Posts Tagged With: Jesus

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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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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“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.

Categories: Church, Faith Journey, John Wesley, Stewardship, Stewardship | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Categories: Church, Faith Journey, Friends, John Wesley, Leadership, Stewardship, Stewardship | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

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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

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.

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Dissension in the Church

 “Do everything without grumbling or arguing,  so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.” Philippians 2:14-16 NIV

I’ve been around a great many churches in my life and career.  I have found that so many people have been hurt in the church.  In most of these it seems that someone said something, did something, didn’t say something or didn’t do something and this hurt someone else.  The person who is hurt will usually do one of the following:

  • Leave the church
  • Allow their hurt to seep out to others in the congregation

What this does is creates dissension within the walls of the church.  This is very dangerous and is the playground for Satan.  The prince of darkness loves it when Christians begin to quarrel with one another because it takes their focus and the focus of the church and places it on something besides the Great Commission. Thus the warning from Paul to the Philippians, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing.”

Is this really possible?  A church without some sort of dissension seems like the exception to the rule.  However, IT IS POSSIBLE.  How do we get to that point?  Well, Jesus gave us a plan to deal with problems in the church.

“If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love.” Matthew 18:15-17 The Message

A three-point plan to prevent dissension/arguments/hurt feelings within the church.

  1. Go and tell the person who hurt you or your upset with.
  2. IF he doesn’t listen, take one or two others along and try again.
  3. IF he still won’t listen, tell the church.

In our churches today, there is way too much skipping of the first step.  As pastor, when someone comes to me with a complaint against another congregation member or a staff member, the first thing I ask is, “Have you talked to that person?”  Most often the question is no.

The main reason people get hurt and leave the church is a lack of communication.  Skipping step number 1.  Jesus made this one number 1 and I believe he was a pretty smart man.  If we’re Christian, why do we just jump over the first step when most disagreements can be solved at this point? Let me assure you that anonymous letters, talking with other congregation members or just holding it in and staying hurt or mad will NOT help the situation.

Please, allow me to encourage you to open up that line of communication with everyone in the church.  If you have an issue with something a fellow member, staff or if the pastor has said, not said, done, or not done something, please go to that person with your concerns.  If he/she does not listen, then go Step 2, then if it is not resolved go to Step 3

It seems that someone is always upset with the pastor. It’s okay because the way to avoid that is to try to make everyone happy.  When pastors try to make everyone happy, they lose focus of their true calling from God.  I had one of my pastor mentors tell me, “Don’t spend time worrying about the complaints that have come from someone on behalf of the person who is complaining.  If they won’t talk to you one on one, you’re not going to be able to make changes to their satisfaction and it takes your focus off the important stuff.”

Open up your communication and there WILL BE less dissension in our churches and can you then imagine what God can accomplish for the Kingdom!

Categories: Church, Church At Chelsea Park, Faith Journey, John's Rant (opinion) | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

15 Signs Your Church Is in Trouble

Here is a great article which gives some great points.  All churches need to keep these in mind as they reach for their goals.  Also, a church doesn’t need to have all 15 to be in trouble.  One or two could give you an idea.  Click on the link below for the article.

15 Signs Your Church Is in Trouble.

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This May Step on Some Toes!!

GREAT ARTICLE I read on Christian Post.com

My Wife Had a Bad Experience at Chick-fil-A!

Fri, Nov. 25, 2011 Posted: 09:09 AM EDT


I love Chick-Fil-A! (AND love Tim Hawkins song about it)

We eat there at least two or three times a week (not kidding…we’ve actually pushed that number up to 6-7 a few times.)

The food is ALWAYS good, they get the order right nearly every time and their customer service is second to none. It is always clean and no matter how long the line seems to be people are always served as quickly and efficiently as possible.

So, imagine my surprise when my wife came home the other day and, as we were catching each other up on the things that had taken place while we had been apart all morning and afternoon she told me about a bad experience she had at Chick-Fil-A.

I was immediately frustrated! (Any husband would be!) AND…before I knew it I had literally told myself in my mind, “Well, if that’s the way things are going to be then I guess we just won’t be going to Chick-Fil-A anymore, they’ve lost my business.”

TIME OUT!!! How stupid was THAT thought? Seriously, let’s review…
■#1 – They ALWAYS deliver great food!
■#2 – They ALWAYS have friendly people!
■#3 – They ALWAYS have a clean environment!
■#4 – What my wife had experienced was not in line with what normally happens.

(AND…I want to be completely fair to Lucretia, she was NOT saying she would not go back, nor was she angry…she was just telling me about her day and I am the one who became irrational!) :-)

I lost my mind! I was literally going to allow one bad experience with one employee ruin a reputation of excellence that had been consistent for years! (AND…no one knows what was going on in that employees life…she could have had one of the worst days of her life and was trying her best to just hold it together until she could clock out!)

Before you agree with me too quickly…I think there are people who have done the same thing to the church!

It has become quite popular, even in some “Christian” circles, to bash the church for all of the dumb things that she has done.

I have met people since being in ministry for over 20 years that have the same attitude with the church that I almost had with Chick-Fil-A! They will attend, serve, be devoted to a local church for months or even years…and then, all of a sudden…
■Someone didn’t call them when they were out for two weeks.
■Someone said something hurtful to or about them.
■They didn’t like what the preacher said.
■They didn’t like what the youth group was doing.

I could go on and on…but you get the point. There are times when people will allow one thing in the church to trump the decades of ministry and impact that have taken place through that body of believers, and that’s a bit insane.
■Yes, if you stay in a church long enough I promise you that you will see hypocrisy.
■Someone will say something to you or about you that will hurt you.
■Decisions will be made that you do not like.
■There are going to be sermons that make you mad.

When that happens the enemy is going to try his best to convince you to just walk away…because he knows that the first step away from God is usually getting people to step away from the people of God.

Yes, the church, EVERY church, has made some unwise decisions and, in the process have hurt or disappointed people along the way…but let’s know throw the baby out with the bathwater…
■She’s STILL being built by Jesus–that makes her important!
■She’s STILL reaching out to the broken, the forgotten and the poor.
■She’s STILL making a difference that’s going to be seen for eternity.
■She’s STILL GOD’S PLAN for reaching the world.
■She’s STILL necessary for believers! (If church is not necessary then why did Jesus say He would build it, died for it, will one day redeem it and spends so much time in the NT talking to it and about it?”

No, the church is NOT perfect…but neither are you (or me!) So, when we’re tempted to walk away because of the one thing that seems to hurt us or trip us up we should simply ask, “is this consistant with this churches character?”

Stay in a church long enough and you will have a bad experience…but let that push you closer to Jesus as you recognize that HE uses imperfect people in His plan, which means sometimes they get it wrong, and then beg the Lord to teach both them and yourself how to best deal with the situation…because, she’s STILL the church and STILL His bride.

Now…anyone want to go to Chick-Fil-A with me? :-)

Perry Noble is the founding and senior pastor of NewSpring Church which has campuses in Anderson, Columbia, Florence, and Greenville, South Carolina. At ten years old, the church averages over 10,000 people across all campuses. You can find Perry online at perrynoble.com or on twitter @perrynoble.

Perry Noble
Christian Post Guest Columnist

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5 Biggest Changes In My Life

Everything in life is about change.  It’s a fact.  If there is life, there is change however, that does not make us like change any better.  I have found that anytime there is some sort of change in my life, it’s carries with it nervousness, anxiety,  hesitation, a un-sureness about the future and wondering if this is the right move.  Even when I know it is the best change possible, I always have those feelings.

  1.  Leaving for college: I moved from Pearl, MS and over 300 miles from home.  The furthest I had ever spent the night from home was on a mission trip and that was only for 1 week.  I would be moving to another state and it scared me to death.  I knew Samford was the college for me and I wanted to go, but wow was this a big change.  I’ve lived in Alabama now for 20 years.  1 year longer than I’d lived in Mississippi.
  2. Going into the ministry:  This was a huge LIFE CHANGE for me.  It was this time that I truly realized my brokenness.  I asked questions like, “How am I going to do this?”  “How can I preach a new sermon every week?”  It was also at this time I began to realize that I couldn’t and this would probably be the first thing in my life that I was not able to accomplish by my own resources…I had to rely on God.
  3. Moving to Decatur for my first appointment:  Accepting the call to preach meant that I would now be itinerant and where I lived and work would not be my choice but that of the Bishop and the Cabinet. Pastor Move Day of 2002, I moved to Decatur leaving behind my first home that I bought, my friends, my job, my financial security and my church. It was hard and scary and at the same time exciting and the feeling that I was finally doing what I was supposed to do.
  4. Getting Married:  I had never met a person like my wife.  Excluding my relationship with Christ, she is the best thing that has ever happen to me.  On the morning of the best day of my life, I was scared and my anxiety was at an all time high.  I was going from being single with my biggest responsiblity was my black lab Reagan and now I was not only a husband but a father.  Life was no longer just about me.  Been the second best decision I’ve ever made.
  5. Having another baby:  Jill and I were getting really close to the age where her doctor said it became more dangerous for her to get pregnant.  We were under time constraints.  Could we afford to have another child?  No.  We will have 2 in college at the same time (didn’t know it was going to be 3).  A lot of prayer and thought but we finally decided to move forward and it has been an awesome privilege to be Graden and Sophie’s dad.

Change is inevitable in life, make the best decisions you can and realized that even before the best changes, there is fear and anxiety.

Categories: Faith Journey, Family, John Personal, Leadership | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Communion Questions and Answers

Dr. Gregory S. Neal, United Methodist Elder, p...

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CLICK HERE TO READ ARTICLE ON UMC PAGE

Why do United Methodists call this sharing of bread and cup by different names, such as Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, and Eucharist?

Each of these names is taken from the New Testament and highlights certain facets of this sacrament’s many meanings. Calling it the Lord’s Supper reminds us that it is a meal instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ and hosted by him at his table whenever it takes place. Calling it Holy Communion reminds us that it is an act of the most holy and intimate sharing, making us one with Jesus Christ and part of his body, the church. Calling it the Eucharist, a term taken from the New Testament Greek word meaning thanksgiving, reminds us that giving thanks to God for all that God has done is an essential part of the meal. By using different names we acknowledge that no single name can contain the rich wealth of meanings in this sacred act.

What do United Methodists mean when they call this act a sacrament?

Our Confession of Faith states: “We believe the sacraments, ordained by Christ, are symbols and pledges of the Christian’s profession and of God’s love toward us. They are means of grace by which God works invisibly in us, quickening [bringing to life], strengthening and confirming our faith in him. Two Sacraments are ordained by Christ our Lord, namely Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.” The term is taken from the Latin sacramentum, which was a Roman soldier’s pledge of allegiance. A sacrament is God‘s pledge of allegiance [love and faithfulness] to us, and our answering pledge of allegiance to God.

Do United Methodists believe that the bread and wine physically or chemically change into Christ’s flesh and blood in this sacrament?

No, we believe that the change is spiritual. They signify the body and blood of Christ for us, helping us to be Christ’s body in the world today, redeemed by Christ’s blood. We pray over the bread and the cup that they may make us one with Christ, “one with each other, and one in service to all the world.”

I am a Christian, but not a United Methodist. Am I invited to receive Communion in a United Methodist church?

Yes indeed. It is the Lord’s Supper, not ours, and it is Christ who invites you. As our ritual puts it: “Christ our Lord invites to his table all who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another.” We do not refuse any who present themselves desiring to receive. Whether you should receive Communion with us is between you and God.
I do not wish to receive Communion because doing so would be disloyal to my religion or my denomination. May I attend a United Methodist Communion service and not receive Communion?
Yes indeed. We do not want anyone to feel unwelcome because, for whatever reason, they do not choose to receive Communion. Simply remain seated when others go forward, or pass the bread and cup along if they are passed to you, and no one will question what you do.

Should I receive Communion if I feel unworthy?

Two thousand years ago Jesus ate with sinners and those whom others scorned. He still does. None of us is worthy, except by God’s grace. Thank God we don’t have to earn worth in God’s eyes by our goodness or our faith. Your sacred worth, and ours, is God’s free gift. No matter what you have done or what your present condition, if you want Christ in your life you are welcome at his table. Communion provides the opportunity for you to confess your sins, to receive forgiveness, and to indicate your intention to lead a new life.

May young children receive Communion?

Certainly. As The United Methodist Book of Worship puts it, “All who intend to lead a Christian life, together with their children, are invited to receive the bread and cup.” We remember that when some of Jesus’ disciples tried to keep children away from him he said: “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs” (Mark 10:14 NRSV).

But do young children know what they are doing when they receive Communion?

Do they understand the full meaning of this holy sacrament? No, and neither do any of us. It is a wonderful mystery, and children can sense wonder and mystery. Children cannot understand the full significance of family meals, but we feed them at our family tables and at Christ’s family table. Young children experience being loved by being fed. They sense the difference between being included and excluded at a family meal. They have the faith of a child, appropriate to their stage of development, which Jesus recognized and honored. Indeed, he said to adults: “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:15 NRSV).

May I receive Communion without standing or kneeling?

Certainly. In some United Methodist congregations most persons receive Communion while standing, while in others most receive while kneeling; but you are always welcome to receive while seated. If others are kneeling at the rail, you may remain standing and you will be served. You may also come forward and be seated on the front row, or come forward in your wheelchair, and you will be served. Or you may notify an usher, and someone will come to you and serve you where you are seated.

If someone in my family wishes to receive Communion but cannot come to the church service, can Communion be brought to them?

Certainly. As an extension of the congregation’s celebration of the Lord’s Supper, Communion is brought to persons, wherever they are, who wish it but could not attend the service. This can be done by the pastor or other clergy, or by designated laypersons.

Is Communion possible at weddings, at healing services, or at funerals or memorial services?

Yes. If you wish to arrange this, talk with your pastor.

Excerpt from United Methodists and Communion: Some Questions & Answers by Hoyt L. Hickman. Copyright © 2001 The United Methodist Publishing House.

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The Sacrament of Holy Communion

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.

Last summer 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.

Categories: Church, Faith Journey, Holy Communion, John Wesley | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Communion by Rev Ted Leach

For me, communion is a way of receiving God’s undeserved love, which we sometimes call grace.  I cup my hands to receive the bread as a gesture of receptiveness.  The bread and the cup are reminders of Jesus’ last supper with his disciples, which was a celebration of the Passover meal on the night that he was arrested.  The last supper was in close proximity to the death and resurrection of Jesus.  So, receiving communion draws me closer to the cross, which for me symbolizes God’s love for me and for all creation.  The bread represents the body of Christ, which also connects me to all who trust in Jesus as savior, the church, the Body of Christ in the world. The bread’s symbolic meaning didn’t begin with Jesus, but with the Passover meal’s unleavened bread, which reminds me of God’s saving action throughout history, including the Israelites’ deliverance from slavery in Egypt.  The cup reminds me of the blood of Christ, or more specifically, his death on the cross.  That, too, has its roots in the Passover meal, which included several cups of wine.  One was the cup of blessing.  Each sabbath, when Jews gather today, they still lift the cup of blessing.  Another cup at Passover was placed there for Elijah, whom Jews still expect to return before the Messiah comes.  Some people think when Jesus passed the cup among his disciples that he took Elijah’s cup.  If so, that may have been a way of saying, “You no long need to wait for the Messiah.”  Now that I’ve lived a significant number of years, each time I receive communion, it also reminds me of places I’ve received communion in the past and the people with whom I shared the bread and cup.  This includes countless worship services in churches, in gatherings of the Annual Conference, in clergy meetings, in the Holy Land, on mission trips to Latin America, at Donaldson Prison–including Death Row.  John Wesley called communion a means of grace, and I believe he was right.  We call it a sacrament, a holy act, like baptism.  We call it the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion, or the Eucharist (which is a Greek word for “Thanksgiving”).  Communion is all this, and as I grow older, I discover more and more of its power and meaning.

Blessings,
Ted

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Communion Testimony: Jennifer Haselden

3rd quarter of 16th century

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I saw your FB post at Communion Testimony and I just couldn’t help but share this story:

In Feb. 2009 Dad and I went on a 2 1/2 week tour of Israel and the Holy Land with a group from our church. It was the trip of a lifetime! I will never read the bible the same again!  Anyways, one of our last days we were in Jerusalem and got to go to the Upper Room. Obviously the original building that Jesus and the disciples were in for the Last Supper is not there anymore, but it is believed to be rebuilt in the same place. We bought bread and juice and carried it with us most of the day (all the way down the Via Delorosa) just so that we could take Communion together IN the Upper Room.
Our group prayed and sang together and then took communion, and as we were almost finished and I was helping Dad serve, another group came in. (The were hispanic, but I have no idea what nationality they were)  One woman spotted our group taking communion, got very excited and started walking towards us, but her friend grabbed her arm and pulled her back and  kind of gestured to our nametags letting her know that it was just for our group.  I will never forget how the woman’s face dropped in sadness… She definitely understood the significance of where she was and wanted so desperately to participate with us.  I was still holding the bread so I waved really big to her and motioned for her to come over. Her face lit up SO BRIGHT.  She then dragged the Other woman into our group and I served them both communion.  Then THEY grabbed everyone else in their group and we served them all. We couldnt communicate through speech with these people, but we communicated through the sacrament.

The best part :   Since we were leaving, we handed the leftover bread and juice to the group that had already been there when we arrived. They were from Ethiopia, and spoke very little English, but they understood what we were giving them and began to serve their group.
Three groups, as racially and culturallly  different as possible took communion together, with no words exchanged.   The words we did share – those to the hymn “Amazing Grace” – I will NEVER forget walking out the doorway of that room hearing “grace will lead us home ….”

It was such a beautiful representation of what the church and the Body of Christ SHOULD be.

LIFE CHANGING- that’s for sure.

~Jennifer Haselden~

Categories: Church At Chelsea Park, Faith Journey, Holy Communion, John Personal | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Communion Testimony: Joshua Allison

Holy Communion is the most amazing, most wonderful thing a pastor can give to his or her people. It is better than anything else because it is the body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and a means of grace. We should receive Communion as often as possible; weekly at least. It does not make it less meaningful. Instead, the more often you receive, the more meaningful it becomes.

I have two experiences at the Table that I treasure most. The first was the first time I presided over the Eucharist as pastor of Weeden Heights UMC in Florence. It was an amazing experience. The little 3 year old girl who demanded a larger piece of bread was the best thing — Oh, that we would demand a larger piece of Jesus!

The second was at Sumatanga, at Junior High IV camp in 2010. I got to help with the service, and the atmosphere, in the woods behind the prayer chapel, ivy and rocks and soft light amid the darkness, the culmination of a week about faith… It was magical, really. I’ll never forget it.

I’ve had some wonderful times at the Table. And I expect many more. I cannot experience it often enough. I look forward to being in church with Christ himself presiding over his table, the Eucharist taking on a whole new meaning as we celebrate together with all saints of all ages in one place at one time. I cannot wait.

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End of the World? Really…

There has been an extreme amount of talk this week regarding the prediction of the Rapture by “Pastor” Harold. Camping  Camping claims to have figured out through scripture and mathematical calculations when God is going to return.  His prophecy has caused quite the uproar with news reports of people cashing in their life savings to place advertisements in New York warning people that May 21 would be the end.

Here’s my two cents:

  • Forget that his ministry is worth about $80 Million Dollars
  • Put aside the fact that he predicted the rapture would be in September 1994 (but got his calculations wrong.)
  • Look over that he encourages his people to “steadfastly continue to stand with us to proclaim the Gospel through Family Radio.”  (Radio after the Rapture?)

Let’s save “Pastor” Camping a great deal of being wrong and ask him during his study of Scriptures (to devise the calculations for the end of the world) to take a look at Matthew 24:35-37 and Mark 13:31-33.  Jesus says, “…not Angels, nor the Son, but only the Father” will know the date and hour.  That’s good enough for me.

Categories: Faith Journey, John's Rant (opinion) | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Foundation of Spiritual Growth

Have you ever felt tired in your spiritual journey?  My grandmother used to say, “I’m just tuckered out!”  I have felt like that and if we are not careful to take care of our own spiritual needs while doing the work of Christ, we will get burned out.  Then we are no good to anyone.  So how do we make disciples while still becoming one?

If we are to “make disciples” as the mission of the church; it leads the next thought to that of a personal one…how do I become a disciple of Christ. Is it more than just going to church on every Sunday of your life (although that is a part of spiritual growth); it is more than just saying that you are a disciple (I could say that I’m the President of the US but I cannot get my organist to play “Hail to the Chief” as I enter); and it is more than just a belief that Christ is the Son of God (Scripture says that even the demons believe in this). So what do I do to become a disciple?

I attended a great conference in Orlando several years ago (I found my notes while cleaning up my office and unpacking some boxes…yes, I’m still unpacking) and one of the gentlemen who spoke (Wayne Cordero) stated that you will hear a lot of people saying to read this and do that and that may be good advice, but for the foundation of Spiritual Growth…look to what Jesus did. Let me give you a couple of examples:

1. Solitude: (Un-distracted time with God) This was a holy habit for Jesus. Life is going to get hectic, it’s going to get overwhelming with work; raising children; marriage; finances; even the commute to and from work. Take some un-distracted time with God. Put away your cell phone; don’t check your e-mail; turn off the TV, radio, I-Pod, and text messaging and get away from other people so that you can spend some un-distracted time with God. Luke 6:12-13; Luke 22:39-43; Matthew 14:13; Matthew 14:22.

2. Sabbath: Most of us are heavily burdened with worries and a host of responsibilities. Jesus promises rest for their souls. (Matthew 11:28-29). Rest, inspiration and play are precious pathways that can renew our souls. We need to take time to rest.

3. Silence: Mother Theresa said “Silence of the heart is necessary so you can hear God everywhere–in the closing of the door, in the person who needs you, in the birds that sing…” and the Scripture tells us to “Be Still and Know I am God.

4. Prayer: There are many examples of Jesus praying. Mark 1:35 “In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.” Spiritual growth into discipleship cannot and will not happen without prayer. A personal conversation with God in which one listens as much as one talks. Jesus had such a prayer life that it amazed his disciples (Jews who had probably prayed their whole life, yet they say something different in the prayers of Christ) they came to him and,said, Jesus, teach us to pray.

If your desire is Spiritual Growth and you want to be a Disciple…look to the Master. Find out what he did in his life and use those activities as the foundation of your growth. You can’t go wrong and it will make all the difference in your life.

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Why? Simple Question/Big Answer

Last night we had our annual Charge Conference and it was one of the best that I have ever attended.  Instead of it being a “business meeting” that bored everyone to tears, it focused on the work of the Body of Christ.  An hour was spent talking to the leaders of our churches about making disciples.  The guest speaker was Dr. Rudy Guess who is the Sr. Pastor at Gardendale/Mt. Vernon UMC.  He spoke on several different issues but the questions he raised are what got my attention the most.  Simple questions that mean so much and have such a big answer.  I struggled with these questions last night, not for the right answer but more of why have we not been asking these simple questions.  Maybe we’re scared of the answers.  Maybe it’s because we know the right answers but don’t believe it.  Or, is it that we just don’t care.  Three simple questions:

  1. Why does Jesus matter?
  2. Why does the Church matter?
  3. Why does your local church matter?

Have you ever given thought to these three questions?  They go hand in hand.  They deserve to be asked and more importantly deserve an answer.  However, if we ask that first one and answer it according to what we say we believe, it holds our feet to the fire on the other two.  Maybe we don’t want to answer the questions?  Do we truly believe our answers to the first question and if we do, how are we going to answer the second and third question?

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

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