Tag Archives: umc

First Sunday of Advent

Join us on a journey of Advent. Each Sunday, we will have a reading posted, along with what candle we are lighting in our churches or homes today. Today is the candle of Hope. We hope for the future king. What will he be like? Will we see it in our lifetime? Hope.

Speaker 1: Lighting a candle in the darkness helps us find our way. In the darkness, we lose direction. We cannot see where we have been or where we are going. A single candle, flickering brightly, helps us find our way again.

Speaker 2: “Stir up your might, and come to save us. Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved” (Psalm 80:2b-3).

The first candle is lit.

Speaker 3: Light one candle; see it glow
Brightly, so that all may know
How one candle shows the way
Making our darkness bright as God’s day.

Speaker 4: Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved. All pray: Dear God, on this first Sunday in Advent, let this light shine brightly as the days grow shorter so that we will be ready for your face to shine upon us at Christmas. In the Savior’s name, we pray. Amen.

Bible Study Ideas

BIBLE VERSE OF THE DAY: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”  – Romans 15:4

3 Fresh Ways to Study Your Bible
by Amy Green

Whenever the Bible talks about spending time with God through reading the Word, it’s never in the context of a burden. I don’t know about you, but I could use more hope in my life. Here are three fresh ways to study your Bible:

1. Praying the Bible
This method is just what it sounds like: Take a passage of Scripture and read it, line by line, pausing in between to pray its truth for specific people and situations in your life. The psalms are great for this, since they’re written as prayers. (Even the ones where David wishes death to his enemies can be turned into prayers about the destruction of sin in your own heart or evil in the world like terrorism, human trafficking, or poverty.)

This method is less about interpreting the passage and more about using its words to bring requests before God and to praise him for who He is. Try pausing between each verse and lifting up specific people and situations that relate to the words there. If you find it hard to focus in your time praying, this might be helpful for you.
Need a place to start? Try praying through Isaiah 35Psalm 27, or Philippians 2.

2. Walk with Jesus through the Gospels
My friend once gave me this advice: If you’re going through a spiritually dry time, read through the Gospels and write down what you learn about Jesus. That’s it. Nothing fancy. It seems so simple that it can hardly be called a “method,” but at the same time… how often do we page right by the familiar stories of miracles and parables?

How long has it been since we let Jesus surprise us? When we ask what it means to follow Jesus today, do we have a clear picture of what that looks like?

All of that and more can be found when taking this exercise through each of the four Gospels. As Christians, we’re called to be disciples and imitators of Jesus. The best way to know what your faith should look like is to get to know him better.

3. Coordinate with Your Sermon Series
Take a sermon series that your church is starting and dive deeply into a parallel study. If it’s exegetical (preaching straight through a book or part of a book), read the passage before the sermon on Sunday. If it’s topical and you don’t know for sure which passages you’ll be going to, pick a portion of the Bible that has a lot to say about that topic and read through it a little at a time.

This is a great weekend devotional practice to get into, and unlike some of the other methods, it is usually pretty short, since pastors don’t often tackle massive chunks of Scripture at one time. There won’t be any “spoilers” for the sermon, but it’s amazing how much easier it is to engage in church when you’ve spent time focusing your heart on the subject ahead of time.

Editor’s Note: Portions taken from the article, “10 Fresh Ways to Study Your Bible,” written by Amy Green. You can read that piece in full here. All rights reserved.

Musings from Pastor Earl J.

“While it is important to start right,
the real test of your character and Christian life
is how you finish. A faithful life means
keeping your eyes on the goal.”
Tim LaHaye

I spend a lot of time nowadays thinking about what it means to finish well. I know how I started. It was shaky to say the least. If my whole life was going to be like this, then I might as well try to start again. I searched every book I could get my hands on, attended numerous seminars, and sought to pick people’s brains on their perspective of life.

 I spent my early adulthood trying to start over whenever I could. I could find no fulfillment wherever I looked for it. My journey would take me to Chicago, Wichita, the Dallas – Fort Worth metroplex, and back to “home” again. It would take me from a general laborer in a Hardware store, to a student of a new technology (computer science), to a novice chef in a white jacket and funky hat, to a custodian in an elementary school, followed by a period of time acquiring the skills of staying alive on the streets and thoroughfares of a major metroplex to realize until I surrendered to the call of God upon my life no number of re-starts would bring me satisfaction.

So, it was now that I came to realize it isn’t just the start that matters but it is also how you finish. Generally, a lot of time transpires between the start and the finish. But as a follower of Jesus, we are taught to live our lives so that no matter when the finish comes, we have been a faithful disciple of His. To focus on the right things and becoming more consistent  we will travel the final part of our journey in style.

No matter your age the question is, “are your eyes on the prize”. What is your goal in life? Is it financial wellbeing, social status, climbing the corporate ladder, getting married and having a family, or attaining that elusive PhD? My response is, “are your eyes on the prize?” As a Christian we need to visualize the finish line.

Sisters, and brothers consider your finish line.  Regardless of how you have played the “front”, you can play well on the back. Pray for sound strategy that will help you “finish the course.” You can finish strong. In the memorable words of Wally Armstrong, III (born June 19, 1945) an American professional golfer who played on the PGA Tour during the 1970’s and 1980’s — My purpose in life is to know God and to pursue Him at any cost.



A fellow traveler,

Pastor Earl J.

Multiplying Disciples

As followers of Jesus, we are all called to fulfill the Great Commission. With that in mind, leading people to Christ and making disciples is the goal that has been set before us. We see throughout the New Testament the pattern and practices of Jesus that call us to be fishers of men and lead a life worthy of the gospel.

The mission of the United Methodist Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

In his sermon, “Disciples Multiply,” Bob Ingle speaks on the topic of discipleship. He says,

“Our mission as a church must be clear if it’s going to be accomplished. We are a Gospel-Centered church making disciples of Jesus Christ. That’s who we are and that’s what we do. Our aim is not to get people to make a decision for Christ but to become a disciple of Christ. Many think Christianity is simply saying to God, ”You can have me after I die.” Not true. Being a follower of Jesus means saying, ‘I don’t want my life or my way. You can have all of me right now and forevermore.’ Being a true disciple requires me to abandon ownership and surrender control of my own life and completely give it to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.”

What are you doing to help further the kingdom for the transformation of the world?

What is the Gospel?

The Gospel Defined

“And they were preaching the gospel there” (Acts 14:7 NKJV).

What is the gospel? We know we should preach the gospel and live by the gospel, but do we know what the gospel is?

A literal translation of the word “gospel” is good news. Now, sometimes before we can appreciate the Good News, we first have to know the bad news.

Here’s the bad news: We’re all sinners. The Bible says, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23 NLT). And 1 John 1:8 tells us, “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth” (NLT).

If you’re sharing your faith with someone, don’t assume they’ll necessarily know what sin is. In the Bible, we can translate the word “sin” in different ways. We can translate it as “trespass,” which means to cross the line. Another translation comes from the Greek word hamartia, which means “to miss the mark.”

“hamartia” To miss the mark.


When the Bible says that we’ve sinned or missed the mark, it means that we’ve fallen short of God’s standard for humanity. And what is that standard? It’s perfection.

Are we perfect? No, we aren’t.

That is where Jesus comes in. Because God knew we could not hit this mark, because God knew we could not be perfect people, Jesus died on the cross for our sin. That’s the good news. Romans 5:6 says, “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners” (NLT).

Here’s the first verse every Christian should memorize: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16 NKJV).

That is the gospel in a nutshell. Share it with someone. Let’s not turn the Good News into bad news by the way we deliver it, distort it, or leave out parts of it. Let’s deliver the explosive, dynamic, gospel.

Why do United Methodist pastors change churches?

The beginning of July marks the beginning of the United Methodist New Year. Pastors have either been reassigned to their current church, they or the congregation have asked for a move, retirement, etc. Sometimes people don’t understand why we do what we do. This article gives a good background at how we came to be an itinerant church.


Image of a circuit rider, courtesy of the General Commission on Archives and History for The United Methodist Church, Drew University.
Image of a circuit rider, courtesy of the General Commission on Archives and History for The United Methodist Church, Drew University.

Our unique system of deploying clergy has its roots in the earliest days of Methodism. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, preached up to 40,000 sermons in his lifetime. He was an “itinerant” preacher, traveling from town to town in England, setting up Methodist societies.

“John Wesley believed that itinerant preachers who moved from place to place were more effective than those who settled in, grew comfortable, and wore out what they had to say,” says the Rev. Belton Joyner.

In a letter to the Rev. Samuel Walker in 1756, Wesley wrote, “We have found by long and consistent experience that a frequent exchange of preachers is best. This preacher has one talent, that another; no one whom I ever yet knew has all the talents which are needful for beginning, continuing, and perfecting the work of grace in a whole congregation.”

In the early days of Methodism in America, a pastor — most often a circuit rider — might be appointed to half of a state or more. His appointment might be for only three months, after which he moved to another circuit. Thousands of the oldest United Methodist congregations today trace their history to a circuit rider.

These riders traveled from place to place to begin Methodist societies. Eventually, especially after the establishment of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1784, most of these societies became congregations. This practice continued and became the basis for the itinerant system The United Methodist Church uses today.

This content was produced by Ask The UMC, a ministry of United Methodist Communications.

The Stir

By: Lysa Tuerkerst

You know what my favorite part of the Easter miracle is? It’s hard to choose a favorite, but I have one.

It’s the stir.

The stir no one saw.

That first second Jesus twitched beneath the burial clothes and death lost its sting. Hope, glorious hope rose in that second when the world still felt the weight of death. Hope twitched. Hope moved. Hope stirred. And Jesus arose.

God reminds us of the stir in so many ways.

A branch looks dead and yet a stir is happening in places we can’t see. Places that soon burst forth green life.

A drought threatens to dry out the life of everything planted and yet a stir is happening in places we can’t see. A wind shifts, a cloud bursts, and heaven pours forth.

A woman is told her womb will not and yet a stir is happening in places we can’t see. Her baby will come through a stranger’s womb and in an instant her arms are filled.

The stir no one saw.

The stir we so often miss.

The stir we so desperately need to remember.

The stir was.

The stir is.

The stir will forever be.

Even when we can’t see it.

He is risen, my friend. And because He is risen we can know there is a stir happening behind whatever tomb threatens to close over our hope today.

Yes, there is a stir happening in places we can’t see. He is risen indeed.

What I Value about United Methodism: Intellectual Evangelicalism

As we are hearing more and more about the United Methodist Church and the divisions that are among them, Adam Hamilton has graciously written several posts talking about what as United Methodists we believe. These posts are for those who are remaining United Methodist, and not moving to the Global Methodist Church. If you have questions regarding these posts, please reach out to Pastor Earl and he will assist you the best he can. Click on the link below for the first article.

shutterstock 1215985498


Source: What I Value about United Methodism: Intellectual Evangelicalism