Monday, November 30, 2009

November Newsletter


Technology can be a wonderful thing! As you can see I have figured out how to post our church newsletter online. With this format you can change the view style by using the menu in the lower left of the image to select scroll, book, or list. You can also zoom in and out with the "-" and "+" symbols. We also now have the ability to use the commands at the top of the newsletter window to make the newsletter fullscreen for easier viewing. There is even the option at the top of the newsletter window to download and print the newsletter.

I will be posting the monthly newsletter each month right here on my blog and will also put a notice up on our Facebook page each moth letting people know it is posted here.

And the great thing about all of this is that it is free. Technology can be a wonderful thing!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Bible Challenge 11/29 - 12/5

Well fellow Bible Challenge readers, we are in the home stretch. We are in our last month. This week we finish up 1 Corinthians, move through 2 Corinthians, and begin Galatians.

11/29, Sunday - 1 Corinthians 8-11

11/30, Monday - 1 Corinthians 12-15

12/1, Tuesday - 1 Corinthians 16 - 2 Corinthians 3

12/2, Wednesday - 2 Corinthians 4-7

12/3, Thursday - 2 Corinthians 8-11

12/4, Friday - 2 Corinthians 12 - Galatians 2

12/5, Saturday - Galatians 3-6

Keep pressing on!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday Fives - Thanksgiving Edition

This week I want to take time to tell you five things I am thankful for.

1. I am thankful that I serve a God that is ever faithful, always present, and wonderfully forgiving. The support and love I feel from my God is of great comfort and strength to me and always shines light upon my path.

2. I am thankful for a wonderful and healthy family. My wife and my boys are a treasure to me and provide me unending joy and a spark to life that is amazing. To my extended family, you support me, love me, and uplift me, now and throughout my entire life, and I will be forever grateful to all of you!

3. I am thankful for my church family! All of you at Druid Hills UMC have treated me with unconditional love and support and have made this experience incredibly rewarding. Your willingness to accept me and support me mean a great deal to me and I look forward with great anticipation to what God will accomplish through us in the future.

4. I am thankful to the men and women that have put their lives in harms way to protect my freedoms. Your dedication and your sacrifice will not be forgotten and I am extremely grateful.

5. I am thankful for the calling that God placed on my life. I am honored to be called a child of God and to know that my eternity is secured. The release that comes from that knowledge is incredible to me.

To all my family and friends, please know that I love you, pray for you, and ask for all the blessings of God to be given to you till your cup overflows. I am thankful for each and every one of you. Have a great Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

To all who read this blog I want to wish you a happy and safe Thanksgiving. I hope you find time with family and friends restful, enjoyable, and memorable. I also pray that you take time to tell those you are spending the holiday with just how thankful you are for them and what they mean to you.

But most importantly take time to tell the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit how thankful you are for what they have done in your life this year. You are loved, adored, and watched over by our Triune God, so I encourage you to tell them just how much they are appreciated and how you feel about them.

Take care and many blessings upon you and yours!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Christ the King Sunday: There Should Be No Confusion – John 18:28-37


Today we are celebrating Christ the King Sunday. Christ the King Sunday is the last day of the Christian year and as such we are taking time today to recognize all of the seasons of the Christian calendar so that we might be renewed and strengthened in the fact that Christ is our King! This morning we are going to take a look at what it means to call Christ our King and how that belief can direct our lives and our actions.


My boy Wesley is a thinker! I am amazed at how well he processes things and how eager he is to problem solve. Take this past week for instance. He has a birthday coming up and my mom wants to make him a birthday cake of his choosing. So we got together on Skype the other night so she could show him the pictures in the book and let him pick out which cake he wanted. How many of you know what Skype is? Basically, Skype is a free computer program that allows you use the internet to hook up two computer cameras so you can see and hear each other. It is a form of video teleconferencing. Wesley loves it because he can see and hear Grandmommy. Anyway, we were on Skype and every time Grandmommy would hold up the book, she would hold it too close and the image on our end would go black, rather than allowing us to see the image she was trying to show us. The first time it happened he simply called out as best as his one year old mouth would let him, “Grandmommy, where you go?” The next time it happened, he looked at me shrugged his little shoulders and said “where go?” I was beginning to laugh at how serious he was that she just disappeared. We could still hear her, we just could not see her. The third time it happened his brain kicked in, either out of curiosity, confusion, or frustration and he looked at me and very matter of factly said, “I do”. He jumped off my lap and looked at the back of the desk where all the cables are and pretended to follow one of them till he got to where he knows the camera is plugged in. He then looked at me and started calling out, “Daddy, Daddy, here!”, as if he had found the problem and was showing me where to fix it. Wesley was thinking about how he was going to solve this problem. And during his thinking he was going back and forth between Grandmommy, Daddy, and his own thoughts. He was confused about what was happening and wanted a resolution. Our Scripture lesson this morning gives us another confused person, Pontius Pilate.

Confusion Clouds

At this point in Scripture Christ has already been arrested and stood trial before Caiaphas, because the religious leaders feared Christ and the influence he was having over their people. The trial before Caiaphas actually began the night before and went into the early hours of the morning. And when that was over, is when Pilate was the early hours of the morning. You know when most people are sleeping.

Before going any further it is important for us to understand something about Pilate. He did not really like the Jewish people. He did not really like the city of Jerusalem. But as governor it was Pilate's responsibility to be in a city he did not like, making sure people he could not stand, were behaving themselves.

So Pilate is awakened in the middle of the night, in this city he does not like, by people he is not fond of, to try a man that he probably has no opinion of one way or another. So needless to say Pilate is probably not a happy governor at this point. Pilate probably wants to tell them to hit the road, but he understands that he is there to keep the peace and to send these people away will cause protests and unwanted attention and make his job much more difficult. So he agrees to meet with them. Then when he says to let them in, his advisers tell him that he will have to go outside to hear them because coming into his palace would defile them and render them unclean. I cannot imagine what must be going through Pilates head at this point. First he is unhappy about even being in this city. Then he is awakened in the middle of the night for a trial and told that the people that woke him, whom he in not very fond of, won't come into his house because it will make them unclean. They are not exactly getting off on the right foot with the person they want something from.

Pilate goes outside to hear their case and pretty quickly tries to dismiss it by telling them to try Jesus themselves by their own laws. They counter with the idea that they want Jesus crucified and only the Romans can do that. Pilate then calls for Jesus to be brought in so he can interrogate him privately. He asks Jesus are you the King of the Jews. Instead of giving him a direct response Jesus, after being up all night and beaten responds with a question of his own, “Is this your own question, or did others tell you about me?” I can imagine the confusion is beginning to roll in for Pilate at this point. He might be wondering why this man is not answering quickly and trying to save his own life. Surely He knows that Pilate has the power and authority to kill Him or save Him. But Jesus is not interested in appeasing Pilate. Fulfilling the prophecy is his objective.

Pilate continues his interrogation with Jesus by saying that he has no idea who he is and inquires about what he has done. Jesus finally gives an answer to the first question Pilate asked him, “Are you King of the Jews?”. Jesus responds, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” Pilate then says, “You are a King then?” to which Jesus replies, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me”. (NIV John 18:36-37).

If Pilate was not confused before, he definitely is now. The Gospel of Luke tells us that Pilate even tries to pawn Jesus and his situation off on King Herod. Since the instant Pilate was brought into this situation it has been a sea of confusion for him. He has had to deal with accusations from the religious Jewish leaders, a vote of innocence from Herod, his wife telling him that she has had a nightmare about Christ and that Pilate is to release him, not to mention that fact that based upon his own examination he wants to let him go. Pilate is utterly confused as to why these religious leaders want this man dead. But through their constant pressure, his responsibilities as governor to keep the peace, and the confusion of the entire situation, he concedes and sentences Jesus to death by crucifixion.

Are We Confused

So this leads me to ask this question this morning, “Are we confused?”. Are we unsure of who Christ is? Are we allowing the hectic nature of this time of year, work responsibilities, or family responsibilities to replace Christ as the most important thing in our lives? To confuse us as to Christ's proper place in our lives?

Well there are a few things that we can do to help us not be confused. One is fellowship. Fellowship. Get connected with a group of people that you can count on and trust. I mean really connected. Find 5-8 people that you can form a group with and get together 3-4 times a month and talk about what you are going through. Find people that are close to you in age and situation and form a small group. Spend time doing devotions with one another. Spend time listening to one another. Spend time lovingly holding one another accountable. Spend time crying with one another. Spend time praying for one another. Get connected, be supported by other believers and do not be confused about where Christ is in your life.

Another is to read. Read your Bible, study the Word. Find a bible study guide online, from a book store, preferably get involved with an actual Bible Study group, but dive into the Word. As a church we have created a goal for each of the five practices that we as a church want to accomplish this year. And for Intentional Discipling our church wide goal is to get each person in this family involved in at least one Bible study this year. At some point in the year we want everyone to have been involved in at least one group Bible study. Also as a part of your study, read one Christ based book a year. Whether it be devotional, historical, exegetical, read one book a year that gives you a better understanding of who Christ is, what he did for our sake, and the extent of his love for all of us.

Next, pray specifically for Christ to be the center of your life. I know we all try and pray daily, sometimes several times a day. But I want you to consider praying specifically for you not to be confused about who Christ is in your life. God has promised to hear our prayers and I know that if you earnestly pray for this God will lift any cloud of confusion you might encounter in your life. Pray specifically and confidently for Christ to be your King and ruler.


We should not be confused. Christ does not want us to be confused. The Holy Spirit wants to lift our confusion. Pilate was confused, he did not believe. This life can make us confused. Satan tries to create situations to help confuse us. But stay strong, understand that Jesus died for you and knew your name when he breathed his last breath. This entire service is not only to familiarize us with the different seasons of the Christian calendar, but to allow us to see the love that our Triune God has for us. The willingness to meet us as we are, live as we live, and die as we die, so that we may have eternal life in the presence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Folks, you are loved all year long. Please, do not be confused about who Christ is in your life. Christ is not confused about who you are in His!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Bible Challenge 11/22 - 11/28

Thanksgiving is this week! Take time to enjoy your loved ones and to express thanks to God for all that you have. And since one way to do that is to spend time in the Word, here is the schedule for the week.

11/22, Sunday - Acts 24-27

11/23, Monday - Acts 28-Romans 3

11/24, Tuesday - Romans 4-7

11/25, Wednesday - Romans 8-11

11/26, Thursday - Romans 12-15 HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

11/27, Friday - Romans 16- 1 Corinthians 3

11/28, Saturday - 1 Corinthians 4-7

Have a blessed week and keep pressing on!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Fives

Hello Everybody! Thanksgiving is upon us. Traveling, chances to visit with families and friends, and the opportunity to eat way too much, will play some role in a few of our futures in the upcoming week. Please know that you all will be in my prayers for a wonderful, thankful, joyous, and restful time. Without any further delay here are a few things that caught my attention this week....

1. Tonight is our church's annual Thanksgiving Dinner. I am looking forward to being a part of this and experiencing this event. I hope to see as many of you as I can tonight at 6pm!

2. We have a call into the Literacy Coalition to set up an informational meeting in December. We are going forward with this so keep your ears open for when we can get this set up. If you are at least thinking about becoming a tutor to help teach some of the adults of Marion County how to read and write, then this meeting will be for you.

3. This week we will be celebrating Christ the King Sunday in worship as we use Scripture and song to walk through each season in the Christian calendar. Please do not miss this opportunity to worship Christ as our King and take a trip through our Christian seasons!

4. Then the following week, November 29th, we will celebrate the Hanging of the Greens in worship. During worship we will explain and talk about each of the decorations, their importance, and Scriptural significance. Please bring your family and friends as we kick off the Advent season.

5. Newsletters are ready! When you come to tonight's Thanksgiving dinner or at worship on Sunday be sure to pick up your newsletter so you can read all about the goings on within our great family!


Sunday, November 15, 2009


A special thank you to all of you that came to support our wonderful church at Charge Conference today. By my count we arrived with the largest contingent of members and that says a lot about our excitement and enthusiasm. Thank you again for your support and have a great week!

Big Rocks: Remember Your Call – Matthew 6:7-15 and Hebrews 7:15-28

This week we are concluding our preaching series entitled Big Rocks where we have been looking at the big rocks or tenets of the Christian faith. Our first week we spoke about Grace and how Grace impacts and informs our lives as Christians. Then we talked about Salvation, what it is, why it was necessary, and what our response should be to this incredible act of love. Next, we spoke about the idea of discipleship and what it means to truly be a disciple of Christ. Today we are going to bring it all together as we spend some time talking about what it means to be a covenant people and how that impacts our faith.

A young boy by the name of James had a desire to be the most famous manufacturer and salesman of cheese in the world. He planned on becoming rich and famous by making and selling cheese and began with a little buggy pulled by a pony named Paddy. After making his cheese, he would load his wagon and he and Paddy would drive down the streets of Chicago to sell the cheese. As the months passed, the young boy began to despair because he was not making any money, in spite of his long hours and hard work.

One day he pulled his pony to a stop and began to talk to him. He said, "Paddy, there is something wrong. We are not doing it right. I am afraid we have things turned around and our priorities are not where they ought to be. Maybe we ought to serve God and place him first in our lives." The boy drove home and made a covenant that for the rest of his life he would first serve God and then would work as God directed. Little James was entering into a promise, creating a covenant.

What is a Covenant?
So what is a covenant? A typical covenant is basically a legal fellowship between two humans. Back in the era of the Old Testament, two people that had entered into a fellowship with one another would come together, agree on the purpose and terms of the covenant, and then divide a suitable animal and walk between the two halves. This was done to signify that if either of them broke the covenant may their fate be the same as the animal they just sacrificed. So as you can see entering into a covenant back then was a serious endeavor not to be taken lightly or for granted.

But there was also another type of covenant and that was one that was made between humanity and God. Scripture makes mention of several different covenants; between God and Noah, God and Abraham, the Sinai covenant, God and David, and of course the New Covenant made complete with the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

For our purposes today we are going to speak about the covenants between humanity and God for the means of fellowship and the forgiveness of sins. It is important for us to understand that the idea of covenants were instituted for our benefit. Covenants are a human enterprise and God chose to use that institution to help us relate to God. You see, covenants were established to help encourage other people to keep their word. And since there is no issue with God not being faithful to God's end of an agreement, we can see why covenants are human driven and not necessary for God. But God entered into them anyway for our benefit and comfort. So when we think of a covenant we can know that if we do what we promised to do, any promised blessings are guaranteed. There is no worry of God defaulting on the agreement. Our God is a perfect God, always faithful, always dependable, and always eager to bless us as much as we will allow it.

Our Response
So are we part of a covenant? Absolutely! And here is our part of it. Our first Scripture lesson this morning gives us the basis for the prayer that we gather together and pray each week. The Lord's Prayer. I want us to focus on the second line of that prayer for just a moment, “Thy Kingdom, come, thy will be done, on Earth, as it is in Heaven”. That is a request from us, we are asking for that. We are asking for God's Kingdom to be established here on Earth. And since we are asking for it, we have a part to play in its realization. When Christ ascended into Heaven, he gave us the Great Commission. He told us to go and make disciples of all nations, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. That is Kingdom building, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth, as it is in Heaven”. As followers of Jesus Christ, the Great Commission is our part of the covenant. And we pray for that exact act to happen each week. That is a part of the covenant we have made with God when we proclaim ourselves to be believers in Jesus Christ. When we devote ourselves to His ways, we are agreeing to be bound by God's commands. And one of Christ's commands is to build the Kingdom here on Earth.

You see the whole goal of our creation is to ultimately spend eternity with our Creator, and to have everyone be a part of the Kingdom. And God went to great lengths to give everyone the opportunity for that very thing to happen. He sacrificed his Son for our sins.

Remember earlier we talked about what a covenant was, how it was entered in to, and the consequences of breaking it. Well there was a downfall to those types of Old Testament covenants, and it was that the animal sacrifices used to atone for us breaking our covenant with God, had to keep being repeated. The animals were not sufficient. So God decided to enter into a covenant with us using a permanent sacrifice, His Son.

Our second Scripture lesson this morning from Hebrews details for us why the sacrifice of Christ was necessary, sufficient, and final. As this passage of Scripture points out, The Mosiac law that used to be the norm never made anything perfect. But through Christ, we have a new hope, a better covenant. The animal sacrifices of the past lacked permanence, so another was necessary. Jesus as our high priest was superior because his sacrifice fulfilled the necessity, offered the needed sufficiency, and was forever. The permanence of Christ's sacrifice was something never before seen and it granted access for all people to have a relationship with God.

What Next?
So what's next? All of the big rocks that we have discussed here these past several weeks have led us right here. For us to be a true covenant people, we need to understand the big rocks of our faith.

Our bulletin cover this week, shows humanity on the right as sinful, God on the left as Holy, and the sacrifice of Christ as the bridge that brings us all together and honestly that is the reality of it. It is through grace, given in the form of salvation, that creates our desire to be disciples, that urges us to enter into a covenant with our Creator.

There were covenants entered into in the Old Testament that were temporary. There were sacrifices made by priests that allowed the short term forgiveness of sins for the believers of God. But God wanted more. God wanted a permanent way for all of humanity to be able to reap His blessings, so God entered into a covenant on our behalf. God wanted everyone to have access to the benefits of being in His presence, experiencing His grace, and being transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Our challenge as a covenant people is to live into that agreement. Our response to this wonderful gift is to share the aspects of grace, the gift of salvation, the blessings of discipleship, and the rewards of righteousness with all that we meet.

Remember that young cheese salesman we spoke about that made the covenant with God? Well, he kept that covenant to serve God first and foremost and he was blessed. So every time you take a take a bite of Philadelphia Cream cheese, sip a cup of Maxwell House, mix a quart of Kool-Aid, slice up a DiGiorno Pizza, cook a pot of Macaroni & Cheese, spread some Grey Poupon, stir a bowl of Cream of Wheat, slurp down some Jell-O, eat the cream out of the middle of an Oreo cookie, or serve some Stove Top, remember a boy, his pony named Paddy, and the covenant promise little James L. Kraft made to serve God and work as He directed.

We have a calling from God that is demanding. A calling to go and make disciples of all nations, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. A calling that requires our complete devotion. A calling that usually requires more than we are capable of. But God will equip you, God will lead you, and God will fulfill God's portion of the covenant made on our behalf. Folks, it is a win-win for us. Remember your call, remember God loves you, and remember the sacrifice he made for you, before you were even born.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bible Challenge 11/15 - 11/21

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, time will be more scare than normal. I encourage you to try and stay on track with this challenge. This week we finish John and begin our venture into Acts.

11/15, Sunday - John 17-20

11/16, Monday - John 21- Acts 3

11/17, Tuesday - Acts 4-7

11/18, Wednesday - Acts 8-11

11/19, Thursday - Acts 12-15

11/20, Friday - Acts 16-19

11/21, Saturday - Acts 20-23

Keep pressing on!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Fives

Greetings my Friends!

This week is a busy one so with no further delay...

1. This week we are concluding our preaching series on the Big Rocks as we talk about what it means to be a covenant people. Then we are embarking a worship experience the following week as we celebrate Christ the King and focus on the different seasons of the Christian year through Scripture and song. It will be a service you won't want to miss!

2. This Sunday at 4pm over at First Ocala UMC, we will be holding our annual Charge Conference, along with ten other churches. Everyone is invited and I do hope you will make plans to come. In fact if we do not have enough people show up will not be able to vote and complete our charge conference. We will begin with a worship service, celebrate Holy Communion, and then have the business discussions. If you are free, please let me know either here as a comment or at worship tomorrow. I would love to see a healthy number of us there to represent our wonderful church.

3. November 29th, we will celebrate the Hanging of the Greens in worship. We are still in need of volunteers to help us decorate during worship as together we will transform our sanctuary into a beautiful Christmas display. During worship we will explain and talk about each of the decorations, their importance, and Scriptural significance. Please bring your family and friends as we kick off the Advent season.

4. Friday, November, 20th will be our annual Thanksgiving Dinner. It will be at 6pm in the Fellowship Hall. Come join us for a time of fellowship and what else...thanksgiving! Hope to see you there!

5. Sunday at 2pm will be our monthly trip to Ocala Health and Rehab. If you would like to help as we sing with and minister to the residents you are more than welcome and we would love to have you. Just show up at 2 pm just down the road from the church and we will have a good time together.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Big Rocks: One with God – Luke 10:38-42 and James 2:14-26

This week we are continuing our preaching series entitled Big Rocks where we look at the big rocks or tenets of the Christian faith. Our first week we spoke about Grace and how Grace impacts and informs our lives as Christians. Then we talked about Salvation, what it is, why it was necessary, and what our response should be to this incredible act of love. Today we are going to talk about the idea of discipleship and what it means to truly be a disciple of Christ.

The Importance of Discipleship
There are many ideas today about what it means to be a Christian. Hundreds of theologians have weighed in with their opinions; pastors, Sunday School teachers, church goers. All of us have an opinion as to what we think it means to call ourselves disciples of Jesus Christ. Some people think that if you come to church each week that alone makes you a disciple. While that is a good start, I do not think going and sitting in a church sanctuary makes you a disciple any more than going and sitting in a garage makes you a car. Other people think that salvation and discipleship is the same thing. Salvation, that free gift from God that comes with us professing our belief in Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior, is not the same as discipleship. The thought is that “I have professed, God has saved me, see ya in Heaven!” But is that really it? Is that really the mindset believers should have after they receive salvation? I am here to argue no, that is not it.

There is more! When we accept Christ and have that true conversion experience, we are changed! We are transformed into a new being with new desires and new outlooks, and our faith will begin to generate works for Christ. Now let me take just a moment to clarify something here. I have told you from this very spot just a few weeks ago that in order to be saved there was nothing you had to do but accept the freely given gift from God. If you accept Christ as your Savior and ask him to live in your heart, that is it...salvation is yours. I am not wavering from that today. I am not saying that works is now required for salvation. We are not talking about a faith vs. works controversy. Paul often spoke of salvation and he was speaking about our inward devotion. What we read from James this morning is James talking about our outward action as a result of that inward devotion. They are not competing but complementary. Today we are taking that next step from salvation and talking about discipleship. Salvation is the acceptance, discipleship is the natural response. Once we accept the gift, and are transformed, discipleship is the natural result of that act.

So James is not challenging anyone's salvation, but basically he is asking “what now”? What is going to be our response to salvation? Are we going to sit on our hands or are we going to go out and live as James is encouraging us to, as Christ has commanded us to.

What Are We To Do As Disciples?
Well what are we to do as disciples? I have a few ideas, and feel free to add your own ideas to this list later. But, the first is to spend time with Jesus. If we are to follow someone we need to understand who they are and what they want of us. So spend time with Jesus. Our first Scripture lesson this morning models this ideal for us. Here in the Gospel of Luke we have two sisters that have welcomed Jesus and his disciples into their home. Both feel they are serving their guest, one by doing, the other by listening. However when Martha, the doer, asks Jesus to tell the listener, Mary, to get to work Jesus tells her that Mary has chosen what is right and it will not be taken from her.

Mary made the choice to not get caught up in the doing for Christ at the expense of being with Christ. That can be a pitfall for all of us. It is easy to get so busy doing for the Kingdom and being what we feel is a good and faithful disciple that we neglect spending time with Christ. Do not let the doing for Christ become more important than spending time with Christ. Take that time daily! If this is a habit for you God bless you and I pray it stays that way. If not, start with just five minutes a day, in a quiet, uninterrupted place. Pray, by adoring God for who God is, confess for our shortcomings, thank God for all the things God has done in your life, ask for what you need God's help with, and then listen. Next, get involved with a Bible Study, read the Word! Love God with your heart and know God with your mind. Be with God, talk with Christ, and listen for the Holy Spirit. The only way we can be good and faithful disciples is to first spend time with and get to know the One we are longing to serve.

Next, live it out! Once we spend time with Christ, go and live for Christ. As disciples of Jesus, we are supposed to continue to grow in our faith, to become more Christ-like, more like Jesus in our attitudes and actions. The theological term for this is “sanctification” which means “being made holy.” Find a cause, find a group, find a person and be Christ for them. Often times the only way people experience the love of Christ is through their interactions with us. A smile from you as you walk by, getting something from a top shelf for someone else, letting someone ahead of you in a line. All of these are easy ways to begin. Then look for ways to make a lasting impact. Become a literacy tutor, volunteer with Meals on Wheels, give of yourself at a soup kitchen. Find a place where you can get involved, love another, and make an impression that they cannot help but know that it came from God.

Another thing we can do as disciples is to stay plugged in. To be a disciple of Christ is not easy, but incredibly rewarding. And in order to have the strength and energy to be an effective disciple you need the energy and strength that comes from being plugged in, connected with a body of believers. When we get together and the Spirit is moving among us, the energy, the strength, the love is almost overwhelming. Being a disciple of Christ can wear you down, make you physically and spiritually exhausted...and sleep will not cure those ills. But, being with a group of believers, having a church family to pick you up and encourage you, can. Please be connected. And more than just a trip to our corner of Lake Weir and 17th Street once a week. Find a small group, a bible study, and if there is not one established, talk to me and I can help you get one going.

We are all called to be disciples of Christ and in order to do that we must spend time with Christ, live out His love to others, and be connected with other believers.

There was an anonymous poem that was written in the late 1970's that I want to share with you:

I was hungry and you formed a humanities
club and discussed my hunger. Thank you.

I was imprisoned and you crept off quietly to your
chapel in the cellar and prayed for my release.

I was naked and in your mind,
you debated the morality of my appearance.

I was sick and you knelt and thanked God for your health.

I was homeless and you left me alone to pray.

You seem so holy, so close to God.

But I''m still hungry and lonely and cold.

It is one thing for us to talk about what we believe and how Christ is living in our hearts. It is entirely a different matter to live it out. So I encourage you to ask yourself, am I living as Christ has called me to live, or am I standing on the sidelines just watching His Kingdom grow without me?

We are all called to discipleship to be active hearers, doers, and givers of the love of Christ. He wants you involved, and he will equip you, strengthen you, and love you all the way through. And to me that sounds like a good deal!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Bible Challenge 11/08 - 11/14

I hope that everyone is on track as we get busy with the end of the year holidays. This week we finish Luke and get into John.

11/8, Sunday - Luke 13-16

11/9, Monday - Luke 17-20

11/10, Tuesday - Luke 21-24

11/11, Wednesday - John 1-4

11/12, Thursday - John 5-8

11/13, Friday - John 9-12

11/14, Saturday - John 13-16

Keep pressing on!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday Fives

Hello All,

I hope you have each had a wonderful and God-filled week. Here are a few things that I wanted to bring to your attention.

1. This week are taking time to honor all the Veteran's in worship. It is through their sacrifices and service that we are afforded the lifestyle we have today. Take time this weekend to honor those you know and come to worship on Sunday as we honor them there as well.

2. We are continuing our preaching series on the Big Rocks this week as we take a look at discipleship and sanctification and what our response is to those ideals.

3. We are celebrating Hanging of the Greens on Sunday, November 29th and are in need of volunteers. Please consider being a part of this spiritually moving experience as we decorate the Sanctuary together during worship on that morning. If you are interested in helping out please let the church office know.

4. If you are interested, do not forget there is a Healthy Lifestyle for Senior Adults "Health Fair" on November 10th, from 10am - 2pm, at Oakcrest Baptist Church. For more info you can call 352-629-7058.

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 great weekend and I hope to see you Sunday!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

All Saints Day: Heroes of the Faith - Matthew 5:1-12 and Hebrews 11:30-12:2

This week we are placing our series on the Big Rocks on hold for just a week to focus on today, All Saints Day. This is a day on the Christian calendar where we pause to remember, reflect, and thank God for all those that have gone before us. This is the day where we spend time honoring those Christians who are now part of the “Great Cloud of Witnesses” that meant so much to us.

My Heroes
Growing up there were two people that had a great influence on me, Richard Schnaare and Emma Davis. Richard Schnaare was a man that I knew from as long back as I can remember. He was a member of my home church until his death about five years ago. He was a man that had a strong faith in God, but not showy. He taught my young adult Sunday School class and would teach what he knew but not force it on us. He lived the best way he knew how and never made a point about it. His quiet example of what being a Christian man was to him, spoke volumes to me. His example taught me more than any words he could have ever spoke. Richard studied Scripture, really studied and labored over it in order to understand it the best he could. He then strived to live out what he learned. It was important to him to not only profess his faith in the Triune God but to model it and live it out daily. I loved that man, I respected that man, I miss that man.

The next person that holds a big place in my heart is Emma Davis. Emma was my grandmommy, she was my Mom's mom. She lived just a few blocks from my house as I was growing up and I spent a great deal of time at my grandmommy's house. She would take me on errands with her, she would let me just tag along as she cleaned house, did yard work, or whatever it was she was up to that day. She basically allowed me to be her shadow, and her shadow I was. My grandmommy was also very active in my home church. She ran the children's programs and was very dedicated to making sure the children felt they had a home at the church. She loved those kids and they adored her. She was 4 feet 11.5 inches tall, you always had to include that .5 inch, so she was just about the same size as the kids, and she would play just as hard as they did. Her ability to love, accept, and nurture those children really impressed me. She had a way of making you feel important, valued, and just like you were on top of the world. She could sense someone hurting and usually had the right words that made you feel better. She could mediate disagreements to where both sides felt like they were heard. She could smile at you and you instantly knew she was someone you wanted to know and be around. My grandmommy lived with the love of Christ as her shield. She had such a deep abiding love of Christ and she strived to share it with everyone she could. Her faith in the risen Savior and the love that he expressed through his death and sacrifice really spoke to her and informed her Christian faith. I loved my grandmommy, I respected my grandmommy, I deeply miss my grandmommy.

What Makes Someone a Hero?
These two people were and are very important heroes in my faith. Their example and their witness guide me, strengthen me, and encourage me. But what makes someone a hero? Our first Scripture lesson tells us. Christ is walking up the mountain side with his disciples and begins what we know as the Sermon on the Mount. He starts with the beatitudes. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3-10 NIV). Jesus outlines it for us right here. Those of us that have the traits that this world mocks, those of us that have the traits where we put others first, those of us that have the traits that allow us to thin the veil between Heaven and Earth, those are the heroes. Richard and my grandmommy had those traits. And I am confident that all of you know someone who possessed those traits as well.

The Importance of Heroes
And knowing heroes of the faith is important because they are part of the cloud of witnesses that we read about in our Second Scripture lesson this morning.

We were never promised an easy life as Christians. When made the decision to devote our lives to the Kingdom we were never promised that we would never face difficulties. But these verses from Hebrews give us the encouragement to persevere.

You see Hebrews Chapter 11, the entire chapter is about great examples of faith from the lives of those we read about in Scripture, from Cain and Able, from Noah, from Abraham and his wife Sarah, from Jacob, from Joseph, and from Moses, among others. For some, marvelous things happened to them. For others, horrible things happened to them. But what happened to them was not the focus. The focus comes in verse 40 where we are told that God has planned something better for us, the whole people of God.

This is where the cloud of witnesses come into play. This life is hard, long, and arduous and to have to do it alone would terrify me. But we have our cloud of witnesses. Maybe it would help to think of this passage in terms of a relay race. There are people that have to start with the baton at the beginning of the race, those are the people that lived before us. They are the ones that set the tone for us, teach us, influence us and when their portion is done they hand off the baton to the next person, to us. But they are not done. As we watched them carry that baton, we were studying them, whether we were cognizant of it or not. We were examining them to see how they carried themselves and treated others. And after we receive the baton, the next runner is doing the same thing to us. Those that came before us, even though they are not physically here anymore, their examples, their actions, and their teachings, are still guiding us today.

Are You a Hero?
So I ask you today, as we honor those that came before us, are you a hero to someone? Are you striving to live the life that Christ preached about on the mountainside? Are you striving to live the life that Christ sacrificed himself for? Those are the questions that we need to constantly ask ourselves. To be a disciple of Christ means that we will do things not generally respected by this world and both of our Scripture lessons talk about the rewards we will receive from God for following Him rather than this world.

Those people that have come before us have provided us with a legacy worth remembering, worth passing on. So as we remember them today, let us make it a point to remember them everyday and take what they have taught us and pass it on to the next person in the race so that God may continue to be glorified and the Kingdom may continue to be strengthened.