All posts by don

Blessed New Year!

Blessed New Year!

What will this New Year bring? Sometimes the future looks hazy. We do not know what will happen next. We cannot know for sure and not knowing can make us anxious. We all want to know how everything turns out but that knowledge belongs only to God. The problem is, since we do not know what is going to happen next, we are inclined to forget that God does know. God sees it all from beginning to end, like a magnificent story from above; he sees it all at once. The future belongs to God, and he determines what happens next. We can trust God with the future, because God is always and forever the same. God’s holiness, his mercy, his purposes never change. Even so, that does not make God predictable. God is beyond us, infinitely greater and wiser, and we will never figure out his ways.

We know the Bible says in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”. God is always going to do something good; God is always going to bless us. Still one thing is for sure: God will surprise us every time. He will always do something new. God loves to create and do new things. A friend taught classes in country line dancing. She loved to teach dancing, but she had one major frustration. Whatever single dance she would teach first, that is the dance the class would want to do all night long. Apparently, rather than learn another new dance, people would rather do the same dance they know over and over again. The problem with sticking only with what we have done in the past is that all we know is past; yet we serve a God who is calling us forward into a new future. God says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!” (Isaiah 43:18-19) Are you ready for God to do something new in your life and in our life together at church? Ready or not, as we join to walk with the Lord this New Year, God only leads us in one direction. FORWARD.

A good theme for 2018 could be LIVE FORWARD. We want to be a people released from the past and ready to receive every new thing God holds out to us in days yet to come. So let us get ready to LIVE FORWARD. In this first month of the year, I am asking you to make a couple of new commitments. First, set aside the seven days between the last two Sundays of the month, January 21 to 28 for a special week of fasting, praying, and renewal. We all need this time of spiritual renewal, and I believe the future of our church depends on it. Second, in order to grow as disciples, we are asking everyone to start a new journey with a small group or Bible study group. If you are not part of a small group or Bible study group, find out what group you can join. What God wants to do next in your life may very well begin with this new commitment to grow in relation to Christ with others. I am asking you to try it. After all, it is a new year, the start of something we have never seen before. What does the future hold for you and me? What does the future hold for our church? New things according to God’s purpose So let’s join together, and trust God as we LIVE FORWARD in ministry together in this new year.

Shalom, Pastor Lia

Thanksgiving is a time when “we gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing.”

My Brothers and Sisters, give thanks for the season of  thanksgiving that makes our lives radiate with the love of God. Here are five suggestions for deepening our Thanksgiving celebrations.

PRAISE GOD. Many of us gather at Thanksgiving and speak about what we are thankful for. But perhaps we are not quite as articulate about why we give thanks. This year give praise and thanksgiving to God with your family. Give thanks for your family, job, home, and blessings” and find specific things to praise in each person in your family.  For example, express thanks for a loved one’s quiet strength, sense of humor, or loving support. Be grateful for the warmth of an age-weathered home. Sing loudly about the love and witness of a church family that loves and supports many with the love of Jesus.

TALK AND LISTEN. Put away the electronic devices, turn off cell phones and the speakers, get away from hectic holiday schedules, and engage people near and far in heartfelt conversation. Go beyond topics like the weather and sports to listen and connect with people face-to-face and heart-to-heart and fill up on loving fellowship instead of only food.

RECONCILE AND FORGIVE. It’s easy to express thanks for what or who we like and to toss away that which is undesirable or broken. Indeed, most of us also have people that we do not especially appreciate but that God has placed in our lives for a purpose. This season is a good time of the year to look at the broken parts in our lives, the relationships that have gone wrong or the promises we have made but broken. In seeking reconciliation ask yourself: Who do I need to forgive and ask for forgiveness?          How can we move toward reconciliation? Pray for healing so that your thanksgiving can be full of love and peace.

SERVE. Serving people in soup kitchens and homeless shelters at this time of year is a beautiful way to show respect, love, and care to those in need. As part of giving thanks, consider extending the bounty you enjoy to include coordinating food drives at church during other times of the year, when there are fewer volunteers but the same, aching need. Perhaps you may want to invite to thanksgiving dinner persons that you know who have no family nearby.

EMBRACE. Holidays can be times of conflict as loved ones gather and discover or rekindle profound differences. In reality, even if we grew up together, live in the same town, and share many commonalities, we are, each of us, uniquely different. This Thanksgiving, instead of highlighting what could separate us, try to focus on the essence of Thanksgiving. As the hymn goes, “we gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing,” we seek unity and embrace people in our families, our church and our community sharing the love of God with everyone.

Happy Thanksgiving, Love, Pastor Lia

What is your ministry at Christ United Methodist Church?

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

What is your ministry at Christ United Methodist Church?

Where do you serve and whom do you serve? Christians respond to God’s call saying: “Here I am, Lord, send me”. We are called to be in loving service to our community. We are called to love and serve God and our neighbors. We are called to be servants, witnesses and ministers of God. We are called to work in the kingdom of God.

Every Christian is a minister and a witness. Every Christian can lead persons to Christ, by showing the love of God, by sharing a prayer, a word of encouragement, an invitation to a small group, to work in a mission outreach, or to attend a worship service.

CHRISTIAN LEADERS ARE THOSE WHO PRAY, SEE, LISTEN AND SERVE

Christian leaders pray, see the need, listen to God and serve according to the needs of the people. Christian leaders in the church need to:

  1. Make a commitment to Christ and His Church and support the Church and its ministries with your prayers, presence, tithes and offerings, service and witness.
  2. Keep the focus on God (daily prayers, Bible study, and spiritual disciplines).
  3. Share the love of God (act with loving kindness toward all persons).
  4. Become a joyful witness (share the Gospel of Jesus with all persons).

There are many needs in our community and at Christ UM Church. There are several ministries that need to be developed. The ministries of the church can take place only if we all make a commitment to serve Christ through our Church.

What is your ministry at Christ United Methodist Church?

God is faithful and God promises that “His grace is sufficient for all our needs.” If you feel that you need to develop a ministry pray, talk to the pastor and your small group, and trust God to lead you in the right direction. Friends, the Christian life is the best life and being in ministry in the name of Jesus is the most rewarding job a Christian disciple can ever have. We would like for every member of the church to carry business cards with the name of the church and a place to write your name. Be ready to give them out to people you meet.

Think about it, where is God calling you to serve? Are you giving God excuses? Are you ready to be the Christian servant that God needs you to be?

What is your ministry at Christ United Methodist Church?

What is your ministry in Lehigh Acres?

In Christ Service,

Pastor Lia

HOW DO WE SHARE THE GOSPEL WITH OTHERS?

HOW DO WE SHARE THE GOSPEL WITH OTHERS?

When Christians are asked what keeps them from sharing Christ, they often give two reasons: “I don’t know what to say” and “I don’t have the courage to speak.” These two issues fade away when we are effectively walking with God. As we learn His Word, we will know what to say (John 3:16). As we take His hand in a daily walk, we will have the courage to share Him with others. (Philippians 4:13)

Why is it that some believers grow in Christ to become mature, well-balanced, fruitful Christians, while others spend most of their lives defeated, frustrated and unproductive?

When we determine to walk with God we always face at least two types of problems: outside adversity and the inward struggle between the old nature and the new. We need a friend to walk with us in the Christian life, someone who can pray with us and guide us.

How do we share the gospel with others?

Every believer has an opportunity to help others come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Many think evangelism is reserved for pastors or people with the gift of evangelism. Some have the wrong definition of evangelism. They see evangelism as speaking to strangers about Christ, so they rule themselves out. Effective evangelism is simply being an ambassador for Christ. An ambassador is someone who makes friends in a foreign land. Most people who become believers do so because of a relationship with a Christian friend.

When we lead a friend to Christ we tell them about John 3:16, about the love and forgiveness of God in Christ, and the blessing we have received from the Lord. Our job is not over when they accept Christ. When a baby is born, the parents do not go on vacation and leave the newborn to take care of himself/herself. Babies require hands-on care. The new believer is a spiritual baby and needs someone to be a mentor and guide.

New believers can be trained to feed themselves from God’s Word. By inviting new members to attend a small group or Bible study group they can learn more about God, how to have daily personal devotions and a closer relationship with God. They learn how to grow in faith and how to serve.

Invite a neighbor to church and enjoy seeing them Grow in Faith

Love, Pastor Lia

Are you really interested in making Disciples for Jesus Christ?

Are you really interested in making Disciples for Jesus Christ?

“I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.'” Acts 26:17-18

Andrew Carnegie once said: “The older I get the less I listen to what people say. I just watch what they do.” I would like for you to ask yourself, am I really interested in making Disciples for Jesus Christ? Do I really want to do this? I hope that you are one of those faithful disciples who care enough about people in need of God and you want to help them to have a relationship with God. Many church members are more upset over their favorite team losing a game than over the many people who are lost without God and without hope in our community. When are we going to do something about it? When are we going to stop waiting for someone else to help these people and their families? Wake up. If we do not do it, who will do it? It takes a Christian disciple like you to bring people to Christ and to the church family.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19). Disciples making new disciples is what Jesus asks the church to do. If you have experienced the grace and forgiveness of Jesus, were fed by His Word and blessed by His grace, then can you obey His command to go make disciples. You are it. No one else is coming. There is no alternative rescue mission. You are it. I have heard all the high-sounding excuses, like “But I really do care. I just don’t know what to do.” Jesus will guide you every step of the way. Like the Good Samaritan, loving your neighbor is something you do, not something you say. Discipleship is simply one person caring enough about another person to bring them into a relationship with God.

So, what can you do? How can you be that faithful disciple-making person? Let us get practical. You can start by praying and asking a neighbor if he or she would like to have a cup of coffee. Ask about their family. Ask about their work and share, “I attend church at Christ United Methodist and we would love to take you to visit my church. It is an amazing place where the love of God is real.” Then follow the conversation wherever it leads. Just take a person as far as he or she wants to go toward Jesus at that particular moment. God is not holding you accountable to produce a particular outcome. However, God is expecting you to be a faithful disciple.

Do you really care about what happens to people who are lost and hopeless? Then pray for people in your community and go to share the love of God with someone who needs it, someone who needs hope or someone who needs a friend. Go and share the good news of salvation.

In Christ Service, Pastor Lia

What are the Keys to Revival

“Therefore I will teach them – this time I will teach them my power and might. Then they will know that my name is the LORD.” (Jeremiah 16:21) Revival was the theme for annual Conference. We are living in the greatest time the world has ever seen. God, by His divine plan, chose for us to be alive right now in this time. That means that God sees something in us. God sees the potential that we have to bring the gospel message to many people in need of salvation in our neighborhood. The exciting part is God wants to use you and me to bring a revival in our church and in our community. I was recently reading some statistics about church growth in other parts of the world, and I was amazed at how different they are compared to the church in the U.S. The article stated that in China, a person becomes a Christian every three seconds, which comes to 28,800 people every 24 hours! Africa and Brazil are experiencing a revival sweep across those countries that are bringing societal transformation. What is the key to revival? As I have prayed about this question, I think of one keyword —hunger. Those who are hungry for God will be fed with his grace. God will always pour Himself out on those that are desperately seeking Him. What about the church in America? What about the church in Lehigh? Are we desperate for revival? My answer to that question is we are beginning to be. For years, I would have said no. The church has not been hungry for God. However, I am seeing that change in our nation rapidly. There are many churches and communities that are starting to experience real revival and transformation, as a result, of many Christians who are committed to daily prayer and witness. If we pray daily, the Lord is faithful and he will answer our cry of revival. We already have several leaders in our church, who testify that they have experienced the touch of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Rick Curry, a preacher, saw the Lord walk through the back of His church one Sunday morning. He went into prayer and received a word from Jeremiah 16:21. Then he held meetings at his church nightly with a group of leaders, which quickly became known as the Gulf Stream Revival and spread all over the gulf coast. They saw hundreds come to the Lord every weekend throughout the panhandle of Florida. There are many other places where this is happening in America, people are praying for revival and it is happening; the Holy Spirit is filling the hearts of hundreds of people. Friends, we cannot lose hope for our nation! God is doing something that is unique. Our Christian inheritance is revival, it happened in the past and it is happening today in many places. Do we want to be part of what God is doing in the rest of the world? We need to do our part; we need to gather weekly to pray for revival in our church and our community. We need to find ways to witness to every person we encounter in our daily lives. Please pray for revival in our church and our community three times a day and trust that if God can move powerfully in other places, God can do it in Lehigh Acres.

Amen! Shalom, Pastor Lia

Staying Connected during Summer Vacations.

June is here! June means warmer weather has arrived and some of you may be taking off on vacations or adventures meaning that you will probably miss some Sundays here and there. If that is the case for you, here are four thoughts for summer if you can’t be at Christ UMC on Sunday.

1) Worship wherever you go. When we are on vacation, or out of town, we may be reluctant to find another place to go to church. Finding a church isn’t a problem, but it is hard getting up the courage to go to an unfamiliar church. I’m sure whatever church you find would love to have you worship with them and it would be an opportunity to experience how our guests feel when they come to Christ UMC for the first time.

2) Check out our Facebook and church website. You can keep up with the church family, news and all that is going on.

3) Check out Online Giving. We’ve all been there. We go on vacation and aren’t at church to give. We miss a few Sundays and when we come back we aren’t in the position to “make up” what we missed, even though we want to. We really want to be faithful in giving and supporting our community of faith and all the ministries, but when we aren’t at church, it is hard to keep current in our giving.

Online giving can help you keep current with your giving goals. You can continue to faithfully support the ministry of Christ UMC while basking in the sun, floating on the sea, hiking in the mountains, visiting with family, or other adventures you have planned. Perhaps Online Giving will be a great match for you! Here is the link to the online giving page on our website http://christumclehigh.org/?page_id=181

4) Remember, we vacation from our work, not our Lord. God is with us when we are on vacation. God continues to bless us and lead us. My prayer is that while you are on vacation you grow deeper in prayer and be filled with God’s love, grace, joy, and peace. May your time away be one of refreshing so that you might continue to move closer to God.

Shalom, Happy Fathers Day

Pastor Lia

SPIRITUAL GIFTS ARE GIVEN FOR SERVICE

SPIRITUAL GIFTS ARE GIVEN FOR SERVICE

Read 1 Corinthians 12:1-11

We understand from this scripture some basic points about the spiritual gifts God gives his people: Every member has at least one spiritual gift, usually two or three and every member should be using his or her spiritual gifts to serve. No one member has all the spiritual gifts, so we need each other.

The Holy Spirit decides who receives which gift. We need to realize that every member is called to be involved in some ministry, some area of service using their spiritual gifts. Every Christian should be using his or her gifts to serve others, “for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7; 1 Peter. 4:10).

This awareness of spiritual gifts has been a great blessing for members who are already involved in service in our church.

The apostle Paul explained that God bestows spiritual gifts for service. Service often requires that we get out of our comfort zone to serve a need. After all, God may want to develop in us a gift we did not know we had!

The most important thing is that each member serves in some way, as service is our response to God’s blessings. How do we determine what spiritual gifts we have?

There are several approaches to this: 1) written tests, surveys and inventories, 2) self-analysis based on interests and experiences, and 3) confirmation from people who know you well.

All three approaches can be helpful.

Often, we do not know our spiritual gifts until we have put them to use in service. That is why it is good for us to occasionally try different areas of service. You may learn something about yourself, as well as your spiritual gifts.

We are including a spiritual gifts service survey in the worship bulletin on February 19. Please fill it out and return it to the office. This year, we will be asking you to serve in a ministry as the need arises and we hope you will be willing to serve with joy and with a grateful heart.

SHALOM, Pastor Lia

Blessed New Year!

Blessed New Year!

Read Psalm 16. “In your presence there is fullness of joy, in your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11)

“Happy New Year!” is the greeting that typically rings out when the clock hands touch midnight on December 31. Unfortunately, the happiness we wish one another often tends to be elusive. I once asked a relative of mine if he was happy; and her response was, “I’m on the way.” Most of us would agree with that: we’re on the way, but haven’t arrived. Interestingly, the Declaration of Independence promises us, not happiness itself, but “the pursuit of happiness”. And sometimes happiness runs really fast, and we feel continually out there chasing happiness. Ultimately, the only genuine happiness is found in God. “In your presence there is fullness of joy, in your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11) God made us in His own image, so that we can live in His friendship and fellowship forever. The Christian happiness is well expressed in the great prayer of St. Augustine: “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee.” True happiness comes when God touches us and makes us His own. The question is why is it that many people today tend to be unhappy? On the surface, there seems to be no reason for unhappiness: we have more conveniences and affluence in our country than at any other time in history. Yet there is a discontent, maybe because of expectations for the future which fade away. For us believers, our hope for the future doesn’t fade. Because our hope ultimately doesn’t mean dreaming of more things, it means moving toward the wonderful future that God has planned for us. A future of walking with God every day in this life, and living with Him forever in eternity. As 2017 dawns near, we rejoice in God’s promise: “I have plans for you…to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11) Christians can also take comfort in one of the most beloved verses in the Bible: “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). God can bring a blessing out of our life’s situation. The Christian message gives our lives a deep sense of purpose: to live with God in a relationship of love in this life and the next. The love of Jesus gives our lives’ value: we are worth so much to Him that He shed His precious blood for us! The meaning of our lives is filled with God’s grace, when we think upon “the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20). A “Happy New Year” does not consist in more possessions, more prosperity, and more choices. These things can bring discontents of their own. No, a “happy new year” is one in which we draw near to God who in Christ has drawn near to us. A happy New Year is one in which we keep our eyes focused upon Jesus Christ, who loves us, who died for us, who lives to pour God’s joy into our lives.

A close relationship with God is our happiness. May you truly have a happy new year! And even better a Blessed New Year, walking closer with God. Remember that God loves you and so do I! Pastor Lia Willetts

WE ARE ABOUNDING IN THANKSGIVING

WE ARE ABOUNDING IN THANKSGIVING
Read Colossians 2:6-7

As Thanksgiving Day comes each year, many of us give the nod to Pilgrims and Indians and talk of  making ready for a harsh first winter in the New World and also Family Thanksgiving Dinner. But
for the Christian, the deepest roots of our thanksgiving go way back before the Pilgrims, to a story two-millennia-old. It’s
a story that gives meaning to our lives. You could call it the true story of thanksgiving — or you could call it the Christian gospel viewed through the lens of “gratitude.” Here’s the true story of
thanksgiving in four stages.

1. Created for Thanksgiving. First, God created humanity for gratitude. We exist to appreciate God. God created us to give him honor and thanksgiving. Humanity was created to appreciate God.

2. Fallen from Thanksgiving. Second, we all have failed miserably in appreciating God as we should. Our fall was and has always been that we are not satisfied in God and what He gives. Only with divine redemption are we able to grow toward obedience to God in thanksgiving for our salvation by faith in Jesus Christ.

3. Redeemed by Thanksgiving. God himself, in the person of his Son, Jesus, entered into our sinful world, lived without sin, and died on our behalf for our sins and ingratitude. It is Jesus who has manifested the perfect life of thankfulness to God the Father

4. Freed for Thanksgiving Finally. We are redeemed from sin and ingratitude by faith in Jesus and we are freed to give thanksgiving and praise for God’s favor toward us — not only as his creatures,
but also as his redeemed. Only in Jesus are we able to become the kind of thankful people that God created us to be. For us Christians, standing firmly in the good news of Jesus Christ, is the best
possibility for a true Happy Thanksgiving.

Remember Colossians 2: 6–7: “So then, as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in THANKSGIVING.”

Happy Thanksgiving
Love, Pastor Lia