Joseph told his brothers, “now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.”  Genesis 45:5

          God sends us… and sometimes God sends us into situations that we don’t understand.  Or sometimes God withholds the blessings that we expect should be ours.  Depending on our measure of faith we ask God, why?  Sometimes we shake our fist at God and get downright angry.  I say, that’s okay, God can take it.  The Psalms are fullof people crying out to God and asking “why Lord why?”  I confess to shaking my fist at God a time or two.
          I thought I might share part of a letter that I wrote to the District Superintendant of the North Coast district of the United Methodist Church, where my home town, Berea, is located, asking for a church appointment.  I wrote:  My work experience includes nearly five years at Berea Children’s Home and Family Services, as well as Missions Coordinator for the former River of Life new church start in Olmsted Falls.  I am passionate about strengthening and growing the United Methodist Church through evangelism.  I would prefer a part-time appointment in an urban church, perhaps even a cross-cultural appointment, but I am willing to serve where ever there is a need.
          I guess he picked up on the part about, “where ever there is a need” because the part about the urban church seemed to get right by him.  North Liberty UMC is not an urban church… though you might stretch it to a cross cultural appointment.  The suburban life that Sherri and I are used to is very different from the country life that we are experiencing here at North Liberty.  But I’m not shaking my fist at God over this.  No, Sherri and I are falling deeper and deeper in love with North Liberty every day we spend here.  
        It’s like Psalm 37, verse 4, "Take delight in the Lord, and he will give us the desires of your heart."  I used to think that meant that God would give me what I desired.  But that is not the promise.  Rather, God will put the desires that are the very best for you into your heart, when you delight yourself in Him.  Sherri and I are delighted to be here and be part of this church, though it is certainly not what we asked for!
          I pledge that I will do everything I know how to do to invite people to come and be part of our church fellowship, that we would make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  I pray that God has put us here for such a time as this.  Of course I can’t do it alone.  As pastor, my job is not to do it alone.  A pastor’s job is to equip the flock to do evangelism.  We must all work together as one body to enter into relationships with people, to respectfully inquire about their spirituality, to offer the opportunity to join our fellowship and understand that more than likely they will say no.  
          I was a salesman for seventeen years and before that I worked in marketing.  I knew that I would have to hear five or six “nos” before I ever heard “yes, I would like to place an order”.  Ironically, that statistic holds up in church work too.  Typically an “unchurched” person has to have between five and six invitations before they will respond positively to an offer to attend church.  Now please don’t go and ask your neighbor every day this week, hoping that by next Sunday they will be ready to come.  But if you invite one person, and you invite one person and you invite one person, then I’ll ask them the other five times.  Well, that’s not entirely true either, but I do have a hundred and one ideas of how we can offer simple acts of Christian kindness to show the love of Christ and to invite others into our fellowship.  Sherri keeps telling me to take my time, let folks get used to you, and she is right.  We need to grow in love together.  What we want to do here is simply to add our love to yours, for the glory of God.
    I was delighted when I learned that the mission statement of the North Liberty United Methodist Church was Christ centered, Spirit filled, Bible teaching.  
    Sometimes mission statements are very important to churches, everything they do is held up to the light of their mission, and if it does match, then they don’t do it.  Sometimes mission statements are just words on a page and mean very little as far as what a church does.  I thought by way of getting to know you I would share how I interpret our mission statement so we can think together about how we want to use it.  
  Christ centered - a community of God that loves and cares for its’ members… and a community that reaches out, like Christ does, to preach and to teach and to heal and to invite others to become part of that community.  It is not a community of either/or… either we care for ourselves or we reach our in evangelism.  It is a community of both/and… we both care for ourselves and reach out to others for the sake of the Cross.  Everything that Jesus preached was about how to be in right relationship with God.  Everything that Jesus taught was about being in right relationship with our fellow men.  Everything that Jesus did in his ministry of healing was about bringing these two realities into existence as one.
    Spirit filled - The Spirit is the power of God, so that if we are Spirit filled, we are doing nothing under our own steam, but we are constantly and exclusively relying upon the energy and power of God to be in community.  This power is like a sweet, golden, refined and purified oil that not only fuels all that we do, but lubricates what we do as well, so that as we go about our day in this earthly world, we can effortlessly slide into the supernatural world where all of God’s resources are available to us.  If we talk about the power of God fueling and oiling our lives, we can understand the how we are “anointed” by the Spirit.  The Hebrew word "Messiah" and the Greek word "Christ" both mean "anointed" in English.  If we are "Christians" we "anointed" by the power of the Spirit.  We recieve the power through the means of grace:  partaking in the sacraments (both baptism and Holy Communion), prayer, fasting, searching the scriptures, worship, holy conversation, giving alms and acts of mercy.  As we engage in these “means of grace” God through the energy of the Holy Spirit empowers our lives.
Bible teaching - If we are to be a community, then we need a rule to govern our actions.  Jesus put it this way: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you (Matthew 28: 18-20).  How do we know what Jesus commanded?  Well different faith communities recorded their stories and wrote them down.  Jesus taught the apostles, the apostles taught it to disciples, disciples taught it to their children and their children invited others to join their community of faith.  You know the first responsibility of evangelism is to teach the children.  Jesus said, “Let the little children come unto me and do not hinder them, for such is the kingdom of heaven.”  The kingdom is a kingdom of children, for children who must be taught the Bible, the rule of God, the love letter to the people of God.  
          That is the way I see it.  Our church is Christ centered, Spirit filled and Bible teaching.  Now I ask you, how do you see it?  Does what I’ve said ring true?  What have I missed?  What has God laid on your heart that makes this church Christ centered, Spirit filled and Bible teaching?  Think about this.  Pray about this.  Search the scriptures to affirm what you believe.  Talk about with me and with each other.  Consider deep in your soul, are we a church that is lives by its’ mission statement, or if these are just words on a page.  May God bless us as we grow together!

First Post! 07/22/2011
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