Pastor's Page 2017 - 2018 Archived
CELEBRATE VOLUNEERS -IN - MISSION
MOMENTS WITH RACINE 1ST UMC.
Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (John 13:13-17)
As many of you might be aware, the Racine 1st United Methodist Church is not, numerically, one of the large congregations in our city. However, it is a spiritually strong and very passionate about Christ’s mission in this community and beyond its walls. For examples: In the Racine community, our congregation is involved in various Christ-centered out-reach/mission programs aimed at helping meet some of the basic needs of the most vulnerable persons in our midst. Those persons are mostly the homeless families and newly released from jail. We also help those who fall short on their monthly bills and meeting other basic needs, such as apartment rents, heat/electric bills, prescriptions, bus fares and gasoline. Additionally, we partner with about ten other congregations to provide sack lunches for the homeless every Saturday in our church building in addition to our support for the Northside Food Pantry throughout the year. Furthermore, we offer our building and facilities free of charge to the following Racine’s community based organizations: The “Kiwanis Club of Greater Racine,” “Controlling Community Violence” and our sister Hispanic UM Congregation, just to name a few of ministries and mission endeavors within our immediate community.
Our involvement with Christ’s Mission and Ministry outside of our comfort zone is not limited to our immediate community, but stretches us to include the following; We support the global mission of our denomination through the full payment of yearly financial apportionments and special donation toward special programs that touch and change lives in the name of Jesus Christ around the world. Along side our support for these global missions, we still do solo-global mission projects. The following are examples of our solo-national international and global mission endeavors: Our congregation provides financial materials and services an elementary and Middle School, “Jabez,” located in Ganta City, one of the war-torn cities of Liberia/West Africa and many more.
Two years ago our congregation hosted thirty –seven bicyclists from the Indiana Annual Conference /United Methodist Church. This year, Saturday 16th thru 21st June 2018, we hosted a fifty six (56) members “Volunteers-In-Mission Team” from the Dakotas Annual Conference /United Methodist Church. Those volunteers served at various local community humanitarian centers both in Racine and Kenosha respectively. Some of the
key facilities and homes served are: The Ridgewood Care Center, Shorelight Memory Care, HALO Inc. and three RMHA Homes, all in Racine City. Other areas outside of Racine included: the Shalom Center and the Grace Welcome Center, all in Kenosha. Now, back into our community, on the horizon are our annual missions and out-reach events to which everyone is invited to participate. The events are as follow: “July 4th Food Booth,” the “Vacation Bible
School” (VBS) - Monday 23rd –Thursday 26, 2018 and the “First United Methodist – Neighbors Fest” (FUNFEST)-Saturday 15th September 2018. Volunteers in any ways needed and appreciated!!
I have mentioned all of the above successes of our congregation’s ministry and mission involvements as a way of keeping some of you abreast with how we are honoring God in all that He’s called and leading us into being and doing to the glory of His own name. Rest assured that your efforts are not in vain, for the Lord who who has began a good work in us will surely bring it completion with invaluable rewards for those who persevere to the end.
Heartfelt thanks and appreciation to you and you for all you are and all you do because of your faith in and love of Jesus Christ through Racine First United Methodist Congregation that help touch and transform lives both in our community and the world in the name of the same Jesus Christ.
You all have a very blessed seventh month of the year 2018 in Jesus’ name.
June Pastors Message:
Dr. George W. and Winifred J. Harley-
Methodist Episcopal Mission to Ganta, Liberia
West Africa - 1925-1965
CHRISTIAN Mission: a call to equip within and serve beyond our comfort zones….
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:18-19-NIV).
No doubts, the above text fully captures and summarizes the vision and scope of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ’s mission to the world. The questions is: does this still holds true for the Church in today’s world? I say resounding yes!
Let me take a moment to briefly reflect on how the ministries and mission of two young American Missionaries from North Carolina works helped saved thousands of lives in the hinterland /interior city of Ganta- Liberia, then a remote little village, since February 25, 1925 to this day. Dr. George Way Harley earned his medical degree from Yale University and later studied Anthropology and Culture at Harvard University. Dr. Harley read about some tropical diseases known as malaria, leprosy, and other rare epidemics that were killing people in Liberia, West Africa. Dr. Harley and his wife, Winifred, expressed the desire to use their education and trainings to serve Jesus Christ by going as missionaries to this remotely dangerous African country, especially traveling 165 miles into the interior on foot to help save lives in the name of Jesus Christ. Being very genuinely concerned about their safety, the Methodist Board of Mission delayed a response to their declared intention for about two years, but later granted it.
When the Harleys arrived in Monrovia, Liberia, the then Liberian president cautioned them to stay in the capitol Monrovia which was a bit safe than the interior that was not accessible then by motor roads. The Harleys thanked the president for his concerns and offer, but insisted on travelling into the interior. They walked most of the 165 miles distance, but at some point were carried in “Hammocks” by volunteer men on their heads and
shoulders. Two weeks later, Dr. Harley and Mrs. Winifred J. Harley entered Ganta, then a small village known as “Gompa!”
Upon arrival, the Chief of “Gompa Village” instructed his men to build a mud hut with thatch roofing for the Harleys to begin their practices of medicine and tutorial education. Some of the employees said when the Harleys began their practices, the indigenous people were very skeptical of Western medicines. Therefore, the Harleys literally had to compensate them in order to receive medical and education services!! Some were given either cash in the amounts of U.S. pennies, two cents, or food stuff, and clothes in order to appease them to accept the services. Alongside the efforts at building rapport with the people, the Harleys were undertaking a larger building project. The building would house the clinic and the Tutorial Programs for the most vulnerable children both in Gompa and the surrounding villages and towns under Winifred’s care. Upon completion, the Harleys brought in many at risk kids and mentored them. Later the kids were sent to Monrovia to continue their education. Some of the people who benefitted from the Harleys’ programs later became nurses, doctors, Church leaders and officials in both the county and National government of the Republic of Liberia.
Twenty five to seventy three years later, the “IN-HUT” Ministry and Mission has grown and now situated on a one hundred –fifty acres of land while the then Ganta Village now has a population of over forty six thousand according to the 2016 National Census report. Currently the Ganta mission Station comprises the Ganta U.M. Hospital that sees and treats over two hundred patients daily; the Nursing School that has produced thousands of nurses; Ganta the U.M Elem Jr. & Sr. High School that enrolls over one thousand students each academic year; has one of the largest United Methodist congregations, and a Maintenance Department. The Harleys’ efforts in Liberia/Ganta accomplished the three major areas of Jesus Christ’s Ministries, namely: Preaching, Healing and Teaching!
When I think about how God miraculously used people like the Harleys, I’m very much inspired to believe that indeed Christ’s ministry and mission can still be accomplished even today. It may not be at same magnitudes as those before us, but within the scopes of our own capacity and ability.
Beginning Saturday 16th thru 21st June 2018, we will be hosting sixty-five to one hundred ” Volunteers In Mission” Team from the Dakotas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church here at Racine 1st UM Church. When request to host this group reached us, there were several mixed reactions including skepticism given the numerical size of our congregation. Others were blunt about our inability to host this group, yet there were those who were and still are optimistic about our capacity and ability to host the group. Finally, our only option now is to prayerfully host the VIM Team, trusting in the providential power of our God to help us accomplish the task he has called and set before us.
I want to encourage us to see how God provides the wings when he says “Fly” and one obeys. The Harleys obeyed God’s Call upon their lives to undertake, humanly speaking, a very dangerous and unpredictable faith journey outside of their comfort zones, and they obeyed.
My friends, let’s trust and obey Jesus Christ’s command upon our lives, be it in or out of our comfort zones, and he will surely see us through to the glory of God the Father and Holy Spirit.
In His service together,
May Pastor's Message:
The Day of Pentecost- A divine promise fulfilled….
“….But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. John 14:26 (NKJV.)
Pentecost Day occurs fifty days after the Passover which is one of three major Jewish Feasts. Pentecost is celebrated by the Christian Church as the day the Holy Spirit fell upon the bewildered and desperate believers. As you and I might remember, fears, frights, and uncertainties, thus locked behind closed doors are descriptions of the disciples’ post resurrection dispositions recorded in the Gospels accounts. What could they have done other than take the necessary precautionary measures that they believed would have kept them safe in the absence of the physical, however sporadic appearances, of the One in whom they’ve trusted and invested their lives? Remember, before his arrest, suffering and death, Jesus forewarned his disciples of the world’s pending hatred and persecution on account of their being his disciples. Listen to what Jesus said: “No servant is greater than his Master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They (the strayed world) will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One (God the Father/Creator) who sent me.” (John 15: 20-21 NIV). (John 15:18-27). The question, how different are the people and world of the first disciples from ours today? Possibly, except for the timeline, geographical locations, forms and degree to which they are manifested, not very much has changed. I am very much acquainted with how much darkness hates the light! The endless struggles between good and evil in this world remain visible to those who are spiritually discerned. For instance, the tendency for “the Powers that be”/ people who do not have the fear of God, thus no regards for other human beings and the dignity of life, to go after the ones they view as enemies, including the perceived enemy’s family members, relatives, friends and associates is still prevalent in today world and society.
Truly speaking, “The Holy Spirit” is infinitely larger than our categories and more powerful than words can fully describe. Jesus was fully aware that following his physical departure, times of spiritual wilderness would eventually catch up with the spiritually unsteady disciples. Therefore, he promised and did send them the Holy Spirit. ( John 14: 16-17). As the “Third Person of the Holy Trinity/ Godhead,” His first and foremost work is to “Indwell /Reignite” the dreaded spirits of the believers and revive them. (John 14: 26, Acts 9:31; Rom. 8:26). The disciples have been tormented both physically and spiritually by the forces of evil in a world that has turned against its Creator. The Church, God’s Redeemed people, are in a constant “Spiritual warfare,” and our only weapon is the Power of the Holy Spirit that demolishes every stronghold of the
evil forces. ( 2Cor. 10: 3-5). As believers, we must avail ourselves to the Indwelling and Reigniting Power of Holy Spirit in order to be victorious in these endless attacks and battles!
No doubts, Church worship services and other Church related activities are poorly attended while football stadiums and entertainment centers overflow daily. There’s so much spiritual emptiness in the world today than anyone can imagine. However, like the first disciples, we have hope that the Church will prevail! We should neither despair nor grieve like people without faith! If the Easter, post resurrection experience, didn’t make a dent, wait, Pentecost is on the horizon!! The Holy Spirit will surely Re-Ignite and set you on fire for the Lord. All you need, just open your heart and mind for Him to enter!
Have a fulfilling Pentecost,
Easter: Why Celebrate?
Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up in three days!” (John 2: 19).
In less than two weeks Christians around the world will be joining their hearts and minds with ours in joyful prayers, praises, worship and fellowship ascribed to our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
WHAT A WONDERFUL EVERNT!
The questions: what is this “Easter” and why celebrate it?
Church Historians tell us that “Easter,” also known as “Pascha” is a festival celebrating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, described in the New Testament (1Cor. 15:1-57) that occurred on the third day of his burial after his crucifixion on Calvary C30 AD. It marks the culmination of the Passion of Jesus, preceded by Lent, a forty-day period of fast, prayers, and penance.
As to its origin, little is known about Easter Season, even in the Bible. Generally, it is assumed that the name “Easter” originated from a pagan figure called “Eastre” or “Eostre” who was celebrated as the goddess of spring by the Saxons of Northern Europe.
Consequently, most of those deeply loved traditions, practices and elements used in observance of “Easter Season” may not be found in the Bible. Some of the prominent Easter Symbols were borrowed or adapted from secular cultural practices. For examples: the Easter bunny is believed to have been introduced to America by the German immigrants who brought their stories of short-tailed creatures called “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws who delivers decorated eggs to well-behaved children on Easter Sunday. Other mythical traditions include decorating eggs for Easter that dates back to at least the 13th century according to some sources, the Easter Candy and Easter parade all of which have formed part of this fundamental Christian belief and holiday celebrations.
While it may be true that most of those symbolisms of the Easter Tradition came from pagan practices, it is equally true that all of them point toward the sanity if life- New birth, new life and Hope that result to praise and joyful celebration! This is the very reason for which God sent His Son Jesus into an estranged world so that by giving his on the cross, all who believes might be saved from the power of sin and death penalty. (John 3:16-17). The Easter symbolisms offer and reinforce our faith and beliefs in new life made possible through our Risen Lord and Savior.
Easter Sunday further attests to the truth and reliability of Jesus’ response to the Jews who threatened to kill him when he turned over their tables in the temple: “Destroy this temple, and I will build it in three days!” (John 2:19). The word “Temple” herein referenced is Jesus’ own body. As the Apostle Paul puts it: Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in your midst? (1Cor. 3:16-17; 6: 15-20). Jesus Christ is the first fruit of the resurrection (1Cor. 15:20), that reassures all true Christian believers theirs too.
Easter means “You can put truth in a grave, but it won’t stay there!” (Clarence W. Hall).
Death didn’t have the final words on Jesus’ life and still does not have the final saying on the lives of Jesus’ disciples, both then and now, including you and me! Death could not hold Jesus captive in the grave, but eventually Rose on the third day following his excruciating death and burial. Halleluiah, He is Risen and Alive!!
My friends, following forty days of Lenten prayers, penance and fast, Easter brings us new and vibrant life. No matter what your journey has been and where you might be on your walk with Jesus Christ, let not this opportunity for revival and renewal your life and spirit passes you by! Join the Celebration! Open your heart to the “Risen Lord and he will surely raise you up no matter how low you might be on your journeys of faith and deed!
A BLESSED and HAPPIER EASTER!
Why the Cross? A Catalyst for my salvation!
This four letters word at first glance seems to be one of the most unpopular words among both believers and unbelievers. There are so many and diverse reasons why the word, “CROSS” would either sound or be offensive to most people. A part of the reasons is whenever the word “Cross” is mentioned in a conversation or even seen in its physical (wood /metal) form, it communicates a sense of either guilt, suffering or pain. I believe these simplistic and stereotype views of the “Cross” are largely due to either one’s inability or unwillingness to further explore the essence of this maternal symbolism. Did I just refer to the “Cross” as a “Maternal symbolism?” Oh yes! A brief definition of each word might be helpful: For instance, a working definition for the words “Maternal relates to, derives from, or characteristic of a mother; while “Symbolism” is the use of symbols to signify ideas and qualities, by giving them symbolic meanings that are different from their literal sense. So, while on the one hand it is true that the “Cross” at first glance often represents suffering, shame and pain, on the other hand, the “Cross” serves as a “Maternal symbolism” that has an inherent significance that reaches far beyond the latter. It is a tragic distortion when one’s view of the “Cross” does go beyond it being a symbol of suffering, pain and even death to gracefully acknowledge and accept its “Maternal” characteristic that serves as a catalyst to human redemption and new beginning in life’s journey. Yes! Throughout our Biblical History, the “Cross” has always been very special. In the Old Testament, under the Mosaic covenant, indeed, under every covenant, there are blessings promised for obedience and curses promised for disobedience. The cross was a symbol that reminded God’s covenant people to beware of disobedience and alienation and the associated consequences. The penalty for a condemned criminal was that his (her) body be hanged on a tree: “For he who is hanged is accursed of God.” (Deut. 21:22-23,).
The Curse of the Cross gives real meaning to the life of Jesus amongst fallen and condemned humanity. Unless one fully understands the role of the cross in the Old Testament, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to have an appreciation for the “Atonement”, what took place on the cross! Jesus declares himself as the “Good Shepherd” who came to lay down his life for His sheep. (John 10:11). This he did on the cross. In Galatians 3:13, we read that Jesus became a curse for us on the cross. Therefore, the cross of Jesus Christ is very central to our journeys of faith and service as Christians. The cross reveals to us the character of God: His love for accursed sinners and His perfect justice meet at the cross. If we want to grow in our love for God, which is the first and greatest commandment, then we must be growing to understand and
appreciate of the cross, which shows us His great love. At the cross is the place where all the wounds of sin are healed. If you suffer from emotional problems--guilt, anxiety, depression, anger, going through tragedy or whatever--there is healing in the cross of Christ. The cross says that God especially loves those who are hurting--those who are under the penalty and power of sin. If you will turn to Jesus Christ and put your trust in what He did for you in taking your just penalty for sin on the cross, He will deliver you from sin’s penalty and from its power. He wants to be your Shepherd and Overseer!
I prayerfully hope that you have had a very meaningful Lenten Journey and some personal time with our Lord Savior through the Holy Week. Now, welcome to merge into the renewed and vibrant life of joy and peace with our resurrected Lord and Savior, “The Risen Christ” on Easter morning!
HAPPY EASTER IN OUR RISEN LORD!
********Ash Wednesday- a rehearsal of human Mortality
Imagine you are either listening to your favorite radio Station or watching one of your best loved TV Show; or you’re in the middle of an interesting news broadcast, and you unexpectedly either see or hear this message: “This is a test of the emergency broadcast system” pops up! The sound can be awful and a bit frightening too. For me, it’s always an unwanted interruption! But somewhere in my inner self, I also know that it is a necessary interruption. It is necessary because it’s helpful to know what’s coming in order to be prepared to take the needed action that might possibly prevent an emergency situation.
When the prophet Joel calls upon the people of Zion to “Blow the trumpet,” he is essentially setting off an emergency broadcast system! Unfortunately for Zion, and even for people of all times, this alarm is not a test. It is a signal that they are in a state of emergency. What’s the emergency? The day of the Lord is drawing closer and closer, it’s coming soon! Remember, this “coming” of the Lord is far different from His coming we celebrate each Advent and Christmas Season. Just as the early prophets and John the Baptist called upon the people to prepare the way for the coming of the “Messiah” so does the Prophet Joel and the Apostles remind all of God’s people to be prepared for the Savior’s second return.
How the people are to respond in preparation for the Lord’s return is prescribed: They must begin the preparations by assembling the people and calling on them to return their hearts to the Lord. There is no time to waste, says the Prophet Joel. They must gather the people, sanctify a fast, and throw themselves on the mercy of the Lord before it is too late. (Joel 2: 1-2,12-15).
While Ash Wednesday may not signal an imminent return of the Lord (for no one knows the day or the hour of his return, not even the angels in heaven or the Son, but only the Father), (Matt. 24: 36; Mk. 13:32), it does serve as a required test of our emergency response system as disciples of Jesus Christ.
It calls upon us to observe a holy Lent by self–examination and repentance through fast and prayer; self–less life and living; reading and meditating on God's Holy Word. As “Church people,” it is wakeup call for us to allow God’s Spirit to revive our volatile spirits, while for the “Unchurched,” an opportunity to begin critically reflecting on their mortality, all through acts of sincere repentance. Accepting the vulnerable state of this mortal life puts one on the right path with others needing the courage and power to live as the people who are prepared to stand before their Lord at any time, even as early as this very hour, to receive the judgment that the Lord might render upon their lives.
Ash Wednesday is a stark reminder that life is brief. Every moment is precious. We never know when our time on earth will come to an end. Therefore, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we must do all that we can in this present life, with each second and minute and hour and day that our Lord grants us, to live in the way that our Lord and Savior Jesus
Christ has taught us.
As Christians, our call is not to seek to please either ourselves, love ones or those who look, think and act like us, but to reverently please the God who made us. In Matthew’s gospel, we read that the way to “Please God” is “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:19-21).
As we begin this holy season together, let us not ignore the warning signs that sound so loudly by the emergency response testing system that is built into our tradition. Let us instead take it as a definite call to action. Let us hear the invitation to observe a holy Lent as our marching orders. We must get up, leave our comfort zones, to both be and do that for which we are called to prepare including whatever may come this day and every day. As disciples, by the power of the Holy Spirit, may we march courageously and faithfully through this preparatory season side by side, shoulder to shoulder, in the efforts at taking the Good News of salvation to all in the name of Jesus Christ. We can do so by completely trusting in the promises of our God, never to leave or abandon us made known in Jesus Christ. Let us strive to be remembered as the generation that passed on the torch of faith and salvation to the next, not as a generation that FAILED to reach-out to the “Unchurched,” and thus starved and deprived the spiritually hungry and thirsty of God’s Fulfilling and Quenching love and salvation as found in the life and work of God’s beloved Son, the Only Savior of the world, Jesus Christ.
As we enter this New Year, I invite us to take along this Bible verse as our spiritual mantra: “For God has not given us the Spirit of fear and timidity, but the spirit of power, love and self-discipline.” (2Timothy 1: 7)
Happy and very blessed New Year in Jesus’ name!
ON EXTENSION MISSION TO THE WORLD”
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
(Isaiah 52: (7 -ESV).
And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. (Mark 16: 15 - ESV).
God’s love for and desire to share that love with all of creation has been and continuous to be the primary message of the Hebrew Bible in all generations. In order to make His love more visible and accessible to all, not some, God sent His Son, “The Christ-Child,” into the world. The world over acknowledges the Son’s coming in human flesh during Advent Season and celebrates his birth on a day known as “Christ-Mas!” Upon arrival on this planet earth, Christ’s life and work re-echoed God’s unconditional love for all people and creations irrespective of moral and socio-economic status as well as geographical locations. The Son summarizes God’s sole purpose for sending him in the world as thus: “. I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10 ESV).
In order words, knowing and having a relationship with God’s “Begotten Son,” Jesus Christ, leads to living a life of abundance and full of meaning. This is the “Gospel- Good News!” Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. Having come to know this truth, Jesus in turn entrusts all true believers as well as would be believers and instructs them to take and share this salvific message with all people in every corner of the world! (Matt. 28: 16-19-ESV). This is the Mission and ministry to which “The Church “of which Jesus Christ is the Head, (Colossians 1:18); you and me/ all Christians, are called be partners!!
We are God’s appointed Missionaries to take the Good news everywhere God’s Spirit would lead us. Generations after another, Faithful and dedicated Christian men and women have responded to our Lord Jesus Christ call upon them to “GO!” There are many different ways and forms that people have responded and continue to do so even today. For examples: There are those who upon receiving the call of Jesus Christ would sacrifice the ease and comfort of their lives and travel to places, some very remote and dangerous, to be hands, feet, eyes and the embodiment of Christ presence in whatever the needs might be. This is known as “Mission of Presence!” Others would prefer supporting the missional needs by providing needed funds and kinds to help meet the prevailing needs. I refer to this as being in mission by “Extension.” Let’s be clear that none of these means of participation outweighs the other, but rather supplement one another. This is exactly how the local Church, including Race 1st UMC, partners with Christ in mission.
As a congregation, we participate and respond to various missional needs in our local community, district and annual conferences, as well as internationally. Many of us participate in the efforts by supporting the cause either with our prayers, talents, time or money without ever going to visit the mission site. The recent “Spaghetti Dinner” to support Jabez School’s expansion project in Ganta City, Liberia is a typical example of being in mission through Extension. Your gifts enable those of us that are able to respond by both extension and presence to reach out and serve.
As I write this article, I and two other persons are preparing for a three weeks Mission of Presence trip to Jabez School beginning Thursday 11th thru Monday28th January 2018. This trip is made possible by the missional giving of all whose hearts were touched by our Lord’s call to partner with him in meeting the Jabez School’s needs for improved and expanded educational facility in the Ganta Community in which it is located as a mission of presence.
Finally, thanks for your faithfulness and dedication to partnering with Jesus Christ on his redemptive mission in your community, conferences and the world for the transformation of lives to the glory of God!
Until then, you all have a belated- Merry Christmas and a very blessed New Year in Jesus’ name.
MERRY CHRIST-MAS & A HAPPIER NEW YEAR!!
In Mission together,
A THANKFUL HEART, A GRATEFUL HEART!!
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (N KJV)
Welcome to November, the month of Gratitude and Thanksgiving!
It is widely believed that the first American “Thanksgiving Day” probably took place in New England by the Settlers. It all began with a small ship called the Mayflower set sail from Plymouth, England, on September 16, 1620. The passengers spent 66 days in the hold of the ship arriving on November 21. Most of the people were Puritans who had been persecuted for their religious beliefs in England and established Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts in 1620. Traditionally, this event commemorates the Pilgrims' celebration of the good harvest of 1621. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving Day on the last Thursday in November. The present date was established by Congress in 1941, the fourth Thursday of November each year.
On this day, families and friends gather together, and many people say prayers of thanks for the years of blessings. In many homes, a big dinner of either roasted or baked turkey with stuffing and dressing is served.
Historically, thanksgiving is a harvest festival and global phenomena. For examples: Canada celebrates its Thanksgiving the second Monday in October. In Africa, specifically West Africa-Liberia, November marks the beginning of harvest season. Therefore, November is widely thought of as a month of Festivity and Thanksgiving.
What’s about this grossly abbreviated history of “Thanksgiving Day, One may ask?”
My goal is to refresh our memories of the importance of exhibiting an attitude of Contentment, Gratitude and Thankfulness” as believers no matter what the circumstances life may bring along our path. In the above scripture lesson, the Apostle Paul admonishes us that a non-anxious, but prayerful and humble attitude in all circumstances yield the desired clarity and leads to deep thankfulness and grateful heart in our service to and journey with Jesus Christ. No doubts, a “Thankful heart is indeed a grateful heart!”
John Wesley once said: “If your heart is as pure as mine, give me your hand!” One can never be helpful to another when she/he is not completely satisfied and accepted of
him/herself. In my Christian understanding, it is impossible for anyone to be a blessing to another when they don’t feel blessed.
My friends, I know life’s path is never smooth as we often wish it would be. Remember, even God in Jesus Christ never promise us that we would live our lives on silver platter in this perverted and broken world. However, God’s promise is to be present with us, and to see us through. (Deut. 31:6; Heb.13:5; John 14:18).
The year is almost coming to a close! The ultimate question each of us need to ask: For what can I possibly be grateful / or thankful?
As for me, like the Apostle Paul, I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. (Philippians 4: 11b). Jesus Christ is my first anchor, and each of you is the medium. I’m thankful that I have a friend like you upon whom I can count and lean in times of needs. For you possess the very nature of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in and through whom every human life find its true meaning.
Finally, be not anxious, but content and thankful! For a life of contentment is a life of gratitude! And life of gratitude eventually leads to exceeding peace and joy that surpass all understanding that finally reign in one’s heart and mind in Christ, Jesus. Amen!
A HAPPIER THANKSGIVING DAY,
“A Perfect Church For Imperfect people!”
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect!” (Matt.5:48 KJV).
At first glance, one may think the title of this article and the scriptural text that follows are contradictory, but probably not quite!
This article is not intended to give a full Biblical exegesis and Theological explanation of “Christian perfection,” but a simple synopsis of the context in which the TAG: ”Perfect Church for imperfect people” is used and the message it intends to convey.
First of all, the title: “A prefect Church for imperfect people“ is a declarative statement affirming Jesus’ imperative statement: “ Be ye therefore perfect as your Father which is in heaven is perfect!” Therefore, instead of being contradictory, the statements actually complement each other. Why? Let’s do a brief study of each of them:
“A perfect Church” is an expression that reaffirms the Divine Nature of the “Church Universal.” We hear Jesus says to his disciples, “On this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell not prevail against it.” (Matt. 16:18). Until there’s an intrusion, we know that the handiwork of God remains pure and holy! I believe the Church referenced herein is not structure made by human hands with mud-bricks to be inhabited by a body of rebellious people. Rather, it is the “Church Divine,” perfect and thus holy. However, let’s not forget that the human creatures were amongst the creations that the Creator God declared “Very Good!” (Gen.1:31- NIV). Unfortunately, since the fall of the first human creatures from their original-perfect (sinless) state, the struggles for restoration continued up to the coming of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and regrettably persist in present days.
Here’s Jesus’ mission statement: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." (Luke 19: 10). Human imperfection is a sign of human estrangement and alienation from the image of their Creator who is essentially Perfect! The Apostle Paul reminds us: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8- NIV). God loves the Church, you and me, so much that He willingly paid the ultimate price, death, for that which separates us, “Sin” (Ezekiel 18:20; Rom. 6:23) with the sinless life of Jesus Christ for our restoration and re-union to himself. Apostle John, Jesus’ beloved disciple’s cautions: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”(1John 1:7-8-NIV).
John Wesley, the founder and leader of Methodism spoke of “perfection” in terms of progression through God’s justifying and sanctifying grace. It is a goal toward which you and I must keep on pressing.
Giving all of the above testimonies about the “Church and perfection” by authorities in whose footsteps you and I walk, I cannot wait to affirm the concept of the dual nature of the Church. The dual concept views the Church as comprising both a Spiritual/Universal Nature and the “Institutional” entity. Sadly, in this twenty first century, the “Institutional Nature” of the Church seems to be gaining prominence over its original “Spiritual Nature!”
Remember, the tag: “A perfect Church for imperfect people” was coined at our Congregation’s Ministries and Mission Re-envisioning and Discerning Meeting held Sunday 29th July 2017.
The desired messages:
1. To accept and confess our spiritual limitations so that we may become more aware and intentional about the need to improve that aspect of our journeys of faith and service;
2. To serve as an invitation and encouragement to others struggling with similar issues out there to view our congregation as a place they can come, feel accepted and made to feel at home.
Finally, as a congregation, our prayer focus should be to connect, explore and grow together in God’s word and service no matter where one might be in his /her Christian walk. Throughout this fall and beyond, let us open ourselves to the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit to direct our thoughts and actions in our efforts at reaching out to touch and transform lives in the name of Jesus Christ.
Grace and Peace,
GIFTED FOR THE COMMON GOOD
The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1Peter4: 7-11).
One of the key tasks of every human being on this planet is seeking for meaning in his or her life. I don’t believe it is at all satisfying to think our lives have no more meaning than just being born, living a short while, then dying. While it could be true that the Bible does not clearly tell us the meaning of life, but it does tell God's purposes for us, and it is in fulfilling those purposes that we can find true and satisfying meanings for our lives. Two of God’s primary purposes for human life are: 1.To live in community and 2. To be stewards of that community as recorded in the creation stories, especially the Genesis 1:26-28 account.
God understood the challenges associated with being “Stewards/Managers” of this divine and complex world community. Therefore, God has equipped each of us, his stewards, with specific gifts and talents that, when used in accordance with his will, would give every member of the community the desired joy and pleasure of his/her life. The Apostle Peter along with Paul and other disciples remind us that the Creator of the human family did not send anyone in this world without a gift or a capacity to learn a skill so as to live a purposeful life irrespective of age level. However, whatever one’s gift might be, it is not only meant to satisfy his or her own egos, but to be used for the common good of all in the community to the glory of God!
We at Racine First UM Church are no exceptions to these facts. Our congregation is immensely blessed with gifted, talented, skilled and innovative members to all of we are thankful, and for all of whom we are deeply grateful to God! As you might be aware, we are prayerfully on the path of “Discerning and Re-envisioning” the ministry and missional directions of our congregation anew! Our goals are to come up with an explicit vision, and to streamline our missional/out-reach efforts. We believe a clearly stated vision and well defined mission program would reduce the tendency of spreading those involved thinly and would minimize burn out! Most importantly, this would ensure effective and efficient outreach into our community.
The Discernment and Re-envisioning process began on Saturday 29th of July 2017 with more than twenty people in attendance. Thanks to all who showed up and contributed to this very important process.
We accomplished a lot during the meeting, but would list just a few: 1. We simplified our “Vision and Mission Statements!” We made them easy to read and remember as you may see on this edition of our monthly newsletter; and 2. We reviewed and streamlined our numerous ministry and mission projects and set up a strategy team to finalize the process and report back to the Leadership Team shortly. It is our hopes and prayers that all of us, endowed with all the invaluable gifts of talents, skills, abilities, resources, and the capacity for innovation, would get on board. Again, with our collective prayers, efforts, and hearts to reach the unchurched in our community, God can accomplish the vitality, vibrancy, and both numerical and spiritual growth we so much desire of our congregation.
Again, thanks for all you are, and all you do through Racine 1st UMC because of your faith in and love of Jesus Christ!
You all have a very blessed summer!
In His service together,
COLLABORATIVE MISSION AND MINISTRY-a Divine imperative, not an option!
5 like living stones, let yourselves be built[a] into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”. 1 Peter 2:5 (NRSV).
11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists (Missionaries), some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.... (Ephesians 4:11-12 (NRSV).
Whether one knows it or not, there can be no such thing as vital and vibrant Christian Ministry and Mission in isolation of or without collaboration with others. The above two scripture lessons remind me of the inseparable nature of Ministry and Mission partnership to which Jesus calls and equips every believer. Just as the Church is not something we go to, but something we are, so it is with Christian Ministry and Mission. Jesus Christ calls and equips us not to do, but to be in-mission and ministry relationships with one another and our neighbors in ways that truly enliven and vividly express God’s love and care for an estranged world. Such love and care are made manifest through God’s incarnate life and work in the person of Jesus Christ as he lived and walked this planet earth. Christian Ministry and Mission happen anytime, anywhere and wherever the needs are and whenever they may arise twenty-four hours, seven days a week and three hundred sixty five days. As believers, we are called and anointed by the Triune God to infiltrate the enemy’s lines and set God’s people free from its power and torments. We are to expand God’s Kingdom by spreading the Good news of the redemptive love and care of Jesus Christ both in words and deeds throughout our homes, work places, neighborhoods, shopping centers, grocery stores, communities, nation and the world at any given time in the power and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Lest we forget, this daunting, yet awesome Ministry and Mission effort has never been, and never will it be accomplished in isolation of others, be it human or divine. For instance, while the Church, (you and me), might not be perfect, yet whenever God sees a ministry and mission need in this world, God would call upon not the angels, but the Church(you and me). Equally so, each member of the Church counts on the corporation and God-given gifts and talents of other members to fulfill God’s mandates of the work of Ministry and Mission. None can go at it alone! In conclusion, my thanks to all my clergy colleagues, Lay speakers, Lay servant and members of Racine 1st UMC for the willingness to be in collaborative Ministry and Mission with one another in our district. Specifically, your help with being on the lookout for any pastoral care needs as well as accepting to fill the pulpit while I was on a three weeks working vacation in Liberia are deeply appreciated. All of the ministry and Mission projects accomplished during my vacation/mission trip are the results of your willingness to be in collaborative Ministry and Mission for the sake of your faith in and love of Jesus Christ. I also bring you all greetings and prayers from our sisters and brothers/children in Liberia, especially the students, parents and staff of Jabez Elementary & Junior High School. They all thanked you for the forty three pairs of soccer boots, three dozens of water bottles and assorted used clothes and foot wears donated. The administrator and employees of Ganta United Methodist Hospital also extend thanks and appreciation for the box of diabetic kits sent by Dr. Ellen Spiering and colleagues.
Finally, it’s a joy to be in collaborative ministry and Mission with each and all of you for the transformation of lives in our community and the world in the name of Jesus Christ.
You all have a very blessed summer in Jesus; name.
In His service together,
June Letter from Pastor: Guest Writer Amanda Schnaare
Hello Church Family!
As a fourth-generation member of First United Methodist Church, I have been blessed to have had so many of you in my life for years. As the Family & Education Nurture Ministry Coordinator, I have been getting to know more of you through our joint efforts to serve God, our beloved Racine community and the world. I am honored to be asked to open our June newsletter while Reverend Jakes is continuing his mission work in Liberia. We have been so fortunate to have great speakers and volunteers to fill in for the meanwhile, thank you all who have helped and plan for the month.
As a (former) Michael, I have many traditions that I get to pass down to my children. One of them is gardening: the planting, tending and watering seeds in hopes of producing food for the nourishment of our bodies. This time of year, the endeavor takes time and planning. My girls eagerly check the progress of the sprouts that we have started on a window shelf. They offer to water them, more often than necessary. They also lament when nothing grows, knowing that we will have to start over or wait until next year.
Is this not true with our efforts of faith? We plan to refresh ourselves and each other to ensure we are growing towards God. We share these practices with our children so that they may establish deep roots and share in the fruits of the Spirit. Jesus had many parables involving gardening and growing food, examples that would resonate with the people of His day. In our modern world, especially our developed society, not many of us have to grow food anymore. But it is in each of us to do so. We can pass it down to our families or neighbors. We may think we know how, but then it takes years to get the soil established and to collect the tools we need to be successful. We can read about it, or watch how-to videos online, learning about fertilizer and seasonal variations for ourselves.
Likewise, some of us have years of practice, though many of us are figuring out Faith Cultivation for the first time in our lives. There are times of over-weeding, where life feels as we have been pulled out of the Garden, unconnected and alone. There are times of drought, where we must refill our faith in the wells of others in order to survive a rough season. Then there are times when God’s Grace is so prevalent in our lives and our faith explodes causing us to dig trenches to reroute the overflow to others’ fields. God has made life a beautiful cycle, how blessed are we to be able to be of His creation and to help nurture it further.
As a Church family, let us share our lessons for growing in Faith with each other. Let us share the tools and resources God has granted us to help establish more gardens, bearing more fruit. Let us remember that we may need to start again, planting new seeds in soil that has yet to prosper. Let us be dutiful and open to new lessons, for each flower and plant is chosen and called by God. I wish you an abundant growing season for your gardens, and many more seasons to come.
In His Love,
May Letter from the Pastor,
A HEARTFELT TRIBUTE TO ALL LAY MINISTERS:
I raise my hat, though invisible, in praise of all the lay people who have accepted the called and now faithfully serving our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in various capacities in the districts and local Churches of our conference. We are truly blessed to have all of you as colleagues in the Ministry and Mission of our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Prior to my first ordination as a Deacon in 1987, I did serve as a lay student pastor under the guidance of many “Ordained Ministers.” During those years I didn’t quite understand the values and importance of my roles in the continuity of the total ministry and mission of the local churches, district and annual conferences with which I served. My first awakening moment came about during a Church History class on Martin Luther’s Reformation. Luther wrote an exposition on 1Peter 2: 9 in which he insists: “… there is no true, basic difference between laypeople and priests, bishops and princes…except for the state of office and work, but not for the sake status. They are all of the spiritual estate, all are truly priests, bishops, popes of the one body of Christ the Head, and all members of one another.”
“To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, in Three Treatises.” p12-15.
In support of Luther’s view are several Biblical passages including the Apostle Paul’s letter to the believers in Ephesus: All Christians Are Ministers in the Body of Christ! (Ephesians 4:11-13). Lest we forget that Jesus Christ, our Lord, and Head of the Church began his ministry and mission that changed with select lay people!
This realization became even clearer in my first appointment as the only “Ordained Pastor” assigned to a local congregation February 12, 1987. There were many opportunities for ministry and mission in our local Church setting that I couldn’t handle alone without a possibility for burnt out. I immediately turned to the talented lay persons, and with our collective efforts, a lot of ministry and mission programs /projects were accomplished.
Since then, throughout my thirty years of service as an “Ordained Minister,” mostly serving as a “solo-pastor,” I’ve come to appreciate, with deep gratitude, the roles of lay people in every ministry and mission of the Church. The truth is, pastoral ministry involves a lot that no “solo pastor” of a local congregation can ever meet singly. For instance, a congregation’s primary ministry needs may include: preaching, teaching, counseling, visiting, outreach, committees/ teams meetings, and so on. Alongside the congregation’s needs are the needs of the pastor’s family as well as his or her needs for self-care. Like any human beings, pastors do have needs for either a vacation or in the worst-case scenario, medical care when they become ill. What would happen to the congregation without some trained and willing lay person? Well, someone may argue, there are other “Ordained Clergy” that might help and that’s partly true. However, while the clergy colleagues are usually willing, the demands on their time equally put a limit on how much and how long they can help. So, as for me, while counting on my “Clergy” colleagues for specific pastoral emergencies, the well trained and equipped lay persons have always been my “Rescue squad!” It is on their willing and abailable shoulders that I more often lean, and for which I’m very grateful!
As mentioned earlier, the important roles laity play in the life of any congregation began with Jesus Christ. After inaugurating the Church, he entrusted its care to his faithful lay followers. Following two thousand years of its inception, and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Church continues to be a viable presence of the Triune God in the world even today with both clergy and lay leadership.
Finally, my thanks to all my clergy colleagues, SE District Certified lay speakers and lay Servant Minister that have accepted to assist with the continuation of ministry and mission at Racine 1st UM Church while I’m away on vacation beginning Tuesday 9th May2017 thru Tuesday 7th June2017. Last, but not the least, I’m deeply grateful to the leadership of my congregation for allowing me some time off in order to visit with the other set of my family in Liberia.
May God almighty bless’ us all as we together serve in His vineyard.
In His service together,
Rev. Jakes Voker
Pastor, Racine 1st UMC
April Letter from Pastor Jakes
Jesus: “Our Passover Lamb”
Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed for us.
(1 Corinthians 5:7)
Jesus is our Passover. The “Passover” is the oldest and most important religious festival in Judaism, commemorating God's deliverance of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt and His creation of the Israelite people. The Passover began at sunset on the 14th of Nisan and marked the beginning of a 7 day celebration with the highlight being the Seder meal to celebrate and rejoice in God's deliverance. Example, once each year, Jewish families celebrated their deliverance from Egypt by eating a special Passover meal and by sacrificing a lamb to make atonement for the sins of the family. The father would place his hands on the head of the “lamb” believed to be without blemish to confess the sins of the family members. That was symbolic of transferring the family sins to the lamb; then the blood of the lamb was shed, a prototype of Jesus’ becoming the Lamb of God to take away our sin. (Exodus 12: 1-15; 23:14-15)).
Before Jesus became it’s fulfilment, as a “good Jew,” he celebrated the Passover with his disciples in accordance with the existing tradition and religious (Judaism) law. The most memorable celebration was the Last Supper. (Matt. 26: 17-30; Luke 22: 1-23).
Just as the Jews used the festivity of the “Passover Holiday” to remember God delivering them and their nation from slavery in Egypt, we Christians, can use it to remember Jesus delivering us from our sins. The Bible helps connect us to the fact that Jesus’ death and subsequent resurrection lead us toward worship and praise of God's provision through him.
Each year the Lenten season both reminds and invites all believers to walk a forty days journey of fast and prayer in remembrance of Jesus’ preparatory time spent in the wilderness for his forthcoming sufferings and sacrificial death on the cross for ours and the sins of the whole world. Jesus was the Perfect Passover Lamb sacrificed for ours and the sins of all of humanity because he had no sin! (John1:29; 1Peter 2: 22).
Following the agonies of Lenten challenges and holy week, especially “Good Friday,” comes a week later, the dawn of a new life and abiding hope for all who may believe in the dead and resurrected Christ of God on “Easter Day!” You’ve heard this idiom: “At the end of the dark tunnel, there is a tiny light!”
My friends, the light referenced in the above idiom could be interpreted as “Jesus Christ! He’s God’s Light of life that dwells in, with and amongst us in this dark world!
In conclusion, just as during Passover each Jewish family looked back in gratitude for deliverance from the death angel that passed over their home, every Christian family would do well to look back in gratitude to God for offering His only Son to die as a ransom for our sins and his rising as an assurance of our eternity. Leaving behind all the “old loaves, challenges, worries and troubles, let’s celebrate the glorious resurrection of our Lord this Easter Season with upbeat spirit, resounding joy, steadfast hope and worship in the name of the Risen Christ! Take on the “New loaves,” for a new day has dawned! Let your life rise and glow with the radiance of God’s glory!
Happy spring and a Blessed Easter!
March Letter from Pastor
“Why the Dark-Gray Dirt on my forehead?
"When the word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the ashes."(Jonah 3:6)
Comes Wednesday March 1, 2017 many Christians around the world will be receiving the sign of the Cross of Jesus Christ on their foreheads from the thumps and fingers of their pastors, priests, and other congregational leaders. Why this ancient traditional rite? Chances are there are those who still struggle with questions around the meaning, purpose and relevance of this ritual to their faith and relationship to God and salvation in Jesus Christ.
As a young Christian, I had a lot of questions when I first received the sign of the Cross in wet dark ashes on my forehead at a Baptist Church. I kept asking my friend who took to me the service to explain the purpose of the ritual, but he was just a novice as I was. Even as I grew and began reading the Bible with a bit of seriousness, I tried to find any book, chapter or verse that explicitly talks about “Ash Wednesday,” but to no avail. However, now that I’m a matured Christian and a Pastor, I have made some relevant connections, and have certainly come to appreciate the Ritual with the help of Christian Theology and Biblical History. I believe the brief overview of this ancient rite, “Ash Wednesday,” will serve three groups of people: 1. A reminder to matured Christians who may already know its importance; 2. Additional information for those believers with very vague ideas about the importance of the this ritual, and 3. A vital piece of education for those who might be taking on the ashes for the first time.
While it is true that there is no mention of “Ash Wednesday” in the Bible, the tradition of donning and sitting on ashes as a sign of penitence predates Jesus and the Protestant reformations. In the Old Testament, Job repents “in dust and ashes;” the King of Nineveh declared a regional fast and covered himself with sackcloth and sat on ashes as signs of penitence; Queen Esther, Samuel, Isaiah and successive prophets.
In the New Testament, “Ash Wednesday” is identified with the imitation of Jesus Christ forty (40) days spent fasting and battling with Satan in the desert as recorded in the Gospels. Actually, there are forty six (46) days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, but most churches do not count the Sundays as part of Lent. The ashes used during Ash Wednesday service come from burning the palm branches of previous year’s Palm Sunday Service. As usual, the clergy leaders would “impose” or “dispense” the ashes, making a sign of the cross on the forehead of each person. As they “impose” or
“dispense” the ashes, the pastor or priest would remind each Christian of Genesis 3:19 “For dust you are and to dust you shall return.” This is both an acknowledgement and reaffirmation of our mortality as human beings in this world.
This practice became widespread in the Churches until the 16th Century when the protestant Reformer, Martin Luther, expressed concerns about the ritual lack of Biblical basis. In spite of Martin Luther’s skepticism, many Christian Denominations, including Protestants then and today, continue to mark Ash Wednesday as the first day of Lent. Lent is the time of reflection and penitence leading up to Easter Sunday. Lent reminds and invites each believer to reflect on the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ for his/her redemption. Remember, Jesus as the “Lamb of God that takes away sin,” (John 1:29). “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23). “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). Do any of these mean anything to you? Christ has given his life for yours and mine sin! What can you and give in return? If you are like me, I would simply repent and ask for a new beginning this Lenten! That’s exactly what God’s Word calls and challenges us to do as we put on the ashes on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent!
Here at First UMC, you are invited to join us for a light supper on Wednesday March 1, 2017 @6:p.m and followed by a transforming “Ash Wednesday Service” in the Church’s Social room in observance of first day of Lent. Also available is a six weeks Lenten Study: “The CREED- What Christian Believe and Why?” at 9:a.m each Sunday. Author: Adam Hamilton. Along with this study is a five weeks sermon series on the following topics: Renounce, Accept, Confess, Nurture and Believe.
Finally, remember this season challenges us to reflect and repent. As we reflect on Christ’s life and works, we are called to examine our hearts and lives to see how our relationships with both our Savior and with one another have been and heading. These are all in observance of true Lenten Season. Christ gave His life for me! What can I give for His sake? Let these be our soul searching questions throughout this Lenten season and beyond!
Have a Blessed Lent, Rev. Jakes
February Letter for Pastor -
Christians: Living in Love as Christ’s Ambassadors!!
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? ( Matt. 5: 43-46-NIV)
14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. (2Cor.5:16-20-NIV)
It’s Thursday January 19, 2017, the eve of the day of the inauguration of the president –elect, Donald J. Trump. One need not be told what the political, social and relational climates have been since the inception of the political campaigns season in our country. You would agree with me that tension has been raging amongst opposition parties, politicians, and their supporters in every part of this country. Thinking that civility, forgiveness, and mutual understanding would return following the November 8th 2016 General and presidential elections, but it’s been just the very opposite. In fact, not only that the unexpected victory of Donald J. Trump as the elected 45th president of the United States has widened the division, but even his inauguration has exacerbated the tension. Unfortunately, the people being misled by the politicians and bias journalists to get at each other’s throats do not live on separate planets and meet at a specific time on earth. The truth, we all live on the same planet earth and breath the same God’s given air! Further, the harsh realities we face include the facts that most of the people caught in these uncompromising divisiveness are either members of the same family, live in the same house, reside in the same neighborhood and community; attend or graduates of the same school, college and university. Even most devastating, believe me, some are members of the same church/congregation, “The Body of Jesus Christ,” “The prince of Peace!” Possibly, most, if not all, of the relational predicaments mentioned above might hold true for us here at Racine 1st UMC!!
February 2017 Newsletter, First United Methodist Church, Racine, Wisconsin
Those realities don’t exist only of our time, but on our front porches, in our backyards and possibly in our congregations. Therefore, we must step back and take a deep breath in prayers as we contemplate our roles under these climates of conflict and high level of anxiety as disciples of Jesus Christ.
While the clouds might appear dark and uncertain, lest we forget that it was out of chaos that our God created the world, all therein and declared everything “Very Good!” (Gen.1:31). This God is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Heb. 13:8). The same God with whom nothing is impossible descended to earth in person of His son Jesus Christ to demonstrate that love, peace and joy are indispensable to purposeful human existence and relationships. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we have unique roles by our calling and being set apart. Apostle Paul reminds us that we are called and designated “Christ’s Ambassadors!” As ambassadors, we are deplored to live in love and to share that newly found freedom, which the world cannot offer, with those who have not yet experience the wonderful gift of love that enables reconciliation, peace and joy amongst all the human family on planet earth. As empowered ambassadors of Christ, we are to preach love, peace and reconciliation in words and actions in the midst of all the tumults in our society and the world. We are called to be the calm presence and listening ears amidst the chaos in the world’s room filled with kids scrambling over life’s toys-whatever that might be! We are called to be consoling arms of Jesus Christ around the lonely and bring hope to the hopeless. Most importantly, Jesus Christ calls us to love our enemies and pray for those with whom we disagree just as he did by asking his Father to forgive those who crucified him. Remember, we are all forgiven and saved sinners because of God’s unconditional love.
As we go forth into this turbulent and terrifying society of ours, may we prayerfully ask the Lord to grant us the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to help us be beacons of God’s love, hope and peace to all, anytime and anywhere for the healing of souls, minds and spirits amongst us and in our society in the name of Jesus Christ.
Blessings to all,
“Christ, Our Cornerstone”
“ So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the [a]saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy [b]temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2: 19-22- NASB).
The architectural imagery Paul uses here kind of brings home the reality of daily life in today’s world. We live in such a time that life seems to be of little or no value and thus falling apart more rapidly than anticipated. Daily, we are being bombarded by images on television and news of one tragedy after another. The news of terror threats followed by one tragedy of mass-killing after another all tend to keep one awake all night. We witness increase in crime rates in our own neighborhoods as evidenced by both targeted and indiscriminate shootings and killings by armed gangs. I believe the escalation of security threats in our communities, in nation and the world coupled with transitioning from a very divisive elections process into a national leadership that most people aren’t sure of their fate are major factors of hopelessness. Worst of all, our congregations are being hit with drastic declines in membership and finance, while our denomination is facing the challenge of possible schism over doctrinal issues raising the bar of anxieties to the max.
As the result, many are even asking whether the “end time” reference in the Bible is just at hand. These uncertainties over what could possibly happen in the next minute, within a day or so, continue to hunt a lot of us. Consequently, “chronic anxiety seems to be getting a very good handle of each of us and spreading like wide fire into our communities, states, nation and the world.
Even with Christmas reminding us of the birth of God’s Anointed Prince of Peace, yet it would seem like just a band aide over our deep emotional and spiritual wounds. The question then remains, what would possibly rebuild our confidence in the days ahead so that we might go into the future with hope, peace and joy?
In response to all of the above concerns, the Apostle Paul draws our attention to some reliable pieces of advice, which when heeded, would lead to true hope and renewed confidence as we move into the new year and beyond: Like his first audience, Paul reminds us that we are no longer aliens and strangers, but citizens with all the redeemed of Jesus Christ. Paul reassures us that being citizens guarantees each of us all the rights and privileges that befit our status. One of the primary responsibilities of any nation and its leadership is to provide its citizens with security and all the basic necessities of life.
Well, if the human institution, with all of its limitations, can figure out a way to sustain its subjects, how much more about the God who is the Creator and Lord of the universe and all therein would provide for our every need more abundantly than we can ever ask or imagine. Here’re hints of the Lord’s faithful promises found in both the Old and New Testaments:
“ I will hold you always in the palm of my hands.” (Isaiah 41:13); “A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.( Psalms 91:1-10). Even better still, Jesus’ promise never to leave us “orphans” or “forsake us” is trustworthy. (John 14: 18). This is very central to our faith journey. Knowing that God’s Spirit indwells each of us to help us grow into Godly living guided, protected and sustained at all times, in all and through all circumstances.
Therefore, it is in such a time as these every Christian would need a solid Foundation and Cornerstone to rely on for the future. Fortunately, God has laid up for us a foundation through the Apostles and has revealed to us a reliable Corner stone, “Jesus Christ,” upon whom to build our lives. So, no matter what your experience has been through this year, I would encourage all of us to take hold of the opportunity of True Hope and Peace God has freely offered us and the world in person of Jesus Christ. He is the most dependable and unshakable Cornerstone in every circumstance of life.
Let’s go forth knowing that life’s journey may seems rough and rocky at times, but the foundation is solid, and the Cornerstone, Jesus Christ, is trustworthy and will certainly see us through.
YOU ALL HAVE A BLESSED AND HAPPIER NEW YEAR
Christmas Day- who is the honored guest?
I grew up in a Traditional African Community where most of the people had distorted views and total misunderstanding of Christmas. During Christmas Season, there were massive preparations by families, tribes, social and fraternal groups. On Christmas Day, kids couldn’t wait to dress up and showcase their new clothes, new feet wears - mostly shower slippers and canvas shoes. The various fraternal groups would organize entertainment programs comprised of mask dancers, (Santa), cultural festivities honoring community, tribal and even national leaders. The celebrations, marked by excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages at times leading to anarchy and lawless behaviors, would continue for more than twenty four hours. Thus, Christmas Day was generally perceived as a day of lawlessness without any legal and civil penalties for the perpetrators. Sadly, on this day of festivities, parents had to be very concerned about the safety of their children. Most of the parents would not allow their kids to attend some of the “Christmas programs,” while others did with strong warnings for the child to be careful about which festivity to attend.
Thank God of love for revealing the true meaning of Christmas through dedicated Christian Missionaries who risked their lives in those communities with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Even though there still exists some distorted views and misunderstandings of what Christmas is really about, the clouds are drastically clearing out as a result of the Gospel message. Fortunately, my generation and the next should go into the future celebrating Christmas Day with refined views and understandings as to who the Day honors. My newly found understanding helps me know and accept that Christmas is a time of sharing-giving and receiving gifts, spending time with and caring for our loved ones. Most importantly, Christmas Day is celebrated in remembrance of and in celebration of the birth of God in the flesh, One who is Savior and Lord of you and me, and all who would accept and come to his saving grace, “Jesus, The Christ”.
This year, Christmas Day falls on a very unique day, Sunday December 25th! What a wonderful, yet challenging day for MOST, if not, all believers! It calls us to reflect on the questions: “Who is the honored guest on Christmas Day?” “Even at our tables, who do we honor on this day?”
If “The Christ-Child” is your honored guest, you’ve got it right! Now, you and your loved ones are heartily invited to join us in the house of our “Honored Guest, the Church! Come, you’re your voice with ours as we together joyfully celebrate this special day to the glory of his name! Christmas is God’s gift to us! Let us come together to show our gratitude with an attitude of praise, worship and fun!!
Finally, as usual New Year is at the heel of Christmas. It is a time for all of us to reflect on our past, neglect repeat of the same mistakes as we forge into the future, asking the
Lord to unfold His plans and guide us in every steps of our journey with him and with one another.
Merry Christmas! And a blessed New Year to you and your loved ones!
Joy and peace,
“Giving as my art of Praise and worship “
…Praise God’s glorious name; bring an offering, and come into his Temple.” (Psalm 96:8)
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2Corinthians 9:7)
Bottom of Form
It is said that exhibiting an attitude of gratitude in daily life is one of the best gifts one can give him or herself. We’re approaching the time of year when the pressures of giving and receiving gifts in kinds, cards, money; beautiful decorations of our homes, yards and the streets, gatherings of families, relatives and friends as well as special surprises for spouses and children all in the name of celebrating either the arrival or the natal day of the Christ–Child- God’s Greatest Gift to the world. Amen!
Has it ever occurred to you that any of the above could be an art of praise and worship to the Lord? Well, if you haven’t thought that way, you might not be alone! I didn’t realize that giving gifts in the name of celebrating the birth of the Christ-child as being an art of praise and worship to the Christ-child until I had prayerfully reflected on it. Two intrinsic truths about the gifts we exchange in the name of the Christ-child: 1. No one gives a gift to anyone against whom they might be harboring a grudge. And 2. No one would neither expect nor receive a gift from one with whom they may have had serious, unresolved issues. Implicitly, there are attitudes of gratitude being expressed in every act of exchanging our gifts.
Jesus once acknowledged that as evil as peoples of his generation were, yet they knew how to give good gifts to each another. (Matt. 7:11; Luke 11:13). As Christians, the Bible reminds us to Joyfully come before God (worship) with our whole tithe/offering so that there may be enough in his storehouse to meet ministry and mission needs. God further challenges us to put Him to a test in this, generous and cheerful giving, to see if He won’t immensely multiply, hundredfold, our remaining resources. (Malachi 3:10-paraphrased).
My deep gratitude to each and all of you for willingly offering your time, talents and money that continue to help support and sustain Christ’s ministry and mission through our congregation. Your giving as your arts of praise and worship afford our congregation to maintain a small staff that helps take God’s word into our community through diverse programs, spread God’s love to our needy brothers and sisters through arms giving, pay for heat/electric and office supplies. The need to continue praising and worshipping God through our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service and our witness even as the temptations of personal needs abound cannot be over emphasized.
As you consider giving gifts this season, remember to cheerfully choose a convenient amount to dedicate in praise and worship to God through your congregation. You may
choose to set aside 1%, 3%, 5%, 8%, or 10% of your income and offer that as a gift to God first before you buy a gift for yourself and others.
Remember, God has blessed you with life, breath and sustenance so that you would in turn be a blessing to his ministry and mission for the transformation of lives in the name of Jesus Christ.
Cheerfully in His Service,
Rev, Jakes Voker, Pastor
“The Holy Spirit: The Wisdom of His Spirit”
I pray that the great God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ may give you the wisdom of His Spirit. Then you will be able to understand the secrets about Him as you know Him better. Ephesians 1:17
Since the beginning of this year, I have been using the “365 Ways To Know God- devotional readings on the names of God” by: Dr. Elmer L Towns. I have found this devotional resource to be inspiring and enlightening! Thank God for Dr. Towns’ knowledge of scripture and willingness to share it.
The above scripture and topic we’re about to explore come from the Thursday 15th September 2016 devotional reading. No doubts, we all need the Spirit of wisdom to help us with clearer insight into the nature of our relationship with the Divine Being. The Apostle Paul points out clearly that the Wisdom of God’s Spirit is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives every believer insight into the Word of God. Don’t be shocked at the fact that some believers, possibly including myself, don’t ever seem to fully understand who God is let alone His will. So, God the Holy Spirit helps us see and understand spiritual truths (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). Think about this, if those of us who claim to have a relationship with God don’t seem to understand God’s will, how about those who have not come to that point in their life? Since out of ignorance some have rejected God and remain unsaved, God’s Spirit of wisdom uses their consciences to convict them of sins and to enlighten them of their need for God’s free gift of salvation. In view all of the aforesaid, one can summarize the tasks of the Spirit of Wisdom into two major categories: 1. Seek the lost and bring them back into relationship with their Creator. And 2. Help those found and redeemed grow deeper in their faith, spiritual understanding and relationship with the Savior, (1Corinthians 2:6-8). If you are as limited in your knowledge of God and His will as I am, together let us pray this short prayer:
“Holy Spirit, I realize that I know very little about spiritual things. Show me what I need to know and help me remember to use what You show me.”
Now, if the prayer truly expresses your inner desires, let’s not stop here. Beginning the first Sunday, October 2, 2016, we will be exploring the “FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT” through a ten weeks sermon series based on Galatians 5:22-26 and other supportive scriptural passages. Like an inventory of a warehouse filled with all kinds of goods, the sermon series will afford all of us the opportunity to reflect on and do a spiritual inventory of our personal journey of faith and Christian discipleship as followers of Jesus Christ. I prayerfully trust the Lord would use each moment of our time together during
the sermon series to pour down His Spirit of wisdom upon us each Sunday. I also prayerfully encourage you to do the same! Moreover, don’t forget to invite a family member, friend, relative, an acquaintance, neighbor, or a co-worker to come along each Sunday for a time of spiritual inventory and learning together under the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit!
Now that fall is finally here, enjoy God’s blessed season to his honor and glory.
Holy Spirit- A reviving Spirit
Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 11:19).
Let me begin with a joyful and heartfelt welcome back to church and to all of its routines! I don’t know what your summer has been like, but what I do know is the path through life’s journey is not and never will be the same for everyone as it is filled with ups and downs. Whatever your experience have been through this summer, and possibly continues to be, rest assured that we have a God who never abandons, but walks with us every step along the way to lighten our burdens and give us inner peace and joy. In the midst of life’s uncertainties, be it personal or congregational, that tend to depress our spirit and steal our joy, God the Holy Spirit is the New Spirit that enters our hearts, when we totally surrender all, to revive our spirits and renew our hopes.
All of the following ministry and mission events: July 2nd hosting of the twenty-nine Bicyclists from Clay UMC, South Bend, IN; July 4th Celebration- especially the meal and making our rest rooms available to the public; the National Night Out Snacks handouts; the Grandparents/grandchild Camp; the Youth Mission Trip; the Vacation Bible School and concluding with the upcoming First UMC Community Fun Fest on Saturday September 10th afforded our congregation the opportunity to reach out and touch lives in our community with Christ-like love and care during the summer months. Moreover, for personal and congregational spiritual nourishment and revitalization, the Faith To Life Bible Study that meets on Thursdays and Sunday mornings along with the Young Adults Wednesday Dinner Discussion met throughout the summer months too. These spiritual formation groups kept our souls revived and our spirits uplifted throughout the summer and will continue to do so even in the fall. Our deepest gratitude to Amanda, Ellen, Carol and all those that contributed one way or another to the success of all of the above and many more ministry and mission efforts with which we were involved this summer for the sake of our faith in and love of Jesus Christ.
Now, as individuals and a congregation with revived spirits and renewed hopes, our lives should be filled with new perspectives, new zeal for the Lord and prayerfully focus on new possibilities as we transition from summer into the fall. Being the eyes, hands, mouths and feet of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, let us go forth with one heart, a heart of flesh, not stony; new spirit and new life filled with prayerful desires for the Lord to use us in a new way beginning today and beyond.
Remember, the New Spirit is sent into each of us life to show us all the new things we get at salvation. You get peace (John 14:27); you get guidance (Galatians 5:25); you get assurance (Ephesians 4:30); illumination (1 Peter 1:12), and you are filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit for new service (Ephesians 5:18). Together, when we receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit, many new possibilities open up to us. No doubts, the Lord has a lot in store for you and me as we approach the fall season. Let’s continue to pray that the Holy Spirit would touch us in new ways to not only to do new things, but to also continue to reach out and share his joy with new people in new ways that their lives might be transformed in the name of Jesus Christ.
Again, thanks for a spiritually inspiring and uplifting summer ministries and mission. Welcome to our fall journey together with new heart and new spirit in Jesus’ name.
In His service together,
Rev. Jakes Voker,
Your Servant pastor
Keep on pressing toward the goal
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14-NIV).
Ministry friends here at Racine First UMC and the community, I like to reiterate my thanks to all of you for the opportunity to be in ministry with each of you and your family. As you might be aware, pastoral appointment in the United Methodist Connectional and Shared/collaborative Ministry System happens at the seat of each year’s annual conference for a period of one church year. For the Wisconsin Annual conference, we mostly meet the second week of June each year and newly appointed pastors officially begin their ministerial services the second Sunday in July following the conference. With this understanding, July 17, 2016 marked two full years of our ministry together here at Racine 1st UMC. What a privilege and a blessing to serve amongst, and along with you! To God be the glory for all He has done and will continue to do amongst and through us all!
In June 2016, I invited us to celebrate the wonderful ministry and mission God had accomplished amongst and through us, but not forgetting to focus on future ministry and mission opportunities that God certainly has awaiting us and our response. In July 2016, we also reflected on “sharing God’s Abundance.” Honestly, we can joyfully celebrate the sufficiency of God’s abundant grace that we enjoy both as individuals as well as a congregation. The most important aspect of this abundant grace is our ability to connect and build relationship with others, especially outside of the four corners of our walls. Rightly so, we celebrate the five new members added to our congregation’s family. As to sharing God’s abundance with our neighbors, our doors are open to all persons and community programs. We collaborate with other local churches that do joint ministry and mission such as serving sack lunches and hot meals to our homeless, youth programs and Food Pantry. We further celebrate our donation of funds to police organizations that help fight crimes, reach out to families of fallen officers in the line of duties as well as normalize relationships between the police and members of our community.
Outside of our community, we joyfully celebrate our contribution of $6,470 toward WAC’s one million dollars campaign for “Imagine NO Malaria!” This was in addition to our congregation’s apportionment. Our International Mission Trip to Ganta City, Liberia - West Africa, afforded us the opportunity to take along several gifts and to serve at the United Methodist Hospital/ School of Nursing and the Jabez Elem. & Jr. High School during the period January 24 -February 4, 2016. Well, the list of ministries and mission God has accomplished and continues to do so amongst us could go on, but these are
humbly mentioned to gratefully acknowledge God’s work and those through whom these are really happening! Heartfelt thanks to you all of you and, and to God be the glory!
Now, as we begin the third phase of our journeys of Faith and service together, let’s take a moment to ponder the Apostle Paul’s message in the above scripture lesson. Paul reminds his first readers, even us, that God has a goal for which he calls each of us out in Christ Jesus. Our task as believers is to keep pressing on toward that Goal as made manifest to us in and through the life and work of Jesus Christ. In essence, idle life, complacency and stagnation are poisonous to living a vibrant and thriving Christian life both as an individual Christian as well as a congregation. In order to be more focused this year and beyond, I would like to invite all of us to prayerfully consider these three areas as our goals for ministry and mission beginning September 2016 thru September 2020:
- Out-reach –let’s continue the effort at reaching out to share Christ’s love through services and invitations with people in our community and neighborhood.
- Worship – make our worship services people’s oriented, invitational, Christ-focused, spiritual and fun!
- Nurture – continue provide opportunities for meeting people’s spiritual and physical needs. While it is true that we are doing some, we need to be more intentional.
Details on each of these three goals will be provided from time to time.
Finally, pray without ceasing and enjoy your summer in Jesus’ name!
Rev. Jakes Voker
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.