I Love this Church because you were here.

I received this note on an offering envelope during the morning service recently.  It was written with her very best 6 yr old handwriting and it almost made me cry.  I received lot’s of very sweet cards and notes that day, but I feel like I will treasure this note above the prettiest store bought card that I might receive.  I love it because it was heartfelt and unexpected, but I also love it because it reminded me of what the church can be.

I love this church because you were here – What a wonderful definition of what the church can be. We talk a lot about the church not being the building but the people, but we still find ourselves referring to the building and the address when we talk about the church.  However, if we stop and think about what the church means to us, images of people come to mind.  That pastor who married us; that Sunday School teacher who taught our child about Jesus; that friend who stayed after church one Sunday and held us when we cried; those people who came in the middle of the night to the emergency room; the people who brought us food when our loved one died.

Why do we love our church?  I would put forth that one of the reasons people connect with a church is that they experience the love of Jesus in the people of God who are that church.  I love this church because you and you and you were here.  I love this church because you were Christ to me in a difficult time.  I love this church because you mourned with me and rejoiced with me.  I love this church because you rolled up your sleeves and worked beside me.  I love this church because your song, your lesson, your example brought me closer to God.

I love this church because you were here!  I would encourage you to take some time today to tell someone this very thing.  Your church is special because they were here.

Roger

What breaks your heart?

I have preached a lot of messages over the years about how each one of us is called by God for a purpose.  From the youngest child to the oldest grandmother, God has a plan and purpose for each of us. For some people, the call is easy to see (that doesn’t mean it is necessarily easy to carry out)  – people with a special gift of music, teaching or preaching are often lifted up by the crowd because we can see the effects of their gifts.

But what about the rest of us, whose gifts are not so obvious.  How do we remain faithful?  How can we be obedient to a call that is sometimes elusive?  I can’t tell you the number of people over the years of my ministry who have told me something to the effect of ” Well preacher, I don’t know what I’m called for or what I’m good at or what God has me here for – I’m just an ordinary Christian

If you are in truth “an ordinary Christian” than you have all the power, wisdom and strength that you need to fulfill God’s call upon your life.  When working with people who are trying to find their call, their mission, their purpose, I like to start with a simple question.  What breaks your heart?

I’m being very serious with this question.  There is so much need out in the world and so many places that one could work in, but it comes down to what God has called you to.  And for me, What breaks your heart? is a simple place to start searching for what God has prepared your heart for. What has He made you extra sensitive to?  The incredible thing is that it is different for every disciple of Christ.  Often in subtle ways, but it is still different.

I taught a class on local missions one time and asked this question of the participants and out of a room of 30 people, we had 30 different answers.  When something breaks your heart or when God breaks your heart over something, you will discover that you cannot sit idly bye as this situation takes place.  You will find yourself doing things, standing up for things, working harder, striving harder all because you find you cannot stand to let that situation occur.

For me, one big thing that breaks my heart is the idea of a child going hungry.  I have discovered that God will nudge me, poke me, drag me sometimes into doing things that will cause me to fight the very idea of a hungry child.  I’ve also discovered that when God breaks your heart over something, you will bring people along with you for the ride. This isn’t something that you can possibly keep to yourself.

So my questions for you today are these:  What breaks your heart?  and what will you do about it?

Being the church in 2012

I preached this past Sunday (January 8th, 2012)  from Proverbs 29:18 and shared 6 things that I believe we need to have this year in order to truly be the church that God has created us to be.  I invite each one who reads this to prayerfully consider how they can make these hallmarks a part of their life this year.  (These ideas are good for any church :) )

A) Fervent Prayer – Our ministry & our daily Christian life must begin and end in prayer.  Fervent is focused, urgent, important, prioritized.  In addition to the people on our prayer list, are you praying for the  ministry of your church?  Are you praying for the leaders of your church?  Are you praying for your pastor?If we solely rely upon our own talents, we will surely fail. We must seek the power, presence and wisdom of God through regular and focused prayer.

- Did you know we have a church prayer room?  It is now located downstairs in the Brides room.  This room is available for prayer for you at any time. You are also welcome to come and pray in the sanctuary

- How about joining the PIT crew – the Pastors Intercessory Team is a new initiative where our pastor shares specific concerns related to the ministry of our church &  to his ministry as well.                                                      Updates are sent out twice per week.  E-mail Roger at methodist.preacher@gmail.co to sign up today.

B) Passionate Worship – We are called to worship God with our heart, soul, mind and strength. Too often, however, many of us only worship God with our mind and leave our heart, soul and strength out of it.  When you are passionate about something, people can tell. You talk about it all the time. You act differently when you talk about it.  You are more animated.  What will it take for you and I to become more passionate about worshipping God.  Do we approach worship with anticipation and expectation about meeting God?  When we are moved in worship, it stays with us a long while.  You feel it the whole week, it lifts you up and carries you forward.  I believe that if those who worship in the pews and those who lead in worship both focus on making that hour the best hour of the week. If we prepare our hearts and minds through prayer for that hour, it will be an hour that is worth being passionate about.

C) Dedicated Discipleship – Are we committed to growing as Christians?  As a church, how well do we do in helping our people grow in maturity as Christian disciples?  Dedication is needed to make certain that we are not hopping from mountain top to mountain top.  True growth comes from dedicated, ongoing, step by step, commitment to becoming more and more like Christ. It begins with our commitment to getting into the Word of God, the Bible. Are you reading the Bible?  Are you studying and meditating on what you read?  Are you involved with a group of other Christians who are studying the Bible?  There are all sorts of wonderful resources available for diving into God’s Word.  I’ve listed a couple of ways below to get you started.  There is a lot more available out there for you – let me know and I will be glad to point you in the right direction

-  Daily reading of the New Testament from Acts to Revelation between now and Easter Sunday, April 8th.  Join with others as we read God’s Word together.  There is a link in my daily e-mail or you can go to chatsworthumc.wordpress.com each day for the reading. There are also lists of the daily readings available in the side narthex at the church.

- 40 Days in the Word is a new church wide campaign that will spend six weeks exploring different ways of studying God’s Word.  There will be a sermon each week centered around the Bible and each Sunday night (beginning Sunday, January 29th) at 5pm we will gather in the sanctuary to watch a video teaching segment and then divide into small groups to discuss what we learned. We will finish by all gathering back together in the Fincher Family Life Center for snacks and fellowship.

D) Glad and Generous Giving – We worship a giving God who gives each of us more than we can ever say thank you for.  We do not worship a God of scarcity! We are blessed beyond words and it is a privilege to be able to give back to God’s church out of the gratitude that is in our hearts.  Everything that we have belongs to God and we are stewards of these resources.  How we use these things – our time, our talent, our treasure – is a big part of our gift back to God. The question to consider is what will you do this year with what God has given you?

How will you use your time to honor God?  Where are you serving now?  Where would you like to serve?  did you know that there are plenty of opportunities to serve within and through your church.  Without each member and friend of our church giving of their time, there is no way that we can be the church that God wants us to be.  Contact me if you are looking for a place to serve.

How will you use your talents this year to honor God?  Think about your skills, your interests, the things that you do well. How can you use these things to honor God and to build up your church?  I want to challenge every one reading this article to spend some time in prayer listening to how God wants you to serve this year.

How will you honor God through the giving of your treasure this year?  The ministry of your church is possible because you and others are obedient to the call of God with your tithes and offerings.  Are you giving what God wants you to give?  Are you giving with glad and generous hearts?  Human nature is to focus on meeting the budget and reducing the debt. If each of us are obedient and give what we are led to give, we will not have to worry about the budget and the debt will be paid off sooner than we can dare dream about.  I pray that this will happen in 2012.

E)  Steadfast Witness – A witness is someone who shares what they have seen, heard or experienced.  To be a witness for God is to live our lives in such a way that people will see and hear and experience the love of Christ through our everyday words and actions. We worship a God who is steadfast and true in His love for us.  Let us be steadfast in our living for him.

In 2012, will you pray that God will use you to share His love with those you come into contact with.  Will you be willing to listening for that still, small voice of God nudging you to speak up about your faith and will you be willing to obey that nudging when it occurs?  I believe if each of us does these things lives will be changed and our church will grow like it has never grown before.  Why?  because there are thousands of people around us who are dying because they do not know the truth that we know.

F) Selfless Service – What are you doing for others?  What do we expect in return when we do serve?  Are you willing to serve God and others in ways that will focus on their needs first before your own needs?  When a need is brought up do you ask “God, how do you want me to respond?” or do you look for ways why you can’t respond?  Selfless service is the love of Christ put into action. It is the Good News of the Gospel proclaimed through actions that are louder than words.  Selfless service will clear the way for people to not only see the Gospel in action but also hear the Word proclaimed for their life.

I want to invite each of you to prayerfully consider these ideas and what they will look like in your own life?  Also, will you join me in praying that they will become the hallmarks of our congregation in 2012 and beyond and that God will use our church to impact our community!

 

Your pastor,  Roger Vest

O Come, O Come Immanuel

Immanuel – God is with us. One of the names that Jesus bore as he came to earth to live among us.

A wonderful story from John Ortberg’s book  “God is Closer than you think”  as found on the blog Kingdom People by Trevin Wax

“We Leper” – An unusual Christmas meditation

Father Damien was a priest who became famous for his willingness to serve lepers.

He moved to Kalawao – a village on the island of Molokai, in Hawaii, that had been quarantined to serve as a leper colony.

For 16 years, he lived in their midst. He learned to speak their language. He bandaged their wounds, embraced the bodies no one else would touch, preached to hearts that would otherwise have been left alone. He organized schools, bands, and choirs. He built homes so that the lepers could have shelter. He built 2,000 coffins by hand so that, when they died, they could be buried with dignity.

Slowly, it was said, Kalawao became a place to live rather than a place to die, for Father Damien offered hope.

Father Damien was not careful about keeping his distance. He did nothing to separate himself from his people. He dipped his fingers in the poi bowl along with the patients. He shared his pipe. He did not always wash his hands after bandaging open sores. He got close. For this, the people loved him.

Then one day he stood up and began his sermon with two words: “We lepers….”

Now he wasn’t just helping them. Now he was one of them. From this day forward, he wasn’t just on their island; he was in their skin. First he had chosen to live as they lived; now he would die as they died. Now they were in it together.

One day God came to Earth and began his message: “We lepers….” Now he wasn’t just helping us. Now he was one of us. Now he was in our skin. Now we were in it together.

O Come, O Come, Immanuel.  May you and yours have a wonderfully blessed Christmas and a new year where you encounter God’ s blessings everywhere you turn.

The power of One (part 3)

Many of you have heard me refer to myself as an “information” junkie.  I love to learn. I love to discover new things, new books, new websites, new people, etc.  Well I was reading a webpage recently and there was a link to the following site.  Every Monday Matters.  After looking around the site, I realized that it fits perfectly with the theme of my last two posts on “The Power of One”  They actually take it a step further and encourage all the ones that are out there looking to make a difference to gather together and share what they are doing and even brainstorm how their 2 or 3 or more might make a difference.

What is also really cool about this idea is the wide variety of areas that they are encouraging you to make a difference. They also nudge you with questions, ideas and motivation to do what you can.

Okay, here is what I would like to see in 2012.  I would love to have our church begin this movement in Murray County. I see this going way beyond our congregation, but would love to have some help in getting this started and getting the word out.

Take a look around the website and call me, e-mail me, text me, message me, whatever and let me know that you are interested in making this happen.

 

Merry Christmas and remember to get out there and make a difference!

The Power of One (part 2)

After I wrote my last post on “the Power of One”  I came across the following blog post by Michael Hyatt (great blog by the way, well worth subscribing to)  “5 Ways you can become  an everyday hero”.  He starts with a discussion about the movie Freedom Writers (awesome movie, by the way, – our whole family loves it) The movie is based upon the real life story of rookie teacher Erin Gruwell and focuses on her struggle to make a difference in the lives of her students in a tough inner city school in Long Beach, California. The movie really shows how one person can make a difference.

Michael goes on to share 5 ways that you and I can exercise our own power to make a difference where we are right now.

1. Stop ignoring the evil you encounter. For way too many people the response to the hurt around us isn’t anger or even sadness, it is apathy. As followers of Christ, we are called to a different standard. Like the Good Samaritan, we are called to “see” the other and do what we can with what we have.

2. Stop over-thinking your response to it. It is so easy to think of why we can’t! We have our own problems. We don’t know enough, have enough, etc. to truly make an impact.  On and on and on go the excuses.  It’s time we listen to that still small voice of God speaking to us and respond when we are nudged!

3. Stop complaining about your lack of resources. There are hundreds of stories of people without the resources that everyone thought they needed, fulfilling their dreams God has placed on their lives. Sadly, there are thousands of stories of people who gave up too soon, because all they could see was the obstacle in front of them.  Michael states in his blog “Resources are never – and I mean never – the problem. The biggest challenge is simply my will to act”

4. Start asking.  “What is the right thing to do?”  The easy questions to ask are “Who (else) is going to do something about this?”  “What does this have to do with me?” and so on. As Christians we are called to ask “What does God want me to do in this situation?”  We cannot ignore the pain and sorrow around us.

5. Be in the moment and act. There will never be a perfect time to act, so act when you the Holy Spirit nudges. Again, stop with the I don’t have enough experience, resources, time, etc.  Like the bumper sticker says “If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it” Just step up and do what needs to be done.

Don’t think you are the hero type?  If you are obedient and trusting, God will work through you to make an impact in someone’s life and you will discover that to them you are a hero!

 

The power of one! One with the power and presence of the Holy Spirit is powerful enough to overcome problems and obstacles that seem impossible to us.  Sometimes all we have to do is start!

 

Get out there and be somebody’s hero today!

 

The power of One.

There is a lie out there that too many people, including too many Christians tragically believe. It is the lie that one person (particularly myself) cannot make a difference in this world. Too many people look at the problems that the world is burdened with and give up and give in to the lie that there is nothing that I can do!

For the Christ follower, the beginning of our story starts with the purpose for which we were created.  God has created in us the ability to accomplish the purpose for which He created us. I believe that no matter what the issue is, God has already gathered the resources needed to overcome that problem.  In the hands and feet, heart and souls of his children and with the presence & power of His Holy Spirit, the foundation is here to overcome any obstacle, to solve any problem, to conquer any foe.

Now, this does not mean that the battle will be easy.  There will be times when the fight will be fierce and the wounds we receive will be painful, but without the willingness of His children to stand up and say “This ought not to be” than sin and it’s children – greed, hatred, selfishness, and the like – will continue to have their way in our communities.

 

I have taught a few seminars in the past on missions in the local church and I always ask the following question to the participants:

            What breaks your heart?

What situation, problem, issue is out there that simply breaks your heart when you think about it?  To use different language – What burden has God laid on your heart?  The reason I ask this is simple.  If One is going to make a difference, that one must begin here – in the midst of the call placed on your heart by a just and righteous God.

It’s a really simple question, but when answered with honesty, you will discover the place where you really don’t care what other people think and you will discover the place where you find yourself yearning for a way to overcome that which breaks your heart.

 

For me, I discovered a few years ago that I cannot stand to think of a child going hungry! No child deserves to go hungry!  But there are millions of hungry children out in the world, someone might say.  How in the world can a single person make a difference against a problem so very, very big?

The answer is simple:  the God that placed this call upon my life will provide the energy, the passion, the drive, the motivation, the words, the guts, whatever it takes to accomplish the purpose He has called me to.

DO NOT believe the lie that you cannot make a difference. If you are faithful. If you believe. If you listen to the one who has laid this burden on your heart, then you will find yourself looking back one day and praising God for what he has done in your little old life.

For me, maybe there will be a day where there will be no more hungry children, but until that day comes – I have work to do.

What breaks your heart?

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