Where Are We Looking?

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith…”                                                                                              Hebrews 12: 1-2 It is known as “Old Faithful.” It isn’t the grandest or most spectacular geyser in Yellowstone National Park, but it is by far the most popular. The reason is because visitors can count on “Old Faithful” to be on time, every time. As a pastor, I can think of a lot of who were like“Old Faithful.” Most were quiet and unassuming, often preferring to work in the background. To a person, you knew they loved the Lord and they loved their church....

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Who Are We

“Christ’s people…drawn together in love…moving out to serve!” …Right? What a great mission statement! But what does it really mean? Even with great mission statements, we still need to go back from time to time and ask ourselves, “Is this still what is important and essential to us as Brevard First United Methodist Church?” So, is it? If so, then how are we doing in being who we say we are and in our “living out” our mission? For instance, as “Christ’s people” called out from the world and “drawn together,” how are we doing in loving God and each other? And are we caring of one another, even though we may not agree on certain matters, and even beliefs? Paul says when we are a part of the Body of Christ,“If one member suffers, we all suffer together; if one member is honored, we all rejoice together”(I Corinthians 12:26). Is that the kind of love and caring we find in our church? And how about our neighbor, too? After all, Jesus made it pretty clear that the best...

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God’s Greatest Desire!

Several years ago, I was leading a study on pastor John Ortburg’s book, GOD IS CLOSER THAN YOU THINK. I recall that many in the group had questions about faith, and some even wondered what to believe about God. It is why they wanted to do the study. As we began, there was this assertion by Ortburg on the very first page: “The story of the Bible isn’t primarily about the desire of people to be with God; it’s the desire of God to be with people.” I have come to see just how true these words really are. Ortburg adds: “God’s greatest desire is to be with us.”That means, he says, to be with us not just ever now and then, or when we feel particularly religious, or only in those times when we decide we need God. No, God’s desire is to be with us—each one of us— every minute of every day… in the good times and the bad… in joy and celebration, and, yes, in heart- ache and trouble. The apostle Paul said much the...

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“Do You Have a “Guiding Word” for the New Year?”

Have you chosen a “word” yet for 2019? I ask this because quite a few people responded to the sermon I preached a couple of weeks ago. In fact, many of you shared your “word” with me after worship—shalom, peace, love, grace, compassion, hope, thanksgiving, blessed, and many more, including ALOHA. This exercise came about because I mentioned in the sermon a tradition started by a Methodist pastor in Raleigh in which he chooses a word to live by for the new year. Then, on the first Sunday, he shares why that particular word is meaningful to him, and also the ways he hopes to “lean on” and be guided by it each day. I shared that my word for 2019 is “KINGDOM” (as in the Kingdom of God, or more precisely, as in “Kingdom Living).” I explained how this word is so important to us, to our lives of faith and in how we go about living each day. It was also my way of launching a three- part sermon series on “Kingdom Living.” For many of us,...

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We Have This Hope!

The daily news can often be depressing, if we let it. Everywhere we look there is violence and killings, natural disasters of every sort, poverty and oppression, and more. And those make up the news “out there” in the world. For ourselves, we live from day to day, many of us carrying the burdens of worry, grief, and trouble. With the reality of life comes the knowledge that bad news can strike at any time. However, thank God, there is another reality that can keep us going. It is the reality of hope that is born of faith. And if anything, the season of Advent and Christmas gives us every reason to have hope! As we make ready to celebrate again our Savior’s birth, we are reminded of that ultimate promise made by Almighty God to his children—that no matter how heavy the burden, how stark the circumstance, how discouraging the news, we can endure. We can conquer. We can know the joy of God’s unending love. It is because Emmanuel has come! God is with us every moment...

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We Are The Church Together

I once read something fascinating about the giant redwood trees in California. They are among the tallest and oldest trees in the world. Some exceed 300 feet in height and can be over 2,500 years old! I would think that trees so tall and so old would have a tremendous root system, reaching down and outward into the ground for a hundred feet or more. Wouldn’t you think that, too? Well, they don’t! In fact, amazingly, considering their size and height, redwoods have a very shal- low root system. So, how are they able to stand so tall and regal and strong after all these years? Especially since their roots aren’t deep and expansive? Here’s the answer: It’s because one tree’s roots intertwine with all the trees around it to the extent that they are connected and locked to each other. Thus, when the storms come and the winds blow, these beautiful giants stand tall by supporting each other. Here, brothers and sisters, is a beautiful parable of the Church as Christ meant it to be. The Church can...

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“Shaped by Grace: Getting and Giving!”

I want to share a couple of quotes. The first is this: “You have to plant the right seeds in order to grow the right fruit.” Duh! Of course! Don’t need to be a farmer to know that. Okay. Here’s the second quote: “You get out what you put in.” What do you think? Isn’t this one true, too? Now what if we were to apply these two sayings to our church? What might these simple sayings mean for us as we go about living our faith and being in this Body of Christ? Here’s how I see it. Jesus talked a lot about “bearing fruit.” Not just any kind of fruit, mind you, but “good fruit.” Another time, he said that we “reap what we sow.” Sow bad seeds and what do you get? Sow good seeds—seeds of love and kindness and service—and you get what? So, what do we get when it comes to living our faith and serving our church? I once read an arti- cle about something the author called the “law of reciprocity.” Basically,...

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Reflections on Church Part II

I have spent almost all of my life in the Church. As a kid, my mother gathered up the four of us (I was the oldest) and carried us to Sunday School and worship at Long’s Chapel Methodist Church near Lake Junaluska. We never had a discussion about it. We just understood it was where we would be on Sunday mornings. In fact, we began to prepare on Saturday evening—laying out our Sunday clothes, polishing our shoes, taking our weekly bath! Honestly, there were many summer Sundays I wanted to stay home and play. But looking back, I realize now everything I would have missed had my mother not made it our Sabbath ritual. For one thing, I was so fortunate in being surrounded by “so great a cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1)— those dear saints who welcomed me, taught me about faith, prayed for me, and loved me uncondition- ally. Second, I count my blessings for the seeds of faith that were planted in my heart even as a child, and how they took root in ways I...

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Our Church, Our Family

I’ve been thinking about a lot of things lately in relation to THE CHURCH and, of course, our church. First of all, Ashleigh, Kay and I were overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from our church family for the recent wedding shower. The living room at the parsonage looks like a warehouse (temporarily) as we scramble to store all the gifts she and Luke received. We are so grateful to the Church Life folks and others for all the work and effort that went into hosting this grand event, and we are so grateful for your prayers and well wishes as we look to Ashleigh’s wedding day on June 16. Truly, you are our family. Second, because you are family, we were delighted when the word came that we are appointed for another year at this great church. I knew early on that it was to happen, but still Methodist pastors know that it isn’t a done deal until it’s announced. So, we are more than pleased. Third, part of the reason for my reflection lately is...

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The Great Adventure

An advertisement once appeared in a London newspaper: “Men wanted for hazardous journey! Low wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful.” The ad was placed by the noted explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleford, who was organizing another expedition to the barren land of Antarctica. So, what kind of response do you think he got? Actually, thousands of people responded to the ad, and most all of them were willing to sacrifice everything for the prospect of experiencing “a meaningful adventure.” After reading that, it made me wonder about how often we have thought of our Christian life as somewhat of an adventure. Could it even be the greatest adventure of all? Taking a trip to the South Pole…or going on an African safari…or climbing one of the highest peaks in the world are all truly amazing experiences! But I am thinking of “adventure” in terms of a life that is rewarding, meaningful, and filled with “stirring” experiences; which, by the way, is how Webster’s defines the word “adventure.” If you are not sure about the Christian...

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