Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The first to help you up

"The first to help you up are the ones who know how it feels to fall down." - Anonymous

Sometimes I wonder about the Father character in the story of the Prodigal Son.

He responds to his angry, judgmental older son with patience, grace and dignity.

He welcomes his wayward younger son home with tremendous hospitality, forgiveness and love.

I wonder what sort of hard times he himself might have gone through to make him such a kind and grace-filled person.

Have your hard times made you kinder, sweeter, empathetic, and gracious?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Did you ever hear a sermon

In his terrific book Have a Little Faith, Mitch Albom writes, "Did you ever hear a sermon  that felt as if it were being screamed into your ear alone?"

I think we've all had that experience a time or two.

His next statement is equally fantastic: "When that happens, it usually has more to do with you than the preacher."

Sometimes the Spirit moves in funny ways.  I never know if a sermon I'm preaching is going to hit home with any particular person.  But when it does, it's a powerful thing!

When's the last time a sermon felt like it was written and preached just for you?

Friday, March 1, 2013

Phil Isn't Good Enough (and neither are you!)

During our Wednesday morning Bible study, Phil Devore shared a wonderful insight. 
He said, "It took me a while to figure out that I didn't have to be good enough for salvation.  I don't have to be good enough because HE is."
That's how this grace thing works.   

You don't have to be good enough.  God is good enough. 
You can't be good enough.  God is good enough. 

In 2 Corinthians 12:9, the Apostle Paul says that the Lord told him, "My grace is sufficient for you."

Phil isn't good enough.  Paul wasn't good enough.  You aren't good enough, and neither am I.

But God's grace is.

And that's enough.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Keeping a Holy Lent: Closing Thoughts

I hope this series has given you food for thought.  These are all things you can do to help make your Lent more holy, and your church membership more meaningful.  Whatever you’ve given up for Lent (chocolate, computer time, TV time, dessert, etc.) I hope you also take on some discipline like additional prayer, being more present, giving more freely of your gifts, engaging in service, and strengthening your witness.

But I would be remiss if I skipped the most important message of all.  Remember, all of these things are possible because Jesus Christ loved you first! In other words, your vows to the church should ideally be acts of gratitude for God’s love and grace in your life.  The Christian life is really a cycle of grace and gratitude.  God’s love enables and empowers us to serve, and we serve out of gratitude for God’s love, which in turn empowers and enables us further.

May your Lent be blessed.  May your discipline be infused with love.  May your lives shine brightly and bear witness to the goodness of God.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Keeping a Holy Lent Part 5: Witness

Your Christian witness is a testimony to the church’s role in your life.  How we represent (or re-present) the Grace of God, the love of Jesus Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the fellowship of the Church is important.  How do we bear witness to the church and its role in our lives “out there” in the community?

  • Wear a T-Shirt or Polo from Altamont First UMC. 
  • Hang a photo of our church in your home or office. 
  • Discuss this week’s sermon with your coworkers and friends. 
  • Keep up with the church’s Facebook page.  Hit “like” and respond to posts! 
  • Say good things about your church in the community. 
  • Say good things about your pastor in the community. 
  • Discourage others from saying negative things about your church & pastor in the community.  (As a wise pastor once said, “you can’t run your church or your pastor down and then wonder why nobody new ever comes.”)
  • Invite a friend to come to church with you.  
  • Consider giving a faith-sharing testimony during worship sometime.  Talk to your pastor about it. 
  • Be seen reading books by well-known Christian authors (Philip Yancey, Max Lucado, Rob Bell, Francis Chan, Brennan Manning, Donald Miller, Brian McLaren, Beth Moore, etc.)
  • Email photos of church events to Pastor Willie so he can share them on the church’s Facebook wall. 
  • Be a good example!  Don’t get caught up in negativity in the community.  Heated political arguments, yelling at referees and umpires at sporting events, even being impatient with your kids & grandkids can harm your witness in the community.  Be levelheaded, gracious and kind.  
  • Do you believe good things are happening in our church?  Tell your friends about it! 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Keeping a Holy Lent Part 4: Service

Our church has lots of opportunities for service!  You can....

  • Volunteer to give a Children’s Sermon or lead a Children’s Church during worship.  
  • Sing a special during worship.  Or read a poem or a passage from a book.  
  • Volunteer to read scripture or be a liturgist. 
  • “Adopt” a Sunday School room downstairs and help keep it clean, maintained, decorated and organized. 
  • Help with landscaping in the prayer garden, around the church, or even come water the indoor plants. 
  • Volunteer in the food pantry. 
  • Organize an effort to fill flood buckets or school kits for the Midwest Mission Distribution Center.  You can find out what they need by visiting their website
  • Sign up for a lay-speaking class and become a certified lay speaker.
  • Volunteer to help us fold bulletins and inserts. 
  • Ask to be an usher.
  • Ask to be an acolyte. 
  • Volunteer to assist with Kingdom Kids, Youth Group, or help cook for Lion’s Club. Even if it’s only once! 
  • Assist Willie in serving Communion on a first Sunday of the month.  
  • Come to a Communion Service at Lutheran Care Center on the second Wednesday of each month.  Even once! 
  • Volunteer to teach or help in a rotation with Sunday School. 
  • Volunteer to lead or attend a book study/bible study/prayer meeting during the week.  
  • Join Knitting with Love, Tea & Thee, UMW, UMM, UMYF, Kingdom Kids or a Sunday School class. 
  • Volunteer to join Willie with visitation ministries.  

Monday, February 25, 2013

Keeping a Holy Lent Part 3: Gifts

There are many ways to support the church with your gifts.  Of course, your financial gifts are essential to maintaining the church and its ministries, and there are many ways to enhance your giving.  Here are a few things you can consider.

  • Make a personal pledge to give to the church even on Sundays you are not here.  
  • Use your bank’s online BillPay to set up automatic payments to the church every week or month.  This can greatly simplify your giving. 
  • Remember the church in your will.  You can leave a share of your estate to the church.
  • Analyze your own giving habits and ask yourself if you can afford to take a step forward toward tithing (giving 10% of your income to the church).  Even if you take a tiny step up, you can feel good about moving forward. 

There are also spiritual gifts we all possess in one degree or another, and these are essential to the church as well.