Carried In Community

Dear Friends,
 
I pray you had a blessed and restful Labor Day weekend. However, I realize that for some, it was anything but restful. Many are worried, concerned, frightened, and anxious over any number of things. This makes it difficult to rest when our minds are racing with all of the uncertainties of life. Last Sunday, as we began our worship at First UMC with receiving prayer concerns, as we usually do, those in attendance were reminded of the burdens that are on some of our hearts. I am grateful that our members feel closely connected – enough to be vulnerable among one another – enough to share from one’s heart – enough to ask for the prayers and support of those brothers and sisters in Christ that make up their Community of Faith.
 
A Community of Faith. That is exactly what we are going to begin celebrating and thinking intentionally about this Sunday as we kick-off our “Together: Created for Community” fall preaching and worship series. Read more…


Start From the Inside

Dear Friends,
 
“Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand:
there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.” -Mark 7:14-15
 
When my family and I moved a couple years ago, it became a good opportunity to purge some of our collection of belongings that we had accumulated over several year’s time. It felt good to sort and to donate and to save. I’ve noticed this has been happening at First UMC as well this Summer. Read more…


Fall at First UMC!

Dear Friends,
 
The Great Minnesota Get-Together begins this Thursday.
For me, the reality of this is always bittersweet. My family and I always attend the State Fair at least once and sometimes twice during it’s eleven day stretch. We look forward to the food, the entertainment, and yes, even the crowds. There’s just something I love about people-watching. There is such incredible diversity among God’s people that is something to celebrate and never more evident than at the State Fair. Read more…


Connected or Disconnected?

Dear Friends,
 
I know it’s only Monday, but I pray your week is going well so far. My prayer for you this week is that you are connected to Christ. 
 
I pray you are connected to The Vine. I pray you are able to “abide” in Christ and find hope and comfort and
 peace. The word “abide” literally means to “make one’s home in.” Our scripture this coming Sunday from the gospel of John (John 6:51-58) challenges us to abide in Christ – in a rather alarming way. Read more…


Discover Your God-Given Strengths

Dear Friends,
 
There was a story written by George Reavis in 1940 about a group of animals that got together and decided to start a school. The curriculum consisted of running, climbing, swimming, and flying. All of the animals were required to take all of the subjects. Well, as you would imagine, the duck excelled in swimming but really struggled in running. The rabbit was excellent in running, but struggled in flying. The squirrel breezed through the climbing class, but failed swimming. The eagle was always getting into trouble because he insisted on doing things his own way. In climbing class he beat everyone to the top of the tree because he flew to the top! Their animal school eventually closed down because the animals were all struggling with the curriculum. Read more…


“Together: Created for Community”

Dear Friends,
 
“As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” -1 Corinthians 12:20 (NIV)
“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” -1 Corinthians 12:27 (NIV)
 
My family and I just returned from a week-long camping trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Northern MN. There were seven in our group, total. Seven people together 24/7 for six days straight in the primitive wilderness is a true exercise in teamwork and building community. It’s critical to the success of a trip like this that all work together – cook together, clean up together, paddle together, portage gear together – all the while encouraging one another as part of this temporary and unique community.
 
I reflect on this recent experience as I am mentally preparing for our fall preaching and worship series at First UMC, beginning on Rally Sunday, September 9, entitled, “Together: Created for Community.” Read more…


The Real Miracle!

Dear Friends,

“Here’s my lunch, Jesus!”

What a great worship we had last Sunday as we were reminded to “go to other side of the lake” with Jesus to get away, to rest, and to pray. Where is that “other side of the lake” for you? I pray that you are able to find rest and renewal this Summer in the midst of your usual day-to-day busy-ness and sometimes chaotic lives.

This Sunday, July 29, we begin a four-week series of lessons from the gospel of John that speak about Jesus as the Bread of Life. We’ll begin by looking closely this week at the miracle of the feeding of the 5000 found in John 6:1-15.

We know this story well and always assume the miracle in it is the amazing multiplication of food that ends up feeding all with even several baskets left over. But is that the REAL miracle in the story?


No Time to Eat!

“There were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his disciples didn’t even have time to eat.” – Mark 6:30-31
 
“The house of my soul is too narrow for Thee to come in; let it be enlarged by Thee. It is is ruins. Do Thou restore it.” – Augustine
 
Dear Friends,
 
As I prepare for this coming Sunday and reflect on the preaching text (Mark 6:30-34; 53-56), I am feeling convicted. In the text, Jesus is teaching the importance of getting away to a quiet place to rest, pray, and be renewed. It was important then. It’s important now. 
 
How many of you are like my family and me, when it seems like our daily lives get so busy that they begin to spin out of control. Between my wife and I we are constantly juggling how we and/or our children will get to the right places at the right time. Balancing work and family is always a juggling act but, as Jesus reminds us in this text, an important one. For as Augustine wrote, we too might identify with his lament, “The house of my soul … is in ruins.” If that is the case, we too, can trust in the Lord to restore it. Read more…


Choices of Discipleship

Dear Friends,
 

The front page of the local paper, The Beaumont Enterprise

As I write this I am in the small southeastern Texas town of Orange. A wonderful congregation of the Southern Baptist Convention has opened it’s doors for our group to live in and minister out of this whole week. Our brothers and sisters in Christ at the North Orange Baptist Church have been gracious and welcoming of our group. They have taken good care of us so far and have been sharing with us some heart-wrenching stories of how they were impacted directly, endured, and recovered from Hurricanes and Tropical Storms like Harvey, Ike, and Rita. Oh, and they’ve fed us, too! We love our new friends from the Texas Baptist Men disaster relief organization! Here is a powerful video testimony of the work they do throughout Texas, the country, and our world. Their stories and the children’s stories have been powerfully profound as they’ve described mass feeding, rescue, and water purification efforts. Imagine hearing 6-10 year year old children talk matter-of-factly and intelligently to you about flood insurance, FEMA, and disaster relief. Read more…


God is Doing a New Thing

Dear Friends,
 
It was a great first Sunday for my family and me as we were so warmly welcomed into this genuine community of faith.
 
Thank you for your grace and forgiveness as I tried to navigate my way through how you are used to worshiping and being community. My family and I ended the morning feeling overwhelmed by your love, grace, and acceptance. Read more…