May 29, 2016
May 20th concluded the United Methodist Church’s General Conference. One of the most publicized topics has to do with the United Methodist wording related to sexuality in The Discipline. If you’d like to read about General Conference in more detail, including the legislation on human sexuality and many other topics, go to www.umc.org/news-and-media/united-methodist-news. An excerpt from the United Methodist News Service about the Council on Bishops proposal to the delegation is printed below:
By Heather Hahn and Sam Hodges May 18, 2016 | PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS)
General Conference delegates apparently have hit the pause button on the denomination's quadrennial debates related to homosexuality.
Late afternoon May 18, the delegates voted by 428 to 405 to accept the recommendation of the Council of Bishops to delay a debate on homosexuality at this gathering of the denomination’s top legislative assembly and let a proposed commission study church regulations.
The bishops asked for the body’s permission to name a special commission that would completely examine and possibly recommend revisions of every paragraph in the Book of Discipline related to human sexuality. The commission would represent the different regions of a denomination on four continents as well as the varied perspectives of the church. The Book of Discipline is the denomination’s governing document.
“We accept our role as spiritual leaders to lead The United Methodist Church in a ‘pause for prayer’ — to step back from attempts at legislative solutions and to intentionally seek God's will for the future,” said Council of Bishops president Bishop Bruce Ough in announcing the recommendation.
The bishops also suggested they might call a special General Conference in 2018 or 2019 to deal with such proposals, Ough said. He also leads the Dakotas-Minnesota Episcopal Area. Other bishops stood behind Ough as he read the statement.
Friends, regardless of your opinions about human sexuality and all the related topics, I hope you will join with me in praying for God’s wisdom for our bishops as they begin their work on this commission. Let us also remember that our United Methodist Church declares that all persons, gay and straight, are persons of “sacred worth” and so pastors and churches are committed to be in ministry “to and with” all persons.
Grace & Peace,
May 22, 2016
Today is Trinity Sunday, the day in the Christian calendar on which we celebrate the holy mystery of the Triune God, God: Three In One, The Holy Trinity. There are various ways to name it but no way to explain it because it is exactly a holy mystery. We cannot explain in human terms how God can exist at one time, in unison, as three persons: Father/Creator, Son/Redeemer, Holy Spirit/Sustainer.
We get bogged down every time we try to explain any holy mystery of God. How can Jesus be fully God and fully human at the same time? You’d think the two would collide at some point, causing the fully God side to make a mistake or the fully human side to be a tad bit self-righteous (no pun intended.) How is it that the bread and the juice of communion become for us symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ? How could Jesus die and be alive again after three days in the grave? How is it that we can go to the Bible and it means one thing, and then read the same passages days, weeks or years later and we can understand something completely different? They are holy mysteries.
Our first clue should be the first word, holy. It’s what we’re not, in this definition of the word. Yes, we are a holy people, meaning set apart for the special work of God. But holy mysteries are holy because they are of God alone. We’re not part of that. The prophet Isaiah expressed it like this: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55: 8-9)
Our second clue might come from the word, “mystery.” A mystery is something that we have to explore and put together like a puzzle. So we might say that the Trinity can be described as a candle with a wick, wax and flame or like the three ways we experience H2O ice, steam, liquid. All are part of the same identity but are experienced or used in different ways. Those metaphors are examples of how we humans have tried to explore and explain the Triune God but each one falls short in some way. The mystery continues.
Today our lectionary texts include Psalm 8, which describes the first person of the Trinity, God the “Father” or God the “Creator,” the person who is known to us through creativity. The epistle lesson is from Romans, chapter 5 which describes the second person of the Trinity, God the “Son” or God the “Redeemer,” the person who is known to us as our Savior who became human, lived among us, died for us on the cross and rose on the third day. And in the Proverbs and Gospel of John, we’re given a description of the third person of the Trinity, God the “Holy Spirit” or God the “Sustainer,” whom we experience as the presence of God that is always with us. All work together in love to be in relationship with each one of us and to all of creation.
God bless you!
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
May 15, 2016
One of the most prominent memories I have of going to church as a child is Sunday school. All the children gathered in the gym for…well, honestly, I don’t remember why we were in there but I’m sure it was something the adults thought was very important. From the gym, we were dismissed to our individual classrooms which were used during the week by the elementary church school. Our Sunday school classes weren’t large but I remember enjoying them, making friends that didn’t go to my school, and getting to know the adults who taught us. (Each year one of the ornaments I hang on my Christmas tree is the manger ornament I received from my Kindergarten Sunday school teacher.)
One of the highlights was when we got to move to a new Sunday school classroom. It was a really big deal on Promotion Sunday to go from the gym to the new classroom as an older child, at least older than I was the previous school year. And then, when we went to the youth room we had made it in the big league, so to speak. What I don’t remember is whether or not my childhood church offered Sunday school classes for adults. As an adult and as a pastor I want to expect that adult classes existed but that my parents just didn’t attend.
As a young adult, before going into ministry, one of the things I most looked forward to each Sunday was going to my Sunday school class. I was part of a single’s Sunday school class that was taught by a married couple who loved to teach the Bible. But the relationships I built in that class were what made me continue to attend. We helped each other move, change jobs, raise children, and have a comfortable group of friends to hang out with. And we went to lunch together every Sunday. All of that is to say that being involved in an adult Sunday school class contributed to me recognizing and accepting a call to ministry.
Adult Sunday school classes are incredible resources of learning, friendship, support, and God’s grace. On Sundays, May 22 and 29, all the adult Sunday school classes will be hosting a Sunday school “Open House.” What that means is that on those two Sundays, each of our classes will be expecting new people to visit them for the day, whether they are people who are not currently a member of a class or if they are people who typically attend one class but are interested in knowing how other classes function.
Make a commitment this week to try something new over the next two weeks! Check out one of the awesome adult Sunday school classes we have at our church. Here is a list of classes and locations:
Covenant Class meets at 9:45 in Room 101 in the Ministries Center
First Journey Class meets at 9:45 in the Activities Room of the Ministries Center
Promise Class meets at 9:45 in room 103 in the Ministries Center
Seekers Class meets 9:45 in the Fellowship Hall on Johnson and McDonald
Grace & Peace,
May 8, 2016
One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 121, which starts out like this: “I lift up my eyes to the hills - from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” The psalmist goes on to write about God who protects, shields, and keeps one from danger and even evil. But the important part, in my opinion, is the very first couple of stanzas: I lift up my eyes and receive help from God.
It makes sense to me that the first thing one needs to do - or that a church needs to do, for that matter – is to look up and find God. It reminds me of a trust and team-building exercise I used to do as a youth director. One person is blindfolded while his/her partner, who can see, guides the blindfolded partner through a maze. Only words of encouragement can be offered; nothing like, “Okay, you’re going to take two steps up.” Instead of walking directions, the guide partner can only say things like, “Don’t worry. I’m not going to let you get hurt. You can trust me.” The idea is that the partners learn to trust one another to guide them and keep them from harm, even as they walk an obstacle course blindfolded.
Psalm 121 reminds me of this “trust walk” exercise in two ways. First, we (individually and corporately) don’t know the path that lies ahead of us. We don’t know the pitfalls, we don’t know when we’re going to be stretched or challenged or even in danger. We also don’t know what great things God has in store for us – blessings and lessons learned and experience gained and relationships strengthened. But we know that in our ignorance of the future we can trust that God will be with us, ordering our steps and protecting us if we look to God. But first, we have to look to God. Lift up our eyes and look to God.
Second the psalm reminds me of a trust-walk exercise is that when we’re blindfolded we’re extremely vulnerable and trust in our guide is essential. The psalmist says, “I lift my eyes.” If we’re always looking down, worried about every single step, focused on our feet, we’re not going to see the path God has planned for us. We have to look up, take off the blindfold, so to speak, so we can move forward.
Church, please continue to pray for the future of our church as our church council continues to lead us with integrity and courage. We have a called church council meeting on Saturday, May 21, with Rev. Mike Bonem, a church consultant. Mike’s expertise is helping organizations, particularly churches, do strategic planning for the future. He helps by teaching congregations how to navigate through complicated planning for the future God has prepared for them. We’re blessed that Mike will be with us that Saturday.
While 99% of our church meetings are open to anyone who wants to attend, this particular meeting is for church council members only. It’s not an attempt to be secretive but rather an attempt to keep this gathering at a size most beneficial for the work that needs to be accomplished. The council will be reporting any decisions or outcomes of the meeting to the church through the newsletter.
Grace & Peace,
May 1, 2016
Have you noticed? Have you not heard? Our church leadership is showing initiative, courage, faithfulness and stewardship over all that God has given us: facilities, land, people, spiritual gifts. The Holy Spirit is moving in mysterious and exciting ways because our church council and the committees and ministry teams associated with it are following that same Spirit.
Let me get more specific. On May 15th, during our combined worship service in the Court of Praise in the Ministry Center, everyone will witness the benefits of all the work that has gone into creating a “Simple Pathway to Discipleship.” On that Sunday our council will “roll out” a plan that provides answers to the question, “What can I do to grow in my faith?” Whether you are a newcomer to our congregation, perhaps even a first- time worship guest, or if you’ve been around for a long time, this discipleship plan provides step-by-step instructions for how to love God more fully, share faith more effectively and serve your neighbor more willingly. This new Simple Pathway to Discipleship can be used by adults, parents for their children and youth. We’re very excited about it and look forward to its unveiling on May 15th.
On that same Sunday, your Evangelism Committee has prepared a few surprises, including gifts for each and every one of us! You’ve noticed the shiny silver boxes with the big red bows that we give to each first-time worship guest and you may have already figured out that they’re full of chocolate and welcoming tokens that encourage folks to make their church home with us. Soon you’ll notice the re-arranging and redecorating of our entry spaces and Narthex so that information about getting involved with church ministries and classes is readily available. Keep an eye out for beautiful blue posters in the windows not only in our church building but at locations throughout our city. Evangelism is a multi-layered ministry that invites, welcomes, witnesses, and integrates people into a relationship with God and a church home. We’ll learn how all of us are “evangelists”!
I’m particularly proud of the work our Board of Trustees is doing. This is work that is quite often behind the scenes and, frankly, thankless. But without our trustees we would all be unable to accomplish the ministry God has entrusted to us: Loving God, Sharing Faith, Serving Neighbors. The trustees are being very proactive about the use and maintenance of the buildings including both campuses and the parsonage. Most recently they are assessing the systematic replacement of air conditioning units, the continued attention to grounds and landscaping, the safest response to the new open carry gun law, and several other safety concerns. I’m so grateful for the recently installed security system at the parsonage (which I can control with my phone!) and the quick response they’ve provided for minor maintenance issues.
Please continue praying for our church leadership and, as requested, please offer your help and support as well. They are leading us well!
Grace & Peace,
April 24, 2016
APRIL IS CHILD ABUSE PREVENTION MONTH
Today is Blue Sunday. I encourage you to consider the dilemma of an overworked, under-funded system of child protective services. Take a moment to consider these common but often unnoticed situations…
Please pray for:
1. Foster parents who spend hundreds of their own dollars in preparation to be licensed.
2. Foster children who are teased and bullied because of situations that exist at no fault of their own.
3. Social workers who have impossible numbers of case loads.
4. Foster parents who consistently love, teach, and cheer for the children in their care when others give up, get frustrated or ignore.
5. Children who love their parents unconditionally.
6. Families who are successfully reunited and healthy.
7. Teachers who help foster children integrate into a classroom in
the middle of the year.
8. Therapists, medical personnel, physicians, law enforcement officers, first responders, attorneys, and a host of others who bear the burden of children’s pain by intervening on the children’s behalf.
9. Volunteers who make a difference through CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), Rainbow Room, Child Advocates, and many other satellite child advocate agencies.
10.Churches who minister to the specific needs of children who are abused and neglected, their families and foster families.
11.Foster children who are separated from extended family, toys, pets, clothes, friends, teachers, church families, and extra-curricular activities.
Grace & Peace,
April 17, 2016
As we welcome new visitors and members to our worship services and ministry opportunities, I am mindful that we represent a diverse background of denominations and traditions. Personally, I relish diversity because I love to hear stories of faith about how God has worked and continually works gracefully in people’s lives. I love to hear how people hear and experience God through prayer, study, service and call.
One of the unique practices of United Methodism is the apportionment process. It is a strange practice to those of us who come from a “congregational” church model in which each individual congregation is independent with regard to decision-making and many practices of church life. But to those of us who have been United Methodist for some time, we recognize the apportionment as just one more connectional link between the local church and the beautiful web that is the United Methodist Church.
In Three Simple Rules, Bishop Rueben P. Job writes of three ways to change the world. Although the rules are ancient, they are timely for today’s world. According to Job, “The Wesleyan movement is a prime example of this new creation that is formed when these…rules are adopted as a way of living.” These rules tie directly to today’s goals of apportionment giving.
1. “Do no harm”: We can live a life that God wants for us by helping others. Apportionments, taken together, enable us to help more people in more ways. As Job says, “It is possible to practice a way of living that is in harmony with the life of Jesus and survive, even thrive, in a world like ours. It is both a challenging and rewarding way to live; and each of us, with God’s help, can live such a life fully, faithfully, and joyfully.”
2. “Do good”: We can live a life that God wants for us by helping others, even those we will never meet, those we consider to have nothing in common with, or who might differ from us economically or culturally. “The words of Jesus and of Wesley suggest that doing good is a universal command. That is, doing good is not limited to those like me or those who like me.” Doing good is directed at everyone.
3. “Stay in Love with God”: Seeing our apportionments help others not only gives us personal satisfaction, it demonstrates concretely that we are in love with God. “Staying in love with God was the primary issue of a faithful life then, and it is today. For from such a life of love for God will flow the goodness and love of God to the world. It can be no other way.” Apportionment giving transforms all—the giver, the church, the annual conference and especially the recipient. “We practice the rules; but God does the transforming; the renewing, and the building of the house—the house of our lives, the house of our church, and the house of our world.”
This past week our congregation received certificates of thanks for paying 100% of our apportionment giving at both the district and conference level. Thank you, church, for being a faithfully connectional church.
Grace & Peace
April 10, 2016
Next Saturday morning I will lead a class on the topic, “Discipleship and Salvation.” Christians are blessed to follow in the footsteps of generations of faithful saints who were not perfect but living the best Christian lives they could. Generation after generation, the pathway of discipleship has included the personal practices of devotion and compassion and the corporate practices of worship. Devotion is the name for private activities that draw us into Scripture, focus our
attention on prayer and help us be mindful of God’s presence. Devotion is much more than spending a few minutes each day reading from a daily devotion guide, although such resources certainly have merit. It also includes spending time each day in personal prayer, reading, studying, and reflecting on Scripture; and spending time in silence and
solitude. Worship, like devotion, is directed toward God. But unlike devotion, which is personal, worship is done as a community of faith. In worship, a faith community joins together for praise, prayer, and hearing God’s Word. Although many individuals think of
worship as a private act (ever heard, “I can worship at home…or at the soccer game”?), it is not. We confess our sins in the presence of God and one another. We pray for one another as we hear concerns of the people of God. We hear together the interpretation of Scripture, and we leave empowered to minister to the world. Compassion represents practices of caring for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of others. Some refer to such care as “acts of mercy.” Through compassion, we put our gifts, blessings, and talents to use on a personal level, caring and extending God’s grace to individuals. Acts of mercy and compassion are important ways in which we follow the biblical commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves. Justice is the corporate side of compassion. It involves seeking peace and wholeness for all people and all of God’s creation. When the church seeks justice, it moves beyond
meeting the needs of individuals and looks at the root causes of social ills, such as poverty, hunger, slavery, sickness, and oppression. The work of justice sometimes means getting involved in politics, economics, and law; and it often involves being an advocate for those who lack the power and resources to make their voices heard. By
striving for justice, we honor a God who is just and who desires the well-being of all people. A center point of United Methodist theology is our Wesleyan understanding of grace. We affirm that salvation comes entirely through God’s grace and that God’s grace is with
us throughout our lives and at every stage of our faith journey. Grace can be defined as God’s favor or as a gift from God that we have done nothing to earn. But a more complete definition of grace would be the way in which we experience God’s extraordinary love and forgiveness.
Whether you’ve been a United Methodist all your life or are just interested in finding out how United Methodists look at discipleship and salvation, come to the class on Saturday!
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
April 3, 2016
Our Church Council has been very productive in the past three months! Mineola First UMC is at a turning point as a congregation because we are crossing the threshold from “small church mindset” to “large church mindset.” We often think of ourselves as a small congregation where everyone knows and agrees with each other. Sometimes we have certainty about what will be our future because we don’t expect it will differ much from our past. We’re not any different than the saints from the Bible. When the Hebrew people were emancipated from slavery by Moses, it wasn’t long before they were asking to go back to their taskmasters. The Apostle Paul, while he was still Saul, was adamant that all the change Jesus was inflicting upon the Jewish faith was an abomination to God. The woman at the well believed she knew everything she needed to know about worship and etiquette. The examples go on and on. So the good news is that when we’re uncomfortable or downright against change, we’re in good company. Further good news is that when the Holy Spirit moves, things change and without that change, the church will stagnate.
The transition we’re making to a new mindset requires an honest respect for our rich heritage and a strong faithfulness to follow where God leads. The reality we have right now is that we are welcoming new visitors in worship every week who not only expect to become part of the church family but who also have fresh ideas that we need. Another reality is that our church has a strong children’s ministry that feeds into a strong youth ministry which feeds into…what? At this point, we don’t have a class or small group specifically for young adults. It’s true that we have facilities at two locations with spaces in each that are seldom or never used but which nonetheless require financial resources. The list goes on and on.
The crux of the matter is this: we have to decide as a church whether we rejoice or despair. Our church leadership is rejoicing and I applaud them for that! Our worship guests are being welcomed and integrated into our congregation in beautiful ways (Literally, beautiful ways – have you seen the silver gift boxes full of chocolate they receive?) There are members of our congregation who have committed to learning what it takes to start in-home small groups for various ages and interests. And our leaders are wrestling with the hard questions about how to be excellent stewards of all our financial, human and structural resources.
Please keep our past, present and future in your prayers. Please lift up by name our church leadership, laity, clergy and staff together. Pray for those who are looking for a church home and those who treasure this church which has been their home for a long time. We are the body of Christ, each with unique gifts and graces, called by God to work together in harmony.
Grace & Peace,
March 20, 2016
Today is the start of Holy Week, today being Palm/Passion Sunday. Jesus Christ came into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover meal with his disciples and he was, at that point in his ministry, quite a celebrity. Many in the Jewish community of his day believed him to be the promised Messiah, sent by God to re-establish the throne of King David and restore the chosen people to a place of respect and power. That’s a great simplification of it all but this is, after all, a newsletter article.
In addition to his close followers, the disciples, Jesus had a constant crowd that followed him. So when word reached Jerusalem that he was going to arrive for Passover, it raised a stir. There was a celebrity welcome for Jesus at the city’s entrance and people used what was close-by to make it a celebration. Scripture tells us they waved palms and even took off their outer cloaks and spread them on the path so that Jesus rode his donkey on an impromptu road fit for a king. The palm branches and frons would have been taken off trees along his travel route and the outer cloaks they put on the ground were the cloaks typically used as protection when sitting or sleeping on the ground.
It is called by the church Jesus’ “triumphant entry” into Jerusalem. We celebrate his triumphant entry on Palm Sunday, today. The crowd was excited to see him because he was going to make real, significant change in their world. Jesus was going to be the one who stood for and fought for them. He was gladly welcomed.
The days after he arrived in Jerusalem, however, would have seen his purpose unfold and identify him as a servant, not an earthly king, as a Savior, not a political ally. In those days after the triumphant entry, he would be betrayed by more than one friend, arrested, humiliated, tortured and crucified. Again, this is a gross simplification of the events that occurred in the last week of Jesus’ earthly life and, as Christians, we need not gloss over them or avoid them by celebrating Palm Sunday and then showing up for Easter morning. Take the time this year to journey with Jesus through Holy Week.
Each day this week, plan to be at Soup and Sermon during the lunch hour. The details are on the following pages of this newsletter.
On Thursday evening, come to Maundy Thursday worship at 6:00 p.m. in the Sanctuary where we will remember the Lord’s Last Supper in groups of twelve, seated around a table, presented with the bread and cup as the disciples were on the night Jesus was betrayed.
On Friday evening, come to Good Friday worship at 6:00 p.m. in the Sanctuary where our chancel choir will take us through the emotional arrest and crucifixion of Jesus in their presentation of “In Calvary’s Shadow.” Following the musical presentation we’ll remove all worship accessories from the chancel which will remain bare until Easter morning.
Make the most of this week and it will make a difference in how you experience Easter Sunday this year! Walk the journey with Jesus throughout the week this week, walking as closely as you can in prayer and scripture, worship and music.
Grace & Peace,
March 13, 2016
In the United Methodist Church we are connected in a myriad of ways: our Book of Discipline, our Book of Worship, between churches and extended ministries and agencies, and through our apportionments to name a few. The United Methodist Church is divided into geographical areas called jurisdictions and annual conferences. Jurisdictions meet every four years to elect bishops primarily and annual conferences meet annually to attend the business and focus of the conference. In the Texas Annual Conference, of which we are a part, we meet for annual conference in late May, typically beginning on the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend and extending through the following Wednesday. This year I will attend as the clergy representative from Mineola First United Methodist Church, Charlie Wright will attend as the lay representative from our church and Riley Hodges will serve as an alternate lay representative. John and Gayle Fuller will attend annual conference as lay representatives for our district, the Northwest District.
This year is unique because 2016 is a General Conference year. The General Conference is an international body of nearly 1,000 delegates that meets every four years. The delegates are elected by annual conferences (at annual conference sessions) to attend General Conference. They represent all annual conferences around the world. Half of the delegates are laity (non-clergy members), half are clergy. General Conference this is the only event which can revise church law, as well as adopt resolutions on current moral, social, public policy, and economic issues. Delegates also approve plans and budgets for church-wide programs. “This convocation needs the Holy Spirit’s outpouring,” shares Bishop Janice Huie, “so that we may all participate in God’s work that impacts the ends of the earth.” General Conference is a unique time as a multitude of nations, tribes, and tongues come together to seek the Lord; listen; dialogue; and ultimately interpret and execute what they believe He sets forth through both legislative and plenary sessions. Therefore, leaders believe Methodists’ highest order of business must be deep, fervent prayer.
All United Methodists, and specifically all local congregations, are invited to set aside special time in worship and by the use of prayer clocks or vigils in the coming weeks. Bishop Huie has invited all the churches of the Texas Annual Conference to set aside time in worship on Palm Sunday, March 20, to pray specifically for all things related to Genera Conference 2016. We will accept that invitation and, in addition, the Chapel will be available for prayer that weekend.
In our newsletter last summer/fall many of the legislative issues on the agenda for General Conference were detailed. You can read more about general conference and the major legislation that will be voted on in May at this website: http://www.umc.org/topics/general-conference-2016.
In the meantime, please, please be in prayer for our church, the United Methodist Church as a whole, all the delegates and for God’s wisdom and Holy Spirit to be the guide throughout the entire process.
Pastor Bobbie Maltas
March 6, 2016
It’s important to remember that God’s plan for us is beyond our efforts and our vision. In our arrogance we are convinced that we know God’s will and mind but the reality is that the
process of discernment is slow and complicated. I guess that’s the whole problem – we would rather go off on our own, lead ourselves, convince ourselves that God will tag along – than to
take the time and make the effort to pray and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. A short writing I read once quite bluntly said, “God doesn’t need us.” We like to think that God depends on us. In fact, we often say that very thing – especially when we’re looking for volunteers! But the reality is that God will have God’s way with or without us. God’s work will continue to be accomplished, if not through us then through others who are honored to speak words of grace, offer helping hands and standing in the face of injustice. The world will not
stop rotating on its axis if we are complacent, lukewarm Christians.
So what are we to do? One answer is to learn how to seek the Holy Spirit through prayer and study of God’s Word. With more than an obligatory prayer before a meeting, class, study
or prayer time, begin to allocate time simply for listening for the Holy Spirit. That may sound ominous to some, like a waste of time to others but the early church practiced attentive prayer as did the early Methodists. In April, a new group will start meeting at my home, led by me, for a simple meal, time to examine and pray over Scripture, and time in conversation about what God is doing in each of
our lives and in what direction God’s Spirit is leading us. Each week, participants will have the opportunity to view a movie, read particular passages of Scripture, and pray about specific
topics. When we gather together each week we’ll share what God has revealed to us. As described in the newsletter article on the next page of this newsletter, the name of the group is Longing For Spring.
Much in the same way the early Methodists asked one another, “How is it with your soul,” so we will be asking one another the same thing. The focus of the Longing For Spring group is difficult to describe any other way. It will be at once simple and complicated. We will be asking God to enhance our efforts and extend our vision, and we’ll do it as a small group of Christ followers. The size of this group will be limited and anyone interested in getting a taste of what the group will be like is strongly encouraged to attend the preview session on Friday, April 1, 6:30 p.m. To reserve your place, call the church office, write Longing For Spring on your registration form or talk to me about it.
I’m excited about the journey I expect this group will share in April. I hope that if you are the least bit interested you’ll come to the preview and find out if it’s for you – no strings! If you come and don’t like it, no problem. Blessings on your Lent, friend. May it bring you much joy! Easter is not far away!
Grace & Peace,
February 28, 2016
On Ash Wednesday I read these words from the prophet Joel 2: 15-16, “Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast.” The prophet wanted the people to turn away from sin and toward God. Once their attention was obtained (blowing the trumpet), he called for a fast, an abstention from food. To fast was a way to return one’s focus (or in this case, the entire community’s) attention back on God.
In Acts, chapter 13, it was only after spending intentional time in worship and fasting that the Holy Spirit spoke to the church leaders with instructions for the deployment of Barnabas and Saul into ministry. And after hearing and understanding the instructions from the Holy Spirit, the leaders didn’t jump right into action! No, they went back to their practices of fasting and prayer before laying their hands on the two newly called missionaries and sending them out into the world.
There are countless examples from both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible of how fasting is used to find clarity, express grief, gain new insights, and draw closer to God. Fasting is a spiritual discipline that isn’t limited to a particular denomination or “type” of Christian. Rather it is a powerful spiritual discipline that continues even now to bring many benefits to its practitioners.
In the same way that folks assume a daily devotion should be in the wee hours of the morning, so folks also assume the discipline of fasting is limited to the abstention from food and for long periods of time. Not true! Here are some facts about fasting:
...One can fast from a particular food or a meal. For example, one might decide not to eat solid food and consume only clear liquids. Or, one might decide to fast from lunch over a period of time.
...One might choose to fast for hours or days, depending on one’s health. For example, one might fast from 6 a.m. – 6 p.m. or for a full 24 hours or for multiple days.
...Regardless of how you fast or how long you fast it’s important to fast safely. Always follow a reputable guide for fasting so that you don’t experience dehydration or other dangerous health conditions. For any lengthy or extreme fasting, consult your doctor prior to beginning your fast.
...The purpose of fasting is spiritual, not physical. Fasting is not a safe or effective way of dieting.
...Those who fast on a regular basis often report it to be a beneficial and enlightening spiritual practice.
...Fasting can be done individually, with a partner or small group or even with a large body of people, such as a congregation. (Our worship committee is seriously considering a congregational fast during Lent in 2017.)
The season of Lent is a good time to practice fasting. It helps us focus more on ourselves and more on what God wants to teach or communicate to us.
Lenten Blessings! Pastor Bobbie
February 21, 2016
Last week’s sermon scripture was from the Gospel of Luke, in chapter 4 when Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness. While in the wilderness for forty days, Jesus fasted so he was famished when the devil came to him and tested him. Jesus was tempted with taking a shortcut, turning a stone into bread, to which he replied, “Man doesn’t live by bread alone.” Next, Jesus is tempted to have power and adoration in exchange for worshiping the devil (idolatry), and Jesus refuses. Finally, Jesus is tempted to initiate a great supernatural act of rescue by calling angels to keep him from falling off the highest pinnacle of the Temple. Nope. He didn’t fall for it (get it?), but rather he remained strong.
The last verse of the reading states that, “he (the devil) left him (Jesus) until an opportune time.” An opportune time. There would be another battle. There would be another wilderness. There would be more tests and temptations, even for Jesus, the Son of God.
Opportune times come to us as well. They come to us all the time and I think it’s safe to say that the majority of the times, we’re pretty good about remaining faithful. Hopefully our lives are lived in such a way that God is glorified and we have a rich relationship with God. Those times are small wildernesses, but wildernesses just the same.
What about those times when we’re not so strong, when we’re more vulnerable than usual because we feel weak or desperate or weary or isolated? Those are the wildernesses that are particularly challenging for even the strongest Christian disciple. When worry or impatience wears on our souls and when bad habits, addictions and harmful patterns of behavior seem too tough to tackle, it can be more than difficult, it can be painful.
Believe it or not, wildernesses are not necessarily bad places to be. Wildernesses require us to make decisions about ourselves, to deal with our infirmities, and to once and finally rely completely on God. The key to making it through the wildernesses of life with our souls intact is to learn a lesson from Jesus: be filled with the Holy Spirit before finding yourself in the wilderness.
Only the Holy Spirit can sustain us through the trials and temptations. Knowing that Jesus walked the same path, worse even, can be a great comfort but only the Holy Spirit can sustain us. A spiritual guide once told me, “In consolation, remember desolation. In desolation, remember consolation.” In other words, we’re going to experience both consolation and desolation so be prepared for both. When in the wilderness, remember the consolation of the Holy Spirit and when we’re on the spiritual mountaintop, remember to store away the strength you gain from it.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
February 14, 2016
The power of prayer is real. I know. I’m a pastor and I’m supposed to say that but I’m serious. I’ve experienced prayer answered powerfully, not in the way I anticipated, but in a way only God could have known would be best.
If you’re still looking for a commitment to make for this season of Lent, consider making a commitment to deepening and widening your understanding and practice of prayer. Most of us have heard the admonishments about treating God like a vending machine (God, please give me...) and warnings about spending all our time talking to God without stopping to listen so I’m not going to rehash those (although I guess technically, I just did!) Instead, consider these ways to begin or enhance your prayer life. Try a different technique every few days during Lent and perhaps you’ll settle into a prayer routine that is enjoyable and helpful to you.
Five Finger Prayer – There are variations on this but basically, your five fingers are used to guide your prayer. Your thumb is closest to you so it represents your prayers for family and friends. Your pointing finger reminds you to pray for those who teach, heal, and guide, such as teachers, doctors/nurses, pastors, etc. The third finger is the tallest and reminds us to pray for leaders and officials. Our ring finger is our weakest finger and reminds us to pray for those in need or who are hurting. Finally, our pinky finger reminds us to pray for ourselves, especially relating to our relationship with God.
Another form of prayer is to “pray” the Holy Scriptures. Select a short reading from the Bible, like a Psalm, and pray over it, repeating it several times and asking the Holy Spirit to reveal what the text might be saying to you.
Popcorn Prayers are prayers said in a hurry. When you’re driving or shopping or at school in the hallway or just otherwise busy, say a short prayer like, “Lord, be with that person who looks anxious.” Or, “Holy Spirit, make your peace known in that conversation/ car accident/situation.”
Breath Prayers are short phrases that you breathe in and out as you focus your mind on God. For example, as you inhale pray the words, “Holy Spirit, come.” And as you exhale pray, “Lord, hear my prayer.” Use whatever words you want or take a couple prayers from scripture.
Intercessory Prayer is used when we pray on behalf of others. We might pray for individuals who are sick or dying; we might pray for entire countries that are at war; we might pray for entire populations or groups of people who need help from God.
There are, of course, a number of formed prayers, like The Lord’s Prayer. Or practice extemporaneous prayer, praying whatever comes to your mind.
Whatever kind of prayer you pray, it’s good. Express your joy, frustration, fear, anger, gratitude, worry or sorrow. The point is to build a relationship with God based on communication between your spirit and His.
John Wesley said, “Bear up the hands that hang down, by faith and prayer; support the tottering knees. Have you any days of fasting and prayer? Storm the throne of grace and persevere therein, and mercy will come down.”
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
February 7, 2016
It’s Transfiguration Sunday. What is transfiguration anyway? It’s a bit like transformation, it’s also a bit like metamorphosis, and it’s also like conversion. Put all those together and the dictionary defines it like this:
Transfiguration: an exalting, glorifying, or spiritual change.
Today in worship we’ll celebrate Jesus’ transfiguration and I invite you to begin praying for your own transfiguration. On the heels of the Season of Epiphany and Transfiguration Sunday, we enter into the season of Lent. This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of 40 days of self-reflection and confession in preparation for the celebration of Easter.
In the Bible, people recognized significant spiritual transformation in their lives or an encounter with God by changing their names. A man named Saul breathed threats against early followers of Jesus; he believed he was doing God’s work by hunting them down and seeing them executed. He had an encounter with Christ which caused him to lose his sight and be placed in the care of the very people he was hunting. When he regained his sight and realized his grave mistakes he took the name Paul. We know him as the Apostle Paul, a great missionary, evangelist, and church planter. His encounter with Christ was a transfiguration; he became a new man…so much that he needed a new name.
In the hope that we will all experience a holy Lent, one in which we experience a bit of a transfiguration, a metamorphosis and a bit of conversion, they have initiated a Lenten Commitment invitation. Seriously and intentionally pray that God reveal to you some part of your life, your attitude, your demeanor that needs to be infused with life and joy. Do you get dragged down by negative thinking? Are you self- or other-critical? Do you get caught up in gossip; is it difficult for you to keep confidences? Perhaps there is a detrimental habit in which you indulge – give it up for Lent!
Making a Lenten sacrifice is not supposed to be something that doesn’t really hurt, that doesn’t take much effort. I could give up eating meat during Lent but if I’m a vegetarian that’s not much of a sacrifice, is it? If I never financially support the church and decide that my Lenten commitment will be to give whatever change is in my pocket, that’s not much effort on my part, is it?
Making a Lenten sacrifice is not supposed to be a show for everyone else either. It’s not necessary to announce it to your friends or your Sunday school class or even your spouse. Keep it between you and God so that you don’t get any special recognition or sympathy for making a sacrifice.
And finally, make a Lenten sacrifice so that you more clearly understand and more deeply appreciate the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ when he died on the cross to express his immeasurable love for you and the whole world.
Let this season of Lent be the season in which you make such a heart-felt and sacrificial commitment to change that on Easter morning when we all celebrate the Risen Lord you feel like a new person!
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
January 31, 2016
A few years back, the church leadership initiated the use of a Lenten
Commitment Card which invited all church members to commit to a particular area of service in the church. This past week, the Worship Committee brought an idea forth to the Church Council that all of us, as a congregation, make a fresh commitment to Jesus Christ. Using the basic idea of the previous commitment card, your Church Council is inviting, no, challenging everyone to participate in a Lenten Commitment.
Why a Lenten commitment? We’re initiating the idea of making a Lenten commitment because during the 40 days of Lent, Christians reflect on the sacrifice Jesus Christ made for them by dying on the cross, defeating death, and resurrecting so that we have the opportunity of eternal life with God.
But rather than dictating what the commitment should be, your Church Council agreed that it would be beneficial to leave that decision up to the individual. Many people make a sacrifice or “give up” something during Lent; something like Facebook time or chocolate or sodas, etc. The point of making a sacrifice during Lent is so that we will be continually reminded of the sacrifice of Jesus. So if you’re that in love with sodas that you would actually suffer at the loss of them, by all means give up sodas. You might want to “up your game,” as they say. Perhaps you have a character flaw that needs to be changed. Do you have a temper? Are you a gossiper? Do you withhold your financial resources from the church? Are you persistently negative or critical of others? Consider making a commitment to make a change.
Start thinking and praying about what you might commit to changing during Lent this year. The forty days begin on Ash Wednesday, February 10, and concludes on Easter Sunday, March 27. If you do the math you’ll realize that Sundays are not counted in the forty days so if you choose to do so, you can take a break from your commitment on Sundays. However, if you give up something like negativity, anger, criticizing, or something similar, please don’t make up for lost time on Sundays! Seriously, it’s easier to just maintain your commitment on Sundays in addition to the forty days of Lent.
Do you need an idea for making a commitment? Here’s an example:
I will seek to be a source of unity in my church. I know there are no perfect pastors, staff, or other church members. But neither am I. I will not be a source of gossip or dissension. One of the greatest contributions I can make is to do all I can in God’s power to help keep the church in unity for the sake of the gospel.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
January 24, 2016
What do you do…
When there isn’t enough time in the day? I hear myself say it quite often, “There wasn’t enough time in the day to get done the things I needed to get done!” Most of us have felt like that a time or two, whether it’s on the job or in the home or working on a list of chores. The number of things we’ve placed on our “to do” list is longer than there are hours in the day. Consider these points:
Every day has the same number of hours in it. Obvious, right? But sometimes we forget. Every day has the same number of hours, every person has the same number of hours in a day. The real question is, “How are you going to allot your hours?”
It’s possible that you’ve put too much on your “to do” list than is humanly possible to accomplish in one day. Give yourself a break! Could some of your tasks wait until a later, perhaps even more appropriate time?
Start with the most important things and work downward from there. We can’t help the fact that we get interrupted but we can prioritize so that at the end of the day when we’re evaluating our productivity we don’t feel so guilty pushing our unfinished business to the next day.
Do you know what the most common tasks are for people to postpone or avoid doing altogether? They might surprise you because they’re actually pretty important: Going to the doctor, communicating with family and friends to find out how they’re doing, paying bills, starting a hobby, leaving work on time. Oh, and one other thing! Spending quality time…with God.
Call it “TAG time.” Time Alone with God. Spend time alone with God in prayer, not only making petitions but listening for His guidance, wisdom, and direction. Spend time alone with God while studying His Word. Pray over the scriptures and ask God to reveal to you something you’ve never noticed before. It’s amazing how the Bible speaks to