Reflect and Renew

The Blog of Pastor Alan Cassady of Navarre United Methodsit Church

Archive for the category “Woodbine Methodist Church”

About Moving

This is the post I didn’t want to write. However, sometimes I need to write to see what I am thinking.

Moving is almost always a difficult thing for me. I pour so much of myself into my current appointment that it is very hard to let go, especially when there have been so many successes and milestones. Such is the case with Woodbine. At Woodbine:

  • I have grown a great deal as a preacher and communicator
  • I have learned much about leadership and administration (I still do not like administration but I can do it better)
  • I have built great relationships and have mentored and been mentored by people here.
  • I have learned to be a much better pastoral counselor.
  • I have learned to back away from things and not feel guilty, or should I say I am getting better at it.
  • I have learned to use technology more effectively (Ben would say I am not a real Jedi master until I get a Mac).
  • I have learned to rely on the gifts of many great lay people and I have been inspired by them as well.
  • I have learned what teamwork is by working with great leaders and a great staff.

These are just some of the reasons I hate leaving this place, but I have answered the call to ministry in the United Methodist Church and the appointment system is the system we use to provide pastoral leadership to our congregations.

My daughter said it best. She was having a conversation with a co-worker who just could not understand why a Methodist minister could be sent to another church when her pastor was called to her church. Charity said, “My dad is called to the ministry, and not to a particular church.” In the end that is it, I am called by God to serve God and his people wherever the Bishop sends me.

My grandfather used to constantly remind me that Baptist ministers are called and Methodist ministers are sent (implying that Methodists were sent by people and not God). One day after I had heard that over and over again I finally said, “Papa Methodists are called too, the difference is Baptists are called my the local church and Methodists are called by God.” I never heard that phrase again from him.

I am called by God with certain gifts and abilities and so is the person who will come after me in this wonderful place called Woodbine. I wonder what the future holds for each of us.

So what about the future? I will have to write about that later.

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Lenten Devotions 11

Prayer

O Love of God, descend into my heart;image
Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling,
And scatter there Your cheerful beams.
Dwell in the soul that longs to be Your temple;
Water that barren soil overrun with weeds and briars
And lost for lack of cultivating.
Make it fruitful with Your dew.
Come, dear Refreshment of those who languish;
Come, Star and Guide of those who sail amidst tempests.
You are the Haven of the tossed and shipwrecked.
Come now, Glory and Crown of the living,
As well as the Safeguard of the dying.
Come, Sacred Spirit;
Come, and fit me to receive You. Amen.

St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo A.D. 354-430

Scripture

Monday, April 18           Luke 22:1–38

Tuesday, April 19          Luke 22:39–71

Wednesday, April 20     Luke 23:1–43

Thursday, April 21         Luke 23:44–56

Friday, April 22             Luke 24

The Long Silence

This is the story I shared in the sermon” The Cross: Suffering” on 4-3-11

At the end of time, billions of people were seated on a great plain before God’s throne. Most shrank back from the brilliant light before them. But some groups near the front talked heatedly, not cringing with cringing shame – but with belligerence.

“Can God judge us? How can He know about suffering?,” snapped a pert young brunette. She ripped open a sleeve to reveal a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camp. “We endured terror … beatings … torture … death!”

In another group a Negro boy lowered his collar. “What about this?” he demanded, showing an ugly rope burn. “Lynched, for no crime but being black!”

In another crowd there was a pregnant schoolgirl with sullen eyes: “Why should I suffer?” she murmured. “It wasn’t my fault.” Far out across the plain were hundreds of such groups. Each had a complaint against God for the evil and suffering He had permitted in His world.

How lucky God was to live in Heaven, where all was sweetness and light. Where there was no weeping or fear, no hunger or hatred. What did God know of all that man had been forced to endure in this world? For God leads a pretty sheltered life, they said.

So, each of these groups sent forth their leader, chosen because he had suffered the most: a Jew, a Negro, a person from Hiroshima, a horribly deformed arthritic, a thalidomide child. In the center of the vast plain, they consulted with each other. At last they were ready to present their case. It was rather clever.

Before God could be qualified to be their judge, He must endure what they had endured. Their decision was that God should be sentenced to live on earth as a man.

Let him be born a Jew. Let the legitimacy of his birth be doubted. Give him a work so difficult that even his family will think him out of his mind.

Let him be betrayed by his closest friends. Let him face false charges, be tried by a prejudiced jury and convicted by a cowardly judge. Let him be tortured.

At the last, let him see what it means to be terribly alone. Then let him die so there can be no doubt he died. Let there be a great host of witnesses to verify it.

As each leader announced his portion of the sentence, loud murmurs of approval went up from the throng of people assembled. When the last had finished pronouncing sentence, there was a long silence. No one uttered a word. No one moved.

For suddenly, all knew that God had already served His sentence.

Taken from John Stott’s The Cross of Christ no reference cited.

Lenten Devotions 3

Prayer

Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan;Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Anglican Collect for the 1st Sunday of Lent, 1979 Book of Common Prayer

(A Collect is a traditional for of prayer for opening worship)

Readings

March 14, 2011  Luke 2:1–24

March 15, 2011  Luke 2:25–52

March 16, 2011  Luke 3

Back to Basics

According to an often repeated story, legendary football coach, Vince Lombardi, once expressed his frustration by stopping practice and saying to his Green Bay Packers something like, “Let’s start at the beginning. Gentlemen, this is a football.  These are the yard markers. I’m the coach. You are the players.”

Imagine that. The coach gathered his whole team of professionals who prided themselves in their knowledge of the game, and said, “Gentlemen, this is a football.”

Apparently their intimate knowledge of the game was hindering them from actually playing the game.

The same thing can happen in church life. We often get caught up in doing more and more in “ministry” and forget the primary mission. I once heard Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church, say, “Church will naturally drift toward complexity.”

Every now and then we need to return to the basics of following Christ and ask, “What are we to do as a church?” Here it is in a nutshell.  And Jesus came and said to them:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:18–20)

This passage, known as the “Great Commission” is the primary task of every local church. The United Methodist Church echoed Jesus when it said, “The mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” At Woodbine we have characterized that mission as, “Reach out in the name of Jesus, Grow in the likeness of Jesus and Live all for Jesus.”

In Jesus’ words we find not only our mission, but how we are to accomplish that mission as well. We are to make disciples by baptizing and teaching. This means that

disciples are made when people are lead to the point of conversion, where they repent of their sins and confess Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives. It also means that as a church our job does not end there, we are to teach them to obey everything Jesus said. By any standard this is a daunting task. The mission is clear, we are to make disciples.

In the business of church life, however, we can forget our primary mission. We can become so caught up in the various programs of the church that we forget the point of it all: making disciples.

A good number of the leaders of the church have been reading a book entitled Simple Church: Returning to God’s Process for Making Disciples by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger. This book is all about helping the church stay focused on it’s main mission,– making disciples. If making disciple is the mission of the church then everything the church does should be purposed to move people toward that goal.

I would urge every leader, every member and every person who calls Woodbine home to begin thinking about our primary mission and what it means for us to actually accomplish it. You can begin by reading the book or by coming to our next Leadership Gathering on Friday October 22.

At this gathering we will begin the conversation about what it would mean for us to deliberately focus everything we do on the mission of the church. I will present the basic points of the book, Simple Church, and lead discussions around what it would look like for Woodbine to focus on the mission of the church. Join us for what promises to be one of the most important conversations in the life of our congregation.

Call Sharon in the church office, 995-0007 and put your name on the confirmed list for this gathering, you don’t want to miss it.

The God Questions: Is God Real?

This series of sermons takes a look at the biggest objections to the Christian faith. The resources were originally produced by Hal Seed and Dan Grider. I have used much of their material and adapted them for our congregation at Woodbine United Methodist Church. Two links are listed below to go a little further into the subject.

This is the first and formost question that any person should ask and answer: Is God Real?

To answer this question we will look at three pointers to God’s existance.

The Existence of Stuff

If nothing exists, we don’t have to explain it. But, the minute we acknowledge that something is real, then we have to come up with an explanation for it.

The universe exists. It’s real. We live in it. We see it, hear it, feel it, and breathe its air. Where did all this stuff we feel, hear, breath, smell come from?

Here’s a principle we all understand intuitively: The nature of cause and effect: For every effect, there has to be a cause.

For every effect, every thing, there has to be something that caused it. So what is the first cause of everything in the universe?

The Nature of Stuff

The universe is a huge, complex, marvelously well-ordered place. Since it exists, you have to explain where it came from.

One possible explanation for how something got here is that it was self-created. It came from itself. That doesn’t follow logically. Scientists and philosophers tell us that something cannot come from nothing. A thing can not cause itself.

Everything in the universe is contingent.

The universe is dependent on other things in order to exist.

Everything in our universe is contingent on something else for its existence.

Nothing we observe around us seems to be absolutely self-caused or self-reliant. In fact, it’s easy to conclude that everything we can see around us did not exist at one time, and probably will not continue to exist forever.

So, if everything we observe is dependent on something else, and not independent or self-caused, the principle of dependency leads us to ask, If all that exists is dependent, fragile, and temporary, who or what is responsible for all these dependent objects and beings?

Philosophers go through all sorts of complex arguments and intricate proofs to try and answer this question. Let’s simplify it for a moment.  In your mind, get way, way away from the universe, zoom out from it, and then take everything in the universe and draw a circle around it. All the galaxies, solar systems, planets, black holes. Shrink the whole thing down to fit inside a small circle. The circle represents our universe and is about 25 billion light-years in diameter. By comparison it is 9 light minuets to the sun. It would take the space shuttle 7 months to fly there. It would take our fastest rocket 70,000 to get to the nearest star. If our solar system was the size of this quarter, our galaxy would be the size of the United States (100,000 light years).  The nearest star would be 2 soccer fields way.

Everything inside the circle is dependent. It relies on something besides itself for existence, and because of the principle of entropy it’s slowly headed towards non-existence.

So the big question is, where might the thing that caused all this dependent stuff to exist in the first place be located? Inside the circle, or outside of it? If everything inside the circle is fragile and dependent and reliant on other objects inside the circle, how likely is it that the cause of all we see originated inside the circle of contingency?

A thinking person would have to conclude that everything that exists inside the circle must have been created by something outside the circle. And by definition, whatever is outside that circle must be independent, absolutely self-caused and self-reliant.

This would make it eternal. Unlimited. All powerful.

Which is why the Bible says in Psalm 19:1, ” The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”

See what God is saying here? “Open your eyes and see. I am all around you. I have left pointers to my existence all over the universe!”

The Design of the Universe

The universe we live in also reflects the marks of a designer. In fact scientists tell us that there are no less than 154 (Reasons to Believe) aspects of the universe that are finely tuned to the point that if one of them were off by a fraction, life would not be possible. This fine tuning is evident in the physical constants of the universe:  the average distance between galaxies, gravitational forces, orbits of planets, the decay rate of protons and even waters heat of vaporization.

Remember how Psalm 19 said that the heavens declare the glory of God? I would argue that the tropical jungles do too.

Hints to God’s nature

To design something so intricate and delicate and beautiful and superior as this, whoever created this universe must be smart and thoughtful and creative and superior. He must be loving, because He designed His creation around the needs of His creatures.

And if you want a verse to share with a friend, should they ever ask you how you know there is a God, you can turn them to Romans 1:20, where the Bible says:

[Ro 1:20 TNIV ] For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

If they just stop and think.

3.  My sense of right and wrong.

All people everywhere have an innate sense of right and wrong.  We have within us a sense of right and wrong. A sense that certain things are right and should be done, and certain things are wrong, and shouldn’t be done. Anthropologists tell us that that is a universal phenomenon. Morals vary from person to person and culture to culture, but every person has them.

Now, here’s the interesting part: how many of you have ever done what you believed was wrong? You betrayed your own sense of morals? Anthropologists tell us that that is a universal phenomenon as well; that all people admit that they have within them a moral standard, and that they haven’t lived up to their moral standard. Because their moral standard is actually higher than they are.

How do you explain that all of us have within us a sense of morals that are beyond us? The only reasonable way to explain universal ideas of right and wrong is that our morals were not self-invented, but came from a higher moral source.

The Bible recognizes that as well:  [Ro 2:14-15 NLT ] Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. They demonstrate that God’s law

Now, let’s put all of this together.

The circle of contingency leads us to conclude that the universe was created by an uncreated creator. An unlimited, eternal, all-powerful being.

The fine tuning of the universe shows us that that creator is very smart, creative, thoughtful, and cares about his creation. He put great beauty and care into His creation. So He must be smart and beautiful and creative and caring.

Our own hearts demonstrate to us that the creator surpasses us in morals, or He wouldn’t have been able to create morals that were higher than we are.

Put all those together and you have an eternal, powerful, smart, beautiful, loving, moral creator. And that comes very close to a working definition of God, doesn’t it, friends?

And really, what are the alternatives? Random chance and circumstance? Which takes more faith? Which is more intellectually honest?

I would argue that it takes more faith to believe that there is no God than to believe that there is one.

Below are some links to investigae this further:

Hugh Ross catalogs 154 aspects of the universe that are fine-tuned to allow life to exist.

William Lane Craig’s extended essay “Does God Exist?”

Father’s Day

A little humor and a prayer for Father’s Day

If Men Could Write the Rules

Rule # 1 – Anything we said six or eight months ago is inadmissible in an argument. All comments become null and void after seven days.

Rule # 2 – If we say something that can be interpreted in two ways, and one of the ways makes you sad or angry, we meant the other way.

Rule # 3 – It is in neither your best interest or ours to make us take those stupid Cosmo quizzes together.

Rule # 4 – You can either ask us to do something OR tell us how you want it done – not both.

Rule # 5 – Whenever possible, please say whatever you have to say during commercials or time-outs.

Rule # 6 – Christopher Columbus didn’t need directions and neither do we.

Rule # 7 – When we’re turning the wheel and the car is nosing onto the off ramp, you saying “Is this is our exit?” is not necessary.

A Prayer

For our fathers, who have given us life and love,
that we may show them respect and love,
we pray to the Lord…

For fathers who have lost a child through death,
that their faith may give them hope,
and their family and friends support and console them,
we pray to the Lord…

For men, though without children of their own,
who like fathers have nurtured and cared for us,
we pray to the Lord…

For men who are struggling to learn what it means
to be a father in this complex world,
we pray to the Lord…

For men who have become step-fathers,
who give guidance in a blended family,
we pray to the Lord…

For fathers, who have been unable or unwilling to be a source of strength,
who have not responded to their children
and have not sustained their families,
we pray to the Lord…

God, in your wisdom and love you made all things.
Bless these men, that they may be strengthened as Christian fathers. Let the example of their faith and love shine forth. Grant that we, their sons and daughters, may honor them always with a spirit of profound respect. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Adapted from resources found at http://www.homiliesbyemail.com/Special/Fathers/fathersday.html

Which Bible is the Right One?

From time to time I am asked about the best Bible translation to buy and read. That is a difficult question. Let me tell you my personal preferences and then give you some links to do some research on you own.

I personally use the English Standard Version (ESV). The ESV as the publisher says is an “essentially literal” translation. It is a revision of the older Revised Standard Version (RSV). I like it because it takes a more literal approach to the translation process and therefore is a better starting place for detailed study of Scripture. Other translations in this vein are KJV, NKJV, NASB and the NRSV to some degree. The New International Version (NIV) is a good translation as well. However, I prefer a more literal translation when doing detailed study.
I also enjoy two more dynamic translations. The New Living Translation (NLT) and the New Century Version (NCV). These two attempt to render the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek in a more contemporary style. They are very helpful for understanding difficult passages.

Here are a few links that will help as you make a decision. (These are chosen because of their balanced content, not because I endorse everything in the article or on the website.)
Here is a good article that gives an overview of the different translations that are available.

The article Choosing a Bible offers a good over view of translation methods. It is produced by the company that publishes the ESV. It is in PDF format.
This site Which Bible is the Word of God offers a general overview of the reliability of the Greek text of the New Testament as well as an article on the work of Textual Criticism . Textual Criticism, also called lower criticism, is the analysis biblical manuscripts in order to determine as far as possible the original wording.

The Bible Choices article shows a chart of popular Bible translations with a view to grade level and reading difficulty. The article is a little dated in that it doesn’t mention some of the newer versions.

After you decide on a translation then comes the task of choosing what kind of Bible. A good study Bible is a necessary tool.

How to Choose a Study Bible gives a brief overview of the different types of study Bibles classified by their doctrinal orientation.

eHow offers a good overview what to look for in a study Bible.

Of course when it is all said and done, the best Bible translation is the one you actually read!


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