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United Methodist Church

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Pastor's Blog

Mark's Minutes

Thank God for the Gideon Ministry

Sunday, March 03, 2013

I Thank God for the Gideon Ministry

This morning, Mr. Ken Pickle is with us representing Gideons International. Virtually every year I’ve been in the ministry, I begin my 24th year this very day actually, every time I get a call from the local Gideons representative asking for a few minutes in worship, I always give an enthusiastic, “Absolutely!” There’s a very simple and elementary reason I say yes. It’s because I believe deep in my heart that the Gideons all around the world do some of the most important, indispensable, life-changing, soul-feeding work that anyone does for the Kingdom of God anywhere.

This morning, we welcome you Ken and we thank you and all the dedicated men (and women) around the world who call themselves Gideons (or Auxiliary Gideons) for putting the word of God into the hands of people. You never know how or when the word of God is going to touch and save a soul, but it surely does. The Gideons know that. That’s why they’re so inexhaustibly committed to doing what they do. After the service, let’s all be sure to drop a few dollars (or more if you are able) into the basket as you leave. In this way, you and I can participate in the glorious, Good News work called Gideons.

Look at these amazing Word-of-God facts about the Gideons:

*Gideons International was founded in 1899 and began distributing the word of God in 1908.

*Gideons is the oldest association of Christian businessmen and professional men in the United States of America.

*Gideons have placed or distributed more than 1.7 billion complete Bibles and New Testaments in more than 190 countries around the world.

*In some countries, Gideons are able to establish local groups where traditional missionaries aren’t allowed to go.

*Gideons distribute Bibles and New Testaments to students in the 5th grade and above, and to prisoners, police, fire, medical, and military personnel.

*There are over 287,000 Gideons and Auxiliary members (wives of Gideons) in more than 10,000 local groups worldwide.

*700 million Bibles and New Testaments were distributed in just the last 10 years.

*More than 84 million copies of God's Word were distributed last year.

*On average, more than two copies of God's Word are distributed per second.

*Over one million Bibles and New Testaments are distributed every 4.5 days.

That’s a lot of Word of God! Thank Ken this morning when you see him and give as you can to support the great Gideon ministry.

Your Pastor and Friend, Mark

The Spurning of Jesus’ Great Love

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Spurning of Jesus’ Great Love

Do you ever wonder what the most popular church songs were in Jesus’ day? Some on such a list might include the following:

  • “Hide me in the shadow of thy wings.” 17:8.
  • “In the shadow of thy wings I will take refuge till the storms of destruction pass by.” 57:1
  • “Oh to be safe under the shelter of thy wings.” 61:4
  • “In the shadow of thy wings I sing for joy.” 63:7
  • “Under his wings you will find refuge.” 91:4

All of these are songs found in the church’s songbook of the day, the Book of Psalms. They all speak of the protective wings of God.

In this morning’s scripture passage, Jesus expressed his heartfelt desire to comfort the “house” of Israel in Jerusalem like a hen would gather her chicks under her wing. The sad thing is much of the “house” didn’t want the comfort and shelter that Jesus had to offer.

Sadly, the “house” of Israel in Jerusalem missed the greatest spiritual parallel the world would ever know. Yehweh God, who longed to comfort Israel under protective wings in the Psalms, had come in the flesh in Jesus Christ to offer the same comfort and shelter, but they “were not willing.” They refused and rejected it. They even crucified it. And as a result, Jesus said, their “house” was left desolate to themselves.

This morning, the word of God speaks to us from its pages and says, “This is my Son, whom I love, listen to him. Accept His comfort, receive His shelter so that your house will prosper and no be left desolate.” May we run to Jesus this morning like chicks run for shelter under their mother’s wings. In the final analysis, that is the only thing that saves our lives.

Wanted: Persons Interested and Available for Weekly Care Ministry

Please let me know if you are interested in being on a weekly team that will record Sunday attendance and extend care to our worshipping church family as well as those who are shut-in. This will be a morning ministry, so it is ideal for anyone who isn’t working or who is retired. Pray about it and let me know!

God bless you and your “house” this week! Your Pastor and Friend, Mark

Lent: A Season To Renew the Fight Against Temptation

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Lent: A Season To Renew the Fight Against Temptation

Today is the “still” the fourth day of Lent. Actually, yesterday was the fourth day of Lent beginning with Ash Wednesday. But Sundays aren’t counted in the 40 days of Lent. Lent is a season the church has long since taken as a time to encourage people to reflect, repent, and rededicate one’s life to live the highest calling of Jesus Christ. The Lenten Season typically begins liturgically with the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. We revisit Jesus’ temptation by the devil in the Judean wilderness and we marvel at how Jesus was able to throw each temptation back into the devil’s face, successfully thwarting the devil’s devices and overcoming his temptations.

With respect to temptation, we’re no better or different than Jesus! We face temptation in and out of Lent and, like Jesus, before we can step into life as God’s anointed person, we first have to face and conquer temptation. Here’s what some people have said about temptation:

• I never resist temptation, because I have found that things that are bad for me do not tempt me. -George Bernard Shaw

• Temptation is the fire that brings up the scum of the heart. -William Shakespeare

• I generally avoid temptation unless I can’t resist it. -Mae West

• Yield to temptation. It may not pass your way again. -Robert A. Heinlein

• The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little. -Thomas Merton

• Lead me not into temptation; I can find the way myself. -Rita Mae Brown

• No temptation can ever be measured by the value of its object. -Colette

• What makes resisting temptation difficult for many people is they don’t want to discourage it completely. -Franklin P. Jones

• Lead us not into temptation. Just tell us where it is; we’ll find it. -Sam Levenson

• Those who flee temptation generally leave a forwarding address. -Lane Olinghouse

This morning, we’re going to learn what tools Jesus used to defeat the devil and his temptations. In the process, I hope we’ll all gain new resolve and spiritual resources to defeat the devil when he comes knocking at the door of our minds. The scripture is a great testimony for us: temptation is a fight we CAN win!

Your Pastor and Friend, Mark

Scout Sunday is Today!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Scout Sunday is Today!

We’re glad the Scouts of Troop and Pack 203 are with us today in worship. Scouting ministry is important to the life of Redwine UMC and we warmly welcome each scout, each parent and family, and each leader present with us today. Also a special thanks to Walter Simmons, Cub Master, and Doug Straughan, Scout Master, for their time and leadership in our scouting program. Thank you all for being with us today and Redwine UMC prays you have a safe and great 2013 in scouting!

I googled scouting this past week and I found some interesting things about the uniform and insignia. Lord Baden-Powell designed the early Boy Scout uniforms after the U.S. Army uniforms of the time. The Cub Scout uniform was designed to emulate the uniform colors and design of the United States Cavalry of the 1800s. On the insignia, Baden-Powell included the fleur-de-lis because it was commonly used as the symbol for north on maps, and a Boy Scout was to show the way in doing his duty and helping others. The plumes of the fleur-de-lis became symbols for Service to Others, Duty to God, and Obedience to the Scout Law. Later, two five-pointed stars were included, which symbolize knowledge and truth. A “bond” was also added tying the three plumes together to symbolize the family of Scouting.

I still remember reciting the Cub Scout Promise, Law of the Pack, Cub Scout Motto, Scout Oath and Scout Law when I was young. The principles and values contained in them shape character and give boys who are growing into young men a solid framework for manhood as well as a responsible and caring worldview. I know every man here today who was once a Cub and/or Boy Scout is still influenced by the training he received in scouting.

God bless you boys and God bless you leaders. Today we pause to recognize just how important and valuable you are and the program of scouting is on this property. Cubs and Boys, do your best to do your duty to God and your country. If you do that, scouting, and Almighty God, will be very proud of you.

Your Pastor and Friend, Mark

(Not Just) Super Bowl Sunday!

Sunday, February 03, 2013

(Not Just) Super Bowl Sunday!

So. Who’s it going to be? Who’s going to win the Harbaugh Bowl between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens? Or, as many are calling it, the HarBowl. Now, I know that some of you could care less about this year’s Super Bowl because you just don’t like football, at any level. I also know some of you could care less about today’s Super Bowl because our Atlanta Falcons “coulda, shoulda” been playing today and you still aren’t over that season-ending loss to the 9ers just two short, painful weeks ago. I tend to fall into the latter camp. But then, others of you are excited about the game today because you either a) just love football, or b) you really like one of the two teams. I have to admit, after our Small Group Meeting here at the church today at noon and later the Confirmation Orientation at 4 o’clock, I’m going home to watch the kickoff at 6:30! I guess I’ll pull for Lewis’ Ravens (something about that just seems so wrong!) simply because I want to see the team that beat us lose.

At any rate, today is so much more than Super Bowl Sunday. This day also contains two exciting events: an important Small Group Ministry (SGM) meeting and Confirmation Orientation.

I want to thank Jerry Kaiser for meeting with us today. Jerry was instrumental in helping us launch SGM last fall. I also thank our two SGM ministers, Anita Glover and Debbie Flanagan. Anita and Debbie’s responsibility is to oversee our SGM and make sure all the components are in place that keep SGM running and effective. Lastly, I thank the hosts and leaders from last fall. Hosts, thank you for opening your homes to the groups. Leaders, thank you for facilitating a group. Now, today’s meeting right after the 11AM Service is for anyone who is interested in being a SGM host or a leader this spring, whether you were in a SG last fall or not. I hope you’ll come as the Spirit leads you!

Secondly, I am excited about this year’s Confirmation Class and process. The Class is going to meet three times a week from now until Confirmation Sunday, which is Palm Sunday. The curriculum is “Credo,” which is a soul-searching, Bible-based expedition that culminates in each confirmand developing his or her own, personal faith and life Credo. There are lots of fun, educational, and soul-shaping activities planned for our youth in this year’s Confirmation experience. I’m excited for our confirmands in this important and unforgettable time in their lives.

As a church, I hope you will join me in praying for our Confirmation leaders and our 2013 Confirmands. If you are called on to serve in Confirmation this year, I hope you’ll say “Yes!” Confirmands, we’re praying for you and are here for you! You ARE the Church. You ARE our future. Help us be in better relationship with you! Sail on and soar on in Credo!

Your Pastor and Friend, Mark

A Foreword About Eat Pray Love

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Fore-Word About Eat, Pray, Love

Most of you have at least heard of Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling book from 2007 titled, “Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia.” I have borrowed from this popular title, which was later made into a movie starring Julia Roberts, as our final message on My Best New Year’s Resolutions for the month of January. My foreword is this:

I have borrowed the three stages of Elizabeth’s journey for self-enlightenment strictly because,

  • a) we all are at least familiar with her title (it IS amusing and fun!), and
  • b) because the three aspects of life that she left home to experience are dearly important aspects of life.

Now, you may, or may not, know that Elizabeth’s personal beliefs are not Christian, but New Age. She readily admits this. So, the reason I offer this fore-word is to assure you that we’re not going to study or espouse Ms. Gilbert’s personal spiritual beliefs today. I am a Christian minister and we gather in a Christian Church around only one word, the Holy Bible, and center our thoughts, study, preaching, praising, and worship around historic Christianity and Biblical tenets and teachings.

Today, we’re going to explore God’s word as it speaks to us on these three very important areas of our lives:

  • Eating - Responsible Dietary Practices Make Us Healthier, Happier, and More Useful in God’s Kingdom

  • Praying Prayer - Draws Us Closer to God, Self, and Others and Shapes Us Into the Spiritual Person God Wants Us to Be

  • Loving -As St. Paul said, “And now abideth these three: faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love.”

So, may God, whose fullest expression is Jesus Christ, teach and inspire us today through His Word to Eat, Pray, and Love in accordance with His standards. If we’ll do that, we will live more and more into the abundant life Christ Jesus came into the world to give us. It is one of the very best New Year’s Resolutions we can make!

Your Pastor and Friend, Mark

Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr.

I was young, but I surely do remember it. 1968. Memphis. Elvis and Priscilla were living at Graceland. To millions of people all around the world, Elvis was (and still is) “The King.”

But in March of 1968, another King came to Memphis Town: Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King had gone to Memphis to lead a march in support of city sanitation workers. These 1,300 workers, most of whom were black, were on strike for safer working conditions, higher wages and equal treatment. Unfortunately, several militant groups turned the march into a violent gathering and King announced over a bullhorn to the workers and the crowd, “I will never lead a violent march, so please, call it off.” He promised to return to Memphis in early April to lead a nonviolent march.

King returned to Memphis on April 3, 1968. Despite death threats on his life and tension very high, King felt it important to forge ahead and speak at a rally on behalf of the sanitation workers. These would be Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s final public words. Many of you remember them very well:

It really doesn’t matter what happens now. I got into Memphis this morning, and people began to talk about the threats that were out on me ... about what might happen to me from some of our sick white brothers. Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

Martin Luther King, Jr., wasn’t a perfect man, to be sure, but then again who is? But King did live outside himself. He lost himself in preaching the gospel and advancing human civil rights. The very next night, standing on the balcony outside his room at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, James Earl Ray fatally shot King. Today, this weekend, we remember.

Jesus said, “Whoever finds their life will lose it and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” Dr. King found life by losing it long before April 4, 1968. That is Jesus’ challenge and truth to us all.

God bless us all as we seek to lose our lives for Jesus’ sake.

-Mark

Happy Second Sunday of the New Year

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Happy Second Sunday of the New Year!

Last Sunday was the first Sunday of this New Year and what a great day in the house of the Lord it was here at Redwine! We had good attendance at both services and I felt a great spirit of warmth and love among the people. What a great way to start the year! If you were here last Sunday and today, you still have a perfect attendance record at church for 2013! Keep it up and invite a friend or two to join you sometime soon, too!

This morning, our new minister to youth, John Hutchinson, will be speaking during church worship. John and his family come to us from the Winder First United Methodist Church. He has a wife, Jennifer, and together they have five children: Bryce, Joey, Collin, Natalie, and Elise. John has been an active volunteer in ministry at his church since 2009 mainly with children, youth, and young adults. “Big” John has a lot of kid in him, and that’s a wonderful thing! I remember C. S. Lewis writing once that though he was old in years, he was still a kid at heart. And Jesus talked about having the faith of a child, too. I praise the Lord that God has given John a special place in his heart for children and youth. From 2004-2010, John worked for Wackenhut Services, Inc., at Fort McPherson, and before that he served our country in the United States Army from 1983-2005. John, we thank you for serving your country, our country, with courage and commitment. We salute you.

We’re surely blessed the Lord is calling and leading John in ministry and that the Holy Spirit has guided him to be with us here at Redwine UMC. I know John will be a great blessing to our youth and us all and will help our ministry staff nurture and build the kingdom of God at Redwine in new and exciting ways. Take a chance today to extend the hand of friendship and welcome to John and Jennifer and their lovely children.

As you read this, I’m preaching at Orphanage Emmanuel in Honduras this morning. I’ll also be preaching there this Wednesday night. Please keep me, Lindsey, Greg, and the Gainesville First UMC Team in your prayers for effective, loving, serving ministry and for safe travels. I love you and hope you all have a blessed, spirit-lifting time of worship!

Your Pastor and Friend, Mark

Happy New Year

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Happy New Year 2013

Happy New Year, 2013! I hope you had a great New Year’s celebration! In the month of January, we’re going to be exploring the most important resolution we can make in our lives: to live the good life according to God’s standards!

Resolutions help us formulate goals and goals help us strive to improve ourselves. God’s word reminds us that the most important goals we make are spiritual. To help us make and keep out best spiritual resolutions, consider these five practical steps:

  • Step One: Be realistic by setting achievable goals. Winning the lottery, for example, is out of your grasp.
  • Step Two: Describe your resolutions in specific terms. Instead of “I don’t want to be lazy,” opt for “I want to exercise regularly” or “I will cut down on my television watching.”
  • Step Three: Break down large goals into smaller ones. For instance, commit to losing weight by resolving to join a gym and improve your eating habits.
  • Step Four: Find alternatives to a behavior you want to change, and make this part of your resolution plan. So you want to quit smoking but you smoke to relax yourself? What other forms of relaxation are available to you?
  • Step Five: Above all, aim for things that are truly important to you, not what you think you ought to do or what others expect of you.

Our Message Series this month is: The Best New Year’s Resolution: Living the Good Life According to God’s Standards.

January 6 - I Resolve: To Believe

January 13 - I Resolve: To Not Sin

January 20 - I Resolve: To Be More Selfless

January 27 - I Resolve: To Eat, Pray, Love

I hope to see you in church every Sunday this month. So far, you haven’t missed a Sunday all year! God bless you!

Your Pastor and Friend, Mark

Happy New Year 2013

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy New Year 2013

Yes, today is the last Sunday in 2012. I looked over the calendar and noticed how unusual this year has been. There weren’t 365 days. It was a leap year, so there were 366 days. Also, there weren’t 52 Sundays in the year. There were 53. I thought each year had 52 Sundays. I’m feeling a little like Andy Rooney right now as I type this. Nobody ever told me some years have 53 Sundays. I never noticed it before. I wonder why. It turns out that years, like 2012, that begin on a Sunday, give or take a day or two, will have 53 Sundays. Next year, 2013, is a “normal” year. We’ll have 365 days and 52 Sundays, in case you were wondering. Anyway, today is for sure the final Sunday in 2012. Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve. I hope that you and your family have a safe and memorable New Year’s celebration.

Sometimes Lynn and I are out close to midnight on New Year’s Eve. Usually, though, we’re home and I watch the crystal ball, apple, or peach drop and wake Lynn up so she can see it, too. In my younger days I even watched the west coast bring in the New Year. Whatever you plan to do, wherever you plan to be, be careful and enjoy the moment!

This past week we celebrated Christmas, the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I hope that your Christmas was bright and warm and loving. Christmas is so special. May it linger in your heart and spirit and mine every single day of the coming year. But, as one preacher has remarked, “We’ve done the cozy work of tucking the baby safely into the manger. Now it’s time for us to look forward and get on with the real work of Christmas!” Not to shove Christmas back into the box quite so fast, yet it is also true. Today, right now, is the time to begin to think just how we’re going to look forward and get on with the real work of Christmas. I’m excited about our prospects here at Redwine UMC of getting on with the real work of Christmas in 2013!

God bless you and I hope you have a Happy New Year!

Your Pastor and Friend, Mark