Monday, October 29, 2012

Thinking Ahead for A Reason

Over the last two months of 2012 our leadership team has decided that we will end the year with a goal ... a purpose ... and a positive action that will help Good News be the Church locally, nationally and internationally.  We will continue our usual missional focus during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season.  This focus includes Operation Christmas Child, our designated Christmas Eve offering (usually for United Methodist Children's Home) and our yard sale for congregational medical needs.  But this year our leadership team is calling all of us to do something different ... something that is achievable and forward-thinking.  Here is the plan ...

1. We need everyone to be part of this plan in whatever way you can.  Our desire is to pull together a Christmas-season offering that will prepay all of the missional parts of the Conference Offerings for 2013.

2. Each week we will share information about some of the missions that will be funded by this special offering.

3. We have about 400 members ... our plan is to average $50/person above our regular offering ... that's all.  We know some can give more and some can not give at all, so we are asking for generosity from each of us.  Our plan is ambitious ... raise $20,000 during the Christmas season and fund the mission of our church locally, in our district, in our conference, nationally and internationally.  All funds will prepay the missions part of our conference giving for 2013.  We will keep you posted on the progress ... I will personally start Sunday with my share of this goal ... again, above and beyond my regular tithe.

4. Through this process we will become aware of how your regular giving does amazing things beyond our local church and how we are part of something much bigger that our 400 member church.

5.  I reiterate ... we all need to be a team and be a part of this effort.  I hope our leaders and your pastor can count on you to be focused, engaged and in tune with this plan.

6. As an ancillary benefit, this effort will reduce our monthly budgetary needs for 2013 by about $1,800.

Watch for information about the missions you are and will be funding.  You might be surprised that you are touching people from right next door (e.g., Noah's Ark in Panama City) to the other side of the world.  It is one way we "go into all the world, making disciples (Matthew 28:19)" ... and as our District Superintendent reminded us at our annual church meeting last evening,  for the transformation of the world.  The point is that the transformation of the world will only happen through the work of God through Christ and the Holy Spirit.  Paul reminds us that we do this as Christ's ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:16-20)  ... we plan to obediently follow that call!  Pastor Randy

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

In Relevant Magazine Paul Angone writes ... "Complaining is like a rash—too easy to catch, and tough to get rid of. I speak from experience. I’m a recovering “complain-a-holic” who’s still trying to find the cure. And I don’t think it’s just me. It seems that complaining, with a heavy dose of cynicism, has become our national pastime. It only takes three minutes on Facebook, Twitter, talk radio, or the news stations to know that if you’re not complaining about something, you’re a bit of an outsider. Complaining has become our social currency, our shared language used to form a mutual—if somewhat bitter—understanding of the world we live in. We complain about our jobs, the slow Wi-Fi, our leaders in the office and around the world and the waiter who brought only one basket of bread the entire night. ( )"

I am afraid Mr. Angone is correct.  He calls this propensity to complain (for Christ followers) a plague that destroys creativity and causes divisions and disunity and presents a bad witness to the world.  The old song says they will know we are Christians by our love but in practice "they know we are Christians by our complaining."  We are so know for what we are against, not what we are for.  A classic example of this is our attitude toward lifestyles that are different or non-Bilical.  While I won't use this space to make a case for or against such lifestyles (I would take the Biblical route there but will save that argument for another day) I do remember a case in Scripture where Jesus confronted this very issue.  A woman of questionable repute was washing his feet with her tears and expensive perfume (Luke 7:36-50).  It is a story of how Jesus allows this woman to come to him, touch him (both taboo in the Jewish world), wash his feet, kiss him and do all the things that were the true responsibility of the host in the household.  The Pharisee who invited Jesus to come into his house complains about the "sinful" woman.  Jesus calls him on this, reminding the Pharisee (who is 'moral' in the context of the Jewish world) that he has failed in being a host and has failed to receive the forgiveness that was freely given to the sinful woman (by the way ... it doesn't seem she asked ... He just does what only Jesus can do).

I wonder?  What if we approached the people in our world with an attitude of forgiveness rather than a condemnation of their sin?  Would that bring them into a dialogue about the God we worship who is their (and our) only source of life and salvation?  David Kinnaman (in "Unchristian") observes that Mosaic and Baby Buster outsiders (those not in the Christian faith) said that the word 'antihomosexual' accurately describes the modern day Christian community.  While some of you say "right on" and "we certainly are that!" I am asking you to take a bit of a step back.  Do you think God is honored when the very thing we are most known for is being against a group or do you think we should be better known for being "pro-forgiveness" and "for loving all people?"  I do think the dialogue about all sorts of sinful behavior needs to be had and I also know that there are radical elements promoting anti-Christian bias.  But I, for one, want to dialogue and work with sinners who are willing to come to Jesus ... kneel at His feet ... hear his words ... find out that He is the source of life, truth and true wisdom. 

I know some of you will read this the wrong way and (go figure) complain.  I pray that you will see my true meaning and will see I am not promoting any lifestyle that is non-Biblical ... just reminding us that we (through Jesus) come to be a conduit of salvation for the least, the lost and the sinner.  And ... for the record ... let's all stop being a nation of chronic complainers and become a nation of followers who know the solution to every problem ... Jesus!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Nothing is Impossible with God (guest blog)

By Penny Williams

“Then the Lord said to Abraham, why did Sarah laugh and say, “Will I really have a child now that I am old?”  Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.” Ge. 18:13&14 NIV
No wonder Sarah laughed, they were both well over the age of child bearing. Sarah was barren and more than anything she desired to bear a son for Abraham. Could she possibly place such a youthful hope in her heart and believe what the Lord said to Abraham?  
Like Sarah, we all have our many appointed times. Sarah’s appointed time to give birth to Isaac (whose name means “one laughs”) wasn’t until she was yet another year older at the age of 90, Abraham was 100. I call them the dynamic duo.  I believe her laughter was coupled with a youthful heart. Sarah’s youthful laughter could have been the prerequisite to that hope. When she dared to believe, she conceived the seed of faith and became pregnant with Isaac. We know how God honors faith.
Perhaps the answer to your prayers hasn’t manifested in the physical yet. A long time ago I had a Pastor tell me “sometimes God says no.” I didn’t like to hear that truth, but I knew it was truth. I had to search my heart to see if I was praying in God’s will. There are times He withholds things because He knows they wouldn’t be good for us. When we end up doing things our way instead of God’s way we walk through the consequences of our disobedient impatience and eventually learn “Father knows best” after all.
Think for a moment, about what happens behind the scenes when we lift up a prayer to God. Many times there are different people involved that He has to work with in some way, some are moved geographically, others physically, hearts have to be touched and lives begin to communicate a change before you begin to see the answer in the flesh. All this can take hours or years in the invisible/spiritual realm before it is carried out in His appointed time. This “invisible work” could be something like a domino effect or walking through a maze. God acts, but He never changes and continues to abide by his principles with the truth of His word.
What looks like a tragedy will be turned around many times for praise and gratitude for God. He uses all things for His glory. What was once used for the spirit of darkness is turned around to give God praise, glory and all honors.
When I go through a time of testing, I pray and then wonder how God is going to work in this situation and He always comes through. Look for it and expect it, God never fails.
As I mentioned, we do not usually see the work in progress, if we did; it wouldn’t be faith. There are times though when God does allow us to see the early beginnings of an answered prayer like that of a flower getting ready to bloom and oh, how our heart leaps for joy. When our Father allows us to see the start of something so beautiful, our faith is watered and we know inside we’ve won that battle and  passed the test of faith! 
Is anything too small or hard for the Lord? Not a thing.  He cares about everything that is going on in your life. Never give up! No matter what you are going through, you can have the peace of knowing that God will stay by your side and take you through the whole process and as there are times when you feel like you are walking through the fire, you are getting stronger and becoming refined by the heat just like the diamond God has appointed you to be. All in His appointed time. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Servant Leaders

It is that time of year when United Methodist churches recommend leadership positions for the coming year (affirmed at the Charge Conference, the annual church-wide business meeting to be held on October 28th at 5:30pm).  Sometimes questions arise as to how this happens.  Folks sometimes think the pastor just picks people for the positions.  This is not the United Methodist process and not the Good News process.  Here is what we do.
1.  A group called Lay Leader Development (nominated and voted on at the Charge Conference each year) meets to nominate new leaders or consider changes in lay leadership.  The group is co-chaired by the Lay Leader and the Pastor (in our case the Lay Leader take the lead role, runs the meetings and coordinates the recommendations).
2. We pray a lot, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year when we are bringing in ideas and recommendations.  That prayer continues to be part of our meetings and part of the process.
3. Our recommendations for leaders start with thinking about people who love other people and God (the Great Commandment from Jesus), are available year round (Luke 9:59-62), are regular participants in the life of the church (prayer, presence, gifts, service, witness ... Acts 2:42-47), play well with others (i.e., people who edify and build up the Church using their gifts per 1 Corinthians 12), and bear the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
4. We don't have members of the same household (husband and wife) on the Executive Council ... a necessary but difficult rule since we have many husbands and wives at Good News are so capable of being leaders.
5. Prior to the Charge Conference our entire Church Council is asked to affirm and endorse the work of the Lay Leadership Development Team.
We also have many teams that are assigned special duties but operate as task forces of an administrative team or of the Executive Council.  These might be some of the most important teams at Good News since they implement ministry in close proximity to the people God has sent us.
Finally, we sometimes (because we are people) have misunderstandings which lead us to connect and pray together over our differences.  We deal with these matters with the person with whom we have the dispute, telling the truth in love (Ephesians 4:14-16).
That's a short synopsis of what happens each year.  We would love for you to add your prayers to the process.  Thanks!  Pastor Randy