Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A changed life

One of the most exciting moments in the life of a Baptist church is when someone comes forward to be baptized. This past weekend we had three baptisms at our church. All three of the candidates had a story to tell about how God was working in their lives.

The good news is that God cares about all of us and He is always looking for ways to catch our attention. We may be so busy that we don't even realize that God is there and ready to bless our lives. Then one day a series of events begin to happen that leads us to an awareness of his presence. When that happens our lives are never the same.

There is the story in the Bible about a man named Zachaeus. He was not a likable guy. He cheated everyone and became very rich. He did it legally and there was nothing anyone could do about it. People were actually afraid of him. He had the authority to put them in jail if they didn't pay. Yet there must have been something lacking in his life because one day he heard Jesus was coming to town.

Zachaeus was curious. He had heard stories about Jesus and his followers. So he went out to see if he could at least catch a glimpse of him. That day Jesus, almost as if he was planning to see Zachaeus all along, went right up to him and told him that he was going to his house that day.

After he heard Jesus speak, his heart was turned and he became a new man. In Scrooge like fashion ,he became a generous man and promised to give back more than he had stolen.

The truth is that once you meet Jesus, grace, love and a sense of peace comes into your life. You are changed. We saw that in the three people who were baptized at our church this week. Now we are all praising God. I pray that if you don't know Jesus that you will meet him and let him change your life too. It will be the biggest day of your life. Don't believe me? Just ask Jamie.

Peace. Cal

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mission comes to you

Over the last few years I have learned so much by going on short term mission trips. By being with people in their cultural setting you come away with a greater appreciation for what they have to live with. If you can't go to Mexico or Haiti then the next best thing is to hear from someone who has gone. So for my friends in Norwich I want to pass on this upcoming event. I think you will like it. Brittany is engaging and she has a great program to share.


"One World: Haiti" An Afternoon with Miss Connecticut
Please join us at Chacers in historic downtown Norwich on Saturday, Sept 4th when Brittany will show her new mini-documentary with footage from her visit to Haiti and talk about the challenges facing the children there today.

Last spring, Brittany Decker visited the Christian Haitian Outreach Orphanage in Haiti and was shocked to learn about the great need that continues to exist in Haiti for even the most basic needs, food, shelter and clean water. Even clothing can be an afterthought. And the opportunity for an education is essentially non-existant. Brittany recently completed her mini-documentary, "One World: Haiti" which includes footage from her trip, and provides us with little-known facts about the children of the orphanage and the conditions in Haiti, which continue to be dire. She recently debuted the film at a fundraiser in Bristol, and she hopes to continue to share it with small groups around the state as she prepares for her upcoming return trip.
Brittany is planning to return to Haiti next month to bring badly needed supplies to the orphanage, and purchase an irrigation system for the garden she helped build while there last time. If she is able to raise enough money, she may even buy a goat so they can have a good meal, and fix their truck, the only source of transportation they have to retrieve supplies.

There is a $10 suggested donation at the door.

Raffles. Refreshments.

You may RSVP by responding to this email or call/text Gail McCool at 860-861-8261.
If you are interested in having Brittany be your guest, show her documentary, "One World: Haiti" and/or speak about her experiences please contact her Business Manager, Gail McCool, at 860-861-8261 or BusMgr@missctamerica.org.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Blessed be your name

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!


Friday, August 27, 2010

The dash

“I gave you this work: to go and produce fruit, fruit that will last.” John 15:16

I have a funeral tomorrow. Funerals are wake up calls to many of us. They remind us that we are not here forever. I'll say some prayers, read some scriptures, offer up the hope of salvation and then share some nice words about the woman whom we are remembering. That's what happens at funerals.

I remember seeing a poem called "The Dash" several years ago. The point of the poem was that all of us are born and then we die. We are remembered as two dates separated by a dash. The dash represents the most important part of our lives. I think Jesus would agree. That's why he sent his disciples out and told them to go out and make a difference in the world. He wanted them to be world changers. He wanted them to make an impact, to touch lives and change the world one person at a time. That's our job today. We are to plant seeds that will bear fruit.

So what are you doing? Are you wasting your days or are you living for the Lord? I pray the dash in your life will be a powerful testimony to the glory of God.

Peace. Cal

Thursday, August 26, 2010

God lights up the sky.

Found this today and it was a great reminder that God is always with us.


Reaching toda's generation

I found this post on a blog by Keith H. Mcilwain. He gives us some food for thought after reading and article in USA Today newspaper. Where are the kids? The truth is that we have a second generation of that is not coming to church because their parents never came ot church. So what are we going to do about it? How do we appeal to those who have never been in church and think about the church the way these people quoted below do? That's our challenge.


5 Reasons Teens Are Avoiding Church

The daily newspaper USA Today recently published an article detailing why teens generally don't "go to church". While the article makes some good points, Shane Raynor disagrees with the article's take and offers five additional reasons why many teens have failed to make "church" a priority. In my opinion, Shane hits the nail on the head.

Shane's suggestions:

* Teens don’t show up because they don’t think God is showing up.
Our desperation to be "hip", "current", and "relevant" has often resulted in a shallowness that must be offensive to Jesus...shallow preaching, shallow music, shallow language, etc. The truth is that depth matters; relationships matter. Ministry is more than simply pizza and volleyball...
"Sooner or later, everyone wants substance, and if it isn’t there, they’re going to bail. There’s always going to be a church (or someplace else) with better pizza, a more talented band, a better gym and bigger crowds with hotter people. It’s okay to use draws, but you’d better have a good foundation for your ministry and back up the draw with something real."
* Teens don’t make church a priority because their parents don’t make it a priority.
As in every aspect of life, we lead by example. It is crucial for parents to be involved in worship and ministry if they desire to see their children involved in worship and ministry....weekly...daily.
Additionally, parents must begin to say, "Sorry; worship of Almighty God is more important than soccer or basketball or sleeping in. You can't participate in that league if they require Sunday morning participation." Shane adds, "I’ve realized that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with making teenagers go to church."
That's Christian parenting. It's a shame if the kids have to miss out on sports or other activities, but what if...what if their souls are at stake? Is that a possibility? Parents ignore this piece of parenthood at their own peril, and at the possible expense of their children's spiritual walk. Priorities matter, and your children are watching...and learning.

* Teens are very connected to each other now and don’t need church to hook up anymore.
More could be said about this. We have largely forgotten in the church what real, authentic "community" is all about and why relationships founded on Jesus are far deeper than others. Shane makes the point that, "...there’s probably somewhere or something else that does community better than church." Penitence is needed on the part of the church. We need to be in prayer about this one.

* Unchurched teens see no significant difference between church kids and everyone else.
This was certainly true when I was a teen. The cruelest kids in my high school were often myself and other members of my church youth group. That isn't to say we didn't take Jesus seriously, but living that out is extraordinarily difficult.
As a parent and as a pastor, I see that teen members of the church I am serving are often just as drama-driven and hormone-driven as those who are "outside the church". It's heartbreaking but it's true. I certainly need to be more intentional about mentoring these fine young people, whom I truly love. We all need to do better and be more more faithful.

* Many teens get impatient with churches that major on the minors and try too hard to seem relevant.
Welcome to life in The United Methodist Church, where we have made this into an art form. We often teach our young people - either directly or indirectly - that aspects of the faith such as Jesus, his Lordship, Biblical study and reflection, and/or doctrine are secondary to ridding the world of malaria or to having an open heart, an open mind, and an open door.
Please don't misunderstand me. Fighting malaria is a noble cause, and if a pastor or congregation is passionate about it, then I am all for it. Likewise, it is appropriate to be available to discuss "out of the mainstream" ideas and approaches to life.
But these ministries should not be emphasized at the expense of other pieces of our journey in faith. Teens are not stupid. They can see when we are "majoring on the minors" and, if necessary, they'll find a community where all the means of grace are taken seriously, rather than just a few which have been carefully selected to be as least offensive as possible.

I commend to you Shane's original post, and urge prayerful reflection on this important subject.

Just offer yourself and watch what God does

From last to first... I was just going to sit in the back. I was there to witness and support the Stroud family as Shane retired. He had spent over twenty years in the Navy and this was his big day. His wife and daughter were present. They had friends there. There were several officers and co-workers present.

After I took my seat Nikki came to me and told me to sit up front with them. Shane joined her and said I belonged in the family section. No sooner had I moved to the front row but the MC asked me to sit up front on the platform with the guests of honor. I tried to beg off but how can you turn down a Commander?

I wasn't even planning to take part in the service. I didn't want to be in the way. I was just there doing my thing, offering myself to the family and I was pressed into service and given a place of honor.

The truth is that my story comes straight from the Bible. Jesus said that the last shall be first. Those who are disappointed in this life will be blessed in the next. The people who are given the place of honor who don't respect it, will lose it.

The important lesson I've learned time after time is that we need to simply offer ourselves to God. When we do, He will use us and our position will glorify him and bless us. I had a great time yesterday and was happy to be a part of Shane and Nikki's special day.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

God loves you.

I found this beautiful letter by Krystle Koay on the web and thought I would pass it on. She suggests that after reading it you spend a few minutes just talking to God and thanking him for his love while you share your hopes and fears.

A lot of her letter comes right out of the Psalms, in the Bible, God's entire love letter to you and me. Thank you Krystle.


My beloved,
You are fearfully and wonderfully made.

I’ve chose you when I planned creation. Have you not remember that you were a miracle child? I’ve brought you to this world according to my plan. I determined the exact time of your birth and where you would live.

You were not a mistake, the country you were put in was not a mistake, and the life you are living is not a mistake – for all your days are written in my book.

I am familiar with all your ways even the very hairs on your head are numbered.
It is my desire to lavish my love on you.
I love you. Simply because you are my child and I am your Father.
I am your provider and I meet all your needs.

My plans for you have always been filled with hope because I love you. My thoughts toward you are countless as the sand on the seashore.

Do not worry about tomorrow, I will have that taken care of.

Delight in me and I will grant you the desire of your heart. I am able to do more for you than you could possibly imagine.

I am your greatest encourager, your Father who comforts you in all your troubles.
I see your tears, I see your frustrations.
When you go through the deepest and hardest moments, I am there. When you failed the exams, I was there. When your friends leave you, I was there. When you felt alone, I was there.

When you are brokenhearted, I am close to you. I have carried you close to my heart. I will wipe away every tear from your eyes. I am your Father, and I love you!

All that I ask for is that you spend time with me and hear me. Despite your running in and out, your busy schedule, remember I am waiting for you to respond: Daddy, I love you!

Daddy in heaven

God can help with our problems

I was just coming in from my workout this morning when I looked out in the backyard and saw him. He was slowly making his way around our tool shed and over to the stone wall. He stopped for a minute and then he wiggled in behind the shed and out of sight.

I will never again go out to the shed to get the lawn mower or some lawn chairs without thinking of that skunk. I am not sure if he has a nest there or if he was just passing through but now I know that he has a nice hiding place that puts him smack dab in the middle of my world.

The problem with it though is not that I won't be careful for the next few weeks. I will. The problem is that my caution will not last all that long. In a few weeks I will begin to go about my business as if the skunk was never there. I may think about him but I will ignore him. I will begin to act is if he can't hurt me and that he can't possibly be there.

Someone once said "ignorance is bliss." That's a lie. It may feel like you are in control but that's when the unexpected happens to derail you. That's when you say I should have known better but it's too late.

Sin in our life is like that skunk. It walks in and hides just out of sight. It doesn't appear to be a problem but when you least expect it, it jumps out and sprays you and makes a mess of your life. The truth is that we need to tackle it head on. We need to root it out and get rid of it so it can't come back to hurt us. We need to honestly recognize we have a problem and face it. We can't ignore it.

Whether we are talking about substance abuse, sexual immorality, financial irresponsibility or something else, we need to address it before it attacks us. If we can't do it alone, then we need to get help. At church I keep the name of a animal trapper handy. I called on Nuisance Wildlife Evictions once when we had a squirrel running loose in the church and they captured him in less than a half hour and solved our problems. They knew exactly what to do.

God is like that. When we call on him he can help get rid of our problems. He can help us find the solutions we need to get our lives back on track. We don't have to face it alone. god's got our back.


Monday, August 23, 2010

After church yesterday I set my camera down and it disappeared. I am not sure if I simply misplaced it or if someone picked it up, with or without thinking. The end result is that this morning I went crazy trying to find it. I turned the church upside down looking for it. I cleaned my office, Sandy's office, my car and still couldn't find it. I prayed, I cried and right now I am just willing it to return.

I couldn't help but think of Jesus' parables in Luke 15 as I was searching for it. You remember them. Jesus talks about the shepherd who leaves the ninety nine to search out the one lost sheep. Then he mentions a woman who lost a coin and turns the house upside down trying to find it. Finally he talks about the lost son who returns and blesses the father's heart.

I know my camera is a small thing in the big scheme of things but I went all out looking for it as if it was the most valuable thing in the world. Because of these stories that Jesus shared, I was reminded just how much God loves us. That's why he did the crazy thing he did, sending Jesus to take our punishment on the cross, so that we could be with him forever.

What an amazing God we have. What amazing love he shows. Thank you God.