Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas 2009

Even as I am preparing for our two Christmas Eve services, I'm filled with the joy and love of the season. Our tree is decorated, and there are presents under the tree. I took time this week to
visit many of our shut-ins and personally wish them a Merry Christmas. Our Mission Possible Kids sent 236 Warm Fuzzy to brighten up the lives of children at the YWCA domestic violence shelters.
Our church adopted a family through the Good Neighbor Center and provided them with presents for Christmas. The youth raised funds to help homeless youth through Youth and Children Services have a better Christmas.

With all this going on this season there is a lot fill all our hearts with joy and love. As you sit down at family gatherings and football parties this weekend, please take a moment to remember all of those who are hungry, who are homeless, and
who are in the midst of families in crisis. Join with me in making 2010 a year we reach out even more to share God's love in real and practical ways. If we do, the blessings and joy of Christmas can last the whole year.

Merry Christmas & Hapy New Year

Pastor John

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Are you happy?

Are you happy? Are you happy 50% of the time? Are you happy 25% of the time? What makes you happy? What makes you the happiest? Despite the last year of financial melt down, our standard of living and average wages have increased greatly in the last 20 or 30 years. Despite this increase, our happiness scales have not increased at all. In fact, on average they have decreased slightly. With all due respect to the millions of dollars spent daily on television, radio, and print ads telling us to have more stuff, take newer and better pills, and eat new and varied food, doing these things isn't enough to make us happy.

A majority of the people I see are grandparents or great-grandparents. What do you think is the number one thing that makes them happy? It's grandchildren, right? My youngest daughter, who turns 4 this week, stands in every Sunday as a proxy grandchild for many of them. They see her and their eyes light up, they start talking in gibberish and acting silly just to get her attention for a few fleeting seconds. It's a joy to watch, and a joy for them to participate in this relationship with her. It's also a joy for her to feel so loved and appreciated.

My daughter doesn't care how much money these people have. She doesn't care how many cars they own, the square footage of their house, or the size of the 401k. It's the relationship that is important. Jesus, in his ministry, was all about relationships. He didn't just sit in the synagogue and teach, he went out, walked among the crowds, picked people with whom to have a meal. What was the response of the people? They followed him in droves of thousands. They yearned for a relationship, any relationship. Because of Jewish purity laws, many of them were outcasts, separated from good society, and forgotten. What Jesus offered them was a God who could and desperately wanted to relate to each and everyone of them.

Joy comes from our relationships. It's what John Wesley, the creator of Methodism, called social holiness. He understood that our faith development and our relationship with God is tied to our relationship with those around us. Since Jesus spent most of his time with the outcast, and the poor, John Wesley also surmised that our social holiness needs to be directed to poor and outcast of our day.

Are you happy? Are you willing to open your hearts to others, thus allowing an opening for happiness to get in? Stop and talk to your neighbors. Stop and talk to the people you pass along the street. Stop and talk, laugh, love, and live. Experience true joy and happiness.

God Bless
Pastor John

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Who Is My Neighbor?

"Who is my Neighbor?" Jesus was asked this question more than once. The most memorable time was when he responded with the story of the "Good Samaritan." If he was telling the story today he might call it the "Good Muslim." After the evangelical preacher, and the Catholic priest, and the mainline denominational pastor all passed on the other side. It was the Muslim who stopped and cared for the man. Who was the neighbor?
We have defined neighbor as those living around us, those who look like us, and those who act like us. Jesus defined neighbor on a higher plane. Neighbors show mercy. Neighbors don't just show mercy based on geography, race, gender, or moral standing. Neighbors show mercy to everyone. Evangelicals and mainline denominations alike have watered down the radical nature of Jesus' message, or one might say "lowered the bar."

Our theology is a theology of fear. We fear judgment so we either convince ourselves that the bar is easy just say the right words and you're in, or that there is no bar at all. The reality of Jesus' message is neither. It is, in fact, a very high bar. To date, the punishment for not attaining that bar has been 2,000 years of suffering, 2,000 years of war and poverty, 2,000 years of denial and self-righteousness, and 2,000 years of scapegoating and blaming. It's time to stop. It's time to step beyond the fray, beyond political groups, beyond religious bickering, beyond political power grabs, and beyond self-centeredness.

"Who is my Neighbor?" Jesus doesn't call us to blame others for not being good neighbors. Jesus calls us to the much more difficult life- changing experience of becoming a neighbor to everyone. In the Kingdom of heaven that Jesus came to proclaim, mercy reigns, not power, not control, not political influence, mercy. Don't ask, "Who is my Neighbor?" ask "To whom can I be a neighbor?" Then everyone will be your neighbor, and mercy will reign.

God Bless
Pastor John

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Fear and Faith

Mark 4:40 "[Jesus] said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’"

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” FDR

These words spoken by President Roosevelt came at the deepest darkest point of the Great Depression.  Perhaps, however, as we see ourselves in a similar economic situation today, these words need to be resurrected, and the connection between faith and trust restored.

Like the raging forest fires of recent days, fear is a destructive force that travels at will, and destroys everything in its path.

Which of these fires of fear are in your heart?

  • I fear losing attendance and budget, so my church has become irrelevant.

  • I fear Democrats/Republicans, so I fear anything the government does.

  • I fear strangers, so I scapegoat my fears upon their shoulders.

  • I fear my neighbors, so I suffer from isolation.

  • I fear homosexuals, so I create special categories to label and isolate them (within and outside the church.)

  • I fear for my safety, so I spend hundreds and thousands of dollars a year on security.

  • I fear the President of the United States, because he’s a Democrat, progressive, black.

  • I fear an imminent terrorist attack, so I live with constant anxiety, worry, and stress.

In the midst of all this fear, we must remember the words of Jesus from the Gospel of Mark, “Why are you SO AFRAID?  Do you still have NO FAITH?” (Mark 4:40 NIV, emphasis added)  Is our faith so strained, so shaken, so decayed that fear is the primary emotion driving our lives?    It’s time to face our fears, to strengthen our faith, to trust in God’s love, and to fight the flames of fear with the greatest of all fear retardants, unconditional love (Grace).

Like the fires that are still burning today in the mountains above Los Angeles, it is easier to start fear than to extinguish it.  But we must show at least as much dedication as the brave firefighters and smoke jumpers, in our untiring efforts to fight fear on all fronts, to build a containment line of love and faith around them, and stop their unquenchable rage of destruction.

God Bless

Pastor John

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Health Care

I heard a story once about a time when the city line was just beyond the church along El Cajon Blvd. The story was about how the San Diego city fire trucks stopped out in front of the church a block short of a raging fire. The firemen got out of their trucks, and watched the building burn to the ground. They didn’t put out the fire because it was just over the city line, and at the time the rules were different, fire and police departments took care of their own, and were barred from helping others.
Today, we would be up in arms, as people eventually were back then, if a fire engine just stopped and watched a fire burn, or a police officer just stopped and watched a crime happen, because it was, “not my jurisdiction.” In fact, the collaboration and organization is to the extent that everyone everywhere only needs to call a single number to get help in any emergency. 911 is a number that every elementary school student it taught. A single, simple, central system is in place that is guaranteed to bring help.
It seems crazy to me that getting medical attention and care isn’t the same. The fire department comes out every year to inspect our church and make sure that we don’t have any potential problems and to keep our facility healthy and safe. Yet several of our own church members can’t get a health check-up, because they can’t afford health insurance. Half of our staff could pay their entire yearly salary and still not be able to afford health insurance.
I did some calculations and was shocked at what I found. If my family was not covered by the health insurance plan available through Jennifer’s work, the health insurance plan the United Methodist Church provides would cost the church an additional amount equal to our Youth Director’s full year salary plus our entire children’s ministry budget combined. That’s in addition to the amount we are currently paying for getting the insurance through Jennifer’s work. This amounts to more than double the amount of money for exactly the same coverage
We may have very different ideas about how to solve the problem, but solve the problem we must. Our current system is immoral, and un-Christian. The Bible is very clear about our requirement to take care of our neighbors, and the poor, and the widows. While we may quote a verse here and there to try and support our current situation, there are over 300 verses about God’s concern for the poor and justice. How can we profess to “Love our neighbors” and at the same time support a system that provides us with care and our neighbors with nothing but bankruptcy, chronic untreated conditions, and a sense of deep despair and hopelessness.
The rules are simple: Do no harm, Do good, Stay in love with God; but living them out takes courage, risk, and a deep sense of God’s presence. Please join me in keeping the debate over health care reform in your daily prayers. Keep in prayer also the people of our own congregation and throughout the country who are at risk and most vulnerable.

God Bless,
Pastor John

August 20, 2009

I'm all about missions this week. Ok, I'm all about missions every week, but this week I am especially about missions. This week I am putting the final details on our All-Church Mission Celebration to be held this Saturday*.
I am amazed, and I think you will be too, at all of the missions we have accomplished in the past 20 months. We'll take a tour though those months and look to the future. We have been busy this past year or more, and it's only right that we take time to pat ourselves on the back and recognize the work that our prayers, our presence, our gifts, and our talents have accomplished.
We will also have an opportunity to look ahead at the new and returning missions planned for the future. There are some exciting new adventures awaiting us. There are opportunities to help even more people in our community, and around the world. I'm excited! I hope to see as many of you there as possible on Saturday. You won't want to miss it.
*Saturday's Schedule:
Dunk Tank and Games - 4:00pm - 5:15pm
Kids come prepared to get wet

Dinner and Program - 5:15pm - 7:00pm

God Bless,
Pastor John

August 13, 2009

The Methodist Church is calling us to Rethink Church. The only problem is that we have been rethinking church for some time. It doesn't mean that we don't have more things to learn, and changes to make, but we should be proud as a congregation of all that changes we have already made in our thinking about church. Since August of 2007 we have been rethinking our ideas about what it means to be a disciple. Since January of 2008, we have been rethinking our ideas about doing acts of kindness. Since March of 2008 we have been rethinking our ideas about he central message of the Gospels and the three simple rules. Since September of 2008 we have been rethinking the idea that church should be a verb, not a noun. Since November of 2008, we have been rethinking our ideas about apportionments (the money we give to the greater church) about Spiritual disciplines, and about sharing our faith stories. We have been doing a lot of rethinking.
As the Methodist Church is finally calling on all churches to do the kind of rethinking that we have already been doing, it's time for us to do some re-doing of what we have always been doing. You see it's not nearly enough to "think" about all things. We have to really change what we "do." Transformation of our hearts and the world won't come simply from new thoughts. These thoughts have to lead to real action. That's where the transformation comes from. This fall we are going to take a hard look at what we think and what we do. It's never too late or too soon to change, especially when so much hangs in the balance. The world today is in such need of God's redeeming and transformational love.
It's up to us, whether we are 8 or 108, to change our thinking, our actions, and be transformed; so that we can participate in the transformation of the world. It sounds exciting. It IS exciting. Tell everyone you know, "Rolando UMC is rethinking, and transforming." Want to hear more? Come to our adult Sunday School class at 11:15am on Sunday.

God Bless,

Pastor John

July 30, 2009

August is back to school month, or at least preparing for back to school month. We have several church activities revolving around schools. The Good Neighbor Center is collecting backpacks filled with school supplies. These backpacks will be given out to children of low income families who otherwise will not have any school supplies. The need for this program has grown exponentially since last year. The cuts in the state budget mean that even more supplies will be missing from our schools this year. It is a desperate situation.
At the direct request of Clay Elementary, Rolando UMC is collecting boxes of Kleenex specifically for Clay. With the H1N1 and other flu bugs around this fall is looking to be an extra heavy season for Kleenex. Your donations to this effort will be greatly appreciated.
As families struggle to meet their financial obligations more and more are finding themselves running out of money each and every month. The last week of August will be our next tri-yearly food drive for the Loaves and Fishes Food Ministry. The numbers of families coming each Sunday continues to climb each week. Our gifts are greatly appreciated.
A day of fun! On August 22, we are going to have a dinner, fun and games, and a celebration of all the missions and ministries we have accomplished over the past year or more. We hope to make this event an annual celebration. The first hour from 4 - 5 will be dedicated to outdoor fun including a dunk tank that Pastor John will be in. Come out and dunk the Pastor. There will be other water games for the kids in this hour. Dinner is being hosted by Marcia Carver. We are asking others to bring a salad or dessert to share. Invite your friends, neighbors, and strangers to this fun afternoon and evening.
In a church that is about Transforming the World, August is not a slow month around here. Join in the mission and feel God's presence, love, joy and hope more and more everyday.

God Bless,

Pastor John

July 23, 2009

With a prayer and a stamp, Melanie sent off a check for our June apportionment giving. Her prayer was both for the ministry that our gift will bring and for God's blessing upon our church, so that our personal giving will continue to meet the needs of our budget including all of the ministry we do right here in Rolando. In these tough economic times we are all being asked by the grocer, the government, and the church to stretch a little thinner than ever before.
Perhaps it was fate, or a divine plan that we chose this year of all years to commit to giving 100% of our apportionments. Our apportionments help fund ministries around the world and right here in our own back yard. We help fund missionaries in Cambodia, and METRO in down town San Diego. We agreed as a church in November of last year that God was calling our church to give our apportionments fully and in turn for each of us to give our portion to the church to support this goal. Since then the economy has completely tanked, the unemployment rate has almost doubled, and the signs of recovery are still very small.
The economy has made it clear that only through prayer will we be able to meet this goal. Only with prayer and trust in the one to which our prayers are lifted will we succeed in the mission God has set before us. I want to encourage each and every one of you to lift up the our church, its ministries, and the ministries of the greater United Methodist Church. I also want you to lift up the community around our church, your home, and your office. With a prayer and a stamp the combination of all our prayers is being heard around the world. Please pray that we continue to send out our gift of love and hope, Amen!

God Bless,
Pastor John

July 9, 2009

Located near the bottom of this post under the title Mission Possible 2009 are the list of goals we have set for ourselves for 2009. Just a week ago we began the second half of the year, so I thought it was a good time to check-in with everyone and see how we're doing. We spent the first four months of the year focused on spiritual disciplines. The sermons, and adult Sunday School classes were all focused on various aspects of spiritual disciplines. We achieved our goal, but I wonder what last effect all of that talk has had on our actual behavior.
I want to give you an opportunity to report back and to share your experience with spiritual disciplines such as, prayer, study, mediation, fasting and worship. What have you tried differently this year? Have you been successful in creating new habits? What kind of support do you need to continue to grow in your love for God? I want to encourage you to write or email me and share your stories, both successes and setbacks. I will then share them with the congregation anonymously. Your stories and practices might just be the message that others need to continue their own journey of spiritual disciplines.
We have also been focusing on our third goal. Through May we were very faithful in our giving and the needs of the budget aloud us to give 100% of our apportionments. June was a more difficult month because of quarterly insurance payments that came due. It seems that only now in Mid-July will be able to give 100% of our June giving. I would ask that you pray for God's spirit to infuse our goals, our congregation and the community around our church so that this vital ministry funding may continue to be given fully each month.
Beginning in late June, we have been talking about "Sharing our Story." Sharing our Story is about understanding that the work we do in our daily lives is ministry, And our stories, which seem very common to us can be a witness to others. Sharing our story as part of God's story is how we invite others to join us on the journey, and how we allow God's spirit to flow through our actions and attitudes. I hope that you will continue to worship with us, and to begin to share your story of faith with those around you.
We are half way done with the year, but well on our way to completing our goals for 2009. Now is the time to rally our efforts as we look forward towards the end of the year, and new goals for 2010.

God Bless

Pastor John

Our 2009 Goals


Stay in Love With God - by Adopting Spiritual Disciplines
Goal 1: For 60 individuals to participate in at least one Spiritual Discipline Class or Study in 2009
Do Good - by Practicing Passionate Generosity
Goal 2: For every participant of Rolando UMC to be involved in passionate generous service to the church or community
Goal 3: For Rolando UMC to give our Apportionment first each month before all other spending. In turn, we are each challenged to do the same in our giving to the church.
Do No Harm - by Allowing God's Love to Lead
Goal 4: For each of you to discover the special person God has sent you, and invite them to attend worship.

June 28, 2009

Why do you go/not go to church? This is a question that has plagued many a pastor's heart. Even the pastor's of churches with 1000s of members mourn the loss of so many who come through their doors and then disappear. What does the church offer that cannot be found anywhere else? We provide opportunities for mission and ministry to the community and to the world, but so do many other agencies. We provide a family style support and accountability network, but those with healthy family dynamics already have this. We provide a spiritual foundation and biblical foundations, but families who take the time to read their Bibles together can find the same foundations. What does the church provide that is unique and essential?
Perhaps it is the combination of all three that makes the church unique. A place that directs, encourages, and organizes opportunities for service, but in the framework of a spiritual foundation and biblical foundation. The also offers a family style support and accountability that rest on those same spiritual biblical foundations. Our confusion comes when we see the church as a building and not a group of people. If you have a group of neighbors and friends who gather together, who seek to love their neighbors and enemies, who seek a spiritual foundation through prayer, Bible study, and gathering together, then you have a church.
That said I would challenge most people who claim to have all of this, but not in some kind of organized format. I'm thinking of those who say things like, "I do good.", "I get involved when I can.", "I read the Bible sometimes." The organization of a church whether they meet in a cathedral, in a home, or under an oak tree brings real accountability and encouragement to the church. Just like dieting, or getting off drugs, the support of others, the discipline that comes from accountability is essential to real life-transforming change. The "church" in whatever form it takes is at it's best when it is at once challenging and comforting it's members. It is at it's best when lives are truly transformed and their is real growth of God's spirit and love.
A test for your own life is to consider this. Are the three simple rules (1-Do No Harm, 2-Do Good, 3-Stay in Love with God) A. something you think about, B. something you believe in, or C. something you live out every minute of every day? If you answered C., then congratulations you are Jesus. If you honestly answered A. or B., then you now understand why there is a church, and where the road ahead is leading. 

God Bless,
Pastor John

June 4, 2009

We made it home safely! Last time I told you Jennifer, Joanna, and I were heading out to Mississippi along with 21 others from San Diego to rebuild homes and hearts in the Mississippi gulf. We returned on Sunday safe and sound. The trip was inspiring, exciting, and exhausting. We have set aside Sunday, July 5th, to have a special potluck to bring you pictures, videos, and stories of our exciting trip. I hope you will join us on that day.
Before then, however, is the start of our summer Vacation Bible School program. We are returning again this year to our 4 Wednesday evenings format. The first is June 24th. We will serve dinner at 6pm and the program will begin at 6:30pm. The principal of Clay Elementary has agreed to distribute a flyer for the event and we hope this will help get the word out. This year we are doing a special VBS program call Under Construction. It was created by Habitat for Humanity and is centered around what it means to be in Christian community. We will have programs for all ages. We hope to see you there.
I am already in Annual Conference mode. My duties require that I answer about a dozen emails a day for the next two weeks. I will be leaving town after lunch on June 14th, and I hope to be home for dinner on June 21st. Please keep Thom Hogan, your representative, and myself in your prayers before and during the event. We hope to represent you well.
God Bless
Pastor John

March 21, 2009

Today Jennifer, Joanna, and I are flying out of San Diego on a grand adventure. After a day and a half at my parent's house in Indiana, we'll say goodbye to JoJo and drive to Waveland, Mississippi. The drive will take all day Saturday and a small part of Sunday morning. We'll join the other 22 adventurers who make up the San Diego District 2009 Katrina Rebuild Team for a church service at the St Louis Bay United Methodist Church. We will spend Monday through Friday working as hard as we can to transform what was destruction and desolation into a new and glorious opportunity for rebirth and rebuilding of lives and spirits.
It's hard to believe that almost four years later the work is still needed. The reality is, however, that four years from now their will probably still be a need for this work. It's just hard to fathom the amount of destruction Katrina did. Not to mention all of the hurricanes that have come since then.
I learned many years ago in my earliest mission trips the power that mission service can have on individuals and communities. Even more powerful sometimes is the transformation that comes to those who are doing the service. If we are truly going to embrace the idea of Transforming the World, mission service is the way to do that. Please know that we will hold all of you in our hearts as we travel, work, and sweat. And we are honored to be your representatives to this area that is still in such need of God's abundant and unconditional love.

God Bless
Pastor John

April 30, 2009

Pastor John's Journeys

May is definitely a month for missions. Jennifer and I are getting very excited about our cross-country journey to Indiana, Mississippi and all parts in between. The majority of our 10-day trip will be spent rebuilding homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. It's hard to believe that 4 years later homes are still being rebuilt, but the fact is that another 4 years will still not see the end of the need there. We are overwhelmed by the response our tip and the call for support has produced. You raised over $800 toward our trip, which means you basically paid for Jennifer and I to go with little help from the district events.
May is definitely a month for missions, but around here every month is becoming a month for missions. Our Acts of Kindness mission is in constant motion doing things for Clay elementary and our community. Mission Possible Kids has touched over 400 lives in just 3 months. We have collected 150 bags of groceries in just the past 6 months. Our women's retreat and other events have included a specific missions project and focus. Missions is becoming not just something we do, but who we are. We are becoming a mission center. Through April we have supported fully the missions of our district and the global Methodist church through the giving of our apportionments.
Want to know the difference between a living thriving church and a dying church? It's Missions. Just like the Blue's Brothers we are "On a mission." We are on a mission to share God's love in real and practical ways. We are on a mission to share the blessings that God has given us with the world. We are on a mission to do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God. We are on a mission to reach out to the community and to the world, to allow our lives to be transformed, and to transform the world. May, may be a month for missions, but our lives our missions all the time and that's what counts.

God Bless
Pastor John

April 23, 2009

Pastor John's Journeys

One of the most important concepts to keep focused on is that God has a plan. This seems obvious perhaps, but it is probably the first thing to go out the window when we face a challenge. We get caught up in worry and anxiety about all of the possible outcomes, without remembering that God has a plan. God has a plan for each of our lives. God has a plan for our church. God has a plan for our community and our world, and our universe. Now I believe as many of you do, that we have a choice to follow that plan, or ignore that plan, but we can't escape that the plan is there.
Too often we worry about the hows and the what ifs. We think the solutions are our plans. Therefore we have to create them and control them. There is a freedom that comes with the realization that they are not our plans, they are God's plans. There is a peace that comes with realizing that we don't have to control every aspect of the plan, because it's not our plan. There's a hope that comes from realizing the plan doesn't depend on our abilities or gifts.
Faith in God's plan is what is lacking. As people of the modern age we are a lot more comfortable having faith in things we can see, touch, and manipulate. Having faith in God's plan means letting go and trusting that, if we listen well and follow obediently, things will work out. In a society focused on immediate and easy results this can be a difficult task. This is why we have church. Church isn't a building; it's a group of people. It is a group of people who come together to celebrate the gifts we have been given, to support one another in difficult times, and to strengthen each other so that we can lay our trust and hope in God's plan. Come to worship. Join a "church". Experience the freedom, peace, hope and trust that comes from joining together with others looking for the same thing you are: God's plan.

God Bless
Pastor John

March 19, 2009

Pastor John's Journeys

Jennifer and I attended the 2nd in a series of planning meetings for our May mission trip to Gulfport, Mississippi. There are 30 people going on the trip all from San Diego County United Methodist Churches. It was exciting to hear the stories of those who had gone before, and the anxious excitement of those preparing for their first ever mission trip. Multiple day mission trips are a special sacred time. I have been going on mission trips since the mid 80s. They are the single most powerful and sacred times I have ever spent. I see that same transformation of spirit in those around me, and in those who have gone before. There is something about dedicating a significant amount of time solely to God's work, and to the sharing of God's love in real and practical ways.
I often talk about being so filled with God's love, that it overflows from us and into the world around us, and of being so full that we cannot help but to share it. The service experiences of my life have been these times that I have experienced this overflowing love most profoundly. "Acts of Kindness" and following the "3 Simple Rules" give us a taste of that overflowing love. The more time you dedicate to service to others in God's name, the more you experience the joy, excitement, and transformation of Christ's spirit. The questions and doubts fade away. They are replaced instead with assurance, strength, love, and hope.
I know that many of you think your too old to be of service to anyone. There is a reality as we loose our independence that we loose our ability to directly service God. But this reality isn't so real. The truth is that as long as we have breath, worship the Lord, and share God's love in real and practical ways; even in the smallest kindness we are being of service. You may not be able to go on a weeklong trip to Mississippi, but you can support those who can with prayers and support. More importantly you can focus on the small tasks, the small kindnesses that are just as important, and when proper focus is given to them, they can be just as transforming, assuring, and joyous as the longest mission trip. Be of service. Share God's love in real and practical ways. Allow God's love to fill your heart and overflow out into the world around you.

God Bless
Pastor John

March 5, 2009

Pastor John's Journeys

Why are you a Christian? (Assuming you are) Why do you go to church? (Assuming you do) What beliefs would you be willing to risk your life for? (Assuming you have any) These are basic yet, for many, very difficult questions to answer. Often the answers have to do with tradition, family, obligation, and duty rather than deep spiritual beliefs. I'm not going to give you some kind of pat simple answers. I believe the answers have to come from within. They have to be something you own. They have to be not just what you think in your head, but what you feel in your gut. No lecture, sermon, or book is going to give you that kind of deep meaningful answer. It has to come from a collaboration of a variety of sources. John Wesley spoke about 4: Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience. Too often people, cultures, and the church have relied only on one or two of these without regard to the rest.
In the beginning there was only experience. There was no Bible, no rules, no rituals, just a one-on-one relationship between God and God's people. Later when Moses took the people into the desert they needed rules, order and systems. Thus Tradition took hold and eventually nearly pushed out experience all together. Jesus came along to show where tradition had eliminated experience and reason completely. He got in a lot of trouble because he broke some of their laws, while trying to reestablish a personal God that people could experience. This threat to the control and power tradition and law had on the people eventually led to Jesus' death on a cross. Since Jesus, the Christian church reestablished tradition, and eventually reason of the modern age again made no room for personal experience.
Why are we Christians? Why do we go to church? Is it because of tradition? Is it because of the law of scripture? Is it because to not do so seems unreasonable? Is it because you feel a deep penetrating gut presence in your heart? I don't believe you'll ever make it to the third question without a combination and a collaboration of all four things. If you want a passionate, purposeful faith, discover the God of scripture, tradition, reason and experience.

God Bless
Pastor John

February 19, 2009

Pastor John's Journeys

This past week saw yet another devastating storm roll through the Midwest. These storms are terrible in the best of times; in tough economic times they are even more so. Sometimes it seems that those who are already down get hit again and again. It's enough to make us question God's goodness and plan. The proverbs tell of a God who blesses the faithful and curses the evil, but we often see just the opposite. Leonard Sweet, United Methodist Pastor and national speaker, suggests that we only ask these questions when our priorities and direction get out of alignment with God's. When “our” prayers and “our” agendas become the primary guide for our relationship with God we can see God as unresponsive or random.

Jesus stands as the ultimate example of this idea. Each and every one of his prayers was about God's will being done. Our fear of death stands at the center of our resistance to this idea. Even though our heads tell us about eternity in God's spirit, our guts turn on us when following God's will becomes hard, or threatens our comfort level. Our prayers for those facing health issues or dangerous situations are immediately about bodily healing and safe journeys. If our prayers were about God's will being done, we would not see death as the ultimate evil. Our prayers instead would be about God’s will being done in every situation. This would bring us more in alignment with God's perspective and allow us to make prayer requests that God is eager and ready to answer. May we endeavor even in the most difficult and terrible situations to pray like Jesus with beads of sweat rolling down our faces, "Not my will, but thine be done."

God Bless
Pastor John

February 5, 2009

Pastor John's Journeys

This past week saw yet another devastating storm roll through the Midwest. These storms are terrible in the best of times, in tough economic times they are even more so. Sometimes it seems that those who are already down get hit again and again. It's enough to make us question God's goodness and plan. The proverbs tell of a God who blesses the faithful and curses the evil, but we often see just the opposite. Leonard Sweet United Methodist Pastor and national speaker suggests that we ask these questions when our priorities and direction get out of alignment with God's. When our prayers and our agendas become the primary guide for our relationship with God we can see God as unresponsive or random.

Jesus stands as the ultimate example of this idea. Each and every one of his prayers was about God's will being done. Our fear of death stands at the center of our resistance to this idea. Even though our heads tell us about eternity in God's spirit, our guts turn on us when following God's will becomes hard, or threatens our comfort level. Our prayers for those facing health issues or dangerous situations is immediately about bodily healing and safe journeys. If our prayers were about God's will being done, we would not see death as the ultimate evil. This would bring us more in alignment with God's perspective and allow us to make prayer requests that God is eager and ready to answer. May we endeavor even in the most difficult and terrible situations to pray like Jesus with beads of sweat, "Not my will, but thine be done."

God Bless
Pastor John