Thursday, October 29, 2015

I Sing A Song of the Saints of God...

“To the church of God that is in... [LaGrange], to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints...” (1 Corinthians 1:2)

“I sing a song of the saints of God,
patient and brave and true,
Who toiled and fought and lived and died
for the Lord they loved and knew;
And one was a doctor, and one was a queen,
and one was a shepherdess on the green;
They were all of them saints of God, and I mean, God helping, to be one too.

They loved their Lord so dear, so dear, and his love made them strong;
They followed right for Jesus' sake the whole of their good lives' long.
And one was a soldier, and one was a priest, and one was slain by a fierce wild beast;
And there's not any reason, no, not the least, why I shouldn't be one too.

They lived not only in ages past; there are hundreds of thousands still.
The world is bright with the joyous saints who love to do Jesus' will.
You can meet them in school, on the street, in the store,
In church, by the sea, in the house next door;
They are saints of God, whether rich or poor, and I mean to be one too."

[--From the United Methodist Hymnal, #712]

Some of you already know that this coming Sunday, November 1st is “All Saints Day” -- a day for God’s people to celebrate and remember the lives of all God’s “saints”:  those living now who call Jesus their Savior; and those who’ve gone on to be with the Lord this past year.

As we celebrate the “saints” of our church and the “saints” of our lives who’ve gone to be with the Lord since All-Saints Day last year, my prayer is that those of us who remain here will learn from the example of the “saints who’ve gone before” how to be people who live by the call of Christ.  In the words of the hymn, “I mean to be one, too.”  Will you?  Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Operations Christmas Child

“Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40)

If you were at worship with us this past Sunday (October 4), you'll know that one of the ways we celebrated World Communion Sunday was by providing opportunities for us as a church to make a difference in the life of needy children around the world through an international, ecumenical ministry called “Operation Christmas Child” (www.samaritanspurse.org/occ).

Since 1993, this ministry has partnered with local churches like ours throughout the U.S., Australia, Finland, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Canada, Spain and the U.K to deliver gift-filled shoeboxes to over 124 million children affected by war, poverty, natural disasters, and other crises in more than 150 countries and territories. And although we have participated in this ministry in the past, our church’s participation this year is a great way for us all to participate in Jesus’ call to minister to "the least of these" described in the scripture above.

Throughout October, individuals, families, and groups within our church are invited to fill empty shoeboxes with items like dolls, balls, and other fun toys, school supplies, hygiene items, as well as scripture messages and notes of encouragement to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with those who receive the shoebox gifts.  (If you didn’t get a box last week during worship, we still have a number remaining in our Fellowship Hall/MMC -- just help yourself to however many you want to pack).

After you fill your boxes, just include a $7 check (per box) to cover shipping costs and bring it back to one of our church’s designated drop-off points on or before November 7th.  We’ll then ship them to a processing center (one in Atlanta), where volunteers will then ship them out to children in some of the hardest-to-reach countries of the world to help them experience Christmas and the love of Christ.  You can even follow your box online to discover where in the world your gift is delivered using the donation form.

I hope you will join my wife and I as we seek to make a difference in the life of a child who otherwise might never hear of or experience the Christ of Christmas. Remember that God loves you and I do, too!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Football Faith

“Tell them to do good, to be rich in the good things they do, to be generous, and to share with others. …That way they can take hold of the life that truly is life”  (1 Timothy 6:18-19)

In the game of football, the ultimate goal is to get the ball into the end zone.  No team ever wins a game without moving the ball forward, and -- likewise -- no quarterback can advance the cause of the team without distributing the ball to others. 

So it is with the Christian faith:  growing and maturing as disciples of Jesus Christ requires us to share the “ball” that God has given to us. In the scripture above from 1 Timothy 6, the apostle Paul advises his young apprentice Timothy that sharing is necessary not only for ourselves, but also in order for God’s “team” (the church), to move forward on the “playing field” of life. 

During the month of October, through a spiritual journey called Football Faith, we as a church will be exploring the value of being part of God’s “team” through the practice of generosity:  the sharing of our resources and lives for the work of God’s kingdom.  We’ll learn the difference between ownership and stewardship, the importance of being a “team player,” the great benefits of at least one God-given tool for sharing, and the joy that results from generosity itself.

And by the time we celebrate “Touchdown Sunday” on October 25, our hope is that we will have been challenged to understand and claim how true life – true “victory” -- is not found in what we have (i.e., in “keeping the ball”) but in what we give away (i.e., in “passing the ball to others”).  You won’t want to miss a single Sunday in this unique and special spiritual journey!

In the meantime, however, I ask you to join me and your church leadership in praying that God will prepare our hearts to hear His message of transforming generosity, and to commit to being present in worship each week as we do so!