Faith Journey

Wash and Be Clean

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This week during worship we will be taking a look at Naaman and his meeting with Elisha.  Naaman was a great military commander and was very well-respected.  He had one strike against him though…he had leprosy.  One of his slave servants told his wife about the prophet Elisha and how if there was any one who could heal Naaman, it would be Elisha.  So, Naaman set out in search of Elisha but he made four mistakes along the way and these mistakes will be the focus of our time together on Sunday.

In the end, Naaman was washed clean of his disease by the power of God.  It always amazes me how God is completely contradictory to the world we live in.  Naaman almost missed out on his opportunity to be cleansed because of his pride and perhaps because he expected a different solution to his situation.  Don’t we often do that?  Have you ever asked God for something and even suggested how He should answer your prayer only to have God answer it in a completely different way?  I know I have.  But what I have found is that God’s answer always is better than the one I suggested.

Sunday is going to be a special service with some awesome features.  I hope you will make plans to join us at 10:45 at Flint Hill.

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VBS a HUGE Success at Flint Hill

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What a great time was had by all those who attended VBS this year.  It was quite a production and like anything that is a huge success is was very much team oriented where everyone did their part and did it well.  I want to thank Cindi Blair along with all the volunteers who fed, dressed up, led a group, manned a booth in the market place, those who decorated, put up and tore down. I know from experience it takes a great many to put on an event such as this and all I can say is WOW and thank you!  Job well done and I truly believed these children took a step in their own discipleship and I know the adults did also.

YOU ROCK!!!!

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How to Pray Aloud Like a Man

Article by David Murrow:  He is the director of Church for Men, an organization that helps congregations reach more men and boys. In his day job, David works as a television producer and writer. He’s the author of three books. He lives in Alaska with his wife, three children, two grandchildren and a dachshund named Pepper.

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Have you ever noticed that Christians speak normally to one another, but when they speak to aloud to God they lapse into a strange language and tone? I call this “prayer-speak” and it’s epidemic in evangelical churches today.

Prayer-speak is especially prevalent among worship leaders.

Prayer speak silences men. Guys who might otherwise pray aloud are intimidated because they don’t know the “prayer code.” A guy might be tempted to open his mouth and say, “God, I got a problem.” But he keeps quiet because his oration doesn’t sound holy enough.

The other problem with prayer-speak is that it makes our prayers sound rather wimpy. Here is a prayer I heard recently from a musician as he closed his first set:

Dear God, we need you. God, we just need your love. God, we just need your presence.  Father be with us in this time of worship. Lord just send your spirit so that every heart is touched. Father, that no one would go home the same.

Lord, I just pray that we would run into your arms and seek safety there. Father nothing compares to your love for us.

Father God we just pray that we would honor you in all we do. Lord, give us boldness to proclaim your word to every nation. Father make us your witnesses unto the ends of the earth. We just pray that your Word would go out into the world and change lives.

Father we just ask all these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Does this sound familiar? You probably heard something like it last Sunday.

I don’t really have a problem with what the prayer said. It’s how it was said.

Notice the prayer invoked the name of God twelve times – at the beginning of each sentence. This is just odd. Did Jesus instruct us to repeat God’s name over and over when we pray? When we speak to a flesh-and-blood person do we say their name each time we open our mouths? “Jeremy, thanks for having lunch with me. Jeremy, what will you be ordering? I’m thinking about the tilapia, Jeremy. Jeremy, can you pass the salt?”

And what’s with the frequent use of the word just? Placing a just before a verb softens it. It gives our prayers the sound of a beggar. Would you just give me a crust of bread, God? Lord, I’m just a miserable sinner, just begging you for some little thing.

We are God’s sons, not his slaves. John Wesley said, “Storm the Throne of Grace and persevere therein, and mercy will come down.” We should enter his presence with appropriate confidence. The tone of our prayers should reflect our place as God’s beloved children. Jesus was bold and familiar with his Father; we should be too.

Let’s reimagine the prayer above:

Lord, in the next hour we’re going to set aside all our worries and burdens and ask you to take care of those. We want to focus on what’s really important, but we’re so easily distracted by things that don’t matter. Forgive us for that.

We’re a needy people. We are nothing without you and your Spirit. We get beat up by life all week long, and we need this time with you. Thanks for loving us.

And we know you have a mission for us. You called us to be your witnesses, but we’re scared. We shouldn’t be – but we are. Next time we have an opportunity to speak up for you, fill us with your power.

We really look forward to this time in your presence. Speak to us now. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Feel the difference between the two prayers? They say basically the same things, but the second prayer sounds confident. You feel it in you gut. It’s not repetitive, hesitant or sing-songy. It’s surprising in its candor. It’s not stuffed with the usual churchy phrases.

Guys, we need to start modeling boldness in prayer. The next time you have an opportunity to pray aloud in a group I challenge you to do three things:

  1. Invoke the name of God once, at the beginning.
  2. Don’t place the word “just” before the verbs.
  3. Speak to God as if he’s a real person. Make your prayer as conversational and “normal” as possible.

When our prayers sound like real conversation with a real God, more men will join in.

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When You Can’t Take Another Step

A friend of mine sent this out today and it was such an inspiration, I couldn’t help but to get her permission and share.  If you haven’t watched the video linked here, please take four minutes.  It may be the best 4 minutes of your day!!   Thanks Mo.

Last night, my cousin joined Jesus in heaven. It was tragic. It was unexpected. It was not what my family prayed for. And it hurt…so so much.
I’m am glad to have a Heavenly Father who can handle my anger, my hurt, my frustrations, my critiques. How dare He be so selfish as to snatch up this wonderful woman only 10 months after she married the love of her life…but then I return to the words I memorized so many years ago…

Isaiah 40: 27-31
“Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?
28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

So I will place my Hope in the knowledge that He is the strength that will get my family through this. I know many of y’all are heading into midterms. This verse has always been a comfort to me and that’s why it was high on the list for memory verses to pass on to you all.

These past few days have reminded me once again how quick our time here will be over. Know that I love you all. Greater still, know that I love Jesus like crazy backflip style: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LA_uwWPE6lQ

Love and hugs,
Mama Bear Mo

 

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Church Leaders

Last night our Bible study took a look at 1 Peter 5:1-4 and discovered some great leadership advice.  It’s important that leaders within the church are worthy of being followed.  Here’s what a leader is called to be according to Peter:

1.  A MINISTER:  They are to shepherd their flock.  This includes feeding, grooming, and protecting from things that would destroy them.

2.  A MENTOR:  Not lording over people but investing in the flock with your time, energy, skills.  One of our jobs as leader is to replace ourselves and by mentoring others, we are preparing them to be the future leaders.

3.  A MANAGER:  Having over site of those who have been entrusted to our care.

4.  A MODEL:  Be an example of someone who is growing in their faith.  Leaders are those who can demonstrate how to live.

We’ve all seen people in leadership positions who have failed at one or more of these and when that happens it can be catastrophic to the organization.  I’m not saying our leaders are perfect at these, but they must first recognize this is what a leader is and growing daily in these roles.

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Discipleship

I once had a chemistry professor (Dr. McKnight) at Hinds Community College who told all his classes upon their first meeting the following statement or something pretty close to it, “In chemistry, it is very easy to get bogged down, confused, overwhelmed and discouraged. When you feel yourself getting to this point, go back to the simplest most foundational point of chemistry. “Matter cannot be created nor destroyed.” All the rest of chemistry is based upon this principle.

As a pastor, it is really easy to get caught up in, bogged down, confused, overwhelmed and discouraged. There is always a meeting going on; someone is always unhappy with something that you said, did or didn’t do; someone who is sick; something that demands your time and always a sermon to prepare. As a member of a congregation, many of these same demands apply and certainly some additional ones.

I believe in these times, and in all times, it is important to remain focused on the foundation. Upon what Christ told us to do. I’ve read the Scriptures, been to seminary and cannot find it anywhere that Christ says we must attend all the committee meetings of the church. (Please don’t yell or throw stuff at me). However, I just can’t seem to find it. I can find in red words where Christ says, “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you.” The Great Commission.

So, if we are to break it down to the simplest terms, we are to make disciples! Have you ever asked yourself what a disciple looks like; what does one do; what makes up a disciple? These are important questions because if we cannot answer these questions, we don’t know if we are doing what we are commanded to do by Christ himself. And so, here are 4 qualities of someone who is a disciple:

1. A DISCIPLE IS ONE WHO IS COMMITTED TO FOLLOWING JESUS
- One who has made Jesus Lord of their life.
- One who has surrendered their life to Christ.
(Luke 9:23, John 8:31)

2. A DISCIPLE IS ON WHO IS BECOMING LIKE CHRIST IN ATTITUDE AND ACTION.
- One who is being made or remade into the image of Christ.
(John 13:35, 15:8; Romans 8:29; Galatians 5:22)

3. A DISCIPLE IS ONE WHO HAS COMMITTED THEIR LIFE TO THE MISSION OF CHRIST.
- Ambassadors of Christ
(John 15:8; Matthew 4:19, 2 Corinthians 5:19-20)

4. ONE WHO IS IN INTENTIONAL RELATIONAL ENVIRONMENTS WITH OTHER SPIRITUALLY MATURING BELIEVERS.
- Being in relationship with other believers
- Learning from other believers
- Supporting other believers/seekers
- Holding and being held accountable for spiritual growth.
(2 Timothy 2:2; Hebrews 3:12; Deuteronomy 6:4)

Being a disciple is much more than giving your one hour a week on Sunday morning, sitting on a hard pew, listening to a sermon. It’s a way of life that is lived 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. It’s hard! It’s time consuming! It takes you out of your comfort zone! It’s the only thing in life where you will find the JOY the Lord has for you. It’s worth it.

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Lady at Sheraton

In the entry dated May 8th, I related a new way that I had learned to journal and study the Bible. This past weekend, I went to Annual Conference. Jill had to leave on Friday afternoon in order to go to Mississippi for a family reunion and I went back to the hotel. I had not had the opportunity to do my daily Bible reading and journaling and so I began looking for my Bible. Guess what! I forgot to bring my Bible (a preacher without a Bible…there’s a sermon somewhere in that!) Praise the Lord for the Gideons. There was a Bible in my hotel room, however, it was KJV. I can’t stand reading the KJV.

I grabbed my computer and went downstairs in the atrium where they have wifi and clicked onto http://www.biblegateway.com and began looking up and reading the scripture for the day. One of the Scripture’s was Romans 13. I finished reading and was doing the journal part of my study and I noticed (out of the corner of my eye) a lady standing and looking around. I didn’t think much since it is quite common in this atrium for people to stand and look up and around. Then she began to approach me. I’m just typing away on my computer and she excuses herself. She says, “I know this is probably weird, but would you mind taking a look at a letter for me?” I’m sure she could tell by the weird look on my face that I was perplexed and she explained a little more. “I’m not sure if I’m reading it right.” So I took a look at it. It was an official letter and had several options on it which could be checked. The one which was checked is the one she was asking me to read and it said something like, “We have no reason nor evidence that the statements you have presented were presented in misleading or untruthful nature.”

I said, “I’m no lawyer, but it reads to me like whatever you told the person who sent you this is that they believe what you told them.” She responded by saying that was what she understood it to say. Then she asked, if you’re not a lawyer, what are you? I laughed at her boldness and said a preacher. I thought to myself (self, good opportunity to minister). I told her that I was here for a conference and had decided to do my Bible study down here since I had forgotten my Bible. “Isn’t that something, a preacher without a Bible.” She laughed. “But I came down here because I can look up scripture on the internet and I showed her biblegateway.com. The Romans 13 passage was still displayed and she began to read it. She read these words outloud, “1-3Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it’s God’s order. So live responsibly as a citizen. If you’re irresponsible to the state, then you’re irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible. Duly constituted authorities are only a threat if you’re trying to get by with something. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear.”

I looked at her and big tears were rolling down her face. She finished reading and said, “I lied.” “I lied and they think I told the truth and it’s eating me up inside.” She went on to explain that she receives some support from the government (about $55.00/week) and she told me she really doesn’t need it but enjoys it because they give it to her on a pre-paid Visa and she is able to go to the store and swipe. She went on to tell me that she had to meet certain qualifications to continue receiving the money and she no longer met those requirements. Thus she lied to keep the benefit.

All this time, I never said a word and she did all the talking. After a few minutes of her talking, she said, “I’m going Monday and telling my case worker that I no longer need this benefit and no longer qualify for it. Then she started thanking me and I told her that I really hadn’t done anything that it was really her and God. Then she said something that hit me like a ton of bricks. She said, “God used you to bring me that Scripture. That Scripture was not meant for you, but for me.”

Why do we need to study Scripture daily? Many reasons and most of them for our own spiritual growth. Yet, our God is so incredibly awesome, God can use our study to give someone else what they need. Since I have been so committed to daily Study and Journaling, I have been amazed at what God has revealed, opened up and done through it.

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Why Do We Do What We Do???

During my years as a pastor, I have noticed there are a great many programs that are not effective in making disciples.  There are church’s that have large budgets, multiple programs and have NO professions of faith or baptisms.  Why are we doing what we do in church if it’s not making disciples?  After all, that’s the only commission we have, “Go into the world and make disciples.”  Here are 4 reasons we do what we do even if it’s not making disciples:

1.  We’ve Always Done It This Way.  This is a widespread problem throughout the church.  We do it this way and we’re comfortable with it.  Most of the time, the program we’re talking about started out being effective but over the years, it’s become outdated.  However, there is a history of doing it.  It also takes little planning and little enthusiasm to crank it out.

2.  I’m In Charge.  This is not a reason that most people will come out and say but it is an underlying issue.  They see the program as being theirs and believe that if new pe0ple come, so will change.  Change in leadership, decision making and organization.

3.  We just like getting together.  There are so many groups within the church who have lost their focus in that we exist to make disciples and have found ourselves gathering to enjoy each other.  Don’t get me wrong, fellowship is vital in the life of a disciple.  However, so many groups are just getting together for the fun of it and not bringing up Jesus except for the blessing.  The church is not a social club, a sorority nor a country club.  It’s the Body of Christ and we have a mission.  To Make Disciples.

4.  Tradition.  Wow, this is a sticky word in the church.  It can be viewed as a “bad” word but it too is vital in Christianity.  Tradition links us to our past and to all the saints who have gone before.  What happens all too often is the tradition is not making disciples and has become a weight around the neck.

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“All In”

When we read a sermon title on “Stewardship”, we know we are going to hear about giving our money to the church.  The “money part” is often couched within the other aspects of living a life of faith.  As members in the United Methodist Church, we vow to be faithful with our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness.  A sermon on stewardship in the Methodist tradition correctly admonishes us to be good stewards in all of these ways.

Often we limit stewardship to the amount of money we give.  Traditionally and from Old Testament mandates, one tenth is the standard given for a tithe.  As New Testament Christians, we are under a new order, a new way of being faithful.  No longer is the Old Testament our only standard for living.  Now we live by the standards that Jesus Christ has set.

One example of Jesus teaching his disciples and us about giving is found in Mark 12: 38-44. He warned the disciples to “Watch out for the religion scholars.  They love to walk around in academic gowns, preening in the radiance of public flattery, basking in prominent positions, sitting at the head table at every church function.  And all the time they are exploiting the weak and helpless.  The longer their prayers, the worse they get.  But they’ll pay for it in the end.”  Sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection.  Many of the rich were making large contributions.  One poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together.  All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.”  The Message. Eugene H. Peterson

You will not find any standard percent of giving discussed by Jesus in the New Testament, rather he does talk a lot about how we give and why.  The story of the widow’s mite shows us two things:  how not to give as demonstrated by the religion scholars, and how to give as demonstrated by the widow.  No doubt the religion scholars gave their tenth and did it out of an arrogant, self-serving, hypocritical heart.  The widow, on the other hand, gave a measly two cents.  Jesus compares her giving to theirs and calls her giving extravagant, sacrificial, and all of what she had.  She gave 100%!!

The widow reflects another standard of giving that is at the core of our being as people of faith and that is the standard set by Jesus himself.  Jesus gave his all—100% even unto death.  He gave his life willingly, out of love, and of course he gave sacrificially.

Nowhere do I find in the New Testament that Jesus will be satisfied with a tenth of who we are or what we have.  He wants all of us—100%.  When we are really understanding stewardship as Jesus taught us, we are “all in”.

Our percentages of giving in dollars may vary, but our commitment to discipleship should not.  We are all uniquely gifted by God to serve and follow him.  In order to be good stewards of what we have been given, we must seek ways to be faithful in all aspects of living a life that produces fruit for the Kingdom.  We ask ourselves,  “Am I 100% committed to the “body of Christ” with my prayer life; my faithfulness in attending church; my gifts, both monetary and spiritual; my service and ministry to others; and, my witness, sharing with others what Christ has done for me”?

Chances are we will not be perfect in our 100% commitment, but we can certainly strive to live a life of faith dependent upon the Holy Spirit to guide and teach us.  Ask yourself, “Am I ‘all in’ “?

Rev. Nancy Cole is an ordained Elder serving in the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church as the Coordinator of Natural Church Development and Coordinator of Disaster Recovery.  Nancy entered seminary after a thirty-year career in education where she was a teacher for 18 years, and a psychometrist and guidance counselor for the last 12 years.  She is married to Steve Cole and has one daughter, Tammy,  two sons, Jason and Bo, ten grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.  Before being appointed to Connectional Ministries in the Conference, Nancy served churches in Harpersville, Mignon, Tuscaloosa, and Gordo. She and her husband, Steve, reside in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

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Growing Generosity by Julie Holly

We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him.” 1 John 3:16-19

When we are the recipient of generosity—when someone does something for us— we are more likely to be generous ourselves.  This is a fairly natural and expected response for most of us.  And this is something like what the author of 1 John is saying about how people are expected to act once they have received the gift of God’s love through Jesus

When I say it is expected, I don’t mean that it is expected as in, “I expect you to do this or else…” But expect as in anticipation.  It is more like when you add vinegar to baking soda and you expect it to bubble up.  The natural and expected response to being filled up with God’s love is that one will also flow out with the same.  When we have received love, we are expected to share it with others.

There is also an element of expectation, as in obligation, involved in this as well because in order to live as a person of God, we are expected and commanded to love God and neighbor (Matthew 22:37-39).  But because it is the gift of God’s grace that fills us with love and makes it possible for us to act out of love, then what God commands us, God also gives us the power to do.

One of my favorite quotes about giving is attributed to Amy Carmichael, who was a Christian missionary to India from the early 1900’s.  She left her family, friends, and life in Northern Ireland to serve the people of India for 55 years.  She said to have shared this message, “one can give without loving, but one cannot love without giving”.  That is pretty much what the Gospel of John is saying here: We cannot believe in Jesus without loving, and we cannot love without giving.

In order to grow toward self-sacrificing generosity that embodies the love of God, most of us won’t just jump right in head first.  We need some beginner steps, like…

  • reading what the Bible says about giving
  • praying and seeking God’s guidance
  • giving a little something to see what it is like
  • talking about it with each other—to see how others do it, to receive encouragement, and to be challenged to continue growing

And then finally, we will get to a place when we can live it.  We will not just say that we believe, we will also do what we believe.  Our actions and our lives as individuals and as a church will speak much louder than our words of faith.  We will become generous followers of Jesus.

Julie Holly is the Senior Pastor at Discovery United Methodist Church in Birmingham. You can follow her blog by clicking here! or with this address: http://pastorchickword.blogspot.com

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The Important Invitation

“Yours, O Lord, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.” -1 Chronicles 29:11 (NRSV Translation)

This verse is part of King David’s ongoing acknowledgement of God’s great works in the world. It is a beautiful passage of praise and thanksgiving that comes from David’s joy in laying the financial foundation that will be used by his son Solomon to build the Temple in Jerusalem. David lifts up this blessing to God, telling the almighty that “all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours.” We say that a lot, don’t we? We repeat that mantra, that all good things, all blessings, everything comes from God. In fact, I just said it a minute ago before the offertory. The question for us this morning is, do we believe that? Do we believe that everything we have, all our possessions, all our stuff, all our money, really belongs to God? And if you do indeed truly believe that, the next question is, does your life reflect that belief?


Whether you realize it or not, you probably DO believe that God can make a difference in your finances. I would argue that MOST people really do believe that God can affect that financial future, the problem is that most people don’t live into that belief until their finances are in shambles. It’s only when the bottom drops out and our finances are in ruins that we find out we really DO believe this. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard and experienced this prayer in my brief time as minister:
“Dear God, my house is in foreclosure, I’m filing for bankruptcy, I spent my 401K, I am in midst of the worst financial hardship I’ve ever experienced. God, I need your help. I want to give you my life, everything I have, my whole life.”


To which God responds, “But you don’t have ANYTHING. Where were you 6 months ago when you had something to give?”


God doesn’t really respond that way, thankfully. But the question becomes, if you believe that God can have a hand in your finances at rock bottom, wouldn’t it make sense to invite him into your finances now, when things are good (or okay, or at least not ridiculously, terrible)? What is the point of waiting? Because God doesn’t force his way into your bank account or your wallet. You can make sure that God is never involved in your financial future, but I will bet that at some point in time you’re going to ask him in. How about now?
God wants to be invited.


But there is a risk when we invite God into our finances. I use that word invitation with great purpose. When we acknowledge that all things come from God and ultimately belong to God, when we INVITE him into our finances, there is some change that is required. It’s like any other invitation. What do we do as a church when a guest comes in? We do our very best to make them feel comfortable and welcome. I like to think we put the guest before the member here at Morningstar. And I imagine the same is true at your house when you welcome a guest for dinner or stay with you. We re-orient the way that we think and we put the guest first.
In our house, I’ll straighten up before a guest arrives. Then Denise will come behind me and re-straighten all the stuff I thought I had straightened. We plan meals and buy better food than we normally eat. We ask if they need anything? Can I get you something to drink? Are you comfortable? And we’re trying to teach our daughter Maggie how to treat guests. She’s still learning. When someone comes over, they get to choose the game we play or the movie we watch. The guest gets to choose!


And it’s the same when we invite God into our financial lives. It’s God’s choice what we’re going to do first. And here is what God chooses. Turn in your Bibles to Matthew 6:31-33 (page 6 in the New Testament).
Jesus says, “Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” 32For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But strive first for the kingdom of God* and his* righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”


What is the first thing Christ tells us to do? STRIVE FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD. The Kingdom comes first. Be generous, help the poor, feed the hungry, take care of the widow, the orphan, the alien, care for the least of these, share the Good news. The whole shebang. That is what God wants when we invite him into our finances. And that might sound selfish, but Jesus adds this promise to the end: When you make the Kingdom of God your priority, He will take care of all your other needs. Clothing, food, drink . . .God will take care of those things. It’s a pretty amazing promise. Andy Stanley says it this way, “Here is God, the creator of the universe, who is willing to lower himself and enter into a symbiotic relationship with you and me. When we invest our lives bringing about the Kingdom of God, God promises to take a vested interest in our well-being.”
Now, here’s dangerous part of making this invitation. There is a reason why God has a vested interest in your well being and will continue to provide you with food, and water and a place to live, so long as the Kingdom is your first priority. When you invite God in, when you place your trust in Him and give generously, you are inviting repeat business. If a restaurant or a business gives good service, what do you do? You go back again and again. God remembers the loyal, the capable, and obedient. When you act out of a spirit of generosity, God will be back with another opportunity to give. But so long as you make the Kingdom your priority.
When you invite God into your finances, when you make His Kingdom your priority, more and more you will find that the obstacle of your fear is no obstacle at all. Because you have something you can trust in more than money, something stronger than your fear.

* Some parts of this devotional were greatly influenced by the preaching and books of Andy Stanley, so much so, that there may be some un-credited portions! Apologies to Pastor Stanley if I butchered or unintentionally took credit for any ideas that were his.

This article was written by Rev. John Mullaney.   John is the Morningstar United  Methodist Church’s pastor, and was appointed to the church in the summer of  2008. John’s passions include preaching, pastoral care, and  creating meaningful times of worship. John and his wife, Denise, who is also a United Methodist minister, have  two daughters, Maggie & Lucie. They live in Chelsea

Categories: Church, Church At Chelsea Park, Faith Journey, Leadership, Stewardship, Stewardship | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stewardship Article by Ron Schultz

The line was long as people moved toward the altar to leave an offering.
Some put in large , impressive amounts of money. One poor widow stepped forward and gave two small copper coins.  Jesus declared to His followers that the two copper coins from the poor Widow was more than anyone else had given.

Wait a minute! How can two small cooper coins be counted as more than the other offerings? Wouldn’t a check for $500 be counted as more than two copper coins in your offering plate?

Jesus says everyone gave out of their abundance that day except the poor Widow. Everyone gave from a heart that said, “out of all that is  mine I will give this to You God.”  Everyone except the poor Widow. She gave from a heart that said,”all that I have belongs to You God. Take what is Yours and I trust You will take care of me.”

Stewardship is the act of managing faithfully things that belong to someone else. Followers of Jesus believe that everything belongs to God.  When it comes to money, it too belongs to God. We have simply been chosen as stewards to manage varied amounts.

Each week,  many of you wonderful followers of Jesus at Union, the Church at Chelsea Park, demonstrate faithful stewardship. Your faithfulness makes ministry happen in your community and around the world through our system of apportioned connectional giving! I continue to be amazed by your stewardship efforts and the way God takes care of you.

“Lord Jesus, thank you for taking care of us. Thank you for trusting us to manage things that belong to You. Give us the faith to always put in Your two cents worth. Amen.”

This article was written by Ron Schultz.  Ron is the District Superintendent of the South Central District in the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church.  Ron graduated from Emory University, Candler School of Theology in 1983 and received his Juris Doctorate from Birmingham School of Law in 1994.  Ron is married to Robin Schultz and has 4 children.

Categories: Church, Church At Chelsea Park, Faith Journey, Leadership, Stewardship, Stewardship | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

10 Ways to Live Above Your Life’s Circumstances | All Pro Dad

10 Ways to Live Above Your Life’s Circumstances | All Pro Dad.

Here are 10 Ways we can live above life’s circumstances:

  1. Be clear about what defines you:

    Make sure know who you are, understand that you were created with a purpose, be crystal clear about what makes you tick.

  2. Live according to values that stand independent of circumstance:

    Stand on the solid ground of faith. Own the fact that you are a part of something greater. Build a life around values such as service and love and compassion.

  3. Practice living above circumstances before things get difficult:

    The time to learn how to step outside of circumstance is when things are still going well. Make sure that you’re not being sucked in to a reliance on the wrong values. Don’t put your eggs in the wrong baskets. Learn the difference between values that last and things that will ultimately let you down.

  4. Understand that relationships count:

    Make the choices that value relationships ahead of the bottom line. Spend time with your children. Engage your marriage as a priority not an afterthought. Honor your parents and friends.

  5. Be the best husband in the world!

    It’s a lot easier to deal with a lost job, or a financial challenge, or a difficult child when you are confident in your relationship with your wife.

  6. Invest in things that are timeless:

    In your monthly budget, how important is charitable giving? Do you give your leftovers or is self-sacrifice involved? Be generous with what you have and you won’t miss it so much when it’s gone.

  7. Do not look to other people for validation:

    Learn to rely on what you know is wise rather than the opinions of those around you. If you need to purchase trendy items, or drive the right car, or wear the correct clothes in order to feel validated, then your sense of self-worth is going to depend on things that could (and will) easily disappear overnight.

  8. Develop a clear vision as to where you are going:

    Understand your purpose in life, and develop clear goals that come directly from your heart. Your vision is more enduring than the temporary ups and downs of circumstance.

  9. Learn to distinguish between the temporary and the eternal:

    When we understand what parts of our life line up under “temporary” and what parts can be listed as “eternal,” then it’s not so hard to be philosophical when the temporary stuff threatens to overwhelm.

  10. Be reasonable:

    Keep a sense of balance. Ask for help from those around you. Don’t think you have to be the strong and silent one. Remember to live in community. Let yourself be loved and cared for.

Categories: Church, Common Everyday Stuff, Faith Journey, John Personal, Leadership | Leave a comment

20% More?

Studies over several decades asked American families if they were happy. A large majority said No. “What would you need to be happy?” the study asked. The answer was about 20% more in income.

Stop for a second. Are you happy? If not, how much more would you need to be happy? More than 20%… or less?

The studies then did the tacky thing of following up on the surveyed families. They came back to them years later when they now were making at least 20% more — in ‘real’ money, not just due to inflation.

Are they happy now? “No!” What’s wrong? Well, we need 20% more.
It’s somewhat easy to figure this out. Our needs expand as the family grows. We didn’t really “need” this much years ago, but now we do. OK, well, it turns out that our ‘needs’ expand even after the kids move out. It depends on our definition of what are our ‘needs,’ you see.  I need This-and-That. After I get This-and-That, I’m not deeply satisfied because, in the meantime, somebody convinced me I need That-Other-Thing that ‘they’ have.

Psychiatrist Robert Coles, in his dealing with envious patients, wrote:
“Envy comes naturally to us, since we are limited in our distinctive ways, and so others (limited in their own ways) can seem so strong, so lucky, so blessed. We are bombarded so heavily in this secular world with invitations, suggestions, possibilities, and promises that we are bound to feel inadequate in their weighty presence, as we see them given life in others. Hence our wish to be those envied others, our anger that such has not come to pass.”

The happiest people you know are probably not the richest or the most famous or those who pay close attention to what others have or those whose every ‘want’ has been transformed into a ‘need.’ Nor are the happiest people those who pursue happiness — which is the surest way to never know happiness.
Happiness sneaks up on people while they’re doing other things, like caring and serving and enjoying the presence of loved ones or of God’s creation. Happiness is not stalked and trapped; it is welcomed.

 -Mitchell Williams is the Senior Pastor at the First United Methodist Church in Cullman, AL.  Mitchell was raised in Birmingham and spent a lot of time growing up at Camp Sumatanga. He received a Bachelor of Arts from Vanderbilt University (Theater) and a Masters of Theology from Southern Methodist University. He and his wife Jodi have two grown sons (Charlie, a Marine Sergeant, and Drew, an engineer) who both married very well and each have a son themselves. Mitchell has pastored for thirty years including nine years at Asbury (Birmingham), six at Aldersgate (Huntsville), and nine at Central (Decatur).

 

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The Transforming “I Will”

On a clear, cool Fall Sunday morning a young family makes their way to the altar of a local United Methodist Church.  They had been attending the services for three months.   After conversations with the pastor, and prayerful consideration, they made the decision to become members of the congregation.  As they approached the chancel rail of the church the pastor met them with a smile.  He asked them to face the congregation as he introduced them.  Then he asked them to re-affirm their commitment to Christ by remembering their baptism, and promising to be loyal to the the United Methodist Church by doing all in their power to strengthen its ministries. [UMH, page 37-38]  After their re-affirmation of commitment to Christ and the church, they were asked the traditional question that is asked of all who join United Methodist congregations.  “As members of this congregation will you faithfully participate in its ministries by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service, and your witness?”  (UMH, page 38)  Their response was the same response every United Methodist has given as they began their discipleship journey.  “I will.” 

Each time a new member makes that commitment in our congregations, we as United Methodists, are challenged to renew our commitment and join their voices with a resounding, “I will.” 

It all begins with the promise:  “…will you faithfully participate in ministries by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service and your witness?”  Your response of “I will” is the first step in an incredible Wesleyan journey to fulfill the core purpose of your congregation.  How can each person faithfully fulfill their church’s mission of making and growing disciples of Jesus Christ?  They begin in prayer, and continue by being present in study, worship and fellowship.  They celebrate their giftedness from God by being faithful financial disciples.  They become the hands and feet of Jesus at work in the world, and proclaim the word of God both spoken and lived out in a world that hungers for the love of God.

Conversations about stewardship and giving are viewed by some in the church as taboo.  If giving is mentioned only once or twice a year in a congregation, there is often an admonition that “all we ever do is talk about money” at church. Giving is often viewed as “too personal” to be discussed at length in the church.  By making stewardship and giving a forbidden subject Christians give money a mysterious power outside the bounds of theology.     In essence it is given god-like tendencies.  The truth is that stewardship is more about spiritual growth than financial strength or weakness.  It is time that modern Christians celebrate their role as financial disciples of Jesus.

The celebration of financial disciples begins by establishing a healthy theology of stewardship or giving.  Everything we have comes from God, and living out that giftedness in the world is vital to responsible discipleship.   Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Luke were both a truth and a challenge.  “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  (Luke 12:34, New International Version]  The treasure that a Christian posesses is a gift from God to be activated in love from the heart.  The theology of giving is best lived out in the church in three ways.  First, as an act of worship.  Both the Old and New Testaments talked about the offering of our gifts in the context of worship.  Most of those vignettes were in the temple, and were clearly acts of corporate worship.  Secondly,  giving is an expression of faith.  Not only does the Christian recognize the generosity of God in the bountiful gifts they receive, but also in the giving of those gifts they faithfully fulfill God’s purpose in the world.  Finally, stewardship and generosity are a spiritual discipline.  It is easy for modern Christians to have a serious disconnect between faith and money.  A healthy theology of giving helps us remember that our stewardship is about spiritual growth.  William Sloane Coffin began a stewardship sermon at Riverside Church in New York City with the following introduction:  “I have not come today to raise money for the church, I am here to remind you who you are.”  Stewardship and giving are not transactional.  Giving should be transformational for the church, for the world, and most of all of the faithful financial disciple of Jesus.  “I Will”,  these two simple words in response to God’s call in our lives can transform our lives, our church, and our world for Christ.

Article written by Rick Owen.

Rick has over 35 years of experience working with churches and non-profit boards. His passion for visioning, strategic ministry planning, functional- and gift-oriented board structures, leadership development, and the creation of cultures of innovation are refreshing in the world of churches and institutions. He is an experienced teacher, preacher and presenter in a variety of settings. He has served as a minister in churches from 15 members to 4,500 members; he has taught philosophy, ethics, Old Testament and New Testament on the college level, and currently works with leaders, boards and pastors as a strategic ministry coach. He has served on a number of church-related and community boards, and is committed to the vision of empowering people to live out their vision and purpose.

Categories: Church, Church At Chelsea Park, Faith Journey, Influenced By:, Leadership, Stewardship | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wesley’s Sermon: “The Use of Money”

SummaryWesley uses this sermon to outline the proper use of earning, possessions and wealth with a very articulate statement: “Gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can.”  He uses this as an opportunity to insist that we are not owners of our assets, but stewards.

Introduction:

  1. There will be an accounting of our management of resources.
  2. Money can be bad, but it can also be good.  It can become the eyes to the blind and feet to the lame.
  3. It is one of our highest concerns to know how to use this valuable gift.

1.  GAIN ALL YOU CAN

  1. Without paying more than its worth; or at the expense of life or health
  2. Without harming our minds
    1. Lying, cheating, practices that are not in good consciences.
  3.  We must never harm others.
  4. Not gain more by harming our neighbor’s bodies.
  5. There are unscrupulous medicine “professionals” and it is clear that they are doing to others what they do not want done in return.
  6. These ways of gaining money comes at a high price.
  7. Cautions and restrictions
    1. Gain all you can by honest industry and diligence
    2. Make the most of your time
    3. Work with all your might.
    4. Do your work as well as possible and in a timely manner.
  8. Use common sense.

2.  SAVE ALL YOU CAN

  1. Don’t throw your precious gains into the sea
  2. Don’t waste it on desires of the flesh.
  3. Don’t waste on desires of the eye such as fine clothing, houses, paintings, decorations gardens.
  4. Don’t spend to gain the admiration or praise of others.
  5. When we cater to these desires, they only increase.
  6. Don’t buy your kids everything and the best of everything.
  7. Don’t leave the kids money to squander.  Don’t set traps.
  8. Leave your money to the child that knows the value of money.

3.  GIVE ALL YOU CAN

  1. Don’t stop with gaining and saving all you can.  You must give all you can.
  2. The sole ownership of everything rest with God.
  3. Provide for your basic needs; provide for your family; give the rest to the needy.
  4. How should you spend upon yourself?
    1. Am I acting according to my character?
    2. Am I giving this money in obedience to God’s word?
    3. Can I offer up this action as a sacrifice to God?
    4. Do I believe that I will receive a reward for this work at the resurrection?
  5. If your conscience says that this pleases God then you have no doubt that it is right and good.
  6. In your living and dying, waste nothing on sin or foolishness for yourself or your children.
  7. We cannot be wise or faithful stewards without managing the Lord’s goods in this way.

Lead a life worthy of the dignity of your calling.

Categories: Church, Common Everyday Stuff, Faith Journey, Influenced By:, John Wesley, Leadership, Quote | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

A Present for Jesus

Tonight, Noah(3 years old) and I got to talking about Santa Claus and the present he might be bringing.  He was sharing with me this long list of what he wanted and asking just exactly how Santa is going to make it down our chimney.  I asked him, “Son, what else is Christmas about?”  He surprised me by saying it’s Jesus‘ birthday!  I can’t help but to say that I (as a preacher dad) was quite proud.  He began to tell me where Jesus was born and I told him about a manger and the shepherds visit.

I then asked him, “If it’s Jesus’ birthday, what should we get him for Christmas?”  Out of nowhere, he said, “Let’s get him a COW!”  Uhhhhh Okay.  Then my mind got to working.  “Why would Jesus need a cow?”  He answered, “I don’t know.”  I shared with him one of the ways to give Jesus a present was to help someone who was in need of food, shelter, money, etc…  We then began looking at Heifer International.  They have a great video made for children about how someone can be helped by animals.  See the video by clicking HERE  Noah chose to buy a flock of chicks that will grow to be chickens and produce up to 400 eggs/year/chick!!  It was a great experience for him and it was a great bonding time.

I believe it’s up to us as parents to teach our children the blessing of giving.  It’s a responsibility too many parents have failed at teaching.

Categories: Faith Journey, Family, Noah | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The New Traditional Church

Wow, this is a very thought provoking article by Tony Morgan.  I hope you will take a moment to read.

The New Traditional Church | TonyMorganLive.com.

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6 HUGE Mistakes a Pastor Can Make

I’m now coming up on my 10th year in ministry and I’ve discovered some mistakes (some I’ve made and some I’ve seen) which can greatly limit a pastors ministry.  Here is what I have found:

  • Mistake 1.  Micro-managing your staff/volunteers.  If there is a need to micro-manage because the job may not get done correctly, then why are they in that position to begin with.  However, most micro-managing is the result of a Pastor’s own lack of self-confidence.  Pastor’s must get over themselves and get out-of-the-way of others.
  • Mistake 2.  Not Empowering staff nor congregation to do ministry.  Many pastors are not handing over the reigns of ministry to the laity.  When you don’t empower others for ministry, the ministry is limited/held back according to what YOU can accomplish.  When others are empowered, the ministry will grow exponentially.  A large role of the pastor is to train others and empower them to do ministry.  I tell me congregation that when someone is sick and in the hospital, I hope I’m the last one to arrive because everyone else has beaten me to the hospital.
  • Mistake 3.  It’s All About Me!  I call this the “Glory Hog” and they want all the glory to themselves.  “Did you see what Pastor_______ is doing at XYZ Church!”  is what they strive to hear.  Ministry is not for our glory but for the glory of God.
  • Mistake 4.  It’s Gotta Be My Way:  A true recipe for failure.  You’re only a leader if people are following you.  This is not a dictatorship and yes there are times when a pastor needs to hold his/her ground especially when there is a doctrine, theological, or moral issue.  BUT some compromise is more often the case.
  • Mistake 5.  Not Maintaining Confidentiality :  Un-ethical/damaging/heartless and DUMB.  The only time confidentiality should be broken is in the case of abuse or fear for someones life.
  • Mistake 6.  Not Setting Goals and Informing Congregation: If a church does not know where it is going and the direction it will be taking to arrive at its destination, how will it know when it arrives?  These goals cannot be the personal secret of the pastor.  Sharing these goals can/should motivate the congregation to achieve the goals IF they are in line with the vision of the church.
Categories: Church, Faith Journey, John's Rant (opinion), Leadership | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

7 Ways Satan Attacks the Church

“Satan certainly loves to disrupt what God’s church is doing,” says Ron Edmondson.

via 7 Ways Satan Attacks the Church.

Categories: Church, Church At Chelsea Park, Faith Journey, Leadership | Leave a comment

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