Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Spring's Promise

I was talking the other day to a person who grew up in Minot Minnesota, and they were raving about how different and how beautiful the weather is "down south", especially in the spring. This conversation set my thoughts in motion reflecting on just how blessed we are to live in such a beautiful area of the world. Now in spite of the fact that I often struggle with allergies and sinus trouble during the frequent seasonal transitions, I am constantly awed by what beautiful springs we have enjoyed here in the Arkansas. The abundance of blooming azaleas, the lush forests of hardwoods and pines, the dogwoods, Bradford pear trees and rose bushes always seems to catch me off guard – even though it happens every year! But what a faithful reward for enduring the winter … the promise of Spring.

God has promised each of us as His children many things. His Word is filled with them … assurances of His faithfulness, His justice and His amazing love – just to name a few! Those promises are true and we can stand on them without falling. But perhaps He has placed a dream in your heart; something He has promised to do in and through your life. What do you do when winter comes and the dream seems to fade or to die? If you're like me, you can easily begin to wonder if it was just your imagination or perhaps just a pipe dream, and you begin to doubt if it will ever really happen?

Even though we may doubt these things in our life's 'winters', God's promise is a promise.While we may not see anything happening. God's work is rooting, growing & being cultivated just under the surface, ready to burst forth in bloom at the changing of the season. John 12:24 says, "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest." That is some promise! If we will trust in God even when it seems that our dreams have been allowed to 'die', not only may God bring it to life at the appropriate time, but it will flourish!

So be encouraged & have faith! Dream BIG dreams for God! May the soil of our hearts be enriched with His love and may our faith grow in the darkness of our winter's as we wait on His promise to break forth like Spring!
May you be blessed as you dare to dream,
Pastor Jeff

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Weekly E-votional

I have a friend who tells the story of how when he was in high school he went through a very difficult time. He had been a straight A student with great potential for being the valedictorian of his graduating class. Not only was he smart, but he was also very popular and very athletic. Recruiting scouts from colleges and universities were already swarming around the stadiums to watch him play football. Away from school was no different he was elected president of his youth group at church, and on his way to being an eagle-scout. He was the kind of person that that all his peers wanted to be friends with, while all of his friend’s parents wished that he was theirs. One night, however, after a big game he went out with some of his classmates to celebrate their victory. Many there were drinking and some were even using drugs and generally doing things that they knew they shouldn’t be doing. And feeling a bit left out he made the decision (against his better judgment) to join in.
Later that night he was pulled over for a traffic violation, he was arrested for a number of different charges, minor in possession of alcohol, driving while intoxicated, and to make matters worse one of his friends who had ridden in the car with him earlier had left a bag of pills in his back seat, so he was also chares with possession of an illegal substance with the intent to deliver.
His world began to crumble around him. His name was printed in the paper, his reputation was wrecked. His parent began to tell him that he had ruined his future. That no college would possibly look at him and that he would have these charges on his permanent record, and they would hang around his neck for the rest of his life. His friend’s parents, his teachers, even the people at his church began to look at him with distrust and shame.
He saw the backward glances, he heard the rumors about him, he felt the disappointment and disapproval of others, and it began to affect him. He said that it began to alter the way he saw himself. When he looked in the mirror, he no longer saw, a football star or a straight A student, he no longer saw the president of his church youth group, instead he saw a bad seed a felon, a looser, someone who would always be marked by his past with no way to escape it.
That self view of began to affect the way he lived his life. Feeling that he had lost all hope of his former dreams, he began to slack off in his school work and skip football practice to hang out with the wrong crowd. He began doing more things that he knew he should do. What did he have to loose now he thought.
Over the next few weeks he was brought home on a number of occasions by the police and was cited for a number of infractions.
By the time of his first court appearance he had been picked by the police more than half a dozen times.
The judge was stern looking fellow with a deep raspy voice. He asked son what’s gotten in to you? I hear that you were a straight A student, a star on the football team, every one thought you had potential for greatness. What’s gotten into you?
The boy replied, “Sir, it doesn’t matter the damage is done, this will follow me the rest of my life I can’t fix it I can’t get away from it. My life is over.”
The Judges sat back in his chair and said,” Oh, I see. May I as ask you a question? If this was no longer on your record would that make any difference in how you would act?”
Those words caught him by surprise; He never even considered that to be possibility. Tears began to well in his eyes and a lump formed in his throat so that he couldn’t even speak. He just nodded slightly as he trembled.
My friend said that in the next moment he heard the two words that changed his life. “Case dismissed.” With those two words my friend was given a second chance not bound by the specter of his past. The judge not only dismissed the charges, but expunged the arrest record. My friend went back to school, hit the books and graduated second in his class, he received a scholarship to college both for football & for academics and was well respected amongst his peers & the faculty, and because of his experience with that merciful judge he learned a lesson that changed his focus in life. My friend is now a pastor, whose primary goal in life is to teach people the meaning of ‘grace’.
The word grace simply means “Unmerited favor.” It means being blessed when no blessing is deserved. It means receiving forgiveness when none is merited.
That’s what God offers to us in Jesus Christ. Scripture says that “while we were yet sinner Christ died for us.” Jesus died to offer us grace, a second chance to overcome our past sinfulness and to begin life anew with God. What a gift! He didn’t come to save those who are perfect and just; no, he came for all of us ‘while we were yet sinners.’ In essence He came to tell us that if we would only believe and trust in Him, we too can hear those powerful words… “Case Dismissed”

Learning to Overlook offenses.

Wisdom helps a person restrain his anger, and it is to his glory to overlook a transgression or an offense. - Proverbs 19:11

Have you noticed how easily people take offense these days? We don't seem to have a lot of patience, thoughtfulness, or tact. Everyone seems to be balancing a chip on their shoulder and wearing their hearts on their sleeves. To make matters worse we speak and act in response to our frustrations before thin king things through. As a result, our knee jerk reactions to these frustrations we have with others often lead to more trouble and pain than the original perceived offense.

I was sitting at a McDonald's the other day, randomly listening to the myriad of conversations going on around me. I was astonished at how many people were just complaining about how someone did them wrong. After the minor nature of some of these 'Major" offenses, I began wondering why so many adults never seem to grow past the social maturity level of seventh graders. I thought to myself "We seriously need to grow up!"

As Christians we are called to be people of grace and forgiveness. The Bible says that we should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. Finally when we do speak, we are to speak truth in love, with wisdom as our filter. Unfortunately we as Christ followers wrongly allow our emotional and spiritual immaturity to get the best of us. Instead of approaching situations as those who have been so graciously forgiven for our own numerous thoughtless actions and attitudes, we vengefully lash out or passive-aggressively retaliate, all the while thinking we are justified in our bitter actions. BUT WE ARE NOT!

Consider this, how would the majority of us react if someone said something to us in a curt or "overly" direct way? Wouldn't most of us we feel scolded and bitter, and as a result we would either respond in kind or distance ourselves from that person all the while licking our wounds, and holding a grudge letting our wounds fester.

If a friend, family member, or co-worker overlooks something that in the moment you find important, or perhaps they forget to include you in a conversation, or perhaps they cancel a lunch date at the last minute, or simply fails to show up, perhaps they don't to follow through on a task they were asked to do, how do we respond? Don't we get upset and feel that they are disloyal. And do we walk the Christian path by going to them asking them what happened, seeing if there might have been an emergency or unforeseen factor that lead to the situation, and do we try and reconcile? Or isn't it more likely that we choose the self centered path of emailing, calling, texting, or subtly working our complaints into our conversations with others telling them all about how unreliable or how thoughtless the "offender" had been. Some of us go even further and devise subtle ways to get even or assassinate their reputation in order to make their relationships with others more uncomfortable.

Have you ever had a really bad day, when our boss or our spouse call us to account for something we have done, or failed to do? Instead of truly reflecting on or repenting for how our actions may have caused problems, or at least taking a moment to consider how you might learn and grow from that moment; most of us just allow our embarrassment to grow into anger. Then we go to the water cooler and tear down the person's reputation in front of anyone who will listen.

Or perhaps it's just been one of those days we, nothing has gone right and we want the world to empathize with us, and when on the occasion we don't get the "proper amount of ego stroking", we allow ourselves to feel wounded and unappreciated. So in turn we go out of our way to spread our misery around! But we need to realize that other people can't always make us feel better, and we can't expect others to always "get" what we are going through, We need to remember that it is not reasonable to expect someone to be available 24/7 for our own constant emotional support.

It even happens with our interaction with strangers. Think about a negative experience you may have had at a restaurant. How did you respond, did you leave a bad tip, did you complain and make a scene, did you tell all of your friends how bad it was. But did you stop and think that perhaps it wasn't the waitresses fault, perhaps the kitchens staff is new. Perhaps she is having a bad day or having problems at home. (Haven't we had days like that, too?)

I have found in my life that when I feel offended, ignored, or wounded, my responses have not often been a holy ones. I also find that I wind up feeling worse about how poorly I respond, because inevitably I find out later that the other person had good reason for acting the way they did, or at other times I catch myself doing or saying something very similar to someone else. All of this after I have damaged my relationship even further by grinching and moaning to other people, anyone and everyone except the one person I should have been talking to!

As a people redeemed by grace in spite of our own failings, we need to learn to let wisdom lead us in our response to frustrating interactions with others .If you feel wounded, slighted, ignored,left out, embarrassed, or scolded... think before you respond! Is what you are about to say or do edifying? Does it build up and encourage, or does it tear down, and destroy? Have you ever been guilty of something similar? I bet you have... we all have!

So Christian, get down off the soap box and cut other people some slack. Take the chip off of your own shoulder; stop wearing your heart on your sleeve; and thicken your skin. Before you let anger, bitterness, spitefulness or judgmentalism take root, remember that GOD forgave you all you have done, maybe it's time you passed on a little of that grace!

If in the end you feel that you need to deal with the situation go first to the offender and seek to forgive, to understanding, and to reconcile. Only then do you have the right to talk to, text, facebook, IM, email, telegraph, snail mail, or skywrite any one else about it!

"Wisdom helps a person restrain his anger, and it is to his glory to overlook a transgression or an offense." - Proverbs 19:11 ...and it also keeps us from making matters worse!

Have a blessed week!

-Pastor Jeff
Christ United Methodist Church of Cabot AR
10 Elk Horn Lane Cabot AR 72023

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Testing testing ONE TWO THREE... Is this thing on???

Thursday, June 10, 2010

This is an excellent analogy. You may have seen before; however, this is worth a reminder.


There was once a man who didn't believe in God, and he didn't hesitate to let others know how he felt about religion and religious holidays.

His wife, however, did believe, and she raised their children to also have faith in God and Jesus, despite his disparaging comments.
One snowy Eve, his wife was taking their children to service in the farm community in which they lived. They were to talk about Jesus' birth. She asked him to come, but he refused. "That story is nonsense!" he said. "Why would God lower Himself to come to Earth as a man? That's ridiculous!"

So she and the children left, and he stayed home. A while later, the winds grew stronger and the snow turned into a blizzard. As the man looked out the window, all he saw was a blinding snowstorm. He sat down to relax before the fire for the evening. Then he heard a loud thump. Something had hit the window.
He looked out, but couldn't see more than a few feet. When the snow let up a little, he ventured outside to see what could have been beating on his window.

In the field near his house he saw a flock of wild geese. Apparently they had been flying south for the winter when they got caught in the snowstorm and couldn't go on. They were lost and stranded on his farm, with no food or shelter. They just flapped their wings and flew around the field in low circles, blindly and aimlessly. A couple of them had flown into his window, it seemed.

The man felt sorry for the geese and wanted to help them. The barn would be a great place for them to stay, he thought. It's warm and safe; surely they could spend the night and wait out the storm. So he walked over to the barn and opened the doors wide, then watched and waited, hoping they would notice the open barn and go inside.

But the geese just fluttered around aimlessly and didn't seem to notice the barn or realize what it could mean for them. The man tried to get their attention, but that just seemed to scare them, and they moved further away. He went into the house and came with some bread, broke it up, and made a bread crumb trail leading to the barn. They still didn't catch on.

Now he was getting frustrated. He got behind them and tried to shoo them toward the barn, but they only got more scared and scattered in every direction except toward the barn. Nothing he did could get them to go into the barn where they would be warm and safe. "Why don't they follow me?!" he exclaimed. "Can't they see this is the only place where they can survive the storm?"

He thought for a moment and realized that they just wouldn't follow a human. "If only I were a goose, then I could save them," he said out loud. Then he had an idea. He went into barn, got one of his own geese, and carried it in his arms as he circled around behind the flock of wild geese.

He then released it. His goose flew through the flock and straight into the barn -- and one-by-one, the other geese followed it to safety. He stood silently for a moment as the words he had spoken a few minutes earlier replayed in his mind: "If only I were a goose, then I could save them!" Then he thought about what he had said to his wife earlier. "Why would God want to be like us? That's ridiculous!"

Suddenly it all made sense. That is what God had done. We were like the geese--blind, lost, perishing. God had His Son become like us so He could show us the way and save us.

As the winds and blinding snow died down, his soul became quiet and pondered this wonderful thought. Suddenly he understood why Christ had come. Years of doubt and disbelief vanished with the passing storm. He fell to his knees in the snow, and prayed his first prayer:

"Thank You, God, for coming in human form to get me out of the storm!"

Wednesday, February 1, 2006

"KEEP YOUR FORK" An old but powerful Story!

There was a young woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as she was getting her things "in order," she contacted her pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes.

She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in.

Everything was in order and the pastor was preparing to leave when the young woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.

"There's one more thing," she said excitedly.

"What's that?" came the pastor's reply.

"This is very important," the young woman continued. "I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand."

The pastor stood looking at the young woman, not knowing quite what to say.

"That surprises you, doesn't it?" the young woman asked.

"Well, to be honest, I'm puzzled by the request," said the pastor.

The young woman explained. "My grandmother once told me this story, and from there on out, I have always done so. I have also always tried to pass along its message to those I love and those who are in need of encouragement.

In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, 'Keep your fork' It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming ... like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance!' So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder "What's with the fork?". Then I want you to tell them: "Keep your fork the best is yet to come." The pastor's eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the young woman good-bye.

He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the young woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She had a better grasp of what heaven would be like than many people twice her age, with twice as much experience and knowledge. She KNEW that something better was coming.

At the funeral people were walking by the young woman's casket and they saw the pretty dress she was wearing and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over, the pastor heard the question "What's with the fork?" And over and over he smiled.

During his message, the pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the young woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about what it symbolized to her.

The pastor told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either.

He was right.

So the next time you reach down for your fork, let it remind you ever so gently, that the best is yet to come.

Have a blessed Week

Monday, January 2, 2006


“For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Jeremiah 29:11

This is week two of our series on planning and goal setting for 2006. This week, and next week, we ask you to do some “purposeful daydreaming”. God will help you. Begin by praying the following prayer: God, please show me the plan you have for my life and my family. Thank you for having dreams for me just like I have dreams for me own children. Amen. Now, consider your life in twenty years. Think of where you will live, your health, your marriage and other significant relationships, and your financial situation. Do you have close friends? Will you be caring for parents? What will your children be like? The setting for your daydream could be Thanksgiving dinner, or a vacation, or just a normal day, whatever you choose. This vision can then serve as a means for you and your spouse to set your goals in terms of how you spend your time, how much money you save, and what you choose to teach your children.

Jeff and I have constructed a vision for our future personally and also for our church. We believe that in twenty years Christ United Methodist Church will have 1000 people attending worship weekly and at least one “daughter congregation” in Cabot. Christ Church will have wonderful programming for children and families. We believe over the course of 20 years God will call 25 of our members to become pastors. We believe we will have a sister relationship with churches in third world countries, and that we will have mission trips that go to work alongside our brothers and sisters in other countries. In Cabot our church will be known as a church that cares about people, offering assistance to unwed mothers, the poor and the elderly. These are just a few of our dreams and we plan what our church is doing this Spring with those goals in mind.

Work on your own dreams and talk them over with your spouse. Next week we will talk about specific areas of goal setting, beginning with goals for parenting.
Unitl then... Blessings!