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Showing posts with label Philippians 2:5-11. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Philippians 2:5-11. Show all posts

Monday, May 23, 2016

Jesus, the Name Above All Names

Philippians 2:5-11
 
Introduction
I’m terrible with names, but after six years I’m finally starting to learn everyone’s names at my church.  For me, that’s an incredible miracle and I give glory to God for it.  Names still slip my mind, but it’s not that I don’t know them.  It’s just absent mindedness I think.  I will look right at someone I know very well and the name just won’t come to me.  I think it’s a disorder! 
I even started pronouncing Andrea Denson’s name right; but the only problem is now I call all Andreas, Undrea!  I finally figured out Barbara (older) and Becky (younger) Haley.  I knew your names were Barbara and Becky Haley for years, but I couldn’t keep straight which one was which!  And I’ve even had fun meeting new people coming to our church like DJ Seifert who joined Pleasant Grove last Sunday and his mother, Susan Stone (who by the way in my head I keep wanting to call Sharon Stone!  So Susan, please forgive me if I ever call you Sharon.  I know who you are, but I’m also an absent minded duffus sometimes!)
And I’ve finally figured out all the Brookers—at least the ones that attend Pleasant Grove.  I think I know who all belongs to who—even the ones who don’t have the last name Brooker anymore.  Of course, I still meet people out in the community sometimes who say they are part of the Brooker family and it catches me off guard because I wasn’t as familiar with them.
            It seems like every church I’ve gone to there are families and names that stand out.  In my last church, it was the Woodwards.  At the one before that, it was the Busbins.  In Lithia Springs, it was the Andrews family.  At East Cobb, it was the Dobbins family and the Ragsdales and others.  These have all been strong, proud families with a rich heritage in their communities.  We all have pride in our family names, but the families that have made the best impact on their church and community for God have been the ones who recognized the Name above all names—Jesus Christ.  The best families pattern themselves after Jesus’ example.
 
Philippians 2:5-11
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
    he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
    and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.
 
            Philippians 2:5-11, is one of my favorite passages in the Bible.  We ought to commit it to memory because it teaches us the attitude of Christ we should imitate.  Though he was the Son of God—deserving respect and admiration, the only person who ever lived who was actually worthy of straight out worship—Jesus was not at all presumptuous.  He was just the opposite.  The Scripture says he was, “humble” and “obedient” and that he served as a slave and even died like a criminal taking our place.  So we who call ourselves Christians should have an attitude like his.
Philippians 2:3-4 says, Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”  That’s pretty straightforward.  It’s hard to do, but not because it doesn’t make sense.  It makes perfect sense; it’s just hard to do. 

Don’t be selfish.
Jesus was very clear that his followers were not to be selfish.  He put it plainly and even took it to its ultimate conclusion saying it like this, “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.”  This saying of Jesus is listed at least five times in the Gospels; I think that proves Jesus was serious about it.  I know he was, because he lived it.  Jesus didn’t ask his followers to do something he wasn’t willing to do himself.  For his entire earthly ministry, Jesus gave unselfishly.  In the end, he literally gave his own life for our sake.
Giving up your life in order to save it seems contradictory, but Jesus spoke the Truth.  I have seen this Truth played out again and again.  People who surrender their life to God and serve sacrificially are blessed and fulfilled in ways that selfish people never experience. 
What applies to individuals is also true for churches.  I see it all the time, because fewer people are going to church these days.  When a church starts shrinking, the church folks get worried.  They think, “If we don’t do something, our church isn’t going to survive.”  So they try a couple things to save the church’s life.  Some try to increase attendance—invite more people to come.   Some try to “stop the bleeding” of people leaving the church. 
At first glance, that seems like the thing to do, but take a closer look.  Isn’t that “survival” attitude really just a selfish motive in disguise?  Isn’t that just the church trying to “cling to its life?”  What does that have to do with sharing the Gospel?  What does that have to do with showing the sacrificial love of Jesus to others? 
Churches in survival mode try to walk softly and make everyone happy so they will stay.  They are less likely to speak the Truth, because it might offend someone and drive them away.  The irony is people leave “survival mode” churches anyway, because people can tell when the church really isn’t genuinely interested in them and how the church can serve them.  People can tell that churches in “survival mode” are really just interested in the butts and the bucks—getting more butts in the pews and more bucks in the offering plates.  That’s not the Church Jesus calls us to be.  If we want to be the “Church” Jesus wishes us to be and if we want to be the people Jesus calls us to be, we need to let go of our life in service of others. 
The Truth is people (and churches) who care enough to set aside their own personal interests for the sake of others find true life just like Jesus promised.  These are the people who grow in the faith.  These are the churches that flourish.  It seems like an incredible contradiction, but it is a Promise given to us by the Son of God in Holy Scripture. 

Don’t try to impress people.  Be humble.
Jesus wasn’t trying to impress people, but people were impressed by him.  It was just a natural side effect.  You can’t help but take note of someone who willingly gives up everything in order to serve others.  The people who impress me the least seem to be the ones who brag about themselves the most. 
When I was at my last church, we were auditioning drummers for our praise band.  This one guy came in and started talking about how good he was.  He said he got his drum set for free because he was sponsored by Ludwig, a company that makes drum sets.  I was really excited, thinking, “Wow this guy must really be good.  We’d be lucky to have him in our band.”  But when he stopped talking and started playing it was awful!  He played way too loud and he couldn’t keep a steady tempo—he kept speeding up and slowing down at random times. Needless to say, he didn’t get the job as our drummer! I’d rather not have a drummer than have a bad one!
                 On the other hand, the Christians I have known that impressed me the most, weren’t even trying.  There was a guy at my last church who anonymously gave $50,000 to the church.  He didn't want any recognition or for anyone to know who he was.  He also said the church could use the funds anyway they wanted.
                 It’s not about money.  I know a lady who ate lunch with her elderly mother in the nursing everyday for years before she passed away.  She didn't do it for recognition, but for love.  There are others I know that deliver cookies to people who can’t get out of their homes much  and others who faithfully check on their neighbors everyday.  There are people who kneel in prayer for others when no one else sees.
No one knows all the things sacrificial Christians do.  People may not even know their names, because they don’t go around telling everyone about their good deeds.  There are no plaques hanging in the church in their honor.  They’re not seeking glory.  They’re just giving out of genuine love.  And that’s impressive, because that’s the same attitude Christ had.  One Day, God will elevate people with that attitude to a place of honor the same way Philippians 2 says God elevated Jesus to the place of highest honor because he laid down his life for a world of lost sinners on the cross. 

Conclusion
In this life, we are proud of our families.  We are proud of our children. We are proud of our parents and grandparents.  We are proud of our church.  We may even be proud of our names.  But One Day, all these things will pass away.  Do you realize that in heaven it won’t matter if you’re a Brooker or a Mullis or a Denson or a Caylor?  In Heaven, the only name that will matter is Jesus.  Jesus is the Name above all other names.  He is the Lord and Savior of the world.  And One Day, the Word of God says, “at the name of Jesus every knee [will] bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” 
Why wait?  Why not start now?  Why not give your full allegiance to Jesus from this day forward?  I challenge you today to lay down your life before Christ.  Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.  Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.  Make Jesus truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.  Then you will truly know the blessings of God in your life, in your family, in your church, and in your community.
            If you’d like to accept the challenge, then say a simple prayer.  Say, “Jesus, I give you my life.  I am yours.”  Would you say that prayer today? 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Dealing with Disappointment

Philippians 2:5, John 13:3, Luke 22:14-15, Matthew 26:36

Introduction
            Palm Sunday fell on the first day of spring this year.  I love springtime.  The short days and cold, gloomy days of winter are just depressing to me.  Then, spring comes and it revives my soul.  New life begins to bud and it has a wondrous effect on me.  Yet there are still disappointments in life regardless of the season. 
I suppose it was springtime when Jesus faced his most disappointing week.  The week from Palm Sunday to Easter was a very difficult one for Jesus—full of tremendous highs and awful lows.  The week began with a Palm Sunday parade filled with great expectations; but what followed was disappointment after disappointment.  Of course, we know how the story ends—with the ultimate triumph of Easter morning, with Christ rising from the tomb.  But it took a week of disappointments before the glory of Easter was realized. 
            Meditating on Christ's final week on earth made me think a lot about disappointments and how Jesus coped with them and how we might cope with them better too.  Philippians 2:5 says, “You must have the same attitude Christ Jesus had.”    Jesus dealt with his disappointing week in a few key ways.  Perhaps these can help us through dark times as well. 

Faith
John 13:3 – “Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God.  
The first factor that strengthens us when we face disappointments is faith in God.  Think about what Jesus did during his last week on earth.  In the midst of disappointments, Jesus had an unwavering faith in God’s ultimate will.  Jesus was not fooled by the exulting crowd waving palm branches.  He knew that the people of Jerusalem would reject him in just a few days.  However, he was able to see beyond that disappointment to the ultimate victory of God.  For though God’s kingdom would not be realized in Jerusalem that week, ultimately—because of Jesus’ sacrifice—God’s plan of salvation was accomplished.  Jesus had faith in God’s ultimate will and that steeled him when disappointments came.  Perhaps that is how he was able to keep preaching and teaching and speaking the truth about God’s coming Kingdom, even though he knew people would reject his message and hang him on a cross.  Perhaps that is how Jesus was able to wash his disciples’ feet even though he knew one would betray him and they all would desert him.
            Our disappointments are tempered when our faith in God puts them in perspective.  God can use our disappointments to make us stronger; and He can and does turn our disappointments into victories.  We can endure disappointments and continue on the road God has set before us because we know that ultimately, if we have faith in God, we will have “Victory in Jesus”.  And on that Day, the glory we find will overshadow any disappointment we face in this lifetime.
            But faith only soothes our disappointments; it does not usually cancel them.  We still feel the sting when friends betray us.  We still feel sorrow when someone we love dies. 
            Many years ago, Kelly’s brother, Wesley, went down to Florida for Spring Break with a bunch of his friends.  Well, they had been drinking one night and then went out into the surf to swim.  And when they all came back in, there was on missing.  They searched frantically for their friend until they found the guy’s body floating in the waves.  They dragged him up on to the shore and tried to revive him, but nothing worked.  Their friend was gone.  Their Spring Break turned into a terrible disappointment.
            Now you take a Spring Break tragedy like that and you put yourself into the shoes of those friends.  What are we to do in the mean time?  What comfort can we find now—right now while we are hurting so bad?  So there are other things—when accompanied by faith in God—that can help us cope with disappointment.   

Friends
Luke 22:14-15 – 14 When the time came, Jesus and the apostles sat down together at the table. 15 Jesus said, “I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins.
Jesus coped with his disappointing week by spending time with his closest friends.  Each day, he would teach in the city and then at night he would retreat to the quiet Mount of Olives with his disciples—his twelve closest friends.  And of course, on the very last night—when his anxiety was heaviest—Jesus shared one last meal with his friends (that meal which we have come to call the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion).  When we are overtaken by deep disappointment, it can be very helpful to withdraw a little from all your casual acquaintances and surround yourself with your closest friends. 
One of the biggest disappointments Kelly and I faced together was a miscarriage in December of 2005.  (This was before Abigail was born.)  We were both looking forward to having our third child.  We were already picking out names and had become attached to the tiny new life forming inside Kelly’s womb.  And then, as we went together to the doctor’s office expecting to see a sonogram our tiny little baby’s heart beating—we instead got the disappointing news that the heart had stopped and the child was dead. 
One of the best things we did to cope with our disappointment was to get away for a few days.  A friend loaned us a cabin in Dahlonega.  We left Gavin and Grace with our parents and we just took some time to get away—just the two of us.  Kelly is my closest friend.  To be away from everyone else and just be with her was very therapeutic.  And I think the same was true for her.
So when we have disappointments, it helps to have an unwavering faith in God’s ultimate victory and to surround ourselves with our closest and dearest friends.  Can we learn anything else from Jesus’ disappointing week?  Well, Jesus also sought strength and support from God through prayer.  And I think we should do the same.   

Fervent Prayer
Matthew 26:36 – 36 Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” 
After sharing his final meal with his disciples, Jesus went into the garden to pray.  And I want you to note the tone of his prayer.  It was a very honest, heartfelt prayer.  Jesus didn’t use flowery language.  He wasn’t trying to impress God or anybody else.  He just poured out his heart.  My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.[i]  And he prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away until I drink it, your will be done.”[ii]  Jesus did not seek to change God’s will, but sincerely contemplated whether there was any other way to fulfill God’s plan.  And when, through prayer, Jesus determined there was no other way, he sought and found strength and determination from God.
            Prayer is indispensable for us too when we face disappointment.  It’s not just a way for us to ask God to change our situation—though God does sometimes change the situation.  More importantly, prayer is a time for us to honestly express our disappointment—even if our disappointment is with God.  God can handle our disappointment and through prayer He can help us let them go.  God can give us strength and determination to pass through our disappointments.  So telling God our disappointments is very important.
            Faith, family, and fervent prayer helped Jesus during his most disappointing week.   

Conclusion
            The final days of Jesus’ life teach Christians we must pass through the disappointment of the cross before we reach the victory of Easter.  We want to skip the difficulties.  We like to dwell on happy days and victory songs.  But let us never forget Jesus’ words when he said in Mark 8:34, “If any of you wants to be my follower… …you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me.”  Sometimes the victory is not just what happens when we rise again on the other side of disappointment.  Sometimes the true victory is the way we live while we are in the midst of terrible trials.  For then God’s power is truly revealed in us as it was in Jesus on the long road to Calvary.   
Christians are not immune to trials and disappointments in this life.  Yet we have something others don’t have.  Jesus walks with us through our trials.  And we have an assurance that something far better awaits us on the other side.  Don’t you want to take hold of the hope Jesus offers today?  Don’t you want Jesus to be the Lord and Savior of your life?  Then why not ask Jesus into your heart today? 


[i] Matthew 26:39
[ii] Matthew 26:42

Monday, January 4, 2016

The State of the Communion Address

Introduction
    One of my favorite scriptures is Philippians 2:5-11 because it summarizes who Christ is and encourages us to imitate him.  Listen to these powerful words as you consider how you will live in 2016.
 
Philippians 2:5-11
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
    he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
    and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.
 

What is this Address?
            Near the beginning of each year, the President of the United States gives a “state of the union address”.  This televised speech is made to a joint session of the congress reporting the condition of the country and outlining his legislative agenda and national priorities.
            My message this morning is a blatant rip-off of this presidential tradition.  However, I hope it will be a useful one.  I wish to report on the condition of our church (our “Communion”) and outline our agenda and priorities for the coming year.  Above all else, I pray that everything we do this year will be done with a Christ-like attitude as laid out in Philippians 2:5-11--with humility, with self-sacrificial love, giving glory to God alone, and looking forward to the ultimate triumph of God’s Kingdom. 

Children’s Ministry
            Our mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  In 2015, we baptized 5 people and we had 9 people saved to become disciples of Jesus Christ by profession of faith.  Of the 69 United Methodist churches reporting in our district, Pleasant Grove had the 8th highest number of professions of faith.  
The majority of our professions of faith come when children go through confirmation classes and choose to receive Christ as their Lord and Savior.  Children are vital to the success of our church.  We have a duty to bring them to church, make sure they attend Sunday school, children’s church, and our Wednesday night children’s program so they can grow in their faith.  As children mature, they are soon able to choose Christ for themselves.  This is the primary way we initiate people into the Christian faith.  Without children, we will fail at our primary mission.  We must not fail!
            In 2016, I want Pleasant Grove to focus on strengthening our children’s ministries.  I want to see excellent communication about all children’s programing, more children participating, parents that are thrilled to bring their kids here, and children that are growing in faith.  This is the only way Pleasant Grove can be successful.  I am committed to do whatever it takes to make sure kids get everything they deserve at our church.  I ask you to join me in praying for our children’s ministries, volunteering to do your part, and let’s make our children’s ministry the best in the district.  This will be our number one focus in 2016.   
 

Spiritual Growth
            Discipleship begins with a profession of faith, but it continues as a person grows closer to Christ and more committed to their faith.  People experienced spiritual growth in a number of ways at Pleasant Grove in 2015.  One measurable way I can report is that we had 11 people attended Chrysalis or Walk to Emmaus spiritual revitalization retreat in 2015.  Chrysalis and Emmaus retreats are a powerful way to experience the amazing love of God, learn the basics of our faith, and be inspired to serve Christ in our church and community.  I would like to see more people attend Chrysalis (for youth) or Walk to Emmaus (for adults).  Regardless of your level of spiritual development, Emmaus is a tangible way you can grow spiritually.  I would like you to attend. 

Worship Attendance
            Declining church attendance is a concern all over our nation.  Every denomination has seen decline. Pleasant Grove has struggled with attendance as well.  Since 2004, our attendance has declined steadily.  Our average attendance in 2015 was 129.  This was an increase from the previous year, but we can still do better.  There is no reason Pleasant Grove shouldn’t be filled with people every Sunday.  I know it is possible and we have seen what a full church looks like. 
            Our highest attended Sunday last year was on December 20th when we had our children’s play--207 people packed our pews. 
Our second highest Sunday was Easter with 200 people.  Our third highest Sunday was the Christmas cantata on December 13th with 185 people.  And of course you all saw how many were here for the Christmas Eve service.  People came to these services because you invited them and because these were special services.  We have to continue to invite people because every Sunday at PGUMC is a special Sunday.  It is a day Jesus Christ is here waiting to change people’s lives.  Don’t you miss out on that or let someone else miss the opportunity for Jesus to change their life and maybe their eternal destination.
            In 2016, will you join with me in renewing your commitment to be present at church every Sunday?  Let’s commit to miss no more than 5 Sundays this year.  Can you do that?  That still leaves room for several absences for vacation or for sickness or for unexpected situations.  Missing no more than 5 Sundays is very reasonable for the typical person.  
Now, maybe you’re not a typical person.  Maybe your situation is such that you need to miss more than 5 Sundays because of your job or something else really important.  Then I ask you:  what is reasonable for you?  Make weekly church attendance a top priority and decide today what your attendance goal is going to be this year and then stick to it. 

Study Groups
In 2015, it was a pleasure to work with such a creative and talented worship team to plan excellent worship.  David, Sarah, Dale, and I collaborated to bring you services covering relevant topics such as:  reconciliation, the meaning of love, purifying your life, making a new start, the 10 Commandments, the Great Commission, and arguing with Jesus about tough issues.  We finished the year with the sermon series I’ll Be Home for Christmas.  We listen for God’s direction and work very hard to bring you the best.  So you can be sure if you come (and if you invite someone to come with you), you will be blessed because we will offer you the very best that months of praying, planning, and preparation can offer.  
            Study is also vital to spiritual growth.  There are a number of ways you can plug into a small study group at Pleasant Grove.  Last year, Gary and Jean Carter took charge of our young adult program teaching a weekly Sunday school class.  This is a unique offering for young adults that not many churches have.  If you are a young adult, I urge you to take advantage of our young adult Sunday school.  Talk to Gary and Jean and let them know what you would like to see happen with young adults.  And tell your young adult children, grandchildren, or friends to come get involved with the young adults of our church.  Let’s not take our young adult program for granted.  Everyone should be active in a Sunday school class or one of our other study groups like Wednesday night study, youth, children’s ministry, or Thursday morning Bible study.
            On Wednesday nights, we completed 6 studies:  Taking Care of Business (about the Christian work ethic), Soul Detox (about purification), Before Amen (prayer), The Committee (church revitalization), Earn, Save, Give (Christian finances), and Ask: Faith Questions in a Skeptical Age.  On Thursday mornings, we completed a 6 year, in-depth, book by book journey through the whole Bible.  We are about to beginning a new, one-year study of the whole Bible in chronological order.  I invite you to join us in the fellowship hall starting this Thursday at 10:30 AM.  Or come on Wednesday night for dinner and stay for a study; this month, we are doing The Committee part 2, a series on church revitalization.  Or perhaps you would like to make it your goal to be active in a Sunday school class.  Everyone needs to be active in a small group study to grow spiritually in 2016.  Everyone means you.   

Serving Others
            C.S. Lewis said, “A church is the only organization that exists primarily for the benefit of non-members.”  Just as Jesus gave up his divine privileges in Heaven to come save and serve a lost humanity, the church is here to serve others sacrificially.  On average, our church served 74 people outside of our congregation each week in 2015.  We did this primarily through:
  • Family Promise - Four times a year, we house homeless families in our church for a week at a time in conjunction with 15 other churches in our community through Family Promise of Whitfield County.
  • Be the Church - In September, we called off our regular worship service to go into our community and do service projects for people in need.
  • Sack Lunches - On Wednesday nights, we packed sack lunches to deliver to needy kids at Pleasant Grove Elementary and North Star School so kids have at least on healthy meal to take home to eat over the weekend.
  • DOCUP - We contributed money in cooperation with other area churches to DOCUP to help needy families with rent, utility bills, food, and clothing.
  • The Layette ministry - We provided clothing, blankets, and other necessities for newborn infants in need at Hamilton Medical Center.
  • We also offered boxes of non-perishable food and various other forms of assistance directly from our church to people in need in our community.
Of course, these are only the service projects for which we have a record.  The real service of the church happens through you--the people of our church who spread throughout the community and serve people everyday in a million different ways by the way you live out your Christian faith in the world.  Thank you for being the church everyday, wherever you are.  There is no way for us to quantify all the people you serve and the tremendous impact you have on our world, but I know you make a significant difference.  Let me encourage you to keep doing good. 

Build New Relationships with Hispanics
            Pleasant Grove has 3 long range goals that guide everything we do.  They are:  1) give hope to the hopeless, 2) build new relationships, and 3) help our community.  One of the greatest opportunities God has given us to build new relationships at PGUMC is with the Hispanic community.  Every Sunday, a Hispanic church meets in our chapel for worship.  We have already begun building relationships with them in several ways.  For instance, their pastor--Isabel Ochoa--preached at one of our services last year and I preached at her service.  Also, I helped with a Quinceanera for one of their families and they helped with our Operation Christmas Child packing party.  I would like to see us growing even closer in the coming year.  We have come to a place where it is time for you (the members of this congregation) to build friendships directly with the people of Isabel’s congregation.  I hope you are ready to build these new relationships and will look for ways to build these new friendships in 2016.  I will work to lead you in that direction. 

General Conference
            2016 is a General Conference year in the United Methodist denomination.  That means United Methodist representatives from all over the world will gather for the first time since 2012 to discuss important issues about the direction of our worldwide communion.  One of the most important issues they will discuss this year in Portland, Oregon is how United Methodists will respond to homosexuality.  As you know, public opinion about homosexuality in our nation has shifted greatly and our supreme court has ruled same-sex marriages are legal in all 50 states.  How will the United Methodist Church respond?  I invite you to join with me in prayer about this important issue facing our nation and our church.  And pray for our General Conference as it seeks to provide leadership for the United Methodist Church.  Next Sunday I will begin a four week message series examining what the Bible says about homosexuality and how we can respond.  Please come with an opened mind and a humble heart. 

Summary
            In summary, I want to highlight again the issues I want Pleasant Grove to focus on in 2016:
  • Provide exceptional ministry to children
  • Spiritual Growth through worship, study, and service
  • Be present at church every Sunday (missing no more than 5 Sundays in a year) and invite more people to come with us.
  • Focus on building relationships with the Hispanics of our community
  • Pray for General Conference (May 10th - 20th)
 
New Van
I would be remiss not to point out one more great accomplishment of 2015.  Through your generosity, we raised over $40,000 to purchase a brand new church van!  This Ford Transit has already been ordered and will be ready for service very soon.  Our van will stand out everywhere it goes.  People will see it and say, “That’s the Pleasant Grove church van.  That is a great church!”  And they’re right!  We are a great church and we’re going to be even better because our van will give us the ability to take more trips safely and conveniently, go out into our community more often, and pick up people to bring them to church (I would love to see us picking up van loads of children to bring them to Sunday worship and Wednesday night activities).  
Thank you so much for your generosity that made our new van possible.  The purchase of this van just goes to show you how Pleasant Grove can take on a very big challenge and accomplish it. When we believe in ourselves, trust God, and are faithful and persistent, we can accomplish great things.  I believe this church can do anything God wants us to do if we put our minds to it.  Let’s all commit to meet the challenges facing Pleasant Grove this year--all for the glory of God!   

Reflection
What is God calling you to do in 2016?
  • Give your life to Christ?
  • Attend Church more often?
  • Get active in a study group?
  • Befriend a Hispanic person?
  • Help with our children’s ministry?
  • Make a significant change while trusting God?
God empowers and strengthens you to meet whatever challenges lie ahead. 
Trust in God, believe in yourself, be faithful and persistent, and 2016 will be a great year!