February 26, 2017
Today is Transfiguration Sunday, the day we celebrate Jesus’ being transfigured on the mountain. Jesus only took three of his disciples with him to witness the event, Peter, James and John. While on the mountain, Jesus’ face shone like the sun and from within the cloud a voice claimed Jesus Christ as “Beloved.”
In the Old Testament reading, Moses also goes up on a mountain. He took his assistant, Joshua and the elders were invited to go part of the way to the top. During the 40 days and nights Moses spent with God on the mountain, he was given the law and commandments written on stone. We can only imagine that Moses was changed during that time with God.
Today in worship as we celebrate Jesus’ transfiguration 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. This year, I invite you to spend 40 days in the presence of God with intentionality and discipline.
Take these steps beginning today:
~Pray for God to change your heart in a way that allows you to love God more passionately.
~Pray for a transformational 40-day Lent and open your mind to what God can accomplish.
~Observe a Lenten fast. You might choose to fast for one meal each day or one day each week. Fast from a particular food that you eat on a regular basis, such as white flour or processed sugar. Observe a fast from negative language/attitudes. The point of fasting is to remove a distraction or to cause noticeable loss of something.
~Attend Ash Wednesday Service on Wednesday, March 1, at 6:30 p.m. in the Sanctuary.
~Commit to attending worship every Sunday between March 6 and Easter Sunday, April 16.
~Participate in the online Lent Bible study, Worship in Light of the Cross.
~Participate in a Sunday school class every Sunday between March 6 and Easter Sunday, April 16.
~Increase your offering or tithe during the month of Lent.
~Devote five hours of your time doing volunteer work through the church, Kindness Kottage, Bread of Life Ministries, the school district or an agency of your own choosing.
In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 14, verse 27, Jesus says, “ Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” The cost of discipleship is high. It requires sacrifice and commitment but it transforms each of us into a new creation. The Apostle Paul wrote in II Corinthians, chapter 5, verse 17, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” When we draw close to God and allow God to transform us through repentance, discipline, commitment, and faithfulness, the rewards are very much worth the cost.
May your Lent be holy.
Feb 19, 2017
At a recent meeting of our district’s clergy, the devotion was based on Proverbs 3: 5-6, which reads, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” The words didn’t punch me with their full impact until several days later, after taking time to mull them over in my mind and heart. You see, during the reflecting on those words I began to realize how many times each day and in how many activities I rely on my own insight! In conversations when I began, as I think all of us do, to fashion my response before the other person was finished speaking, the words caused me to stop my anticipation to speak and really listen to the other person. For me it was very difficult.
The words invaded my day-to-day activities as well. For example, when Charlie and I take communion to the homebound and assisted living or nursing home residents, we always close our time with individuals by praying with and for them in their unique circumstances. On our last occasion it felt different because of the words in Proverbs. Rather than closing my eyes during our prayer I found myself looking around and taking in all the details. I saw photographs of weddings and children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. I noticed well-loved Bibles and thought in my mind, “That Bible is loved like the Velveteen Rabbit was loved with worn pages and torn covers.” I noticed the medications and greeting cards, nick-nacks from previous homes, and quilts or bed covers. The words, “lean not on your own insights…” influenced my prayers because I suddenly realized I was holding hands with this precious man or woman whose home was full of memories and love and strength.
This past weekend it was with a very heavy heart that I traveled to San Antonio. The woman I refer to as a sister, the person who I attribute to bringing me back to faith and specifically to the United Methodist Church, my mentor and confidante, was in an intensive care unit and unresponsive. Jean had been in the hospital for three days before I decided to go be by her side and, honestly, I had told myself I wouldn’t go until Sunday afternoon…after worship, thinking that I shouldn’t be absent on a Sunday morning. But that was based on my understanding. Others in the congregation gave me different advice: “If you don’t go, you may regret it.” “You need to be with your family.” “Being with Jean is more important right now.” And so I did not lean on my own insight, but rather on God’s as it was told to me by others. I’m so grateful that I went, I prayed with and for her and my family, I took care of household things so that others could take care of Jean. And I’m thankful to God that she is well on her way to full recovery from Spinal Meningitis.
Sometimes we can’t see the full picture because we’re relying on our own insight or, from another version of the Bible, our own understanding. This week I invite you to take this Proverbs passage or another of your own choosing and allow the Holy Spirit to influence your daily life.
Grace & Peace,
Feb 12, 2017
The United Methodist bishops of Texas have issued the following letter to all of us.
An Open Letter to United Methodists in Texas and All People of Good Will
Date Posted: 2/3/2017
We, the United Methodist Bishops of the State of Texas, greet you in the love of Christ. We call upon those who claim the title “Christian” to remember that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, began his life as a homeless refugee, fleeing with his family to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15). Just as the Holy Family was forced to flee their homeland and seek safety, too many flee for their lives in our violent, terror-plagued world. In the face of such human tragedy in our world today, we, the bishops of The United Methodist Church in Texas, call upon all United Methodists to see Christ in the refugees of today, regardless of their nationality and/or social, religious, economic, or political background. We share with others a common sense of frustration, hopelessness, and confusion as we view the unfolding images of today’s refugees in the news. We desire to welcome the sojourner, love our neighbor, and stand with the most vulnerable among us, while also being concerned for the security and well-being of our communities, state, and nation. It is legitimate and proper to be concerned about the safety of our neighborhoods and our country. It is also proper and right that we reflect Christian compassion and values in our response. Jesus was explicit in his teachings when he said, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” (Matthew 10:40). We cannot let fear rule the day; we must let love champion our actions. We are a nation founded on immigration and forged by the courage of shared values to be a “light on the hill” and a beacon of hope in a broken world. As Christians and as Texans, our values are grounded in respect and hospitality toward strangers. We recognize that these are difficult and complex times that call for the best of America’s values and our highest witness as followers of Jesus Christ. Accordingly, we call upon President Trump, Governor Abbott, and the leaders of our nation and state to seek a more compassionate response to immigrants and refugees. Joining with those who desire a safer America, we pray for a just and caring response to those most in need of our help and love. Yours in Christ, The United Methodist Bishops of the State of Texas Bishop Earl Bledsoe, The Northwest Texas Conference (Northwest Texas-New Mexico Area) Bishop Scott Jones, The Texas Conference (Houston Area) Bishop Mike Lowry, The Central Texas Conference (Fort Worth Area) Bishop Mike McKee, The North Texas Conference (Dallas Area) Bishop Robert Schnase, The Rio Texas Conference (San Antonio Area)
Grace and Peace,
Feb 5, 2017
Most Christians believe we are to help the poor but how are we to make good judgments on who to help and who not to help? Are there Bible Scriptures that tell us just how we can help the poor and what we can do to help them?
The Poor in Spirit
Jesus spoke about the “poor in spirit” and pronounced a blessing on them. Is Jesus talking about the financially poor? In Matthew 5:3 He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The poor in spirit may be those who are despised in this world, they are looked down on by many; they are humble, contrite people. The poor in spirit are blessed because they are small in their own eyes. Since God resists the proud, He gives grace only to the humble (James 4:6). The poor in spirit are not those who are not prosperous necessarily, but those who consider others better than themselves. They are broken over their sinfulness. Christians need to love one another and we should help those who are in poor spirits too but to be poor in spirit is not to be poor financially, although that could be part of it, but it is to be meek and humble.
Jesus Warns of Those Who Ignore the Poor
Jesus gave a startling wake up call to all who would profess their belief in Him. When Jesus comes to the earth and judges between the sheep and the goats, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least among you, you did not do for me‘“ (Matthew 25:41-45).
Let’s remember Kindness Cottage, Grace Community Health Care, Bread of Life Food Pantry—all of which could use donations and volunteer assistance. Let’s pray for those we know who are desperately in need in our community, some without enough food, some who cannot pay their rent, utilities or perhaps prescriptions. We could even pray for someone who crosses our path whom we see is down and out.
“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” Maya Angelou
Let’s begin now to focus on ways in which each of us can help the poor in our community.
Grace and Peace.
Jan 29, 2017
Our church leadership participated in a leadership kick-off on the first Saturday of January. Our guest speaker was Rev. Alan Van Hooser, pastor at Cheatham Memorial UMC in Edgewood, TX. In his address he taught us the difference between technical change and adaptive change. Technical change is what we’re used to. Technical change is easier to initiate that adaptive change because it entails simply moving things around or switching components, one for another. For example, in the church we make technical changes when we install new leaders. If we’re not having good attendance at a church event, our inclination is typically to change the date or the time. And technical changes are necessary and can often solve the problem. However, if an event is ill-attended because it lacks relevance to the target audience, it doesn’t matter when or at what time its scheduled people still aren’t going to attend. Imagine offering an instructional class on the use of mimeograph machines. Not many will show up, regardless of when we offer it. Rather than a class about mimeograph machines, perhaps a class about the many uses of the office copier would be more relevant to people who need copies of documents. That would be an adaptive change.
Technical change can be calculated by experts but adaptive change requires learning. The example I gave above is a very simple one. Adaptive change challenges us to re-think complex issues and make courageous new decisions for the purpose of growth in an organization. We used to believe the purpose of evangelism was to add members to our church rolls. What we have learned is that a church roll book can be in the thousands but if it is an inactive or dying church, the numbers are no longer important. The adaptive change we’ve made in the church is that the purpose of evangelism is to introduce people to Jesus Christ. Therefore, to measure the effectiveness of the church’s evangelism (which is, by the way, every person’s responsibility) by the number of conversions and recommitments to the faith – baptisms and confirmations of faith – that occur.
In the United Methodist Church we believe in prevenient grace, that is the grace that is active in every single person’s life, whether they know it or not. God plants the seeds of prevenient grace in the hearts of the unbeliever, the doubtful believer, the used-to-believer, the faithful believer in Jesus Christ. Prevenient grace is that tug from God that pulls us in God’s direction even without our acknowledgement. So if the seeds of God’s prevenient grace are already in the hearts of the people in our families, neighborhoods, communities, etc., then our responsibility is to help people recognize and accept that grace. Our ability to make adaptive changes in the way we make disciples for Jesus Christ is key in this scenario. We need to re-educate and re-think the ways we engage with our community. We must keep reminding ourselves that our goal is not to make more United Methodist members for the sake of growing our roll book but our goal is to introduce people to a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Grace & Peace,
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 inst