Race Weekend — Spring 2008

On my old blog “Virginia Transplant,” I noted that NASCAR comes to our little corner of the world twice a year. This past weekend was one of those two weekends. My father-in-law noted that the weather looked ugly yesterday. Friday was the last time we had nice weather — not that I’m complaining because we need the rain. We are still in a drought. But for a racing weekend, it was terrible — raining and cold (for Southern Virginia.)

While none of us in our family are diehard NASCAR fans, we do participate in some of the activities throughout our small city. Like I mentioned yesterday, the size of our community triples (at least) during race weekend. Wal-mart usually has several cars on display and so do several other retailers. There are give aways and racing simulators, so we have a little fun. I’ve included some pictures of our Saturday activities.

One thought I had about this weekend was the dedication of the fans. Despite the bad weather, the race was a near sellout. There was a very light rain throughout the race and the fans hung in there. NASCAR fans support their drivers and they are dedicated to being there. It made me think: do we put such a high priority on the Kingdom? It seems (at least to me) that some Christians will put anything in front of being in church or doing Kingdom work. Sometimes it seems our priorities are out of sync. So, I challenge you to put Christ and the work of his Kingdom first. When we do that, God will take care of everything else.

By the way, it was great to have a native Virginian win in Virginia. Carp Diem! (Seize the Day!)

Interesting Statistics

I found this over on Buddy Rampey’s blog.  He is the District Superintendent of our South Carolina District.  These are statistics from 1997-2007 in The Wesleyan Church.

  • 44% of Churches average between 1 and 50 in attendance but represent only 11% of overall attendance.
  • Only 10.1% of Churches average more than 1000 in attendance but they represent 20% of overall attendance.
  • Assessable income from the 1-50 Churches is 10% of denominational income and the income from the 8 churches that average over 2000 is 14%.
  • 901 Churches use Covenant Membership only (53.28%) and 790 Churches use Covenant and Community Membership (47.72%).
  • 6 Churches that are larger than 500 in attendance have more Community Members than Covenant Members.

As we reviewed some of this information we were assigned these two questions:

  1. What is this information saying?
  2. What kind of questions should we be asking?

Sunday Night Thoughts

Well, I’m back!  Actually, if you’ve been following the blog this weekend, you will know that I have been back all weekend.  I was suppose to be teaming as part of an Emmaus weekend.  If you are not aware, an Emmaus weekend is a wonderful time of spiritual renewal.  I was sponsored by one of the couples in our church.  Their daughter and son-in-law are also involved in our local Emmaus community and he plays and I mean he really plays the piano.  He wanted me to come on this weekend to play bass.  Because I am a member of the clergy, I was also asked to serve as an assistant spiritual director.  All that came to a halt on Thursday night, when I found out that Pam’s mom was in bad shape.  I returned home to be with Pam and be a comfort to her.

I really don’t know why, but I really don’t think it was meant to be this time around.  What was nice is that I already had scheduled vacation time with Radioshack, so it was nice to have a long weekend and Pam and I and the kids enjoyed being around each other for the weekend.

Tomorrow, everything returns back to “normal.”  Pam and I and her family are still in limbo regarding her mother.  Today, we had a great service in my opinion.  Twice a year, our church and other churches in our community face a challenge and that is something called NASCAR.  Our sleepy little community on the Southside triples (at least) in size as people come to Martinsville for the race.  This places a strain on the road system, but is great for our local economy.  Actually, we pray for rain, so they will stay over an extra day.  Native Virginian Denny Hamlin won the race today.

Several of our congregation had to work the race today in various capacities.  It also throws a wrench in the works in trying to pick up our students.  Despite all that we had a great service.  As we concluded the congreation sang “How Can I Keep from Singing?” and did a great job.  This afternoon we took our traditional drive through the NASCAR city.  It really is interesting, despite the terrible weather we had here today.  Sometimes I wish church people were as committed as NASCAR fans.

This evening we continued our study of the Ten Commandments; looking at #2 – No Idols.  I felt like I was preaching to the choir tonight.  We had a great discussion.  I think I’m rested up and ready for a new week.  Local Church Conference is coming on strong, so there are things to do to get ready for that and I’m leading worship at FLAME in a few weeks.  Blessings and have a great week.

Weekly Lectionary Reading

duccio_di_buoninsegna_035.jpgSecond Sunday of Easter
March 30, 2008

Color: White

Acts 2:14, 22-32 (during the Easter season, readings from Acts are substituted for the Old Testament Reading); Psalm 16; I Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31

Today we continue the celebration of the resurrection.  In reality, each time we gather on Sunday is a mini-resurrection celebration.  Our focus at Preston Wesleyan will be on the difference the resurrection makes in the life of a believer.  Today we lean heavily on Peter — his speech on Pentecost and his letter.  Peter makes it very clear that Jesus was born, crucified, and raised all for the purpose of saving humankind.  It was all part of the plan — there was no plan b.  The Psalmist David writes:

9 No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice.
My body rests in safety.
10 For you will not leave my soul among the dead
or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.
11 You will show me the way of life,
granting me the joy of your presence
and the pleasures of living with you forever.

Peter reminds us in Acts that the Holy One is not David but Jesus.  Jesus is alive.  The fact that Jesus is alive, gives us glorious hope — that hope is that because Jesus is raised, we have the power over sin and sin no longer controls us. We also have the hope that because Jesus is risen, that those who have received him — those who are His children, will be raise with Him someday — that we have a priceless inheritance — an inheritance that will not rust or decay, or be ruined by the stock market, or the housing market or anything else.  Our hope is in heaven.  That is the difference that the resurrection makes.

Worship Recap

March 30, 2008
Second Sunday of Easter

Call to WorshipOur Risen King

He has risen!
He has risen indeed!
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?
Death has been swallowed up in victory
Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep
For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no loger has mastery over him.
For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection, and the life, he who beliees in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never died.”
Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Songs of WorshipCelebrate Jesus (Oliver); All Hail, King Jesus (Moody); He Is Lord (Unknown)
Song of Worship
Crown Him With Many Crowns (Elvey/Thring/Bridges)
Worship through Prayer
Worship through Giving
Ministry through Music
Song of Worship –
Christ the Lord Is Risen Today (Wesley)
Worship through God’s Word – What Difference Does the Resurrection Make?
Song of CommitmentHow Can I Keep From Singing (Redman/Tomlin/Cash)

What Difference Does the Resurrection Make?

What difference does the resurrection make in the life of the believer? We have now entered the season known as Easter. During these next few weeks, we will share songs together and we will look at the resurrection from several angles. We alluded to the answer of that question during last week’s musical. Each Christmas, I usually make the statement, “We cannot divorce the child in the manger from the Christ on the cross.” Too many times we think of those as two completely different events, but they are both part of God’s plan for the salvation of man. Just as we cannot separate the birth and the death of Christ, we cannot separate the death on the cross from the resurrection from the tomb.

The cross is powerful as we saw last week. When Jesus instituted the communion feast, he told his disciples, this is my body which was broken for you. Jesus Christ’s body was beaten to a pulp for each one of us – not only individually, but for us corporately – we call that the church. Not only was his body broken for the church, but his blood was shed for the forgiveness of sins. Paul tells us: [Jesus] gave up his life for [the church] 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. The cross is a powerful part of the Christian narrative, but the cross alone cannot save us. Why? If Jesus would have died and not risen again, he would be no different than any other human who walked the face of this earth. One characteristic that each human has is that one day each of us will die. We cannot escape it. That’s what makes Jesus so much different. Every other leader of a religious movement is still in the ground, but Jesus is alive.

Remember our dear friend Peter – mister, stick foot into your mouth at every opportunity? Just fifty days later, he was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and responded to some accusations about him and the other disciples in a powerful way. Here is what he said:

22 “People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know. 23 But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him. 24 But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip. 25 King David said this about him:

‘I see that the Lord is always with me.
I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.
26 No wonder my heart is glad,
and my tongue shouts his praises!
My body rests in hope.
27 For you will not leave my soul among the dead
or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave.
28 You have shown me the way of life,
and you will fill me with the joy of your presence.’

29 “Dear brothers, think about this! You can be sure that the patriarch David wasn’t referring to himself, for he died and was buried, and his tomb is still here among us. 30 But he was a prophet, and he knew God had promised with an oath that one of David’s own descendants would sit on his throne. 31 David was looking into the future and speaking of the Messiah’s resurrection. He was saying that God would not leave him among the dead or allow his body to rot in the grave.

32 “God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this.

See, the incarnation (the birth of Jesus), the death of Jesus on the cross and the resurrection were all part of God’s plan from the very beginning. Like Pastor George Harris said last week at our community sunrise service, “There is (or was) no plan b.” This was the plan so that humankind could be saved. Not only did God raise Jesus back from the grave, but there were many witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15: 3 I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. 4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. 5 He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. 6 After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him.

If the resurrection was not an important part of the story, why would Peter and Paul both mention it? Each of the gospel writers gives us a description of the resurrection. John tells us what happened later Sunday evening of the resurrection:

19 That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. 20 As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! 21 Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

24 One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. 25 They told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”

26 Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”

28 “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.

29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”

So what difference does the resurrection make? Listen to the words of Peter again, this time from one of his letters.

3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, 4 and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. 5 And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.

6 So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. 7 These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

8 You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. 9 The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.

Here is where the power of the resurrection is described. We have been born again because God raised Jesus from the dead. What difference does the resurrection make? We have a priceless inheritance in heaven. How would you like to have an inheritance that won’t rust, decay, lose its value, or change in any way? This is what God has promised for those who are His children. Peter tells us of the great joy that is to be ours. Does he say that we will never go through trials, no, they are there to help us prove our faith is genuine. Remember what Jesus said to Thomas. Look at what Peter says to the church.

8 You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. 9 The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.

This morning could be a new step for you. Are you living in the power of the resurrection? Or are you living in your own power? Thomas believed because of what he saw and touched. We have to believe even though we haven’t seen. Can you trust in Jesus today? Can you trust in the power of the resurrection? It can make all the difference.

What Do You Think Of The Social Gospel?

When our daughter Rebecca came home from school for spring break she as us for our opinion about the story about Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus

Luke 16:19-35 (NLT) 19 Jesus said, “There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and who lived each day in luxury. 20 At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. 21 As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man’s table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores. 22 “Finally, the poor man died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died an was buried, 23 and his soul went to the place of the dead. There, in torment, he saw Abraham in the far distance with Lazarus at his side.24 “The rich man shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in anguish in these flames.’25 “But Abraham said to him, ‘Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides, there is a great chasm separating us. No one can cross over to you from here, and no one can cross over to us from there.’ 27 “Then the rich man said, ‘Please, Father Abraham, at least send him to my father’s home. 28 For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment.’29 “But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’30 “The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.’ 31 “But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead.'”

Dale and I both told her that there will be many people who will be sad on judgment day because they had turned their back on the “social” gospel. If we want to live the life that Jesus lived and listen closely to what He preached, it would be what we know as the “social” gospel. Jesus was with the poor, the needy, and the outcast of his day. He could have stayed clear of them and with the nice “spiritual” people of his day but he did not. He went to those who needed him the most and before He could save their souls He had to take care of what they needed first. So if we want to follow in Jesus example sometime we have to get a little dirty and get close to the smell to follow Him. Jesus gave us only two commandments – To love God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourself.

A Glimpse of Heaven

Lately we have had tears and sorrow. My family is going through a difficult time with my mother’s sickness and yet there are times we have had a glimpse of heaven.

This weekend did not turn out the way we had planned. Dale was to be teaming on an Emmaus Walk this weekend. On Thursday night, I called my sister and found out that my mother was getting worst. The infection was starting to take over her body. I called Dale to inform what was going on. I was upset and started packing for the trip home.  Dale decided he needed to come home and help me out. While he was holding me tight and trying to get me to relax, I told him that, for the past couple of weeks my thoughts have focused on Ray Boltz’s song “Thank You”. I thought what it will be like when my mother walks on the streets of heaven and meets people who have been saved because of her faithfulness in being a pastor’s wife and mother who has raised four children who are in full time ministry.

A couple of days ago Rebecca, our oldest, wrote a blog about Grandma singing in the heavenly choir with a perfect voice. If you ever heard my mother sing you would understand why that is so great.

Last night, while talking to my father yesterday, he told me that my mother sat up, opened her eyes and said “Nana, heaven is so beautiful, is it so beautiful Momma.” Wow, in our human minds we can only imagine that God let my mother have a glimpse of heaven to get her ready for her homecoming.

My thought now is how do those who do not have hope in heaven make it thought these times —  the death of a love one or their own death?  

Politics Makes Strange Bedfellows

I do not know what it is about this year’s election, but I am finally getting back to enjoying politics. When President Ford was running, my parents took me out of school one day so I could meet Jack Ford and get his autograph. I loved taking about politics back then and this year I am really getting in to politics again. What is interesting is that where you fall in the political spectrum depends on where you live In New York, it appeared that we were on the far right and here in Virginia, we are somewhere in the middle.  The thing that is so interesting this year is talking to the guys who Dale works with about politics. Most of them are young enough to be our children so it is interesting that most of the things their views are close to our views. The main thing that they are talking about is the war and our military. They want the war over and our military taken care of. Another thing that surprised me is that the guys who we talked to are pro- life.  The main difference is they do not want a Republican in office at all costs.

What is interesting for me, is that some influential leaders have said that they will not vote in the presidential election if their candidate does not win the primaries.  That sounds a bit childish to me.  Titus 3:1-2 has some good words for us, ” 1Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.” Peter gives us similar instructions:  13Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, 14or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. 16Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. 17Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.  It’s important for believers to be in prayer for this year’s election. We have a couple of months to see how things play out with the election but the one thing we must keep in mind is, that it is God who is the one who really has a say in who is our new president.

Dump Those Purses

A couple of weeks ago, I was teaching the high school girls about inner beauty. We were talking about finding the real person we were inside.  What better place to find what a woman or a girl is than their purse?  Now, I really did not have them dump out their purses. I asked them to pick out three or four things that would show someone who they were. I even did this with them.  I picked out a green gel pen, pictures of my kids and pictures of some of kids from a military family that we have become friends with in the past couple of years. What do these things tell you about me? The gel pen tells you, I do not ever want to lose the girl inside of me. The pictures of my kids tell you, I am a mom. The others picture tell you, I real love ministry to the military. This was a great thing to do with the two girls that I had in the class because each of them picked out things that were really them. After we did that, we looked at what the Bible tells about God’s view of each one of us. The girls liked that fact that God was hands on in making them. Psalms 139 tells us that God was there to design us with his own hand. It was a good time to review how special each one of us are in God’s eyes.