Wednesday, February 14, 2018

What a Difference Love Makes

Have you ever wondered what a life without love would be like? Are you curious as to what the world would be like without the power of love?

To be honest, I’ve never given either of those questions much thought. You could say that I merely take love for granted.

Really, I don’t want to imagine a life without love or a world without the love of God. Such curious daydreaming would be too dark and depressing.

Tina Turner sang, “What’s love got to do, got to do with it?!” Biblically, we can attest that love is more than a second-hand emotion and its absence is about more than a broken heart.

John, the son of Zebedee, was divinely inspired when he wrote: “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Knowing how he started out, it is incredible grace that enabled John to grasp the love of God. He and his brother James were nicknamed the Sons of Thunder, by Jesus. Apparently, the Lord saw their inner rage and appropriately called them out.

However, students of the Bible recognize that this Son of Thunder became the Apostle of Love. How could such a transformation take place for John?
It is only because He had a personal relationship with God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus became John’s first love, and that love began to permeate his whole life.

This doesn’t mean that John never got mad or that he never made an unpopular decision. In fact, because of his first love, John developed the ability to sternly deal with problematic people in the Early Church.

Loving God and loving others was, in fact, the way of life for John, the Beloved. He would go so far as to describe himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 19:26). And the word love (or loved) appears about 80 times in John’s New Testament writings.

One of my favorite passages that John wrote is found in 1 John 4:7-11.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

Without the love of God that John experienced, I imagine that he would have become a bitter old man and died a miserable death. But oh what a difference love makes!

Such amazing love makes me want to sing and shout. But since this is a writing blog and not a listening podcast, I’ll share some beautiful lyrics for your eyes to feast upon.

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;

The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.


Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song.
Could we with ink the ocean fill,

And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;

Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

John’s writings throughout Scripture clearly teach that our behavior is the most significant indicator of what we truly believe.

Having a first-love relationship with God made a miraculous difference for John.

Christian, it’s time for you to walk in the love of God that you profess. In deed, let Jesus be Lord of your life and make loving others your priority today.

Are you in a first-love relationship with God Almighty through His Son, Jesus Christ? Have you been miraculously changed by His love?

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Birthday reflections 2018

Today I celebrated my 63rd birthday!  Over the past few weeks I have struggled with points of depression and I cling to the Lord and trust God for our future. Sharron and I are once again in transition in ministry. My faith is strong and I am in the WORD every day. Each night I go to bed with a clean heart and clear mind focused on the goodness of God.

Here are some of my favorite reflections from today:

                                                       With my grandchildren!   

(Cammie on my lap, Breeley to my right, Jordan behind her, Jayden to my right (my oldest grand daughter) and Alyse ( my first born grand daughter) behind her.)

Singing "Happy Birthday" to me as I viewed the banana pudding for dessert.  

The inside of the homemade card from Alyse. 
This brought my first tears on my birthday morning. 

I am Blessed! 

Monday, February 5, 2018

Building the Body - a chat

In this WIF Chat Gary McIntosh and Phil Stevenson talk about their new book Building the Body and what your church can do to get healthy and fit for the new year. I enjoyed this webinar and I encourage you to prepare your favorite comfort hot drink and plan to sit for about an hour for this very informing conversation. You will be glad you did!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Sitting in God's Waiting Room

On Sunday January 28th the Covenant Members of First Wesleyan Church in Gastonia, NC conducted the pastoral vote for the renewal of call for Pastor Rick Hudgens. (I thought it would be easier to say it this way.)  Here is the print of the front page of the February Newsletter of the church:

Dear First Wesleyan Family,

After last Sunday's (January 28) pastoral vote, I met with Pastor Rick and the local board of administration to discuss and set up a transition plan. As a result of those discussions, Pastor Rick has agreed to complete his service as Pastor of the church effective immediately. Pastor Todd Reynolds, our Assistant District Superintendent, will serve as Supply Pastor through Easter Sunday.  The local board of administration is working to cover the various areas of need and it is our prayer that the coming days will be a time of healing for all. I encourage you to increase the amount of time you spend in prayer for the church and also your service to and support of the church.

The focus of the coming weeks will be for healing and strengthening of the church. At a future point, a search will commence for the next Pastor and at that time the congregation will be kept informed of the progress by regular updates.
                                                                                                 Rev. Jerry Lumston
                                                                                                 District Superintendent

Sharron and I have been in prayer and seeking Godly advise as we sought God's direction and perfect will for our lives.  The vote was compelling and clearly God has released my call to pastor the church. We now sit in God's Waiting Room once again in our ministry life. Transitions are often difficult, but our faith is strong and we are in God's WORD each day drawing comfort from Him.   

Several people have come along side us encouraging us to rest in the Lord. That is what we are doing. 

 "A righteous man may have troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all."                                                                                                                 Psalms 34:19a

We thank you for your prayers. 

Saturday, January 27, 2018

How to Prepare for a Pastoral Vote (Laypeople)

The early church drew straws. Some churches cast ballots. Others call the bishop. And a few have even resorted to fisticuffs in an effort to settle on a new pastor. Every church has a way of appointing pastors and periodically reviewing its relationship with them.

Many churches vote on their pastors periodically, and that can be an anxious time for both the pastor and the people.

I’ve experienced pastoral voting from the pastor’s side, yet I remember hearing from a close friend about the anxiety that accompanied a particular vote at his church. There was a deep rift between the leadership team and the pastor that he seemed unaware of. When a negative vote signaled the end of the pastor’s service, my friend had the unwelcome task of delivering the news. “He was in shock,” my friend reported. “None of us could believe that he hadn’t seen this coming.”

Thankfully, that happens only a small minority of the time. Most pastoral votes are positive. Even so, they are a valuable occasion for the congregation to review the status of its relationship with the leader.

Pastors have their own set of questions for reflection when preparing for a vote. Here are important things for members of the congregation to consider.

1. Do I have a clear sense God’s direction for the future leadership of our church?

Have I prayed diligently about this? Do I feel confident of God’s leading in the matter? If not, what can I do to gain clarity?

2. What personal biases may shape my opinion?

Do I have either a close personal relationship with or ill feelings toward the pastor that may hinder my objectivity? If so, what can I do to gain clarity?

3. How effectively has our church carried out its mission in recent years? 

To what degree has the pastor been responsible for that success or failure? To what degree is the congregation responsible? In what ways am I responsible?

4. Have we adequately communicated both affirmations and concerns?

In what ways has the congregation communicated with the pastor? Have I personally communicated both affirmations and concerns where appropriate? Are there any issues that should be addressed prior to the pastoral vote?

5. What is the status of the pastor’s relationship with our church?

Is there a good working relationship between the pastor and people? Are there latent issues that need to be resolved? If so, what action will I take to resolve them? Is our pastor fairly compensated? Does the pastor’s family benefit from being part of this congregation?

6. Am I prepared to accept the results of this process as an indication of God’s will?

If not, what accounts for my hesitation? From whom could I seek counsel on the matter?

What is the most important factor in voting on a pastor?