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Memorial Day: We Remember and We Honor

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Memorial Day: We Remember and We Honor

It’s doubly meaningful for me to write these words several days before Memorial Day. Last Sunday Lynn and I delivered our son, Mark, Jr., to Fort Gillem and he shipped to Fort Jackson, South Carolina for BCT, that’s Basic Combat Training, in the United States Army. Memorial Day (and its accompanying weekend) is a time to remember and honor persons who paid the ultimate price, as President Lincoln phrased it, in battle. Initially, it was to honor and remember those who died in the Civil War, but with the South rejecting that notion for many years, it wasn’t until 1971 that Congress passed it into law to remember and honor all persons who died in all military conflicts.

I’m sure some of you have family members or close friends who died serving our country. Today, we remember and we honor them. And today, I want to say Thank You also to Mark Jr. and all the men and women who have served or are this very moment actively serving our country in the Armed Services. Remembering and thanking God for them is what Memorial Day is for.

Here are two popular poems that help us remember and never forget:

In Flanders Fields, by John McCrae, 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky the larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below. We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, loved and were loved, and now
we lie in Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders fields.

We Shall Keep the Faith, by Moina Michael, 1918 (excerpt)

Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields, sleep sweet-- to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw, and holding high, we keep the Faith
with all who died.
We cherish, too, the poppy red that grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies that blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red of the flower that blooms above the dead
in Flanders Fields.

Today we remember, honor, and give thanks. Have a safe and blessed Memorial Day weekend.

Your pastor and Friend, Mark

Farewell Mark Jr. Our Love and Best Wishes Go With You

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Farewell Mark Jr.! Our Love and Best Wishes Go With You!

In the next few weeks, we’ll have two farewells together. The second farewell will be from me next month as Lynn and I move to Orange UMC in Canton, Georgia. But the first farewell we have together is today. As a church family, we say goodbye to Mark Outlaw, Jr., who will be leaving after church this very afternoon to begin serving his country in the United States Army. Mark asked me some time ago if he could speak on Pentecost Sunday, his last Sunday as a civilian. With high pride and honor for Mark’s new direction and his passion to share the life of Christ with us all, I of course said, “Yes!”

As parents, we’re proud of our children, at least most of the time! We’re proud when they’re born, when they take their first step, when they say “Da Da” or “Ma Ma” for the first time, when we drop them off for their first day of school, for school accomplishments and activities, when they graduate, when they go to college, and especially when they make good decisions. As parents, we all share the experience of being proud of our children.

I hope you, the Redwine Church family, join me in being proud of Mark, Jr. for his decision to join the United States Army. Surely this is, by far, the biggest decision he has made thus far in his life. But what an outstanding decision it is! I know he will benefit in many, many ways from being in the Army. Join me in thanking Mark, in advance, for serving his country in the US Army.

He chose as his MOS (military job) 35Q, which is Cryptologic Network Warfare Specialist. I asked Mark, “What is that?” He said, “I’m not exactly sure, but it sure is going to be interesting!” I’m proud of Mark for taking this step and I hope you are, too.

But I’m just as proud that Mark wants to give witness and testimony on his last Sunday as a civilian, which also happens to be Pentecost. How appropriate it is! On that first Pentecost, ALL the apostles were together (apparently at least 120 of them), ALL of them received the Holy Spirit, ALL of them spoke in tongues, ALL of them gave witness and testimony to Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Today, in the great apostolic line, Mark Jr. is going to give witness and testimony to Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Mark, we thank you, we love you, we honor you, and we ask God's blessing and safe-keeping rest on you through basic training and beyond into your service in the United States Army. Farewell and God bless you, young man. And come home soon. We’ll leave a light on for you.

Your Proud Dad, Pastor, and Friend, Mark, Sr.

Happy Mothers Day

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother’s Day!

Today we celebrate our Mothers. Today is also The Festival of the Christian Home. It’s not easy being a Mom, nor is it easy running a Christian home. For instance, take the following. Someone compiled this list and called it “Murphy’s Laws of Parenting.” I know every parent can identify with most of these!

1. The later you stay up, the earlier your child will wake up the next morning.

2. The gooier the food, the more likely it is to end up on the carpet.

3. The longer it takes you to make a meal, the less your child will like it.

4. A sure way to get something done is to tell a child not to do it.

5. For a child to become clean, something else must become dirty.

6. Toys multiply to fill any space available.

7. Yours is always the only child who doesn’t behave.

8. If the shoe fits . . . it’s expensive.

9. Backing the car out of the driveway causes your child to have to go to the bathroom.

Yes, thank God for Moms. Oftentimes, it’s the Mom who’s the heavy and not the Dad. A lot of times I fall into that category! Sometimes Dad can be a pushover. Moms usually are not. Moms are usually tough as nails. Take these things we know a Mom would never say:

“How on earth can you see the television sitting so far back?”

“Yeah, I used to skip school a lot, too.”

“Just leave all the lights on. It makes the house look more cheery.”

“Let me smell that shirt. Yeah, it’s good for another week.”

“Go ahead and keep that stray dog, Honey. I’ll be glad to feed and walk him every day.”

“Well, if Timmy’s mom says it’s okay, that’s good enough for me.”

“The curfew is just a general time to shoot for. It’s not like I’m running a prison around here.”

“I don’t have a tissue with me .... just use your sleeve.”

“Don’t bother wearing a jacket — the wind chill is bound to improve.”

Thank you mothers for your love, your light, your care, your encouragement, your example, your life. God bless you and God bless the Christian home today. We need it more today than ever before. This morning we’re going to reflect on Mom’s Wisdom on Watching Your Words and mix it with God’s word on the important subject of censoring the words that come out of our mouths.

God Bless You Moms! -- Mark

A Thimble-Full of God Will Not Make You Whole

Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Thimble-Full of God Won’t Make You Whole!

God’s Prescription for Healing is the name of a book written thirty years ago by Dr. James P. Gills, M.D. In the book, Dr. Gills outlines five “points of entry,” shall I say, in which God brings healing and wholeness into our lives. His thoughts bear upon our topic this morning: “The Work of Christ that Makes Us Whole,” which is Part II of our current Series titled, “The Work of the Resurrected Christ.”

The essence of Dr. Gills’ thoughts is this: God’s Word tells us that we need to be transformed and aligned through Jesus Christ in order to receive all that He is. In order to receive all Christ is so He can live fully in and through our lives, we have to surrender all we are and ever hope to be to Him. Jesus surrendered all to His Heavenly Father in His moment of truth: “Not my will, but Yours, be done.” We need to do the same. Self-denial, “it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me,” must happen in our hearts if we ever hope for the Resurrected Christ to come fully alive in us.

Dr. Gills wrote, “As long as you are content with a thimbleful of God, you will only view life from the standpoint of reports of illness, bad relationship scenarios, hopeless circumstances, and your soul will be troubled as a result. But hope in God and His Word and it will transform you into a man or woman of faith.”

Dr. Gills was right on target! This morning, we’re going to turn to God’s word to see just what the Work of Christ is that Makes Us Whole. Truly, wholeness is one of the beautiful and blessed gifts the Resurrected Christ reaches out to give to us every day. Consider these insightful words of Ralph E. McIntosh:

I looked into the eyes of Jesus, and I felt love.

I touched the hands of Jesus, and I felt power.

I knelt at the feet of Jesus, and I felt worship.

He put His arms about me, and I felt protection.

He lifted me up, and I felt mercy.

He turned me, and I felt tenderness.

He sent me, and I felt commission.

That’s what Jesus wants to do for us. That’s what the Holy Spirit wants to do for us. That’s what God wants to do for us: make us whole by giving us love, power, worship, protection, mercy, tenderness, commission. It can happen and it will happen, today, this very hour, if we’ll open our hearts, surrender self, and welcome Him inside. What a gift the Giver of Gifts wants to give to you and me today so that we can be whole for Him and His Kingdom!

Your Pastor and Friend, Mark

Brother, Can I Help You Push?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Brother, Can I Help You Push?

In one of my first years in ministry, I was mowing the church parsonage lawn. A car stalled on the busy highway right in front of the house. A man jumped out of the car and a woman slid behind the wheel. The man ran to the back of the car and pushed from behind, yelling instructions to the woman about how and when to release the clutch.

I watched this for a few moments. It was quickly apparent the man was not going to be able to push the car and teach the woman how to manipulate the clutch at the same time.

I turned off the lawn mower, jumped the ditch to the street (I was much, much younger!) and I said, “Brother, can I help you push?”

He said, “Thanks a lot.”

So we both pushed, but the woman behind the wheel simply was not getting the idea of how to pop the clutch.

I said to the man, “Why don’t you hop in behind the wheel and I’ll push and get you going so you can pop the clutch.”

So he did and I did and the car sputtered and jerked at first, then fired up and rolled along down the street. The man stuck his arm out the window and waved goodbye saying “thank you!”

I thought nothing else about the incident. That next morning, that same man walked into my office in the church (which was right beside the parsonage) and sat down. He immediately began to cry into his hands. It was an unusual situation and moment: a grown man and a complete stranger, crying like a baby without having spoken the first word. I sat and prayed quietly.

Finally, the man told me that just two days before, he and some men had broken into several businesses in a nearby office complex and he was still in possession of the stolen merchandise.

Then he said to me, “When you came to me yesterday on the road and you said, ‘Brother, can I help you push,’ I felt God come to me.”

“I am convicted now,” he continued, “by the spirit of God and I have to get rid of this stolen property and I want you to help me give it back.” We prayed together and I worked out the details with the local police.

Friends, the Good News of the Gospel is that the Resurrected Lord Jesus Christ can and will come to us, will come alive in us, and will even touch other people if we will give Him half a chance! This morning we’re going to investigate just how the Resurrected Christ can come more alive in us today. This morning, may our answer to Him be, “Yes, Lord Jesus, come alive in me today!”

Your Pastor and Friend, Mark

The Power of Resurrection: From Fear to Faith

Sunday, April 07, 2013

The Power of Resurrection: From Fear to Faith

On this first Sunday after Easter, called the Second Sunday of Easter, we revisit the scene in which the disciples are holed up in a room fearing capture and death at the hands of the Jews. When the Resurrected Lord Jesus appeared to them, which surely must have astonished them, amazed them, and humbled them, He offered them everything they needed to take away all their fear: He sent them His peace, He commissioned them to go out as apostles, He offered them His Holy Spirit.

Here’s the thing. A week later, that next Sunday, the disciples were still in that same house, still holed up behind locked doors. Though Jesus had given them power, authority, and His Holy Spirit to “go out,” they “stayed put” instead.

But then, Thomas enters the scene. He wasn’t present the first time the Resurrected Jesus appeared. Then, on that next Sunday, he was present, he saw with his own eyes, and he gave his whole heart to Jesus in sold-out belief.

The scenes take us through the gamut of spiritual experience. It is Easter experience overcoming fear and doubt and distrust. When we personally experience the Risen Christ, He moves us from fear to faith to faithful followership. That’s the Power of Easter’s Empty Tomb!

Just like the disciples, we have our fears. I heard Billy Bob Thornton say in an interview once, “Antique furniture gives me the creeps!” Former football coach, John Madden, refused to fly in an airplane. So did Aretha Franklin. Tough guy actor, Ray Liotta, says he’s afraid of spiders. When Winona Ryder was twelve she almost drowned. Ever since she’s been deathly afraid of water. Actor Pierce Brosnan suffers from claustrophobia. He gets physically sick with sweaty palms, even in an elevator.

John 20 reminds us that we live behind locked doors, too. We have our fears. We’re afraid of commitment, afraid of joy, afraid to be all we can be, afraid to open ourselves to the power and the possibility of Christ’s love, afraid of stepping out on a limb to give someone else a word of testimony about Jesus.

Easter offers us the power of resurrection: power to shake off fear, negativism, and doubt. John 20 engages us to encounter Christ, experience Christ, and believe in Christ. The greatest expression of our belief is to do what Jesus calls and commissions us to do: to take His name, His heart, His love to others.

Let us do that. Let’s experience the Risen Lord Jesus today. Let’s shake off the shackles of fear, negativism, and doubt, and do what Jesus empowers us to do: to go out. It is the one thing we and the church exist to do. May the world see us as we truly are called to be: Easter people!

Your Pastor and Friend, Mark

Easter Sunday

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Sunday

Palm Sunday

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Palm Sunday

Holy Week Schedule

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Our Holy Week Schedule

My fervent hope and prayer is that the events of Holy Week bless you and your family. Please make plans to be present for each gathering and invite friends and neighbors to come to Redwine, too, especially those you know don’t affiliate with a church.

Palm Sunday Next Week with Covered Dish Lunch

Remember, there is only one Worship Service next week, so those of you who regularly attend the 9AM Service, please make a note of that! We’ll celebrate Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. Children will wave palm branches. We’ll sing songs that celebrate and commemorate our Lord’s triumphal entry.

After Worship, we’ll move to the fellowship hall where we will enjoy a great covered dish lunch! Don’t you just love covered dish meals at church? Bring your favorite dish(es) and come ready to feast in worship, then around the lunch table!

After lunch, our children will erupt with glee as they flit and float, and rush and ransack!, the church grounds in search of those orbital desirables we call Easter Eggs! We’ll make notice of the Egg Hunt to the community as well, so hopefully we’ll have some community parents and children join us. If you see faces you don’t know, make sure you introduce yourself and welcome them to Redwine.

Good Friday Service and Lunch

On Good Friday, March 29, at 11:30AM, we’ll have a drop-in time of prayer and meditation in the sanctuary. You will receive some prayer points to consider in your prayer time and there will be soft music appropriate to the day. This is the day we remember Jesus was tried, scourged, and crucified before Sunday. At noon, we’ll adjourn to the Fellowship Hall for a light lunch of soup and sandwiches. Come in a spirit of reflection, remembrance and repentance and this time will be well worth your while.

Easter Sunday!

The Sunrise service is at 7AM outside under the arbor. A breakfast follows in the Fellowship Hall. We’ll have one 10:30AM Worship service, so again, 9 o’clockers make note of that. Bring your family and friends to worship on this most special day of the Christian calendar.

I look forward to celebrating the passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with you.

Your Pastor and Friend, Mark

Sticky Church

Sunday, March 10, 2013

I believe every church has a great challenge: holding on to its members who come in the front door and keeping members from “falling away” or leaving out the back door. How does a church maximize its attendance/membership inflow and minimize its outflow? Another way to put this is, “How can a church become ‘sticker’ so it both fulfills and keeps its members?”

This is (or should be) a guiding question and challenge for all churches and it is precisely this challenge that is the catalyst for our Small Group Ministry (SGM) that we started last September. Our second semester of SGs begins next Sunday, March 17. The main reason a church needs to become as “sticky” as possible is to help its people, that’s us, have a closer walk with Jesus Christ. Small Groups isn’t the only way a church becomes “sticky,” but it surely is one method that has proven successful over the past twenty years or so.

You might have heard of the book, Sticky Church, and its author Dr. Larry Osborne. Larry has been the pastor of the North Coast Church in southern California since 1980. He has helped oversee the growth of that church from a fledgling group of 128 meeting in a rented school, to a multi-site ministry that reaches over 9,000 in weekend attendance. His book explains the reasons for its growth: Small Groups. Some of the chapter topics include:

*Why stickiness is so important;
*Why most of our discipleship models don't work very well;
*Why small groups always make a church more honest and transparent;
*What makes groups grow deeper and sticker over time.

Now, I don’t know if Redwine UMC can or even wants to grow to 9,000 people! However, I do know our church wants to make disciples of Jesus Christ, that is our primary mission, and Small Groups is already helping us do that better. SGs are already helping Redwine be a “stickier” church!

In both of our worship services this morning, we’ll hear from a few people who want to share about the significance and value the small group experience is bringing to their lives.

Small Groups. Sticky Church. New terminology, that’s for sure. But our goal is age-old: make disciples of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19) and “prepare God’s people for works of service so the body of Christ will be built up” (Ephesians 4:12). Small Groups is already helping us do that better. Find your place in a SG today. Praise the Lord!

Your Pastor and Friend, Mark