Jan 22, 2107
On January 4th, the United Methodist Church observed Human Traffic Awareness Sunday. The following is information related to that event as well as a tie-in to the article this Sunday on page 2.
“He redeems their lives from oppression and violence;
their blood is precious in his eyes.” Psalm 72:14, CEB
They are slaves — child soldiers, teens forced into prostitution and middle-aged women working as indentured servants. More than 20.9 million men, women and children are held against their will, scared to leave and unaware of their rights. They are victims of greed, false hope and broken promises.
The crime is human trafficking. The people of The United Methodist Church are working to stop it. We care about issues happening beyond the doors of our local churches and outside our comfort zones.
The invisible victims may live in our neighborhoods, work at local businesses or attend area schools and colleges. We may buy products they make, benefit from services they provide and unknowingly invest in unscrupulous deals brokered by their captors.
Criminals lure vulnerable people into involuntary servitude, debt bondage, sex slavery and more. The enslaved endlessly fold and glue matchboxes, cultivate fields unprotected from pesticides and spend childhood used as sex toys. The perpetrators dehumanize, torture and steal the sacred worth of God’s children.
By proclaiming faith in the God of freedom, United Methodists condemn slavery as wrong. God calls us to proclaim release to the captives and set the oppressed free (Luke 4:16-19).
Just ask yourself, “What can I do?”
Local United Methodist churches around the world are striving to learn about human trafficking and to teach others how to spot and stop the growing crime.
The General Board of Church and Society is an active global partner in trying to end slavery and human oppression. The board engages annual conferences in becoming involved and fighting for those without freedom from destructive and life-threatening circumstances. Thanks to support from the World Service Fund, the board participates in the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in increasing awareness about human trafficking throughout The United Methodist Church and the world. The agency is committed to promoting the “Rescue and Restore” initiative of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The program rescues people brought into the United States illegally as victims of human trafficking and, through a multitude of social services, restores them to new life.
Learn how you can alleviate human suffering. Go to http://umc-gbcs.org/issues/human-trafficking.
Grace & Peace,
Jan 15, 2017
Tomorrow is an important day for each of us individually, for Mineola as a community and for us as a nation. We will celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. and the incredible impact his ministry had on all. Here are some excerpts from the Presidential Proclamation:
With profound faith in our Nation's promise, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., led a non-violent movement that urged our country's leaders to expand the reach of freedom and provide equal opportunity for all. Dr. King joined a long line of heroes and vindicated the belief at the heart of our founding: that humble citizens, armed with little but faith, can come together to change the world and remake an America that more closely aligns with our highest ideals.
Dr. King recognized that, as a country built on the foundation of self-governance, our success rested on engaging ordinary citizens in the work of securing our birthright liberties. Together, with countless unsung heroes equally committed to the idea that America is a constant work in progress, he heeded the call etched into our founding documents nearly two centuries before his time, marching and sacrificing for the idea of a fair, just, and inclusive society. By preaching his dream of a day when his children would be judged by the content of their character -- rather than by the color of their skin -- he helped awaken our Nation to the bitter truth that basic justice for all had not yet been realized. And in his efforts, he peaceably yet forcefully demonstrated that it is not enough to only have equal protection under the law, but also that equal opportunity for all of our Nation's children is necessary so that they can shape their own destinies.
Today, we celebrate the long arc of progress for which Dr. King and so many other leaders fought to bend toward a brighter day. It is our mission to fulfill his vision of a Nation devoted to rejecting bigotry in all its forms; to rising above cynicism and the belief that we cannot change; and to cherishing dignity and opportunity not only for our own daughters and sons, but also for our neighbors' children.
Make plans to celebrate MLK Day tomorrow beginning with a CommUnity Rally in our Sanctuary at 5:00 p.m., followed by the MLK March from our Sanctuary, down Johnson Ave to the downtown gazebo. Bring a friend!
Grace & Peace,
Jan 8, 2017
At about the age of 30, just prior to beginning his public ministry, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptizer in the Jordan River. Today we’re going to celebrate his baptism.
At both services today we’ll also be installing our 2017 lay leadership. All ministry teams, committees, board members and chairpersons will be installed for service to the church. They will come to the front of the congregation to be recognized by everyone, asked questions about their leadership commitments, and then they, along with UMM/UMW officers and program staff, will be prayed over. 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. Today 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?
You’ll then be presented with a bowl of water, invited to dip your fingers into it, and touch the water to your 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.
As a community, let’s give thanks for those who will be leading us this year and thanks to God for the gift of baptism!
Grace & Peace,
January 1, 2017
Happy New Year!
There’s something refreshing about the idea of starting new. Even the resolutions we abandoned sometime last year seem redeemable. Our church father, John Wesley, believed the start of a new year was the perfect time to recommit one’s devotion to God. He established in the Methodist Movement the “Watchnight” or “Covenant Service” which started promptly at Midnight on New Year’s Eve. Historically, a Watch Night Service would be three hours or longer, including readings from Scripture and hymn singing.
In 1663 Richard Alleine, a Puritan, published Vindiciae Pietatis: or, “A Vindication of Godliness in the Greater Strictness and Spirituality of It”. In 1753, it was again published in John Wesley's Christian Library. Wesley used one chapter, "The Application of the Whole," on Monday, August 11, 1755, in what probably was the first real celebration of the Covenant Service in the Methodist movement.
Wesley found the service rich and meaningful, as expressed in his Journal: "Many mourned before God, and many were comforted" (April 1756); "It was, as usual, a time of remarkable blessing" (October 1765). "It was an occasion for a variety of spiritual experiences ... I do not know that ever we had a greater blessing. Afterwards many desired to return thanks, either for a sense of pardon, for full salvation, or for a fresh manifestation of His graces, healing all their backslidings" (January 1, 1775). In London these services were usually held on New Year's Day. Around the country the Covenant Service was conducted whenever John Wesley visited the Methodist Societies.
After the time of Wesley, several versions of the Covenant Service were developed, gradually giving Wesley's material less space in the total service. The heart of the service, the Covenant Prayer, requires persons to commit themselves to God. This covenant is serious and assumes adequate preparation for and continual response to the covenant.
A reprint of the Covenant Prayer is on the inside of the newsletter. I invite you to find a quiet place, settle your attention in prayer and pray this prayer with devotion in your heart.
Grace & Peace,
December 25, 2016
Finally the day has arrived to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ our Savior, Redeemer and King! I hope you enjoy hearing the scriptural references and singing the Christmas hymns of our faith. What beautiful words and music envelop this day, cozying right up to the closeness of family and friends as we welcome the baby Jesus to our world.
This world is not as prepared or welcoming as it should be for this God-Child. We’re not loving as well, caring as deeply, sharing as willingly or sharing our faith as readily as we need to be. But Jesus doesn’t wait. He comes to us anyway, into this world full of danger and chaos and pain. Why? Because that’s when and where we need him the most. This precious gift of a Savior is our gift from God, given with unleashed, indiscriminate love. What will you bring to Jesus today?
May God bless you and your family this Christmas.
Grace & Peace,
December 18, 2016
We are blessed to have volunteer musicians who spend hours in rehearsal and are present faithfully every Sunday morning. They do everything in their power to create an atmosphere of worship so that our hearts connect with the heart of God through the Holy Spirit. Please take a moment to thank them in person or by sending a card!
We are additionally blessed to have a dedicated church staff who, without exception, perform their duties with grace, humility and excellence. Their hours are long and often their work goes unnoticed unless something doesn’t go right. Be sure to thank them in person or send a card.
If you would like to thank our volunteer musicians and our church staff in a tangible way, please write a check to the church for any amount you choose and write “Christmas Blessings” on the memo line. Thank you!
And, by the way, here’s the Top Ten List of Things Every Pastor Wants to Hear for Christmas:
10. Pastor, I have a large sum of money I’d like to donate to the church to spend on a ministry that will put people in a relationship with Jesus Christ. And yes, this donation is beyond my tithe.
9. Pastor, the church leadership voted and they want you to have more time for prayer, pastoral care, teaching, and sermon preparation so we want you to come to meetings only if we can’t handle it ourselves. And we think we can handle all of them ourselves.
8. Pastor I want to be in a Bible Study/Sunday School (circle one or both). Could you recommend one?
7. Pastor, would you help me figure out how to get more involved
6. Pastor, I think God is calling me to full-time ministry. Could we meet?
5. Pastor, would you pray with me?
4. Pastor, I’d like to get a little more leadership training.
Do you have any suggestions?
3. Pastor, even when we disagree I want you to know that I love you.
2. Pastor, I know you’re not perfect and nobody expects you to be.
1. Pastor, I pray for you and your family every day.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
Dec 11, 2016
The liturgical/worship calendar begins the first Sunday of Advent, which was two weeks ago. Advent is a season of four weeks including four Sundays. Advent derives from the Latin adventus, which means “coming.” The season proclaims the comings of the Christ – whose birth we prepare to celebrate once again, who comes continually in Word and Spirit, and whose return in final victory we anticipate. Each year Advent calls the community of faith to prepare for these comings; historically, the season was marked by fasts for preparation. Each Sunday of Advent has its distinctive theme: Christ’s coming in final victory (First Sunday), John the Baptist (Second and Third Sundays), and events immediately preceding the birth of Jesus Christ (Fourth Sunday).
We use purple or blue for paraments, stoles, and banners. And there are many symbols of Advent in and around our worship areas that carry significant meaning. Some of them are:
Wreathes of holly and ivy or red colors symbolize Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection;
Pine and Fir, as in our Christmas tree, whose leaves are ever living, ever green symbolize eternal life;
Prophetic readings from the Old Testament including Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zephaniah and Micah who foretold the saving work of God;
The lighted Christmas tree is a symbol of the One who brings light into our darkness, healing to our brokenness, and peace to all who receive him.
Our Christmas tree is decorated, not with traditional secular ornaments, but with Chrismons. The Chrismon (pronounced kriz-mon) Tree, a sign begun in the Lutheran Church of the Ascension in Danville, Virginia, has now spread to many other congregations. The evergreen tree is covered with signs of Christ, such as stars. Many congregations who use real trees save the Chrismon Tree trunk to make a cross for Lent.
Our Advent Wreath is a simple circle, a sign of life without end. It’s four Advent candles encircle a central white Christ candle. Some, our church included, but not all congregations use the traditional color rose on the Third Sunday of Advent when the lectionary reading is Mary’s Song in Luke. Each of the candles represents a Sunday in Advent and occasionally we use special words as well.
My prayer for you is that Advent is truly a time of preparation for your heart to receive Jesus Christ once again into your own heart. Many blessings on you and your family.
Grace & Peace,
Dec 4, 2016
Do you know how to help a friend or family member navigate the journey of grief? Too often we believe we have to have the perfect words to help a loved one feel better after experiencing a loss. To further complicate things we blurt out words that are less than helpful simply because we have a need to say something. While some of our common sayings may sound good, they’re not particularly helpful to a person dealing with grief. For example, “God needed another flower for His garden.” (Really? And God had to take my friend/spouse/child?) Or, “Someday you’ll look back on this and feel happy for the memories.” (Probably true. However, it’s as far from that feeling right now and impossible to get to.) Sayings like this are meant to help and spoken with the best of intentions.
Rather than “explaining” loss, it’s helpful to those who need comforting and those who want to do the comforting to stick to simple statements of being present. For example, “I don’t understand why this happened but I want you to know I’m here for you.” Or, “I wish I could say something to make you feel better but I know I can’t so just know that I love you.” And at times, the best thing to say is nothing. Simply be with the grieving person and allow them to express that grief.
Grief is different for each person. There’s no set length of time one might grieve, although prolonged grief that interferes with a person’s ability to function on a daily basis is best handled by a trained counselor. One’s reaction to grief varies as well. Some people fall silent, others prefer to talk. For some it’s comforting to be alone, for others to be around people. The best we can do is be supportive of friends and family who are grieving.
The holidays are particularly difficult for people who are grieving because for one, their loved one is no longer here to share the traditions and special moments or for other reasons their lives are significantly different than last year…and not in a positive way. Another thing that makes holidays so difficult is that there is a great deal of pressure to be happy. Grieving people get the message over and over again throughout the holidays that surely they can postpone their sadness until after the season!
But grief doesn’t stop for a holiday, not even Christmas. And that is why our congregation hosts a Blue Christmas worship service. This year it’s on Sunday evening, December 11, at 6:00 p.m. in our Sanctuary. People who attend will experience a space where it’s “safe” to be sad in the midst of jingle bells and good tidings of great news. The message and music and liturgy will be particularly aimed at bringing comfort and peace in the midst of grief.
Perhaps this is the worship service that will help you make it through the holidays. Or maybe you know someone who has, at some point this year, experienced grief. Consider those who have lost a loved one to death or experienced divorce. Think of those who have lost employment or whose children have moved away from home. Do you know someone who has been struggling financially or had to change their living situation due to health or age? Grief comes in a number of ways! Identify yourself or someone in your life who might benefit from our Blue Christmas worship service. And invite them!
Grace & Peace,
Nov 27, 2016
Dear Friends, The best gift we have ever been given is the gift of salvation. Whether you can
remember the date, time and place when you accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior or if it was a gradual process of learning to follow Jesus Christ by first giving your heart to Him, salvation is a process. It is a disservice to God when we assume the work of God’s grace is complete when we make our first confession. On the contrary, God’s grace continues to work in the heart and life of the disciple, drawing him closer to God, teaching her to love as Jesus loves, and come to understand at deeper and deeper levels how sin destroys and God saves.
Our individual salvation stories are as unique as each of us. For some, salvation meant freedom from addiction. For others it meant the recognition of God’s deep and abiding forgiveness. Some of us experienced salvation as the eye -opening, unbelievable love of God. Still others of us recognized the gift of salvation when we went on a mission trip and witnessed the powerful Holy Spirit. Our journeys are different but the end is the same – eternal life with God! And the really good news is that we aren’t on this journey alone. We have the support and love of Christian community which shares our burdens, hears our confessions, accepts us in our brokenness, and celebrates our choice.
Throughout the years of our Christian lives, justification happens time and time again. Why? Because the closer we get to God, the more we try to imitate Christ, the more we recognize how far away we are. And so, we ask for forgiveness as we recognize sin at work in our lives and we do whatever we can to break that cycle. And each time we experience justifying grace, ask for forgiveness and turn away from that sin, we experience sanctification. Sanctification is the process of growing more and more like Jesus Christ – loving how and who Jesus loves, serving how and who Jesus serves.
Can we ever expect to be made perfect in this life? According to the Wesleyan way of salvation, absolutely! Why? Because through Christ all things are possible. And by perfect, I mean perfect in love, not in the way of the world. Even John Wesley didn’t believe that most of us would ever reach Christian perfection but we can sure have fun trying. Together with our brothers and sisters in the faith, we are on a journey. A wonderful, amazing, life-long journey.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
Nov 20, 2016
Dear Friends, This evening at 6:00 p.m. the Mineola Ministerial Alliance will host a community
Thanksgiving service at First Baptist Church. The preacher will be Rev. Rick Son, pastor at First Christian Church. The offering will be introduced by Rev. Jim Pickens, pastor at Smith Chapel United Methodist. Another part of the service will be led by Rev. Dr. Mark Neely, pastor at First Baptist in Mineola. I’ll be representing First United Methodist Church of Mineola as I lead yet another part of the service. Other pastors are members of the alliance but will be unable to attend due to other commitments but my point is, we, the members of the alliance, choose to work together to offer spiritual leadership for our community. The community Thanksgiving service is only one of the ways we accomplish our goal.
The Ministerial Alliance accepts donations and collects offerings at each event so that we can assist people who are not eligible to receive financial assistance from Kindness Kottage or Salvation Army. Quite often our money assists people who are passing through Mineola on their way to a funeral, a job, a family event or an educational opportunity. Some are walking or riding a bike. Others are driving. The pastors of the alliance are able to meet with and assist those folks who run short on funds or find themselves stranded due to illness or something like that. We can authorize one night’s stay at an inexpensive motel, food, or gasoline for their vehicle. The process is that we authorize the financial support, they take the form to the police station where their names are run through a database, and if there are no warrants out for their arrest and they have not already received assistance, our Mineola Police Department approves the voucher for the individual to use. One additional safeguard is that when a pastor authorizes financial assistance, we notify the other pastors so duplicate assistance isn’t given.
The other way that the alliance money is spent is an annual high school graduation scholarship. Members of the alliance review student applications and, based on church involvement and need (rather than high GPA and school involvement) we give scholarship money.
Every pastor in the Mineola area is welcome to join the alliance; all they have to do is come to one of our monthly meetings. Unfortunately, some pastors choose not to participate. Those who do have to set aside denominational differences, some of which are significant, and focus on the main reason we’re all pastors in the first place – we want to serve Jesus Christ and make disciples for Him. We are making a particular effort right now to invite pastors to join the alliance and be part of the ministry we offer the Mineola area community.
I hope you’ll be there tonight. There is a community choir that will meet at 5:00 p.m. on the chancel at First Baptist – EVERYONE IS INVITED TO PARTICIPATE. Steve Dotson, the music minister at First Baptist will be our director and he’s amazing! (Second only to our own Jeannette Peel )
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
Nov 13, 2016
Dear Friends, What makes life good? As we approach the Thanksgiving Holiday, imagine yourself sitting at the table, surrounded by family and friends. And perhaps it’s a tradition at your Thanksgiving table for each person present to say what they’re thankful for. When it’s getting close to your turn are you excited or anxious? Are you wondering how long everyone has because you have a long list of blessings you’re thankful for? Or are you frantically trying to come up with something to say? What makes life good? That’s the topic of a survey from Pew Research Center. They asked the question of countries rather than individuals. The researchers wanted to know what people across the globe value in their lives and they looked at a number of factors including: Income and Wealth, Jobs and Earnings, Work – Life Balance, Housing, Environmental Quality, Health Status, Education and Skills, Social Connections, Civic Engagement, Personal Security, Subjective Well-being. You probably won’t be surprised that the United States’ score defined the “good life” by financial wealth and income while France defined it by a larger emphasis on time off and less on work. If you want to live somewhere that has high civic engagement, move to South Korea. (Or simply increase your civic engagement here.) Voter turn-out is high in Turkey but the air and water quality is above average in Norway. No matter where we live, it has much more to do with attitude. In Colossians, chapter 3, we have this instruction, “ Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.” (Colossians 3: 14-16, NRSV, emphasis mine.) It’s an instruction for an on-going attitude of thankfulness. If your health isn’t perfect, give thanks for the people who love you. If you don’t have the income you need or deserve, give thanks for the beauty of the earth. Are you lonely? Give thanks for your place to live. You get the idea. I heard the father of a disgruntled teenager say to his son in the store a few weeks ago, “Well, if you’re mad, be thankful you have an opportunity to get over it.” Contentment, satisfaction, the “good life,” all come from an attitude of thankfulness. God has blessed us in ways we don’t recognize and in ways we chose to ignore. I pray for a blessed Thanksgiving holiday for all of us, no matter where you live. Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
Nov 6, 2016
I shared with you last week in worship that when I celebrate Sabbath, one of the activities I enjoy tremendously is counting my blessings as I harvest the pecans in my backyard. In mid-season I already have a huge planter full of pecans that represent blessings I’ve given thanks to God for. Another activity that I enjoy as part of my Sabbath observance is to find a quiet, comfortable place in which to surround myself with pictures. The pictures are typically of people but sometimes they are remembrances of significant events in my life or such. I spend time praying over each of the pictures, asking God to bless the person or people in the photo, giving thanks to God for the occasion of the
photo, and giving thanks specifically for the ways in which the people in the photos have taught and mentored me in the faith.
One of the wonderful things that happen when we pray over people in such a way is a profound feeling of thanksgiving for that person. It helps us remember how important their influence has been, what we learned from them, and how we’re different because of them. Additionally, giving thanks like that strengthens our faith.
It’s practices like that which sustain us when faith is difficult, when God is silent and the future is unknown. None of us would have the assurance of Christian faith if it were not for our mentors. Whether a parent or grandparent, teacher, coach or pastor, Christian
mentors allow us to ask questions, struggle with difficult faith concepts, and forge our own relationship with God. Mentors give us the space to grow at our own pace, not becoming a mirror image of the mentor but a believer in our own right.
Today we give thanks for the saints who, in these past twelve months, have gone on to glory. They have finished the race that was before them and followed the path prepared by Jesus Christ. On All Saints Sunday we remember and give thanks for lives lived in the best possible image of Christ and we ask of ourselves the same. What example of faith are we giving to those who don’t yet know Jesus Christ or who are young in their relationship with Him? How well are we mentoring
those around us so that when they face the dark night of the soul, they emerge on the other side stronger and more committed to Jesus Christ?
Give thanks today for those pillars of faith which mentored you. And commit to living up to the example they provided by being a guiding force, a reliable mentor to someone else.
Grace & Peace,
October 30, 2016
Good Sabbath! It’s Sunday morning, the time of Sabbath rest for Christian disciples. In Genesis 2, the Bible reads, “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” In Exodus, the notion of God observing a time of rest moves from being a divine practice of God’s to a divine commandment for us. “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work…” (Exodus 20: 8-10)
For no other reason, we should observe the Sabbath because we’re commanded to. But God isn’t one to throw out instructions to His children without a beneficial reason behind it. And that’s the case with the command to observe Sabbath. God desires our attention for the purpose of refreshing our lives with creativity and peace.
Today and next week I’m preaching a sermon series about observing Sabbath, both individual and community observances. Today the emphasis is on the importance of individual Sabbath time that it scheduled on a regular basis and set aside specifically for giving one’s attention to God.
Whether we’re busy with work, caring for others, juggling responsibilities or simply living in a state of anxiety or worry, it’s important to learn how to set those distractions aside and focus attention on God. Preparation is necessary in the process toward observation of Sabbath. Worship is one part of Sabbath observation. When we enter the Sabbath worship space, it’s important that we do so as friends of God and friends of one another. Our busy-ness, responsibilities, worries, and differences need to be set aside so that we can focus on the gifts God has given and desires to give to us. It’s impossible to fully attend to God when we’re distracted by other things.
One of the activities of Sabbath is to recount our blessings since the last Sabbath observance.
What a wonderful way to begin worship! Take a few moments before you arrive at church or during the Prelude to jot down the gifts with which God has blessed you since last Sunday. How has God blessed you personally? Your family? Your community? The world? Have you experienced growth in an important relationship? Have you been blessed by tithing or through service to the church? Have you been mentored or had the opportunity to mentor? What do you have to be thankful for that you’ve perhaps taken for granted? Write your answers and say a prayer of thanksgiving for each one.
Good Sabbath, Friends!
Grace & Peace,
October 23, 2016
Dear Friends, The author of Earn. Save. Give., James Harnish, writes, “We don’t need more
money; we need wisdom.” Of course he’s referring to God’s wisdom, which is ours for the asking. And as we’re asking for God’s wisdom we may as well also ask for healthy doses of courage, commitment and determination. With those competences, the gift of God’s wisdom helps us, over time, to become good and faithful stewards of the financial resources God has given to us. Christian stewardship doesn’t come easily, nor does it happen overnight for most people.
If you grew up in a home that practiced giving to the church before all else, like I did, it helps. The last thing my parents did before leaving for church on Sunday mornings was write our offering check. They never made a big deal of it and I don’t even remember either of them telling me specifically what they were doing but I knew. And it made a lasting impression on me. Unfortunately it wasn’t a habit I formed for my own life. As a member of my home church in San Antonio, I sat through many stewardship sermons, campaigns and commitment Sundays. I occasionally even filled out a pledge card. But for me it was an emotional response to the invitation to tithe and once my initial enthusiasm for making the pledge waned, so did my consistency in giving.
It took me a very long time to trust the process of re-ordering my personal finances around my commitment to Christ but about 12 years ago I finally took the plunge. One year instead of spending a salary increase I set the difference between one annual salary and the new annual salary and committed it to the church. I did that every year until I met my goal of committing 10% of my gross income to the church. There have been seasons in my life when I have not fulfilled my tithe for various reasons but I’ve always tried to catch up in the next season.
Ordering our financial lives around the 10-10-80 practice of giving God the first 10% of our income, our best and first, putting 10% aside for the future, and living on the rest, 80%, can make the difference between living from “paycheck to paycheck,” just getting by, and living into the full joy of generosity.
I invite you today, Commitment Sunday, to pray about your 2017 financial and service commitment to the church. When you pray, ask for God’s wisdom. And a healthy dose of courage, commitment and determination to fulfill your pledge. May God bless your decisions today and take you one step further in your Christian discipleship through the practice of stewardship.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
October 9, 2016 The True Wealth
13 Happy are those who find wisdom, and those who get understanding, 14 for her income is better than silver, and her revenue better than gold. 15 She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. 16 Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. 17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. 18 She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called happy.
Proverbs 3: 13-18
Have you asked God to bless you with the gift of wisdom? Knowledge is wonderful, information is powerful, our time spent learning is time spent well. But wisdom is another thing altogether. Wisdom is not something that is acquired or earned or inherited. Wisdom is a gift from God and we have to ask for it in order to receive it. The good news is that James 1:5 promises that if anyone asks for it, God will give it generously and ungrudgingly.
Last week the word from the Lord was this: We don’t need more money, we need God’s wisdom in using our money. Wisdom gives us the difference between producing finite results and making an impact that reaches far and wide. We are right to pay our bills responsibly and take care of our financial obligations. But with God’s wisdom, we learn to so order our financial resources to meet not only our own needs but the needs of others. God’s wisdom gives us the attribute of generosity.
Today’s message from God is again about wisdom but this time we’re learning how wisdom in earning money with integrity and ethics. There is nothing wrong with earning money. Wealth and money are not inherently evil. The root of evil is the love of money and wealth. When we are more concerned with accumulating money and wealth than using it as a tool to bring the Good News to the world, that’s when we’re in trouble. When we are reluctant to part with money and wealth for fear of scarcity or stinginess or greed, then we are called to turn back to Godly stewardship.
Grace & Peace,
October 2, 2016
It’s World Communion Sunday and I thought it might help to offer
some information about it from Ministry Matters, a United Methodist online worship resource. Today, congregations around the globe will celebrate World Communion Sunday. Most of us have heard about World Communion Sunday but may not know much about where the celebration originated. According to the website of the National Council of Churches, World Communion Sunday began in 1936 in the Presbyterian Church and was adopted by the Federal Council of Churches (predecessor of the NCC) in 1940. Since then, the
celebration has grown into an international ecumenical celebration of Christian unity. The key word for World Communion Sunday is communion, or unity. It is a day when we mark the almost universal Christian practice of breaking bread with one another and remembering both the night of Jesus’ betrayal—when Jesus instituted what we now call the Lord’s Supper as a lasting remembrance—and of Jesus’ sacrifice. So accounts of the last supper feature prominently, by virtue of World Communion Sunday being a celebration
of the Eucharist. But there is a flavor of the Christian celebration of Pentecost as well, when people from around the Mediterranean world came together in mutual understanding and inspiration, by the power of the Holy Spirit. World Communion Sunday is a time for remembering that around the globe—in
different languages, with different traditions and customs, and in various forms of liturgy— the Lord’s Supper is celebrated throughout Christendom. At its best, therefore, World Communion Sunday serves two purposes: it is both a joyous and meaningful partaking in
Jesus’ sacred meal with his friends and a mind-opening exposure to different Christian traditions from around the world.
World Communion Sunday is on the Christian calendar for a reason: it can and should be a time of profound Christian unity, marked by our shared celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Jesus instituted the first such meal, and World Communion Sunday is a helpful way in which Christ calls us back together to celebrate the liturgy “in remembrance of me.”
At a time when there seems to be more divisiveness than unity, more criticism than common ground, more skepticism than trust, it is a good time for us to gather as the Body of Christ. It is a good time to remember that the very diversity of the Body of Christ is what
causes it to function properly and effectively. At the root of it all is Jesus Christ, the head of the Body and the head of the Church. Thanks be to God!
Grace & Peace,
September 25, 2016
We’ve been reading out of Jeremiah’s book to the people of Israel, God’s chosen nation. The prophetic message from Jeremiah to the people spans a rocky history, complete with political, societal, religious, and financial turmoil. The kingdoms of Israel and Judah have been war-torn, people displaced and exiled from their homes. The words from the prophet to those whose lives have been turned upside down and who live under the rule of a foreign king and government, are these: “It said: 4 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Jeremiah 29: 4-7
Did you catch it? Even in chaos and exile, the people are told to carry on with their lives. Build homes to live in – for evidently there won’t be a rapid end to the exile. Plant gardens and eat what they produce – because they would be around where they are for more than a season. Take wives and have sons and daughters, etc. – because the people of God must continue to thrive and grow. And seek the welfare of the city … for in its welfare you will find your welfare – they were to seek the welfare even of those whom held them captive. Echoing from those words I hear Jesus saying, “Love your enemy.”
The prophet goes on to explain why God is instructing all these difficult responsibilities. In these verses the message from God continues: 10 For thus says the Lord: Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14 I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. Jeremiah 29: 10 – 14. I hear a promise in those verses. I hear a promise that there will be an end to seasons of trouble. In fact, what I believe Jeremiah is explaining to the people in exile is that even in those seasons of trouble there is joy, love doesn’t end, life is still good, and there is much to be gained for wisdom and knowledge. God’s plans are not for harm but for our welfare.
Even as you may look at our society and wonder what it’s all coming to, don’t miss the good stuff that God is bringing about. Take strength in the promise that God once gave to the nation of Israel, that all is not lost and continue to be faithful no matter what.
Grace & Peace,
September 18, 2016
Greetings Friends, At the risk of getting on your bad side, the sermon series in October is about stewardship. Don’t turn away! Keep reading, please. I don’t know anyone, except perhaps Jesus, who likes to talk about money. Guess what? Most pastors don’t like to preach about it either. I’m not one of them. I actually like preaching about money because money is a tool that Christians often overlook in their toolbox of spiritual disciplines. I like preaching and teaching about money because when people, as I did some years ago, started looking at money as a pathway to joy, it changes their entire outlook on stewardship campaigns. What I’m not going to do is tell you how to spend your money. What I will be telling you in several different ways is how to take authority over your money so that it doesn’t become a source of guilt, entrapment, fear or dread. I know what it’s like to have rotating credit cards and bills that get paid at the very last minute and living paycheck to paycheck. Frankly, when my personal finances were like that, I figured every church stewardship campaign was for everyone else but certainly not me. Here’s my witness: I wish I had listened to the principles of Christian stewardship much earlier in life. You’re probably used to hearing people in church talk about giving. But when was the last time in church that you talked about earning or saving? Is it unchristian to earn money? Is it wrong to save for ourselves and our families? John Wesley didn’t think so. Wesley, the Christian evangelist and founder of the Methodist movement, gave a remarkable sermon called “The Use of Money.” In it, he said that the important thing isn’t money itself but how we use it. Wesley’s surprising advice still rings true today: earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can. During the month of October, our church will experience an exciting new stewardship program, Earn. Save. Give.: Wesley’s Simple Rules for Money, developed by popular author and pastor James A. Harnish. Through Sunday school curriculum and messages in worship, we’re going to learn together about Wesley’s surprising advice. In fact, each week we’ll be introduced to faithful Christians who, like all of us in one way or another, struggle with money. If you want to look ahead, here are the scripture texts I’ll be using in worship: Week 1. If You Could Ask for Anything (1 Kings 3:1-13) Week 2. Money—The Excellent Gift (Luke 12:42-48) Week 3. You Can’t Take It With You (Proverbs 13:11) Week 4. How Far Will You Go? (Proverbs 11:25)
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
September 11, 2016
In 1 Thessalonians, the author writes in chapter 17 these words: 15 See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” These are the wonderful words of life that we sing about, the words we declare in our praise song, “…the air I breathe…” I don’t know about you, but these wonderful, life-sustaining words are pretty tough to live in daily life.
Rejoicing always infers that we are to rejoice regardless of the circumstances, including those circumstances in which the future is unknown, even frightening. To rejoice always is a way of saying, “I claim this blessing!” What are we claiming? We’re claiming that no matter the current or future circumstances, we believe God will bring something good out of a given circumstance. Will we see the good immediately? Or in our lifetime? Perhaps not. Will it be the good we prayed for, expected or thought best? Perhaps not. Nevertheless, we are to rejoice always, believing God will bring good.
Praying without ceasing is humanly impossible, if taken literally. A person has to sleep, right? What this instruction means is to be in a mindset for attention to God. Being aware of God’s grace and will in situations, making choices that honor God, treating others as Christ would treat them. These are all examples of how to pray unceasingly. It simply means to walk closely to God and pay attention.
To give thanks in all circumstances is to admit that even whether things go our way or not, we must recognize that we’re blessed. Certain circumstances don’t feel like blessings – the health report isn’t good, someone we love is in danger, the promotion goes to someone else, the retirement fund has to be used for something other than planned spending – and when the tough stuff of life happens, it certainly doesn’t feel like the right time to be thankful. Those are times to gripe and weep and complain and ask, “why?” When faced with challenges and uncertainty, Christian disciples remember the promises of God and give thanks.
Wonderful words, beautiful words. The source of life. These are the words of God and I hope they’re an inspiration to you today.
Grace & Peace,
September 4, 2016
Dear Friends, The Gospel of Matthew , chapter 6 reads like this, “19 ‘Do not store up for yourselves
treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’” Jesus is speaking in this text and instructing his audience then and us today to invest in things that have eternal value. Jesus repeatedly teaches us that to love God and our neighbors as ourselves is at the very core of Christian discipleship. And this text from Matthew is the, “How it’s accomplished...” section of the lesson. By investing in eternal things, we practice love of God and neighbor.
If we unpack it just a bit, we might have to challenge our concept of what our treasures are. Usually we think of treasures as the stuff that keeps us happy, comfortable and content.—cars, hobbies, food, financial abundance, clout in the community or workplace, nice houses, etc. While those things keep us happy, comfortable and content, they don’t last forever. Like the saying goes, “Nobody gets to go off to heaven with a U-Haul.” We can’t take stuff, even our reputations or clout, with us. Jesus urges us to invest in things that last eternally. Only two things are eternal: God and people. So how do we invest in God and people? By using our resources wisely. In the Christian faith we call it, “Stewardship.”
Typically we think of stewardship as the managing of money. Earning, saving, spending, investing, giving, and losing money are all methods of being financial stewards. But there is an expanded definition of stewardship which includes other resources such as time, attention, spiritual gifts, contacts, abilities, and material possessions. All of these things, and probably more than I can’t think of, can be used to build the kingdom of God, make disciples for Jesus Christ, and deepen our own commitment to Jesus Christ as well.
In October we’ll engage in our annual stewardship emphasis month. We’ll be learning through Sunday school classes and in worship about how to be Godly stewards of our money. I challenge you to expand your commitment to stewardship and include other ways you might be able to strengthen the ministries of the church by committing time, talent, spiritual gifts, abilities, etc. Express your love of God with your whole heart, whole mind, and everything that you are and possess. Let’s build something together that will last an eternity because it touched God’s heart and the hearts of people.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Bobbie
August 28, 2016
There are hidden blessings we’re experiencing in our church, blessings you wouldn’t know about unless you’re at the office every day. They are what I call “the God factor.” For example, our church reserves $10,000 that will carry us through for about two weeks if we find ourselves in a bind. Mind you, we wouldn’t be carried very high, if you get my point, but we’d make it until things get better. A few weeks ago we got within a few hundred dollars of our reserve and I’m not going to lie, I was nervous. But then the “God factor” kicked in and someone’s pledge check arrived in the mail and we had a pretty good Sunday offering the next week.
Here’s another example. We received a call that a woman and her child were stranded about 10 miles from their home. They needed a ride and a car seat. Initially, our response was, “Sorry but we can’t help.” Then a car seat was located and a Good Samaritan volunteered to drive and the mom and child were safely delivered home. The God Factor.
God works through us in small and large ways. Sometimes it’s to help someone who’s stranded and sometimes it’s to pull the church through a financial rough spot, it depends on what needs to happen. I strongly believe in the God Factor because I’ve seen it over and over again. The people of God step into action and make ministry happen because they love God and they love God’s people.
I’m praying for the God Factor to infuse this year’s stewardship campaign, Earn. Save. Give., as well as our leadership nomination process. There are ministry expansions that must happen if we are to grow numerically and spiritually as a congregation. In order to be faithful as God calls us into the future of effective and fruitful ministry, we need financial and time commitments. And it’s going to take all of us.
Our congregational leadership has done an outstanding job this year. They have led faithfully and courageously. It has been a year of learning how to lead and how to work together as a team. Some of our leaders are in a 2- or 3-year commitment of service; others will complete their term of service. Now is the time to begin thinking and praying about where you will serve your church.
Our new Gift-Based Service Guide is a guide that will help you identify where you can most effectively serve Christ through the church. The broad categories include:
Administrative Support Finance – Offering Counter/Mailings
Adult Small Group Leader Missions & Outreach
Children or Youth Dramatic Arts
Music – Traditional Music- Contemporary
Worship (Tech/Planning/Altar Guild) Hosting for Small Groups
Care (Visits/Meals/Prayer/Support Group) Hospitality and Inviting
Connecting (New Member Shepherd, Discipleship)
In each of those areas the guide will provide information