Bismarck Calvary United Methodist
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
A United Methodist Congregation

PASTOR'S PENCIL

 
GREETINGS!
 

THE SERMON GUIDE

The sermons for April (LENT) 2014 will be:

 
          April 2, 2014 - "A Call for Help" John 19
          April 6, 2014 - "Models of Integrity" Acts 5 & Ephesians 4
          April 9, 2014 - "The Tomb" Matthew 27
          April 13, 2014 - "A Prayer of Trust" Luke 23  PALM SUNDAY
          April 17, 2014 - "Lord, Is It I?"  Matthew 26 - Maunday Thursday
          April 18, 2014 - "A Cry of Despair"  Matthew 27 - Good Friday
          April 20, 2014- Sunrise Service - Youth Doing the Service
          April 20, 2014 - "Look Out for Easter" John 20
          April 27, 2014 - "Serving a Broken World" James 2  (AWANA AWARDS SUNDAY)
          May 4, 2014 - "I Like Church, But Where's God"  Acts 4
 
 

"MOTHBALL CHRISTIANS"

     We are in the very midst of the season of preparation for EASTER.  For many women, this is a time of spring cleaning in their homes.  While for men, this is a time of preparation for spring planting.  For both, it is a time of getting things stirred up again - taking some things out of mothballs so to speak.

     This Easter or Lent Season is also a time in which some people take their Christianity out of the mothballs as well.

     As Joe R. Barnett points out in the following - I wonder if we can afford to carry these Christians on our rolls. 

     "I once read that the United States Navy has 768 ships which comprise what they call the 'mothball navy.'   These ships are anchored in various harbors around the country.  They receive regular maintenance, being repainted periodically and receiving frequent electrical impulses to retard the process of rust and corrosion.  Moisture content of the air in their inner compartment is kept at a proper level with giant humidifiers.  While these ships can be readied for combat on very short notice, at the present time they just sit there doing absolutely nothing.  The only purpose they presently serve is to provide jobs for those who provide the upkeep.

     It set me to thinking about 'Mothball Christians.'  How many do you suppose comprise that fleet?  They are being preserved somewhat through the ministry of concerned friends.  They consume incredible amounts of time and energy in local churches.  Periodically, someone must go after them and try to reactivate them.  Their talents and abilities are not being used for anything constructive.  They are on the church roll and perhaps feel smugly harbored because of it.  They receive a lot of att`ention and loving concern, but never give anything in return.  They are served, not serving.

     I can see legitimate reason for maintaining our 'mothball navy.'  National security is at stake.  But there is no excuse for believers to remain inactive.  The energy and manpower needed to win the world is sidetracked used up on those who should be involved in helping reach the world.  Every Christian is responsible for using his God-given abilities for the salvation of the world.

     Come on Christians, it is time for you to be active!  'Never lag in zeal...serve the Lord.'"

     Are you one of those Christians who took your service and talents out of mothballs for Lent?  How about keeping them out of the mothballs now and really pleasing the Lord.

 
"Workers’ Faithfulness" 
            The highest period of worker faithfulness in the Christian church seems to be the period of Lent, just prior to Easter. But once Easter Sunday is past, the ministers of many churches face those days that eat at ones stomach. 
            From "Footsteps of the Flock", 1971, comes the very sobering facts of Christian workers lack of faithfulness and what the leaders of that church face in respect to this happening.
            "Nearly every businessman complains of at least one ulcer. Think how many ulcers the poor businessman would have if he worked under the same circumstances as the average minister.
            Just suppose, Mr. Businessman, that you were the overseer of 100 workers. Suppose only about 50 percent of them ever showed up for work at a given time and only 25 percent could be relied upon.
            Suppose that every time a simple flash of lightening appeared in the sky, large numbers of young workers pulled the covers over their heads and failed to report for duty.
            Suppose your workers only worked when they felt like it and yet you must be very sweet and never fire one of them. To get them back to work you must beg them, plead with them, pat them on the back, and use every means under the sun to persuade them without offending them.
            And suppose you were in competition with a notorious rascal, the devil, who had no scruples and is far more clever than you are and uses such attractive things as fishing rods, guns, soft pillows, television and a thousand other things to attract your customers.
            How many ulcers would you have?"
            Yet, it seems that most church officials do not have that many ulcers. Perhaps it is because most have just resigned themselves to accept this lack of faithfulness.
            If you happen to be one of these who are waning in your faithfulness, why not send shock waves through your church with a renewal of your faithfulness now. 
            But, don't delay too long for time may run out before you realize it. The story is told of a man who rushed into a suburban railroad station one morning and, almost breathlessly, asked the ticket agent:  "When does the 8:01 train leave?"
            "At 8:01," was the answer.
            "Well," the man replied, "it is 7:59 by my watch, 7:57 by the town clock, and 8:04 by the station clock. Which am I to go by?"
            "You can go by any clock you wish," said the agent, "but you cannot go by the 8:01 train, for it has already left." 
            God's time is moving forward hour by hour, minute by minute. There are multitudes who seem to think that they can live by any schedule they choose and that, in their own time, they can turn to God. But His time is the right time. Now it may be later than they think. Soon it may be too late. "Behold, now is the accepted time..."(II Cor. 6:2).
Show yourself now to be a faithful worker.
 
 
"The Lost Rosebud"
     2014 is already a month gone. What should be our concern for this year? Well, there are five billion people on this earth. How many of them are lost? It is hard to say. And who really cares how many people are lost? We as Christians should because R. Tinskey says that every time you draw a breath four people go into eternity who have never heard the name of Jesus. That is almost 200,000 people a day! God help us to become concerned in this month of love especially.
     But, where are these lost - surely not in Bismarck-Mandan! Perhaps this story related by Muriel Larson will help us to see the lost. "There it was - a tiny rosebud thrown in a heap with other uprooted and discarded rosebushes. Out of the tangled mass, one long stem pushed its way upward, thrusting forth its one tiny bud.
     The rosebushes had been thrown away by a disgruntled homeowner who could not seem to get them to grow well. As the man passed by the heap, he noticed the little rosebud, but he went on his way. The next day he noticed that the bud still seemed to have life and was trying to bloom.
     Donning gloves, he retrieved the bush on which that one bud clung tenaciously to life. He planted the bush and was rewarded several days later when a beautiful rose bloomed. Before long the whole bush came alive. In fact that one bush out bloomed and out grew other rosebushes the man planted later. Each year the bush seemed to have one especially long stem with an exquisite red rose on it.
     Many Christians are surrounded with families in their neighborhoods who never go to Sunday school or church. The children grow up without learning that Jesus died for their sins and wants to be their Savior. We may try to witness to these neighbors and find that they are not interested. After several attempts we may be tempted to just 'leave them to their dying.'
     We can think of each child as a rosebud that should have a chance at eternal life. We need to reach them while their hearts are tender toward the Savior.
     How can we reach these children? Invite them to come to Sunday school, Vacation Bible School or the “Big Event”. Make friends with them; when you know them well, talk to them personally about the Lord.
     Because one tiny rosebud was unwilling to die, the whole bush was saved. In the same way, whole families have been won to the Savior because one child came to know Him first (I know it happened to mine).
     May we never lose hope for the children who need to know about Jesus and His love for them!"
     What will doing this take on your part? Just a little sacrifice, perhaps; but no greater than we have been shown in the past.
     The doctor looked down at the little girl in the hospital bed. He knew that her only hope was to receive blood from someone who had recovered from the same disease.
     Quickly the doctor found the anxious family, and knelt beside a small boy. "Johnny", he said, "your sister needs your kind of blood to make her well. Would you be willing to give your blood so that she can live?" Johnny's eyes grew big. The doctor watched them well with fear, but the little boy hesitated only long enough to swallow the lump in his throat.
     "Sure, Doctor I will do it," he replied. 
     After the needed amount of blood was taken from Johnny's small arm, he remained quiet for a few minutes as he had been instructed. Then he stood up, and asked softly: "Well Doctor, when do I die?"
     Only then did the doctor realize the extent of the child's sacrifice. Johnny had offered his life to save his sister, Jesus declared that there was no greater love (John 15:13).
     Jesus really did give his life. What are you willing to do or give this month or in 2014?
 
"Failure + Focus = Glory"
     Failure is something that all of us face. But, we do not all face it well. Many times we fail to complete the formula of "Failure + Focus = Glory". We only do the first part - fail. 
     But, I'm glad there are illustrations of people around us to help us to get beyond failure. There is the example of Dani Tyler: 
     "Dani Tyler, third baseman for the US Women's Olympic softball team, hit a home run. Or so she thought. In her excitement rounding the bases, she accidentally stepped over home plate. The umpire disallowed the run. Because of that one misstep, the US team lost in extra innings 2-1, only their second international loss in 10 years.
     The next evening, Tyler played well. Sports Illustrated writer Peter King (8/12/96) asked her why the mistake hadn't seemed to become a mental ball-and-chain.
      'Well, I didn't want to get out of bed this morning,' she admitted. 'But this is sports. One play doesn't make a game, and one play won't define my life. I've never been the best athlete, but I try to have the best attitude and work the hardest. What happened was a freak thing. It's over. If I whine about it, or make excuses, or argue, what happens? I look like a jerk.' "
     Boy, Dani, I couldn't agree more. We definitely have too many jerks who never get past their mistakes, thanks for not being one of them. James Long has said, "One reason God created time was so there would be a place to bury the failures of the past." Thanks, Dani, for burying it and showing us that we can, too.
     But, secondly, there must be a focus in order for glory to come into our life. But, what is that focus? The focus for many of us is summed up in a comment made by Bill Cosby. He said, "I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." Anyone whose focus is so wide as to please everyone is going to fail. Our focus must be pin pointed. Let me illustrate: 
     "On day six of the ill-fated mission of Apollo 13, the astronauts needed to make a critical course correction. If they failed, they might never return to earth.
     To conserve power, the on-board computer that steered the craft had been shut down. Yet the astronauts needed to conduct a thirty-nine-second burn of the main engines. How to steer?
     Astronaut Jim Lovell determined that if they could keep a fixed point in space in view through their tiny window, they could steer the craft manually. That focal point turned out to be their destination - earth.
     "As shown grippingly in 1995's hit movie, 'Apollo 13', for thirty-nine agonizing seconds, Lovell focused on keeping the earth in view. By not losing sight of that reference point, the three astronauts avoided disaster.
     Scripture reminds us that to finish your life mission successfully, 'Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2).' "
     Yes, even in failure, if we will keep our eyes on Jesus alone and pleasing Him - there will be glory in the end. May your 2014 lead to glory in the name of Jesus.
 
 
"JOY"
 
     All the decorations will soon be up. We will go to wonderful and uplifting high school Christmas concerts and church programs. There will be shopping and planning for family gatherings. It all makes us aware of the fact that Christmas is coming soon. Christmas is and should continue to be a joyous time. Each of us wants to be happy and have joy. It is natural. God intended for us to be joyful.
     Each of us looks for and craves joy. We will do almost anything to have it. Solomon, the preacher, in Ecclesiastes chapter 2 confides that mankind will go to great lengths to have joy. We will build new houses, plant bigger fields, put in irrigation, increase our herds and wealth, go to all kinds of entertainment, put wine in our body and go after all kinds of illicit sexual relationships, all to gain joy. Solomon tried it all. He had fun and it was pleasurable, but his conclusion was that it was all vanity. He still had an empty feeling and no joy.
     Many of us do just like Solomon, until we finally realize that JOY is not to be found in material things or in outward circumstances. Joy is something that must come from within us. But that source of joy is not us, it is Christ. The real source of joy is Christ's presence in our lives. He must be there like a close friend who is always there. Philippians chapter 4 tells us to be joyful at all times, and that kind of joy passes all understanding. Our minds, even with all the skills and knowledge, cannot produce joy. It can only be given by God.
     This joy once placed in us by God cannot be removed unless we allow it to leave us. We many times lose our joy by losing hope, by becoming anxious, by taking on worries, becoming negative, pessimistic, expecting the worst and letting disappointments get us down. We lose our joy by our own doing.
     However, we can keep our joy by looking for the good and continuing to be positive. Hebrews chapter twelve and verse two says that Christ bore the cross and its shame because of the joy in it. Now that is being positive. The apostle Paul as well would not let the world take any of his joy from him. It did not matter if he was put in prison or had his message rejected. He would just shake the dust off his feet and not let it bother him.
     Paul also saw some of these good qualities in the Philippian people. In Philippians, chapter four, he tells us some of the things that we should think on in order have this positive view or outlook and thus have an attitude of Joy. We are to place the emphasis of our lives on truth, honesty and purity. We are love speaking only the things that we would want God to hear as well as praising others for the good they do. By doing this we will be positive. We will stay close to Christ and therefore we will have Joy. In fact, I Peter, chapter one, says we will have Unutterable Joy. That is so much joy that our hearts are always happy.
     Find the joy in Christ this Christmas season and keep it close at heart all year.
     May yours be a very joyous and blessed Christmas.
 
 
 
"White Elephants & Temptation"
 
     Temptations! The world waits with eager smiles to hand us its wares so rich and rare. But, do we want them or can we even keep them from attaching themselves to us?
     Many years ago in Siam (Thailand of today), when a king wanted to bring down someone in his kingdom, he would give him a gift of a white elephant. Since a white elephant was considered sacred, only the best of care and feed must be given to it. It could not be given away or sold since it was a gift from the king. The care of the animal eventually impoverished the king's enemy.
     So it is with the gifts of the world. They come to us as something very precious and unique, but once we have received them, they are almost impossible to get rid of and eventually bring us to our ruin.
     An aged Christian was once asked if he had much trouble with his temptations. His reply was: "Indeed I have trouble enough with them. This is what I have to do every day: I have TWO FALCONS TO TAME (A falcon is a bird of prey, something like an eagle but much smaller) — TWO HARES to keep from running away  — TWO HAWKS to manage — a SERPENT to confine — a LION to chain — and a SICK MAN to tend and to wait upon." "Why, that can't be," said his friend, "no one could attend to all these things at once."
     "Yes, indeed," said the old man, "it is just as I have said, THE TWO FALCONS ARE MY TWO EYES which I must diligently guard lest they should look at something that would be dangerous to my soul (Matthew 7:3-5; I John 2:15-17). The TWO HARES ARE MY TWO FEET which I must hold back lest they run into sinful ways (Hebrews 12:1-2). The TWO HAWKS ARE MY TWO HANDS which I must keep from picking and stealing, and learn to labor to get my own living (I Thessalonians 4:11; Ephesians 4:28). The SERPENT IS MY TONGUE which I must keep from evil speaking, lying and slandering (James 3). The LION IS MY HEART which I have to struggle with all the time to keep from evil thoughts and feelings (Proverbs 4:23; 23:7; James 4:8). The SICK MAN IS MY WHOLE SELF, which always needs my watchfulness and care." (Isaiah 1:4-6; Titus 2:11-14; Hebrews 12:12-17).
 
     Is your temptation under control — or has it become a white elephant that is leading to your ruin?

 

 

"Stick Together"

 

     One of the challenges of our Christian life is unity.  I would like to pick up on that and make a few comments.

     Once upon a time there was man who could not swim who was asked to go fishing by a sailor.  He caught an enormous fish and, in his excitement to land it, fell overboard.  He cried out, "Help, save me!"  The sailor very calmly reached out, grasped the man’s arm and gave a hearty pull.  The sailor had no idea it was an artificial arm....until the arm came off!  The man continued to kick and splash around, crying out for rescue. The sailor reached out again.  This time he grabbed for a leg and gave a tremendous pull...and the leg came off because it was a wooden leg.  The man in the water went under again and came up yelling for help.  The sailor, still maintaining his calm, grabbed the man by the hair of his head and gave a pull.  The man was wearing a toupee...and it came off.  The man in the water continued to call for help but the sailor turned in disgust and said, "How can I help you if you won't stick together!"

     The "Messenger" says, I have an idea that our Lord at times asks the same question of us.  "How can I help you if you won't stick together?"  The New Testament is filled with instructions about unity.  Jesus prayed that all believers "may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (John 17:21).  Paul wrote, "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3).  Unity is simply "sticking together" and it is not presented in scripture as an option.  The word translated "make every effort" literally means "a holy zeal demanding full dedication."  In other words, each of us is to give ourselves completely to the pursuit of unity.  We are to do all that we can to see that the family of God lives, works, serves, and loves as one. But...what can I do to promote unity in the church?  Here are some suggestions:

     1. YOU CAN BE INVOLVED.  Unity is not the absence of tensions as much as the presence of co-operation in ministry.  A church can exist without conflict and still not have unity if its members are not involved.

     2.  YOU CAN BE POSITIVE.  We typically find that for which we look.  If you look for weakness and fault in people and programs, I guarantee you will find them.  The person who sees beyond problems to the potential will find new and better ways to get the job done.

     3.  YOU CAN BE SUPPORTIVE.  Your words can build or destroy.  Give careful thought to what you say and how you react.  If you cannot find something constructive to say, say nothing.

     4.  YOU CAN BE FORGIVING.  There is no person so good, no program so effective, no church so complete that it/he does not need forgiveness.  The spirit of Christ compels us to extend that to others.
 
 
 
"Keep Taking the Extra Step"
     There is a quality that each of us knows that we should be cultivating in our lives. But it is a quality that does not come easy, and that quality is persistence. 
     Too often, we are tempted to quit just when that one more step might make a big difference. In a parable of a persistent friend, Jesus said, "I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs" (Luke 11:8).
     To illustrate, let me share two stories by Erwin Lutzer and 'The Edifier'. An explorer, Fridtjof Nansen was lost with one companion in the Arctic wastes. By miscalculation, they ran out of all their supplies. They ate their dogs, the dogs' harnesses, the whale oil for their lamps. Nansen's companion lay down to die, but Nansen told himself, "I can take one more step." As he plodded heavily through the bitter cold, step after step, suddenly he came upon an American expedition that had been sent out to find him.
     We do not know what God might do when we take that extra step. Dr. Alan Redpath has suggested that many people don't see answers to their prayers because they have stopped at round twelve in the conquest of their personal Jericho! We may be doing all the right things and must simply keep doing them! The enemy may fall into our hands soon.
     I also love the story about the old farmer whose mule fell into the well. After many unsuccessful attempts to haul the mule out of the hole, the farmer decided it was hopeless. So, with sadness he instructed his boys to fill up several truckloads of dirt and just bury the old mule there in the well. Well, the boys backed up the truck filled with dirt, shoveled in the dirt, and began to fill the well to bury the mule. 
     The mule didn't take it kindly though. The first shovel of dirt hit him squarely on the head, got in his eyes and mouth, and made him sneeze. Every shovelful after that hit him somewhere causing the old mule to stomp around in the bottom of the well. Several trucks of dirt later the mule was still stomping and packing dirt firmly under his feet. Little by little that mule was lifting himself out of the hole. Sure enough, about mid-afternoon that mule simply stepped out of the well and snorted at the whole business.
     Have you noticed that is the way that some people deal with their problems? Some complain; some do not handle setbacks well; some are defeated with the slightest difficulty. There are others who, like the mule, when problems hit them squarely on the head, they stomp around enough until finally they use the problem to rise above it.
     May we, too, gain such persistence!
 
 
PRAYER TEAMS 
Our church is in need of Prayer Partners who will pray until our church catches the Holy Spirit’s vision for our church. Are there those among us who will pray prior to our services on Sundays or go on prayer walks around our community? Is there one among us who feels the call of the Holy Spirit on their heart to lead this vital ministry need? Please talk to Pastor or call the church office to become involved in this vital ministry.
 
 
 

" FATHER "

     Father's Day is just a few weeks away.  It is an important day in which we remember fathers who have had a vital impact on our lives.  In fact, that impact may be more than we are even aware of. 

     I have come across two poems in this regard that I would like to share with you.  The first is authored by Herbert Parker and the second is from an unknown author.  May they have an impact on your life.

 

                                                                                                                                 Pastor Perry Schnabel

 

THAT LITTLE BOY OF MINE

To get his goodnight kiss he stood

Beside my chair one night

And raised an eager face to me

A face with love alight.

And as I gathered in my arms

The son God gave me,

I thanked the lad for being good,

And hoped he'd always be.

His little arms crept around neck,

And then I heard him say

Four simple words I shan't forget -

Four words that made me pray.

They turned a mirror on my soul,

On secrets no one knew.

They startled me, I hear them yet;

He said, "I'll be like you."

 

PLEASE, DADDY, LET'S GO 

A little boy with shining eyes,

His little face aglow,

Said, "It's time for Sunday School

Please, Daddy let's go!"

"Oh no," said Daddy, "Not today.

I've worked hard all the week;

And I must have a day of rest,

I'm going to the creek,

For there I can relax and rest,

And fishing's fine they say;

So run along, don't bother me,

We'll go to church some other day."

Months and years have passed away

But daddy hears that plea no more

"Please, let's go to Sunday School!"

Those childhood days are o'er.

Now that daddy's growing old,

When life is almost through,

He does find time to go to church,

But, what does his son do?

He says, "Old Man, you're kidding!

I've caroused around all night,

A-popping pills, and smoking pot -

You should have seen me fight!"

The Daddy lifts a trembling hand

To brush away the tears,

He seems to hear the pleading voice,

Distinctly through the years,

He sees his small son's wistful face

Upturned, with eyes aglow,

Saying, "It's time for Sunday School,

Please, Daddy - won't you go?"
 
 
 
" A Clean Family In A Dirty World "
    Christian parents are trying to raise their children right. They have certain beliefs about what they think is important and they try to share time, but sometimes it seems they are fighting a losing battle. How does one teach honesty to children who live in a world where even the government is deceitful?
    How does a parent raise a clean family in a dirty world like this? It is not easy. But, perhaps the best advice comes from the Apostle Paul in Romans twelve where it says,: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your minds…” or as another translation puts it: “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its own mould.”
    That is what the world does and some of us may even be praying, “Oh, Lord, I am grateful I am just like others.” But, if that is our attitude, we will have a tough time raising Christian children.
    So what do we do? Do we build walls high enough to keep the evil out? NO! Walls are a negative approach that only emphasizes what we are against and does not teach a youngster to stand alone with God. We cannot escape everything like the Monastic Movement. We cannot use a scissors on every magazine or newspaper that comes into the home. The main trouble with that approach is that eventually they are going to be off to college or work and they will not be prepared to cope. To get dirt out of the world, even the Apostle Paul admitted is unrealistic.
    A much better approach is to build on what we are for and thus help our young people to stand alone for God like the young people in the scriptures. We must lift up the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in our OWN lives. We raise a clean family today by being CLEAN OURSELVES, but letting them see clearly by our actions where our values are and how Jesus Christ is the molder of our lives.
    That means of course that we have to do our part. But what exactly is it that we must do? Let me just give a few pointers:
    First, really love your children. It means talking to them, touching and caring for them and giving regular praise.
    Second, parents need to allow children to fail. At times the only thing that can help them to learn – is failing. Don’t be afraid to let them fail. Take the wise counsel of someone who said, “It’s those who never lose who will struggle with the ups and downs of life later on.”
    Third, share your adult relationships with your children. Admittedly, it is easier to hire a babysitter and reserve the “adult” relationships for ourselves. But, children learn most when they watch adults.
    Fourth, we need to set standards of good and evil – principles based on scriptural advice for discerning evil from good that will prepare them to make their own choices. Provide them with the standards and allow them to put them into practice.
    Finally, we need to learn to release our children. Someone once said, “The best provision we can make for our children is to give them a nest and wings to leave it.” Yes, we covet a Godly stand for our children; it won’t happen unless we work at it.
    The best that we can do for our children is get them off on a good start and then trust in the kindly Providence of God to give them a safe landing. Even if they do fall momentarily, we can claim the promise of Psalm 37:24, “When he falls, he shall not be hurled headlong because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.”
     May the Lord bless you as you try to raise a clean family in a dirty world.
 
 
" The Church as a Team "
     The story is told of a horse pull in Canada. One horse pulled 9,000 pounds, another 8,000. Together you would expect them to pull 17,000 pounds. NOT SO! When teamed together, they pulled 30,000 pounds.
     The principle is called synergism. By definition, the simultaneous action of separate agents working together has a greater total effect than the sum of their individual efforts. More can be done in a team effort than can be accomplished solo. In order for the principle of synergism to work as it should, there has to be teamwork.
     Everything we do takes teamwork and trust. Every person in the local church is valuable and needed. The church is a team and together we can build for the Lord.
     This is no place more true than in the book of Acts. For there in five short chapters, through great team work, the church grew from 120 members in the upper room to nearly 20,000.
     There is no reason why we could not do the same thing today if we put our minds and our hearts to the seven principles of team work that the early church showed to us in Acts 2.
     Principle 1 - they were a redeemed church. They were a community of true believers. They believed, were regenerated and baptized. The church that ceases from requiring regenerated membership has let the tares come in to take over and the team work is gone.
     Principle 2 - they were a Spirit-filled church. They were empowered and controlled by the Holy Spirit with all self-will, personal motivations and sin set aside.
     Principle 3 - they were a teaching church. The apostles taught the Word of God. Their sermons were not dead social niceties, but were direct challenges from God's Word.
     Principle 4 - they were a fellowship church. No, this was not an eating church - remember it was Mary who fellowshipped while Martha fussed in the kitchen. Fellowship is sharing our lives with one another. They gave of themselves in order to keep the experience of fellowship going.
     Principle 5 - they were a praying church. Their prayer times were not private affairs but they were regular group prayer times - a community of public prayer. We too must have a commitment to the prayer meetings to see true growth.
     Principle 6 - they were a loving/caring church. There was unity - joined together in mind and love where one person's needs were being met by another person's surplus.
     Principle 7 - they were a growing church. There was a good spiritual life that led to effect evangelism. People wanted to belong to this family of redeemed people.
     With their teamwork at work in our own churches much would be accomplished.
 
 
"The Cost of Easter"
     In these weeks before Easter, it seems that we hear oh so many on the streets and in the gathering places of our cities talking about giving up something for the Lord, in order that they might get a sense of His suffering for us.
     However, in many cases I think that the Lord looks on with eyes full of tears over the trivial things that we are willing to lay on the line for HIM. Especially when Jesus expects our whole lives to be lived in sacrifice for Him, which means every day is a living sacrifice and not just a few weeks of sacrifice.
     What real sacrifice is there in enduring people making fun of you for going to church for a few Lenten services. Are you really suffering for Jesus? How about getting skinned alive for believing in Jesus? How about getting burned at the stake for following Jesus? How about getting nailed to an object because you say you are a Christian?
     The price of following Jesus truly is the cross. The payoff is confident living and eternal life. The payoff is worth the price.
     The story of Polycarp, Smyrna's bishop who studied under the Apostle John, comes to mind. Adamantly committed to the saving Lordship of Jesus, which left no room for bowing to the empire, Polycarp was arrested and sentenced to death. Actually, he was given a chance to step out of the fire. The Roman proconsul gave Polycarp the choice of cursing the name of Jesus and worship Caesar to save his skin or continue embracing Jesus to death. "Swear" said the proconsul, "and I will set thee at liberty. Reproach Christ." Polycarp replied, "Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?" After the proconsul threatened him again with the specter of burning at the stake, Polycarp added, "You threaten me with fire which awaits the wicked in the judgment to come and in everlasting punishment. Why are you waiting? Come, do what you will."
     As they approached him and prepared to tie him to the stake to be burned, he shouted, "Leave me as I am for He who gives me power to endure the fire, will grant me to remain in the flames unmoved even without the security you will give by the nails." Loosely bound with flames flashing about him, Polycarp prayed, "O Lord God Almighty, Father of Thy beloved child, Jesus Christ...I bless Thee that Thou hast granted unto me this day and hour, that I may share, among the number of the martyrs, in the cup of Thy Christ, for the resurrection to eternal life." And so on February 23, 155, Polycarp paid the price. Then he went to heaven. The payoff is worth the price.
     Then there was Patrick Hamilton who studied under Martin Luther in Wittenburg. He literally ignited the Reformation in Scotland. As he burned at the stake in 1527, he said, "as to my confession, I will not deny it for awe of your fire, for my confession and belief is in Jesus Christ...I will rather be content that my body burn in this fire for confession of my faith in Christ than my soul should burn in the fire of hell for denying the same."
 
     Jesus said to Polycarp, Hamilton, you, me and everyone who has followed Him, "I know your afflictions and your poverty - yet you are rich!...Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life." 
     Are we like these men giving a sacrifice worthy of receiving the crown of life?
 
 
 

" Commitment to the Task "

     As a Christian, do you think that the task you have been given to accomplish is too small or insignificant?  So, therefore, WHY DO IT?  Here is why:

 

     "The story is told of a heavy bronze bell that had sunk into a river in China.  The efforts of various engineers to raise it had been to no avail.  At last a clever native priest asked permission to make the attempt, on condition that the bell should be given to his temple.  He then had his assistants gather an immense number of bamboo rods.  These are hollow, light, and practically unsinkable.  They were taken down by divers, one by one, and fastened to the bell.  After many thousands of them had been thus fastened, it was noticed that the bell began to move, and when the last one had been added, the buoyancy of the accumulated rods was so great that they actually lifted that enormous mass of bronze to the surface.  You may think that your bamboo rod is so small and light to make any difference, but it is necessary in God's sight to lend strength to the whole."

 

Your task is needed by your church no matter how small so lend your hand, your voice, or whatever God has given you to use in His service.

* * *

     Perhaps you feel that the task that God has given you is too beneath your status and your ego is telling you not to do it or to hire someone else in your place.  Well then, listen to this:

 

      "If only we could all be like Sophie, the scrub woman.  She was a real Christian.  One of the gentlemen in the large building where she worked said, to her.  "Say, Sophie, I understand that you are a Christian."  "Yes, sir, I am a child of the King," was her immediate reply.  "Oh! So you must be a princess, since God is your King,"  "I sure am."  "Well, if God is your Father, and you are a princess and a child of the King, do you not think that it is beneath your dignity to be found here in New York City scrubbing these dirty steps?"  Not being daunted, Sophie replied, "There is no humiliation whatsoever.  You see, I am not scrubbing these steps for Mr. Brown, my boss.  I am scrubbing them for Jesus Christ, my Savior!"

 

Oh, that Sophie's attitude was all our attitudes.  We sure would get a lot more accomplished in Christ's name.

* * *

     Perhaps the whole idea of service or coming to church or whatever is completely boring to you.  Let me tell you, you’re not the first.  But, are you doing anything about it?

 

 

     "A young boy complained to his father that most of the church hymns were boring to him – too far behind the times, boring tunes, meaningless words.  His father put an end to the discussion when he said, 'If you think you can write better hymns, then why don't you.'  The boy went to his room and wrote his first hymn.  This was in 1690; the teenager's name was Issac Watt.  "When I survey the Wondrous Cross" and "Joy to the World" are among almost 350 hymns written by him. 

 

        Feeling bored?  Do something great!  Let the world remember you for over 300 years as well.
 
  
"The Christian Life in 2013"
     In teaching Christian Life lessons, I'm always on the lookout for good illustrations. Craig Brian Larson gives the following excellent illustration: 
     "The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is striking for its simplicity. Etched in a black granite wall are the names of 58,156 Americans who died in that war. Since its opening in 1982, the stark monument has stirred deep emotions.
     Some visitors walk its length slowly, reverently, and without pause. Others stop before certain names, remembering their son or sweetheart or fellow soldier, wiping away tears, tracing the names with their fingers.
     For three Vietnam veterans - Robert Bedker, Willard Craig, and Darral Lausch - a visit to the memorial must be especially poignant, for they can walk up to the long ebony wall and find their own names carved in stone. Because of date-coding errors, each of them was incorrectly listed as killed in action.
     Dead, but alive - a perfect description of the Christian.
     Yes, as Christians, we have all died to our old life of sin, but we are yet alive in Jesus Christ our Savior. But, the question for all of us is, Just how alive are we? Are we growing and vital or are we on life support? Ron Jensen gives the following illustration:
     "An illustration of the balance between faith and works lies hidden within any tree. Leaves use up nutrients in the process of photosynthesis. As the leaves consume nutrients in the sap, a suction is formed, which draws more sap from the roots. Without the sap, the leaves and branches would die. But the continual flow of this sap comes only as it is used up by the work of the leaf.
     Likewise, through faith we draw life from Christ. But, a continual supply of fresh spiritual nutrients depends on our willingness to "consume" the old supply through our acts of obedience, through our works."
     Are we using up the nutrients that we get every week in our times of worship or are we growing old and weak and lazy from not using up the nutrients we already have? Many times the un-use of our nutrients is the fault of our misguided priorities. Ray Tiemann gives us the following illustration:
     "It was a 99 degree September day in San Antonio, when a 10-month-old baby girl was accidentally locked inside a parked car by her aunt. Frantically, the mother and aunt ran around the auto in near hysteria, while a neighbor attempted to unlock the auto with a clothes hanger. Soon the infant was turning purple and had foam on her mouth. It had become a life-or-death situation when Fred Arriola, a wrecker driver, arrived on the scene. He grabbed a hammer and smashed the back window of the car to set her free. Was he heralded a hero? He said, "The lady was mad at me because I broke the window. I just thought, What's more important - the baby or the window?" Sometimes priorities get out of order, and a Fred Arriola reminds us what's important."
     Are our priorities in order - or are they all screwed up to the point that we are not really going anywhere in our Christian lives?
 
 
  "The Lord of Life”

         The book of Isaiah has some beautiful prophesies concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  In chapter forty, we read, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God....Behold the Lord will come....He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young."

         In effect, those prophesies began to come true in Luke chapter 2 verse eleven: "Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord."  The Lord had come, and that is what Christmas is all about.

         Christmas is not about gifts, or parties, or celebrations, or big meals, or gathering in a church, or tinsel, or even a tree.  Christmas is the coming of the Lord.  It is to be a time of remembering the Lord our God and His coming to be with us and live with us.

         Christmas should not just be a joyous occasion for merriment and glad tidings.  But Christmas should ultimately be a recognition of Jesus as the LORD.  Oh, yes, Jesus is our Savior and he wants to be our individual Savior.  But, as God/Man, Immanuel (God with us), he wants to be more than our Savior, he also wants to be our LORD.  Jesus the Christ came to be our Savior and to die for us so that in accepting the gift of salvation we might have life everlasting.  But, Jesus the Lord (Adonai, Kurios) came to be our ruler, King, commander, master, etc.

 

         In accepting Jesus as our Savior we also need to accept Him as our Lord.  That then implies a pledge of OBEDIENCE on our part to the Lord Jesus as the ruler, the master, the owner, and thus the one having power over our lives.  Jesus is to be our personal Lord. 

         Christianity is not just belonging to an organization or participating in the right ceremonies such as baptism or the Lord's Supper.  That is not Christianity nor is knowing about God or Christ a Christian faith.

         Oh to be sure, we must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and we must in effect know the facts and give some kind of intellectual assent to those facts, but Christianity means TRUSTING in the LORD, OBEYING the LORD, and LOVING the LORD.  It is never enough to just say the right words for even Jesus said, "Not everyone that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that DOETH the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).

         Yes, a person becomes a Christian when he or she accepts Christ's forgiveness for their sins, but it does not stop there.  For we must also accept Jesus as our Teacher, our Guide, our Example to follow, and our LORD, the Lord of our life.  We must live our daily lives as if we were continually in the presence of the Lord, for we are!

         Let me describe it in terms of salt.  You can take the elements of salt (sodium and chlorine) and separate them.  But, once you have separated them you longer have salt.  The same is true in our Christian lives.  We also separate our faith in God from our daily behavior, but once we succeed in doing that, we are no longer a Christian, are we?

         Let us all in this Christmas season accept not only the Messiah/Savior Jesus, but also the Lord Jesus into our hearts and lives.

 
"A Religion of Leftovers"
 
     Do you serve your guests leftovers? I am sure we do not make it a regular practice. But, why then, do we so many times make it a regular practice to serve God our leftovers? Perhaps you say that we don't. Well let’s consider the evidence.
     To illustrate the absurdity, the prophet Isaiah once preached a sermon in which he told of a man who planted a tree in the forest. When the tree was grown, the man cut it down. He burned part of it for firewood; he used part of it to cook his food; then he took what he had left over and used it to make a "god" (Isaiah 44). Isaiah concluded by saying that a religion like that is no more satisfying than feeding on ashes.
      It was Isaiah's conviction that the true and living God would never be content with the leftovers of a man's life. He will not accept service or worship which comes as an afterthought. Unfortunately though, many people are trying to relate to God in the same way this man approached his idol - they are content with a religion of leftovers.
      I like Steve Snider's points of consideration in this regard. He says: 
1.      Some Give God What is Left of Their Loyalty. Jesus taught that God comes first in life (Matthew 6:33). But many people place God far down on the list of their priorities. They are more loyal to family, job, civic duties, a sports team, or a favorite TV program than they are to God.
 
2.      Some Give God What is Left of Their Time. Next to our soul, our time is the most precious possession we have. Poor Richard's Almanac called time "the stuff life is made of." The Christian must use his time wisely for God (Ephesians 5:15-16). But all too often we are content to give God that little bit of time we can salvage from our other interests and activities. We give God an hour or two a week and squander the rest of our time on other things.  Some of us even have trouble with that hour or two. At a church where D.L. Moody was invited to preach, he was warned that some of the congregation usually left before the end of the sermon.
 
     When Mr. Moody rose to begin his sermon, he announced, "I am going to speak to two classes of people this morning: first to the sinners, and then to the saints." He proceeded to address the "sinners" for a while, and then said they could leave. For once, every member of the congregation stayed to the end of the sermon.
 
3.      Some Give God What is Left of Their Money. After taking out the car payment, house payment, utilities payments, grocery money, entertainment expenses, etc., whatever is left (if anything) is grudgingly given to God. God's share ought to come first! Let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper" (I Corinthians 16:2).
 
4.      Some Give God What is Left of Their Energy and Ability. All have talents which should be used in the Lord's service (Matthew 25). Too often, we exhaust ourselves and our talents in trivial pursuits and God gets only the dregs of our lives.
 
5.      Some Give God What is Left of Their Life. Some have concluded that religion is for old folks - that's why we see only gray heads in church. While they are young they intend to "eat, drink and be merry" - "to sow a few wild oats". And then they plan to turn to God at the last moment. But the wise man counsels: "Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth before the evil days come and the years draw neat when you will say, I have no pleasure in them" (Ecclesiastes 12:1).
 
     God deserves better than our leftovers! A religion that seeks to satisfy God with the crumbs that fall from life's table is as absurd as a religion which centers on the stump of a tree! God demands our best! Are we giving it to Him?
 
 
“Hug Me”
 
These cool days of fall can be very busy days filled with all kinds of activity. But, they can also be very sad and lonely days filled with a need for love and affection. By way of the Messenger we read:
 
“The little girl lingered in the classroom after the others had left. Reluctantly, with painful heart, she told that her mom was home with a new boyfriend; and she wasn’t wanted around. Her dad had a new girlfriend. Her brother was on drugs, and her sister constantly picked on her. She told the teacher, ‘I just wish someone would hug me!’
 
Has the Christian community lost its sensitivity to the hurting all around us? More and more in this busy, hurry, hurry, world of ours, we seem to say to those hurting, “Be healed”, and then we go our merry way. Even as a Pastor I sense this guilt from time to time. I sometimes find myself asking, “Where do I find the time to care?” This is the reality of our world today.
 
But dear heart, a warm handshake, a hand laid gently on the shoulder, a quick little hug can give more encouragement than many hours of counselling.  Little girls, little boys, big girls, big boys, men and women – all need to know:  “I just want you to know that I care about YOU!”
 
Dear one, take time to touch someone for Jesus. Don’t wait for the Pastor to do it – we are all ministers. Touch those hurts away. Holding a hand, a gentle touch on the shoulder, a big old bear hug, can do wonders! Flash a smile – let people know that we are alive and well. We are, aren't we?
 
Every child yearns for loving care and a feeling of security. Little Gloria was out playing one day, when she suddenly stopped and ran into the kitchen. With outstretched arms, she said, ‘Mommy, wrap me up in you!’ Mother took Gloria in her arms and sat down in the rocking chair. Soon Gloria was asleep.
 
Some little one (or maybe not so little one) needs us to wrap them up in YOU! Why not hug someone today and say I care.
 
 
 
“A TIRE by Good Neighbour”
 
Perhaps all of you have heard the gospel story of the Good Samaritan recorded in the gospel of Luke in the tenth chapter. It is an amazing story of apathy and great human neighbourliness. Maybe the story has never struck your fancy – it just never related to you.
 
I hope that this will make a difference for you.
 
A certain woman went down from Mandan to Bismarck and ran over a spike, which punctured her tire and left her stranded by the side of the road in very cold weather. After raising the hood of her car and tying a scarf to her radio antenna, she locked the door handles and sat in the car, praying for the Lord to send help!
 
By chance, there came a big new Chrysler that way with a bumper sticker that read, “Smile, God Loves You!” When the occupants saw the stranded woman, they passed by in the far lane – without smiling.
 
And likewise, there came a shiny sports car with cell phone in view and a bumper sticker saying, “Honk if You Love Jesus!” The guy who was driving passed by in the far lane without honking and without using the phone to tell the police about the woman’s dilemma.
 
But a certain working man, as he traveled about doing his job, came to the spot where the woman was and when he saw her raised hood, white scarf, and flat tire, he had compassion on her.
 
He stopped his old beat-up pickup – which had no bumper sticker – crossed over to her and offered to change the tire. The woman opened the door and gave him the key to the trunk. The man took out the spare tire, jacked up the car, removed the flat tire, and replaced it with the spare.
 
When he had finished, the woman tried to pay him. He refused the money, saying, “If my wife were stranded on the highway with a flat tire, I’d want some Good Samaritan to stop and help her out.”
 
He returned to his bumper-stickerless truck, smiled, waved at her, and rode off on his way.
 
Which of these three was neighbour unto her that had a flat tire?
 
Do you know any of these people? Was one of them you?
 

"Prayer’s Power"

 Just how powerful is prayer?  Well, let me give you 2 examples.

 

According to an Associated Press account in September 1994, Cindy Hartman of Conway, Arkansas, walked into her house to answer the phone and was confronted by a burglar.  He ripped the phone cord out of the wall and ordered her into a closet.

 

Hartman dropped to her knees and asked the burglar if she could pray for him.  "I want you to know that God loves you and I forgive you," she said.

 

The burglar apologized for what he had done.  Then he yelled out the door to a woman in a pickup truck:  "We've got to unload all of this.  This is a Christian home and Christian family. We can't do this to them."

 

As Hartman remained on her knees, the burglar returned furniture he had taken from her home.  Then he took the bullets out of his gun, handed the gun to Hartman, and walked out the door.

 

Praying for our enemies is incredibly disarming.

 

Second, In Point Man, Steve Farrar tells the story of George McCluskey.

 

When McCluskey married and started a family, he decided to invest one hour a day in prayer, because he wanted his kids to follow Christ.  After a time, he expanded his prayers to include his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  Every day between 11 am and noon, he prayed for the next three generations.

 

As the years went by, his two daughters committed their lives to Christ and married men who went into full-time ministry.  The two couples produced four girls and one boy.  Each of the girls married a minister, and the boy became a pastor.

 

The first two children born to this generation were both boys.  Upon graduation from high school, the two cousins chose the same college and became roommates.  During their sophomore year, one boy decided to go into the ministry.  The other didn't.  He undoubtedly felt some pressure to continue the family legacy, but he chose instead to pursue his interest in psychology.

 

He earned his doctorate and eventually wrote books for parents that became bestsellers.  He started a radio program heard on more than a thousand stations each day.  The man's name was James Dobson.

 

Through his prayers, George McCluskey affected far more than one family.

 

    What will your prayers do?
 
 
"Spiritual Life? Or Death!"
     "When Daddy Sins...."
 
The following are terrific comments from Travis Plumlee, Director of Family Ark Ministries:
 
“Hey guys, listen up! Are things not going well at home? The man is, by order of God, the head of the household. When that man is in sin, the whole family is in trouble. While every person is accountable for their own sin, when the man sins, he opens up his wife and children for attack. You men offer a protective mantle over your wife and children. When you sin, you remove the protective covering from the family.
 
You are the protector of the home. What you allow to come into that home, and what you allow to go on in that home, will have either a positive or negative impact. God has a specific order for the family to follow in Ephesians 5-6. The man, as leader, has an enormous impact on his children. He is marking them for life - good or bad. His attitude, his faith or lack of it, his very personality will be with those children the rest of their lives.
 
A father's influence is felt in the children even by his sin. He has removed a protective covering and has now opened up the family for Satanic attack, and Satan will attack the most vulnerable of the lambs. Satan wants to apply so much pressure on men that you will give up. Recognize you are in a battle, just like all the great warriors throughout history, only we can't see our enemy. We can just see the results of what he does.
 
We are losing too many soldiers and too many families because many of us are woefully ignorant about the fact that we must do daily battle - spiritual warfare against Satan, who is trying to come into our homes. Once he establishes a beachhead or a stronghold in the man's life, he has gained a foothold of the home turf. He cannot successfully launch a full scale invasion upon the family. "Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments." (Exodus 20:5-6)
 
Don't deceive yourself. You may think no one else is hurt by your little secret, but your wife always pays an enormous price. "The two shall be as one," and don't think she senses that something is wrong? When your wife asks, "Honey, what's wrong?" she is feeling your inner groanings. When your kids ask, "Gee, Dad, what has gotten into you lately?" they are sensing something. You are the central heating unit for the home, and your wife is the thermostat. She can tell when things are getting a little chilly, or when things start to heat up. Just like a home heating system, it doesn't matter how hard the wife turns that thermostat up or down, if the old pilot light is out, the heat isn't coming on!
Guys, put down that bat. Don't beat yourselves up. While we have an enormous responsibility, we also have a more awesome and enormous God. With His command for us to be the spiritual leader of our home will come His provision for us to achieve it. Yes, Satan can come in and attack. He can win some battles. He can establish a beachhead in your home, and life can be miserable under his influence.
 
The good news is "What a mighty God we serve!" We are on the victory side. We are on the team that has never and shall never lose a game. God loves every man and wants you to be successful. "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." (Galatians 5:1)
 
Men, make a decision to come out of bondage. You will either lead your family into the paths of righteousness, or you will lead them into bondage. God didn't give you a choice of whether or not you wanted to be leader of the home - you are! Just because you have given up, or never stood up to be the leader of that home. That is why I love Joshua 24:15 "...but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
 
If you have any bondage in your personal life, break free! You can do it. You just have to "want to," then you can, through the bondage breaker known as Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit will lead you in the right direction. It is the only way He can lead you. If you pray to God, He can give you the strength, grace and ability to stop whatever it is you need to stop. I'm afraid a great deal of the suffering in our country by women and children was allowed to happen by the men in their lives. If you don't like what I am saying read Ephesians 5 and tell God about it.
 
Before you go to sleep tonight, please read Galatians 5:16-26. We who are the head of our homes must walk in the spirit and not after the flesh, for we not only hurt ourselves when we walk after the flesh, we hurt our family. I am so thankful Christ gives all of us the chance to be real men, real leaders. Remember, real men pray real hard, real men study God's Word real long and real men see their total identity in Jesus Christ.  Really!
 
 
 
"Spiritual Life? Or Death!"
 
Dealing with the Spiritual lives of individuals is always an adventure into the unpredictable. One is never quite sure what they are going to encounter. There may be great thrills or huge disappointments. There may be truth or great pretense. Jesus often encountered both. There were those who humbly came seeking the truth and those who only had a facade.
 
It reminds me of a true story told by Vialo Weis of Oklahoma City. “When elderly Adele Gaboury turned up missing, concerned neighbors in Worcester, Massachusetts, informed the police. A brother told police she had gone into a nursing home.
 
Satisfied with that information, Gaboury’s neighbor’s began watching her property. Michael Crowley notices her mail, delivered through a slot in the door, piling high. When he opened the door, hundreds of pieces of mail drifted out. He notified police, and the deliveries were stopped.
 
Gaboury’s next-door neighbor, Eileen Dugan, started paying her grandson $10.00 twice a month to mow Gaboury’s lawn. Later Dugan’s son noticed Gaboury’s pipes had frozen, spilling water out the door. The utility company was called to shut off the water.
 
What no one guessed was that while they’d been trying to help, Gaboury had been inside her home. When police finally investigated the house as a health hazard, they were shocked to find her body. The Washington Post (10/27/93) reported that police now believe Gaboury died of natural causes four years ago.
 
The respectable, external appearance of Gaboury’s house had hidden the reality of what was on the inside. Something similar can happen to people: We may appear outwardly proper while spiritually dead. All sorts of religious activity may be happening outside, while the real problem is missed; spiritual death on the inside. We need life, not a tidy facade.”
 
Sadly though, I see lots of people who are continuing to do that on a daily basis. They are keeping up a nice tidy facade. They do enough religious activities and say enough of the right words to make it look good. Regrettably, many people are fooled into believing that there is real spiritual life in that person, when in reality there is only death. Like Adele, sometimes it takes four years or even longer for anyone to catch on. Of course, it does not assist the matter when we have so many people, like her neighbors, who are more than willing to help us cover up the reality of spiritual death instead of investigating more deeply to find the truth.
 
Is there spiritual life in your heart or is it only a tidy facade? People may not know, but the Lord, the Judge of the Universe knows. Is your name truly in the Book of Life?
 

"Death or Life"

 

This month is Easter.  It is the season of life.  But, in our world of many choices, it seems at times that people are having greater and greater difficulty in making those decisions.  That even seems the case when it comes to life and death issues for our loved ones.  I like the conclusion of the following comments taken from "Today's Christian Doctor".

 

"Alva B. Weir, an oncologist in Germantown, Tennessee, told this story: 'I was awakened from sleep by the telephone.  On the other end of the line, distraught woman told me that her son had cancer, was a patient of one of my partners, was unconscious, breathing badly, with an empty bottle of pills at his bedside.

 

'This patient had recently discovered that his cancer had metastasized to his bone.  Along, with his pain, he had lost control of his bowels.   He could not tolerate the thought of pain and incontinence with no hope of cure.  He had decided to end his life and appeared close to succeeding.  The mother did not know what to do.  I convinced her to bring him to the hospital.

 

"I met them in the emergency room.  The patient was breathing badly and looked as if he were dying from the overdose.  I examined the patient, checked the laboratory results, and recommended that we lavage his stomach and place him on a ventilator until the drugs left his system.

 

'The mother was uncertain;  the brother took charge, suggesting that the patient desired suicide and that they should honor his wishes and let him die in peace rather than bring him through to face life with cancer.  They insisted on taking him home with no therapy.

 

'I worked with them for some time, and they compromised by allowing me to admit him to the hospital with only oxygen and intravenous fluid support, but no tubes and no ventilator.  They consented mainly because of logistical and legal complications produced by a patient dying at home of suicide.

 

'I admitted him, expecting him to die.  The following week-end I was surprised to find this man's name on my list.  I walked into the room to find a beaming mother and an alert patient.  With the minimal support, he had survived his overdose.  After another week, he was walking with his pain improved, bowels controlled, and depression diminished.

 

'I realized that this man and his family, who had chosen for him the absence of life forever, were experiencing moments together of unfathomable value.

 

'There is no one this side of heaven who has the ability to make the correct decision regarding when our life should be extinguished.  Society should err on the side of the precious nature of human life rather than that of personal choice."

 
 
 

"Accentuate the .....?"

Mostly likely you have heard the phrase "Accentuate the Positive".  In many different ways we have heard it from our church, community and national leaders.  It is a good philosophy and in it we are asked to point out to others the good, wonderful and most appealing characteristics of a church, community, etc.

 

It is not that we are to overlook the bad that may exist.  But, the idea is that perhaps far too often we are doing just the opposite - we are "accentuating the negative".  In fact, accentuating it to the point of over exaggeration of the negative. 

 

Two illustrations have come to my attention that point out this tendency so vividly.

 

A preacher once visited a farmer to talk about Christ.

 

“I wouldn't come to church up there,” the farmer said.  “I know old _____ and _____ and they don't live any differently than I do.  I'm as good as they are.”

 

And everywhere the farmer went, he told about the hypocrites in the church.

 

Months passed by and the preacher went to see the farmer again.  “I want to buy a hog,” said the preacher.  The farmer showed all his best hogs to him.  Then they came to the runt. 

 

“That's the one I want to buy,” said the preacher.

 

“But you don't want that runt, do you?” asked the farmer.

 

“I sure do,” replied the preacher.

 

They loaded the runt on the truck and as the preacher left, he said, “Now I'm going to ride all over this area and tell folks that this is the kind of hogs you raise.”  “That's not fair,” the farmer exclaimed.  “I have some nice hogs and you want to show people that runt!”  “If it is fair for the church, it's fair for the hogs,” the preacher replied.

 

Secondly, we see the following.

 

The old man could not carry a tune in a syrup bucket, but he loved to sing...even if it was off key!  Besides, he was bad about 'amening' the preacher.  Services had degenerated into an 'undignified' assembly because of the old man.  He simply got too involved in the 'goings on' and forgot himself.

 

Four of the more 'well-to-do' members decided that this old fellow was just too crude for the congregation.  They appointed themselves as the ones to go and talk to the old man.

When they arrived at the old fellow's house, he was in the field plowing with his old mule.  Though it was beneath their dignity, they finally walked out through that dusty ground which soiled their fine clothes to talk to the old timer.  “Brother Jones,” they began, “we want to talk to you about your singing.  Not meaning any offense, but you just can't sing.  We wish you would try not to sing so loudly because frankly, your singing ruins our services!”

 

“I'm sorry,” the old fellow replied, “but it's just that when I look at these old clothes that I wear and then I think of them robes that God has for me, I just can't help singing.  And when I see that old shack over yonder that I live in and realize that it's liable to fall any time and then I think about the beautiful palace that God has for me, I just have to sing praises to my Lord.  You fellers see this old hat I got on?  Well, when I see that crown in my mind that God has for me, I just have to yell that wonderful name of Jesus at the top of my lungs!”

 

“As a matter of fact,” he said, “would one of you fellers mind holding my mule...I feel like singing now.” 

 

They left him right there, singing away in the field!  And as these four men left the old fellow out there singing they viewed him in a different light.  One said to the rest, “You know, his singing isn't really all that bad.”  Another said, “I never realized how sweet his voice really is.”  The third said, “I just hope that God will allow me to sing in the same group that he sings in.”

 

In other words they went away accentuating the positive instead of accentuating the negative as they had gone to do.  Sometimes it takes a hard lesson like the first farmer having to suffer the humiliation of having his runt hog paraded about to change his accentuations.  Just what will you accentuate today?
 
 

"Submission = Strength"

I have found through the years that some of the people you irritate me the most are those who must have absolute control.  They seemingly do not know what the word submission is and in most cases they are compensating for their inferiority complexes.  The sad thing about this is that many times it leads to their demise.  Take the following by Paul Aiello, Jr. as an example. 

 

"The captain of the ship looked into the dark night and saw faint lights in the distance.  Immediately he told his signalman to send a message: 'Alter your course 10 degrees south.' 

 

Promptly a return message was received: 'Alter your course 10 degrees north.' 

The captain was angered; his command had been ignored.  So he sent a second message: 'Alter your course 10 degrees south - I am the captain!' 

 

Soon another message was received:  'Alter your course 10 degrees north - I am seaman third class Jones.'

 

Immediately the captain sent a third message, knowing the fear it would evoke: 'Alter your course 10 degrees south - I am a battleship.'

 

Then the reply came: 'alter your course 10 degrees north - I am a lighthouse.'

 

In the midst of our dark and foggy times, all sorts of voices are shouting orders into the night, telling us what to do, how to adjust our lives.  Out of the darkness, one voice signals something quite opposite to the rest - something almost absurd.  But the voice happens to be the Light of the World, and we ignore it at our peril."

 

I don't know what this sea captain did, but there are many people in today's world that are ignoring the voice of God in the Person of Jesus, the Light of the World.  Their refusal to submit will eventually cost them everything.

 

But, on the other hand, that one that does submit to the voice of the Master, even though he may feel weak or inferior to the task that God has given them, that person will find they have unbelievable strength.  Take the following words of Darrel L. Anderson as a case in point.

 

"The folklore surrounding Poland's famous concert pianist and prime minister, Ignace Paderewski, includes this story:  A mother, wishing to encourage her young son's progress at the piano, bought tickets for a Paderewski performance.  When the night arrived, they found their seats near the front of the concert hall and eyed the majestic Steinway waiting on stage.

 

Soon the mother found a friend to talk to, and the boy slipped away.  When eight o'clock arrived, the spotlights came on, the audience quieted, and only then did they notice the boy up on the bench, innocently picking out 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.'

 

His mother gasped, but before she could retrieve her son, the master appeared on the stage and quickly moved to the keyboard.

 

'Don't quit - keep playing,' he whispered to the boy.  Leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part.  Soon his right arm reached around the other side, encircling the child, to add a running obbligato.  Together, the old master and the young novice held the crowd mesmerized.

 

In our lives, unpolished though we may be, it is the Master who surrounds us and whispers in our ear, time and again, 'Don't quit - keep playing.'  And as we do, he augments and supplements until a work of amazing beauty is created."

 

Will you be submissive enough to let the Master wrap his arms around you today?

 
 
 
“Praise & More”
     January is the month of beginnings. It also contains an encouragement for a week of prayer beginning on January 18.  It is always a wonderful thing when we spend time together with the Lord our God. It is an uplifting experience.
     But, we do continue to fight a battle with the enemy on a daily basis. However, it is not a physical battle, it is a spiritual one. That being true, we need special weapons to carry on to victory. 
     Mell Winger has pointed out that there are or should be nine weapons in our arsenal: “In spiritual war, the weapons are not of human design. They are “mighty through God” (2 Cor. 10:3-5). In addition to the well-known armor of God (Eph. 6:10-18), Scripture reveals several other strategic weapons.
     1. SILENCE. King Hezekiah commanded his people not to answer a word to the enemy (2 Kings 18:36). We are not to dialogue with the enemy. We are only to speak the Word of God to him - not our own thoughts or reasoning.
     2. Humility. ‘{Satan}....is terrified of humility....His hairs stand up when Christians kneel down, for humility is the surrender of the soul to God’ (James 4:6-7 and 1 Peter 5:6-9).
     3. The Name of Jesus. ‘Jesus gave the believer the legal right to use His name. His name represents our power and authority.....The power is not in us but in Him whose name we bear’ (Matthew 10:1,8; Luke 9:1; Acts 16:18; Philippines 2:9-11).
     4. Praise. Praise is a positive force that not only drives out depression and doubts, but actually causes evil forces to be defeated (2 Chronicles 20:20-23, Psalm 149:5-9, Acts 16:25-26). The Bible cites many instances in which praise made a difference in conquering the enemy. Interestingly, King David has been described as ‘the singing warrior.’ He viewed praise as an act that lifted his perspective from his circumstances and enemies to his God. ‘And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me; and I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord’ (Psalm 27:6).
     5. Resisting in Faith. ‘Resist [Satan] standing firm in the faith’ (1 Peter 5:9). Our faith in God’s ability is a force of incredible strength in spiritual battles.
     6. No Fear of Death. This attitude protects us from fear and intimation. It also keeps us walking in a holy relationship with God, which is a strong protection against the enemy’s manipulation (Revelation 12:11).
     7. Our Testimony. This weapon increases our faith in the reality of God. When we recite times God answered prayer and brought victory in our life, it defeats the doubts thrown upon us by the enemy (Revelation 12:11).
     8. Peace. ‘The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet’ (Romans 16:20). When we maintain peace during warfare, it is a crushing blow to satanic oppression and fear. Out victory never comes from our emotions or our intellect.....In the battle of life, your peace is actually a weapon.
     9. The Indwelling Holy Spirit. ‘The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world’ (1 John 4:4). When we truly believe that the Holy Spirit in the church is more powerful than all the demonic forces in the world, we will see unbelievable victories.
     All of these weapons are released through the power of believing prayer. The Lord will direct us as to which weapon is needed for each prayer target.”
     May the Lord’s guidance be felt as you make your choices of spiritual weapons in the battle we all face in our spiritual lives.
 
 

"JOY"

    With all the decorations, practicing for programs, shopping and planning for family gatherings, we know that Christmas is almost here.  Christmas is and should continue to be a joyous time.  Each of us wants to be happy and have joy.  It is natural.  God intended for us to be joyful.

    Each of us looks for and craves joy.  We will do almost anything to have it.  Solomon, the preacher, in Ecclesiastes chapter 2 confides that man will go to great lengths to have joy.  We will build new houses, plant bigger fields, put in irrigation, increase our herds and wealth, go to all kinds of entertainment, put wine in our body and go after all kinds of illicit sexual relationships, all to gain joy.  Solomon tried it all.  He had fun and it was pleasurable, but his conclusion was that it was all vanity.  He still had an empty feeling and no joy.

    Many of us do just like Solomon, until we finally realize that JOY is not to be found in material things or in outward circumstances.  Joy is something that must come from within us.  But, that source of joy is not us, it is Christ.  The real source of joy is Christ's presence in our lives.  He must be there like a close friend who is always there.  Philippians chapter 4 tells us to be joyful at all times, and that kind of joy passes all understanding.  Man's mind, even with all its skill and knowledge, cannot produce joy.  It can only be given by God.

    This joy once placed in us by God cannot be removed unless we allow it to leave us.  We many times lose our joy by losing hope, by becoming anxious, by taking on worries, becoming negative, pessimistic, expecting the worst and letting disappointments get us down.  We lose our joy by our own doing.

    However, we can keep our joy by looking for the good and continuing to be positive.  Hebrews chapter twelve and verse two says that Christ bore the cross and its shame because of the joy in it.  Now that is being positive.  The apostle Paul as well would not let the world take any of his joy from him.  It did not matter if he was put in prison or had his message rejected.  He would just shake the dust off his feet and not let it bother him.

    Paul also sees some of these good qualities in the Philippian people.  In Philippians chapter four he tells us some of the things that we should think on in order have this positive view or outlook and thus have an attitude of Joy.  We are to place the emphasis of our lives on truth, honesty and purity.  We are to be loving, speaking only the things that we would want God to hear and praise others.  By doing all of these we will be positive.  We will stay close to Christ and therefore we will have Joy.  In fact, I Peter chapter one says, Unutterable Joy.  So much joy that our hearts are always happy.

     Find the joy in Christ this Christmas season and keep it close at heart all year.
 
 
WE ARE EXCITED!
 
     On November 2, 2011, we will be starting a new program at Calvary United Methodist Church that is specifically for all our pre-school and elementary children. It is called AWANA which stands for “Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed” and comes from 2 Timothy 2:15.
     AWANA has designed a three-part program to maximize your child’s attention, energy and time: 1) FUN AND EXCITING GAMES, unique to AWANA that allow kids to participate no matter what their skill level is. 2) SMALL GROUP TIME, with a caring adult leader. No one gets lost in the crowd. Your child receives individualized attention as he or she works through an introductory booklet and then an age-specific handbook. 3) AN INTERACTIVE LARGE GROUP SEGMENT, where kids meet together to sing, hear a Bible lesson and receive awards. AWANA leaders go the extra mile to help your children understand the Bible and how it applies to their lives in an exciting and challenging way.
     We are inviting children ages three thru sixth grade to be a part of this program. They will be divided into three age group clubs: CUBBIES: ages 3-5; SPARKS: Kindergarten thru 2nd Grade; and T & T or Truth and Training: 3rd grade thru 6th grade. The program will run from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm on Wednesday evenings.
     To encourage attendance we will also be attempting to offer SUPPER at 5:30 pm which we will also share with the youth from the Calvary Computer Program (CCP). We will attempt to share the menu ahead of time in the church newsletter, Calvary Connections.
     Thank you for the opportunity of working with your children and disciple them for the Lord Jesus Christ. Please call the church office (701-255-4281), Darla Ziegler our Commander (701-223-8369), or myself with any questions that you may have.
     We are thankful for all the following people who are involved in this program:
            Pastor Perry = Director                                              Darla Ziegler = Commander
            Cynthia Schnabel = Secretary                                     Ryan Sherman = T & T Leader                      
            Marty Ketterling = Sparks Leader                               Carrie Harding = Cubbies Leader                  
            Beckie Dronen = Game Leader                                   Savannah Dronen = Game Leader
           Jodi Balliet-Pazourek = Large Group Leader                 Kezia Schnabel = Music Leader
            Fran Kettering = Listener                                           Donna Fehr = Listener
            Al Sherman = Listener                                               Ginny Sherman = Listener
            Shirley Buchholz = Kitchen                                          Frieda Roth = Kitchen
            Elaine Beyl = Kitchen                                                 Nancy Feist = Kitchen
And I hope that I have not left anyone out, but it is just terrific how people have come forward to minister to our youth and be true disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thanks!
 
     The Calvary Computer Program is also underway with nine students from 8th thru 12th grade. Doug Hoopman has organized this program and has enlisted the help of various computer teachers from within the church and community, with Pastor doing some biblical teaching. Thank you Doug!
 
 
“A TIRE by Good Neighbour”
 
     Perhaps all of you have heard the gospel story of the Good Samaritan recorded in the gospel of Luke and the tenth chapter. It is an amazing story of apathy and great human neighbourliness. Maybe the story has never struck your fancy – it just never related to you.
 
     I hope that this will make a difference for you. 
     A certain woman went over the river from Mandan to Bismarck and ran over a spike, which punctured her tire and left her stranded by the side of the road in very cold weather. After raising the hood of her car and tying a scarf to her radio antenna, she locked the door handles and sat in the car, praying for the Lord to send help!
     By chance, there came a big new Chrysler that way with a bumper sticker that read, “Smile, God Loves You!” When the occupants saw the stranded woman, they passed by in the far lane – without smiling.
     And likewise, there came a shiny sports car with cell phone in one hand of the driver and a bumper sticker saying, “Honk if You Love Jesus!” The guy who was driving passed by in the far lane without honking and without using the phone to tell the police about the woman’s dilemma.
     But, a certain working man, as he traveled about doing his job, came to the spot where the woman was and, when he saw her raised hood, white scarf, and flat tire, he had compassion on her.\
     He stopped his old beat-up pickup – which had no bumper sticker – crossed over to her and offered to change the tire. The woman opened the door and gave him the key to the trunk. The man took out the spare tire, jacked up the car, removed the flat tire, and replaced it with the spare.
     When he had finished, the woman tried to pay him. He refused the money, saying, “If my wife were stranded on the highway with a flat tire, I’d want some Good Samaritan to stop and help her out.”
     He returned to his bumper-stickerless truck, smiled, honked at her, and rode off on his way.
     Which of these three was a neighbour unto her that had a flat tire?
     Do you know any of these people? Was one of them you? Will one of them be you?
     Today it is our children stranded outside the doors of our church but we need more helpers to call them inside the walls to tell them Bible stories, play games with them and help them memorize the Bible. AWANA will start for our children in October and we need more Good Samaritans who will stop in and lend a hand.
 

“MOUNTAIN MOVING”

Last month I concluded by asking:  What are we willing to DO or to GIVE to make sure that our children, our grandchildren and our neighbors come to or return to Calvary?  Part of that returns is going to mean assistance with Sunday School, AWANA, Calvary Computer Program, etc.  However, it almost seems like the effort needed to move a mountain.

In 1973, a church in New Jersey faced an insurmountable problem.  They had just built a new sanctuary and they were told that they would not be granted permanent occupancy until they had sufficient parking in the rear of the church. The trouble was that a sheer mountain rose abruptly at the back of the church leaving insufficient space for the legally required parking lot.  Naturally, the cost to move the mountain was prohibitive.

On Sunday morning their Pastor, Ray Crawford, reminded the congregation of Christ's promise in Matthew 17:20, "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto the mountain:  Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you."  Then the pastor added, “If you believe that, come on Wednesday night and pray with me that God will move this mountain from the back of our church.”  They prayed!  Thursday morning came the phone call that led to the mountains removal within one month’s time and the church even made money on it.

Do you have such faith that could and does move mountains?  Oh, each of us as Christians has faith, for as Ephesians 2:8 says, "For by grace are ye saved through faith..." We must exercise the faith that God gives us even to be saved.  So, Yes, Our faith in Jesus Christ does save us no matter how limited it is.  But, can it do more?

 

Is ours the kind of faith that specializes in the impossible?  Is ours the kind of faith that contradicts all logic and barges through even massive roadblocks?  In Christ we can have that kind of faith.  But, many of us settle for far less.  We are content to say like an Unknown Author -I've Never Moved a Mountain: 

"Lord, I've never moved a mountain and I guess I never will.  All the faith that I could muster wouldn't move a small ant hill. Yet I'll tell you, Lord, I'm grateful for the joy of knowing Thee, and for all the mountain moving down through life you've done for me.

 

When I needed some help you lifted me from the depths of great despair.  And when burdens, pain and sorrow have been more than I can bear, you have always been my courage to restore life's troubled sea, and to move these little mountains that have looked so big to me.

 

Many times when I've had problems and when bills I've had to pay, and the worries and the heartaches just kept mounting every day, Lord, I don't know how you did it.  Can't explain the wheres or why.  All I know, I've seen these mountains turn to blessings in disguise.

 

No, I've never moved a mountain, for my faith is far too small.  Yet, I thank you, Lord of Heaven, you have always heard my call.  And as long as there are mountains in my life, I'll have no fear, for the mountain-moving Jesus is my strength and always near."

 

No, maybe you haven't moved a mountain - but, does that mean that you couldn't?  Several times, the Lord rebuked his disciples for their little faith.  Maybe we, like the disciples, need to seek more opportunities to develop our faith.  Maybe your faith can grow if you only allow it the opportunity to go to work! 

So I ask you, Pray with me that God will increase our faith and help us put that faith into action.
 
 

“CHURCH COST = DYING”

     Considering the plight of our world today, we are all rather hesitant to predict what is going to happen.  We also are rather puzzled as to what can be done.  With our present economic crunch, we all tend to tighten our belts a little more.  But, where does the church fit into this picture and squeeze?  I came across two rather interesting stories in this regard from Greg Harper and Woodrow Gleeson. 

     Mr. Harper said, "Last Sunday another golfer sank the last putt on the 18th green and received a check for $50,000 for four rounds of golf, plus an automobile for himself and one for his wife.  This week the papers reported that a certain popular singer will receive $100,000 per week for her current singing engagement.  Americans spend annually more on dog food than on church contributions.  It is not unusual for the individual to pay more for his country club membership than he gives to the church.  Is church costing too much?

     Let me share an experience with you.  On June 2, 1940, a little girl was born to us.  She cost us money from the moment she was born.  As she grew from babyhood to girlhood, she cost us even more. . .her dresses and shoes were more expensive and we had to have the doctor through all those childhood diseases.  She was even more expensive during her school and teen years.  She needed long dresses to go to parties.  When she went to college, we discovered, along with other parents, that all college expenses are not listed in the catalogue.  Then after graduation she fell in love and married.  She was married in a church wedding and that, too, cost a lot of money.

     Then, five months after her marriage, she suddenly sickened and within a week she was dead.  She has not cost us a penny since that day we walked away from her grave.

     As long as the church is alive she will cost money, and the more alive a church is, the more money she will cost.  Only a dead church, like a dead child, is no longer expensive!"

     His comments are, of course, right on the mark!  But what is it that we should give?

     Mr. Gleeson said, “There is a story about two young brothers and their dad.  The family had a traffic accident in which the younger brother Mike needed a blood transfusion.  Mike's big brother who was only eight years old had the same blood type as his younger brother.

     The dad sat down and carefully tried to explain to the brother how this blood transfusion was needed and how wonderful it would be for his little brother.  After some silence he responded by saying, "Yes, Daddy, I'll give my blood to Mike so he will get well."

     After giving a pint of blood and much to the shock of his father, the boy said with tears in his eyes, "When did I die Daddy?"

     In amazement, the father realized that in his feeble attempt to explain the giving of blood his son had misunderstood.  The older brother thought he would die as soon as the transfusion was over.  He thought he had given all of his blood!  What brotherly love.  This young man was willing to lay down his life for his younger brother.

     The Apostle John said it this way, "By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us.  And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren"(1 John 3:16).  The Apostle Peter said, "Finally, all of you, be of one mind having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous (1 Peter 3:8).  What a great lesson for all of us."  Do we now realize that the cost of any church as Jesus experienced it is dying for it, giving our all?

     What are we at Calvary willing to give?  Our children, our grandchildren and our neighbors may not be dying or in need of a blood transfusion, but where are they?  What are we willing to DO or to GIVE to make sure that they come to or return to our church?  Are we just going to be satisfied with our comfortable worship that satisfies our personal needs or are we going to realize the needs of those whom God has placed in our families and at our doorstep?  Either we pay the cost or we pay the consequences for we each will answer to God for our choice.

 

“DAKOTAS CONFERENCE 2011 REPORT” 

Over 500 people attended the opening banquet and award ceremony of the Dakotas Annual Conference of the United Methodist.  Ernie Edwards of Watertown, SD served as the master of ceremonies for the evening.  Guests were greeted at the door and from the podium by Tim Oviatt of the Watertown Chamber of Commerce.  The Archives and History committee celebrated 150 years of Methodism throughout the Dakotas.  Rev. Ingram Graham ventured throughout the Dakotas beginning in 1861. 

L. Donald Veghlan was honored for fifty years of service as a clergy member of the Dakotas Annual Conference.

 

Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey officially opened the 2011 Annual Conference Session of the Dakotas Annual Conference at the end of the Awards Banquet on Wednesday, June 8, 2011.  Mark Ellingson, Dakotas Conference Secretary reviewed the rules and procedures for balloting.  Clergy and laity met in separate sessions to begin electing delegates to the 2012 General Conference and North Central Jurisdictional Conference.

 

The opening worship of the Dakotas Conference Annual Session generated enthusiasm to REKINDLE THE FLAME.  The worship praise band inspired attendees. Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey's message challenged all to reflect on where the Holy Spirit is leading each of us. "We will not grow meaningfully until we follow the Holy Spirit with passion." 

Statistics demonstrate the decline in membership and attendance for churches throughout the Dakotas, throughout the Methodist denomination, as well as other denominations in the United States.  Dr. Lovett Weems of the Lewis Center for Leadership provided a refreshing look at how churches may REKINDLE on Thursday, June 10:

 

HIS Five questions for congregations to ask

Dr. Weems challenged Annual Conference attendees to examine their churches through the lenses of these five questions:

1) Who are we?

2) What is our mission? 

3) Who are the people?

4) Who are our neighbors and what are their needs?

5) Given our identity and context, what is God's vision for the near future?

 

THEN HE SAID

Only babies like to be changed

 

Once a vision has been identified, what are the steps to move forward?  Lovett Weems challenged the audience to be change agents, "We cannot become what we need to be by remaining where we are."  Lovett suggested four steps to activating change.  First, help define reality.  Step two, reframe specific interests in light of the whole.  Step three, seek continuity and change.  Step four, advance the plot of your congregation's story.

Thursday, June 9, 2011 closed with a memorial service and ice cream social held at Watertown First UMC.  Thirteen Dakotas Conference clergy or clergy spouses who passed were remembered.  Bishop Kiesey read the scripture message.  The Watertown First Bell Choir performed.  The sermon was delivered by  Rev. Dave Knecht . 

Dakotas Conference Vision is Adopted

Ray Baker, Chair of the Common Table presented the work of the Dakotas Conference Table to the members of the Annual Conference Session.  The session members approved the Vision Statement proposed by the Common Table: 

 

Vision of the Dakotas Conference

We will increase average worship attendance by 1.  Our top priority is to undergird the local church to:

«            Equip lay people to make disciples and transform the world,

«            Reach more people, younger people, and more diverse people,

«            Develop strong children and youth ministries,

«            Support and strengthen families,

«           Make a difference in our communities, locally and globally, through acts of mission and mercy.

 

Delegates to General Conference 2012 were elected on Friday, June 10, 2011.  The lay delegate to General Conference 2012 will be Janelle Jones, Dakotas Conference Lay Leader, Spearfish UMC.  The alternate lay delegate will be Jodi Cataldo, Dakotas Conference Director of Leadership Development.  The clergy delegate will be Rev. Rebecca Trefz, Celebration UMC, Brandon, S.D.  The alternate clergy delegate will be Rev. Greg Kroger, Dakotas Conference Bishop's Assistant and Director of Connectional Ministries.  They will also serve as delegates to the North Central Jurisdictional (NCJ) Conference in July 2012.  Mathew Bader, Valley City UMC, and Angelica Laudermith, Vermillion UMC were elected as alternate lay delegates to the North Central Jurisdiction Conference.  Rev. Rich Zech, Fargo First UMC, Rev. Jenny Hallenbeck, Evergreen UMC, Wahpeton, N.D. and Rev. Doug Diehl, Rapid City First UMC will serve as alternate delegates to NCJ Conference.

 

Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey presided over the 2011 Dakotas Conference Ordination Service. Bob Duemig, Cheryl Fadley and Chang Hyuck Yi were ordained as full elders.  Rev. Neil Blair and Rev. Elmo Herman orders were recognized and welcomed into full member of the Dakotas Conference.  Rev. Herman is also a former North American Baptist Pastor. 

Ten retiring clergy were recognized as part of the morning session at Annual Conference on June 10, 2011 in Watertown, SD.  The retirees honored were Rev. Darrell Aleson, Rev. Gail Arnold, Re. Dar Berkenpas, Rev. Chet Cataldo, Rev. Jim Cissell, Rev. John Jarman, Rev. Deb Mack, Rev. Morris Nelson, Rev. Gary Rae, and Rev. Donald Watt.

 

The approved budget for 2012 is $6,035,970 in Apportionments and $1,260,000 in HealthFlex Direct Bills for a total of $7,295,970. This is a decrease of $97,426 from 2011 or 1.3%.  The 2012 budget designates a 62% Increase in Budget for Equipping the Local Church Link. Thirty percent of the increase is a budget transfer of church revitalization funds from the Connectional Ministries Link. Much of the rest of the increase is the Equipping Link attempting to address key areas that affect church health.  Jeff Pospisil, Dakotas Conference Treasurer notes, "If the ministry and health of our churches is the top priority, we must have a budget that is affordable for the churches and aligned with the mission and vision of the Dakotas Conference."

 

A total of $23,648.67 was collected at the 2011 Dakotas Annual Conference.  The Japan Emergency will receive $2,285.43.  Dakotas Disaster Relief will be the recipient of $10,529.82.  UMCOR Domestic Relief funds will be replenished $8,587.42 thanks to the Dakotas Conference.   In addition, the offering at the Ordination Service of $2,246 will be equally divided between the Pensions of the Central Conference of the United Methodist Church and the Dakotas Seminary Debt Reduction.

 

The following churches have now closed: Bethany UMC, Rural; Forbes, ND; Seneca, SD; Tripp, SD.  The following churches have officially suspended services: Gulph, Brothersfield & Wishek.

                                                                                                                                                                 - parts taken from daily updates

 
 

“A Clean Family In A Dirty World”

Christian parents are trying to raise their children right.  They have certain beliefs about what they think is important and they try to share time, but sometimes it seems they are fighting a losing battle.  How does one teach honesty to children who live in a world where even the government is deceitful?

How does a parent raise a clean family in a dirty world like this?  It is not easy.  But perhaps the best advice comes from the Apostle Paul in Romans twelve where it says,: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your minds…”  or as another translation puts it: “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its own mould.”

That is what the world does and some of us may even be praying, “Oh, Lord, I am grateful I am just like others.”  But, if that is our attitude we will have a difficult time raising Christian children.

So what do we do?  Do we build walls high enough to keep the evil out?  NO!  Walls are a negative approach that only emphasize what we are against and does not teach a youngster to stand alone with God.  We can not escape everything like the Monastic Movement.  We can not use a scissors on every magazine or newspaper that comes into the home.  The main trouble with that approach is that eventually they are going to be off to college or work and they will not be prepared to cope.  To get clear out of the world even the Apostle Paul admitted is unrealistic.

A much better approach is to build on what we are for and thus help our young people to stand alone for God like the young people in the scriptures.  We must lift up the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in our OWN lives.  We raise a clean family today by being CLEAN OURSELVES and by letting them see clearly by our actions where our values are and how Jesus Christ is the molder of our lives.

That means, of course, that we have to do our part.  But what exactly is it that we must do?  Let me just give a few pointers:

First, really love your children.  It means talking to them, touching and caring for them and giving regular praise.

Second, parents need to allow children to fail.  At times the only thing that can help them to learn – is failing.  Don’t be afraid to let them fail. Take the wise counsel of someone who said, “It’s those who never lose who will struggle with the ups and downs of life later on.”

Third, share your adult relationships with your children.  Admittedly, it is easier to hire a babysitter and reserve the “adult” relationships for ourselves.  But, children learn most when they watch adults.

Fourth, we need to set standards of good and evil – principles based on scriptural advice for discerning evil from good that will prepare them to make their own choices.  Provide them with the standards and allow them to put them into practice.

Finally, we need to learn to release our children.  Someone once said, “The best provision we can make for our children is to give them a nest and wings to leave it.”  Yes, we covet a Godly stand for our children but it won’t happen unless we work at it.  The best that we can do for our children is get them off on a good start and then trust in the kindly Providence of God to give them a safe landing.  Even if they do fall momentarily, we can claim the promise of Psalm 37:24, “When he falls, he shall not be hurled headlong because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.”

May the Lord bless you as you try to raise a clean family in a dirty world.
 
 

"ONLY PRETENDING"

In "Our Daily Bread" is this great devotional by Martin R. DeHann II:  Have you heard the story about a driver who put a note under the windshield wiper of a parked car?  The note read: "I have just smashed into your car.  The people who saw the accident are watching me.  They think I'm writing down my name and address. I'm not." 

This story reminds me of another bit of devious pretense.  In Jeremiah chapter three, the people of Judah were described as willing to call God their Father and friend while still doing all the evil they could.     

"Have you not just now called to Me, 'My Father, Thou art the friend of my youth?  'Will He be angry forever? Will He be indignant to the end?' Behold, you have spoken And have done evil things, And you have had your way."  Then the LORD said to me in the days of Josiah the king, "Have you seen what faithless Israel did? She went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and she was a harlot there.  And I thought, 'After she has done all these things, she will return to Me'; but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it.  And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also.  And it came about because of the lightness of her harlotry, that she polluted the land and committed adultery with stones and trees.  "And yet in spite of all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to Me with all her heart, but rather in deception," declares the LORD. (Jer 3:4-10 NASB)

 

The same thing was true in the New Testament as well.  There the scribes and Pharisees were pretending to be so holy and righteous, while at the same time stealing houses.  The passage says,  

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows' houses, even while for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you shall receive greater condemnation." (Mat 23:14 NASB)

 

Putting on a false front is a very old practice, and naturally it hasn't gone out of fashion.  We see it all around us every day.  What it amounts to in the Christian realm is a problem of our failure to respond from the heart to the Lord, who has made Himself so real and so knowable in Jesus Christ.  It seems so easy to say,  

"Yes, yes, He is our Lord and Savior.  He has died for our sins and deserves our worship and service."

 

But do we remember our commitment to Him when no one is around to observe how we live?

We may say the right things about God when it's in our best interest to do so.  But what about our heart relationship with the Lord?  Can we come before Him without shame?  Looking good in the eyes of others is not enough.  We must look good in the eyes of God, who sees far more than ordinary man is able to see.  We may fool a lot of people but, God knows when we are only pretending. 

 

"EASTER DECISIONS"

Easter confronts us all with decisions that we alone can and must make. Easter Sunday is coming, but perhaps you still have not made a decision concerning Jesus. As writer Albert Simpson wrote: "What will you do with Jesus? Neutral you cannot be...."  

 

Oh, but we try to be neutral don't we? Former President Ronald Reagan says he learned the need for decision-making early in life. An aunt had taken him to a cobbler to have a pair of shoes made for him. The shoemaker asked young Ronald Reagan, "Do you want a square toe or a round toe?"

 

Reagan hemmed and hawed. So the cobbler said, "Come back in a day or two and let me know what you want."

 

A few days later the shoemaker saw Reagan on the street and asked what he had decided about the shoes. "I still have not made up my mind," the boy answered. "Very well," said the cobbler.

 

When Reagan received the shoes, he was shocked to see that one shoe had a square toe and the other a round toe.

 

"Looking at those shoes every day taught me a lesson," said Reagan, years later. "If you do not make your own decisions, somebody else will make them for you!" 

 

Hadden Robinson has said, "The sovereign God has made us people, not puppets. We have His Word to guide us, His love to redeem us, and His assurance to make us capable to make choice choices.

 

Yes, we can choose to accept Jesus' offer of salvation but that is a choice we have to make for ourselves. To not make that choice means that the Sovereign God (like the cobbler) will make the unpleasant but necessary choice. The words keep coming back - "What will you do with Jesus? Neutral you cannot be; Some day your heart will be asking, 'What will He do with me?'"

 

It is like an old Indian chief who constantly spoke of the Lord Jesus and what He meant to him. "Why do you talk so much about Jesus?" asked a friend. The old chief did not reply, but slowly, deliberately gathered some sticks and bits of grass. He made a circle of them. In the circle he placed a caterpillar. Still silent, he struck a match and lit the sticks and grass. They watched the caterpillar. As the fire caught around the circle, the trapped caterpillar began to crawl around rapidly, seeking a way to escape. 

 

As the fire advanced, the helpless caterpillar raised its head as high as it could. If the creature could have spoken, it would have said, "My help can come only from above."

 

Then the old chief stooped down. He extended his finger to the caterpillar which crawled up his finger to safety. "That," said the chief glowing, was what the Lord Jesus did for me! I was lost in sin. My condition was hopeless. I was trapped. Then the Lord Jesus stooped down in love and mercy and He drew me out of the horrible pit of sin and shame. How can I help but love Him and talk of His wondrous love and care?"

If you have made the choice of accepting Jesus offer of salvation - then you too know that in your time of trouble - His finger will be extended to rescue you as well.
 
 

"CHILDLIKE"

       “Let the children come to me.  Don’t stop them!  For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.  I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” (Mark 10:14-15)  Oh, that all of us would be childlike in our faith so that we might receive the Kingdom of God.

       But what does that kind of childlike faith look like?  As an unnamed source once said, “It is different than being childish.  Childish is associated with simple, selfish, immature, demanding, whining, tantrums and such.”  Unfortunately we all know adults whose faith looks like that.

       However, as the unnamed source continued, “Childlike faith is a faith that believes easily, is open to mystery, fascinated by the unknown, receptive to differences, joyous and sometimes even playful!  Childlike faith sees the good in others, embraces new thoughts, entertains new ideas easily.”  Oh, that this was the kind of faith that we all possess.

       It is a faith that we at Calvary need to cultivate wherever we see it.  In my visitation, I have found that many of those in middle age with children who have left the church have left because there is very little here for their children.  We have at times failed in nurturing the childlike faith that embraces new thoughts, new ideas and fun activities that go along with the technology of our age in which these children live.  We have to do better or more will continue to leave.

       Since the hiring of a ministry coordinator seems a ways down the road, we need to proceed in the near future with ministries that speak to the obvious needs, but to do so we will have to proceed with volunteers.  I presently envision three programs happening this fall, one for children and two for Junior High and High school.

       One ministry to Junior High beginning with the school year this fall will be Confirmation Class to be held mostly during Sunday school which I will of course teach.  A volunteer has come forward to lead another ministry to High school and possibly Junior High students on Wednesday evenings, you will find out more about this program in the future.  But, at the moment, I wish to concentrate on our children and a program I would like to start for them on Wednesdays for which I will need a number of volunteers.  The program is AWANA.  Awana is a worldwide children’s ministry serving more than 100 Denominations.

       Awana helps churches and parents work together to develop spiritually strong children who faithfully follow Jesus Christ.  The program offers a proven approach for evangelizing and discipling kids in the church and community.  Among alumni who participated in the programs for at least six years, 92.7 percent still attend church at least weekly as adults!  Each of the children’s clubs has a unique meeting format tailored to the needs of the age group.  In general Awana meetings are 90 minutes long ministering to Cubbies: preschool , Sparks: kindergarten through second grade  and Truth & Training: third through sixth grade.  Meetings generally feature segments for games or other fun activities, small-group Bible learning and large-group Bible teaching, worship, announcements and awards.

       This year’s church budget already includes the money needed to begin this program.  We just need volunteers to lead various parts of the program as well as listeners who will help children with their scripture memory.  All volunteers will need some training and so therefore we need to get started with recruitment and eventual training so that we are ready to being when the fall school term begins.  Please speak to me (Pastor) if you are at all interested and find out what kind of positions and opportunities for ministry there will be.  Thank you for considering your part and praying for the children of our church.

 
 

"PROJECTION"

     The subject of video projection in the sanctuary of Calvary United Methodist Church is something that goes back about 3 years.  When I came to Calvary in July, along with many other ‘in progress’ items on my desk, was a bid for purchasing and installing this equipment to enhance the worship experience of worshippers.  I assumed it was a work well in progress.  We discussed it at our fall administrative council meeting and I was told to go ahead and get an updated bid from a local company that we could count on for installation etc.  It was, therefore, also an item that was discussed at the annual Charge Conference in early December, thus letting the congregation know further that this was in the works.  I therefore went ahead and got a bid on equipment and installation; the bid was presented to the trustees for review.  With the trustees approval, the bid was then presented to the administrative council in January for final approval.  It was at this last juncture that objections were raised that the congregation did not know about this and needed to have input. 

     At this recent administrative council meeting, I was asked to put together an article for this newsletter explaining the project and asking for a response which the administrative council would be able to review at their next meeting.  That is the purpose of this article.  However, since that meeting, I figured that an article like this was not really adequate in presenting the project so I decided to do what I have done previously and that was to show the congregation what we had in mind and how doing so could enhance our worship experience.  That is what I have been doing the last few Sundays but of course only projecting on one wall with equipment that we already possess as a church (which has been used many times in the past) along with my own personal laptop computer.

     As a congregation needing to appeal to a younger technology-oriented generation so that we do not die on the vine, this is but one means of showing that we are concerned about the youth of our community and including them in our worship experience.  When I first started this in another church, I thought that it would be the younger generation that would be most pleased with the addition, but I was most gratified to learn that it was the senior citizens of the congregation that truly enjoyed it the most.  Those who had difficulty seeing the words of the songs in the hymnal or on the song sheets were now able to see and participate in worship.  Those who could no longer follow along in the Bible were able to see the scriptures and follow as they were read.  The color and pictures related to the words on the screen also added a visual addition to the worship experience.  Those who had difficulty reading or following along with the message notes now could see them and fill in the answers for further study and meditation during the week.  That of course meant better comprehension of the message being given from God’s Word because as Edgar Dale says, “We remember 10% of what we read, 20% of what we hear, 30% of what we see and 50% of what we see and hear.”  We do absorb information better by using multiple senses as we are learning.  Therefore, we have to make our presentations visual, verbal and auditory.  Obviously, that is going to eventually mean greater spiritual growth as we remember more and put more into practice.

     Projection also meant better singing was happening in the congregation as they praised the Lord, because as any choir director knows, you get a much better sound when you get people looking up instead of singing into the songbook or piece of paper.  We could now present video and DVD clips from the conference or other organizations to the whole congregation to keep everyone informed.  We even used it in a previous church for Bible studies in which a DVD was a part of the lesson and with a complete system in place the sound of these DVD’s etc is much clearer because you have a direct connection to the sound system.  It cut down on the time needed for announcements during the service as these were all being projected prior to the service beginning while the prelude music was being played.  Plus, these rolling announcements, as you have noticed, usually include items that we have normally never put in the bulletin.

     As you can see from the last few Sundays, the format and essence of the worship service has not changed at all.  The semi-traditional service that you had in place before I arrived has not changed one bit.  The projection just enhances the experience.  I said at the beginning of the first service of showing this projection that I was sorry that there were not going to be more traditional hymns during this time.  In sharing the sermon series at present there are only so many hymns in one hymnal and all of the songs through April have been selected since before Christmas.

     Who will run the system once it is in place?  As you can see, my wife, Cynthia, is fully capable of doing it and did it a majority of the time in our previous church.  But, as in that church, we will also teach junior high and high school young people to run it as they will catch on in no time at all.  It will provide an opportunity for them to share their technological gifts with the congregation and with the Lord and help to make them feel a part of the experience at Calvary.  I don’t think anyone ever said “no” to running the system in our previous church. 

     I have already after just two week, heard some great comments, like:

Ø      Are you going to keep putting your sermons on the wall?  I hope so.  I have a hard time hearing the messages and that was just great on Sunday because I could see the message and write in the answers on the sheet and take it home and read it through and really get something out of it.”

Ø      “I really didn’t think I would like the projection but that was O.K.

Ø      “If we continue to do the projection we can cut down on some paper and save a few trees.”

Ø      “When I hold the baby or other children I can not hold a hymnal or sheet as well, but now I can sing because it is right there for me.”

Ø      “The pictures are just wonderful.” 

 

     What is the negative?  Some might say the money, but we are not going to ask for any money.  We already have all the money.  Some might say, distraction, but we live in a world of distraction that all of us have to overcome every Sunday because distractions are all around us.  The only true negative that I have known in my years of doing it, is that it takes some time to prepare each week, but once most of the hymnal is in the computer the time needed gets less. 

     So the administrative council wants you, the congregation, to respond in writing to the church office with your thoughts.  I have real reservations about doing that because in my experience, people with positive comments usually do not take the time to express them and, therefore, all we may receive are the negative comments which will not give the true story, so please, we are asking everyone to respond.

 

"This Year’s Commitment"

What is our commitment to the tasks of the Lord Jesus Christ in this year of 2011? 

When an emergency medical technician arrives at the scene of an accident, he knows he may have only a few minutes to save a victim's life.  He will waste none of those minutes in combing the patient's hair, brushing his clothes, or checking for marks of identification.  He will move as swiftly he can to the most critical wound and treat it with all of his skill.

Something similar is demanded of the minister in the pulpit.  He has 20 to 30 minutes to bring life to someone within his hearing, or in which to let him remain spiritually dead.

But, what about those outside of the pulpit?  Is their commitment as urgent to the task?  There is a brother in Christ in Nigeria who is badly deformed; his legs are withered.  Unable to walk or afford transportation, he crawls to the worship assemblies!  In order to bring his Bible, he either balances it on his head or pushes it on the ground in front of him!  Here is a man who knows the value of commitment to the Lord.  When the saints assemble he is there!

Or how about the young man who had been accepted for the African mission field and reported to New York for his passage, but found on further examination that his wife could not stand the climate?  He was heartbroken, but he prayerfully returned to his home and determined to make all the money he could to be used in spreading the Kingdom of God around the world.  His father, a dentist, had started to make, on the side, an unfermented wine for the communion service.  The young man took the business over and developed it until it assumed vast proportions.  His name was Welch, whose family manufactured grape juice.  He has given literally hundreds of thousands of dollars to the work of missions.

Think of ways which you can serve God in 2011 despite your human frailties.  God wants our willing hearts!