John Personal

Blood Red Moon tonight!

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According to NBC (Click Here to read article) tonight will be a “blood red moon.”  There are a couple of interesting things to think about with this event:

  • It’s beginning on Passover (The Jewish holiday and the occasion which Jesus arrived in Jerusalem for the last week of his life.)
  • Revelation 6:12, “Then I saw Him open the sixth seal.  A violent earthquake occurred; the sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair; the entire moon became like blood.
  • This is the first of 4 lunar eclipse’s during the next two years: Oct 8, April 4, Sept 28.  “The last time four total lunar eclipses occurred in a row – called a tetrad – was in 2003-2004, and there will be seven more this century,”according to Plilly.com (Read the entire article by clicking here)

First let me start off by saying I don’t believe this is a sign of the coming apocalypse.  Here’s why:

  • Revelation doesn’t speak of a red moon until the opening of the 6th Seal.  Prior to this we will see great famines, wars, plagues which will kill over 1/4 of the worlds population including death by the “wild animals of the earth.” Rev 6:8
  • Most importantly, the Bible states that no one knows the time.

However, I think it’s very interesting that God gives us a view of what a blood red moon looks like and when we read Rev. 6:12, we can easily relate to it.  

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$400,000 Camel Doesn’t Pass the Common Sense Test

As I have said very often, “Common sense is now a super power and a gift that very few possess.”  It’s an interesting experiment and one that can lead your blood pressure to rise but take a look around and you will see those who are supposed to be pretty smart people making decisions that fail to pass the Common Sense Test!  Here’s an example:

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“The State Department plans to spend $400,000 in taxpayer dollars to purchase a camel statue for the new American embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan.  The sculpture by artist John Baldessari depicts a fiberglass camel staring into the eye of an oversized needle in play on a passage from the New Testament about the difficulty the wealthy have in entering heaven, BuzzFeed reported.”

Fox News reports, “The department came under scrutiny in December after commissioning a $1 million sculpture to be installed at new building at the American embassy in London in 2017. The purchase was defended as a “good use” of the agency’s resources.”

Last Year, The Washington Times reported “that department spent about $180,000 on alcohol in September and $400,000 in all of 2012, three times the $118,000 spent in 2008.” Records obtained by the paper showed that alcohol spending went up at American diplomatic posts around the world. The purchases included nearly $16,000 for bourbon and whiskey in Moscow, and more than $22,000 for wine in Tokyo.”

For full disclosure:  I’m not a math wiz, I haven’t taken a Dave Ramsey course, and my wife controls the checkbook in our house and I get an allowance just like the kids.  Yet, with all my lack of financial training and expertise, I am at a loss to find any common sense in this.  Here’s how I look at it:

1.  Our national debt is 17.5 Trillion.  In 2008 (just six short years ago) it was 10 Trillion.  Our debt has almost doubled in 6 years!

2.  Our debt increases 2.73 billion each day.

3.  That means that each person in the US owes $55,130.32 or each household is responsible for $142,787!

I know up against 17.5 trillion $400,000 for a camel sounds like a good deal (I’m joking).  Where is the common sense?  Where is the one person who says, “I don’t think this is a good idea!”  I’ve got this visual image in my mind of a group of people sitting around a table and one person says, “Hey, I’ve got an idea!!  Let’s get a camel and put it outside the embassy!”  Person 2 “Sounds like a great idea, how much will it cost?”  Person 1 “We can get it today and today only, if we are one of the next 5 callers for only $400,000 to the American tax payer!!  Person 2: “Great, hurry up and call!  We’ll send the check!”

Okay, how does this relate to me?  Ordinary couple who has a combined $20,000 in credit card debt and they come to me as their pastor and say, “We’re getting married and have our wedding and honeymoon planned for only $12,000.  My response as their pastor is going to try and talk some sense into them.  Who is the common sense person speaking to the people making decisions in the State Department?  When does someone from the Executive branch say, “Whoa, this doesn’t make any sense.”  Where’s the leadership?  Where’s the responsible one.  Isn’t there anyone who can make the point, “We’re cutting our military and at the same time also buying a $400,00 statue of a camel? This doesn’t make sense!”

And we wonder why we are in the financial shape we are in…sad.

Categories: John Personal, John's Rant (opinion), Leadership | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Books I’ve Read in 2013

John Maxwell:

  • Everyone Communicates, Few Connect

David Baldacci:

Tim LaHaye

Vince Flynn

  • The Last Man

Michael Foss

  • Power Surge: Six Marks of Discipleship for a Changing Church* (Reading Now)
  • The Anatomy of Peace

 

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The Sexual Identity Crisis of the United Methodist Church

revjohnhill:

Here’s a good read on the “Sexual Identity Crisis within the United Methodist Church.”

Originally posted on Pastor Chris Owens - - Musings, Rants, and Reflections:

There is one thing about which we can all agree: the ongoing battle within the United Methodist Church over sexuality is an extremely exacerbating debate. Everyone hates it. We all want it to go away. Everyone- young or old, liberal or conservative, gay or straight, United Methodist or not- implores why we must persistently lock horns over the issues surrounding the presence of LGBT people, especially when this fight distracts us, divides us, and paints a picture for the rest of the world of the church at its very worst.

ID Crisis ChurchNevertheless, for nearly 42 years, this issue has increasingly been the defining issue of the church to grapple with. Now it threatens to tear the United Methodist Church apart. With the conclusion of the Schaefer trial and news of many more of these trials already in the works, tensions are rising to historic levels. We are indeed in the midst…

View original 1,324 more words

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Saying Thanks

Last week, I took my son to Washington DC for a father/son trip.  As you know it was in the middle of the government shutdown thus we could not tour museums or most monuments.  However, an Honor Flight group of WW2 Vets had moved the barricade so they could tour their WW2 Monument and my son and I went in with them. 

Once again, this “Greatest Generation” saved the day.  I felt the need to thank these men and women for their service and proceeded to shake their hands while offering my thanks.  One gentleman that I thanked told me, “Son, you don’t have to thank me, I didn’t do anything special” to which I replied, “You did something very special and your actions along with all the vets allow us to live in the freedom.”  He smiled and kept walking.Image

A few moments later another gentleman came up to me and told me, “Thank you for what you said to my dad.”  He began to tell me his dad’s story.  He was kidnapped at the age of 15 by the Nazi’s and forced to fight against the Russians.  He tried to escape, was shot by the Russians and when they realized he was just a kid, they took him to an American hospital where he recovered and then was taken to the U.S.  On his 18th birthday, he joined the military to fight for the country that had saved his life. This was his way of saying thanks.

It reminded me of the 10 lepers healed by Jesus in the Gospel of Luke.  Ten lepers healed and only one returned to give thanks to Christ.  How often do we do the same as the nine?  Our lives have been blessed in so many ways, with family, health, shelter, food, friends, loved ones and the list goes on and on.  Yet how often do we slow down to give thanks to God?  When is the last time you have fallen down on your face at His feet and with a loud voice glorified God as the 1 leper who returned?   

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Bishop Wallace-Padgett’s Brave Response

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I (along with all the clergy and many lay members who are on the Bishops e-mailing list) received the email posted below regarding a retired UM Bishop who plans to marry a homosexual couple in Birmingham.  I want to say how proud of the leadership of Bishop Deborah Wallace-Padgett.  Her response to this event is certainly to bring her under attack from within our church in addition to those outside our church.  I stand with her and for her as she leads our Conference in a way that is first and foremost Biblical (Old Testament and New Testament) and is in accordance with our denominational rule of law found in the 2012 Book of Discipline. 

Read the post on the North Alabama UMC website by clicking here. 

Below is her e-mail to clergy and laity:

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Dear Clergy and Lay Members of the North Alabama Annual Conference,

Good things are happening in North Alabama. I am appreciative of you and your ministry. You are making a difference in your churches and communities.

I want to share with you my press release in response to an upcoming event planned by two North Alabama lay persons and a bishop from another region in the country. I have urged the bishop to not officiate at the event which centers on a complex issue that is polarizing our society and church. The anticipated media coverage of this event will test our capacity to remain focused on our vision, mission and priorities that have emerged over the past year. Please join me in committing to stay focused on the mission of the United Methodist Church to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Thank you for your prayers for all involved as well as your leadership and ministry.

Blessings,
Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett

 


Press Release

A retired United Methodist bishop from another region of the country notified me that in late October he plans to travel to North Alabama to officiate at the celebration of a ceremony of a same-sex couple who were recently married in Washington, D.C.  Though the couple are members of a United Methodist Church in the North Alabama Conference, the celebration will not take place in a United Methodist Church.  I urged the retired bishop to reconsider as his officiating at this ceremony would be in violation of United Methodist Church law.

The General Conference of the United Methodist Church, not a retired bishop, represents the United Methodist Church around this and other social issues.  It is the only body that can set official policy and speak for the denomination. The General Conference of the United Methodist Church meets every four years.  The most recent General Conference took place in 2012 and consisted of nearly 1,000 delegates from around the world.

Our 2012 Book of Discipline affirms that all persons are of sacred worth and that God’s grace is available to all. Every person is welcome in our churches.  It also states that we consider the practice of homosexuality as incompatible with Christian teaching. Our ministers are not permitted to conduct ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions or perform same sex wedding ceremonies.  For a bishop or any ordained or licensed minister to disregard a law of the church creates a breach of the covenant they made at their consecration, ordination or licensing.

As a Bishop of the United Methodist Church, I am committed to abide by and uphold the Book of Discipline (church law) of the United Methodist Church.

This statement is for release in its entirety with no redactions.

Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett
North Alabama Conference

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“Why Small Churches are the Next Big Thing” by Karl Vaders

In the past few months in my discussion with the leaders of Flint Hill, we have agreed there is a great vacuum in Alex City for ministry for the college age and young adults of our community.  Mr. Karl Vaters brings a focus on what this demographic is looking for and how we as a small church may meet this need.

Below is a repost of a blog written by Karl Vaters or you can click here to see his blog.

 

 

There’s no shortage of studies bemoaning the next generation’s exodus from the Church. Yet while some have written off Millennials’ spiritually, this is a mistake—for the Church and for the Millennials.

In the face of this reality, a new opportunity is emerging. In fact, there’s growing evidence this new generation will bring the greatest opportunity for small church ministry in 2,000 years.

Why? Because, as the first generation with a majority born and raised outside traditional marriage, genuine relationships and intimate worship—what small churches do best—will matter more to them than it did to their parents.

But this opportunity comes with one, big condition: Millennials won’t give up quality to gain intimacy. And they shouldn’t have to.

Of course, Millennials have the same spiritual needs people have always had, including the desire to worship something or someone bigger than themselves, and to do so with others who have similar inclinations. In other words, Millennials need church.

But not just any church, and not the churches their parents built. Millennials are used to a high-quality experience in everything, and they won’t settle for less. In addition, Millennials don’t want a big Sunday morning stage show as much as they want genuine intimacy and relationships.

So how can churches provide this? 

Simply put, churches can start small. Small doesn’t mean cheap, shoddy, lazy or low-quality—at least it shouldn’t. But what Millennials mean by quality will also be different than what their parents meant.

Too often, for Boomers, quality has meant excess. Glitz. Over-the-top. Bling. For any kind of church, however, quality can be summed up in one word: health. Health starts by getting the basics right.

Real-world Bible teaching
Genuine relationships
Practical ministry opportunities
Clean, safe childcare
And yes, competent musicianship on the worship team
The good news is, your church doesn’t have to be big to do any of this. And even if one or two elements aren’t at the level you’d like, you can build on them if there’s high quality in other areas. People may even be compelled to step up and help where the church is weak. 

Without such health, it’s no wonder Millennials aren’t interested in going to church. In a recent poll , the Pew Forum found what everyone has suspected: Millennials attend church less often than their parents.

But that’s not all. “Among Millennials who are affiliated with a religion, however, the intensity of their religious affiliation is as strong today as among previous generations when they were young” (emphasis theirs).

So, fewer of them attend religious services, but among those who do, their faith is as strong as ever. Their faith, instead of fading, is being carefully refined. And as typically happens when you find yourself in the minority, that dedication is likely to grow.

Studies about church demographics and attendance work well to illustrate the problem, but what we need next is to start working together toward a solution. What if we paved the way in showing the world what loving one another really looks like?

There’s no better place to express or sense that kind of love-leadership than in a small church. For this reason, I believe small churches are uniquely poised to meet the needs of Millennials and perhaps turn the tide on the trend of the unchurched.

No, megachurches won’t disappear, despite all the predictions to the contrary. And I hope they don’t. I hope any church preaching Christ and His gospel of grace continues to continue its good work.

Alongside megachurches, however, I see a growing hunger for healthy, high-quality, innovative small churches to meet the needs of upcoming generations.

The main reason I’m convinced small churches will be the next big thing is because they’ve always been a big thing. Since the day of Pentecost, innovative small churches have been the way the majority of Christians have done church. They’ve just stayed under the radar for 2,000 years.

If healthy small churches can provide opportunities for genuine relationships with God and each other—with practical ministry to the surrounding community—we can be the vanguard of a new church movement. Of course, it really won’t be a new movement—it will be the oldest one of all.

Karl Vaters is the pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Fountain Valley, California. He’s the author of the recently published The Grasshopper Myth and founder of NewSmallChurch.com, a site dedicated to encouraging, connecting and equipping innovative small church pastors. Follow Karl on Twitter: @KarlVaters.
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Thank You for the Prayers

Below is an email the church received from the principal of one of the schools Flint Hill prayed over on Saturday.  Please continue to pray for our schools to be surrounded by God’s angels of protection this year.  (Especially after the events in Georgia yesterday.)

 
Subject: Thank you
 
Marilyn,
                Please share this with your congregation:
 
As I was working on Saturday, August 17, 2013 I happened to look out of my office window and I saw people gathering in a circle. I knew instantly that God had sent prayer warriors to assist me in my quest to protect and serve His most precious  gift, our children. I know you have probably come to our schools and prayed every year, however this is the first time it has been revealed to me. God knows just when to reveal things to us. As I was working I felt alone with a ton of things to do before Monday,  you were my reminder that I am not alone and that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength! Together, in prayer, I trust we will have a year in which we will see progress made and young people turning toward Christ! Your prayer outreach is  greatly needed and greatly appreciated. Please continue to pray for us as we seek to lead our students toward a life that will glorify the Lord and I will continue to pray for you.
 
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Prayer Caravan

During the last several years in Cullman,  Alabama, there has been a prayer caravan that has taken a Saturday morning and traveled to the different public schools in the city to pray over them before the start of the school year.  This year, a group has threatened a lawsuit if this caravan continues.  For background, click HERE for a link to the local newspaper.

Several Sunday’s ago, I was doing a sermon series on prayer when the Cullman situation came to my attention and I asked myself, “Why are we not praying over our schools?”  The level of violence in our schools is beyond belief. If as Christians, we believe in the power of prayer as we say we do then we have to ask the question why are we not out in our school yards praying.  

So, this Saturday I’m going to pray over our schools.  I’ll be leaving the church at 9:00 and you are welcome to go with me. I’ll be going to each of our four schools in Alexander City and praying over them. I’ll be praying for the administrators, the teachers and the students. I’ll be praying that they will experience a safe and productive school year.  That the schools will be surrounded by angels of protection and that God would watch over each one who entered into the school.  Let it be a place of learning which is free of violence, bullying, and drugs.  

Again, I invite you to go with me, but if you can’t please spend some time lifting up our schools and students.  

 

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Cancer, not the Mole

Here is a link to a wonderful an article by a DS in the Memphis Conference regarding small churches and their struggles.

CLICK HERE TO READ IT

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The Two Minute Drill

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My son Jackson is about to be 16 years old.  He came into my life when he was 8 years old and I became the Step-Dad.  My goal has always been to have the attitude that the only steps in our house are the ones that lead up to the front door.  I have tried to be a mentor, a parent, a guide and have approached my role as Step-Dad as one in which my main responsibilities are to love his mom, his sister and him.  As a parent, there are many different facets and roles we play but the end result should be the same and everything we do should be a step in this direction.  That direction is very simple to guide our children into adulthood and prepare them for a life where they will be responsible and contributing adults.  Relatively, we have a very short time to do this and with Jackson, we are entering into what John Croyle calls the” two minute drill.”

It is these last two minutes from (16-18 years) that we need to pull out all stops and Croyle states, ” In football the last two minutes are crucial; the whole game builds to those moments that can determine the final outcome.”  This is true also in the life of a young man.  

So, the way I see it is we are late in the game.  Have we played well so far?  Yes we have, but the game is not over and we are down to the most important part of the game. A place where it can be won or lost and as a parent I am determined not to lose.  

So, my focus as one of Jackson’s parents is to give him the tools, resources, experiences, mentorship, love, and challenges to provide him with everything he needs to be the man that God has called him to be. 

The clock has started and it’s time to move the ball.

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Top 10 Most Important Things in My Life

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Right now, I’m reading the “Two Minute Drill to Manhood” by John Croyle.  It is his game plan for raising sons and specifically focuses on the last two minutes (when they are 15-18 years old) of time when we as parents have to prepare them for manhood.  The first chapter is on “Who is the Master of your life?” At the end of the chapter, one of the “Things to do” is to write down the 10 things that you think are most important in your life and from that list determine what you need to and can change.

I’m not sure I was ready for the difficulty of this assignment but here goes in no particular order:

  • God:  The foundation upon which I want my life to be based.  I believe that if this is not right, all the other things in life will not be complete.
  • Jill:  The most blessed gift I have ever received from God.  I cannot imagine life without her and it boggles my mind how each day I love her even more than I did the day before.
  • Ministry:  My job.  I love what I do and find such fulfillment in doing what God has called me to do.  This is something that I have to be careful with and watch.  It can quickly consume me and take away from my top two priorities (God and Family).
  • My Children:  I have been the most blessed man with my children.
  • Sophie’s kisses; Graden’s Laugh; Noah’s hugs; Jackson’s adventurous nature; Erica’s trust.
  • Food:  I love food and it shows.  I like the social aspect of eating, I like the flavor explosion, I love cooking, and trying new things.  However, this is one of the things that I need to change.  I want to be healthy for my family.  I want to experience as much of them and their life as I can and if I don’t begin to change the importance food holds in my life then I might not be able.
  • Relax Time:  My time to recharge.  I tend to live life at two speeds…full speed or complete stop.  I would love to be able to find some middle speed but I’ve never been able to.  I find it very hard to sit around and do nothing.  I’m working on it and finding more time to just sit, to read, to listen to the fountain, and watch the birds at the feeder.
  • Providing for my Family:  It is incredibly important for me to be able to provide for my family.  To be able to give them the things in life they need but also some of the things in life they desire.  I want to provide them with a foundation of stability, of love, of  safety, of faith, and of education.
  • Quality Time with my Family:  I love spending time with the family as we camp, seek out new adventures, watching them play in the sandbox, going for a walk and holding Jill’s hand.  There is nothing like seeing the faces on the kids as they discover something new.
  • My Mom:  All the lessons taught, sacrifices made, and love given.  I’ll never be able to say thank you enough for being my mom.  I love you.
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30 Things I Want to Teach My Daughters

120611091018-father-daughter-share-dance-story-topAs the Father of two daughters, I have been giving a great deal of thought to what advice I’d like to give them about life, career, dating, and their education.  Here are  15 words of wisdom from your Dad.  I’m sure there will be more to follow…

  1. You are beautiful inside and out.
  2. Realize your self-worth before committing yourself to someone.
  3. Don’t reveal too much of yourself.  Closely guard your secrets, dreams, ideas, affections and your body.  There will be a day you want to share all of that with the person you marry.  Don’t share it with the world.  Remember, you’re special!
  4. You are a child of God and God loves you.
  5. Don’t date or marry someone who does not hold your values, morals and beliefs.
  6. If your date does not open the car door…stand there and don’t get in the car!
  7. Respect yourself and expect those you date to have respect for you also.  If they don’t have that respect, they don’t deserve to be out with you.
  8. You will not be able to change him.  Don’t date someone with the idea that you will be able to change the things in him you don’t like.  It does not happen that way.
  9. Don’t get serious with a guy who would rather play a video game or hang out with a bunch of guys than spend time with you.
  10. Get your education and as much education as possible.  Education provides choices in life and you want to have as many choices as you can.  Education provides these choices.
  11. Be able to financially, emotionally and professionally support yourself fully before getting married.  Having someone support you financially is not a reason to get married.
  12. Have goals and dreams.  Write them down and look at them often.  Create a roadmap to achieve these goals and dreams.
  13. Have Values and Morals.  Write them down and make them nonnegotiable.  What is that you believe and stand for?  This will make your decision-making easier and prevent a great deal of heartache.
  14. You can’t feel good about yourself while living in sin.
  15. Keep a journal of your life, prayers, answered prayers, struggles, and successes.
  16. Don’t hesitate to walk away from someone/something that goes against who you are and the values and morals you hold.
  17. Be able to change your own tire.
  18. Know how to jump off a battery.
  19. Get involved in a church.  Not just going on Sunday morning but giving of your time, efforts and finances.
  20. The sweetest sound to a person is the sound of their own name.  Learn and remember names.
  21. Learn how to budget and live within your means.
  22. Credit Cards are of Satan (stay away from them!!)
  23. Don’t put all your personal stuff on Facebook.  Remember, what goes online stays online FOREVER!
  24. The person you will be in 5 years will be greatly determined by the books you read, the TV/Movies you watch and most importantly the friends you hang out with.
  25. 10% of life is made up of what happens to you and the other 90% is how you respond to what happens to you.
  26. Change happens and is necessary for growth.
  27. Failure is not when you get knocked down but when you refuse to get back up.
  28. Attitude isn’t everything, but it is the one thing that can make a difference in your life.
  29. Give today your attention–not yesterday or tomorrow.
  30. You will always be Daddies Little Girl.  Forgive me when I constantly remind you of things you already know, ask you to call when you get where you are going and when you’re on your way home, and the belief that I hold that there is no male who is good enough for you.
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5 Questions I Often Hear Re: UM Baptism

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In tomorrows worship, we will  (in addition to the Sacrament of Holy Communion) experience at remembering your Baptism service.  As I was putting the final touches on the service this evening it occurred to me that I get a good many questions about the United Methodist way of Baptism.  So, I thought I would try and address some of those questions.

  • Why Remember your Baptism and not “Re-Baptize”?  I’m asked this question a great deal.  We believe that Baptism is the work of God.  It’s a outward and visible sign of an invisible, inward grace.  So, if it is something that God does, it never has to be “re-done” and to redo it implies that God made a mistake. I can assure you that God does not make mistakes.  
  • Why do UM Baptize infants when they are not old enough to know what’s going on?  United Methodist believe in what John Wesley called Prevenient Grace (Grace that goes before). Before we even know there is a God, old enough to acknowledge or have the inability to rationally conceive of the presence of God…God loves us.  God loves us even before we know or acknowledge God’s presence.  Even though an infant has no rational conception of God’s grace, God already desires to be in a relationship with that child.  UM don’t believe Baptism is salvation!  In Baptism, we are brought into the family of God.  The parents, sponsors, god-parents, and the entire congregation vow that they will raise this child so that one day he/she may accept the grace of God on their own. 
  • What is a Remembering Your Baptism?  It is a time when we remember God has done for us through His grace.  During the service, we will dip our fingers (or the sign of the cross is made on the forehead with water) and be reminded of our own Baptism.  We are reminded of the cleansing of our sins and that we are a part of God’s family.  Even in our brokenness, which cannot be mended by anything on earth, your grace flows and washes us clean.  
  • What if you have never been baptized during a “Remembering Your Baptism” service?  One can always participate in the service and if they don’t feel this is the time to be Baptized they are asked to look with anticipation their future Baptism.  If they have never been would like to be Baptized, we can certainly accommodate their wishes during the service.  Just tell the minister.
  • Doesn’t being Baptized as an infant “cheat” the child of making that decision for themselves?  I cannot emphasize how important it is for the parents, sponsors, god-parents and the congregation to take their pledge to raise this child in a way that leads to their faith development.  The child must be told the story of their Baptism, discussed at the proper age why their parents made the decision, remind them they have been adopted into the family of God and that God loves them. The people whom I have met who have this “cheated” feeling are those who were baptized and those people in their life did not follow through on their Christian growth.  

 

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The Sacrament of Holy Communion

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This week at Flint Hill UMC we will be celebrating the sacrament of Holy Communion and I wanted to share what we as United Methodist believe regarding this Holy Sacrament.

The sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion are crucial means of grace, or vehicles, that God uses to reach humanity.  They are channels by which the grace and love of God flows, and it is through them that we can receive prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace.  They are outward and visible signs of an inward, invisible grace.

The sacrament of Holy Communion confirms the justification of our sins through the action of Christ.  It also refreshes and strengthens our souls as Wesley described in “The Duty of Constant Communion.”  The Christian life is not an easy journey, and there are temptations and stumbling blocks along the way.  As with our physical life, which requires proper nutritional sustenance in order to grow, our spiritual life also requires sustenance, which is found in the bread and wine of Holy Communion.  We obtain our strength from this sacrament, and it is the “food of our soul.”  Holy Communion is a remembrance, a commemoration, and a memorial, but it is more than just a simple intellectual recalling.  It is a representation of past gracious acts of God in an action that makes them present today.  Jesus Christ is risen from the grave and alive in the here and now.

Several summers ago, my wife and I directed a Senior High Camp at Sumatanga.  One night during the week, Holy Communion was included in the worship service, and I witnessed the power and significance of the sacrament in a wonderful way. A young man, who was a junior in high school,  had become a very popular youth in the camp and was a guy whom everyone just seemed to like and looked up to.  During the Communion portion of the service, everyone was invited to stay at the altar and pray as long as needed.  I noticed that young man was staying for an extended time, and then I noticed his shoulders quivering from crying.  I went over and asked him if I could pray with him, and he just grabbed hold of my hands.  Without my saying a word, he started telling me that he was not worthy of what Christ had done for him and that he was not living the life that God was calling him to live.  Through tears we prayed together.  He asked God for forgiveness and the strength to live the life that God had called him to live.  Through the sacrament of Communion, God reached out to Frank (Not his real name) and confirmed the justification of sin through Christ and conveyed a grace that went straight to the heart of this young man.

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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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Passionately Committed

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This morning I’m asking the congregation: “What are you Passionately Committed to?  I have lived in Alabama since I came to college in 1991.  My mind is still blown each year by the passionate commitment of football fans.  The lengths they will go to in order to support their team.  It amazes me the money people will spend to go to a single game!  The allegiance they have to a particular team and the lengths they  will go to to show their support.  I’ve seen people decked out in costumes, wearing elephants on their head and even someone carrying a broom stick with a box of tide and rolls of toilet paper…”Roll Tide.” Get it?

Please hear me when I say there is nothing wrong with this.  All of us have passions of some sort.  Hunting, collecting, camping, sports, jobs, money, fishing, tanning, and the list goes on and on.  I wonder what it would take for Christians to be as passionately committed to Christ?

  • Joyce Myers says we are the most entertained society in history.  We feel that we have to be entertained all the time.  I did some research and found the average adult watches 34 hours of TV/week and is on social media approx. 28 hours/week.  If you add in 40 hours of work and 56 hours of sleep divided by 7 and you account for 22 hours of the day.  That’s not including eating and going to the bathroom! When do we have time to be passionately committed to God?
  • Fear is another reason we hold back on the passion.  I’ve seen the street evangelist and yes, I have to admit, I hold no enthusiasm for doing ministry in that way!  Part of our fear is not wanting to be viewed as that “crazy Christian.”  I do find it rather interesting that we don’t have a fear about what others might say about our enthusiasm for a football team or an entertainer we see in concert.

Just something I’ve been wondering about…

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Request for Prayer In Seeking God’s Discernment

This year at Annual Conference it was decided that delegates to The General Conference will be elected two years prior to the Conference. This means that next year at the 2014 North Alabama Annual Conference, delegates will be elected. During the last week (my vacation) I have been pondering placing my name on that ballot. I’ve talked to Jill, family members and some peers and now I would like to ask you for your prayer. I’m seeking Gods direction in this matter and looking for discernment.

I trust the power of prayer and believe in the power of prayer from others. I certainly don’t want to put my name on this ballot for any reason other than God calling me to be a part of this process. So, I ask you to include this decision on your prayer list.

Grace,

John

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Why I Voted Against the 1Million Donation to BSC

A vote at Annual Conference truly disturbed me. It was the decision to give 1 million dollars to Birmingham Southern College. After speaking with a member of the committee that put this before the Conference, I have a better understanding of the reasoning but it still doesn’t pass my common sense test.

1. In the presentation it was stated (or at least strongly implied) that one of the reasons we should do this is because we give less than the Al/West Florida conference to their college. This came across to me as the NAC “keeping up with the Jones.” I don’t believe this is the example we as leaders need to be giving to those watching us and learning how to be good stewards.

2. The funding for the donation will come as follow: $500,000 from reserves and $500,000 loan from the pastors pension fund.

3. There is NO plan of repayment!

4. There will be no interest charged on the $500,000 borrowed from pension.

5. Our pension fund loses the interest we would have gained if the money had not been loaned.

6. It is my understanding that the accreditation of BSC is at stake and the need to raise x millions to keep this from happening. BUT I have not gotten an answer of what happens to the money should accreditation not happen.

7. We still have $300,000 left on the mortgage for the Conference Center and yet we are taking $500,000 from our cash reserves to donate to BSC.

8. As a UM Pastor, none of my 5 children will have the opportunity to attend BSC due to the high cost of their tuition. Lets call it for what it is…a rich kids school. I have no problem with that but don’t use my pension to give them a million dollars interest free!

- I know BSC gives pastors discounts but its equivalent to offering someone $100.00 when they owe $100,000. You want to reach out to pastors kids as students? Give discounts that make BSC tuition equivalent to state universities.

As I said earlier, this doesn’t pass the common sense or financial sense and sounds more like something coming out of the US Congress.

I’m not a economist but here is my thoughts:

- Lets only make donations using cash on hand and NOT take a loan from pastors pension fund!
- that would leave us (as I understand with $500,000).
- let’s pay off the last $300,000 we owe for the Conference Center!! (Is that Dave Ramsey applauding?)
- then we can choose to give the remaining $200,000 to BSC. (Seeing that BSC has already raised over 15 million, I don’t think they will have trouble raising a couple more million)

Don’t we also have to ask the question of how can we best use this money to make disciples? It broke my heart to hear a passionate plea from Robin Scott regarding Camp Sumatanga. This camp has a very strong record of professions of faith and those youth who have committed to pursuing ordination. Doesn’t it make more sense to helping Sumatanga in making disciples than sending this money to BSC.

Think about the help our conference could do to stopping malaria with the $500,000 in reserve?

How much could be done in our conference for those ministries working with the poor and hungry in our own conference with the $500,000?

What could $500,000 do for the smaller churches in our conference in making disciples?

These just make more sense to me than giving $500,000 from our reserve funds and borrowing an additional $500,000 from the Pastors Pension Fund!

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Levites: Serving God

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S:  Deuteronomy 10:8-9  “At that time the LORD set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the LORD’s covenant, to stand before Yahweh to serve Him and to pronounce blessings in His name, as it is today.  For this reason, Levi does not have a portion or inheritance like his brothers; the LORD is his inheritance, as the LORD your God told him.

Observation:  The tribe of Levi has been called by God for special duty of service.  The work will be hard and there will be no earthly inheritance.  They won’t get rich by doing this but instead of an earthly inheritance, God will be their inheritance.

Application:  The work of a Christian is very difficult and leads to a cross.  Contrary to what some popular televangelist say, it isn’t a earthy prosperity Gospel.  Our inheritance is in Christ and the spiritual blessings found in our faith in God through Jesus Christ.  We are called to be servants, not the served. The workers in the field, not the masters in the house.

Prayer:  Great God, in the world I live in it’s extremely difficult to be the servant.  It goes against everything taught, yet that is what you have called me to be. A servant of you.  Not expecting a reward or inheritance to be found in this life but a promise of eternal life with you.  Give me the strength and courage to be your servant. Amen

 

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