Friday, July 31, 2009

VBS Day 5

On the last day of VBS we enjoyed a wonderful evening of Bible stories, crafts, singing and of course, recreation time in the giant inflatable and throwing waterballoons at the pastor- and a few other church leaders. We raised tons of money for mission (not sure how much yet) and that allowed the kids to have their waterballoon festivities on Thursday night. See you all in church on Sunday for worship, VBS kids singing and an all church potluck picnic. Thank you to all of the leaders and kids for a wonderful week of VBS.

See you this weekend and go in peace and go with God.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

VBS Day 4- Crocodile Dock

On day 4 we learned that God gives us life. We talked about Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. We also talked about how friends stick with you during tough times. Some of the kids had some interesting views on friendship- here are few of them.
"Friends spend time with you."
"Friends don't take revenge on you."
"Friends hang out with you."
"Friends go to your funeral."
"Friends call you."
"Friends come over when you ask them to play."
Seriously. Those were just a few responses from our children and youth.
Go in peace and go with God.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

VBS- Day Three

Over the past few days our children and youth have learned some valuable lessons
God is With Us.
God is Powerful
And last night we learned that God keeps His promises. God does what he says he will do.
Our lesson team ditched the 10th plague last night as it seemed a bit too much and decided to use the story of Jonah. Jonah is a great story of a man who refuses to listen to God. He runs away and is through several circumstances, he must face with will of God. He is called to preach to Nineveh. Nineveh has lost their way and Jonah is called to turn them back to the Lord. They were a wicked city full of sin. The immediately after hearing God's word turn away from their evil ways.
As we move into our fourth day a VBS I pray that we continue to see new children and youth. I pray our leader remain passionate and joyful.
May God continue to bless this church and our VBS. It has been so much fun this year. If you are in a church and don't help with VBS, sign up to be a volunteer! You learn a ton about God and children and youth can be a great example to our own faith journey.
Go in peace and Go with God!!!!
Brock and Avery had a blast at VBS!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

2nd Day of VBS

Wow, what an awesome second day. There were more children and youth than the first day! Moses met the Pharaoh and told him "Let my people go!"

The plagues were sent upon Pharaoh and his people (waves of children leaping like frogs and buzzing like gnats). And the people were finally given their freedom.

Doc and Croc (Australian surfers that lost their accents in a terrible surfing accident) then joined Ingrid on the stage to demonstrate "Skunk Deodorant". It repels all kinds of creatures.
Remember- God is With Us and God is Powerful. Come and see what we learn tonight!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Vacation Bible School


VBS started at Grace yesterday. We are doing Crocodile Dock this year. We learned that God spoke to Moses through a burning bush. God said that He would be "with Moses" as he confronted the Pharaoh to free the Israelites from slavery.
Story time was a blast. The children met Moses and witnessed the conversation between him and God. Remember, God is with us (FEAR NOT!).
Bring the kids and youth tonight as we continue Crocodile Dock- This Dock Rocks!!!!!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I Am Blessed

Do you feel blessed? I hope you do. I know that I feel blessed. Some days it's more difficult to feel blessed than others, but I do feel blessed.
The blessings in my life are too numerous to list, but I do feel blessed.
I appreciate the blessings. I do not speak of blessings as to boast. I speak of blessings to point to the one who provides the blessings.
I also have come to be thankful and see the world as a place for God's joy to be shown. The world can be a very sad and lonely place if we choose. I choose to say the world is an interconnected web of joy filled and loving relationships that provide comfort, solidarity and hope.
The experiences we share with others are a wondrous example of the profound nature of connections and relationships.
Enjoy the world around you. Help others find the joy. Help other find comfort.
Go to a ball game. Go to a play. Go to a park. Do something with your family and friends. Have a bar b q. Spend time with people this weekend. Don't wait for someone to ask....invite, invite, invite.
Go in peace and go with God.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Life and Death

What is the sum of your life? Is it made up of parts or is it the big picture? I reflect back on the many experiences and relationships (good and bad) to better understand the impact and influence our lives have on others.
I would like to think that the love that we show others, the help we have provided and the light of Christ that we have shined in this world best sums up what we are about...of course there are children, church, work, school, family, friends and numerous other things that fill our days.
At the end of our days here on earth I hope our legacy is more than a bank account.
I hope that more people than I would ever imagine have been helped by something I said or did.
I pray that through my actions that many people have turned their lives back to Christ and that new believers have found their way to Christ.
Helping others is what our focus should be, instead of helping ourselves.
Go in peace and go with God

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hospitality without grumbling

In 1 Peter 4 we see advice given to followers of Christ--
"Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling."
If we just look at the passage without reflecting on what is around it (other verse), what does it say to us about who this was directed at?
Someone was grumbling about being hospitable? Probably.
Someone was grumbling. How do you feel about being hospitable to people?
In my life it's easy to be friendly or hospitable to my family, friends and people I know. My comfort zone must be pushed to open up to strangers. Some people are really good at welcoming the stranger. It's a gift for them. I would say for most of us, it is not easy. We have to force ourselves to reach out and discover new relationships. On Sunday morning, who do you greet? Just the people you know....the people within 10 ft of you?
Here is a challenge for this next week. Take one whole section (we have 4) and try and greet everyone. I know the band is quick to start that praise song, but at least try. If you don't know someone, introduce yourself. Make a new friend. You never know. Maybe that person had the worst week of their life and all they needed was a smile and a handshake.
And after you try it in church a few weeks, give it a try in the community. It's never a bad thing to make a new friend.
Go in peace and go with God.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Strategies for Evangelism

Do you have one? A strategy for evangelism I mean? Maybe you have talked about people who you should invite to church or thought about sharing your faith story with...but, it's not a top priority. Our lives are full of other stuff. Our ministries are full of other stuff that stifles our desire and willingness to reach out. Failures have piled up so many times that the frustration keeps us from trying new things. I believe that every person needs to know Christ. Out of that belief I am led to act. My conduct, my speech and my life need to be focused such that my witness does not diminish the chances that someone my respond to an invitation to discipleship. Church is a great way to help others find God. Making that invitation is sometimes frightening to Christians. We must try. Fear should not keep us from doing something we know that is eternally important.
Right now half or more of our churches are dying. Numerous churches are in conflict. Some feel we are bailing water on a sinking ship.
The church is the best place in the world for people to make a connection with God. Pray. Seek God's guidance.
Develop that strategy. Talk about it and then do something. Don't just talk. Shake a hand, invite someone, love your neighbor---get to know your neighbor!
Too many have been lost and it's time we start moving in the right direction. Push. Pray. Follow. Encourage. Move. Go!
May the God of the universe bless you in your endeavors.
Go in peace and go with God.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Right Frame of Mind

Have you ever heard that phrase- I was not in my "right frame of mind". People utter those words every now and then for multiple reasons. Sometimes they made a mistake and would like a bit of grace. Other times, people have done something outrageous and would like to claim that it wasn't them who committed the indiscretion, it was their "wrong frame of mind". My question is- What led you to leave the right frame of mind and how can you keep that from happening again?
Sin is something that all of us deal with, usually on a daily basis. There are the little sins and then there are the big ones. There really is no difference, but in our minds we sure pretend there is, especially when we are the ones doing the sinning.
Again, what leads us to a frame of mind to sin? Are we pushed there? Does someone else set us off? Or, do we make a clear and serious choice to walk that path because we have neglected our spiritual life? Admit it, most of the problems we create come down to us neglecting our spiritual life. We don't pray. We don't read our Bibles. We don't talk to God or other Christians. We speak poorly of others. We just become a mess of sin and then we wonder why life is not going right.
Qualification- I know some people who suffer have done nothing wrong and are struggling due to other circumstances- that is not who I am talking about at all.

No, I am talking about those of us who instead of claiming responsibility for our actions would rather choose to believe we were not in the right frame of mind. Next time you see yourself walking down that road, look for a STOP sign. Stop. Then run as fast as you can away from that road and maybe, just maybe that impending struggle that sin led you too won't have power over you again. Choose to live a transformed life.
Go in peace and go with God.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cross Training for Christ

In worship Sunday I mentioned a program I had heard about known as Cross Training. Our youth are thinking about trying something new this year and that program sparked some interest. Here is the way I interpret to program.
Cross training is training your spiritual body for serving Christ, loving God and neighbor and doing good works. It is the essentials of living your faith in the world.
The United Methodist Church has a heritage of 3 simple rules.
1) Do no harm, 2) Do good, and 3) Stay in love with God.
Those are a good way to remember to stay focused.
We also receive people into membership through
"prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness".
We encourage members to read their Bibles daily.
So the 7 point Cross Training System might look something like this:
Prayers, Presence, Gifts, Service, Witness, Fellowship and The Word of God.
Our Bishop has five practices. There are also the five purposes of the church from Rick Warren.
Every church needs to decide how to explain the process of becoming a disciple and then what followers of Christ should do next. If no options or explanations are given, then what are we inviting people to in joining the church except just providing another number on the year end reports?!
The process of discipleship cannot be ignored. It must be intentional.
Where are you in your faith journey?
Go in peace and go with God.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Getting It Wrong

I love to watch the weather every evening. And usually they are pretty accurate. One of the local station offers a 3 degree guarantee- that if they were not within 3 degrees of the actual high for the day, they will give someone something...
Anyway, I watched the forecast yesterday early evening. The word HOT was listed on today. High of 95 with a heat index of 106. Yikes. Wow. I passed that information on to someone a few moments after I saw the report. They did predict rain in the forecast and well, it rained.
This morning however I saw the "updated" forecast. High of 85, cloudy and humid. What happened to the 95, heat index of 106??????
Oh, things changed. The circumstances that would lead to the high have changed and so we provide you with an "updated" forecast.
It seems to me that long range forecasts are not all that accurate. It's a guessing game out there. Now, there are some very smart people out there guessing. They have the best technology available.
We all make mistakes. And most of our mistakes are in private and we don't share our mistakes because none of us want to admit failure. (sorry, except the one person out there who likes to be that person that says, "youre wrong, I admit all my failures)
Anyway, we get things wrong alot. And you know, it's ok to make mistakes. If you make a mistake, hopefully you learned from it and won't make it again. We get it wrong a lot and I mean a lot of the time. The best we can do is try and remain faithful. Try and do our best. Place ourselves in the best circumstances possible for success. There is a path or a road we can take that leads to success, happiness and increases our faith and yet, many of us avoid that way because it's too steep a hill climb.
I often see reports of the end times and predictions about when Christ will come back. Here is what Jesus says, "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour."
I think the best advice is to stay alert and keep watch. It's when we stop paying attention and become distracted that mistakes are made.
Go in peace and go with God.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Ultimate Extreme Camp was Ultimately rather Extreme

We did it. After 8 years directing, and even more years as a counselor and camper, we maxed out the camp. It was a mix and confluence of events that I don't fully understand, but I fully praise God for it all.
My first year as a director at Galilee 40 youth showed up. Galilee at the time had 220 beds. Over the next few years a theme and a vision began to form. How about we put together a week of camp that would allow churches to send 4th through 12th graders...and we did.
With the Ultimate Extreme Elementary, Ultimate Extreme Jr. High and Senior High Leadership, Camp Galilee set a record. With campers, counselors, directors and core staff, 255 people gathered over one week to worship, learn, fellowship and experience God.
From what Brad North said, "It was the largest week of camping in the history of Galilee". This is due to the addition of the west cabin a few years ago and of course to a huge push to invite, invite, invite children and youth to camp.
Thank you to Nancy Owen, Lee Smith, Loren Bridge and Stephanie Smith for leading and directing the three camps.
Did I mention while these three camps were going on, there was a horse camp too? Wow.
Thank you to Brad and Janet for all of your tireless and faithful work. Camp Galilee continues to be a premier camping site. You have both done a wonderful job.
Thank you also to the 62 campers and leaders that attended camp this week from Grace. You are a true blessing and it is an honor to be your pastor.
May God continue to bless Grace UMC, Camp Galilee and everyone with whom we encounter. Let us be a light in the darkness.
Go in peace and go with God.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Sending the Campers Home

Tonight I will preach that last message for our campers week of camp. If my figures are correct, over 190 campers and 40 to 50 counselors and directors made this week of camp the largest of the year. Great job staff and leadership at Camp Galilee!
What a huge blessing for Ultimate Extreme Elementary and Jr. High camps, and Senior High Leadership. I have heard great reports all week from the three camps.
All of these campers will return home on Saturday. I pray they will take the camp spirit back to their local churches. I pray that they will choose to try and renew and strengthen their local churches. The theme today is growing in Christ in evangelism. We are asking all the campers to head back to their community willing to share their story of faith with their friends and neighbors. We encourage them to invite people to worship, to youth group and to VBS.
Please pray for our campers, counselors and directors. Pray for me as I share the message.
Pray that the Spirit be with us all as we gather in worship.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

How the Mighty Fall

In his new book "How the Mighty Fall", Jim Collins outlines that five stages of decline. They are:
1-Hubris born of success
2- Undisciplined Pursuit of more
3- Denial of Risk and Peril
4- Grasping for Salvation
5- Capitulation to Irrelevance or Death.
One of the best lines in the whole book is on page 63.
"Success creates pressure for more growth, setting up a vicious cycle of expectations; this strains people, the culture, and systems to the breaking point; unable to deliver consistent tactical excellence, the intuition frays at the edges."
Wow. Fresh words and a fresh perspective that will hopefully help us all better understand what is possible in this world and what is just grasping and gasping.
The word hubris means pride. Pride leads to all kinds of things in this world. We make decisions about our future, our families and our lives sometimes out of an overdeveloped sense of self loving value (pride), which then can lead to destruction and sadness. A healthy view of one's self will hopefully provide for better decisions and a great deal more joy. This does not count out taking risks, but there are dumb risks and smart risks. Avoid the dumb ones.
In the one of best Sherlock Holmes stories, Doyle shows a bit of humility in his character.
"If it should ever strike you that I am getting a little over-confident in my powers, or giving less pains to a case than it deserves, kindly whisper 'Norbury' in my ear, and I shall be infinitely obliged to you."
Norbury should ring in all of our ears when we become a bit too prideful and arrogant. Remember to enjoy the blessings you have received and be a thankful person today. We never know how many more days we can be thankful.
Go in peace and go with God.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Beta or Prime Time

Yesterday Google announced that Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs and Google Talk all have left their Beta testing and are ready for "prime time". Beta basically means that software is not ready to be fully launched because they are still testing it, trying to figure out the potential problems or bugs before the "official" launch.
Now gmail has been around for five years, and it still had the Beta tag. Most beta tests last around six months. Companies want to get their product out there as soon as it is ready.
I know some of you probably don't use gmail, google calendar, google docs or google talk, but I know that all of you have used google.com, and I am 99% sure you have googled yourself.
When people accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior they become a new creation. That new creation has sin washed away, the slate is clean, and they have found new direction and purpose in their life. Being new sometimes means the passion is high and the spiritual depth is low. They have years of growing in God's grace ahead of them and as they draw closer to God their eyes are opening to new possibilities and opportunities.
Sadly, many Christians never get much further past that initial first six months as a Christan mentality. They are still in their Beta version. Not ready for prime time, so they feel. They are afraid to share their faith story and if you ask them to invite someone to church some will say they just would not know how to do that...not wanting to impose upon their friends and family.
So I ask today, are you in your Beta walk with God or have you become a prime time player?
Are you on the bench with the JV, or are you ready to play Varsity?
Friends, believe me, I know it's hard to "evangelize" or invite someone to church but it is ingrained deeply in who we are as Christians. We are called to plant seeds, love God, love our neighbor, help the poor and yet, we think someone else will help or someone else will go. Today I challenge you to share your faith story with somebody. Push yourself beyond your fear and reach out. Pray that God will guide you and lead you so that your words will be salted with God's grace.
And go ahead and google yourself. Who knows what you might find.
Go in peace and go with God.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Our Days

Why is it that so many days seem to get away from us? Really, we start out well and then the train is off the track and we are blazing a trail through some uncharted territory which had very little to do with our purpose for the day. All too often this happens to me. I feel that every day I have purpose. I get up. Feed the dog. Pray. Read my Bible. Get ready for work. Catch the morning news. At that point my day seems to be right on track. Then I leave the house.
I use lists sometimes to keep me on track. I don't like when the day gets away from me, or I guess, gets away from God's purpose for me that day.
I feel it's not good stewardship of my time. Distractions keep me from the larger tasks of ministry, and they also keep me from continued building of relationships.
I hope, and I am pretty sure I am not the only one who feels this way. I pray this day that all of you and me are able to stay on track and on task for God. That God's purpose for this day will be fulfilled.
Go in peace and go with God.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Take out the trash

After the 4th of July in our town is a bit of a mess. I drove to church the next morning and observed a massive amount of spent fireworks. A big mess. Most people wait to the morning to clean up the mess because it is too dark to clean up that night.
In our neighborhood there were some pretty serious fireworks going off. We have joked in the past that we don't need to buy fireworks anymore, everyone around us shoots them off for us.
Inevitably, someone does have to clean up the mess from the party. Our lives sometimes are a spiritual mess because of the parties we choose to attend, and the lifestyle choices we make. In your life right now, is there anything amiss? Does something not seem right? What kind of spiritual trash have you let into your soul?
We had loads of trash from the weekend. With family up, and everything else going on, there were a few extra bags of garbage left at the side of the drive this morning.
It's trash day....what spiritual trash needs to be taken out?
Go in peace and go with God.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Safe Travels

Today is a day when a significant number of people will be traveling. Their destination? A wonderful holiday weekend known as the 4th of July. Independence Day for the United States. A few things come to mind.
As you drive across the fruited plains, look for the amber waves of grain, see the purple mountains and experience that brotherhood/sisterhood from all of your neighbors. From sea to shining sea, we live in a great land full of people who love God and love their neighbor. As you travel, may God bless you on your journey and may God bless your family, friends, neighbors and this great land.
Go in peace and go with God.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Freedom

Since it's the week before the 4th of July, Independence Day for people in the US, I thought I would reflect on a few words written many years ago.
"What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly".
"Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon goods: and it would be strange indeed, if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated".

Can you put a price on freedom? I know some do and some can. Over the next few days as you purchase fireworks, food for your bar b q's, please remember the sacrifice of others to keep you free.

It is the difficult things that bring about high esteem. When things are easy, we take many of them for granted. When things are taken away from us or they are lost, we begin to realize their intrinsic value.
Cherish the relationships you have and do not take them for granted. Rejoice with family and friends this weekend and celebrate worship in a house of worship wherever you find yourself.

Those quotes were from Thomas Paine, written in "The American Crisis". He signed them, Common Sense.

Go in peace and go with God.