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A PRAYER FOR AMERICA

Prayer for americal

 

Our Prayer for America

by Natalie Barletta

 

Dear Heavenly Father,

We humble our hearts in Your presence and ask that you turn Your ear to our desperate cries.  We acknowledge that regardless of the chaos surrounding us here in this temporary home, You are in control and Your plan will prevail.  We cast all our cares upon You, for You care for us.  Oh Father, do not withdraw Your hand from Your sinful people.  We pray that You draw this nation close to You; turn our wandering hearts toward You.  Pour out Your spirit on the people of our great nation; overwhelm us with You.   Fill each follower of Christ with an outpouring of Your Holy Spirit like we have never experienced before.  We ask that Your mighty hand of guidance, protection, wisdom and love rest upon each of us as we journey through this bleak and weary world.  God, please soften the hardened hearts of Your people; break our hearts with the things that break Yours.  We ask You to shine Your brilliant light in even the darkest of places.  Cleanse our nation with Your precious innocent blood—cleanse us from every seed of hate, every droplet of bitterness, and every shadow of darkness.  Replace our weaknesses and infidelities with Your hope and Your love.

We ask You to strip the shades of hate from our eyes; awaken our hearts so that we are no longer numb to the death and destruction of this world.  Revive in each of Your people, a strong conviction for the value of each precious human life—born or unborn, regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion—we are all precious in Your sight.  In Jesus name, we cast out every evil from our hearts and claim victory in Your name over the evil that seeks to kill, steal and destroy us individually and as a nation.

God, seal the borders of this nation as only You can.  Protect us from those who seek to enter for evil purposes. In Jesus name, we claim victory over the evil that seeks to penetrate our great nation’s security.

Raise up a generation of leaders who earnestly seek You and who will not be motivated by the sound of thunderous applause or tossed about on the waves of political opportunity, but will be guided by Your Spirit and Your Word and sustained by Your hand resting upon them.

Instill in us and in our leaders Your vision for this great nation.  Let us love one another as you have commanded. Let us carry each other’s burdens and support and encourage one another, rather than diminish the fragile humanity that exists within us all.

God we pray for the leaders of our country our state and our city. God, bless them with a God-vision, a heavenly wisdom, and a mindset on the things that truly matter.  We pray that America would be a beacon of Your light to the rest of the world.  Lord please protect Christians around the world as they serve You and seek to share You with those who are so desperately lost.  Give them courage and protect them from harm.  We pray that Your peace and love spread ten thousand times faster than the flames of hate consuming humanity all around the world at this very hour.  We ask for Your peace; Lord grant us Your peace.

We ask for your protection over the children of this nation.  Turn their hearts toward You; protect them from those who would seek to do them harm. Give us wisdom to raise them to be followers of Christ who race toward you and never look back.

God we pray that every Christian will wake up and put on the armor of God. Armed with that, and Your great love, and the power of the Holy Spirit, we will march forward and take this nation back for You. We pray that we will not compromise who we are and that people will see Your love and come to know Your greatness through us. It is time. We feel Your call, God.  I pray each of us answers with, “I am ready, choose me to accomplish Your purpose.” Make us fierce warriors for You, God. Ignite in each American citizen an unrelenting love for this country, a passion to protect and fight for this great nation and to return it to Your values. Regardless of who appears to be in control temporarily in this world, we know that You are control and You have vested us with Your power to do Your great works here. With the faith of a mustard seed, we can move mountains; we ask for faith even greater than that. Strengthen our resolve.

We pray for our soldiers at home and abroad, and for the police officers and first responders who put their lives on tPeacehe line to protect us in our schools, cities, and our daily lives. We ask that your hand of guidance and protection surround them day and night. We pray that you would grant Your wisdom and discernment to our leaders, soldiers, and officers and all those with whom they interact. Give us all hearts to hear and the willingness to listen.  Let us go forth with Your love overflowing from our every word, thought, and deed.  In Jesus name, we claim this generation and this country for You. Lord strike down the hands of evil as they rise against us.  We believe.  We trust. We know.  Let us walk with the confidence of children of the King as we boldly follow You.

In Jesus’ precious, holy name, we ask all these things, Amen.

 

July 18th, 2016|Comments Off on A PRAYER FOR AMERICA|

CAN WE EVER AGREE TO DISAGREE……?

c298130b9db5c430699f32ff353db95aI’ve discovered that blogging is not something that comes easy for me.  Thinking about things to blog about seems to be my biggest hurtle.  That’s because I think blogs are meant to reflect ones sincerest thoughts/beliefs about whatever topic is on the table.  But I’ve discovered over the past few years that sharing ones sincere views about issues can get you in trouble.  And that’s because too many of us seem to have lost the ability – or the desire – to agree to disagree on certain subjects.  If my views don’t align with yours, then one of us must be wrong, right?  Not necessarily.  The fact is, there are often two (maybe more) sides to a great majority of the divisive issues of our day.  What are some of those issues: immigration reform, same-sex marriage, equal rights for those in the GLBT community, abortion rights, capital punishment, fair & equal distribution of wealth, affordable health care, separation of church & state, gun rights, higher minimum wage, how to combat terrorism – and I’m sure there are more.

 

These are important issues – issues that continue to be debated in the halls of congress, in the halls of state & city councils, in the halls of our local churches, in the hallways of our own homes.  They are also issues that basically divide our nation – right from left, Republican from Democrat, conservative from liberal.  Unfortunately the tone of some of these hallway debates often go beyond simple disagreements.  Sometimes, they are down-right unGodly, unChrist-like.  For some, your stand on these subjects can determine whether or not you’re a child of God or a child of Satan.  And that’s not right, as far as I’m concerned.  These are issues upon which we need to learn how to agree to disagree.  Why is that so hard for some to do?  I really don’t know.

 

But this I do know.  As a local pastor, if I shared my true thoughts about some (maybe all) of these issues, there are folks in my church who would begin to question my Christian faith.  And I guess that’s the most irritating part of this whole conversation.  For it’s my conviction that regardless of what you think about these subjects, you’re still right with God – you can continue to walk in His light.  I guess this is why I find it difficult to be a regular blogger.  I have thoughts and views on all these issues.  My views probably won’t line up with some of yours.  So what?  Again, why can’t we agree to disagree?

 

“Well, Preacher, is there anything we CAN agree on,” some of you may ask.  You bet ‘cha.  We’re called to love God with all that we are; and our neighbor as ourselves.  I believe that God created the universe – everything that is seen and unseen.  God sent his Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.  Jesus died on the Cross and rose again for my sins and for the salvation of all humankind – past, present and future.  Jesus did not come to condemn THE WORLD but to SAVE IT.  There is a life – of some kind – after this life.  And maybe the words of 2 Timothy 3:16, should find full acceptance: “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work” (RSV).  Oh, and the 10 Commandments – shouldn’t be too much to disagree on these timeless laws.cartoon3230

 

Are there other things in the Bible we should all be able to agree on?  Probably so.  But I know there are just as many issues about which we will just have to agree to disagree, but then walk away still respecting – still loving each other, still willing to be friends, and still right with God.  These are beliefs, statements of faith, that I find little room for disagreement among my Christian brothers & sisters.  There are a few, but not many.  I appreciate so what our founding father, John Wesley, had to say about controversies in the Church: “Except for the basics, we think and let think.” In other words, we can agree to disagree.  You think we can do that?   I hope so.

 

Your friend in Christ,

Bob

October 5th, 2015|1 Comment|

Texas Open Carry Law?

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Texas Open Carry Handgun Law

I wonder how many of you have been as concerned as me at the current trend among a majority of our state politicians and, apparently, a vast number of the citizens of the great state of Texas, over the right to carry handguns – out in the open, into public places, in our schools and colleges.  This article was in the Houston Chronicle this morning (3/17/15):

AUSTIN – The state Senate on Monday gave preliminary approval to a bill that would allow Texans to openly carry holstered handguns with a license, after shooting down nearly 20 amendments that sought to restrict the legislation.  Senate Bill 17, sponsored by Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, would undo Texas’ 125-year old ban on the open carry of handguns, but this only would be permitted if the gun owner passed a background check and obtained a license like that needed to carry concealed weapons. The Senate is slated to give the bill final approval Tuesday. It’s already legal in Texas to publicly tote long arms like AR-15s and AK-47s without a license.

I’ve now been sitting here nearly 15 minutes trying to find the words to describe what I’m thinking – what I’m feeling inside.  And this from a guy who has enjoyed over the years going out in the woods shooting his guns (the few I have), sitting in a deer stand hunting and freezing to death.  I can’t help but wonder how much trouble those state politicians had 125 years ago when they banned the open carry of handguns.  What a riot that must have started!  I wonder what caused them to pass such a law.

How comforting it will be to know that in the near future, when I see a young man in Kroger approaching me, packing a Glock 39 handgun, my first thought will be that well, at least he’s passed a background check and obtained a concealed handgun license. I wonder if at that same moment I’ll be wishing I had one of my own – but bigger than his, of course.

I’m sorry folks, especially for you who can’t wait to start carrying your handgun slung low on your waist, w/ the holster string tied tight around your thigh, but I’m having a real hard time coming to grips with all this.  Like you, I see on the news how handguns are used almost every night to hold up convenient stores, car-jackings, home break-ins.  But will it be a safer place when we all (or a lot of us) are armed and ready to shoot it out in that convenient store, that parking lot, our homes.  Maybe; maybe not. Personally, I don’t think so.

I know, some of you are thinking that I’m just another one of those left-wing, bleeding liberals, who think that only guns kill people, and so we should get rid of them all.  Well, you’re wrong, but I really don’t care what you think when it comes to carrying guns.  It’s people with guns in their hands that kill people.  How good it is to know that in the very near future, the number of people with guns – concealed or right there I the open, might double, triple, maybe even quadruple.  Wow!  Imagine how safe our convenience stores, our parking lots, our homes will be then.

By the way, while I haven’t read all the words in this open carry gun law, I hope those who favor it will at least insist on our churches being gun-free.  If not, then I might have to insist that our ushers be trained on how to frisk folks and confiscate handguns before they let people into worship.  Or, maybe it would be safe if at least one person on every pew was packing heat.  Would that make you feel safer?  I wonder what Jesus would say?  That’s how I see it.  What about you.

Your servant in Christ,

Bob

March 19th, 2015|Comments Off on Texas Open Carry Law?|

WHY LENT?

lent-wordcloud_2Someone asked me a few weeks ago what the Season of Lent is all about and why it is that we Methodist (and others) celebrate it.  Wanting to give her a really good response I did some research and here’s what I found. Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo Saxon word lencten, which means “spring.” The forty days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry…..Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection. In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism. Today, Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves for others….Sundays in Lent are not counted in the forty days because each Sunday represents a “mini-Easter” and the reverent spirit of Lent is tempered with joyful anticipation of the Resurrection. (United Methodist Book of Worship)

So, why do we “do Lent?” Well, contrary to popular belief, there’s no reference to Lent or a Lenten observation in Holy Scriptures. But as the comments above indicate, there is the story of our Lord’s temptation in the desert which lasted 40 days. As one of my resources stated: During his (Jesus’) time there [in the wilderness] he was tempted by Satan and found clarity and strength to resist temptation. Afterwards, he was ready to begin his ministry. [So if] Jesus needed some time with God to sort through the major changes happening in his life….if he needed to get away from family, friends and the familiar routine in order to see God (and himself) more clearly, …[or] if he needed some intentional time with God as he searched for direction and answers….it stands to reason that you and I might, and probably, could benefit greatly from our own “wilderness experience.” Maybe that’s a big part of what Lent is all about.

As I see it, Lent is a time – a tenth or so of a calendar year – when we take a close, hard look at ourselves and ask, “Am I pleased with what I see? Have I been the person God would have me be? Have I been faithful to the promise I made when I joined the UMC to ‘faithfully participate in its ministries by [my[ prayers, [my] presence, [my] gifts, [my] service, and [my] witness.’ In all my thoughts, words and deeds over this past year, have I shown that I love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength? And do I truly care as much for my neighbor as I do myself?

Friends, if you can say “YES” to all these kinds of questions, then maybe a Lenten observation is a waste of your time. But if, like me, you can’t be so affirmative, then I would suggest that taking these 40 days of Lent seriously might be the best thing you could do to keep yourself safely on the path that our Lord would have you walk each and every day. So how does one observe Lent? Here’s a few suggestions:

Attend an Ash Wednesday service (by the time you read this Ash Wednesday may have come & gone. RHUMC will celebrate Ash Wed. on Feb. 18, 7:00 pm, in the Historic Sanctuary).

Begin a regular routine of Bible study. The Upper Room Daily Devotional Guide and Alive Now can help guide you in a systematic reading of Scripture. Each day they provide a Bible passages and wonderfully thought-provoking and spirit-enriching material to read and think about.

God to God every day in prayer.  In the busyness of our everyday lives, prayer can sometimes get squeezed out.  Lent is a wonderful time to intentionally work toward finding more time in your life for prayer.  Study up on the different ways one can pray.  Or, just sit down and have a conversation with God and tell God what you’re thinking.

Find somewhere to serve.  Be it in your church, in the community, in a public school, as a mentor –  find some way to put your skills to use for the glory of God.  Throughout the 40 days of Lent adopt a new habit of volunteering in the community, making special financial gifts to service organizations, singing in the choir, or participating in a small group.

Finally, find time to rest – observe if you can the spiritual discipline of Sabbath rest.  That time of rest doesn’t have to be on Saturday or even Sunday.  Just find moments during an ordinary day to be still in God’s presence.   Listen to a sermon on tape, read a poem that feeds your spirit, sit at your desk a few moments each day thinking about all that you’re truly grateful for.

thEF0VMTL5Okay, I’ve gone on way too long.  If you’re still reading, thanks.  Maybe you don’t need a Lenten time to take inventory of your life.  But then again, maybe you do.  Pray about it.  These are my thoughts; what are yours?

BOB

February 17th, 2015|Comments Off on WHY LENT?|

The Golden Rule?

golden-ruleLike most of you, I was appalled at the actions of a couple of Muslim extremists who several weeks ago walked into the offices of that very satirical publication/cartoonist, Charlie Hebdo, in Paris, France, and killed several innocent office workers. Personally, I’ve never seen – as far as I know – any of the cartoons this magazine produced. From what I’ve read & heard, I don’t think I’m interested in viewing what they portray. But I believe very much in the freedom of expression – even when that expression strikes at the very heart of that which I hold most dear.

I read an editorial in the Houston Chronicle today (by Paul Horvitz, Houston) who was sharing his views on a musical that opened recently in the area, which he described as “a scatological satire of Mormon history and religious beliefs.He went on to say, “The content, like the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, is clearly offensive to a believer. Nevertheless, there have been no attempts to stop its performance in Houston, or to murder its authors or actors…..My view of Mormons was not affected one way or the other by the show (the intent of which was clearly humorous), but I was impressed with the intelligence and the restraint displayed by the Mormon Church in its reaction to the show.

Mr. Horvitz said that his attitude toward the Muslim faith (and Muslims in general) was not affected by the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, which he believes were meant to be clearly humorous. But he added, “… ones view of Islam cannot help but be affected by the reaction to their publication.” I couldn’t agree with him more.

Like most of you, I think, the actions of these insane, radical Muslim terrorists is an abomination to human dignity. Words cannot even begin to express my revulsion of such behavior. I’m also disappointed that we have not heard more outcries of condemnation from the more moderate Muslim community. But I do not believe for a moment that terrorist like those in Paris (and others around this world) represent the beliefs of the vast majority of God-fearing Muslims. In many ways their beliefs are different from ours. And yet Christians, Jews, and Muslims can trace the beginnings of their faith back to the very same, giant Biblical figure of Abraham. In that sense, we are very much brothers and sisters.

I also cannot condone the extreme, very cruel and ugly satire that Charlie Hebdo displays in their cartoons. I don’t appreciate their “humor” at all. And yet, such disrespectful drawings, cartoons, publications, speeches, articles, videos, aimed at groups that are different from one’s own seems to be par for the course these days. The uglier, the raunchier, the more degrading, the better it seems to be – at least in the eyes of many. We see a lot of these attitudes even in American politics today. I used to think that in this God-fearing land the Golden Rule was one of our guiding principles. But now days it seems that the more you can degrade your political adversary, the more votes you can generate. The idea of “treating others as you would have them treat you,” seems to have gone by the wayside for a large majority of our citizens.

As a stumbling but always trying follower of Jesus, I refuse to walk that path, and I wish more people in this land would do the same, whether they’re Christians or not. Personally, I have serious doubts about a “card-carrying” Christian who seems to have forgotten the Golden Rule. I’d prefer that those who disagree with me on the issues (like politics, theology, social issues) would find a way to respect my views, as I try to respect theirs. But trust me, I won’t go dig out my hand gun from my closet and shoot someone who doesn’t. As the old saying goes, “Sticks & stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.” Sometimes words can hurt, so be careful what you say. And the next time a person disrespects you, just consider the source.

Those are my thoughts; what are yours……………….

Bob

February 4th, 2015|Comments Off on The Golden Rule?|

13 THINGS RABBIS, PRIESTS & MINISTERS WON’T TELL YOU

a-priest-a-minister-and-rabbiI read this article in the Readers’ Digest the other day and decided it pretty much reflects some of my own experiences/sentiments after 30+ years of ministry.  Some of you may have read it as well. To you I apologize – but it just seemed appropriate for this month’s blog.  Read and enjoy.  My comments to each of the articles statements are in red.

I am just a regular person.  I get angry when someone cuts me off in traffic.  I [had] kids [who didn’t always follow my instructions].  And yes, I argue with my spouse.
When I was a new minister, a seasoned minister came into my office.  She said, “How’s your day going?”  I said, “I am so frustrated.  I have the newsletter to work on, my sermon to write, and all these other things to do – but people keep calling with all these interruptions.”  She said, “The interruptions are your ministry.  The rest is just paperwork.”[She’s absolutely right!]
A lot of us have trouble saying no to other people’s needs.  As a result, we work too hard, rarely take vacations or any time off, and can burn out really fast.  Several health studies have found that we suffer from higher rates of obesity, hypertension, and arthritis than the average population does. [Wow!  That explains a lot.]
My most embarrassing moment?  I was ill with a high fever during a wedding, got confused, and started to give a funeral homily.  Thankfully, they were very forgiving! [My most embarrassing moment:  As I began to address a couple getting married, I called them BOTH by the wrong name.  The bride leaned forward and said, “My name isn’t Beth, it’s Angela.”]
When I was in seminary, I thought I would have all these profound things to say to someone whose spouse had left him or her or whose child had died.  But I’ve learned that what people really want is for you to say, “Oh, that’s terrible.  I’m so sorry.”  And then sit there and listen.  [One fear I had that kept me from considering the ministry for a long time centered around conducting a funeral service for a little baby.  I honestly didn’t think I could do that.  I did once – and it was one of the hardest services I ever conducted.  Most folks do just want you to listen.]

 
I used to preach for the kids during a children’s sermon and save the heavier stuff for the parents.  But then I realized that if a 7-year-old doesn’t understand my sermon, neither does his dad.  I don’t know if that’s bad news for the dad or good news for the 7-yr-old.  [I often get more comments about my children’s sermons than the “adult” one. Not sure what that means.]
Am I always 100 percent sure that God exists? No.  Every minister I know has a faith life that ebbs and flows.  Sometimes we feel really close to God, and sometimes we don’t but even when God feels distant and abstract, we’re still leading worship. [I have never doubted God’s existence, but MY faith life does ebb & flow.  I wander from God’s path – but God doesn’t.  God is always near, always holding my hand.  Thanks, be to God.]

 
I’m not always on the clock.  If you come to my house for a Super Bowl party, I don’t want to tell your kids Torah stories at halftime.  [I have delivered a devotion to some church members during the Super Bowl half-time.  Might do it again sometime.]
If I’m in a smaller congregation, I may wear 15 different hats.  On any given day, I may order toilet paper, visit someone in the hospital, and plan for the Sunday service.  Last week, I dressed up as Moses for Bible school.  I thought to myself, This is a random job.  [Been there, done that, got the T-shirt]
The sexual-abuse scandals have caused such a mistrust of the priesthood.  In response, some priests don’t touch anyone at all.  I’ve taken the opposite approach.  I am always touching people – a light pat on the shoulder, a squeeze of the hand – so if anyone ever accuses me, I’ll have hundreds of people who can say that’s how I am with everyone. [I guess you can’t be too careful.]
A lot of us find weddings stressful because everyone wants to be in charge – the bride, the groom – and we’re the ones in the middle of it all.  Funerals, on the other hand, are easy because the guest of honor doesn’t ask for much. [My experience has been just the opposite.  I find funerals a bit more stressful.  Brides & grooms CAN be difficult, but it’s usually the brides’ mothers that give me the hardest time.]
Since I’ve become a rabbi, I’ve realized that the moment of truth for many people is after they have passed away and I’m interviewing survivors about their life.  It reminds me of how important it is to live your life thinking about what people will say about you after you pass away.  [It’s the same for ministers.  Those “interviews” can be revealing.]
Here’s a pet peeve: people who tell me not to be preachy.  Isn’t that why you hired me?  We’ll always be respectful, but we may say things that make you uncomfortable. [I was “appointed” to preach, not to be preachy.  But, I hope I say things once in a while that make you uncomfortable.  If I don’t, then shame on me!! ]
(This article, from the December Readers’ Digest, was compiled by Michelle Crouch)

Your servant in Christ,

     Bob

January 20th, 2015|Comments Off on 13 THINGS RABBIS, PRIESTS & MINISTERS WON’T TELL YOU|

The Sacrament of Baptism

United Methodist SacramentsOXYGEN VOLUME 13

I think most Methodist know that we United Methodist recognize only 2 sacraments – the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion.  It seems to me I need to make a few comments about both of these.  If I can only comment on one in this blog, then I’ll comment on the other next time.  For now, here are my thoughts pertaining to the Sacrament of Baptism.  If you don’t care to know my thoughts, then you probably don’t need to waste your time reading this.

We Methodist practice 3 forms of Baptism:  sprinkling, pouring and immersion.  Sprinkling is our most common method, but this pastor has performed the others more than once or twice over the past 30 years.  We recognize all of these forms of Baptism.  If a person came to me (and they have) and asked to be immersed, I’d find a place to do it.  I’ve immersed people in Baptist church baptisteries, and one time I dunked a man in a pool – in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, of course.  It matters not to us United Methodist.  The amount of water used is not what’s important.  At least, that’s what we believe.

We Methodist also practice both adult baptism and the baptism of infants and little children, who are too young to know or understand what their baptism is all about.  The reason we’re willing to baptize babies and small children is because we firmly believe that what happens in the Sacrament of Baptism is all about what God is doing, and not so much what the one being baptized is doing (or thinking).  Of course, we strongly recommend that parents who have their babies baptized that when their child gets older (usually around 12 or 13), they need to make their own personal confession.  In the Methodist church we call this process, confirmation. When they confess their sins and profess their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, then we believe he/she receives the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

So, some have asked, why do we baptize babies and little children?  Good question.  And I will confess that over the years it’s not an easy question with easily understood answers.  But here’s why: (1) there is ample evidence in the Bible that little children were baptized, (2) it is a long, practiced tradition of the Church, and (3) it represents, in my opinion, the greatest example of God’s amazing grace – accepting that child as His child, no matter what.  Obviously, when that child grows up, he/she might totally reject God’s love and grace – and that’s his/her choice.  But he/she is still a child of God.  And our loving heavenly Father will wait patiently for that child to return to the fold some day.  Maybe he/she will; maybe he/she won’t.  But God will never stop loving him/her or waiting for that day to come.

Others ask, “Why do churches (at least most churches) practice the Sacrament of Baptism?”  It has to do with the definition of the word, sacrament.  An act/practice becomes a sacrament or a sacred act when our Lord gives clear instructions for it to be done.  Jesus submitted to the waters of baptism when John the Baptist baptized Him in the Jordan River.  And in the Great Commission Jesus told his disciples: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  If our Lord and Savior tells us to do something, then it becomes in the eyes of the Church a sacred act – one that should be practiced, which is why Holy Communion is a sacrament, because He told His disciples to eat and drink (more on that subject in a later blog).

One more understanding we Methodist have about Baptism.  We believe that once a person has been baptized, he/she does not (some would say, should never) be re-baptized.  Generally, Methodist do not practice re-baptism.  That doesn’t mean that a Methodist pastor would NEVER re-baptize a person – but it is strongly discouraged.  And I think the main reason we discourage re-baptism is simply because we firmly believe God did it right the first time.

baptismSo, someone might ask, “Can you be saved, can you go to heaven, if you’ve never been baptized?”  And I would say, “If you’ve never been baptized by water because you never had the opportunity, you can be saved – you can go to heaven.  But you will need to make your confession before the Lord and profess your faith and devotion to Him.”  Doing so, by the Grace of God, will open the door to the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.  And that baptism IS necessary for salvation and the gift of everlasting life.

I hope I haven’t confused any of you. Books have been written on this subject.  A blog is not a book.  If you have any questions on this subject, feel free to ask me.  My door is always opened.   I’ll share my thoughts about Holy Communion next time.

Until next time, your friend in Christ,

       Bob

November 17th, 2014|Comments Off on The Sacrament of Baptism|

Fundamental Christian Beliefs?

Rose Hill UMC BlogWhat are Fundamental Christian Beliefs?

We’re all aware of how divisive some issues can be within the Christian Church – the world community (abortion, homosexuality, capital punishment, immigration, divorce, Republican vs Democrat, etc.). It seems some would have you think that if you don’t believe their way, you’re not a Christian.  Others would make you believe that if you don’t belong to the ___________ Party (fill in the blank) you’re not a Christian.  This on-going debate got me to thinking about what, if any, beliefs were in fact fundamental to the Christian faith.  In other words, are there some absolutely, fundamentally, bedrock, absolutely-no-questions-asked beliefs that one must have if they are to be in a right and saving relationship with God?

I’ve given this subject a lot of thought. I’ve even toyed with the idea of doing a Bible study on this subject matter, though I’m concerned such a class could generate a lot of strong feelings.  I do think there are a few rock-bottom beliefs that are fundamental to walking in the ways of our Lord.  Are they necessary for salvation?  I think so.  However, I would remind us all of the words of Jesus found in John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have every lasting life.”  Folks, there’s a lot of folks who believe there’s a lot of “stuff” wrapped up in the words “believeth in Him.”  Here’s what I think.

First, one has to believe in God – our Creator, Maker of the world. There’s just no way one can be in a right relationship with God – a necessary relationship for one’s salvation – if you don’t believe in God.  Fundamental.

Second, you have to believe that God came to us in the flesh in the person of Jesus – Jesus of Nazareth. You have to believe that Jesus was God, the Son of God, the manifestation of God, and you have to believe that He came to teach us all about God, and to die for our sins.

Third, you must believe that our Maker and our Savior is alive today in the presence of the Holy Spirit. How the individual Christian conjures up in his/her mind the Spirit’s presence, the Spirit’s influence in their lives, the Spirit’s work – that may be up for discussion.  But I believe you have to believe the Holy Spirit is alive and well – and is the way in which God manifest God’s –Self in our lives today.  “I must go away,” Jesus said, “in order for the Comforter – the Holy Spirit – to come.”

Fourth, I think to be in a right relationship with God you must accept the fact that you are a sinner – we are all sinners.  Even after we have made our profession of faith, we remain sinners.  But we are sinners “saved” by the blood of Jesus.  In other words, we struggle with sin all our lives, but we have in Christ an Advocate who is pleading on our behalf before the judgment seat of God, day-in and day-out.  Therefore, we are never lost in our sins, we are found in our sins.  And we must confess them daily.

When someone asked Jesus one day what was the greatest commandment, He said, “You must love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; and the 2nd is like it, ‘you must love your neighbor as you love yourself.’”   He added, “Upon these two commandments rests all the Law & the Prophets” (that would be the entire Old Testament).  I believe in order to be in a right relationship with God these two commandments must influence every choice, every decision, every thought, every action you make.

Speaking of the Old Testament, I would add to it the words of the New Testament, and then finally say to be in a right relationship with God you must believe that the words of these two Testaments (regardless of the translation you use) contain the information you need to BE in a right relationship with God. There’s a lot of information in our Bibles – a lot of do’s and don’ts – but I’m not convinced that knowing and putting into practice all of it is necessary for one’s salvation.  I’ve never read any words to that affect in my study of Scriptures. I also don’t know too many folks who DO know everything that’s written in their Bibles.  Again, Jesus said, “Love God with everything you’ve got and your neighbor.”

heaven-jesus-father-holy-spiritSo, there you have it. These are what this Christian believes are the absolute, fundamental Christian beliefs.  There are many, many other things that a Christian can believe, and probably should, but only these, in my humble opinion, are necessary for being in a right relationship with God. Now, some of you may be asking, “Why do you keep saying ‘a right relationship with God.’”  Good question.

For this Christian, I think our salvation is directly related to the life-long relationship we have with God. If that relationship is right and true, if I’m working on making it better each and every day, if I’m continuously increasing my knowledge of God and God’s word,  if I try to walk humbly each day with God, if daily I confess my sins and seek with all my heart God’s mercy, if I love God w/ every fabric of my being, and I love my neighbor as I love myself – then in my heart of hearts, I’m in a right relationship with God.  And personally, that’s really all that matters to me.  What God then choses to do with my soul when my days on this earth come to an end (tomorrow or 30 years from now), I’m more than willing to leave it all in God’s strong and mighty hands.  I believe that is what God, through Christ, saved me for – to be in a right relationship with Him, and to continue in the same for eternity.  Lord, give me strength to walk that path all the days of my life.

Your servant in Christ,

   Bob

November 3rd, 2014|Comments Off on Fundamental Christian Beliefs?|

STATE OF THE CHURCH REPORT: ROSE HILL UMC 2014 CHARGE CONFERENCE

Rose Hill UMC Charch Conference 2014RHUMC has experienced another good year. Just as in our personal lives, we find things to cheer about and things we need to work on. The same is true for our church.

“The Numbers” can tell us many things; one of the things I see is a very committed congregation. In giving, pledges have continued to increase as it has for the last four years; honoring those pledges also continues to increase as it has for the last four years as well; and giving, other than actual pledges, equally, continues to increase. Year-over-year, attendance and new members has remained stable with small increases. A challenge for the coming year will be to welcome more new members and increase attendance.

Losing members is a fact of life, but we are still saddened by the loss of loved ones whose time has come to be with our Heavenly Father. And then, as expected in a mobile society, we continue the loss of members as they relocate to other geographic areas. The loss of members for these and any reason has left voids to be filled 

The church continues to shine in so many ways, too many to list in this report, so I risk mentioning only a few to give as an example of the “many”.  The church seeks to minister to those in our congregation, the community and those beyond. To look at a few we draw from our new web site and what it says about ministries for children, youth and missions. Please go to the web site for more information: http://rosehillumc.org

Youth: Beginning in November of 2013 our program is a bit more structured so we can get the most out of our short time together. The program is laid out in this format: Opening Prayer followed by a lunch provided by the congregation for our youth. We then follow lunch with a time for organized fun and fellowship and we end our time together with 20 minutes of praise and worship and of course a closing in prayer.

Children: Rose Hill United Methodist Church has an active and growing children’s ministry program. We understand the importance of giving children an opportunity to grow in their faith and share fellowship opportunities with other children, make new friends, and learn about Christ. We offer fun, age-appropriate opportunities for children of all ages. 

Missions: Our team of 8 led by Pastor Bob left early on Father’s Day headed to Miami, OK to assist in the refurbishing of an old church in the Cherokee Indian Nation that will serve a new congregation of believers after years of sitting idle waiting on the Holy Spirit to give it life once more and all to the glory of the Father!  Keep our mission team in your thoughts and prayers as they share in fellowship and witness to our Native American Brothers and Sisters in Christ

Opportunities for spiritual growth and Christian education are offered through special study groups, Sunday School classes, and other small group settings.

Opportunities for fellowship are sponsored by various groups in events that attract members of the community and church membership alike, examples include the UMW sponsored Salad Luncheon, the Chili Supper, the Craft Fair, the youth sponsored Night at the Manager, and the choir performing at the Depot in Tomball.

Ministering to one another is ever evident, such as the Care Team coordinating members prepared meals for fellow members faced with difficult circumstances. The Care Team responds to anyone with a prayer request by sending the requests to approximately 200 email addresses.

The church has enjoyed numerous blessings this year through the generosity of members and others: beautiful new playground equipment, eye catching signage for the HUB, beatification of the Historical Sanctuary and grounds, continued beautification of the Prayer Garden, new furnishings for the Fellowship Hall, new choir robes, and more.

Being blessed with so many activities, a new position of Events Coordinator, a volunteer position, has been established and filled. Thank you to Terry Necessary for accepting this position. She is well along the way in working with volunteers and staff and setting up the busy calendar of events for the coming year.

In an effort to be good stewards of gifts to the church the Finance Committee has contracted with a firm to analyze and make recommendations for improving the church’s financial internal controls. Those recommendations are anticipated to be presented prior to the end of 2014.

Faced with rapid growth and development in the area, a Long Range Planning Committee was established. The committee’s mission is to think “outside the box” in planning for the near and distant future. The committee has no “powers” to enact change, but is charged with the responsibility of working with existing committees on planning for the future. The committee has recently had a set-back when the chairman resigned and moved from the area. This vacancy will soon be filled and the committee will be back at work.

I will take this opportunity to offer praise and thanksgiving for a most dedicated staff. They are always there to offer leadership and support in every endeavor. Likewise our church is blessed with dedicated and committed members and friends who work to spread God’s word, but without our wonderful staff, the work of the volunteers would not be complete.RoseHillUMC_logo

In closing, as a body has many parts, so our church has many members, committees, groups, and staff, each contributing according to their talents to serve our Lord. We pray that our contributions and our actions will be pleasing in God’s sight.

Respectfully submitted,                                                                                                                                                                                                    ArlieBeckendorf                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Charge Lay Leader

October 21, 2014

 

 

October 22nd, 2014|Comments Off on STATE OF THE CHURCH REPORT: ROSE HILL UMC 2014 CHARGE CONFERENCE|

KAIROS PRISON MINISTRY

We call them Men-in-White. They were the 42 inmates from the Polunsky Prison (near Livingston, TX) whom I met this past weekPrison Ministry Blog during a Kairos Prison Ministry retreat.  We call them Men-in-White (MIW) because – well – that’s what they are.  They wear white shirts & pants, 24/7, 365 days a year.  We volunteers from the outside world were called Men-of-Color (MOC) because we all made double sure we didn’t wear white.  You can’t be too careful in a prison filled with Men-in-White.

My friend Mel Childers invited me to work with him and 26 other men (total of 28) MOC in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with these inmates – most of whom were serving 40 years or more for all kinds of serious crimes. I resisted at first, but finally agreed to join the Kairos Team # 33.  And for 3-1/2 days, we MOC and those MIW shared our faith, sang, prayed, ate meals, worshiped, joked, hugged, and experienced the amazing grace of God.  And my friends, I can tell you that my life will never be the same.

The stated mission of Kairos Prison Ministry International (KPMI) is to share the transforming love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ to impact the hearts and lives of incarcerated men, women, and youth, as well as their families, to become loving and productive citizens of their communities.  KI (Kairos Inside) is a lay–led Christian ministry which conducts a highly-structured program designed for use in male & female medium-to-maximum security correcctional institutions.   KI starts with a 3-1/2 Day event…which allows Participants to witness Christ’s love through the servitude of Christian Kairos volunteers.  During the event Participants are given the opportunity to experience a religious renewal accepting God’s call to a life of Christian witness and service to one another during their stay in the institution, and beyond.  After the Weekend, Participants are encouraged to establish strong Christian communities within their institution to continue their spiritual formation.  The guiding scripture for all KPMI does is Matthew 25:36, “I was in prison and you visited me.” (KPMI Program Manual, 2011 Edition).

My friends, one blog doesn’t offer anywhere near enough printed space to describe to you all that those 3-1/2 days mean to me. We all sat at tables, (7 tables in all) named for Biblical characters.  I sat at the table of Matthew.  At each table there were 6 MIW and 3 MOC.  Of the 6 MIW, 2 were Hispanic, 2 White and 2 African-American.  Over the nearly 33 + hours that I shared my faith and my story, and the MIW shared theirs, I came to a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the central Biblical message which is that God so loves the world.

The MIW we were privileged to witness to are individuals who represent, for the most part, some of the worse of the worse in our prison system. You don’t get sentenced to 40 plus years, to life without parole, unless you have been involved in serious crime.  Kairos volunteers in such set-tings must continuously remind themselves that these guys have made some serious mistakes, and they’re now paying dearly for their crimes.  In spite of that, I found myself drawn very close, spiritually, to these 6 young men (at my table the average age was probably about 25 -30).  For years to come, they will remain in my memories and in my prayers.  I don’t know if any of them will ever leave prison.  But this I do know, they have someone on the outside who is thinking about them, who loves them, and who will daily pray for their wellbeing and their faith journey.

Along with singing praise hymns; listening to talks about forgiveness, making better choices, loving one another; discussing what those talks meant to each of us; praying together; worship-ing together; eating meals together (good food is certainly one drawing card for most of the MIW); crying together; the MOC also distributed over 3600 dozen cookies (most of which were home-made) to every single inmate in the Polunsky Prison.  Friends, nothing was more jarring to me than to see first-hand the small 10×10 foot cells that these men live in (two to a cell).  I’m convinced that if our young teenagers (on the outside) could spend 1 hour walking thru those living areas, experience the stifling heat (there is no A/C in 90% of the areas where inmates spend their time), the public showers, the single commode/lavatory (in each cell) – few would ever want to spend any prison time.  It would have surely been a wake-up call for me.

How grateful I am that I was raised by loving, God-fearing parents who cared deeply about me and about my future (and that of my siblings). I’m convinced that such is NOT the case for the vast majority of those in our prisons across this land today.  It broke my heart to hear one of the MIW at my table describe the last words he (and his younger brother) ever heard from his mother and the man he believes was his father:  “I don’t want ‘em, you take ‘em.  They’re nothing but a pain in the a_____.”  When you have to grow up in such an environment, where your own parents hate you, it can be hard to feel good about anything.  Drugs, alcohol, gangs, crime – all start looking pretty good compared to where you’ve been.

Prison Ministry BlogWell, I have to wrap this up. Don’t get me wrong, I know the MIW that I met are serving time for crimes they committed – serious crimes.  The victims (and their families) of such crime suffer greatly.  Many will never see their loved ones again. My heart goes out to them, too.  And, I can understand, in a way, why some on the outside have little, if any sympathy, for criminals serving prison time.  Many could care less what happens to them.  But this one thing I know:  God loves these men.  God cares for their souls.  God is as disappointed as any loving parent in the choices these men have made, the paths they’ve walked.  God has also given us Christians a mandate to love our neighbor, to love those in need, to love even our enemies, and to go and visit the prisoner.  Kairos isn’t for everyone.  But God’s love is.  And for a few days, it was my privilege to share God’s love with men who had no clue that God, or anyone on the outside, loved them.  Pray for KPMI.  Pray for the volunteers – inside and out – who spend enormous amounts of time and personal resources sharing the good news with those incarcerated.  The Men-in-White are our brothers in Christ.

Until next time, your friend in Christ,

Bob

October 15th, 2014|Comments Off on KAIROS PRISON MINISTRY|