Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Midweek Moment

This past weekend Debbie and I spent time with the boys at one of our favorite places in the world, the Warren W. Willis United Methodist Camp in Leesburg. We were there for one of our family's favorite rituals; The Clergy Kids and Family Retreat.

Camp is a sacred place for me. My first experience at the Warren Willis Youth Camp was in elementary school as a church camper. I started coming to camp for a week each summer every year after that and loved it! Debbie has equally special memories attached to the camp from her experiences growing up and later as serving as a Summer Camp Counselor for a year. So when we heard in 2010 that there was a special weekend at camp for Clergy Kids we jumped at the chance to not only spend some time with our boys, but to also introduce our boys to our special place. Before we went to our first retreat in 2011, hanging out with other clergy kids and pastors was just a bonus in our minds.

But we very quickly realized that this is a special community of folks. The kids look forward ALL year long to coming together and hanging out with one other....because at Clergy Kids they build an attachment to a place (camp) that is always theirs no matter where their parents might move in the conference and they build relationships with friends that they will never lose no matter where their parents might move in the conference. That's a significant investment we want to keep giving our boys.... a network of support from people who know the unique challenges you face when your mom and/or your dad is the pastor of a church. One of the highlights every year is the candlelight ceremony that takes places as part of Saturday night worship. In the picture below are five clergy kids. The one on the far right, Emma Hartsfield, we celebrated as a senior in high school who is graduating from Clergy Kids. She spoke of her time and what it has meant to her and then lit the other four candles representing the torch being passed to the new senior high group - three boys and a girl who next year will be freshmen in high school. That is always a very moving part of our worship together.

One of the most special gifts that Clergy Kids gives us as a family is a chance to worship together. While Parker, Wesley and Debbie are all in a sanctuary during worship each Sunday, Debbie does not get to sit with them to help them process what's happening. Davis is in the nursery and I am down the road. This past weekend we had several different worship times where we were all able to be together and worship as a family.

This was our fifth Clergy Kids retreat. We're invested enough in Clergy Kids that we are on the design team for the weekend: helping plan themes for the guest speakers and the kids' times and heavily promoting it to all the Clery Families that we know. This year there were four new families who joined us and we had one of our largest gatherings with 75 folks there.

Thank you for allowing us the time away to participate in Clergy Kids and make this very important and lasting investment in the lives of our children.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sunday, January 25th: Crisis of Faith
Romans 4:3-5, 5:1-2

We have all experienced a crisis of faith at times in our lives. John Wesley and the Apostle Paul were no different. I hope you will find a renewed sense of God's grace in your life after hearing this message; a sense that will energize you to share that grace with others. Blessings!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Bible Challenge 01/25 - 01/31

Greetings All!

This week we are finishing the book of Acts and reading the first part of Paul's letter to the church at Rome.

The second major segment is chapters 8-12 and shows the spread of the Gospel out from Jerusalem into the regions of Judea and Samaria. Here the central figure is Philip and his main audience the Samaritans. The timeline here is 13 years from Stephen's stoning to Paul's missionary journeys. The last segment of the book of Acts in chapters 13-28 details the spread of the Gospel past the known areas of Jesus and the disciples out to the uttermost parts of the earth as Paul travels all around the Roman world preaching to the Gentiles. This covers about 14 years from his first missionary journey through to his release from the Romans.

With regard to Romans, most scholars believe that this book was written in Corinth at the end of Paul's second missionary journey there, somewhere around 55-56AD. The book of Romans is Paul's greatest theological legacy to the church. The longest by far of his letters, it's intent is to explain that salvation is offered through the Gospel (or good news) of Jesus Christ. Since Paul has not been to Rome at this point, he outlines the good news of Jesus thoroughly so that Paul's teaching will not be confused with other false teachers.

The Main sections of Paul’s argument that we will be reading this week are as follows:
  • God’s wrath revealed against the unrighteous (1:18-3:20)
  • God credits righteousness to all (3:21-5:21)
  • The gift of God’s righteousness results in righteous living (6:1-8:39)

Here is the schedule:

25 - Acts 8-11

26 - Acts 12-15

27 - Acts 16-19

28 - Acts 20-23

29 - Acts 24-27

30 - Acts 28; Romans 1-3

31 - Romans 4-7

May God add his richest blessings to the reading, the hearing and most importantly the living out of His Holy Word. Amen.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Fives

1. Sunday Worship - We are in the midst of our preaching series focusing on the idea of revival as it played out in the life of our denominations founder, John Wesley. Faith is the bedrock for who we are and the foundation for our journeys through this life. Faith allows us to walk confidently with God, trust completely in our relationship with Jesus Christ, and rely fully on the power of the Holy Spirit.

But at times our faith can wane, it can wander, and it can lose its strength. At times such as those we all need revival. Come and join us for the next several weeks as we look at the life of John Wesley, the faith he relied on, and ways we can use those lessons to strengthen our own faith. For a sermon schedule, please click here.

2. FAD Night - FAD Night is back and we are off to a great start! You are all invited to join us each Thursday evening as we gather for fellowship over a simple supper, then break off into our various groups for discipleship. The children have their time together, our fledgling Praise Band has begun rehearsals at this time, and everyone else is invited to stay with me and go through an Immersion Bible Study on the Book of Acts.

This is a great time to draw closer to God and to each other. I hope you will all make plans to attend and be a part of this great time of fun, food, and fellowship. You can sign up by calling the office or placing your name on the sheet at the Connection Station.

3. 2015 Pledge Cards - It's not too late to turn in a pledge card for 2015. Cards are available in the narthex and may be turned into the church office or put into an offering plate. We are also offering electronic giving through Vanco, with the option of having your giving take place automatically at an interval of your choice. Forms for that service are available in the narthex or you may ask for details in the church office.

If you were signed up for electronic giving in 2014, it automatically carries over. If you need to make changes to this in amount or frequency, you can sign in with the account you created initially and make those changes.

4. New Bible Study - As FAD Night has started again, so has another Bible Study opportunity as we go Scriptural once again with the Immersion study of the Book of Acts. Journey inside the pages of Scripture to meet a personal God who enters individual lives and begins a creative work from the inside out. For those unfamiliar with Immersion Studies, they are shaped with the individual in mind. Immersion encourages simultaneous engagement both with the Word of God and with the God of the Word to help you become a new creation in Christ. Immersion, inspired by a fresh translation--the Common English Bible--stands firmly on Scripture and helps readers explore the emotional, spiritual, and intellectual needs of their personal faith. More importantly, you’ll be able to discover God’s revelation through readings and reflections. We have gone through the first seven chapters and next week we will focus on chapter 8-11.

This class will be offered each Thursday at 10am and again in the evening as part of our FAD night, in the Fellowship Hall, from January 15th - February 12th. You can sign up by clicking here, by calling the church office at 629-5688, or by picking up a registration form in the narthex, filling it out and dropping it in an offering place. I hope you all will take advantage of this opportunity to come and be immersed in the Word of God!

5. WE DID IT!!! - Because of your generosity and your faithfulness, we have once again reached our goal for the Advent Challenge. This will allow us to host another Stop Hunger Now meal packaging event and participate in a Church Has Left the Building event. Watch this space for more details as the planning for these mission opportunities unfolds. Have a great weekend and I will see you Sunday!

Have a great weekend and I will see you Sunday!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Midweek Moment

One of things I strive to do in this life is pay attention to the movement of the Holy Spirit. I try to recognize when and where the Spirit is moving and live my life accordingly. Now while I do not prescribe to a fate driven life, I do very much believe in a Spirit lead life.

The time of testimony that we have in worship now is a testament to following the movement of the Holy Spirit. I had three different people come to me in the same day and speak about the virtues of testimony among the gathered Body of Christ. Now as some of you have heard me say, while I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, I am in the drawer; I got the message. So we started that time each week and the stories that have been shared have been stories of a very active God working and living in our midst and I am ever grateful that we listened and continue listen as people share.

I have had that moment of repetitiveness again today. I have been so blessed to have several great authors and theologians as seminary professors and I try to read as much as I can of these great teachers. One I hold dear to me and my faith journey is Rev. Steve Harper. He helped start the Orlando campus of my seminary and he and his wife Jeanne are an integral part of who I am today. I came across a quote of Rev. Harper’s the other day that I want to share with you. “Unity is not me asking you to become like me, and it is not you asking me to become like you. It is Christ asking all of us to be like him. He is our unity. We are one in him.”

Later in the day, I read an editorial from Rabbi Marc Gellman, some of you may know of him as a member of “The God Squad”. He wrote a response to the chaos we have witnessed recently in France. He said, “…we know enough about how we’re all different, but not enough yet about how we’re all the same.”

Both of those quotes got me thinking about the unity we profess each month in our Communion Liturgy; “By your Spirit, make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world, until Christ comes in final victory and we feast at his heavenly banquet.”

How often do we focus on our differences? Not just physical differences, but differences of opinion, of direction, of process. We hone in on those differences and allow them to dictate our reactions and feelings and in no time at all the divide is created. Unity is not just conforming to one another, as Rev. Harper put it; it is not just a lack of knowledge about our similarities, as Rabbi Gellman put it. It is knowing that we are all one creation in God, as both men put it. For us, it is remembering that we are trying to build the same Kingdom, follow the same God, love like the same Christ, and follow the movement of the same Holy Spirit.

I want to encourage all of us to seek that unity in Christ. I want to invite all of us to see how our drive and determination is for the same goal and to remember when we feel those feelings of division starting to come up, lean on God and love like Christ and remember, we are one. We are one in ministry to all the world and I pray that through us and our oneness, the love of God may be felt in all that we do and all that we say.

Have a great week and I will see you Sunday,

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

January 18 2015: An Eye Opening Experience - Luke 24:28-32

This past week we were blessed to hear from one of our own, Randy Leighton, as he served as our guest preacher. Randy shared a very heartfelt account of God's place in his life and how he has felt God reassure him of his faith and his place in God's Kingdom. I pray you were moved by his warm words and strong conviction, as he drew our focus to those 'Jesus moments' we can have each and every day.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Bible Challenge 01/18 - 01/24

Greetings All!

This week we are reading all the way through John (closing out of Gospel experience) and beginning the first few chapters of Acts (learning about the spread of the Gospel and the early church).

The Gospel of John, written by one of the disciples, is very different than the others and so is NOT considered as a synoptic or similar Gospel. While it does mention some of the same stories of people and healings and miracles, the timeline of Jesus' ministry is different than the others and John also includes large chunks of teaching (like chapters 6, 10, and 13-16) that explain who Jesus is that are not included in any other Gospels. No reflection on the Gospel of John would be complete without time and attention spent on these final words - because here John finally explains the rationale behind what is included and not included within his Gospel: "Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But THESE are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing you may have life in his name." (John 20:31)

Acts or Acts of the Apostles, is the second of Luke's major writing, showing how the disciples spread the goods news of the Gospel after Jesus' death, resurrection and ascension back to heaven. The key verse for this book is Acts 1:8: "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." This verses sets the tone for all of the action in the book. The first major segment is chapters 1-7 where the actions centers around the Jews in Jerusalem and Peter is the main figure. The timeline here is about 2 years from Pentecost through the stoning of Stephen.

Here is the schedule:

18 - John 1-4

19 - John 5-8

20 - John 9-12

21 - John 13-16

22 - John 17-20

23 - John 21 - Acts 3

24 - Acts 4-7

May God add his richest blessings to the reading, the hearing and most importantly the living out of His Holy Word. Amen.