Jesus said to go into all the world and make disciples. We are really trying to take Jesus serious here at First-Centenary. We have been doing some good stuff in Romania, helped support a ministry in Honduras, we are sending a group to Costa Rica, and the youth are in that foreign land known as South Carolina (I am not completely sure if that counts as Samaria, but both start with an S).
These are great things. We also give money to Family Promise, Partnership, Prison Ministry, Chattanooga Area Food Bank, Volunteers in Medicine, Room In the Inn, UTC Wesley Center, Bethlehem Center, the J. H. Henry YMCA, Henderson Settlement, and help support Harry Howe and Ray Zirkel as missionaries. And of course, we have an awesome ministry here throughout the week in our Centenary program. Not too shabby. But, I am always reminded of what businessman Oskar Schindler is credited as saying when he was looked to as a hero in saving many Jewish people’s lives in Germany during WWII – “I could have done more.”
Could have done more? Can we do more? Well, that’s up to you. First, I encourage us to continue to support the missions that we already do. Continue to support them financially and also look for ways to get more involved on a personal level. Volunteering time and talents you have could be used in these missions.
Secondly, speaking of volunteering, Matt and Tiffany Phillips are getting us back into overnight hosting with Family Promise the week of July 21-28. I bet they could use your help. Check out the ways you can get involved.
Thirdly, because everything from a preacher is supposed have 3 points, let’s consider getting involved with Habitat for Humanity again. There are ways you can do that until someone takes that ministry by the reigns again. Donate to the Restore or buy from it. Check with them and see how you can help. It is a much needed ministry in trying to provide affordable housing in today’s market.
And finally, I know I am over the preacher quota, if you know of other missions we do or we could consider getting involved in, let one of your pastors know. Or talk to the Mission Committee on how we can help you get that mission started. There are a lot of people out there that still aren’t disciples yet. Let’s keep going to as many places and reach as many people as we can.
Geaux Tigers, Barry
Published on Thursday, July 11, 2019 @ 3:24 PM EDT
Most of the Apostle Paul’s writings to the church of Corinth are relevant to the church of today. A passage that especially resonates, speaks of a door mentioned in I Corinthians 16:9. In this verse Paul wrote, “...for a great and effective door has opened to me and there are many adversaries.” Vividly, Paul describes the ‘door of opportunity’ with emphasis, though he acknowledges the presence of adversaries. He foresees this important challenge as one worthy enough to warrant remaining in Ephesus, despite any opposition.
Today’s Church faces a similar time in which God is challenging the people of God to courageously and boldly walk through the doors of opportunity that are opened. Just as the entrance of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, there is the “open” Door of Humility for all who choose to enter. This small, rectangular door requires all who enter, regardless of height or size, to bend down as they walk through.
On bended knee and with hearts of reverence, God is waiting to meet us in prayerful preparation for entrance through current and future doors of opportunity. Together, with the Holy Spirit, we shall have the strength, direction and wisdom to move forward. It is with this assurance of Divine Presence that we can humbly seize the opportunities ahead...May God forever remind us that ‘bending down in prayer and supplication’ prepares us to recognize and advance through doors of opportunity, despite the presence of adversaries!
Published on Thursday, June 27, 2019 @ 4:04 PM EDT
I am reading a collection of essays entitled For the Beauty of the Church, in which Andy Crouch, theologian and cultural anthropologist, says, “Prayer brings us into the life of the one by whom all things were made and are being remade. It aligns our life with the one who suffered most deeply on behalf of all that is broken in the world, and through whose sufferings the world has been saved, is being saved, and will be saved.” ( p 39)
When I read that, I was reminded how easy it is to fall out of our routines with spiritual disciplines during the changing seasons. Getting up earlier, going to bed later, kids out for the summer, etc. As we begin this summer my hope is that each of us would be intentional about our prayer life. Not because we are praying for something specific or are petitioning God in one way or another, but that our prayer time might become an avenue through which we stay connected to God.
Let’s be a people of prayer this summer, and as we commit to this discipline I know that we will see our hearts remade and realigned to the heart of God.
In Christ, Will
Published on Thursday, June 13, 2019 @ 1:20 PM EDT
Yesterday morning as I came out of the house, I spotted something strange and unusual in the neighbor’s yard. A cat was lurking under the bushes and intently staring in a certain direction that was alarming to me. The cat was staring toward my birdfeeders. I watched him for a moment and noticed how focused he was on the birds that were gathering for their next meal. This cat was ready to pounce at the first opportunity and consume his next meal.
I was running a little bit late and was concerned about making it to church on time. I had a decision to make - would I ignore the cat or would I try to shoo him away? I decided to help the cat reside someplace else. The birds were important to me and were safe for the moment. Mr. Cat would need to look elsewhere for something to consume.
As I was driving to work, I thought about the encounter with Mr. Cat. How many individuals, relationships, businesses, churches, and even countries have been negatively impacted by the things they choose not to shoo away? Those notions or ideas that are most often focused inwardly and based on fear and / or selfishness which organizations or individuals allow to linger, nearby, can cause great suffering and pain.
In the scripture, God was warning Cain about something he was allowing to linger in his soul and God says in Genesis 4:7 “if you do what is right, will you not be accepted? If you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it “
Thoughts come to us each day that can either help us do good or lead us to do harm to ourselves or others. We may not be able to control thoughts that come into our minds but we can certainly control how long they lurk or linger. Should we not quickly shoo those thoughts away like jealousy, anger, envy, pride, and lust. Should we not seek to run away from those thoughts that lead us into a deeper darkness of selfishness . If we let them linger around they just might consume what is important to us - our relationship to God and each other.
What we focus on is what we become like! May we focus this day on God’s goodness and grace. There is a saying by some Sudanese Christians, “God is good all the time and all the time I am a witness!”
Shoo away those “cat-like thoughts” seeking to consume you and allow the melodies of the birds to bring joy to you this day.
– Blessings, Mark
Published on Thursday, May 30, 2019 @ 3:48 PM EDT
Lately, I have been reading through a few of my old books. One that caught my eye is a book by Jim Harnish, a retired UMC preacher. The book is: You Only Have to Die, a concept most of us don’t really want to talk about. The book is about how UMC congregations can become the catalysts for our vision to “Go make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
He has a chapter on worship where he makes four points as to what worship really is. The 4th point is: Worship Motivates Ministry. I will quote part of that chapter. “What we do in worship and what God does with us is not an insignificant thing. In worship we are dealing with the reality of God’s power to transform the world. The God who meets the world in its suffering calls us to go into that world as the channel of God’s redeeming, liberating love. Genuine worship motivates us for obedient ministry in the world.”
He then uses the analogy of the church as a professional football game, in which the stands are filled with 80,000 spectators needing exercise watching 22 players that need a rest. Then he points out that genuine worship “never leaves us as spectators. It motivates us to do something that we would not otherwise do.” I honestly don’t think that this means making some Facebook post, or tweeting, or even writing a letter to the editor. I have honestly found that most of those “suffering, marginalized people” could really care less about our votes, tweets and posts.
What they care about is, are we out there with them. Read Isaiah 58 if you want God’s definition of real worship.
How are we going to worship God Monday through Saturday of this week? Being a spectator, Geaux Jesus!
Published on Thursday, May 23, 2019 @ 4:21 PM EDT