Pastors Greetings 8/16 - 8/17 Archived
September Message From Reverand Jakes
THE STEWARD THAT I AM….”
Fellow Stewards and friends of Racine First United Methodist Church, let me quickly welcome each of you and your respective family back to Church. It’s been my prayer that your summer breaks, especially for the members of our dynamic choir, would go well so that we may return with great and exceeding joy to our Church as stewards of this divinely formed and inspired community. “Do not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Heb. 10:25).
In the above paragraph, I used the word “Stewards” instead of “Members” to welcome you back into fellowship of our Church. This is intentional because I would like to introduce to you a six weeks sermon series based on being a “Steward” and “Stewardship” in the fall. My goal would be to help us derive clarity around the biblical and theological meanings of the words “Steward” and “Stewardship” as we journey together in Faith and Service.
It is no secret that the words “steward” and “stewardship” are amongst the most misinterpreted, misunderstood and misused words today by both believers and the Unchurched. As the results, whenever any of these words are mentioned inside or outside the church, our first thought would be “Money” and “Giving” toward programs such as capital campaign, money to pay church’s bills etc, despite the vivid teachings enshrined in the Bible. For examples: In the Old Testament a “steward” is a person who is ‘over a house’ (Gn.43:19; 44:4; Is. 22:15, etc.). In the New Testament there are two words translated steward: epitropos (Mt. 20:8; Gal. 4:2), i.e. one to whose care or honor one has been entrusted, a curator, a guardian; and oikonomos (Lk. 16:2-3; 1 Cor. 4:1-2; Tit. 1:7), i.e. a manager, a governor -from the word oikos (‘house’) and nemo (‘to dispense’ or ‘to manage’). The word is used to describe the function of delegated responsibility, as in the parables of the laborers, and the unjust steward. ( Matt. 20:1-16; LK. 16:1-13). In summary, a “Steward” is one who manages, while “Stewardship” is the act of managing. In other words God is not God taking something from us; it is His method of bestowing His richest gifts upon His people. The Bible further tells us and we believe that, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1). This affirmation puts God in the position of being “The Owner” of all things made, including you and me. We then become “Stewards”-managers, caretakers, superintendents, etc. of that which God has entrusted to us.
For a better illustration, Stewardship is not a synonym for giving, but an “Antonym”- words having opposite meanings. In giving we “Deploy” while in stewardship we “Retain” what is left in our possessions. Someone has likened Stewardship to a three legged stool as seen on the top of this page:
The first leg represents God as the sole “Owner” of everything. (Haggai 2:8). Second leg reminds us that God owns us twice: 1st God owns us as our Creator, ( Gene. 1:26-27). And 2nd God redeemed/ purchased us through the blood of Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13-14).
Finally, the third leg represents God calling and entrusting us to be stewards of all His resources, including ourselves and all we have. The third leg makes a clear distinction between us and God in terms of our relationship to all the resources available to our disposal in this life. Apostle Paul further reminds us: “For we brought nothing into this world….”(1Timothy 6:7). Yes, God owns everything!! We are only “Stewards/Managers” serving on God’s terms. As stewards, we are to be wise, but even prayerfully plan, manage and administer the “Owner’s/God’s” entrusted resources to His honor and glory!
In conclusion, I would like to invite you to think through these two self-evaluation questions with me: 1. What kind of a steward am I? And 2. Am I the lord of my life?
Enjoy the rest of your summer breaks/ vacations as we prayerfully look forward to a very blessed time together in the fall in the name of Jesus Christ.
July message from Reverand Jakes
SHARING GOD’S ABUNDANCE….
9 …..“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians. 12:9-NIV).
It’s already our third year of ministry and mission together here at Racine 1st UMC! We are deeply grateful to each and every member of this congregation for the opportunity afforded my family and me to continue serving our Lord Savior among you all. To God be the glory!
As you might be aware, at the seat of each year’s annual conference, lots of important mission and ministry efforts are reviewed and new goals are set around which all local congregations’ ministries and mission tend to replicate and support. Like local congregation to an annual conference, all annual conferences of the United Methodist Church around the world are equally in a connectional and shared ministry/mission relationship with one another as a denomination under the umbrella of a General Conference. The General Conference is the only body within the United Methodist System that speaks for the entire denomination. General Conference meets every four years to review existing ministry/mission goals; revise and make new policies that govern the global United Methodist Church. This year, 2016, the General Conference met in Portland, Oregon, (May 10-20), with eight hundred–sixty four delegates from the U.S, Europe, Africa and Asia.
The “Temporal Church,” I mean the church as a human institution, has never been “perfect,” as such never without some forms of ups and downs since its inauguration! As evidenced by the testimony of the most transformative and tenacious Evangelist of our faith, Apostle Paul, there’s often this thorn in the flesh that tends to distract and slow down Jesus Christ’s followers in their efforts at fulfilling God’s vision through them. The good news, God’s “GRACE”- acronym: G-God; R- Reaches, A- across; C-in Christ; E- on earth; that is abundantly sufficient, has always been there to take his people through their weaknesses to God’s own glory! God continues to demonstrate this abundantly sufficient power even today in the lives of individual Christians, our congregations, our annual conferences and our denomination as we continue to touch and transform others’ lives in our communities and the world in the name of Jesus Christ.
Specifically, some examples of God’s abundantly sufficient grace and power that continue to be made manifest in our lives and the life of our denomination are:
Firstly, prior to this year’s General conference Session, there were lots of uncertainties around rumors of schism our denomination. God manifested His power, and kept us United!
Secondly, one or two years ago our denomination took on the challenge to raise seventy five million ($75,000,000.) dollars that would help eradicate Malaria in Africa. $68.5 million dollars of the amount has been raised at this point in time!
The Wisconsin Annual Conference accepted the challenge and pledged to contribute one million dollars ($1,000,000) to the “IMAGINE NO MALARIA CHAMPAIGN!” The conference has exceeded that pledged amount with one million twenty three thousand nine hundred sixty dollars ($1,023,960.) raised! Remember, our congregation, Racine 1UMC, also accepted the challenge, raised and donated over six thousand-four hundred dollars ($6,400.00) to the “Imagine No Malaria Campaign”. Lest we forget, the “IMAGINE NO MALARIA CAMPAIGN” is in addition to the existing “BED-NETS CAMPAIGN” that has helped save millions of lives around the world!
Thanks to everyone who continues to respond to the needs of our world because of their faith in Jesus Christ and love of follow human beings. May God’s name be praised!!!
Finally, as we begin our third years’ journey of
faith and service together, I would like to encourage everyone to prayerfully consider searching their hearts to see where God is calling them to be a vital part of God’s ministry and mission efforts here at Racine First UMC. Remember, successful ministry and mission tasks require team efforts. Whatever gift and ability God has gifted you, consider using it to bring glory to his name, and God will continue to bless you and your family more bountifully! Like Father Abram, God has blessed us in order that we might be a blessing! (Genesis 12:1-2).
June message from Reverand Jakes
CELEBRATE THE PAST, FUTURE FOCUS:
“Faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see. The elders in the past were approved because they showed faith. By faith Abel offered better sacrifice to God than Cain… By faith Enoch was taken up so that he didn’t see death…. By faith even Sarah received the ability to have a child, though she herself was barren and past the age of having children…. (Heb. 11:1, 3ff. CEB).
Here’s the Apostle Paul’s testimony of his faith journey: “It is not that I have already reached this goal or have perfected, but I pursue it, so that I may grab hold of it because Christ grabbed hold of me for just this purpose. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13–14 CEB).
I would like to thank the forty members of our congregation that gathered on Sunday May 15th 2016 to review the current as well as discern the future ministry and missional trends of our congregation. I believe this was one of the well attended gatherings aside from attendance at Sunday worship services. I’m deeply grateful to each of you for the commitment shown through your presence and views shared. These are clear indications of your desire to see our congregation continuing to be a visible presence as God intends it to be in this part of Racine Community, Wisconsin Area and the world in the name of Jesus. As you may recall, there were a number of our members whose connection to the congregation goes as far back as five generations. At the same time, there were others, though new, who expressed deep admirations for the warm reception and hospitality they enjoy in our congregation. More broadly, everyone was amazed and proud to see how their gifts, be it money, time and service, given through our congregation, when combined with gifts from other local Churches, help impact and transform lives in the name of Jesus Christ in our district and annual conferences, nationwide, regionally and around the world as a global Church. These are the essences and fruits of shared and connectional ministry and mission, i.e. working together to reach out in ways that meet far more needs than any one local church would ever imagine, let alone accomplish.
Let me briefly turn our attention to the two scripture lessons herein mentioned. They recall the passion and commitment of those we may refer to as HEROS / HERIONES of our Faith! Those people trusted God not only for their immediate needs, but faithfully looked forward into the future as the Holy Spirit moved, worked and led them. Our faith is what it is today because the heroes and heroines of our Faith were forward focused! The Apostle Paul reminds us that while it is good to celebrate our past successes, it is even better to forget what lies behind, and strain forward, press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ. In other words, let’s not get stuck and keep dwelling on how wonderful and vibrant our congregation “used to be,” or “being a certain generation member of our congregation”. Contrarily, let’s concern ourselves with how we can be the available instruments God can use to revitalize and
grow our beloved congregation in order that it may continue to be a visible presence in this community and the world in this and for generations to come. So, if you aren’t yet, be an active participant in the ministries and mission of your dearest church. Honor the membership vows either you or someone took on your behalf to uphold the church with your prayers, presence, gifts/talents, services and witness/invite others.
Finally, as we celebrate the past, let’s continue to focus on, and participate in ministries and missions that are both current and future focus under the guidance of the Holy Spirit for the transformation of lives in the name of Jesus Christ to the glory of God the Father and God the Son. Amen!
Thanks for all you do! Let the Pentecost Spirit inspire, invigorate and guide your life, thoughts and paths daily in Christ Jesus.
May Message From Reverand Jakes
“GIVE THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING “
“For God so loved the world that He GAVE His only Begotten Son…” (John 3:16)
Gifts –giving and receiving seems to be a part and parcel of active faith life and journey. Going back to our creation history recorded in the Bible, God models “Giving gifts that keep on giving” when God formed human beings and gave them the gift of His breath breathed into their nostrils. This gift of breath has never ceased to be, whether in this life and life beyond. As though that is not generous enough, this Deity incarnated in the person of a Son in order to pay the just ransom for a deadly pandemic, sin, on the cross so that sinners might be saved and live. The cost? Priceless! You and I are whom we claim to be, “Christians” - people rescued, saved from the power and dominion of sins by the blood of the Lamb. As freed people, we are sent out to be the true witnesses of the true and meaningful life we’ve FOUND in and we’re GIVEN through “God’s Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ,” to those who are still held captive by that from which we’ve been delivered.
If the concept of God’s Creative and Redemptive works being “God’s Gifts that Keep on Giving” sounds a bit remote to you, it’s Ok! I can identify with that. Let’s briefly reflect on how my struggles with this concept of “God’s gifts that keep on giving” has been clarified and resolved. The Bible is replete with instances and events that speak clearly about God’s acts of mercy and compassion revealed in the life and works of Jesus Christ. God’s actions are never meant to be the personal possession of those who benefit, but to be shared abroad with others. For examples: Jesus’ parable of the “Unforgiven debtor” (Matt. 18: 21-35). God’s forgiveness is a way of empowering the forgiven one to also forgive others. Jesus washed his disciples’ feet and instructed them to do the same for one another. (Matt. 26: 14-39; John 13: 1-20). This was Jesus’ lesson on his style of leadership, servanthood, that all believers must imitate. There are many more to be cited, but these two should help us, present-day followers of Jesus Christ understand we are called to give gifts that would keep on giving beginning today, tomorrow and for generations to come.
All of us 21st Century Christians are products of and continue to enjoy the fruits of the faithful life and passionate works of 1st Century and subsequent centuries’ followers of Jesus Christ. How about these? Most of us were brought to church and got baptized while still infants based on our parents’ decisions. For some of us, our parents had to drag us to church and tried to hammer their faith into our heads until we finally got it, at least, to some extent. These parents might have had heart-warming experiences with Jesus Christ and did everything humanly possible to pass on those Christian values and faith legacy to their offspring. Isn’t this exactly what the Bible teaches as the utmost duty of Christian parents? The following Bible references on Christian parents’ missional calling and responsibilities might be helpful hints: “…impress these commandments on your children-(Deut. 6:4-8); Train a child in the way he/she should go---(Prov. 22:6); and Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come to me- (Matt. 19:14). The truth is, after 10, 20, 50, 60 or more years, most of those committed Christian parents are no longer around. Even if they were, they won’t be in the business of dragging their adult children to Church. Sadly, the few faithful and devout Christian disciples still around are mostly either elderly or physically too weak to live out an active life of faith and service as they did in the past. The messages for us: Today’s Christian men and women must buckle up and take charge of their parent’s faith legacy. Our challenges: that we don’t get stuck with living on the past
glory of the fruits of our parents’ faith, but use their faith legacy as a springboard to help inform and form our personal faith and relationship with Jesus Christ. ! We must rise to the task of giving gifts that would keep on giving to the glory of God. Let’s not be the generation in which faith in Jesus Christ would fade and face extinction! We must pride ourselves with offering our offspring the “Gifts that Keep on Giving..” Let’s give the gift of God’s Word that is both life and light”, Jesus Christ. (John1:4).
As we are being blessed, let’s be a blessing to ensure the sustenance and vitality of God’s church for both now and generations to come. As United Methodists, John Wesley taught that we seek to be “Altogether Christians” by doing acts of Piety and Mercy as signs of True disciples of Jesus Christ. We can “Give gifts that keep on giving” by faithfully honoring our pledge to uphold Christ’s ministry and mission through our congregation with our prayers, presence, services, gifts and witness to the glory of God Almighty.
As you enjoy God’s generous gift of new life this spring time, remember you are being blessed to be a blessing!
April Message From Reverand Jakes:
CHOSEN TO BEAR FRUITS THAT LAST:
The Old and New Testaments contain lots of references to the word “Fruits”. In the Old Testament, we read that the Jews observed the Feast of “Firstfruits” during harvest in obedience to God’s command. The priest thoroughly examined these “Firstfruits” for acceptable standards and qualities (Lev. 23: 9-10). The “Firstfruits” required was not limited to produce of the soil, but included a tenth/tithes of one’s income too. (Deut. 26:1-19). These offerings of first crop /produce, time, energy and service signified the grateful acknowledgements and deep gratitude of God’s endless providence for the people.
In the New Testament, Jesus Christ constantly reminded his disciples and would be followers that fruit bearing is key to his ministry and mission. Here’re some of Jesus’ sayings: “This is my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves that you are my disciples.” (John 15: 8); reason, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit- fruit that will last.’ (John 15:16). Remember, the prophet Jeremiah refers to the Jewish nation as God’s “Firstfuits” amongst many nations and tribes on planet earth. (Jer. 2:3). The Apostle Paul refers to the first converts in the New Testament Church as the “Fruitfruits” of the church. (Rom. 16: 5).
In reference to the resurrection of the dead, Paul says: “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the “Firstfruits” of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Cor.15:20). The Risen Christ being “firstfruits” of those who have died brings to mind a couple of things:
1. It reiterates Jesus’ call upon his disciples and mandate that they bear fruit that last;
2. It further assures the believers that any investment in God’s ministry and mission lasts beyond the limits of time. I believe everything human is transient unless it is rooted in and dedicated to God’s purpose. (Matt. 6:19). Invest wisely and safely!
The talks about giving God the “Firstfruits” or being the “Firstfruits” of God’s redemptive work and acts of mercy are reminders to put God in the front seat of our lives, first place in our hearts, our love, our giving, our joys, our challenges, and even death. Putting God First above all and in all is the First mark of true Christian living and the best offering anyone can dedicate to God throughout the Lent and Easter Seasons. Remember, we are chosen to bear fruits that make a lasting difference in the lives of people in the name of the Risen Christ to the glory of God. As we transition from Lent and Holy Week into a joy-filled Easter, let’s not forget to keep an eye on the fruits of our faith and on how they impact lives around us daily.
Happy and a blessed Spring,
March 2016 Newsletter, First United Methodist Church, Racine, WI
I’m already thinking Easter when it’s just ten days into the forty week-days that began on Ash Wednesday known and celebrated as the season of Lent in accordance with the Christian calendar. We know that Lent recalls, reminds, and invites Christians of every denomination to a period of prayer, fasting and penitence as ways not only to identify with the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, but for personal spiritual renewal, strength and growth. So, why would I be thinking and talking about Easter so early in Lent, one may ask. Well, here’s the deal, keeping Lent is very challenging! It is a season that requires spiritual disciplines that seem daunting, if not impossible, compared to my strength as a human being. So, I try to find ways to strengthen my chosen spiritual discipline, i.e. reading and meditating on the Gospel of John, by regularly counting down the days in Lent toward Easter.
So, why look forward to Easter? Well, apart from Christmas/Advent, we know that Easter is the most joyous and celebrative Christian season. It is known as the Great Fifty Days with emphases on the resurrection and ascension of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as well as the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Easter is the symbol of new life being breathed into the lame and almost dead community. From the weariness of observing forty days of spiritual disciplines, Easter reinvigorates our souls with renewed strength and assures us that spiritual growth and vitality are still possible on our faith life and work.
To make your Easter an even better experience, we invite you join us on a five-week sermon series based on the movie entitled: “RISEN – Uncover the Mystery That Changed History.” Producers: Mark Liddell, Kevin Reynolds, and Paul Aiello. This is a movie that is currently showing in theaters around the country. It is helping people to relive the epic story of Jesus' death and experience the power of the Resurrection! Beginning Sunday, March 27th the sermon topic would include the following: 1: "The Jesus You Never Knew"; 2: "The Jesus Who Calls You to Stop Playing It Safe"; 3: "The Resurrection: Myth or Miracle?" 4: "The Greatest Comeback in History" and 5: "The Jesus Who Wants You Fully Alive." A DVD clip on each topic will be shown prior to the sermon each Sunday. Don’t miss out on these wonderful Easter Services! Again, don’t forget to invite someone each Sunday!
It’s my prayerful hope that the Easter Season would bring each of us spiritual renewal, reinvigorate our wearied souls with new strength and help us grow to our fullest potentials on our journeys of faith and service with Jesus Christ.
Think Easter! Think possibilities beyond belief and have a joyous Easter in the RISEN Lord and Savior!
When the dusts have settled down …
The prophets’ prophesy of hearing a voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level and the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people together shall see it. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken!” (Isaiah 40: 3-5).
Similar call is reiterated in the Gospels with the same emphasis: “A voice of one calling in the desert, prepare the way for the Lord, Make straight paths for him!” (Matt. 3: 3). This call announces the Advent Season which eventually leads to the proclamation and celebration of the mystical birth of the Creator and Savior of world, God’s grace reaching down and dwelling among sinful humanity in the person of the Christ-Child. Leveling the valleys, lowering the hills and mountains; straightening the rough and rugged paths seems to require lots of efforts and could result in huge dusts in the air that may have the propensity to cause environmental pollution. What a very powerful metaphor! This definitely describes the physical, emotional and monetary energies we each bring to the Advent /Christmas Season each year. Whether we know it or not, the Advent season raises our expectation level higher than any other season I have known. There seem to be an inherently desperate sense of anticipation to either give or receive something during this season. This observation holds true among both Christians and most non-believers. There are overflowing joys as well as chronic stresses and anxieties as the result of our must give or receive tendencies toward the Advent call as we understand it and in ways that our families, neighbors, communities and the world have made us to believe they’re the best responses.
Remember, the call is simple: “Prepare the way for the Lord; make straight paths for him; And the Lord will be revealed!” When the dusts of all the preparations and celebrations are settled, the questions we need to ask ourselves each Advent season should be what’s left? What’s next? And finally, whom do all of these reveal? At times the dusts of preparations and celebrations get so thick to the extent that the nature of the call for preparations gets lost! Simple, yet most important task: our preparations and celebrations must reveal the Christ Child!
As we prepare again to begin our faith and service journeys anew this Epiphany and upcoming Lenten Season, here’re my prayerful invitations:
1.That we come prepared with penitent hearts and minds to renewed our relational covenant with our Creator and Savior;
2. Renew our zeal and enthusiasm for the Lord as though we were meeting him for the first time;
3. Give ourselves permission to allow God’s Spirit to use us in ways that we’ve never imagined to God’s own glory by serving him through our congregation and our community as a way of living out our faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Live an Active Faith Life that reveals the Christ-child day-by-day in this life throughout this
Epiphany and Lenten Season.
Have a blessed Epiphany and Lent,
Is Christ Present in your Christmas?
The Word became flesh and made His dwelling amongst us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who Came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John1: 14 NIV).
Christmas is one of the most popular and widely celebrated of all secular and religious holidays in the world. Interestingly, one way or another, people of all cultures, ethnic backgrounds, various political spectrums, secular and religious entities, recognize and celebrate this day that adherents of the Christian Faith believed to be the birth date of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Hey! Look around you as this popular season approaches. There are preparations at all levels and in all places. Businesses are offering seasonal products with unbelievable discounts. The various Community organizations and individuals are spending enormous amount of times, energies and monies on decorations so as to present the best of beauties. Many families are planning reunions that would require some to travel hundreds and thousands of miles either on land, sea or in the air to attend those memorable gatherings; while others are taking off vacation times, all in the name of “Christmas” celebration and observance. WOW!! No doubts, at first glance all of the different activities would seem to be a significant breakthrough for the believers, the disciples of Jesus Christ, in fulfilling their mandate, “The Great Commission,” to take the Gospel/Good-News of the Lord Jesus Christ from one end of the world to another. (Matthew 28:16-20). Often times, there are all kinds of activities during Christmas Season. The questions: Do they all Center on Christ? Do these festivities/celebrations make known Christ’s love and care for all people in our community and the world? Christmas should begin and end with Jesus Christ!
As a child growing up in a village and family that didn’t know Jesus Christ, but had the most elaborate celebration each Christmas Season raises questions in my mind about the place of Jesus Christ in all the activities marking the Christmas Season. Each year we looked forward to Christmas because it was one of the times of year our parents bought us new pairs of slippers, sneakers, shirts, trousers, not to mention, lots of food stuffs. For the older folks, the various community and fraternal groups would dress up in their uniforms and perform traditional dances, mostly under the influence of alcoholic beverages and other chemical substances. However, on Christmas Day, every parent had had threefold warning for their young kids: 1.“This day is not safe, 2.be careful and 3.don’t go out alone!” Those so-called Christmas Day celebrations were indeed marked by absolute lawlessness! What a lost opportunity! How about your Christmas prep and celebration? Is Christ in your Christmas plans and celebration?
The name “Christmas” comes from the season’s first service, Christ’s Mass.” (UMBOW-P. 269). It is a season of praise and thanksgiving for God coming into the world as a human being in the person of Jesus Christ to live with and save human kind from the power of sins unto salvation. So, the emphasis of Christmas celebration should be on making known God’s love and care for all of humanity as demonstrated in Jesus Christ rather than meeting our needs, the desires of our hearts and those of our families. God’s love and care? Yes! The Bible tells us, “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son,( Jesus Christ), that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NIV). The Savior is born and there’s hope for us/the world is the Central message Christmas conveys and we celebrate! Be it individual, family, congregation, community and nation, we’ve come this far through the turbulences of life thru 2015 not by our own power and strength, but God’s mercy and grace. God in Christ deserves our praises and thanks, and let this Christmas’ festivities truly reflect that sense of gratitude. For a mantra, as you shop and set tables, ask yourself, would Christ honor my invitation to be present at this gathering and table? Whatever would be your answer, surely determines if you are indeed celebrating a Christ-Centered Christ mas or not.
In His love and service together, Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!
Rev. Jakes, Pastor
THE ONE and ONLY OPTION: GET INVOLVED!
Since the day of creation, God has generously offered the human creature what we know as “Freewill” that sets us apart from robots. I’ve heard lots people talk about their admirations for this wonderful gift. However, the one thing most of those who capitalized on this wonderful and intrinsic gift from our Creator rarely talk about is the accompanying gift of responsibility associated with the exercise of our gift of “Freewill.” It at times may not be explicit enough, yet that doesn’t nullify the implicit truth that guides every individual in the exercise of their “Freewill”, accepting the obligation to be responsible for whatever the outcome might be.
This truth equally applies to the day in our lives when we were at the crossroads of decision making to either accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior or not to! Fortunately, you and I made the One and Only life-saving choice that would give real meaning and direction to our lives. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10). What a brilliant decision! Remember, we had choices: to either reject or receive Jesus Christ! But we CHOSE JESUS CHRIST over the other options. Great!
Now, whether we know it or not, by Choosing Jesus Christ over the other options is a personal decision that determines which directions one life takes as of that moment. One may argue that someone else made the decision for him /her while still an infant through baptism. Here I respond, that being baptized in and of itself does not make anyone a believer in / disciple of Jesus Christ. Baptism, as important a Sacrament it is, is a symbol of the outward expression of inward cleansing and spiritual grace. It is a sign of our adoption and incorporation into the family of God through Jesus Christ. So, whether the decision was made by oneself or someone else does not excuse us from living out in daily lives the acceptable principles and marks of all true Christ’s disciples. Jesus gave One and Only Option to all believers and disciples as well as would be ones: Obedience to his commands! Jesus sets clear perimeters by which our obedience would be measured: One must take up his/her cross and follow (Luke 14:26-27); demonstrate love of God and neighbors.(John 13; 34-35). In order words, it’s all about Getting involved! We were called both to live and lead active and vibrant life of Christian discipleship.
There are several ministries, missions, and spiritual formation opportunities available in an ongoing basis here at Church. All of these are open to all persons and free. However, if none of these groups serve and meet your particular needs, you may suggest one, or we can even help you begin one yourself.
We also have all kinds of ministry and mission initiatives currently going on. We’ve identified and challenged ourselves to be SEEDERS.As SEEDERS, our ministry and mission focus for the next five years would be threefold areas: 1. Outreach, 2. Worship and 3. Nurture; acronym: “OWN!” We’re prayerfully asking everyone, to Get involved by OWNing these ministry and mission endeavors! Remember, Getting involved is Jesus’
One and Only Option given to all his true disciples for the transformation of lives in His name.
May you and your family be blessed throughout this fall in Jesus’ name.
October Newsletter Message
WELCOME TO FIRST UMC “SEEDERS” MINISTRY INITIATIVES
“SEEDERS” is an acronym for the following ministry and mission ventures:
S- seek the lost;
E- embrace the those found,
E- equip them with the Gospel of Jesus Christ;
D- deploy them into the harvest field to
E- engage with the people,
R- recruit those found for
S- services that transform lives in the name of Jesus Christ.
The “SEEDERS Ministries and Missions Initiatives is in response to our conference’s constant call to “Imagine Wisconsin Anew!” Generally, “Imagining Wisconsin Anew” is our Bishop’s passionate invitation to all members and friends of every congregation to leave the comforts of their buildings and intentionally reach out and passionately invite new people into their congregation and faith communities. Over the last two years, our annual conference themes have been conveying messages of invitation, nurture and growth. In 2014 the conference’s theme was “Sowing the SEEDs,” and 2015 theme is “Cultivate and Nurture.” We are being challenged and encouraged to equip ourselves for vital, collaborative and transformative ministries and missions outside of our congregations.
In light of these challenges, the “SEEDERS Ministries and missions initiatives” provides the needed apparatus for adequate preparations that would help us meet our conference’s ministries and missional challenges. The SEEDERS Initiatives provides and invite everyone to intentionally take advantage of the various spiritual formation and faith building study groups such as the Faith To life, Coffee Time With God, First Alive Wednesday, Faith and Fun Forum now reading the entire Bible in a “Story” form in addition to our regular Church School classes for children. All of these are meant to offer opportunities that promote Biblical literacy, strengthen faith and empower participants for bold and fearless
outreach into our community to invite both backslided members back into the fold, and new people into our household of faith. Together, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can do this and even more!
The “F.U.N. (First United Neighborhood) Fest” event of Sunday September 30, 2015 should serve as an example and encouragement of how together we can make positive impacts on our community. It was a wonderful outreach initiative that impacted all who
came by, some of whom we may never have met or ever get to meet again. The greatest benefit, as a congregation we planted SEEDS! We reached out to our community with the love of God and touched lives in the name of Jesus Christ! To God be the glory! Let’s keep up that momentum and continue to be the congregation God specifically calls and stations us in this community to be!
Remember the words of Jesus Christ when he said: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few!(Matt. 9: 37-NIV); “ I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest! (John 4:35-NIV). The challenge is ours! Join the SEEDERS Initiatives and become the disciple God Calls and intends you to be! Touch and invite one life to Jesus today, for tomorrow might be too late!
September Newsletter Message
Six days later, Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother John and led them up a high mountain by themselves. His appearance was changed in front of them, his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Jesus. Then Peter told Jesus, “Lord, it’s good that we’re here! If you want, I’ll set up three shelters —one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when a bright cloud suddenly overshadowed them. (Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:28-36)
THE SUMMER RETREAT IS OVER!! WELCOME!!
The above passage kind of helps me rethink how we, Christians, respond to the ministries and missions of the Church each year during the months of summer. For instance, Sunday worship attendance drops dramatically, chancel choir halts all activities, Bible Study and other spiritual formation /small groups are put on hold and the congregation becomes practically inactive. Realistically, the major focus in the summer months becomes us because summer provides us the kind of weather condition that is conducive for us to do that which the wintry weather has either denied or stolen from us. During the summer the weather is nice, roads dry, warmer, clear blue sky, longer day light, and etc. So, we are able to drive, sail or fly long distances to see families, relatives, friends, and to even take vacations, etc. Whenever we were not able to do all of the above and even more due to bad wintry weather, the church pays the price in the summer! That’s a very good rationale for even closing the Church’s doors because we believe God should have known better to not have created such a bad weather known as winter!
But guess what, it doesn’t have to be that way, because winter, even with its “bad weather condition”, is not all that bad as we might think. Let’s just take for examples, what if there were no winter weather/snow and just a year round summer sun and dry? Well, you have to only ask the people involved with farming, and figure out how it would affect prices of our groceries on the market. My friends, we all we need is to trust God, and be thankful for whatever form the blessing with which He’s blessed and continues to bless us may take.
Now, here’s an alternative view of the summer months: that the summer months offer an opportunity for each of us to have a time of retreat with our Lord. We get away from all of the Church’s programs and projects just like the three disciples Jesus took along on the mountain top to experience God’s glory in more personal and practical ways. During the retreat, the disciples are given new vision, spiritually refreshed, re-energized and equipped to continue ministries and missions, not on the mountain top, but in the valleys and trenches below the mountain.
The same is true for our return to Church following the summer months. I hope and pray each of us took up some time to be with Lord during the summer and are now returning with renewed energies, passion and commitment to put our faith into practical actions that would help move God’s ministries and missions forward through our congregation for the transformation of lives in our neighborhood, the community and the world in the name of Jesus Christ. Specifically, I prayerfully look forward to collaborating and sharing with all of you in existing as well as newly organized Bible study, spiritual formation groups, out-reach missions project that impact lives in our community/ neighborhoods, increased our financial giving and other forms of giving that support and sustain the missional programs and of our congregation. You are encouraged to watch for announcements that are forthcoming.
First United Methodist Church, Racine, WI, September 2015 Newsletter
Most importantly, in all of my prayers, I never forgot to pray that each of us would use the summer opportunity to grow in our faith and our personal relationship with Jesus Christ over those last several months of summer Retreat.
Finally, I would like to heartily welcome each and all of you BACK TO and may God’s Word continue to be the lamp to our feet and a light onto path. WELCOME, AND REMEMBER GOD LOVES YOU, AND SO DO WE!
August Newsletter Message
Saturday July 4th Parade: A message for our faith life and journey
Years after another, many of us have had the privileged to either participate in or just witness the events that mark the celebration of the declaration of our national identity as a freed, sovereign nation and people. I bet it’s always been colorful, well planned, with magnificent decorations, spectacular displays of talents, human inventions and the pride of all those who actually performed roles in the event as well as the attendees that include both residents and visitors alike. People from the Racine community and its environs joyfully celebrated this occasion in various shapes and fashions including but not limited to honoring the services of the military, including the veterans both deceased and those still alive like Mr. Earl Christiansen, a very active member of our congregation. Close to home participants in the parade included Mr. Pete Feest Jr. with his son Austin standing on the back of his fire truck, businesses, antiques cars, schools, colleges, churches, and Fred Karst, President of the Kiwanis that meets in our building. As a first-time viewer, I had the opportunity of watching the event with Mr. Pete and Mrs. Carol Feest, Mr. Chuck and Mrs. Jean Harmon while Dr. Ellen Spiering and Mr. Dave Johnson, Mr. Jeff and Mrs. Marcia Fernholz and a number of youth from our congregation, all of whom were busy in the booth selling fund raiser food to support the joint youth group’s camp trip. What a Memorable Day! Notice: I didn’t say a “Glorious Day!”
As I struggled walking through the densely populated crowds from and to my house, I began to wonder about what I could possibly learn and be able to take away from this wonderful scene of celebrations? The Apostle Paul’s words concerning the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ spoken to 1st Century believers in Thessalonica began to dawn on me. Lest we forget that prior to his ascension, Jesus had promised his disciples that he was going to prepare a place for them, and thereafter would come back to take them, so that where he is, they might also be. ( John 14: 3). As a disciple of this Jesus, Paul reminds the Thessalonica believers, even us, of what that second coming of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ would look like. Here’s an excerpt of Paul’s reminder: “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with Lord forever! (2 Thessalonians 4:16-17- NIV).
No matter how wonderfully honoring the Independence Day Celebrations, there is only group of people that participate in them, i.e. those who are still alive, right? Now imagine, what if it were humanly possible to bring back all the deceased national heroes and patriots like Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, all the past presidents and members of their cabinet, the Generals of the military and all the enlisted men and women of the Armed Forces, police, governors, city mayors,
deceased loved ones of ordinary citizens and friends, just to name a few, what would the celebrations have looked like? Personally, I think it would have made a GREAT and most GLORIOUS DAY on planet earth! Unfortunately, it is not humanly possible! As wonderful and spectacular the July 4th Celebrations often are, they are nothing in comparison to the Celebration that awaits all believers on the day our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ returns! This will be “THE DAY” when all believers, both deceased and alive, will come together for a Great reunion and fellowship! John the Revelator envisions and tells us there will be no need for sun or night on that Great Day marking the Celebration of our Lord’s return. (Rev. 21:25). Let’s keep the Faith and be prepared as we eagerly await the dawn of this GREAT and GLORIOUS DAY of endless joy with all of our sisters and brothers, families and relatives, friends where the Lord Jesus Christ will be all and in all to all peoples and nations to the honor and glory of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. Amen!
You all have a wonderful summer in Jesus’ name.