November 30, 2014

Wanted: The Peace of Advent

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
 
If you’ve been keeping up with the news lately, you know that there’s a lot of frustration and discontent in our world lately over a variety of different things… all of which have led to more and more violence and bloodshed all around us.  Whether its the rioting around our own country sparked by last week’s Grand Jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri, increased violence and shootings on school campuses, or even the continued beheadings of civilians by the ISIS organization in Iraq, the discontent and frustration levels have begun to reach dangerous levels.

If there’s ever a time when our world needs the peace of “Advent” (the Christian season the four weeks leading up to Christmas day), it’s today!  The word itself is actually derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming”, and references the three “comings” of Jesus in and throughout history:
            1) IN THE PAST …as a babe in Bethlehem.  We listen to the words of Old Testament  prophets who promise a coming Messiah.
            2) IN THE PRESENT …as the one who comes and meets us in our hearts and lives today,
            3) IN THE FUTURE …as the one who will come again one day to make all things new and to establish His kingdom of peace and justice upon the earth once and for all.
 
Since Jesus came as the “prince of peace,” then more than ever, Advent is a time for each of us to encourage and promote the kind of peace that is described in the words of Matthew 5:9 (above). Peace doesn’t mean we have to agree with everyone around us, but it means that we make it our practice NOT to do harm to others either through our actions or our words.  It means we seek BE the peace that we want to see enacted in our world.  It means that instead of complaining about and pointing out what others are NOT doing to promote peace, we need to first ask ourselves if we are doing things that discourage it, and ask what things we need to start doing to better encourage it.
 
In other words, Advent is a time for those of us who claim the name “Christian” to live by our own Master’s command first to BE peacemakers ourselves.  I hope that rather than give in to the frustration and pessimism of our world’s lack of peace, this season of Advent (at least) you will join me in seeking to be a person of peace yourself.  Always remember that God loves you and I do, too! 

Monday, November 24, 2014

The UN-Christmas

Each year, too often it seems that many of us get so caught up in the hustle and bustle that we can’t really enjoy the holiday season.  We stress about what to buy, what to wear, which parties to attend, and will be able to pay for it all next month!  We add even more activity on top of already packed schedules, compare ourselves to what others are doing, and then we wonder why we’re more depressed and more suicidal this time of year than at any other.

And yet, if we look beyond the secular hustle and bustle, we’ll find that the Advent and Christmas seasons -- truly understood -- actually confront us with spiritual realities that challenge our assumptions about how to find ultimate meaning and hope in life (Hint: it’s not found in the things above!).

So this season, join Pastor Brian November 30 - December 21 on a spiritual journey at East Cobb United Methodist Church as we together unwrap the unexpected gifts God offers us through his son Jesus in a new series called "The UN-Christmas." 

Discover “gifts” that give peace and can change our lives.  Discover how the true meaning of Christmas is counter to what is advertised in stores and on the internet.  And best of all, discover the ultimate meaning and hope that God alone can provide during this holiday!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The World's 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 choose to live in your life so that the world is a better place? I pray that you will join me in making a commitment to this through your response to our "Living Generously" Stewardship journey. If you missed Commitment Sunday today, I invite you to prayerfully consider responding using our ONLINE COMMITMENT CARD HERE.  Remember, God  loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)
          
             “A mighty fortress is our God,
                        A bulwark never failing;
            Our helper he amid the flood
                        Of mortal ills prevaling. 
            For still our ancient foe doth 
                        seek to work us woe;
            His craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate,
                        On earth is not his equal.

            Did we in our own strength confide,
                        our striving would be losing,
            Were not the right man on our side,
                        the man of God's own choosing.
            Dost ask who that may be?  Christ Jesus, it is he;
            Lord Sabbaoth, his name, from age to age the same,
                        And he must win the battle.

            And though this world, with devils filled,
                        should threaten to undo us,
            We will not fear, for God hath willed
                        his truth to triumph through us. 
            The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
            His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure;
                        One little word shall fell him.

            That word above all earthly powers,
                        No thanks to them, abideth;
            The Spirit and the gifts are ours,
                        thru him who with us sideth. 
            Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
            The body they may kill; God's truth abideth still;
                        HHis kingdom is forever.”
                   [--Martin Luther (1529), from The United Methodist Hymnal, #110] 

Though the words are old, they are as timeless as ever – God, and God alone, is the only source of true security and strength that will not let us down in life.  So, in what (more importantly, in WHOM) are you placing your ultimate trust?  Remember that God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Thoughts on "Doing Nothing"

Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN
where Evangelist Sam Jones
held "Quitin' Meetings"
“To all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.” (Matthew 25:28)

Dressed as a rag doll, 24-year-old Melody Schick sat with a teddy bear cradled in her left arm and staring into space from a revolving platform as hundreds of shoppers watched in a Dallas shopping mall. Only her eyes moved. Then, five hours and 43 boring minutes later she rose slowly and tried to smile. Miss Schick had just beaten the previous true life world record for sitting still of 5 hours and 32 minutes! She was now in the record books!

Unfortunately, many Christians also compete for this record weekly. Some have been metaphorically “sitting still” for years, never becoming involved in the work of Christ through their local church (or any other ministry). Though they might criticize their church frequently for “what it’s not doing,” they seldom (if ever) participate or volunteer to help in its ministries. So, while there are a lot of Christians who are busy “doing nothing,” there are no Christians who have “nothing to do.”

Rev. Sam Jones, the famous 19th-century Methodist evangelist from Georgia for whom Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium (better known as the original “Grand Ole’ Opry”) was built was known to hold “Quittin' Meetings” -- services where people could stand up and confess things they were going to give up and “quit.” The story is told that at one of these, following his challenge to worshipers to “quit” something, a man stood up and confessed, “Preacher Jones, up until now as a Christian I've been doing nothing,... and today I'm going to quit!”

When we become members of a United Methodist Church (ours included), we make vows that we will support Christ’s work in our world through it by sharing our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. So, for our annual stewardship commitment on Sunday, November 16th, I invite you to prayerfully consider the ways that you will grow the giving of your service and resources, so that you’ll be “doing something” for Christ through your church this next year. Not only will it be a blessing to others, but you’ll be blessed yourself as you do it! Remember that God loves you and I do, too!