“Am I living like the disciple I claim to be?”

“Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  – Matthew 20:28

 

Question for the day:  Am I living like the disciple I claim to be?

 

Hi Friends,

We are coming to the end of this month in which we highlighted and prayed for all the many outreach opportunities that we have in our church.  I am sure that there were some that I missed, and I apologize to those people if I have failed to honor your efforts.  Every minute given in service to our Lord, will be rewarded in eternity, and I thank each and every one of you for the example you set for me to follow.

Which brings me to today’s point: where am I in my journey with Christ?  I have the great privilege of working for a wonderful church.  I am blessed every day by residing in the presence of God and His servants.

Unfortunately, there is a negative side to that as well.  See, I come to work every day surrounded by “the things of God.”  And I work very hard to accomplish those things for this church that He sets before me.  So, in this environment, it is very easy for me to operate on auto-pilot in terms of my spiritual growth.  Because I am saturated in God here,  I am at risk of falling into a habit of spiritual laziness.  At times I have found my prayer and devotional life slipping.  I can easily make the argument that, because I spend so much time planning for small groups for others, I don’t really need to study anything for myself.  And the biggest self-deception of all:  I serve enough, I don’t need to do anything else.

My friends, I ask that each of you would help me in this arena.  Challenge me, if you will, when you see that I am falling down in my obligations to serve the least of these.  The truth is, we are all called to mission, regardless of our vocation.  It is part of the make-up of a highly committed disciple.  And regardless of how busy we are, we are expected by God to make time for these activities.

This is where I am the weakest.  Christian accountability is what we are called to as a church.  And I am in danger of falling astray more than most of you.

I am thankful for our church’s focus on this very subject.  If you didn’t know, we have a tool to be used to help us stay accountable (to ourselves and to God,) for our own spiritual growth.  We introduced it in the spring, and it has really helped me determine where I need God’s grace and leading.  It is called, “The Journey,” and the self-examination that goes along with it, is pretty eye-opening.

By asking myself these questions about my Worship, Growth, and Servant life, God has really spoken to me about my next steps in drawing closer to Him.  I have found it to be a really good exercise to keep me on track.

I am attaching a link to the self-examination, which can be found on our website, or on the visitor’s table in the foyer.  I encourage you to take a few minutes in prayer and contemplate these questions.  It is always a welcomed gift when God reveals His heart to me.  I just have to give Him the opportunity.

http://storage.cloversites.com/libertycrossingsunitedmethodistchurch/documents/Self%20Examinations.pdf

 

Gracious Lord,

Thank You for the plans You have for me.  I know they are good for me and for Your people.  Forgive me when I get so caught up in me, that I neglect my relationship with You.  Please, Lord, search my heart, and continue to lead me in those activities that will bring me closer to You.  Give me the hands and feet of a servant, and the heart of a lover for all people.

Help me, my king, to stay focused on the main things in this life, and not to be led astray by things that will perish with time.

Please cover our ASP team with Your mighty wings this weekend as they finish up their work and head home.  May Your grace and protection flow over each one, and may they return in safety.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

“Who trained these kids?”

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6

Question for the day:  What is my role in the kingdom?

I have so enjoyed taking this month and looking at all the outreach work going on in our church.  Many times, if it doesn’t involve me directly, things seem to slip past me without my being aware them.

One of the more astonishing things I have noticed is how much participation we have from our youth group in our mission activities.  What leads a 15-year-old to want to spend his summer break on construction sites, building projects, vbs, and all the other projects we participate in?

PARENTS – THAT’S WHO!  And to a lesser degree, pastors, Sunday School teachers, youth leaders and the like.  But I have to give a big hand to all the parents out there that have done the hard work of encouraging and modeling servanthood for our kids.  Thank you for your time, effort and hard work in teaching your kids what it means to be a follower of Christ.  I am thankful to all of you for the example you set for parents like me. It is my hope that I can look back one day and see that one of my biggest roles in the kingdom was to raise God-glorifying children.

So often I read about how this current generation of young people is an entitlement driven, self-focused group.  As I look around our church, I see just the opposite: I see compassionate, moral, caring young people.  It gives me a great deal of hope for the future of the church as well as society.

Please join me in praying for two of our mission teams today that are predominately populated with our young people.  The first is our College Nicaragua Team.  They will be leaving for Chacraseca in August to continue the home building efforts there:
Kendra Bridgham
Lydia Chappell
Lindsey Comas
Brad Gosdin
Will Gosdin
Wade Griffith
Nate Hall
Zach Miller
David Sanderlin
Jason Smith

As well, we are lifting up our Appalachian Service Team, who are hard at work doing home repairs in Eastern Kentucky.

Jared Chappell

Randall Clark
Ben Dauphin
Schuyler Logan
William Morhard
Will Newton
Kathleen Hagerty
Ellen Looney
Mary Smyth
Claire Corcoran
Caroline Looney
Beth Hagerty
God Almighty,
Praise be to You,  Mighty Jehovah, for You created and ordained the family as a sacred cornerstone of society.  Thank you for our young people – those that will lead the next generation in following Your ordinances and caring for those around them.  And thank you for the adults in our congregation that have spent a lifetime in teaching the Word and Your principles to these kids.  Surely the fruit of their labor is becoming evident.
Please bless our families as we continue to raise our children in this Christian community.  Give us wisdom, patience, and teach us to prioritize our time and efforts around those things eternal.  May the families of Liberty Crossings continue to bring glory to You and Your kingdom for generations to come.
We ask for Your overflowing blessings on these two teams.  May they travel safely, encounter You at every turn, and love deeply those they serve in the name of Christ.
In Jesus’ name we pray,
Amen

“Is food all they need?…”

 “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” – 1 Peter 3:15

 

Question for the day:  What is our true mission?

Friends,

Thank you for your patience with me over the past few days.  I have never gone so long without posting a reflection, however, God has really been working with me over this time, and I have struggled to understand what He has been showing me.  I think I have the heart of it now, which I will share, but I ask your opinions.  I believe He is still trying to teach me a new way to think about missions, and I know some of your insights would be truly helpful.

Last Thursday, I ran into an old friend.  I was glad to see him, because I knew he had been through some very challenging times over the past couple of years, and I had been worried about him.

As we caught up, he proceeded to tell me an all too common story, he had lost his job, lost his home, and his family relationships were strained.  Unfortunately, with the economy of the last few years, this has been the story of many friends and family.  I was so sad for him. But he said something that stuck with me, “I have a great hope that this will be a better year.”

How is it, after having been beaten down on every front, someone can have that kind of hope and faith that it will get better?  Especially when there is no change in sight?

I have lived through this kind of devastation twice in my life: once before I was a believer in Christ, and once after becoming a believer.  I can tell you, without a doubt, the hope and faith of a better tomorrow can only come through a relationship with a gracious and loving God.

I have been there, folks.  At times, being hungry and scared with visibly no resources to help me; and at others, having no way to figure out how I would take care of myself – yet with peace because I knew that I was God’s treasure and He would find a way.

There are two ways to live this life – and I will choose the hope of being a child of God any day of the week.

As I wrestled with this concept in my head, God began to reveal to me that this is the exact reason for Christian mission activities – To show a hurting world that hope can be had, all in the name of Jesus Christ.  Even though today is terrible, and we can’t see past our problems, we have faith that tomorrow can be better because God can make a way when there is no way.  – That is our resounding message.  Who else in the world can make that claim?

When we focus on meeting the physical needs of people – that is good, everybody needs food, shelter, and clothing.  But let us never forget, that we (the church) have something to give that no other organization has : Jesus Christ – the Hope of the world.

As unbelievable as it may seem, there are millions in this world who wake up every day in dire circumstances that have no hope.  None.  They are in every country, every race, every socio-economic station.  There are people that have no confidence that their lives can ever be any better.  How can we, as ambassadors for Christ, help to change the reality of these misconceptions?  How can we  share the Good News in a way that is meaningful and transforms the world with a lasting impact?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

If you will, please join me in praying for our Appalachian Service Team.  They are currently on mission in Eastern Kentucky, repairing homes and sharing the love of Jesus with our brothers and sisters there:

Jason Smith

Jared Chappell

Randall Clark
Ben Dauphin
Schuyler Logan
William Morhard
Will Newton
Kathleen Hagerty
Ellen Looney
Mary Smyth
Claire Corcoran
Caroline Looney
Beth Hagerty
Wade Griffith
 
Gracious Lord,
We thank You for these, Your willing servants.  We pray that You keep them safe from harm during their service.  We ask that You anoint each one with Your precious Holy Spirit, and give them the boldness to share their faith at every opportunity.  May they be blessed by Your manifest presence throughout this week, and into the weeks to come.  May the hope they have in You become contagious, and spread to all they meet.
 
In Jesus’ name we pray,
Amen

“What is Christmas really for?”

This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives…” – Colossians 1:6

 

Question for the day:  How do you actively share the love of Jesus?

 

We talk about missions and what we do – and that is all good.  We are called to care for the less fortunate.  But when we get to the heart of the matter, what is missions all about? Is it truly about making sure that as many as we can touch have food, shelter, and clothing?

I believe the true heart of missions is to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It is only by providing for the physical needs first, do we earn the right to share our faith.  How do you speak of the love of Christ to someone that lives in a constant state of need?  Without meeting those needs first, the love doesn’t translate.

That is why I am so thankful for one of our long-standing mission activities, Operation Christmas Child.  Led by Rachel Stafford, each November our children work to fill shoeboxes with all sorts of “love” for needy children around the world. It represents the heart of Christmas, and since 1993 has provided over 100 million children with a first hand experience of the love of Jesus.

Each year, normally around Veteran’s Day, children from all over our community come to Liberty Crossings to spend the afternoon wrapping boxes, hearing the stories, and preparing to launch this ministry.  The boxes are then distributed and come back filled with all sorts of items:  toys, candy, toiletries, books, – anything that might make a child’s eyes bright on Christmas Day.  They are then shipped all over the world, to children in need. – What an outreach!

To learn more about the Samaritan’s Purse organization (the parent company for OCC) please click on the link below:

http://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/

 

To volunteer to help with this year’s event, please contact Rachel Stafford directly, rachelstafford@bellsouth.net

 

Heavenly Savior,

You are the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.  The miracle of Your birth is something that we cherish and look forward to celebrating all year long.  Lord, this year, fill our hearts with pure worship of You, and not the event.  Let us not get caught up in the trappings of the holiday season and forget what it is we actually celebrate.

Create in each of us a burning desire to celebrate You in a new way this year, by sharing the Gospel in tangible ways.  Help us to focus on our one true mission – witnessing to a hurting world.

In the name of Salvation we pray,

Amen

“What else am I to do, Lord?”

“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress…” – James 1:27

Question for the day:  Who is an orphan?

God, as the ultimate Father, has a special place in His heart for children and others who have no parental care.  As I look around our world, I ask myself, “Who is an orphan?”  We might deceive ourselves into thinking they are simply those young people without parents.  But what about the children in our community whose parents are still there, but neglect to care for them?  Aren’t they orphans too?

Unfortunately, I believe there are more of those children than we are aware of.  That is why I am so thankful for the agencies of the United Methodist Church that seek to care for these forgotten ones.

One such organization is Dream Garden, a part of the Restoration Mission United Methodist Church here in Birmingham.  Run by the Lewis family, Restoration Mission seeks to care for those that society has left behind.  Dream Garden is the unit that provides after-school and summer care for children that would otherwise be left at home alone.

Dream Garden provides a safe and nurturing environment for children that face challenges that would shock most of us.  They provide food, tutoring, safety, and stability to some of the most vulnerable.  AND, THEY DO IT ALL ON DONATIONS from other churches – like us.

I am thankful to our Women’s Ministry Team leaders that took it upon themselves to do a fundraiser last month for the children at Dream Garden.  For $100, a child can attend the Dream Garden Summer Camp program for the entire summer.

Think about it, for $100, a child can be fed, loved, safe, and learn about Jesus every day while out of school.  I think that is amazing.  I am thankful for all the ladies that participated in that event that covered the cost for 5 children to attend the camp.

I ask myself, “What else can I do?”  School is just around the corner, and the needs will continue.  I guess that is a question for God to answer.

Heavenly Father,

I give You thanks and praise for those in ministry at Restoration Mission.  I thank You for their compassion.  I thank You for their dedication.  I thank You for their leadership in this mission that is so critical to our calling as Your followers.  Please bless them, each one, and provide for their needs as they strive to provide for those in need of care.

I pray, Lord, that You know the needs of this mission and these children.  And I pray that You will continue to meet those needs in generous and bountiful ways.  If You have a plan for me to be a part of this mission, Lord, please reveal it to me.  Show me how best I can be a servant to the least of these.  Show me what gifts, graces, and resources I possess that would be a blessing to them – and then show me how to use them for Your glory.

Thank You, my King, for being the ultimate, loving Father; for me and everyone else in this world.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

“My excitement overflows…”

“…And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” – Acts 1:8

Question for the day:  Are we being Jesus to those in our own community?

 

Happy Monday friends,

I am so excited today.  I have just left Liberty Crossings after watching the beginning of a wonderful week – VBS!  There were well over 100 hundred children there with probably at least 40 volunteers.  It was so great to see all the excitement on everyone’s faces, children and adults alike.  Please pray that the Holy Spirit will move in a great way this week as we all seek to know our God better.

I am also excited about the wonderful stories that came back yesterday from our Nicaragua Team.  I have not heard them all yet, but I was certainly moved by the ones that I did hear.  Even though I don’t travel to Nicaragua myself, I still feel like I was a part of that Spirit-filled outreach, and I thank God for those from our church that went and made such a difference.

And finally, I am getting excited about one of my favorite upcoming outreach events: The Magic City Miracle!  That’s right, plans are just beginning for this day of community outreach, and I as I hear the preliminary “dreams” for this event, it makes me even more excited to participate.

Many of you may be asking, “What is the Magic City Miracle?”  In a nutshell, it is a day (Sunday, September 29, 2013) in which we choose not to “go to church,” we instead, choose to “be the church.”

This is a day in which our goal, if I am correct, that we will gather with hopefully 2000 volunteers from around our city to create a day of service to 150 organizations and worksites.  Anyone can join our effort, and the organization is led by 5 Methodist Churches in the area.

However, today we are saying special prayers for Scott Comas, the chair person for this event and the large team of volunteer leaders from our church that will make it happen.  Liberty Crossings is the lead church in this massive campaign, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this church that has a heart for our surrounding community.

What can the rest of us do?  First, we will pray.  Second, we will volunteer.  There will be service opportunities of all kinds for ages 5 and up on that day.  As the time draws near, please consider choosing a site and giving a day to help someone in need.  In fact, go ahead and mark your calendars: Sunday, September 29th, so you don’t forget.  And, begin praying about where God would have you make a difference that day.  It is truly a blessing to be a part of it.

Gracious Father,

We come to you today with humble hearts.  For it is You, who provide us with all the blessings of this life.  And yet we understand, that we are blessed in order to be a blessing to others.  Give us, each one, an understanding today of the blessings You have bestowed upon us.  And give us clarity about the way we are to bless others.  Lead our hearts, by Your Holy Spirit, to be generous, to be givers, to be servants to all in Your kingdom.

Help us to become lovers of people.

And Lord, we ask that You bestow a special grace upon Scott Comas and his leadership team.  They are undertaking a massive event.  Fill each one with vision and joy.  Enable each one with the power of Your Holy Spirit.  And cover each one with Your grace and protection.  

May their paths be straight, and without obstacle.  May their hearts be touched by Your compassion.  May this event be for them, a way of connecting with You in a greater and more intimate way.  May Your favor and blessings fall upon the families that are sacrificing so much to serve and lead the rest of us.  

And Jesus, may You be glorified by every action, thought, word, and deed that stems from this project.

In the name of our Savior we pray,

Amen

 

“Who will lead the next generation?”

“Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.” – Luke 18:16

Question for the day:  Are we leading the next generation well in their spiritual walk?

 

Friends,

What a wonderful week we have ahead of us.  As I write, numerous volunteers are working hurriedly to prepare for one of our most important annual events, Vacation Bible School!

I know most of you have fond childhood memories of VBS – the songs, the games, popsicle stick crafts – I have heard many of your stories over the years, and how heartwarming they are.

But for those of you like me, who never had the blessing of a VBS experience, let me tell you about it.  For over 6 months a group of dedicated volunteers, along with our Children’s Director, Laura Cox, has been working to plan and execute this event.  Much preparation has gone into staging, decorating, recruiting, and learning curriculum.  And why, because when the children get here, not just our church’s children, but children from all over the community, when they get here – something magical happens:  They walk into an environment in which they are soaked in the love and knowledge of Jesus.

They sing songs, play games, hear stories, make crafts – all in the name of teaching them about their Savior.  VBS is at the heart of what we aspire to do – Make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  And I never forget, the future transformation of the world does depend on these little shoulders – therefore, we have to be diligent in our leading of them at this stage.

And it takes so many people to make it happen – we have Moms and Dads and Youth and Small Groups all pitching in to make this a good event.  It is, and should be, an all-church effort.  So if you feel led to go and be a part of this incredible outreach, there is most definitely something that you can do:  final preparations will occur on Sunday afternoon, as well as, there are all sorts of utility functions during the week – making copies, sorting t-shirts, picking up lunch for volunteers – just contact Laura and she will gladly put you to work:  laura@libertycrossingsumc.org.

We are also praying today for the safe return of our Nicaragua team.  They will be flying home tomorrow after a long week of hard work along with many blessings.  Make sure when you see one of the team members to ask about their experience and let them know that you were praying for them.  It means a lot.

Happy Weekend Everybody,

Gracious Lord,

We come to You today, thankful for the blessings of service that You provide to us.  As we have ended one week, and begin another, of serving the least of these, we ask that You continue to lead us.  May Your Holy Spirit continue to show us the needs of this world, and how to respond.

We lift up to You all those involved with VBS service, and ask that Your Spirit reside within them.  May each one have a spirit of joy, purpose and love for these precious ones they serve.  May the children that come be made aware of Your manifest presence in their lives, and may they come to know Jesus as their friend and Savior.  Speak to them, Lord, on a level that they can understand.

And we ask as well that Your favor wash over our Nicaragua team.  Please allow them grace, mercy, and protection as they travel home.  Please clear any obstacles from their path, and let their journey be quick and peaceful.

Thank you, heavenly Father, for the servants’ hearts in our congregation.  May they continue to lead and inspire the rest of us to follow in their path.

In Jesus’ name we pray,

Amen