Saturday, October 31, 2009

Time Change, Time Change!

Just a friendly reminder to everyone tonight we gain an hour...YEA!!!! So set your clocks back an hour before you retire for the night and enjoy the extra sleep. See you all tomorrow!


Bible Challenge 11/01 - 11/07

Greetings All! I pray your week has been wonderful! Here is the schedule for the upcoming week. We are going through the Gospels which just permeate with the love of Christ. I truly hope you are all enjoying them! We get all the way through Mark and into Luke. Keep pressing on!

11/1, Sunday - Mark 1-4

11/2, Monday - Mark 5-8

11/3, Tuesday - Mark 9-12

11/4, Wednesday - Mark 13-16

11/5, Thursday - Luke 1-4

11/6, Friday - Luke 5-8

11/7, Saturday - Luke 9-12

Have a great week in the Word!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Fives

Hello All!

Here are a few things that caught my interest this week.

1. The interest in our Facebook group has grown a bit. We now have 10 members! This is a wonderful way we can stay in contact and let others see what we are all about. Do not forget to check it out sometime, join as a member, and tell others about it. I will post some pictures soon from the Pumpkin Patch.

2. I received a flyer this week advertising a Healthy Lifestyle for Senior Adults "Health Fair". It will be November 10th, 10am - 2pm, at Oakcrest Baptist Church. For more info you can call 352-629-7058.

3. This week in worship we will be taking a break from the preaching series "Big Rocks" to recognize All Saints Day and remember those that have died within the past year. This is also a time for us to be mindful of those that have influenced us for the Kingdom and our response to that gift. I hope you all will be there!

4. On Sunday November 29th, we are going to be participating in a worship service called the Hanging of the Greens. It will be an opportunity for us to learn about what all of our Christmas decorations mean and their significance in Scripture as we decorate the sanctuary together! However for this to be truly meaningful we need volunteers to participate. If you are willing to help, please contact the church office. We need quite a few people to make this an experience that I hope you won't soon forget!

5. Charge Conference is coming up on November 15th at 4pm at First UMC Ocala. I would like all of you to think about coming this year. This is an opportunity for us to look back and share what God has been doing in our congregation and to look forward expectantly, at what God will do in the future. It is not the completely boring exercise that it might have been in the past. We will actually have a worship service in the midst of the business. Please pray about it and I hope you will make plans to come.

Have a blessed week!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Big Rocks: Debt Free – Isaiah 53:4-12 and Luke 23:26-29, 24:1-8

This week we are continuing our preaching series entitled Big Rocks where we look at the big rocks or tenets of the Christian faith. Last week we spoke about Grace and how Grace impacts and informs our lives as Christians. Today we are going to talk about Salvation, why it was necessary, and what our response should be to this incredible act of love.

Earlier this year, Debbie and I had the incredible opportunity to spend two weeks following the path of the Exodus of the Israelites, from Egypt through Jordan and eventually traveling into Israel. It was our tenth wedding anniversary present to ourselves a little early. The last several days of our trip were the most meaningful for us as we spent them in the city of Jerusalem. And on one of those days we got the privilege of walking for ourselves in the footsteps of Jesus’ last hours before his death.

We started the morning in the center of the old city of Jerusalem at what would have been the Temple in Jesus’ day. Now on top of the Temple Mount is a Muslim mosque called the Dome of the Rock. We got the opportunity to walk around outside the mosque and one of the things we came across on the grounds was this tiny cupola sitting off by itself with no sign to indicate what it was. When we asked our tour guide Avi, he told us that many people thought that this marked the site of the old temple’s Holy of Holies where God’s presence dwelt. That took our breath away. And right on the edge of the Temple Mount is the Wailing Wall. We got to go there and pray and it was such a joyful time because it was bar mitzpah day and the place was packed with families who were celebrating. Later we made our way to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus would have prayed with his disciples before being arrested. Then we traveled on to the high priest Caiaphas’ house and stood on the steps that Jesus would have gone up to go before Caiaphas on trial. Then we followed the route to the ruins of the Praetorium, now with a convent built on top, and we saw the stones where Jesus would have stood for his trial before Pilate and been beaten by the soldiers. Then we followed the Via Dolorosa. It is also called the way of suffering or the way of Calvary and it’s said to be the path that Jesus took as he was led through Jerusalem carrying his cross on the way to be crucified. Something that had never clicked for me before until we were there was the fact that Jesus was paraded through the crowded city streets, right through the marketplace. This was done to discourage others from committing these capital kinds of offenses. And finally we went out to the supposed site of Golgatha just outside the city gates where Jesus would have been crucified – atop an outcropping of rock that looks like a skull. At one point I kind of went off from the group a bit and stood on the steps Jesus would have climbed to get to Caiaphas' house. And from that one spot I could see it all. I could see the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed and was arrested. I could see the path the guards would have taken him down to reach Caiaphas' house, the steps Christ would have climbed to reach the door. We had just been inside and in the dungeon where he would have been kept, I even got to read Scripture to the group from in the dungeon. And I could see the path Jesus would have walked, the Via Dolorosa, to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where they say Golgotha is. All of that I could see from that one spot. And then because we serve a risen Savior, we concluded our time in Jerusalem by visiting the Garden Tomb – and Debbie and I had the privilege of actually preaching there that day. It gave me goosebumps then and it still does today.

What we discovered on this trip was that the Bible really seemed to come alive for us as we traveled and walked in the places where so many events had occurred. Scripture took on a whole new meaning because sometimes as we read passages over and over, especially one like the crucifixion scene from Luke’s Gospel this morning, we become almost jaded to the details. It’s hard to understand and visualize from a modern perspective what was happening and somehow the crucifixion of Jesus loses its powerful effect. I came home with a new appreciation and understanding of how much God must truly love us in order to allow his only Son to suffer through such a humiliating and painful death for our sakes.

But Why?
But why would Christ have to suffer such a humiliating and painful death for our sakes? The short answer is because we are sin prone and that combined with our free will to make choices, men and women have the capacity to sin and turn away from God and we do it alot. You see sin has been around since the beginning of humanity when Adam and Eve ate of the tree in the Garden. And since God did not create us to be alone but to be connected with Him and since sin is that which separates us from God, ourselves, and those around us, there had to be some kind of bridge to cross that great chasm.

In the Old Testament it was done in the form of animal sacrifices. The Israelites were instructed by God to offer many different kind of sacrifices to God – some as a way of saying thank-you, some as a way of marking special occasions, but most often as a way of atoning or paying for their sins. This last kind of offering, a sin offering, involved sacrificing the life of a perfect animal, usually a lamb, so that God would forgive their sins. These sacrifices had to be made over and over again as a person sinned throughout his or her life.

But in the New Testament, everything changed! God expressed His love for us in a way never before seen, and never seen since. God came to earth in the form of Jesus Christ to meet us where we are, to be one of us, to love as one of us, to feel pain as one of us, and eventually die like one of us. Jesus did not come like a mighty conquering King to vanquish evil, but rather Christ came in the form of a little baby, vulnerable and helpless. And because of that there is nothing that we can experience that Christ has not already been through. But unlike us Christ was perfect. And unlike us He came to be the perfect sacrifice to be the bridge so that we can be restored to a right relationship with our Heavenly Father.

Our Debt Paid
Our Old Testament lesson this morning from Isaiah was a prophecy of a time when there would be one final sacrifice that would pay for all sins, so that when it was fulfilled, no longer would anyone have to go repeatedly to the temple and offer up a lamb to pay for sins. Did you listen as that passage was being read? It should have sounded similar to the account of Jesus’ last days in Luke. That’s because this prophecy from Isaiah was fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the New Testament we find that Jesus is the final sacrifice - the ultimate sacrificial lamb. His blood shed on Calvary so long ago paid the price for the sins of the world - people who died before him, people then, people now and people who will come after us.

There’s an important line in the Gospel of Luke which shows that Jesus was indeed the final sacrifice needed for the forgiveness of sins. In chapter 23, verse 44 – the Bible speaks of the sky growing dark in the middle of the day as Jesus uttered his last words and died. And as he was dying, the veil or curtain in the temple was torn in two. A lot of people just skip over that and misunderstand the symbolism. The curtain that is being talked about here was the curtain that separated the Most Holy Place from the rest of the temple. It was said that the Most Holy Place was where the presence of God dwelt and for this reason no one except the high priest was allowed in there and he was only allowed in once a year to make a sacrifice on behalf of the sins of the entire nation on the Day of Atonement. By tearing the temple veil, it was as if God were saying that his presence which had been barred from humanity was now being made available to all men. Access to God is now open through the death of Christ.

There is not a person born into this world who is not need in need of the salvation that Jesus’ death provides. Romans 3:23 tells us that we are all sinners. And there is not a thing in the world that we could ever do on our own that would be enough to pay for our sins. But the amazing thing is that Jesus did it for us. It's like having a huge debt at the bank that you couldn’t ever possibly hope to pay off, and going into the bank one day to find out that someone you didn’t even know paid your debt off for you. The bank register now shows “Debt Free.”

Salvation is made possible through the atoning death of Jesus Christ upon the cross and his resurrection; to receive salvation from sins, one must repent of their sins and have faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection. If someone paid your debt off at the bank, would you go and argue with the bank manager and say that you didn’t want it paid off? My guess is that you would take the freely given gift and be thankful for it. That’s the same thing with salvation – it is a free gift from God and your sins have already been paid for – you just have to decide whether or not you are going to accept God’s gift and let it change your life.

So what do we do with this “Big Rock” of salvation? What should our response be to this free gift of salvation, our debt marked “Price Paid in Full”?

Have You Accepted The Gift For Yourself?
First, have you accepted the gift for yourself? Maybe you are just hearing about this for the first time ever this morning, or maybe you’ve heard it before but for some reason it’s making more sense than it has in the past. Make sure you accept God's gift of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ! Don’t leave here this morning without getting that squared away. If you have questions, I’d be glad to talk with you about them. It’s the single most important decision you can make in this life.

Do You Make It A Practice To Share This Gift With Others?
Second, if you have already accepted this free gift and Jesus is a part of your life, do you make it a practice to share this gift with others? I’m sure that we can all think of at least one person that we know - whether it’s a neighbor, friend, co-worker, relative – who still needs to make this decision for themselves. Make sure you share with them the good news that their debt of sin has already been paid for by Jesus, and the possibility of a new life in Christ!

The whole world needs to hear that their life can have meaning. And that meaning begins when they accept the free gift of salvation, paid in full by Jesus the sacrificial lamb upon the cross on Calvary.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Thank You!

I want to thank everyone involved for the wonderful showing of appreciation that you all presented to me this morning. It has been my privilege and my honor to be able to call myself your pastor. You have all been wonderfully welcoming and supportive and I am truly grateful from the bottom of my heart! Thank you again!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Bible Challenge 10/25-10/31

Hello all!

Here is the schedule for the Bible Challenge for next week. We have completed the Old Testament and now start our adventure into the New Testament with the book of Matthew.

Sunday, 10/25: Matthew 1-4

Monday, 10/26: Matthew 5-8

Tuesday, 10/27: Matthew 9-12

Wednesday, 10/28: Matthew 13-16

Thursday, 10/29: Matthew 17-20

Friday, 10/30: Matthew 21-24

Saturday, 10/31: Matthew 25-28

Have a great week and enjoy your time in the Word!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Fives

Here are five things that I want to bring to your attention this week.

1. Salty service cards – Salty Service – We have been averaging 8 cards a week with a high of 11 in September as we work to minister to those outside our walls. Salty Service "...makes a difference in people’s lives – both those being served and those serving. Salty Service makes us “doers and not hears only” (James 1.27). Salty Service connects the lives of disciples with the ongoing work of Christ in the world. Salty Service restores credibility to those who would share a Gospel of love to a doubting world." If you work one hour outside the walls of our church then please get a Salty Service card from the pew holders and drop it in the offering plate. You do not have to fill anything out. Just get a card and turn it in. As easy as that! So keep plugging away ministering to those we meet outside the walls.

2. Literacy Tutor – Many of you probably read the article in the paper a few weeks ago about the high illiteracy rate here in Marion County. We have an opportunity to help our community in this regard. John Clayton has been in contact with the Literacy Coalition and they will partner with us to provide the training, the material, and the students, at no cost to us, if we will do the tutoring. If you are interested please contact the church office and when we have a good size group together they will come out and talk with us and explain everything. This is a wonderful way to practice the love of Christ and reach out to the people of Ocala.

3. Pumpkin Patch – We are in need of volunteers. If you are interested in working the patch, reading stories, or any other area please sign up at the Connection Station. We are in full swing and the patch is packed just about every day. Thanks to all those that have volunteered already and it is never to late to join the fun!

4. Facebook – If you are a member of Facebook I have set up a church group page for our church. We have four members already! My hope is that we can use it as another way to get our church out there for people to see. There is a discussion board as well as a place to post announcements, reminders, and pictures of things happening in and around our church for not only our members to see, but others as well. This is just another way that we are reaching outside our walls to the community around us. And please do not be afraid to tell others about it!

5. Bible Study with Marge – Marge Grieves is starting a Bible Study on the Gospel of John that will meet on Wednesdays at 11am. If you are interested please make plans to attend this time of fellowship and enrichment.

Have a great weekend and see you Sunday!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sad News...

Hello All.

For those that may not know it is my sad duty to let you know that Russell Brown died this past Monday. Please be in prayer for his family as they deal with his death. Services will be held this Saturday, 10/24, at 11am here at Druid Hills UMC.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Big Rocks: God's Grace is Always Sufficient - Genesis 35:9-15 and Ephesians 3:7-9

This week we are beginning a new preaching series entitled Big Rocks. And we are going to be looking at the big rocks or tenets of the Christian faith; Grace, salvation, discipleship and sanctification, and the idea of being a covenant people. Today we are beginning with the idea of Grace and how Grace impacts and informs our lives as Christians.

Fitting it All In
This morning we had the children put our jar together. Focusing on the idea that we need to place the greatest importance on the big rocks, and deal with this first. Once we take care of the big rocks then the little rocks, sand, and water fit into our lives much easier. If we had placed either the little rocks, the sand, or the water in first we never would have been able to get the big rocks in. The same is true in life, if we allow ourselves to get bogged down with the small stuff, place all of our attention on them, then we risk the chance that we will forget or ignore the big rocks.

What is Grace?
Well today we are talking about the big rock of Grace. Grace is a concept that not many people really understand. Some think that it is simply being nice. Others feel that Grace is our chance to show others the love of Christ. And while both of those are right, Grace is so much more.

I think the struggle with our understanding of Grace is that this culture does not lend itself to the idea of something for nothing. Now a days when you receive something from someone we have almost been conditioned to wait for the “other shoe to drop”. There was an old TV show that I used to like to watch called “The Equalizer”. This man, the Equalizer, would help people that found themselves in dire straits and he would do it for nothing. But his “other shoe” was that they would have to do something for him at sometime, at some point in the future, and they could not say no. If you agreed to those terms then he would help you.

While he was incredibly helpful and did truly generous things, that was not Grace. Grace is the unmerited favor of God in our lives. God’s Grace in our lives is an expression of His love for us. We can do nothing to earn it and we certainly don’t deserve it. And so it seems almost suspect to us, that God would extend His Grace to us.

But Grace is expressed throughout the Bible. In the Old Testament God extends Grace to Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the nation of Israel. In the New Testament, God’s promise of Grace is fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Grace is made known to people through the life and ministry of Jesus and is demonstrated in Jesus’ atoning death on the cross which results in the redemption of humanity through the forgiveness of sins.

But there are two examples of God's Grace that I want us to focus on today and these are found in the lives of Jacob and Paul. These two men were not good nor kind men. If fact they were headed down paths of destruction, but as we will see God's Grace redeemed them, justified them, and allowed them to be wonderful tools for God.

Grace in the Lives of Jacob and Paul
I am sure many of you know the story of Jacob. Jacob was a man known for deception. The very name “Jacob” means, “he grasps the heel, he deceives.” Jacob was named this because when he was born, he was grasping the heel of his twin brother Esau who preceded him. The story of Jacob’s life is a story of one con after another, using deception and manipulation to pursue his own ambitions. First of all, he tricked Esau into giving up his right to his birthright for a bowl of soup. Then when the time came for the blessing to be passed down, Jacob schemed with his mom to cheat Esau from the blessing and even deceived his elderly, crippled father so he could be the one that was blessed. To escape Esau’s wrath, he had to flee the area. You’d think that he would have learned from his mistakes, but he just repeated his old patterns. He marries two sisters, and neglects one of them so much that it fuels the rivalry between them. Then he schemes to increase his flocks of sheep and goats through tricking his father-in-law and had to run away again. Later he would favor one of his twelve sons, Joseph, to the point that his brothers felt they had no other choice but to get rid of him. Again, not a nice man.

Despite the fact that Jacob would have flunked anyone’s morality test, there are times in his life when we can see God’s Grace at work. At two critical times just as he was about to lose heart, God met him in dramatic personal encounters. The first time came as Jacob was running away from Esau. God sought him out and confirmed for him that all the blessings which God had promised to Abraham would indeed apply to Jacob. The next encounter is the one we read about from the Old Testament this morning. It is the night before Jacob is to meet and reconcile with Esau. In the intervening years, Jacob has learned many hard lessons, but as he thinks about the rendezvous he trembles in fear. After pleading with God to keep his promises, he receives in response a supernatural encounter as strange as any in the Bible. Jacob, the grasper, has met a worthy opponent at last: he wrestles with God himself. After this strange night, Jacob will always walk with a limp, a permanent reminder of the struggle. Along the way, Jacob also picks up a new name, “Israel,” a name that puts the final seal of God’s Grace on him. Jacob the cheat becomes the namesake of God’s chosen people, the “Israelites.”

Though they lived hundreds of years apart, the lives of Jacob and the Apostle Paul had a lot in common. Paul had also gone through a name change. At one time, he had been known by the name Saul. Saul was a well-educated Pharisee, who was famous for his persecution of the Christians. In fact, he had been present at the stoning of Stephen, considered to be the first Christian martyr. Saul was instrumental in starting the severe persecution of the Christians in Jerusalem and also in the surrounding countryside. When he would find Christians, he would drag them off to jail, men and women alike. Doesn’t exactly sound like someone deserving of much Grace does he?

Despite the fact that Saul had spent most of his life fighting against God, God loved him anyway and there is one major episode in Saul’s life where we can see God’s Grace at work. One day on his way to Damascus to persecute the Christians there, Saul encountered a blinding light from heaven and the voice of God which confronted him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” And the people who were traveling with him were speechless because they heard the voice and saw no one. And the light blinded Saul, so his traveling companions had to help him into Damascus. And there he was for three days until God sent a man named Ananias to him who laid hands on him and healed his sight. Along the way, Saul picks up a new name, Paul, the Gentile version of his name. And the great persecutor of the Christians became the greatest theologian of the early Christian church.

What Now?
The lives and Jacob and Paul hold several important lessons for us about God’s Grace. The first one is the fact that God's Grace is for anyone. Jacob and Paul were deceitful and conniving individuals and God did wonderful things through them. The same is true for us. You see God's Grace is not just about being forgiven. It is about being loved. God created us to be in relationship with us, to have a reciprocal connectedness with us. That means that God will go to great lengths to have just that. Jacob and Paul where chosen by God for wonderful purposes. They did not deserve God's Grace but that was not a factor. God's number one desire for us is to be connected with God. There is a theological term called prevenient Grace and it basically means that God's Grace is available to us before we even know we need it. Think about that. God is searching for us, forgiving us, restoring us before we even understand that we need it. People that is love! A love that you will never find anywhere else.

And that leads me to another point and that is God's Grace is life changing. Once you accept this out! God will change more than just your name. Your outlook, your priorities, you ability to love will all be changed. And that is the point. As we are, fallen and sinful, prohibits us from being in a right relationship with our Creator. But God's Grace will change our lives and allow us to enter into that restored state where that relationship is possible.

Another point and the most important point is that God's Grace is free. It is undeserved, unable to be earned, and costs more than we could ever pay. There is nothing that we can ever do to earn Grace or pay for it. It was paid at the price of the life of Jesus Christ so that we could all spend eternity in God's presence. Again we are sin prone, we have sinned and will sin again. And sin is that which separates us for God, ourselves, and those around us, and the only way we can be restored to God is by God's Grace. By being given that free gift that God so desperately wants us to have.

There are no strings attached, no interest to pay back, no requirements to be fulfilled. God wants you to spend eternity with Him and God has gone to great lengths to make that happen. But despite all of that we still have the power to refuse it.

The Lost Girl
Max Lucado tells a story about a girl named Christina, who was longing to leave her poor Brazilian neighborhood and see the world. Discontent with a home having only a pallet on the floor, a washbasin, and a wood-burning stove, she dreamed of a better life in the city. One morning she slipped away, breaking her mother's heart. Knowing what life on the streets would be like for her young, attractive daughter, Maria hurriedly packed to go find her. On her way to the bus stop she entered a drugstore to get one last thing. Pictures. She sat in the photograph booth, closed the curtain, and spent all she could on pictures of herself. With her purse full of small black-and-white photos, she boarded the next bus to Rio de Janiero. Maria knew Christina had no way of earning money. She also knew that her daughter was too stubborn to give up. When pride meets hunger, a human will do things that were before unthinkable. Knowing this, Maria began her search. Bars, hotels, nightclubs, any place with the reputation for street walkers or prostitutes. She went to them all. And at each place she left her picture--taped on a bathroom mirror, tacked to a hotel bulletin board, fastened to a corner phone booth. And on the back of each photo she wrote a note. It wasn't too long before both the money and the pictures ran out, and Maria had to go home. The weary mother wept as the bus began its long journey back to her small village.

It was a few weeks later that young Christina descended the hotel stairs. Her young face was tired. Her brown eyes no longer danced with youth but spoke of pain and fear. Her laughter was broken. Her dream had become a nightmare. A thousand times over she had longed to trade these countless beds for her secure pallet. Yet the little village was, in too many ways, too far away. As she reached the bottom of the stairs, her eyes noticed a familiar face. She looked again, and there on the lobby mirror was a small picture of her mother. Christina's eyes burned and her throat tightened as she walked across the room and removed the small photo. Written on the back was this compelling invitation. "Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn't matter. Please come home." She did.

God's Grace is a wonderful gift that is for everyone, is life changing, and free. It does not matter who we are, what we have done, or where in life we find ourselves. It is for everyone! Our challenge as believers of Jesus Christ is to understand this, live into this, and tell others. This is too big a rock for us to keep a secret. Too important for us to keep to ourselves. God loves you, is crazy about you, and has gone to great lengths to spend eternity with you. The only thing you have to do is let it happen.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Bible Challenge 10/18 - 10/24

Hello All,

Here is the schedule for this week. I know times are getting hectic, but I encourage you to press on, keep up, and be blessed by spending this time in God's Word. You are in my prayers.

Sunday 10/18: Nahum 1 - Habakkuk 1

Monday 10/19: Habakkuk 2 - Zephaniah 2

Tuesday 10/20: Zephaniah 3 - Zechariah 1

Wednesday 10/21: Zechariah 2-5

Thursday 10/22: Zechariah 6-9

Friday 10/23: Zechariah 10-13

Saturday 10/24: Zechariah 14 - Malachi 4

Have a fantastic week!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Fives

Here are a few things that I want to make you all aware of this week.

1. Pumpkin Patch – We are in need of volunteers. If you are interested in working the patch, reading stories, or any other area please sign up at the Connection Station. The arrival day for our second load is tomorrow, Saturday, 10/17, at 9am. If you can please make plans to come and help unload. Also, there is a Pumpkin Patch video out there of the setup of our patch this year. It was made by Robin and the Giant and it is very well done and the background song is “The Pumpkin Patch at Druid Hills”. I have it available right here on my blog. It is a great watch and I hope you will take time to check it out.

2. Facebook – If you are a member of Facebook I have set up a church group page for our church. My hope is that we can use it as another way to get our church out there for people to see. There is a discussion board as well as a place to post announcements, reminders, and pictures of things happening in and around our church for not only our members to see, but others as well. This is just another way that we are reaching outside our walls to the community around us. And please do not be afraid to tell others about it!

3. Bible Study with Marge – Marge Grieves is teaching a Bible Study on the Gospel of John that will meet on Wednesdays at 11am. If you are interested please make plans to attend this time of fellowship and enrichment.

4. New Preaching Series - We are beginning a new preaching series this week entitled, "Big Rocks". We are going to be discussing the main tenets of our faith and how we must pay special attention to these "Big Rocks". This first week we will be discussing the aspect of God's Grace. Hope to see you there!

5. Daylight Savings Time - Just a friendly reminder that Daylight Savings Time ends November 1st. So remember to set your clock back an hour and enjoy that extra sleep!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Pumpkin Patch at Druid Hills

For those of you that do not know about Robin and the Giant, they are a local entertainment group that plays live and has a radio show. They were kind enough to come out to our church on the day we received our first pumpkin shipment and took some pictures and video of the festivities. Larry (aka The Giant) emailed me a link today for a video that he put together with a background song entitled "The Pumpkin Patch at Druid Hills". It was wonderfully done and a real treat to watch. Just click below, sit back, and enjoy!

Thank you Robin and the Giant!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Pumkins have Arrived!!!

Today we received a whole truck full of pumpkins. There were so many!! Fortunately we were blessed to have help from our church sponsored Boy Scout Troop #112 as well as the Forest Hills Air Force ROTC young men and women to help unload. In fact the pumpkins were unloaded so fast that the Forest Hills ROTC set a new school record of just over 1 hour. The setup looks great and everyone is doing a great job.

It is that time of year again so please come on out and take a look. You will not be disappointed!!

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Methodist Way: Extravagant Generosity I Chronicles 29:1-18 & II Corinthians 8:1-7

This week we are concluding our preaching series on the five historical practices found in fruitful and growing congregations called the Methodist Way. We began this series by looking at the early church from Acts 2 and talking about what they did to set their world on fire for Christ and how we might follow that example today with the power of the Holy Spirit. The following weeks we looked at the ideas of Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Discipling, and Salty Service, and discussed what those ideas command us to do, why they are important aspects of healthy and growing congregations, and ways we can make these active ideals of our congregation here at Druid Hills. Today we are going to discuss the final practice, Extravagant Generosity, talk about what it means, what Scripture tells us about it, and talk about some ways we can practice it.

Difficulty in Being Generous
Of all of these practices I think this one of Extravagant Generosity is the most misunderstood. I also believe this is the one that causes a lot of people the most discomfort. Let's face it...we are talking about something very personal and very revealing. We are talking about something that our culture says is of paramount importance. We are talking about money. When I was going to school I was taught that I needed to study hard so I could get good grades, so I could get into a good college, so I could study hard and get good grades again, so I could get a high paying job and be happy. That message of money=happiness was drilled into me.

Do you know that 40% of Americans spend 110% of their annual income each year. Dave Ramsey, founder of Financial Peace University loves to tell people, “We buy things we don’t even need, with money we don’t even have, to impress people we don’t even know.” That is a mindset that will only bring pain. That is a lifestyle that guarantees you stress, heart ache, and loneliness. And our culture fosters this sense of materialism that is contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ. No wonder generosity is difficult for our culture.

What is Generosity?
But what is generosity? The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, dealt with just this issue and had some very poignant thoughts on the matter. He believed that “Having, First, gained all you can, and, Secondly saved all you can, Then give all you can.” Wesley wanted us to work hard and earn money to sustain our livelihood. But he did not want us to keep it. He taught us to earn it and then give it away. He was advocating generosity and helping those we could. He built on that idea by also teaching us to, “Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can.” This is the idea of generosity. It is not a once in while, annual event. It is a way of life, a mindset, an outward expression of our belief in Christ Jesus and proof of our maturing into Christ's image.

We Are Called to Extravagant Generosity
But we are called to be more than simply generous. We are called to extravagant generosity – a generosity that is lavish and goes far beyond mere duty or requirements. The symbol for today’s piece of the Methodist Way is an overflowing cup. Psalms 23 tells us that God so abundantly provides for our needs that our “cup runneth over.” And in Luke 6, Jesus shares with the disciples that if they give, they will receive “a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, poured into [their] lap” (6:38).

Our Scripture lessons this morning impress these ideals of extravagant generosity. From 1 Chronicles we read about King David and all that he gave for the building of God's Temple; the gold, silver, iron, onyx, all out of his personal treasury. But in addition to that was all of the material given by the tribes in response to David's generosity. But here is where the difference between generosity and extravagant generosity is revealed. All of this was given willingly, without hesitation or reservation. King David, even after giving all that he had, was so overwhelmed by the response of the tribes, that he prays a wonderful prayer in verses 10-18. But I want us to pay special attention to verses 14-16, “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to make this freewill-offering? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. For we are aliens and transients before you, as were all our ancestors; our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no hope. O Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own.” David understood something about what we have. He understood that all we have is not ours to begin with. It all comes from God.

Then from 2 Corinthians we find Paul writing about the generosity of the Macedonian Christians. These were primarily Gentile churches that Paul had helped to establish during his missionary journeys. And the offering that they took up was for Israel, particularly the region of Judea, where Jesus had come from. From Acts 11 we find out that a famine had hit Judea hard. And as the word spread about the problems that the Christians in this region were experiencing, the Macedonian churches felt compelled to help. Paul makes it clear that this was not an easy feat, but that the Macedonians had experienced many trials and were considered at the level of “extreme poverty.” And yet, they begged for the chance to give, pleading for the privilege of sharing. And the amount of their offering overwhelmed Paul. His only explanation? They had given first to the work of God in their own area, were blessed for it, and then gave over and above their duty and regular giving in order to help their Christian brothers and sisters in their time of need.

What strikes me most about these two examples is that anyone can give, if they truly believe in what they are giving towards. They may have to re-order some priorities, but extravagant givers do not seem to count the cost. Rather they look toward the benefits others will reap from their gifts. And the other thing that strikes me about these examples is the joy that accompanies the giving. Joy helps prompt the gift and joy is also received in the process of giving. I also think that when we fully understand that all we have been blessed with is God's to begin with, that practicing extravagant generosity becomes that much easier. We are not owner, but mangers and we should not be takers but givers. The blessings, the joy, the light that you will give to others by practicing this discipline is worth more than anything you can buy.

I heard a story about a 10 year old boy who walked up to the counter of a drug store soda shop and leapt onto a stool. He caught the eye of the waitress and asked, “How much is an ice cream Sunday?” You know it was a long time ago, because the waitress replied, “50 cents.” The boy reaching into his pockets pulled out a handful of change, and began counting. The waitress frowned impatiently. After all, she had other customers to wait on. The boy squinted up at the waitress. “How much is a dish of plain ice cream” He asked. The waitress signed and rolled her eyes. “35 cents,” she said with some irritation.

Again, the boy counted his coins. At last, he said, “I’ll have the plain ice cream, please.” He put a quarter and 2 nickels on the counter. The waitress took the coins, brought the ice cream, and walked away. About 10 minutes later, she returned and found the ice cream dish empty. The boy was gone. She picked up the empty dish---then swallowed hard. There on the counter, next to the wet spot where the dish had been, were 2 nickels and five pennies. The boy had enough for a sundae, but he had ordered plain ice cream so he could leave a tip. This young man understood the idea of extravagant generosity.

We as Christians are called to be in this world, but not of this world. We are called to do things as Christ instructed, not as culture dictates. We are called to understand some things differently than those around us. But the reward for all of this, the benefit of undertaking this journey are the blessings that come from God.

In the days and weeks ahead this is our challenge together. To understand that all we have is not ours, but first belonged to God. That giving is central to the Christian life because we understand God as generous – the source of life and love and the source of every good and perfect gift, including the gift of his Son Jesus upon the cross for our sins. We need to model that example of God, that God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life, to all we meet. Because we called to be radically hospitable people that worship passionately, intentionally disciple ourselves in the ways of Jesus Christ, and follow His call to be salty servants that practice extravagant generosity.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Bible Challenge 10/11 - 10/17

This is a week of moving as we go through 6 different books. I hope everyone that is participating is enjoying this venture into God's Word. Here is the schedule:

Sunday 10/11: Hosea 11-14

Monday 10/12: Joel 1 - Amos 1

Tuesday 10/13: Amos 2-5

Wednesday 10/14: Amos 6-9

Thursday 10/15: Obadiah 1- Jonah 3

Friday 10/16: Jonah 4 - Micah 3

Saturday 10/17: Micah 4-7

Have a fantastic week!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday Fives

1. Salty service cards – Our Conference leaders describe Salty Service like this: "Salty Service makes a difference in people’s lives – both those being served and those serving. Salty Service makes us “doers and not hears only” (James 1.27). Salty Service connects the lives of disciples with the ongoing work of Christ in the world. Salty Service restores credibility to those who would share a Gospel of love to a doubting world." If you work one hour outside the walls of our church then please get a Salty Service card from the pew holders and drop it in the offering plate on Sunday Morning. You do not have to fill anything out. Just get a card and turn it in. As easy as that!

2. Pumpkin Patch – We are in need of volunteers. If you are interested in working the patch, reading stories, or any other area please sign up at the Connection Station on Sunday. Our first load arrives Tuesday, 10/13 at 4pm and any and all are welcome to help unload. Also the arrival day for our second load has changed. It will now arrive on Saturday October 17th at 9am. If you can please make plans to come and help unload it would be greatly appreciated.

3. Holly Berry Fair – St. Marks UMC on 8th Road is having their Holly Berry Fair on November 7th from 9am-2pm and they will feature handmade crafts, hourly door prized, baked goods, candy and more. If you are looking for a fun activity this would be a great way to support our sister congregation.

4. Meetings – There are several meetings this week so if you are on any of the committees that are meeting please make plans to attend. Worship, Tuesday at 10am in the Pastor's Office; Finance, Wednesday at 10am in Fellowship Hall; Trustees Wednesday at 11am in Fellowship Hall.

5. Bible Study with Marge – Marge Grieves is starting a Bible Study on the Gospel of John that will meet on Wednesdays at 11am. If you are interested please make plans to attend this time of fellowship and enrichment.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Methodist Way: Salty Service: Matthew 25:34-46 and Matthew 5:13-16

This week we are continuing our preaching series on the five historical practices found in fruitful and growing congregations called the Methodist Way. We began this series by looking at the early church from Acts 2 and talking about what they did to set their world on fire for Christ and how we might follow that example today with the power of the Holy Spirit. The following week we looked at the idea of Radical Hospitality to see what Scripture says about it and how we can carry that out in this world. Next, we looked at the aspect of Passionate Worship and how and why we are to praise God. We followed that by looking at the practice of Intentional Discipling, what that means and some ways we can implement this in our own lives. Today as we spend our time together we are going to discuss the aspect of Salty Service, what it means and why we are commanded to do it.

So What is Service?
Last week we talked about Intentional Discipling and how God is not so much concerned with our comfort as much as our growing into mature disciples of Jesus Christ. One of the ways can grow into that maturity is through service.

There were 4 people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

Service takes involvement from all of us. It takes all of us working together, with a common goal in mind, to be effective. Jesus was clear that his followers are to be servants: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant . . . just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” (Matthew 20:26-28) Service flows naturally and inescapably from the teachings and example of Jesus. He was a great example of what it meant to be a servant. Look at his example of washing the feet of the disciples. Back in that time walking along those dusty roads, before concrete sidewalks, in sandals, before the invention of closed toe shoes, your feet got incredibly nasty. And it was customary for a servant in the house you were visiting to wash your feet as a sign of respect. We are given the example of Jesus humbling himself before his disciples and washing their feet. The Savior, our Messiah, kneeling on the ground and washing the feet of his disciples. That is the idea of what we are to do for others. Pride is not to dissuade us; ego is not to get in our way. We are called to follow the example of Christ and serve others in love. Not just those we encounter here on our terms, in our buildings, and in our comfort zones. But out there, beyond the walls, in the pain, suffering and raw existence that may be their life.

What is Meant by Salty Servant?
With a foundation of what it means to be a servant, what does it mean to be a “salty servant”? Our second Scripture lesson gives us the answer. Listen again. "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

We are called to be the salt of the Earth. We are called to give this place a glimpse, a taste, of what Christ wants and calls us to be. I love the way verse 13 is translated in the Message version of Scripture. It says, “Let me tell you why you are here,” says Jesus. “You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness?” (Matthew 5:13 The Message).

We are called to be the salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. We are the ones that are to be Christ to those we meet. People are to experience the love of Christ based on how we interact with them.

Let me ask you a question. Druid Hills UMC has been here for 50 wonderful years. And we here at Druid Hills do some fantastic outreach ministries to this community. But we need to consistently ask ourselves, would anybody miss us if we vanished today. Would anyone out there even know we are gone? That is the mindset that I challenge all of us to have. That is the question that we must keep asking ourselves as we consistently and constantly evaluate our effectiveness in this part of Ocala. Would anyone miss us if we vanished?

We are to be the salt seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth!

How Can We be Salty Servants?
We now know what a servant is and what it means to be a salty servant. So what do we do with it? How can we be salty servants?

Our Conference leaders describe Salty Service like this: "Salty Service makes a difference in people’s lives – both those being served and those serving. Salty Service makes us “doers and not hears only” (James 1.27). Salty Service connects the lives of disciples with the ongoing work of Christ in the world. Salty Service restores credibility to those who would share a Gospel of love to a doubting world."

We need to get out there and be the salt of the world to those outside our walls. Remember our first Scripture lesson this morning, "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."

So how can we care for the people of this world? Some examples are to volunteer with some of the local agencies here in Ocala, Brother's Keeper, Sisterhood, Interfaith. Find a soup kitchen and volunteer to serve and work with them. Find a place where children are in after school care and volunteer to be a tutor. I encourage you to think outside of the box and pray for God to reveal to you ways that you can minister to those outside our walls.

These salty service cards that we ask you to turn in each week are not to show how great we are or so we can brag on ourselves. They are meant as a tool to help remind us that we need to be consistently looking for ways to be the salt seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. At first you might be uncomfortable, but that will pass. Take that leap of faith, seek to become more vile, as Wesley put it, in reaching out to the lost and forgotten people. Whether that is here or in another land.

There is a church in the southern part of Florida that has a rather large homeless population in its surrounding neighborhoods. One summer this church recognized this and began searching for a way to help. After careful prayer and consideration they decided that they felt the best way to reach out to these people would be to serve them a hot meal. They came up with the idea to hold a dinner once a week for one month and see what impact that might have on this segment of the population. The main concern for this church was where is the money for this going to come from. Who would help fund such a ministry because the church certainly did not have the ability to do so. However, they decided to take a leap of faith and just do it and worry about the money later. Well they begin to spread the word and without that question answered, they served a hot meal to the homeless people of their neighborhood and began their four week outreach. They served about 50 people that first week. By the time the fourth week rolled around they were serving just about 150 people on the one night.
These people were absolutely amazed at the turnout they received serving those meals and they decided that this would become their mission project for the rest of the summer. By the time the summer was over they served just about 1500 meals, never wanted for volunteers, and never had to worry about the finances. This church set out to be the salt-seasoning of Christ for a specific group of people, for a brief period of time. They were not sure about what they were doing, they were not sure they would be able to pull it off, but God took care of everything and they not only gave a hot meal to some people that desperately needed it, they shared the love of Christ to a hurting community in need.

We are called to be the salt seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth! Let us bring flavor to all we meet!


Saturday, October 3, 2009

Bible Challenge

I continue to pray for those of you that have undertaken this challenge. It is demanding but a wonderful way to dive into the Word and allow God to bless you. This week we finish up Ezekiel, move through Daniel and into Hosea.

Sunday, 10/4: Ezekiel 43-46

Monday, 10/5: Ezekiel 47-Daniel 2

Tuesday, 10/6: Daniel 3-6

Wednesday, 10/7: Daniel 7-10

Thursday, 10/8: Daniel 11-Hosea 2

Friday, 10/9: Friday - Hosea 3-6

Saturday, 10/10: Hosea 7-10

See you Sunday!