Sometimes ministry is hard.
Seriously. It’s hard. Everyday I find myself thinking of new ways to reach, teach and empower the church. And at the end of each day, I look back on my progress and sigh. Often, I ask myself, “Did I impact the kingdom of Heaven today? Did I produce any fruit?”
This month is the end of my first year at Arcadia United Methodist Church. It’s been a year full of meeting new people, learning new traditions, getting my feet wet with new endeavors, and finding my home within this body of believers. It’s been a full year of sweat and tears.
So, just what did the past 12 months look like for Arcadia United Methodist Church?
We have had an infant baptism.
We have had five people join the church through transfer of membership.
We have confirmed three young Christians.
We have celebrated two lives well lived.
We have joined our voices in praise and thanksgiving through Advent and Easter.
We have added a couple of special services.
We have held some lively Bible studies.
And through it all, we have allowed our hearts to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
It has been a good year.
But now what? What is next? What are we doing as people of the cross, Easter people, to produce fruit? Hear these these words from Jesus:
“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Matthew 13:18-23)
Have we become a people whose seed has fallen on rocky ground, among the thorns, or on good soil? That is the question I wrestle with as your pastor. As we move forward this year, I would like to see us be more deliberate in study of the Word. Deep study. The kind that requires daily discipline. I envision a church where groups of all ages are immersed in Bible study. My heart yearns for a children’s program that produces a love for Jesus and desire to hear Bible stories at home and church. I pray for a youth class that encourages our young Christians to ask questions about faith and Jesus so they may develop the kind of relationship with Christ that protects them and guides them throughout the many trials of young adulthood. I hope for an adult Bible study that is engaging and deep. One that encourages discussion and personal reflection. Because with all of those dreams for this church, a created love affair with our Lord and Savior is a sure thing. And with that, comes the fruit grown from a deep root in Word and faith. And that’s a beautiful thing.
“I’m so grateful to Christ Jesus for making me adequate to do this work. He went out on a limb, you know, in trusting me with this ministry. The only credentials I brought to it were invective and witch hunts and arrogance. But I was treated mercifully because I didn’t know what I was doing—didn’t know Who I was doing it against! Grace mixed with faith and love poured over me and into me. And all because of Jesus.” 1 Timothy 1:12-14 (MSG)
When I read 1 Timothy, after first becoming a minister, I processed it through very different eyes. 1 Timothy is one of three books written by Paul to pastors. At the time of my reading it, I was a new pastor and the words of Paul spoke deeply in my heart. After seven years of ministry, I am led once again to Paul’s letters. I am struck by the relevance of his words in my life and in the life of the church in 2017. Paul’s purpose in 1 Timothy is to guide folks through ministry; to help them to not get bogged down in the worldly distractions. And to abide in Christ always. This book, however, is not meant to just guide those of us in pulpit ministry but all of us in Christ’s ministry. That includes you!
Paul continues, saying, “There are some, you know, who by relaxing their grip and thinking anything goes have made a thorough mess of their faith.” (1TIM 2:19)
In today’s world, ‘anything goes’ is a non-spoken rule. We often find ourselves wondering what is really right and what is really wrong. Our own personal emotions will dictate decisions rather than the Word of God. And too many times we get confused on what the Word of God really is. For this reason, prayer, disciplined study, church participation, mission service, and holy conversations are necessary for clear Gospel guidance. We cannot share the Gospel if we don’t know the Gospel.
God “wants everyone to get to know the truth we’ve learned: that there’s one God and only one, and one Priest-Mediator between God and us—Jesus, who offered himself in exchange for everyone held captive by sin, to set them free. … This and this only has been my appointed work: getting this news to those who have never heard of God…” (1TIM 2:4-7)
Paul’s words of encouragement to Timothy are also words of encouragement to us. We have a simple but profound calling placed upon each of our lives—to tell others about the Gospel. And yet, we hold back. Is it for fear of pushback, fear of not enough knowledge, fear of seeming too religious? Why do we hesitate to talk about Jesus Christ?
Recognizing this difficulty, I am shifting my teaching gears a bit. I believe that, like Timothy, I am charged with forming a faithful congregation that embodies God’s purpose for creation and building loving relationships. Monthly, I will be holding “Conversations at the Coke Plant”. Located in the former Coke Plant (3121 Broadway), I will be available for coffee or tea and conversation beginning Tuesday, August 8 at 10 AM. This time of discussion will occur on the second Tuesday of each month. It is my hope that this will offer you a safe and comfortable setting to ask questions of faith, denominational concerns, and other pressing issues in your world. It is also a chance for you to get to know me on a more personal level. The truth is, we are all in this crazy journey together. None of us have to navigate life alone. Jesus has provided us with a guide. We simply need to know how to use it.
“You’ve been raised on the Message of the faith and have followed sound teaching. Now pass on this counsel to the followers of Jesus, and you’ll a good servant of Jesus. …Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity. …Cultivate these things. Immerse yourself in them. The people will all see you mature right before your eyes! Keep a firm grasp on both your character and your teaching. Don’t be diverted. Just keep at it. Both you and those who hear you will experience salvation.” (1 TIM 4) —Pastor Janean
The past few days I have been watching the constant updates about Hurricane Harvey. The extent of devastation is difficult to fully grasp. Streets under many feet of water. Homes floating away. People stranded on roofs or wading through water with only the clothes on their backs. Animals left behind. It’s awful. But what really struck me were the photos and videos of simple, everyday heroes. People helping people. Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, Democrats, Republicans… it didn’t matter. People were helping those in need simply because they needed help. It’s a complete paradox from earlier videos and photographs of the violence across our country. I believe that the images from Texas are a true representation of who we are as Americans. And more importantly, who many of us are as Christians.
I am reminded of Paul’s words in Galatians. “Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that.” (6:3-4 MSG) So much of who we are as Christians can be summarized in the deeds and selfless acts we have witnessed in Texas. Reaching out to those who are hurting, scared, alone, sad, overwhelmed, lost…these are the very people that Christ has summoned us to work for. And they are not just in Texas. They are right here in our own backyard.
It is too easy to be overwhelmed by the enormity of folks needing help. Even as I write this, my mind is in a tug of war about where I should be spending my energy. Who gets the help first? How do I help? What should I be doing? Should I really go to Africa or would my time and efforts be better used in Texas? Guilt can set it pretty quick because I worry about leaving someone stranded while helping others. But Paul is quick to set my mind (and hopefully your mind, too) at ease. “Let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.” (Gal 6:9-10) And with those simple verses, I am encouraged to take a deep breath and remember that the weight of the world does not rest on my shoulders but on God’s. He has given us a mission field and we are to start local and work our way out as He calls us.
So, what does this mean? Well, it means that each one of us has a job to do in mission work. Yes, that means you. Some of us will be led to physically go and share our gifts and His message to people in places all around the world. That might mean some will go to Texas to help with cleanup while others will organize relief buckets (buckets used for cleanup). Still, others may find their mission field is across the street or next door. It could be in another country or across your kitchen table. Regardless of who you are, your physical abilities, your financial situation, or your vacation time, we are all called to do this work. And every single one of us can begin with a simple but powerful action. And that is prayer. Prayer is how it all begins. Your entire mission assignment may be as a prayer warrior for God’s people. Too often we get so busy “doing” life that we forget this most basic need — time with God. As we petition Him on behalf of those who are oppressed, we build a relationship with the Most High God. And with that relationship comes benefits that far outweigh the hardships. Prayer is easy but intensely powerful. We simply have to use it.
We were put onto this earth not for the day to day grind that occupies too much of our thoughts. We were put here to serve God. Period. “Quite frankly, I don’t want to be bothered anymore by these disputes. I have far more important things to do—the serious living of this faith. I bear in my body scars from my service to Jesus.” (Gal 6:17)
Are you ready to acquire some scars by serving as Christ has called you to serve? Let’s serve Him together! —— Pastor J
Although you are reading this in October, it is actually September 21 and I am on my way to Tanzania. Sitting on the airplane for so many hours (26 hours so far), I've been humbled by the enormity of God's creation and continued presence. As I type this, I am 30,000 feet above Tanzania watching the sun rise. I can see Mt. Kilimanjaro looming in the distance while reds, blues, and purples dance across the sky. Languages of all kinds fill my ears as friends, colleagues, and perfect strangers share in a common experience. And I am struck that God has created this very moment. He smiles over the awe in my heart. Ecclesiastes 1:5 says, "The sun rises, the sun sets: it returns panting to the place where it dawns." In this moment, I can fully understand this verse. The same sun that will rise on you is also rising on me. No matter where in the world we are, we are connected through His creation. We earnestly seek the constant in our lives, resistant to any kind of change and yet we fail to see that God has orchestrated a forever constant within his creation. The sun, the moon, the stars... constants that we overlook. To say that this earth, these people, this canvas is all just happenstance...no way! God is amazing, y'all!!
Leading up to this trip, I was filled with so many emotions. Fear, angst, excitement, curiosity just to name a few. But the trip has proven to be peaceful for me thus far. Sure, there's been some hiccups but nothing that caused anxiety or fear. I believe this is due to the enormous amount of prayer this team is covered in. And again, I sit back and say that God is amazing! He hears our prayers, knows our fears, and blesses us when we glorify him in spite of ourselves. This same God who created the mountains and oceans, stars and sun also created a desire within each of us to know Him. The same God whom Jesus prayed to in the Garden of Gethsemane also listens to each of us! Amazing!
The mission ahead of me is great. Sharing the light of Jesus, opening my heart to folks who are different from me, loving without judgment... It's humbling to think that God has so lovingly chosen and prepared me. But the truth is, this mission is not reserved for Africa. Nor is it reserved for me. We have all been commissioned by God to fulfill this mission. "So don't be ashamed of the testimony about the Lord...Share the suffering for the Good News, depending on God's power." (2 Timothy 1:8)
Yes, I am on the other side of the world, but there are folks in your own backyard who desperately need Jesus. I will be sharing God's Word, the suffering of Christ, and the power of the ever-present Holy Spirit in a place where Christians are the minority. I could easily be afraid of this task but God has insured me with his Holy Spirit as a protection against any adversity. He has prepared you in the same way. Do not be afraid of the power of God within you. He has already given you all you need to introduce folks to Jesus. You can start by sharing the wonders of His creation and see where it leads. Take time to notice His glory in the everyday things. And point out where you see God. Make a note of it in a journal. You will find that it's harder to NOT find God than it is to find Him. And then share what you find.
"God saw everything he had made: it was supremely good." (Genesis 1:31)
May the grace of God and the glory of His Majesty be ever present in your life. —Pastor J
“But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that the entire message would be preached through me and so all the nations could hear it.” —2 Timothy 4:17
On September 18, I began a journey that took me to through five different countries and three continents. Although the trip to and from was long and tiring, visiting Tanzania was one of the greatest experiences of my life. For 13 days, I was privileged to be completely immersed in a culture unlike anything I have ever known. It’s a culture that is extremely impoverished financially but so rich in faith. It’s a culture that spoke to my heart and continues to beckon me back.
Quite frankly, I did not really want to go. I have never traveled to a third-world country before and had many reservations about going. Even up to the moment I boarded the plane, I was still thinking that this was a “bad idea.” I’m so thankful I was pushed outside my comfort zone. Had I not been willing to follow God’s nudging (even reluctantly), I would have missed out on something beautiful.
Let me answer some things right off the bat. Yes, it was a very poor area. Yes, it was hot. The water was unclean and unsafe. The food had to be completely cooked or we couldn’t eat it. Many people we met were sick or malnourished but there were also many who were healthy and doing well. The children were precious and often broke my heart. I laughed and cried more in those two weeks then I ever thought possible. And I experienced God in an entirely new way.
To be honest, when it comes to mission trips, I am a bit of a cynic. I’ve never been a big fan because it seemed like a lot of money for a “pat on the back” vacation. I do not think it glorifies God to swoop in to an impoverished area, stay a week, and then leave. I don’t believe that holding babies, painting schools, or building structures grows the Kingdom of God. Relationships grow the Kingdom of God. Nothing else. While all of the above mentioned things are great, they mean nothing if relationships are not built and cultivated first and foremost. When you look at the ministry of Jesus, he did many great things but it was the personal relationships he built that changed hearts. It was the moments he stopped in the middle of the crowds to focus on the needs of one person. He talked with them, listened to their words, and shared a piece of himself. And that should be our model today.
I met many people in Tanzania. People that I now communicate with weekly. We went knowing that relationships were already well developed so we would be building upon our colleagues’ hard work over the past decade. Our team of eight pastors was able to sit down and talk with other United Methodist pastors on the other side of the world. We shared with each other misconceptions, hopes, dreams, and fears…about the UMC, the Church of Jesus Christ, and the world. We met people in the villages that shared their hearts with us. But they also taught us so much. I went with the expectation of learning from my new friends rather than teaching. And boy did I ever learn.
I learned that bringing the Word is hard with a translator. I learned that Pentecost can still happen. I learned that Holy Communion bridges any gap. I learned that four sticks and a tarp can create the most beautiful worship space in the world. I learned to see church in terms of the presence of the Holy Spirit rather than the presence of human bodies. I watched people of all ages walk miles to get to church and sit for hours in the pouring rain just to worship Him. I learned of deep needs of my new friends. Needs that we can meet. Things like new tarps so they have shelter for their services. Or chickens so they have food to eat. I learned that joy comes from deep within the soul of one who has an intimate relationship with Christ. I learned that poverty doesn’t mean unhappiness. I learned to rest in His presence and that His presence is always with me. I learned to be content in the moment. I learned to not fear the unknown when depending on the power of God. And I learned to be grateful for being born an American. For I am given the opportunity to travel and preach the Good News to nations all over the world. I have clean water and medicine. I have had good teachers and safe homes. I was born free to worship Jesus openly and without fear.
And I learned that my heart…. it can’t be contained to four church walls. The Lord continues to stand by me and give me strength, so that the entire message will be preached through me and so all the nations will hear it. I am ready to go. Are you?
Can you believe it’s Advent already? As I write this, the temperature outside is 68 degrees! With that kind of November, it’s a bit difficult to wrap my head around the calendar’s date of November 27. But it is and Advent is here!
Advent can be lost on us if we are not careful in this busy season. Between the parties, the shopping, the plays, and the family gatherings, we can forget what Advent is all about. Instead of all the “stuff”, Advent is meant to be a time of preparation and anticipation of the coming of Christ. We are reminded of the longing of the Jews for a Messiah and our own longing for, and need of, forgiveness, salvation and a new beginning. Even as we look back and celebrate the birth of Jesus in a humble stable in Bethlehem, we also look forward anticipating the second coming of Christ as the fulfillment of all that was promised by his first coming.
This Advent, it is my prayer that we will each be more intentional in our studies and worship. Beginning Wednesday, November 29 at 7:30 PM, there will be an Advent study for four weeks. If you have missed the first one but want to jump in, no problem. You can download the study book on Amazon. It’s Down to Earth by Mike Slaughter. Our youth group will also be engaging in an Advent study on Wednesday nights beginning at 7:00 PM.
December 3 at 3:00 we will be lift our voices around the community for the annual Arcadia Christmas caroling. If you desire to experience the joy of Christmas in a unique way, this will do it!
December 10 is our family Advent Workshop beginning at 5:00 PM. Each family will experience the Nativity story while creating a new family tradition. Please RSVP at the church office.
December 17, immediately following Sunday morning worship, is our annual Christmas luncheon. This time of fun and fellowship is loved by young and the young at heart! Take a break from the hustle of the day to eat and celebrate with your church family.
December 21 at 6:00 PM is the Blue Christmas service. This worship service is one of hope for those who may feel a bit hope-less. Sometimes the holidays are not quite as joyful or exciting due to a variety of circumstances. The Blue Christmas service is a chance to experience the hope and joy of the season in a new way.
Christmas Eve is on a Sunday this year. That means twice the cerebration! Sunday morning our choir will fill the sanctuary with the sounds of the season. This year’s cantata is sure to have your heart singing! We will come back together at 5:30 PM for our annual Christmas Eve Candlelight service. Experience the story of Christ’s birth in a new and unique way.
December 25 - Christmas Day!
I look forward to sharing in this amazing time of worship that Advent gives us. Pick up an Advent devotional, read the story in Luke, turn on some Christmas music. Oh come, Emmanuel.
Blessings, Pastor J
It’s a new year!
And with a new year comes new beginnings. And who doesn’t love a new beginning? The first Sunday in January marks the beginning of the Season after Epiphany as well as Baptism of the Lord Sunday. This season ends on Transfiguration Sunday.
Throughout this season, we will hear stories that speak to our hearts about our own baptism, our call to discipleship, and ultimately our final appearance with Christ in glory. As a colleague of mine said, “This season recapitulates the whole path of discipleship to Christ, and prepares the church for its Lenten calling to walk alongside those preparing for baptism so they can learn from us and from the Holy Spirit through us.”
Baptism of the Lord Sunday is one of my most favorite holy days because we get this unique glimpse into Christ’s own humility. While it was not necessary for Christ to be baptized since he was without sin, he did so as an act of obedience as he publicly said yes to his call among us. Just as his ministry began with his baptism, so it is with us. For it is through our own baptism that each of us is called into ministry; we are called to serve God as his priesthood. Baptism of the Lord Sunday offers each of us a chance for us to make either the bold step of baptism or reaffirm our baptism publicly.
Each year, as this special day approaches, I am more attuned to my own calling to ministry. As I look back over my life, I can see the hand of God delicately weaving all of my imperfections and questionable choices together to create this masterpiece. And while He is clearly still creating within me what He desires, I can attest that He has truly used all of me for His glory. Yes, even those very rough edges that no one wants to see and that I would just as soon hide from the world.
So, for me, to reaffirm my baptism is not just a ritual I do once a year. It is truly a moment of complete surrender once again. It’s a time to be reminded in a very real and tangible way that I have been washed clean of all the dirtiness that I could have let define me. While only a symbol of this powerful means of grace, the water that I touch tells a story…my story…and Christ’s story. It tells me that I am made new and that newness never again will lose its shine. It tells me that I am forever a child of God made perfect in Him.
It is my prayer during this Season after Epiphany that you too will have a moment of renewal. That through the power of the Holy Spirit you will hear the telling of your story through the touch of the baptismal waters and see the way God is weaving your imperfections into his glorified masterpiece. And that you too are His perfect creation.
Oftentimes there are things missing from our lives that used to be a necessary part. It wasn’t that long ago that I needed a backpack and school books. I was shopping for folders and notepaper. But no longer am I student in school. I do not need to have these things in my daily schedule which means they are intentionally missing from my life. But what if there are things missing from our lives we haven’t recognized are gone that we actually need?
The first of January I spent three days at a clergy retreat in Tennessee. While there someone convinced me there was something missing, not just from my life, but from our whole society. It is something we desperately need. This something is essential to our lives together and our lives with our Creator. This something is so profound to our daily existence, God knows we cannot thrive without it. It is so critical to our relationship with God and one another that it is the longest of the Ten Commandments, and it begins with the word, “Remember.”
It’s almost as if God knew we were going to forget, and so God uniquely begins this commandment with the word “Remember.” Have you figured out what’s missing yet?
This month we will be entering into the season of Lent — a season of spiritual reflection of ourselves and our relationship with Christ. And it is during the early part of this Lenten season that we will explore what is missing from our lives with God and one another as we reclaim the gift God has already given us. Through prayer, Bible study, and intentionality, we will begin to reclaim this commandment as we learn together what it means to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves.
Truthfully, this sounds like a great sermon series, doesn’t it? But that’s not at all what I’m talking about. Have you figured it out yet? I’m talking about keeping the Sabbath holy.
While at that retreat that I mentioned earlier, I was convicted in a powerful way. I realized that I have become so busy that I have almost lost the ability to be present with my family, my friends, my clients, my congregation, and, most importantly, my God. My life has become just one long run-on sentence with no pauses or stops. And it’s led me to exhaustion. As our retreat leader said, “I’ve come to realize that I was not created to rest, but that my life IS defined in its pauses.” So I’m learning to pause. And it is within the pauses that I feel God’s strength empowering my soul, so that in between the pauses I have the perseverance to be God’s Servant. We all need to pause. We need to take this gift that God has given each of us and cherish it. So, I am beginning a life change that will impact all that I love. That includes you! In order to be a better pastor, counselor, friend, wife, and mother, I need to learn how to pause. I bet you need a pause too.
Will you join me in a journey of Sabbath? It’s not easy to pause. But it’s life-giving when you do.
People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.—Mark 10:13-16
I came across this feature article on UMC.org by Joe Lovino recently. It was too good not to share with you as we continue our journey toward the cross. I pray you enjoy it as much as I did. — Pastor Janean
“Do you believe in miracles?”
That simple question, which might challenge adults, elicited some remarkable replies when a United Methodist pastor asked children about the concept. And the responses were powerful. The video can be viewed on http://www.umcom.org/rethink-church/our-beliefs.-their-words-campaign-videos-miracles
Hailee, for example, is comfortable with the mystery of a miracle. She focuses instead on how to respond. “When something so good happens to you, that you have to just be thankful for it.”
Listening to children
“What we’ve been going for is something that’s not packaged, something that we didn’t create and feed to the kids, but just came out of their heart,” explains the Rev. Jacob Armstrong who conducted the interviews.
“To see God’s love through the eyes of children is a wonderful experience,” adds Jennifer Rodia, Chief Communications Officer at United Methodist Communications where the spots were produced.
Seeing God's love through the eyes of a child may be what Jesus had in mind when he had a famous moment with children. One day, Jesus’ followers did what they thought was sensible. They stopped some parents from bringing their children to Jesus. They probably didn’t want him to be interrupted. When Jesus heard this, he said to the disciples, “Allow the children to come to me… the kingdom of heaven belongs to people like these children” (Matthew 19:14 CEB). Then he took the time to bless the youngsters.
When Pastor Jacob asks Hannah if she believes in miracles, she enthusiastically replies, “Yes!” Others offer a bit more, talking about miracles as extraordinary, unexplained events.
Xavier explains, “Stuff that you think isn’t possible becomes possible.”
Rainey agrees, “You can always think that it’s not possible, but it probably is to God!”
Lukas expresses something similar but with a twist. He says a miracle is, “When God surprises us.” Adding, “He saved my life. Twice!”
God undoubtedly surprised the first followers of Jesus on that first Easter morning. The gospels of Mark and Luke report that a group of women went to the tomb early in the morning to anoint Jesus’ body. They certainly did not expect him to be alive. John’s gospel includes the story of Mary Magdalene mistaking the resurrected Jesus for a gardener whom she asks where Jesus’ body is. When he speaks her name, Mary is surprised to recognize Jesus.
Lukas knows that God surprised them then and continues to surprise us today.
Immersed in miracles
Other children recognize miracles as part of our regular experiences that we need the eyes of faith to see. When Pastor Jacob asks, "Do you think Jesus still works miracles today?" Eli replies, "Yup. All the time."
Alisyn describes it very succinctly, “A miracle is an everyday extraordinary.”
Both children teach that miracles happen all around us daily. Unfortunately, we don’t always recognize them. The miracle of a sunset happens every evening. A seed miraculously knows to send its roots deeper into the earth and its stalk toward the sky. Many of us have experienced the miracle of a friend who knows just the right thing to say, or of strangers who travel to the place of a natural disaster to help rebuild. The Bible tells us that we live in the midst of a miracle. In Christ, God is reconciling the whole world to himself and calls us to enter into this ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:16-19). This means that we not only witness the miracle, but we get to participate in it too!
…the children’s answers about miracles become a part of our dialog as Christians? How might their words and faith encourage us to consider how the church and the world might be different if we chose to follow more closely Jesus’ directive to be childlike (Matthew 18:1-5). If children can believe in miracles, what would the world be like if we all did? In a time like today, where the world seems so uncertain, a miracle is exactly what we all need. And we can experience that through the miracle of Easter. With trust like Hailee, we give thanks for the miracle. With faith like Lukas, we grow more aware of God’s surprises. Believing like Alisyn opens our eyes to the everyday extraordinaries happening around us.
At Easter, we celebrate the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection and invite others to join us in the new life we receive from him. A life filled with the miraculous. “If you believe in miracles,” Lilia encourages, “keep believing.”
We will, Lilia. Thanks be to God.
This story originally posted on April 5, 2017. Some additions were added by Pastor Janean.
Beginning April 1, we embark on the 50 days of Easter! From Jesus’ glorious resurrection to the birth of the church at Pentecost, the month of April will be a celebration of the one whom we claim as our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! But, what does that mean, to claim the name of Jesus? What would claiming the power that only comes from the name of Jesus mean in your life?
I have a dear friend, Lori Scott, who recently shared her heart on what it means to claim the power of the name of Jesus Christ. Here are her words, printed with permission:
He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” – Luke 22:19
What does remembering Him look like? What does it look like for Him to hand over His brokenness to me? What am I supposed to do with it?
“Remember Me...”. That’s what He keeps saying over and over. Tonight, I remember this One who is the Bread is Life - the bread that sustains me. “The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” “Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.” Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” – John 6:33-35
I remember years ago I was asked to give a talk on how God sustains me. In my head I kept screaming, “But He doesn’t! I want so much more!” I could say He was enough, but my heart didn’t quite buy in. And even though I loved Him and tried hard to follow Him and serve others, my own desires wouldn’t let Him be enough.
Tonight, I remember Him for making me wait - for not giving me my heart’s desires. For showing me the joy in letting Him be enough and letting everything else fall away. In the wait, there has been much wonder. In the wait, He has been more than enough. In the wait, I have been broken over and over again and He has allowed it. He has allowed me to break so I could heal. And in the healing, I found strength to stand and step out and to let go.
Tonight, I remember the One who pursues me, who says I am enough but not too much, for the One who gave up His life in the most sacrificial way, so that I have the freedom to live mine. This living God who has written such a beautiful story for me and has stored up more blessings than these hands could ever hold.
He calls me to remember Him, so that others will know Him. Not just know of Him, but truly know Him...to remember Him.
Tonight, with palms up, I offer Him all that I have been holding on to - to release even this brokenness to Him. I keep my hands open to Him, so that He can exchange this offering for His blessing.
But then I recall all you have done, O Lord; I remember Your wonderful deeds of long ago. They are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about Your mighty works. O God, Your ways are holy. Is there any god as mighty as You ? You are the God of great wonders! You demonstrate Your awesome power among the nations. – Psalm 77:11-14
As we embark on this Easter journey these 50 days, I invite you to remember Christ. And as you remember Him, truly remember Him, claim Him. And in that moment, may you experience him as the source of power, healing, and salvation! —Pastor Janean
One day a little boy, not known for being ugly or mean, got in trouble for pulling a little girl’s hair. His mother asked him, “Son, why did you do it? That’s just not like you.”
“Mama,” he responded, “I just got tired of being good all the time.”
We all get tired of being good. We grow weary of the constant needs around us. The truth is we get worn out; being Christian and practicing ministry wears us down. When this happens we are experiencing compassion fatigue. It can happen to anyone who gives of themselves constantly to help others. As a Christian, the very heart of our being is to love others. Scripture is more than clear about that. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” That’s the reason our prayers should be, “Oh God, break my heart with the things that break your heart.” When you boil it all down, compassion is at the heart of our call to be Christian – loving out of the love of God, loving with the love of God, continuing to love until we give up the last ounce of our being on behalf of the Kingdom.
Whether we are serving at church, at a charity function, stopping along the side of the road to help a person in need, whatever we are doing in the name of Jesus, we are making ministries of love and compassion possible. And yet, we all have probably felt it. Ministry to the least of these, seeking to reach out with compassion carries with it a weight that makes us ask, “Am I doing enough?”. And while serving others can bring great joy, it also carries with it a price tag, and with it the possibility of growing weary – compassion fatigue.
Maybe you have not experienced this yet. Maybe you never will. But if you serve God as we have been commanded, you will grow weary of being good. And there will be occasions when there is no end in sight. There will always be someone seeing love. There will always be a stranger entering your life, causing you to sense that in that stranger maybe it is Jesus Himself. There will be the call in the middle of the night – the request to go the second, even the third mile, to give not only your coat, but your cloak as well. There will be that deep, unquestioning surging up within you that says you have to do it – you have to give that cup of cold water in Jesus’ name. Compassion requires energy and it drains us of power. Standing along side the poor, making our sanctuary a place of hospitality for the marginalized, championing the cause of the broken – all of this is demanding, requiring not only time and money, but also emotional and spiritual energy. We do grow weary.
So, how do we deal with it? How do we continue in ministry, being Christian, when being Christian has worn us down?
First, we must recognize that there is a limit to what we can offer. This is tough for sincere Christians. Our love of God and the compassion He inspires within us sensitizes us to the needs around us. The more we love, the more aware we become of the needs of love. The closer we walk with the Lord, the more our eyes are opened and the more we see the loneliness, the pain, the quiet desperation of people around us – reaching out – hoping that someone will see, and hear, and stop, and listen, and touch. The closer we walk with the Lord, the more tender our hearts become and we cry within when human needs go unmet.
So, it is difficult for the sincere Christian to recognize that there is a limit to what we can offer. But we must do it. Then relax in the fact that there is a time to leave to God and to others what we cannot do ourselves. If you’re like me, this is a hard lesson to learn and must be repeated over and over again. Truthfully, there are times when I lie in sleepless anguish, wishing that I could fix things. Wishing there were 40 hours rather than 24 in the day. Wishing that I had the answers that so many people need. But I don’t. And neither do you. But God does and we have to give to God the things we cannot do.
As much as we might try, we cannot be God. We want to help people. We want to fix things. We feel a compulsion to be there and provide something for every situation – it’s difficult to remember that ours are not the only hands and feet Christ has. There are others who share His life and ministry. So there comes a time for us to relax a bit and believe that we can leave to God and others what we cannot do ourselves – convinced that as the God of mercy has met us at every moment, so God will meet those to whom we seek to minister in their life.
Finally, we need to regularly renew our strength by waiting on the Lord. Isaiah put it so beautifully: “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” We need to realize that we cannot act out of our own strength alone. We must establish a pace in life, a rhythm of engagement and disengagement – being in the world but removing ourselves from the world – in order that we might be renewed. Jesus himself had no problem disengaging long enough to be renewed for the battle ahead. He is our example. He is our strength. We need only be still. Blessings, Pastor Janean
*I give thanks for Maxie Dunnam for her explanation of compassion fatigue in the ministry.
April 23, 1968 the United Methodist Church was officially formed. Coming from the unification of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church, the United Methodist Church became one of the largest Protestant churches in the world.
Last month, we celebrated the UMC’s 50 year-anniversary on Heritage Sunday. And as we remembered the past, we can’t help but wonder about the future.
In February 2019, delegates from around the world will gather in St. Louis for the special-called General Conference. The mandate of this meeting is to determine the future of the United Methodist Church. Yes, you read that right. The mandate of this meeting is to determine the future of the UMC. While there are several issues that have brought us to this point, the main dividing issue is the church’s official stance on homosexuality (including marriage and ordination).
Since the 2016 General Conference (GC), I have tried to inform this congregation of the possible schism that could be facing the church, through meetings, emails, and social media. The last thing I want is for anyone to be caught off guard should our church leaders be unable to find a way to keep the United Methodists…um… united.
The Council of Bishops (CoB) has just released their recommendation which will be presented at the GC as one option as a way forward. They looked at three different plans before deciding to recommend the One Church Plan.
Under this plan, decisions about whether to ordain LGBTQ clergy or to officiate at same-gender unions would be made closer to the congregational level.This plan would remove the language against the practice of homosexuality in the Book Discipline.The plan also adds assurances to pastors and conferences who in good conscience cannot perform same-sex weddings or ordain “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy that they don’t have to do so. The plan “encourages a generous unity by giving United Methodists the ability to address different missional contexts in ways that reflect their theological convictions,” said the bishops’ press release.
The other two plans on the table are:
The Traditionalist Plan, which would affirm the current language in the Book of Discipline, and seek to strengthen enforcement through disciplinary actions of clergy.
The Connectional-Conference plan, which would allow conferences to choose among three connectional conferences for affiliation. The connectional conferences would align based on theology or perspective on LGBTQ ministry — be it traditionalist, progressive or allowing for a variety of approaches. This plan would require multiple amendments to the denomination’s constitution.
The CoB has stated that the One Church plan will offer local congregations a “graceful exit plan” should they decide this is not the church for them.
Many learned people feel that the United Methodist Church is at an impasse and a split is probable. Groups like the Reconciling Ministry Network and Wesley Covenant Association are offering individuals and churches potential paths for future church association should a split occur. And Arcadia, like the thousands of other UM churches around the world, will have to decide on what is best for this congregation.
And while all eyes are seemingly focused on the what-ifs of this Conference, we still have work to do right now.
First, you should pray. Pray for the church, the church leaders, and the delegates - that they will be guided by the Holy Spirit in their actions.
Second, don’t get involved in ugly debates that only further increase division. Instead, engage in meaningful, loving conversation. As John Wesley said, “We may not all believe alike but we can love alike.”
And finally, don’t lose sight of the mission given to you at your baptism - to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. When all of this is over, the Bible will still be the Holy Bible, the Word of God will still be the infallible Word of God, truth will still be truth, and Jesus Christ will still be our Lord and Savior. And that, my friends, is where our hope comes from - the Way, the Truth, the Light.
Every Sunday the church doors are opened at 8:00 AM with the expectation that people from all around the community will fill the sanctuary with their presence. Donuts and coffee are offered so that we can fellowship together around the table. Sunday School lessons are delivered with hopes of meaningful discussions. Music fills our ears with melodious words and harmonies. Scripture is read and we respond on cue. The sermon is delivered with food for thought. By 11:15, we are out the door, ready to begin the new week, knowing we will be back the next Sunday to do it all over again.
Next year, Arcadia Church will celebrate 100 years. In 1919, a small group of Methodists gathered together in the Arcadia community for Bible study. They prayed together, ate together, and worshiped God together. It was during these times of prayer and study that they realized God was leading them to fulfill the Great Commission by sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to their neighbors. Thus, they formed a little church that would eventually become Arcadia UMC. According to the church history, “They believed the words of Jesus, ‘For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.’” This group of Jesus followers worked together to find a building, get a pastor, raise money for needed items, and grow their church family. But they never faltered for they trusted in the Lord.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.—Acts 2:42-47
During Annual Conference this year, a question was raised by Conference speaker Rev. Junius Dobson. “Do you remember why your church started in the first place?” I think most of us would be pressed to answer that question. In the case of Arcadia, there were already two other Methodist Churches - Broadway and Fountain Avenue. So why start another one? Because they prayed together, ate together, and worshiped God together. And when you do those things in an earnest and sincere way, the Holy Spirit becomes so overwhelming that you can’t help but share God’s love with all you meet. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Have we forgotten our ‘why’? Has the ritual of church overtaken the true mission of the church? I think of those first Christians in Acts and am in awe. They pushed aside their personal ambitions, their pride and egos, their wants, and their opinions. They pushed them aside for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul… They knew their ‘why’. Jesus wasn’t just someone they talked about once a week. He was the very essence of their beings. They could not see a point of existing a part from Him.
Psalm 63:1 says, You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. Friends, our land is dry and parched. But we have water for the thirsty! Our ‘why' is simple. Love God, love others, and share the Gospel with those we are in relationship with.
If we come together with eagerness to worship our Lord and Savior. If we really pray together for the Holy Spirit to come. If we open our hearts for a desire to be fully used by God for His sake. We will change the world, one lost soul at time right here in this little community called Arcadia. Let’s once again remember our ‘why'.
And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. —Luke 14:23
If you are wondering why your newsletter is a bit late this month, you can thank me for that. I just could not find the words for this space. I started several but they were always erased because they didn’t feel “right.”
Today, as I was sitting on the porch of this retreat house, looking out over the water, I began just thanking God. I thanked him for so much within my life - the health of my family, wonderful friends, my church, my community, my country. I looked around at the beauty of the trees, the grass, the birds, the flowers, the water, the people walking down the street and I was a bit overcome with the enormity of blessings that God created for me to experience. And it was that moment that I knew what I wanted to share with you.
We are entering into a season of thanksgiving. It’s a season that tends to speed up our daily lives when in reality we should slow down and reflect on the very essence of life which we are blessed to live. Each one of us has very real burdens and pain which we carry. But, friends, if we are honest with ourselves, the blessings gifted to us by God are so abundant. And while it is true that these blessings will not take away any struggle we are facing, we can take heart in the knowledge that God provides all we will ever need in this thing called life.
So, I would like to invite you to join me on this awe-inspiring journey between now and Thanksgiving. It’s a daily acknowledgement to God of the blessings in your life. Grab a notebook or open up an app on your smartphone. Each day write down five things you see as blessings in your life. Don’t repeat them. At first, it might be hard but as you get outside the usual, “thank you, Lord, for my family, health, and friends,” you will begin to see the world around you in a brand new way. Well, you’ll see the world… and the people in it … the way Jesus wants us to see it. You'll develop an awareness for the small things. And you’ll appreciate the enormity of the big things. As you write these things down, thank God out loud for what He has done and continues to do within your life. And if you are so moved, share your discoveries with each other. Post them on social media. Place them on sticky notes around your home or office. Allow yourself to not only be reminded of His glory but to also be a reminder to others of His presence. As you travel this thanksgiving road, it is my prayer that you will discover just exactly who is the great I AM.
Ephesians 1:18 ~ I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people…
It’s the start of a new Christian year! And with the new year, we are awaiting the already born Messiah! Oh, what amazement this season of Advent brings.
The adventure that Advent offers us is easily lost if we are not careful in this busy season. Between the parties, the shopping, the plays, and the family gatherings, we can forget what Advent is all about. Instead of all the “stuff”, Advent is meant to be a time of preparation and anticipation of the coming of Christ. We are reminded of the longing of the Jews for a Messiah and our own longing for, and need of, forgiveness, salvation and a new beginning. Even as we look back and celebrate the birth of Jesus in a humble stable in Bethlehem, we also look forward anticipating the second coming of Christ as the fulfillment of all that was promised by his first coming.
This Advent, it is my prayer that we will each be more intentional in our studies and worship. Beginning Wednesday, November 28 at 6:30 PM, there will be an Advent study for four weeks. If you have missed the first one but want to jump in, no problem. You can download the study book on Amazon. It’s Awaiting the Already. Our youth group will also be engaging in an Advent study on Wednesday nights beginning at 6:30 PM.
December 2 at 5:00 is our Advent Nativity Workshop. Each family will experience the Nativity story while creating a new family tradition. Please RSVP at the church office.
December 9 we will be lift our voices around the community for the annual Arcadia Christmas caroling. If you desire to experience the joy of Christmas in a unique way, this will do it!
December 16, is our annual Christmas Cantata. We have lots of new voices this year and the music is sure to bring a stirring to your soul. Immediately following Sunday morning worship, is our annual Christmas luncheon. This time of fun and fellowship is loved by young and the young at heart! Take a break from the hustle of the day to eat and celebrate with your church family.
December 20 at 6:00 PM is the Blue Christmas service. This worship service is one of hope for those who may feel a bit hope-less. Sometimes the holidays are not quite as joyful or exciting due to a variety of circumstances. The Blue Christmas service is a chance to experience the hope and joy of the season in a new way.
Christmas Eve offers a chance to slow down and be reminded of the reason we celebrate this season. Join us at 5:30 PM for our annual Christmas Eve Candlelight service. Experience the story of Christ’s birth through candlelight and song.
December 25 - Christmas Day!
I look forward to sharing in this amazing time of worship that Advent gives us. Pick up an Advent devotional, read the story in Luke, turn on some Christmas music. Oh come, Emmanuel.