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 us. Spend time alone with God doing nothing! It’s probably the hardest thing in the world, but just do nothing. Sit and think. Clear your mind – don’t let it wander! Schedule TAG time every single day.
Imagine a jar of rice, full to the brim. Now, imagine that you have some shells you want to add to the jar of rice. It’s impossible, right? There’s no room in the jar! The funny thing is, if you empty the jar and place the shells in the jar first, then add the rice, you’ll be able to fit it all in. The rice will fill in all the empty spaces and crevices of the shells.
The rice represents the things you have to do each day. The space inside the jar represents how much time you have every day. The shells represent the most important things you have to do each day: praying, studying God’s Word, using your spiritual gifts to serve. When we do the most important things first, the rest of our time falls into place accordingly. And if there happens to be a few grains of rice that absolutely refuse to squeeze in? No problem. You’ve already done what you needed to do.
Grace & Peace,
January 17, 2016
I lift up my eyes to the hills— from where will my help come? 2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. 4 He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. 6 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. 8 The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore. (Psalm 121 NRSV)
This is a mission-packed psalm. It tackles our everyday challenges like feeling powerless to a task (the Psalmist needs “help.”) It tackles our need for God to protect us, to guide us, and to be present in our lives. This psalm reminds us that we can trust God, not some of the time but all of the time.
I particularly like this psalm because God’s help is there before we ask for it. God knows what we need and how we need it before we even recognize it ourselves. How many times do we pray to God to remove some problem we’re wrestling with and discover that God keeps putting it back on us? It’s as if to say to us, “Child, you’re not ready to give it to me yet. You have more work to do.” God knows we need to wrestle with our problems and just how long we need to wrestle. He doesn’t fix problems but he does help us navigate through and resolve them with his help.
I also like this psalm because the psalmist relates to us. The writer lets us know that he/she knows what it’s like to be in need of God’s help, protection, guidance, and to be aware of God’s presence. And so the psalmist tells us what he/she does: “I lift up my eyes to the hills.” You’ve probably noticed this too, that people who are weary, sad, unmotivated, etc. keep their heads down. The gesture is a natural expression of those emotions. But the psalmist says to look up, raise your head! Why? Because if we’re always looking down we’re going to miss what’s happening! When we’re staring down at our feet or even the pathway, we’re not looking for alternatives, forks in the road, opportunities to get “unstuck.”
May your new year begin by looking upward toward hope, new beginnings, and God.
Grace & Peace,
January 10, 2016
Happy New Year Friends!
Obviously this week I’m thinking about church leadership. Our leadership kick-off was yesterday, featuring an inspiring presentation by Rev. Mike Tyson, the VCI Director for the Texas Annual Conference. Mike’s presentation was followed by the first meetings for 2016 of our committees, teams and board. And this morning at both of our worship services our district superintendent, Rev. Marlin Fenn, is blessing us by leading in worship and preaching the Word.
When I can’t think where to start with a topic, such as leadership, I often turn to the dictionary and read the definition. According to Merriam-Webster, the second definition of leader is this: a person who leads: guide, conductor. Simple enough. But we all know that leaders come in different shapes and different forms, definitely different styles. What’s your leadership style? Psychologist Kurt Lewin developed a framework of leadership styles.
Autocratic leaders make decision without consulting anyone else, even though it would be productive and helpful to do so. They like to do everything themselves, so much that there isn’t anything left for the rest of the team to do. This leader will most likely experience a high turn-over rate because people don’t like to feel devalued and useless.
Democratic leaders make the final decisions, but they include team members in the decision-making process. They encourage creativity, and people are often highly engaged in projects and decisions. As a result, team members tend to have high job satisfaction and high productivity. The challenge for these leaders happens when a decision needs to be made quickly.
Laissez-faire leaders give their team members a lot of freedom in how they do their work, and how they set their deadlines. They provide support with resources and advice if needed, but otherwise they don't get involved. This autonomy can lead to high job satisfaction, but the team leaders need to be very self-motivated.
If I could, I’d suggest to Dr. Lewin that there should be another kind of leader. I’d call this category the Conductor Leader. One of the words Merriam-Webster used to describe a leader is conductor. And when I looked up conductor, I read this: a material capable of transmitting another form of energy (as heat or sound). In the church, a Conductor Leader is one who allows the Holy Spirit to work through them to motivate, organize, empower, teach and mentor the members of his/her team. The Conductor Leader is able to discern when it’s necessary to be autocratic, democratic or Laissez-faire because he/she has spent adequate amount of time in prayer, listening to God first.
The individuals who have answered the call to serve on committees, ministry teams and the board will be blessed through their service as they will be challenged. First UMC Mineola is an exciting church with a beautiful future! Pray for all our church leaders continuously, that they have wisdom, courage and faithfulness to keep our congregation focused on our vision: Love God, Share Faith, Serve Neighbors.
Grace & Peace,
January 3, 2016
Next Sunday, January 10th, will be a special Sunday for worship because it is the Sunday we celebrate the baptism of Jesus Christ and we will also install all church leaders at both services. The weeks between Christmas Eve, when we celebrated the birth of Christ, to the Sunday we celebrate his baptism are small in number, only four! No sooner than Jesus was born and we’re celebrating his adult baptism. We don’t know much about Jesus’ childhood or adolescence, which is unfortunate. Wouldn’t you like to know if he was a fussy baby or if he liked to hang out with friends after school? Do you wonder if girls had crushes on him or if he ever got into trouble as a teenager? Holy Scripture recounts his encounter with the religious leaders in the temple when he was young but other than that, we know very little about his first 30 years of life. At about the age of 30, just prior to beginning his public ministry, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptizer in the Jordan River. Next Sunday we’re going to celebrate his baptism.
It seemed apropos to install our lay leadership on that special Sunday as well. All ministry team, committee and board members and chairpersons will be installed for service to the church at both services. They will come to the front to be recognized by everyone, asked questions about their leadership commitments, and then they, along with UMM/UMW officers, will be prayed over. Our district superintendent, Rev. Marlin Fenn, will be our guest preacher next week and will participate in the leadership installation. The installation is an important practice because everyone in the church should be able to recognize the people who will be leading them. The congregation needs to identify those for whom they will be praying and those whom they will be supporting with prayers and ministry involvement.
The lay leadership won’t be the only ones making a special commitment to Christ and the church – so will all of us. At the close of the sermon, everyone present will be invited to renew their baptismal covenant by saying vows and using water, the symbol of Christian birth. The community will be invited to answer these questions affirmatively:
Will you turn away from the powers of sin and death?
Will you let the Spirit use you as prophets to the powers that be?
Will you proclaim the good news and live as disciples of Jesus Christ, his body on earth?
Will you be living witnesses to the gospel, individually and together, wherever you are,
and in all that you do?
Will you receive and profess the Christian faith as contained in the Scriptures of the Old
and New Testaments?
We’ll then be presented with a bowl of water, invited to dip our fingers into it, and touching the water to our foreheads. It will be beautiful and moving! If you’re not already baptized, you may choose to say similar words to God in silent prayer and receive a blessing rather than water when you come forward.
I look forward to the exciting worship we will offer to God next week!
Grace & Peace,
December 20, 2015
Have you remembered lately that you are a unique, treasured, gifted person made in the image of a magnificent God? Did you look at yourself in the mirror this morning and say to yourself, “This is a good day and I will do good stuff today because God has done good stuff for me.” Maybe as you were gazing at the Christmas tree or wrapping presents or decorating Christmas cookies you allowed yourself just a few moments to reflect on the incredible gift God gave all of humanity when He sent His son, Jesus.
Well, it’s all true, and even more! You are unique, treasured and gifted. You have countless opportunities each day to create moments of grace in the world. And the gift of Jesus Christ is for the world generally, yes, and for you specifically. How much beauty can God create? The answer is, more than we could ever hope for or imagine.
Now, let me ask. How do you empower those gifts in your own life so that others benefit from them? In other words, how are you a blessing because you’re blessed? (See the reversal of scripture here? Instead of “blessed to be a blessing” you’re blessing because you’re blessed.) One more way of asking it is, how apostolic are you? The definition of apostle is “sent out.” Being an apostle, being apostolic, begins with each of us every day when we decide to make ourselves available to God.
Apostles present themselves to God. Some of us make this a morning practice during our devotion time. Others of us simply have a quick conversation with God that goes something like, “Good morning, God. I’m at your service today. Help me recognize the opportunities you place in my path today.” Apostles present themselves, they show up for whatever God has for them to do; apostles begin the day with a servant’s heart.
The next thing is that, as apostles, we look for opportunities to serve. We may not have big showy opportunities like Moses when he led the chosen people out of slavery but we might have the opportunity to read poems to a nursing home resident or be a class helper at the elementary school or take soup to a neighbor with a cold. Apostles don’t wait to be invited to help, they seek opportunities to help. Apostles don’t consider the worthiness of the recipient, they simply know that God’s grace needs to be shown to everyone. Apostles look for opportunities.
Apostles allow God to be the leader of grace. What I mean is we can start our day with a servant’s heart and we can look for opportunities God places before us but if we don’t allow God to dictate how we’re to be used, we won’t accomplish as much. Think of it like this: The doctor tells the patient that in order to maintain health, the patient should walk a mile every day. The patient has the option of walking half a mile or not walking at all. The patient has the option of walking only when the climate is pleasing or when a friend can walk along with the patient. Will the patient die if he chooses not to cooperate with the doctor? No, but he won’t be as healthy. The apostle will do the ministry work that God places before her, whether she finds it pleasing or comfortable or convenient or not. Why? Because God is in charge. Apostleship is a response of gratitude toward a magnificent God. Be sent out, Apostle!
Grace & Peace,
December 13, 2015
Blessed Advent Friends,
When I first entered the ordained ministry 15 or so years ago, “regular attendance” meant that we saw an individual at worship every Sunday and every holy day…and that included Pentecost! At some point the church finally tossed in the towel and announced that regular worship attendance meant that an individual attended worship at least twice a month and we quit counting holidays as “regular.” Was it because we got tired of the dismal statistics when we were expecting people every Sunday and only seeing them twice a month? Or was it because culture changed by abandoning the Blue Laws, allowing extra-curricular school and athletic events on Sundays? Perhaps it was because the rate of divorce went up and we saw part of the family on the first and third Sundays, the other part of the family on the second and fourth Sundays?
I guess it really doesn’t matter how it happened that worship on Sundays became optional for Christians. It’s interesting to me, however, that as more and more options for activities on Sundays, whether to work or play sports or go to the movies, when the number of options increased, the number of Christians in worship decreased.
Cheers to the faithful worshipers who still manage to juggle schedules and make choices that allow them to be present in worship on Sundays! They are a special blessing to the church as examples to others. They receive special blessings as well: they’re well-informed about what’s going on in the life of the congregation, they have more opportunities for spiritual formation, enjoy a feeling of community, and the list goes on.
Worship is the impetus for many ministries because it’s where we as a community experience the work of the Holy Spirit through music, prayer, reflection, celebration, and the reading of God’s Word. Being present in worship helps us stay connected to one another. And, a statistic I love to quote, members who report being most satisfied and happy as members are those who attend worship and are active in one or more ministries and/or church-sponsored community service efforts.
“These days, the real adventurers are those who set sail for the risky land of Christian orthodoxy. The real brave men and women are those who consistently go to church, observe the sacraments, hear the word, and submit themselves to the discipline of the church. In an age of autonomy, it’s those who subject their thoughts, behaviors, and passions to an exclusive Sovereign that are the brave few. Those may not be the memoirs we’re interested in today, but they’ll be the ones that last tomorrow.” This is a quote from Christian blogger, Dustin Messer.
He gives kudos to more than the regular worship attenders by including those who practice other spiritual formation practices but hey, it can start with upping our worship attendance, right?
Grace & Peace,
December 6, 2015
Blessed Advent Friends,
This morning I’m waiting for an upgrade to complete the download and configuring process. For those of you who aren’t familiar with that language, you’re probably thinking, “So what?” But for those of you who are familiar, you’re probably thinking, “Yuck!! I hate waiting for a download to finish processing!” Why? Because-while a computer is downloading, updating and processing, I can’t do the work I need to do on the computer! It’s annoying at the least and frustrating at the most but a necessary evil if I want to have a good operating system on my computer.
Waiting isn’t something I have patience for. But it reminds me of Advent. It’s a season of waiting, a season of patience. Waiting for the big event – Christmas. We complain about the media’s commercialization of this holy season, but we Christians are guilty of jumping right over the holy work of Advent into the celebration of Jesus’ birth. We long to sing the familiar Christmas carols we love, greet one another with, “Merry Christmas!” and look at the baby Jesus in all our variations of the Nativity Scene.
But the holy, spiritual work of Advent is well worth it when we bother to do it. The scriptural readings leading up to the birth of Christ offer rich lessons of faith as the Bible unwraps the giving of the greatest gift from God to the world. We can be reminded of Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth toward the beginning of her pregnancy. We can be reminded of John the Baptizer scolding the chief priests and Pharisees and don’t forget the incredible dream stories of Mary and Joseph.
In our Advent devotion book, Unto us a Child is Born, by Henri J.M. Nouwen, begins on the first day reflecting on how important the waiting time is. Referring to Mary and Elizabeth he writes, “By being together these two women created space for each other to wait. They affirmed for each other that something was happening that was worth waiting for.”
Christmas is worth waiting for. The holy work of Advent will make it so. Create some space in your days for peace by setting aside quiet time for prayer and reflection on Scripture. Ask God to reveal to you ways that you can share the benefits of those spiritual practices. You may find yourself volunteering at Bread of Life or Kindness Kottage or working with Caring and Sharing. Perhaps God will lead you to visit someone at a nursing home who doesn’t have visitors (take a book of poems and read to them.) The gifts of Christmas are given and received throughout the year. This Advent, make yourself aware of them.
Grace & Peace,
November 29, 2015
Happy New Year! Today is the first day of the liturgical (worship) year of the Church. The season of Advent, from the Latin word Adventis, which means “coming” or “visit,” begins today as we prepare our hearts and our world for the coming of Jesus. But he’s already come, right? True. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to us in the form of a baby, born to Mary and Joseph. During the season of Advent we celebrate the first coming of Jesus and each Sunday in Advent we re-tell the preparations for Jesus’ first arrival.
This season is also, however, the time when we anticipate the second coming or visit of Jesus Christ to our earthly world. Each week as we remember how Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah, the earthly rulers, the shepherds, and the whole world prepared to meet Jesus the first time, we’ll ask ourselves how we can prepare to meet Jesus when he returns again.
Our society encourages us to jump right into the joy of Christmas Day, particularly with regard to presents. All of us are enticed to spend money and energy and time on making everything perfect for that special day, even to the point of exhaustion and bankruptcy. What if we could rethink what it means to journey through the Advent season with anticipation and expectation that the joy will come, not from what we do or spend, but from God? What if we slowed down enough to genuinely reflect on ourselves, our values, our ultimate goals, and our faith so that Advent might be restored to the holy season that it is meant to be?
I’m not a “theme” or “sermon series” kind of preacher, as you’ve probably noticed. I love the discipline and structure of preaching from the Revised Common Lectionary because it requires me to preach from texts I might not ever choose for myself and it prevents me from preaching messages I’m more comfortable with. However, this Advent season I’ll be preaching a series titled, “Checking, Decking & Dashing.” Checking to Find Peace, Decking With Love, and Dashing to Spread Joy, and Dashing to Others With Hope. The series, including sermon themes, was written by Rev. Ashleigh Joyner, a United Methodist clergywoman and writer for Rethink Church.
Please take this opportunity to invite friends and neighbors who aren’t already involved with a church to worship with us. The Christmas season is statistically shown to be the time during which people, who normally don’t attend church, often decide to attend because they’re searching for the “true” meaning of Christmas. People long to be part of the holy story, to experience the mystery of it. Consider it a gift you might give to someone else this year; the opportunity to come home to church and a church family.
Please take time this season also to nurture your own spiritual health and wellbeing. Set aside a few minutes each day to read from the Advent devotional booklet that’s available for your taking. (Compliments of the worship committee.) Read the prepared devotion for each day, pray a prayer and spend the day reflecting on what you’ve read and prayed. This simple routine will simplify your life and enrich your Advent.
Grace & Peace,
November 22, 2015
Today is Christ the King or Reign of Christ Sunday. We observe Christ the King on the last Sunday after Pentecost, which is also the last Sunday of the Christian year and the Sunday before the new year begins with Advent. According to our Book of Worship (page 419), traditionally Christ the King is set aside as a celebration of the coming reign of Jesus Christ and the completion of creation.
It is a good day to remind ourselves of the difference between the kings we know on earth and the heavenly king we worship and expect to rule one day in the future. The “in-between” time, until the return of Jesus, is an odd time for Christians because we are called to live in the kingdom God has established in the church, where God’s will is done, and at the same time to anticipate the kingdom to come when Christ will rule over all.
I challenge you to consider what our world would look like now if Christ reigned over it. We may be tempted to say, “Well, if Jesus were completely in charge right now, those people would be in deep trouble!” Or, “If God’s kingdom was fully known right here and now, things would be much easier for Christians!” I suppose those are two ways of looking at it.
Another way to look at it is that when Christ comes in final victory we will all be held accountable for what we have done and what we have left undone. Nobody is exempt. There will be no such thing as those people because we will all be them. So what are Christians to do?
We are called to cooperate with God in expanding the kingdom God has already begun here on earth. We can work with each other rather than against one another. We can discover opportunities to be in ministry with those who are not yet in a relationship with Jesus Christ and tell them, show them, invite them to enjoy that blessing.
We quite often say, “God is good…All the time! And all the time…God is good!” If we believe that, truly believe that, it is our proclamation that God is able and standing ready to bring good out of every single situation. When we lose hope for our society, doubt the integrity of our elected leaders, wonder if the economy is ever going to be strong, or have no confidence in the future…that’s when Christians look around and say, “Well, God. I can’t wait to see what good you’re going to bring about out of this!” We have to trust that God is doing grace-work behind the scenes of our lives and in human history.
But it doesn’t end there. We are also called, as Christians who have committed our lives to the rule of Christ and to the anticipation of Christ’s return, to help God make “good” happen all the time. What can you do today to point out grace to the nay-sayers? How can you be the one to remind your family or your Sunday school or anyone else that God is good all the time?
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! May your holiday be laced together with a grateful heart. We’ll celebrate the first Sunday of Advent next week with dressing our worship areas for the season. Advent lasts for four weeks until Christmas Eve/Day when finally we celebrate the birth of our Savior. Decide today that your Christmas will be holy rather than secular.
Grace & Peace,
November 15, 2015
I’m so thankful to the acolytes who bless us with their ministry every Sunday at both worship services. Have you noticed how reverent and attentive to detail they are?
Their role in worship may be for only a few minutes at the beginning and end but their role is incredibly important. The word acolyte is taken from an ancient Greek word that meant companion, attendant, or helper. In some churches, acolytes are called servers. The responsibility of an acolyte is to light and extinguish the candles on or near the communion table. When the acolytes bring the light (fire) into the worship space, they are bringing in the light of Christ. Since ancient times, light and fire have reminded people that God is here with us
The acolyte’s tool is a candlelighter which is long-handled with a wick running the length of the lighter. The wick is exposed at the end of the lighter and the lighter is topped with a bell-shaped extinguisher. The acolyte brings the light of Christ into the worship space before any official act of worship has begun. The candles on the communion table represent the dual nature of Christ: human and God. If there are two acolytes, the candles are lighted at the same time; if one acolyte, the candle on the right is lighted first. Any other candles are lighted after the two main candles. Once lighted, the candlelighter flame should be extinguished because the symbolism is that Christ is present in worship at the front of the peoples’ worship space.
Following the formal acts of worship, the acolyte brings an unlighted candlelighter to the communion table, retrieves the light of Christ in reverse order as they were lighted, and takes the light out of the worship space and symbolically into the world.
On special occasions, acolytes may be part of a larger processional for worship. In those instances, an acolyte might carry the first of the procession as a crucifer (cross carrier), holding a processional cross on a long pole called a staff. Second in order of procession would be torchbearers carrying large lighted candles on a staff. Next is the flag bearer who brings in a worship banner and the last acolytes would bring in the light of Christ. Following the acolytes are lay worship leaders, then clergy and finally (if present) the bishop.
We are blessed to have such wonderful acolytes! Thank you for adding such beauty and meaning to our worship!
Grace & Peace,
November 8, 2015
This past fall has been the most busy I can remember having in my years of service to the Church. We have made great progress in Vibrant Church Initiative and people occasionally ask me, “Are we done with that yet?” The answer is no, we’re not “done” with it and in the broader sense we never will be done with it. And that’s a very, very good thing.
We don’t want the VCI to come to an end because the adoption of our prescriptions and the works of ministry they represent were meant to be a starting point, not a destination. The enthusiasm that has erupted amongst us is not of human origin, it is the movement of the Holy Spirit guiding, correcting, teaching, and leading us into the beautiful future God has prepared for us to enjoy. Indulge me if you already know the accomplishments we have made in the past year and allow me to recap:
-We introduced ourselves to hundreds of households in our community through the Christmas Neighborhood Walks,
- We offered a safe place to grieve at our Blue Christmas Service,
- We took advantage of opportunities for lay leadership training and development, Bible studies, and fellowship events,
- We prayed over every inch of both campuses when we came together for the prayer and healing service on Maundy Thursday,
- We hosted the Baccalaureate Service for the Mineola high school graduating seniors and their families,
- We have shared our resources (facilities, financial, presence) so that community service groups could enjoy great success in ministry,
- We have begun the process of staff assessments so that all church employees have a greater understanding of the expectations of ministry and a sense of appreciation,
- We have enjoyed holy successes in the areas of the placement of lay leadership and faithful stewardship of our financial resources,
- We have grown in number and discipleship in ways that defy explanation but for the work of God.
Giving kudos to our participation in VCI is only part of it, a big part of it, certainly. But that’s not to say the prayers of faithful church members, the willingness on the part of many to embrace necessary changes, and the perseverance of our church leadership was in any way insignificant!
So, thank you, Church! Thank you for your faithfulness to Christ through the First United Methodist Church in Mineola. We are blessed to be a blessing. We are a light to the community and beyond. We are a source of compassion, support, community action, God’s mercy and grace. Thank you. Good holy work. Now, let’s continue!
Grace & Peace,
November 1, 2015
What a beautiful Sunday it is today! Even as I write this article on the Monday before All Saints Day Communion Sunday, I know our time together on November 1, will be a time of remembering, sadness and celebration. This special day is a time set apart for the entire community – in our congregation, that means both of our worshiping bodies coming together – to honor those members of our church who have gone on to glory in the past year. Our immediate focus will be on celebrating how our loved ones influenced us in our faith while they were with us here on earth. Their names will be called, the bell will be tolled and a rose will be presented in their memory and honor, and all of this in the midst of the Sacrament of Holy Communion.
The promise of our Lord, Jesus, is that he has gone ahead of us to prepare a place for us in the home of God the Father. In John’s Gospel, Jesus said, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:18-19 NRSV) We have a place in the presence of God!
And now for us, as we remain here in this part of our lives, we are called to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. The example we give to others, whether we are in a time of trial or of celebration, our true selves come out in our language and deeds. Who do people see when they watch you? Do others hear words of grace when you speak or something else? When you boast, do you boast in what God has done for you, how God has blessed you or do you boast in your own accomplishments? Think for just a moment about how the saints who have gone before you have formed your faith…was it done in such a way that you want to emulate it? It makes a difference, doesn’t it? Live your life now so that when you are honored as a saint someday people will find a good example of Christian discipleship and faith.
In our communion liturgy it says, “By your Spirit make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world, until Christ comes in final victory, and we feast at his heavenly banquet.” There is room at the table for everyone and in my vision, the table is round so that there is no place of human honor, only honor to our Savior, Jesus Christ.
God bless you, especially if you are a family member or friend of one of the saints whose name we call today during communion. May God give you peace. Amen.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
October 28, 2015
Why do we have stewardship emphasis month?
There are several good reasons. One reason is because it raises awareness. Some folks weren’t
raised in the church or have recently returned to church and aren’t familiar with the spiritual discipline of
financially supporting the church. Others don’t realize that the ministries and activities of the church operate
solely on the financial support of its members. Most importantly, Stewardship Emphasis Month is the time
when we all learn and re-learn that financial giving to the church is an act of worship. Christian disciples are
given the responsibility of being stewards over everything God has given us and our tithes and offerings are
tangible expressions of thanksgiving to God.
What is a tithe?
Repeatedly throughout the Old Testament, God instructs the people to give a “tithe,” or a tenth of their
first fruits. Tithes were expected to be the best, off-of-the-top 10% of their grain, oil, livestock or goods.
(See Numbers 18, Deuteronomy 14)
Today, a tithe is a financial gift of 10% of the disciple’s income. Although there is debate among some
as to whether we should tithe on our gross or adjusted income, a biblical tithe is on our “first fruits,” which
would be our gross income.
What does Jesus Christ teach about giving to God?
Actually, Jesus talks more about money than anything else! In fact, he instructs people to give
everything to God. (Jesus) said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s,
and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21b) The key is, however, that Jesus instructed us to
give joyfully! We’re not to “give until it hurts” – this isn’t a financial work-out. But we are to give with the
belief and trust that giving our financial resources to Christ through the Church leads to joy.
Why do I need to give financially?
We believe that all things are from God, including our ability to earn money. We believe that all our
blessings are merely “on loan” to us from God, whether that is the ability we have, the money we earn, the
children we raise, or the bodies for which we care. Our tithes and offerings are concrete expressions of
thankfulness to and trust of God. We need to give financially because it causes us to make God our number
one priority. Think of this: every decision you make is a financial decision and every financial decision is a
spiritual decision. When you look at your bank statement and your credit card statement, what does it say
about your priorities?
I hope this article helps answer some of the common questions about stewardship. For those who have
never made a financial commitment to Christ through the church, I hope you’ll do so for 2016. The blessings
Grace & Peace,
Have you noticed the wellspring of excitement around this year’s Iron Horse Festival? Our church has chosen the Iron Horse Festival to be our “Bridge to Community” event this fall because it’s an incredible opportunity to get our church’s name out to people, to show off the great stuff God is doing in and through our church, and to connect with people who we may not otherwise have an opportunity to connect with. This will be an intentional effort to share the love of God, our faith, and our desire to serve our neighbors.
We will have four booths at the festival, providing us plenty of room for children’s games, a cake walk, door prizes, space to pray with the community and share with people about the ministries of our church. Everybody knows that for most people it’s really hard to walk into a room or event when you don’t know anyone. It’s our sincere hope that we’ll have conversations that are personal enough that moms and dads and grandparents and foster parents, etc. feel comfortable joining us for worship, Sunday school and service projects in Mineola.
Already there are over 40 of us wearing the church’s Iron Horse Festival t-shirts. Over 50 of our church members and friends have volunteered to be present in our booths, doing the ministry of Jesus Christ. Imagine! We’ll be in the center of town meeting hundreds of people! This is an amazing opportunity. So don’t be left out. If you haven’t already, sign up to help with games or praying or face painting, etc. It’ll be so much fun.
Let me remind you: IT TAKES A CONGREGATION TO MAKE A DISCIPLE
One way congregations make disciples is by developing an atmosphere is welcoming, inviting, encouraging, and empowering. Two major factors this process are attentiveness to God and faith development of every person
Evangelism is, at its heart, sharing faith with others, particularly with who are unchurched or disconnected, and inviting them to follow Jesus Christ as Christian disciples. Effective congregations develop a disciple-making system that welcomes and invites, equips, and sends disciples in ministry. Growing congregations receive new persons on profession their faith, not just transfers from other churches.
Volunteering to be with other church members at the Iron Horse Festival booth will take a couple hours out of your day. It could change the life of someone who meets you there.
Grace & Peace,
In a sluggish economy many of us are living paycheck (or Social Security check or retirement funds) to paycheck. The mailbox is full of credit cards offers that promise to give us power over our future happiness. Our culture inundates us with messages about debts and deficits – it’s no wonder we’re anxious about money. Our anxiety causes us to operate out of a sense of scarcity, as though there won’t be enough to do everything we want to do as soon as we want to do it. Has your blood pressure gone up yet?
Anxiety. Scarcity. Fear. In response to that, II Timothy says, “For God did not give us a spirit of cowardIce (fear), but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.” (II Timothy 1: 7) When thinking about personal or church finances, I try to keep that verse at the forefront of my mind because it’s all too easy to be anxious and worry about the “what if’s.” What if my car breaks down? What if my health goes downhill? The questions are endless. But if I keep God’s word in front of it all, the questions don’t out-number the instances God has provided more than enough. The “what if something bad happens” becomes “what if I trusted God with…?” If my car breaks down, what if I trust God to help me figure out alternative transportation or find a mechanic who will allow me to make payments? What if I trust God?
We can be strong and secure in God’s promises to provide for us in all aspects of our lives. Sometimes it takes some reconditioning on our part, either by rearranging our priorities or changing the way we think about things, but God can be counted on to provide.
Begin to reflect, pray about and consider the resources God has given you: time, financial, emotional, spiritual,