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Christmas Letter 2016


“For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.”

― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

 

Amid the preparations for Christmas each year there always seem to be a few voices, that either share the joy of “Good tidings” or proclaim a, “Bah, Humbug!” on the whole business of Christmas. Truth be told often, we adults, are less than excited about Christmas: not the birth of the Christ Child in the  manger, but in the hurried schedules, crowded shopping lines, and the amounts of money spent on needless items. All of the trapping of a modern Christmas can leave one feeling overwhelmed and more apt to sound like old Ebenezer, than to share in the awe-inspiring  joy of the nativity.

 

In the face of these times and cultural issues it becomes helpful for the church and disciples, like me and you, to remember the value of sharing joy. This is joy not founded in what we manage to cook, buy, or acquire, but the joy founded in the scripture; the excitement or new birth, the baby Jesus - the hope of all people. We need not give into the pre-conversion Scrooge, but instead,  we are to embrace the attitude of those within the story of Jesus, like Simeon, saying, “for my eyes have seen your salvation,  which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:30-32)

 

Jesus is God’s light in our world, a light that influences our hearts, heads, and mouths. When we share in this Advent, this Christmas, we share in the joy of what God has already done, is doing, and what will be done.

 

In light of this, we, as a church, are planning to celebrate with the following opportunities.  These are opportunities to thank God for the priceless gift of Jesus Christ.

 

Children’s Dinner Theater: (Our children’s program production of a wonderful Christmas story)

December  17th 5:30 PM

 

Musical Christmas Celebration Service:  (A musical celebration of Christmas lead by our choir.)

December 18th 10:30AM

 

Christmas Eve Candlelight Services: (Traditional carol and candlelight service)

December 24th 5:00 PM & 7:00 PM

 

Christmas Day Blessings of the Toys Service: (An informal family friendly Christmas Day service. Children (old ones too) are encouraged to bring their new favorite toy and come ready to worship,

December 25th 11:00 AM

 

Please join us as we seek to celebrate the exciting joy of Christmas!

 

With great hope,


Rev. Clayton Payne

Thankful!


What am I thankful for?

 

It is this time of year that we turn our attention towards the things that matter most. I think we do this not just as the holidays approach, but as a practice of knowing that in the coming days and months the year is coming to a close; another year, another cycle around the sun… a few more grey hairs.  So, we take a look back and review our year with the hope filled days of the holiday season. Often we do this while eating that great meal of Thanksgiving and in those moments we share the joys that have lead us back to this meal once more.

 

So as I sit behind my desk, on this early November afternoon, I begin to ask what am I thankful for?

 

So here is my list as it pertains to church, life, and my everything:  

 

I am thankful for prepositions, because otherwise there would be no list,

a church committed to improving itself,

leadership that loves God and strives to love their neighbor,

volunteers that serve by cooking meals, delivering food, playing kickball with local children after school,

things our church will make for NICU babies, the homeless, and those who are in need,

Those awesome people that attend any given Sunday and do not have a reserved pew,

Money given towards making our church a more welcoming place,

Disciples made in bible studies in homes, in Sunday school classes, and in coffee shops,

Children that come to church ready to engage, bringing their bibles, and yes put their heads in instead of hands during prayer times,

Prayer warriors,

Teachers,

Choirs,

Ushers and greeters,

Piano players and choir directors,

Smiling faces that make tough days alright,

Knowing that people are praying for the pastor,

Knowing that people are praying for the pastor,

Knowing that people are praying for the pastor,

Repetition, repetition, repetition,

Church workdays,

Trustees,

Lay leaders,

New missions,

Good attitudes,

Potlucks,

Church dinners,

Friends,

Family,

Sometimes crusty people that remind me that grace is growing in all of us,

The willingness of others to put up with this crusty person from time-to-time,

The church,

Preaching,

Sacraments,

Bonhoeffer,

New people coming to faith,

My wife, my family,

And above all the God made known in Jesus Christ, for this last I am eternally grateful!

  

 

 

   

Overcoming Casual Prayer

Overcoming a Casual Prayer Life

 

Over the last few weeks we, as a congregation, have engaged the subject of prayer. We have talked about how simple prayer truly is, that it is not complex and at its most simplistic core is just talking to God. We have talked about the fact that as a congregation, if we are not praying then we can expect nothing to be transpiring.

 

With all of this said, I think the most troubling thing in the church to today is the casaul prayer life. Now let me first say I am by no means the first to say this and in fact early Methodists like E.M. Bounds would have heralded this message from the rooftops over a 100 years ago, but casual prayer lives are troubling. What I mean by casual prayer life is simply that  idea or action of being unconcerned! When you look up the word “casual” the definition is just that:  relaxed and unconcerned.  For many of us, if we are honest, we are unconcerned with our faithfulness in prayer. This is troubling!

 

Let’s put it this way, our pray lives are summed up in the dinner time prayers of a family ready to eat. The idea that we’ve got something to do and we need to get that done so we can get down to real business. Have you ever sat in a church meeting where the pastor’s prayer felt like the first agendized item that needed to be overcome in order to get down to “real business” of the meeting?  This is often the whole of our prayer lives and they are reduced down to the ritualized necessities.

 

Maybe you and I are not guilty of the get it done mentality, but we might very well be guilty of prayers that are so safe that honestly we could answer them ourselves. We are afraid that in asking we won’t be heard, or worse yet, the answer will be no. So why bother asking for more than we can accomplish? With this kind of pseudo prayer the church moves from a band of radical disciples, following an even more radical Lord, to a group of functional agnostics that are ensuring the wellbeing of the institution by not asking too much or by being too hopeful.   

 

Thus, our prayer life is filled with pleasantries, but not much progress.

 

It doesn’t need to be this way; and Jesus never designed the church to be like this!

 

The heart of biblical prayers show the individual prayer's willingness to engage in wrestling with God. God desires to see a showing of all our emotions, showing a true desire for the thing prayed for and/or about. Biblical prayer is about honest communication with God in non-ritualized/ non-obligatory ways whereby we bring all that we are before the Father in worship and supplication. It is like a child desperately in need of help and asking a loving parent for assistance.

 

So today I want to offer a few suggestions in helping us get our prayer lives more where they need to be:

 

Pray past your obligation

 

If you want to be helpful in the lives of other people and your church;  pray past the so- called obligation. It works like this:  when you come to the end of your Christian obligation to pray for your church, neighbor, pastor, or whatever it is...  then we really start praying.

Pray for your church every day, twice a day, until it feels like a burden and then… keep praying even more in frequency and fervor.

 

Be Persistent   

 

    Jesus teaches about this in Luke 11 telling a story of how persistent prayer for the Spirit results in answers. If we are not persistent in prayer, then often we will not change. The act of asking again and again is an act of submission that often results in not only the prayer somehow being answered, but often more time than not, us being changed for the better in the asking.

 

Pray to God about your church growing, pray about your leaders being active, pray about the faith of your family, and do it all with the persistence that lasts years not hours. I cannot tell you how many times in my own life that prayers that I have said for years have been answered, even when I almost forgot that I still was asking.

 

Be persistent!  

 

Pour out what is true

 

    I went to the hospital room of a woman facing surgery once. She didn’t know me, she just wanted the chaplain to say a word of prayer before surgery. In those moments she told me how upset she was,  how much her life was a struggle, and how much life stunk in the days around her surgery. All of this was said with a southern closing of well I best not complain;  God’s been good. I asked her if she had expressed any of her hurt to God about what was taking place in her life at this time. She looked shocked at the question. How could she express that to God? We did just that, she cried out before God about all that had taken place in the last few months of her life:  surgery, family, all of it. I stood there listening knowing that in this moment she didn’t need a chaplain to pray for her;  she needed to pray before God about all that was on her heart. I could feel the Spirit’s presence in the room in this woman’s prayer and the tears rolling down her cheek. When we got done praying I could see the sense of relief on her face:  life was still not easy, surgery was less than an hour away, more problems were still to come, and family was still difficult:  but God was there and she knew it.

 

When we tell the truth in prayer, even in the expression of anger to God, we strengthen the relationship and in doing so, we find that we are not alone.

 

Prayer is about communication:  open and honest, heartfelt and true. May our prayer for Cherryvale, our community, and our families be the kind of prayers that pour out before the throne of God!    

 

  

 

The Good Samaritan & The Questions We Ask

“Good Samaritan”

We all know this story is one that we have heard many times. In fact, it has been told to us so much that its message has become stale; simply being reduced down to modern cliche statements like “ be nice to people”. However, this passage has the potential to change us if we read deeper and hear God’s fresh words within the story.

So today we ask the question, what is it about this story that Jesus wanted his listeners, and us, to learn about what He expects?   

In order to answer this question we must fully understand the implications of the story and those depicted in it. Jesus uses the example of three people to a religious leader that has just asked the question, who is my neighbor?   

He then starts to tell a story of three people that see a Jewish man beaten, robbed, and left for dead on the side of the road. This man finds himself in the ditch left for dead, with no hope unless a passerby makes an intervention. Along come three people. The first is a priest, and yet seeing the man’s need, he is not moved to compassion and he walks right on by and down the road. The priest is following the “religious purity laws” by not touching what he thinks might be a dead body, but in doing so, is not living out a sense of grace. This is truly sad; this priest is considered a religious leader within his community and he shows no desire to help someone in need.

The  story continues as Jesus says that another man who walks down the road  is a Levite. However, seeing the man in need does not move him to compassion, instead it moves him across the road where he can walk less encumbered by the sight of a helpless broken person lying in a ditch.

Jesus, being the masterful storyteller that he is makes a bold move. Saying that the third and final man to walk by this helpless person in the ditch is none other than the arch enemy of the people of Israel; a Samaritan. To say that Samaritans were held in contempt in the first century would be an understatement:  they we despised. Israelites in the first century would often walk hours and days out of the way to simply avoid stepping foot in their lands. Many considered them worthless at best, and had no desire to show ANY level of hospitality.  This was the greatest of insults in the first century culture. No hospitality = No love. However, Jesus says that the Samaritan walks by and sees the this broken man; beaten, robbed, and left for dead. Upon seeing this, he is moved to compassion. He has compassion for someone that would not necessarily have compassion for him. Yet, he takes this man, puts him on his donkey and carries him to the local inn. It is a lowly Samaritan who takes pity upon the man, helps him and even pays to be sure his needs are met when the Samaritan has to leave.  The Samaritan saw the man in his need and had compassion on him.  The two religious men, men who were supposed to teach others how to live for God, ignored the man’s immediate needs because of their own need to maintain cleanliness in the sight of their ritual purity laws.

Thus, the story reflects from where the religious leader asks the question “who is my neighbor?”  It is out of contempt for others, not because he truly wanted clarification, but because he wanted justification:  justification to reduce the number of people for whom he would have to show compassion.  Like us, this leader felt he had a right to judge others and act accordingly.  So since Samaritans were not inherently good in the minds of first century Jewish people, he had the right to ignore them.  He did not need to worry himself about the injustice being done to “such as these” as long as he followed the religious purity laws.  

But Christ calls us to more than that.  He asks us to step out in faith and stand up for those who are considered unwelcome.  However, like the religious leader, we ask questions meant to let us off the hook, to justify our position and relieve our sense of guilt.  We are looking for some space to wiggle through and not be faithful to what we know we should do. We look for room to be able to walk to the other side of the road and keep going without being overly encumbered… This is wrong!  

But there is more to this story than just the meeting of the man’s physical needs.  The story tells us that God is moved by our need for grace. Jesus sees our unholy, beaten down spirits, and pours out God’s grace upon us.  We have done nothing to deserve His love and yet He consistently pours it out for us.  The parable also shows us that God never leaves us alone on the side of the road beaten and left for dead.  

So what are we being called to? What is expected of us?

We are being called to have the compassion of the Samaritan.  The church is to reach out and touch those who are perceived as being culturally unclean and supply their need in the name of Christ.  

The question being asked by the religious leader is not one simply of who is my neighbor, but what does it mean to be faithful?  Thus, the answer to the question shows that our connection to God is lived out in our willingness to assist our neighbor.  

So who is your neighbor?  Who is it that you are being called to see in a new light and offer the hope of Christ?  How are you going to answer God’s call to be “the Good Samaritan?”

These are questions only you can answer.

 

Bears and the kingdom of God

After almost a week of All God’s Children Camp I was sitting & having a conversation with some of the leaders. The conversation somehow turned from camp to recent issues with bears. The camp had seen a few of nature's fury friends in the past week. The trash had been too much of a temptation and had caused the advent of an overly friendly bear…

 

As we talked and discussed, this small group of adults began to share the antidotal advice we are all prone to bestow. We agreed on thoughts like don’t move, stay still, and remember, play dead. All of this  lead up to the humorous idea expressed by our District Superintendent Rev. Dave Rochford.  The group bantered back and forth saying that they should run, with Dave saying he didn’t have to outrun the bear, just the slowest one in the group. Then it dawned on me that the issue was not the bear, the running, nor this humorous story, but the fact that this is the way our churches function. We outrun the danger of death not by outrunning the bear, but by outrunning the slowest one amongst us to change. Our Churches are struggling and we too are struggling for this reason because we feel this is an okay response to our current predicament… Just outrun the one who is lagging behind.

 

This is troubling for two reasons:

 
  1. Change is not a response to faithfulness, but external stimulus.

 

This seems pretty straight forward. When we live with the external stimulus of death or irrelevance as our motivation, we miss the mark on faithfulness and instead try to simply outrun everyone else. This can be summed up simply as the, “do it better than them” style of ministry.

There have been many occasions in the Scripture where this is depicted when God’s people receive their inspiration for change not from God, but from something else. Take for instance, the people of God in Israel. All they want is to be like everyone else; they didn't want judges as a form of governance, they wanted a king! The king for them represents an external motivation to “outrun”, “be like”, or simply “fit in” with the rest of those around them. This is not from God. When we gain our call to be faithful we do not gain it from the desire to outrun, we get it from the desire to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. For too long the conversation has been about death:  a much needed conversation as churches close and die around us. It has always been framed in “if we don’t change we are going to die”. How about we frame it differently:  “if we don’t change to reach new people, different people, diverse people… we will not be faithful as followers of Jesus.” When we enter the conversation about change, we often leave Jesus out and instead hijack the conversation to focus on best practices. No dying church has ever said, I wonder what the best practices are; most likely they are of little concern. Thus, pastors have helped frame this conversation as change or die; and in doing so have perpetuated stimulus as the need for change. Instead it should be stated that if you do not change you will no longer be faithful, Jesus is calling us to change!

 

2)   We only have to change enough to outrun the others around us.

 

This is inherently flawed logic, but it is often the logic of the local church. If we could just do better than (_________ Church Name), then we would grow. This again puts a huge focus on the faithfulness or the lack thereof of another congregation. As a pastor I cannot count how many times I have been guilty of idolatry, the of loving another church’s __(Fill in here) ____. We need to change our focus; wishing  that our congregation would be the best that it can be, not just that it would simply be better than the others that surround us.

 

The apostle Paul advises us that we are to “run the race to win”. We as churches and pastors often run for second, third, fourth, fifth, but just not last; dear Lord never last, because of bears... In striving for second to last we never challenge our congregations to huge and unrealistic goals, but we instead find ways to play it safe and stay in the midst of the pack. Making disciples is always about running full speed ahead. It has an urgency that is not for the slow of foot, nor is it for those that are content with being truly second tier. Our goal must never be second to last, our goal must always be making disciples and striving for the very best.  


May you stay way from the bears!



 

  


 
Zacchaeus: Short in stature… Dirty hands  
3 things that remind us the broken are the people Jesus travels with!


I have always been struck by the company that Jesus desired to keep. Jesus always spent time with the outcasts of society, the people that no one else wanted to associate with. These were people that made others cringe at the mere idea of them coming to your house, but these were Jesus’ people.

One such person was a man named Zacchaeus. He was everything that made people of his day cringe. He was by the very definition: a traitor. At the time Jesus walked our earth healing and sharing, the people of ancient Israel were held captive by Roman rule. Rome had come and established themselves as the power in Jerusalem. They were not considered to be nice. In fact, throughout the whole of the gospels Jesus is constantly assumed to be overthrowing the Roman Empire.This was  because in his time it was the major concern for people of Israel.

Zacchaeus however was a traitor!

Zacchaeus,  while being a Jew, sold his own people out and started working for Rome. Not only did he work for them, but,  most scholars believe that in order for him to prosper he would have had to monies from  all the taxes he collected. If your taxes to Rome where $800,  he made them an even $1,000 and took  the top portion for himself. To say the least,  he was not considered  a good guy. However, this is who Jesus decided that he wanted to come see. Jesus entered the  city of Jericho and found Zacchaeus and invited himself over for dinner: this outcast, thief, traitor… dirty man.


I think that you and I know a thing or two about brokenness. We may not be the  Zacchaeuses of our society, but we know what it is like to be the person  not welcomed to the party. Maybe we were outsiders as children not coming from the right family. Maybe we were people having less than spotless “life records”. Whatever it was or is, we have all known the feeling of being the outsider. These were the people with whom Jesus decided to associate. It is amazing to myself, as a pastor.It presents a cause for personal concern. Jesus seemed to rebuke those religious leaders who thought they had it all right.

Jesus has more of an affinity for those not wearing religious robes!  


Jesus not only came alongside of this dirty, short man named Zacchaeus, but he did some amazing things that still matter today for the church and our practice of faith.

Jesus is always inviting himself!
Jesus is like the friend that used to get you into trouble as a kid. He was the one that would invite himself over to our house. Although Jesus came not because of some childhood friendship, but Jesus came with the hope of restoration and wholeness.

2) Jesus does ministry with you!
Jesus didn’t  tell Zaccheus how awful he was or  how much of a sinner he was.  He simply engaged him with a desire to come to his home. In the text Jesus never told him how broken he was, he simply shared the space with him. Jesus truly represented the best part of humanity, in that he didn’t  pass judgment, but chose instead to walk alongside of someone and include them in the wholeness he was offering.  

Could you imagine churches where people were not rightfully accused of being judgmental to outsiders! This is Jesus’  idea of Church!


When I was a new Christian in Nye County Nevada, I will never forget the ministry that we as a community did to those outsiders. Nye County is one of the few counties in America that still has legalized prostitution. The church, as you could imagine, did not find this to be a good thing. While their reason for concern was valid, their expressions of Christian love and support were often far removed. The churches were more likely  to hold a protest at county commissioner meetings or hold “prayer vigils” to end the horrible acts being committed at the town limits.
In all my years in Nye County I could never imagine a group of Christians lovingly inviting a group of prostitutes over for dinner with the simple desire to feed them and to show them God’s loving care for them.

Jesus seems not to throw stones, but to share the love of the Father with all those He meets. We often wonder why the church is not growing in America. The simple answer is: it very seldom looks like Jesus.


3) Jesus is always inviting the broken to travel.

I want to you think about this, one of the largest testimonies that exists is not the testimony of the righteous, but the unrighteous. Jesus surrounds himself with broken people like you and me. Jesus’ disciples are a great example of the brokenness that exists in the world.However, we,  as a church,  have managed to sanitize our gatherings to the  pseudo clean smell of a high school bathroom. Jesus’ desire was that we would provide a place that could hold the world’s brokenness knowing that transformation was only possible in Christ. It is the story of the broken being  made whole that makes a difference. We, as a church, are not looking for well adjusted  Christians, we are looking for broken people that are being made whole.  




 

What about the Cross?

What is the place of the cross? 
Is there a place for suffering in the modern church?  Turn on the radio, the television or the internet and you will find it again and again; everyday examples that much of what is preached about Christianity is preached without an idea of suffering.

What is the role of suffering for the individual believer, when we consider the call to cross-bearing?  When looking at the words of such people as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die, “ or the more popular words of Joel Osteen, “Choosing to be positive and having a grateful attitude is going to determine how you’re going to live your life,’ we come away confused.  Two well known, religious individuals who speak on the matter of suffering related to discipleship and faithful cross bearing and their words contradict.

However, Jesus clarifies greatly when he speaks of carrying the cross throughout the gospel of Matthew.  In the 16th chapter, Jesus shares in the context of Peter’s desire that Jesus not suffer death, a new reality.  That the call of the individual is to the cross, and that it is a call that embodies faithfulness; a faithfulness not based in human success, but based in a reality that Jesus is Lord; that God reigns and this understanding should have primacy within the life of the believer.  As one scholar said, “ self-denial is not so much about giving up chocolates at Lent as it is giving up on ourselves as lords; it is the decision to let another Lord rule one’s life.”  While this does not preach well in modern contexts, Jesus tells those present that the call of discipleship is about giving up on the “good life” and embracing God’s divine plan which may include suffering.

Thus, the call of the cross is not only to death of self-interest, but it is also the call to ‘go public.’  Jesus then speaks about the primacy of God and our true place as individuals, and as a next step, he adds a call to take up the cross.  This is a call that should not only make us realize our status as believers, but this is also a hope that calls us to a greater ethic of life.  The call of the cross should result in a dramatic shifting from our self-interest to our call to public action as disciples of Jesus Christ.  Likewise, this call does not allow us to stay in the status quo, but challenges our presuppositions and invites us to take the gospel where we go.  This may result in suffering. It shows us that following in the footsteps of Jesus involves some heavy lifting.  As some scholars say “Cross –bearing (is) a willingness to be countercultural.”  However, this is not simply countercultural for the sake of being “different” in a culture that loves difference.  It is a call to take on the identity, mission and ministry of Christ, which are found in the cross.  The cross is not only a call.  It changes us, gives us identity and shares with us God’s mission for the world.

So, what should the cross look like today?  It should not look any different than it did when Jesus first said these words.  These words are a reminder that the cross we bear is about self-sacrifice and not about self-interest.  The cross that we should be carrying will never be a stumbling block, but we know Peter’s desire to have a non-suffering Lord is a problem.  The call of the cross in today’s context is not a different call, but the same call; a call to follow after Jesus.
 
 

Lord, am I a fox?

Lord, am I a fox? 
 
This last week I had the chance to preach on Luke 13:31-35. In the passage Jesus is told about how Herod, the vassal king of Jerusalem, wants to kill him. Jesus’ response is straight forward and pointed: he calls Herod a fox. In the context of the first century the idea of being a fox is not a good one. It is not the image of the sweet little reddish creature that we have in mind. In fact Jesus, in essence, calls him a crafty death dealer. 
 
Fox = deceptive, crafty, death dealer
 
What Herod seems to value is the deceptive practice of politics. The idea of slithering up the ladder one rung to another, but not to inspire hope or share the in best of God’s plan for his fellow human beings, but to control and crush those who offer resistance. He would be akin to America’s favorite crafty villain Frank Underwood as played by Kevin Spacey on the House of Cards. This is the kind of character where the ends always justifies the means and in the end he will sell his soul to gain the power wanted. 
 
I do not think that we are Frank Underwood or even Herod, but I think that we might be more accustomed to the underpinnings of their position on power than we would like to admit. We sometimes find ways to enact our will that are little fox like, crafty, and deceitful. We find ways to take credit for the work of other. We find ways to manipulate others around us, and sometimes even those that are there to help us. We never like to admit it, but sometime when the lights are off and our heads hits the pillow at the end of the day, we survey the day and ask why in the world did we choose to live like this?  Why did we choose to be a fox? 
 
Lent offers us the chance to reset!
 
It is the time of year that we come in preparation for Easter. We come in the full knowledge of our brokenness knowing that we are people that face temptation, people that deal in death, people that sometimes turn their cheek, but not in Christlike fashion, but rather to avoid seeing the need of our neighbor. So we come, and we offer to give up things; things that are to call us away from the way of the world’s death dealing, things that are to call us to come and gather under the motherly care of our God’s wings. 
 
So I ask you what are you giving up? 
 
I hope that we, as God’s people, are giving up on being foxes… 

Ash Wednesday

"Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return."  

It is not often that you hear that you are going to die, but this Ash Wednesday you will hear just that: you are going to die. It reaffirms that mortality is part of our existence as human beings. If you do not believe this, you need look no further than the front seat of my car where you can find the odds and ends of several obituaries: the legacy of the faithful reduced to a single column of text describing their lives. We are all going to die. Ash Wednesday is a bleak reminder of our mortality, but, a needed reminder. This reminder allows us to focus on the things that matter, like faith. 

It is out of this bleak news that we have the chance to renew our commitment… Lent for us is a chance for renewal in the light of our mortality. 

So I ask you this question, how are you planning to renew? 

I love this question! I didn't ask what are you going to give up, or what chocolate isn't considered cheating, but the question was simply; how are you planning to renew? 

We often give up something, and in the process, we do not take on anything new. As a pastor, I'm not concerned about you giving up: chocolate, meat, or even fast food. I’m concerned about what you’ll take on. Will you be praying for the church more? Will you be giving more to the needy? Will you be reading the scripture more? What will you be taking on and how will it renew your life and your faith?


Please remember Ash Wednesday and Lent are both chances to remember that we are mortal and we are going to die; thus, how we live matters. 

Join me… Join us, in taking something on and not just giving something up. 

Attitude is everything!

 Attitude is everything!
 
This was the theme of every coach I had while growing up. My coaches would often say that at anytime someone or worse yet another team could be watching and we wanted to have, if nothing else, the best attitude.  Run with a good attitude, throw the ball with a good attitude, and above all play the game, the sport with a good attitude. Why don’t we say this at church? Have a good attitude. I have served many different churches over the past 10 years some with better attitudes than others. I want you to know that I have never forgotten the churches or the people with good attitudes, their willingness to engage even in the midst of tough situations and their tenacity; they have kept me true to my call as a pastor. I also want to tell you, in full disclosure, that I have never forgotten when someone comes to me with a bad attitude saying things like, “pastor we have done this before, we can’t grow,” “we do not need a prayer group,” “bless your heart,”  or my favorite “I think we are okay the way we are!”
Now I want to state for the record that not every hill can be taken, not every fight is worth the battle, and honestly some things are better left alone. This however, is not the rule for church it is truly the exception. The church should be a place where we as the people of God come together with the assumption that anything is possible, when it is about God’s kingdom.
 
Can Cherryvale UMC worship 250 on an average Sunday?
 
Can we have a church where lives are changed every week?
 
Could our church be a place where God shows up every time the door opens?
 
I love these questions, because I know the answer and so do you, yes. However, behind these questions lays deeper questions, do I have the right attitude to see God working? Or do I stand in the way because I suck all the joy and excitement out of the situation? Am I content with what faithfulness I currently see? Do I think my church is already faithful enough?
 
William Coffin once said, “So why are Christians so often so joyless? It is, I think, because too often Christians have only enough religion to make themselves miserable. Guilt they know, but not forgiveness. Nietzsche correctly noted, “Christians should look more redeemed.”
 
 
Attitude is everything! We need to be a place where the “yes” of God’s possibility exists; a place where hope is found and where joy is in abundance, and above all a place where redemption is possible, even in the most broken of situations. If you find yourself with a bad attitude about the church and possibility that God can do amazing things, I would hope that you would repent, pray, and look for where God is at work. The church needs to have a good attitude, because in the words of my childhood coach, “someone might be watching.”
 
With Great Hope,

Cherryvale Staff 
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