Bismarck Calvary United Methodist
Monday, December 22, 2014
A United Methodist Congregation
THE SERMON GUIDE
The sermons for December 2014 will be:
December 7, 2014 - "The Forgotten Tree of Christmas" Romans 8 & 1 Peter 2
December 14, 2014 - "Family Righteousness Rewarded" Luke 1 & John 3 Sunday School Christmas Program during the 10:30am service
December 21, 2014 - "Christmas Presence Presents" Matthew 5
December 24, 2014 - "Gifts of the Manger" Christmas Eve Candlelight service
December 28, 2014 - "Parents of King" Luke 1
January 4, 2015 - "The Lord of Life"
"Tis the Season to Consider"
Advent has officially begun and it is the season to stop and consider our lives for a moment. Terrence D. McLean has penned the following analysis that I feel is worth our consideration.
"While it is true that no one knows precisely when the Lord Jesus Christ was born, conventional wisdom has chosen this season of the year to tell the story of the birth of God in the flesh. In fact, Bible scholars agree that Jesus' birth was more likely in late September, and that the Lord wanted His death remembered rather than His birth, but conventional wisdom has seldom been influenced by the facts.
And so this is a season that has a deep and profound tradition attached to it. Just a moment's reflection brings to mind warm memories of years past, families gathered together in love and devotion, though often those family relationships have long since been destroyed.
More money is spent at retail stores in December than at any other time of the year and yet this is the season when we are reminded that the best things in life are free.
Why do we say the best things in life are free, and then run up our credit cards to the max to show our love? Why do we say the Lord is the heart of the holiday, but celebrate with spirits that come out of bottles instead of the Holy Spirit? Why do we say spiritual things are important and live as if the only priority in our existence is sensual pleasure?
December is party month, when people profess to be honoring the birth of the Savior with drunkenness and hedonistic pleasure. Lord Byron was proud of the fact that he satisfied every desire of the flesh, but at the end of his life he wrote "The worm, the canker and the grief are mine alone." When railroad millionaire Matthias William Baldwin died in December, 1869, he said on his deathbed, "I suppose that I am the most miserable devil on earth."
This would seem to be a good season to think about life and to consider what is of real and lasting value. It would seem to be a good season to consider our inconsistencies and sort out our priorities.
The purpose of the birth of the Lord was to provide a sinless sacrifice that would be brutally murdered thirty three years later to "suffer for sins, the just for the unjust that He might bring us to God."
Now would seem to be a convenient season to consider these matters. The best things in life are free and the greatest gift ever given in any season is described in the Bible as God's unspeakable gift. That, of course, was not the birth of the Messiah but His death and His resurrection - His payment for sin for those who trust His finished work on the cross.
This then, is a season to consider the future. Eternity lies ahead of each of us and only one heartbeat separates us from the grave. Will it be joy and eternal life or sorrow and torment?
The baby in the manger speaks of God's love and his provision, a very important truth indeed. The grown man on the cross speaks to God's judgment of sin and his payment for it. This would be a good season to get the whole message together.
When that happens the credit cards, blue-light specials, booze and parties of celebration will be seen for what they are: poor excuses for real spirituality and Bible faith."
Won't you please stop and consider the real meaning of Christmas this year?
In Psalms 103:2, we read, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits." Now, why in the world would the Psalmist need to give such a reminder to God's people? How could anyone forget God's benefits and not be thankful for all we have received? Let me give you some answers to these questions in an editorial by S.S. Lapin, from November 25, 1911.
The benefits received by the children of God are not usually those they would have chosen. Have you ever seen a child sit down to a table full of good food and try to eat the dessert first? If he had his choice, he would probably do just that. Did you ever see the same child get upset and rebel when he is made to eat the meat and vegetables first? The child has a wonderful spread of benefits before him, but because he does not get what he chooses, he forgets the benefits and remembers only the frustration.
We are so bound to the physical that we choose the things that give momentary sensation rather than the substantial things that build character and faith. We are forgetful of God's benefits, no doubt, because we did not get what we wanted.
Sometimes the benefits are sent in disguise. God does not do everything with a splash and fanfare. Often His blessings are in packages with rough wrappings. We must learn to look beneath the surface of things and discover God at work.
Often His benefits are more spiritual than material. We tend to be more impressed with money in the bank than with peace in the heart. God offers eternal benefits while we, like Esau, settle for temporary pottage (Genesis 25:29-34). God offers great prospect while we demand here and now.
It is the infant mind that must have countable, "feelable" benefits here and now. It is the immature Christian who fails to look deep enough to see his "benefits." The mature Christian looks beyond the surface. He is able to even look at his difficulties and see God at work. He takes his vegetables first and says, "Thanks, I needed that."
Are you one of those people who is being held in the grips of a habit that you wish you could get rid of? Or maybe, you’re someone who is contemplating doing something that could wind up being a habit that you will one day regret ever having started.
In either case, let me relate a little story first seen in Bulletin Digest, that may help you in making a decision and spur you on to kick the habit before it does you in.
"A lark, singing in the high branches of a tree, saw a traveler walking through the forest carrying a mysterious little black box. The lark flew down onto the traveler's shoulder.
'What do you have in the little black box?'
'Worms,' the traveler replied.
'Are they for sale?'
'Yes, and very cheap, too. The price is only one feather.'
The lark thought for a moment. 'I must have a million feathers, most of them quite small. Surely, I will never miss one of them. Here is an opportunity to get a good dinner for no work at all.' So he told the man that he would buy one.
He searched under his wing for a tiny, tiny feather. He winced a bit as he pulled it out but the size and quality of the worm made him quickly forget the pain. High up in the tree he began to sing as beautifully as before.
The next day he saw the same man and once again he exchanged a feather for a worm. What a wonderful way to get a dinner, and no effort at all.
I will skip the next day, and the next, and the next — I am sure you are way ahead of me. In any event, he lost a feather each day and each loss seemed to hurt less and less. To begin with, he had a lot of feathers but as the days passed, he found it more difficult to fly. Finally, after the loss of one of his primary feathers, he could no longer reach the top of the tree let alone fly into the sky.
Indeed, he could no more than flutter a few feet in the air and was forced to seek his food with the quarrelsome, bickering sparrows. The man with the worms came no more for there were no feathers to pay for worms. The lark no longer sang because he was so very ashamed of his fallen state.
This is how unworthy habits possess us. First, painfully, then more easily, until at last we find ourselves stripped of that which lets us soar and sing."
"A Weighty Prayer"
Christians so many times struggle with the practicality of their faith. Some things are easily put into practice, while others require considerably more thought and effort.
Prayer may fall into either of these categories depending on our own individual growth and maturity.
I like Wayne Nix's thoughts on the subject of prayer. "Working as a maintenance man in a nursing home required carrying different keys to doors, locks, cabinets, and etc., especially keys to doors where cleaning chemicals were kept. In my collection of keys was one key called the "master key”. This key would unlock many different doors and I was the only one trusted to carry this master key.
It dawned on me one day that prayer is the "Master key" and children of the King are the only ones trusted to use it. There are so many doors to be opened by prayer. All the way from a child praying for a broken doll to a mate prayer for a broken marriage. Each day there are millions of doors that must be opened to allow the rich blessings of God to flow to His people. And the only way these doors are opened is by using the Master (or should I say Master's) key, which is prayer.
Jesus stated; "I am the door". Prayer will take us through this door. He also stated; "Behold, I stand at the door and knock" (Revelations 3:20). Prayer will take us into the presence of Jesus and bring Jesus into our lives.
How exciting it is to use the Master's key to the treasures of heaven!"
I wonder if we truly realize though just how exciting it really can be to pray and open the store house of God's treasure. Have you ever considered how much a prayer weighs?
There is a story from the Old Union Reminder about a store owner who tried to weigh one. "A tired-looking woman came into the store and asked for enough food to make a dinner for her children. The grocer asked her how much she could spend. The frail woman answered, "I have nothing to offer but a little prayer."
The storekeeper was not very sentimental nor religious, so he said, half-mockingly, "Write it on paper, and I'll weigh it."
So she did. The grocer placed the prayer on the weight side of his old-fashioned scales. Then he began piling food on the other side; but to his amazement, the scale would not go down. He finally became flustered and gave the woman a large bag of food.
The grocer never saw the woman again, but he treasures the slip of paper upon which the woman's prayer had been written - "Please, Lord, give us this day our daily bread."
Just how much do our prayers weigh? How much of heaven's storehouse do they open?
Prayer Partners – We need more of our church family committed to prayer before our Sunday services; just come to the Prayer Room on Sunday before church. With Sunday school starting on September 7th, be on the lookout for possible changes in the location of the Prayer room – either in a small classroom or the Sanctuary.
MORE PASTOR's MUSING
Did you consider the church membership responsibilities and expectations from Adam Hamilton’s book, “Leading Beyond the Walls” that I shared last month? Let me refresh your memory:
“1) Attend worship every weekend unless you are sick or out of town (members who travel out of town are encouraged to attend services in the location they are visiting).
2) Participate in at least one activity each year aimed at helping you grow in your faith apart from worship attendance (Sunday school, Bible study, retreats or other short-term classes we offer).
3) Give your time in Christian service at least once each year through the ministry of the church.
4) Give financially in proportion to your income with the goal of tithing.”
In this book Adam asked another very important question, “To Whom Does Our Church Belong”? He says that until we get the answer right we will always struggle as a church.
It may surprise you to learn that the church does not belong to the bishop, the denomination, the pastor, the church staff, the lay leadership or even the trustees. The church does not even belong to the church members. In fact, Adam says the church belongs to Jesus Christ – He is it’s owner.
Since Jesus is the owner we need to do things that Jesus wants us to do and that obviously is “seek out and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). In order for us to know what that means for us as a church means that we must seek out Christ in prayer, in fact, everything we do as a church must be surrounded by prayer in order that we may be fulfilling God’s will for us as a church. If every member of our church followed through with prayer, we would have a church with strong vital signs. Are we not only ready to be the member that God wants us to be but also have a passion to do what Jesus wants us to do?
How often do we recognize God at work? It should be an everyday occurrence, but many times it probably is not. It happens in every day affairs.
Some men were once repairing high-tension lines after a storm. The new poles they were using were "green" and thus able to conduct electricity.
While working in the rain, they hoisted such a support where it could be dropped into the hole dug for it. Trying to be helpful, one man thoughtlessly seized the end in order to guide it.
Suddenly one of the workers made a run for him and knocked him sprawling. He arose from the sloppy street - muddy and ready for a fight. But his attacker pointed aloft to where the damp wooden shaft had contacted the power line carrying 33,000 volts of electricity.
Said the rescued man, "Had my friend not taken such quick action I would have been a goner. Yes, Slim saved my life, but he had to knock me over to do it."
So too, the Lord often has to strike down sinners, as He did Saul, to get them to listen to His voice. Has God been working in your life, even having to go to the point of some rough treatment in order to get your attention?
Of course, God also works through other people to accomplish the necessary in our lives.
There is an old Sufi story about a blind man and a crippled man who stumbled into each other in a forest.
They were both lost, and they struck up a conversation sharing their sad stories.
The blind man said, "I cannot see to find my way out."
The crippled man nodded and responded, "I cannot get up to walk out."
As they sat there sadly talking, the crippled man cried out, "I've got it! You hoist me up onto your shoulders and I will tell you where to walk." Together, they found their way out of the forest.
"The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I don't need you!' And the head cannot say to the feet, 'I don't need you!'.... If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. You are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it" (I Corinthians 12:26-27).
All of us are like the two men in the forest. We need help from time to time. The pressures of the world, the discouragements of life, and the sin that entangles get us down. We struggle to find out way back to the light - back to the right way. We need help! That's why God gives us a church family. Each of us has a gift to share to build up the body of Christ. Each of us can offer an encouraging work to a discouraged or struggling member. Each of us can live our faith as a witness to the world. I can't do it myself. You can't do it by yourself. But, together, we can make a difference!
The Lord still needs your gifts! Yes, there are things that need to be done here at Calvary.
We have all of the following positions immediately available for anyone to carry out ministry for the Lord here at Calvary United Methodist Church:
Ø Church Offering Counters - Call the office.
Ø Prayer Partners – Just come to the Prayer Room on Sunday before church.
Ø Christian Education Coordinator & Assistant Christian Education Coordinator & Teachers for 3 year-olds to 5th grade. Without these there will be no Sunday school for children. Please contact the church office.
Ø AWANA leaders and listeners are needed. Please contact the church office, Pastor or Beckie Dronen, our Commander.
Ø Worship Leaders and Worship Team Members to help out in the services.
Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list of what we need to make an impact for our Lord in our community through our church. Is the Lord calling you?
The Dakotas Conference this year sparked a lot of thought like, do I want to lead a dying congregation or a vital and growing congregation? Well, of course, the latter but that means things are going to have to change because anything growing changes constantly. To stay the same is to die a slow death.
With this in mind, I have been reading our main speaker’s book, “Leading Beyond the Walls”. It has some very interesting concepts. I would like to share a couple.
For one thing, to grow as a church he says that we need to pay close attention to the little things. A visitor begins to form impressions of us before they even get out of the car as they view the appearance of our church, the grounds, the signs and even the availability of visitor parking close to the entrance. Cheerful and caring greeters and ushers are also a vital necessity to make sure visitors are welcomed and know where to go as they enter the building. Is everything clearly marked? The narthex needs to be appealing and have a special information station (even better if it is manned). The entry should be appealing and bathrooms neat and clean. Above all, are paint, carpet and walls in good condition and is everything well lit and cheerful?
Second, I find his ideas on church membership intriguing. He says that church membership comes with responsibilities and expectations. He says the first expectation is that once someone becomes a member they are no longer allowed to park near the church or in visitor parking, but leave those spaces for visitors. He says that like marriage, membership is a sign of commitment. What does that mean? It means fulfilling the membership vows we take as Methodists “to support the church with our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness”. That means that as a member of the church we make the following commitment:
THE LORD IS CALLING YOU!
The Lord is in need of your gifts! As a Christian you have been gifted by the Lord with certain gifts and he is calling you forth to use those for His Kingdom, your church (Calvary United Methodist Church) and to assist your pastor (Rev. Perry Schnabel). Yes, there are things that need to be done here at Calvary, but please, I do not want to hear – “The Pastor should do………” I cannot do much more unless you want me to risk burn out, and besides, whatever I do that you could do stunts your own personal growth as a Christian for you are to be growing toward maturity. Also – being too young or too old is not a disqualification – just see the many examples in scripture.
In fact, is there a need that the Lord has made you aware of…then, why are you not doing it? Find someone else who sees that need as well and go do it, you do not need my permission to perform ministry, unless it is going to take finances – and even then just ask.
We have all of the following positions immediately available for anyone to carry out ministry for the Lord here at Calvary United Methodist Church:
Ø Church Offering Counters to count and deposit church offerings following the Sunday morning services. We could use two to four individuals to fill these positions. Call the office or contact Lorette Hoopman, Finance Chairperson.
Ø Prayer Partners Leader- We are in absolute need of prayer partners for our church who will gather for prayer for ten or fifteen minutes prior to either or both services on Sunday mornings, and of course, we need a leader who is willing to be there and just give a little direction to the ministry. Contact the church office or Pastor.
Ø Christian Education Coordinator & Assistant Christian Education Coordinator (honorariums available) who will give direction to our Youth Sunday School program, Children’s Activities Time, Youth Christmas Program and Daily Vacation Bible School. These positions are available beginning in late July. Please contact the church office or Pastor.
Ø Sunday School Teachers for our youth (3-year-olds to 5th grade). These positions are available beginning with the new school year but we need to know immediately if this is something you would like to do. I will even accept some upper high school age young people for these positions. Contact the church office or Pastor.
Ø AWANA leaders and listeners are needed for next fall. It is not too early to let us know of your interest in helping out in this terrific ministry to our youth (3-year-olds to 6th grade). We have a number of youth not presently a part of Calvary United Methodist Church that come and it is a great opportunity to share your life with young people. We need a few leaders and we also can use just listeners who will listen to the children say their memory verses. High school students are also welcome to share in this ministry. Please contact the church office, Pastor or Beckie Dronen, our Commander.
Ø Adult Sunday School – is there someone interested in getting another Adult Sunday School class together that might concentrate on a specific subject, topic or book of the Bible? Let me know – we will see what we can accomplish.
Ø Worship Leaders and Worship Team Members: Is the Lord calling you to help in our worship? This could include previous confirmation students or adults willing to take part in certain portions of our services. We could also use additional Worship Team members to assist in leading the congregation in song. Contact Pastor or the church office.
Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list of what we need to make an impact for our Lord in our community through our church, but it is what comes immediately to my mind. Is the Lord calling you?
"CALL - Please"
In light of recent changes at Sanford Health and the need for everyone to let me or the church office know if you are hospitalized there, I came across the following article:
This may make me sound like I’m either complaining or not good at my job. Neither is the case, though the latter can be debated. The truth is, I’m not a mind reader. Now I bet some of my colleagues have such a Bat-phone line connection with God that with one look at your face, they know your niece's goldfish died. I don’t have such an in with God. I wish I did.
It may be that I’m just not as holy as some of the pastors you see on television who can tell you what God’s will is for your life (for a nominal fee). I have to rely on a different source. You. Now I understand you might think I should know all the things that are happening with you. I really do want to. Most of my fellow pastors would agree. We love to know the things that are going on in your life. We want to hear all about it. But there’s a good chance that we won’t know if you never tell us.
I’m a lot duller than I’m given credit for. I’d be one of the disciples Jesus would look at incredulously and ask, “Are you so dull?” Because you see, I’m a bit slow. Dense even. I definitely live up to the title associated with my moniker: I’m a dreamer. Now this has its upside—it makes me optimistic. It helps me come up with great ideas. But it also has a terrible downside in that it keeps me inside my own head. When you add my severe introvertedness on top of that — I just need help. From you.
If you don’t tell me that your closest third cousin who lives on the other side of the country passed away, there’s a chance that I won’t know until it works its way through the grapevine of the church. Or if you’re in the hospital for a minor procedure and didn’t tell a soul, and you’re upset with me for not checking up on you, it’s probably because I just didn’t know. I know this sounds like an excuse (it is) but there are other people in the church that, God bless their soul, need me for something. You may be thinking, “Why does my pastor spend so much time with them and not much with me?” Well, there’s a small chance it’s because I don’t like you. (I know, I know. Horrible. But pastors are people too, and like all people, we’re broken.) But the more likely answer is that it’s because the other folks are probably letting me know when they need to see me.
Contrary to popular belief, there’s a lot a pastor needs to do throughout the week. We can’t always go through the directory to call folks one by one to see how they’re doing. We’d like to be able to do this, but things sometimes happen that take us away from the desk. Like the bathroom flooding. Again.
You’re not bothering me if you’re at the hospital and want a visit. Call me. Don’t think you’re being a burden if you’re struggling and need to talk. Call. I want to have conversations about your faith, God, and your life’s journey. Believe me, I would rather do that than answer emails from the District Superintendent.Sharing life is one of the best things about ministry, and something I feel honored and privileged to do. But sometimes, I need your help to let me know what’s going on in your life. Don’t give me too much credit and assume that I know everything. I don’t. So let me know. I’ll be grateful that you called to share what’s going on. And I’ll definitely make my way to visit you soon. (Article by Joseph Yoo, a Ministry Matters contributor and pastor of St. Mark United Methodist Church in Santa Barbara, CA.)
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.
"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.