July Newsletter

newsletter

Dear Westview Family and Friends,

The summer seems to have just started and the stores are already having back to school sales. I hope everyone is getting some good rest, fun, and relaxation this summer! Westview Church has been busy preparing for the Music Machine as our VBS next week. This extravaganza is being headed up by wonderful volunteers. More volunteers are always appreciated see Jill Turpin or Sarah Timmons if interested.

Financial Peace University is also coming up. It will begin August 6th. This class is for everyone that has ever had to deal with their finances. Learn to control of your finances so that your finances don’t control you. Our Bible study is also starting that week on August 9th.

The study, “What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian?” is based on Martin Thielen’s book. It will meet twice a week. Once on Wednesday morning at First District Coffee at 9 am and again at the church that evening at 6:30 following the Wonderful Westview Wednesday meal and time of fellowship.

I ask each of you to commit to participating in as many church and fellowship events as possible. We are working on becoming Christ’s disciples so that we can share the love of God with our neighbors more fully and completely than ever before. One person may not make a difference in the life of the world but one person can make a world of difference in the life of a neighbor.

Along that same line I ask that you prayerfully consider serving on committees. It takes us all working together to make Westview UMC function properly. We are an active church and need all of our voices to unite in call, witness, and love to our community and our church. I ask that you consider leadership as a way to help develop discipleship not only in your own faith walk but in the walks of others

Blessings to you all,

Pastor Tom

 

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Newsletter Post

Dear Friends of Westview UMC,

It is amazing to me that whenever I get caught up in my own issues and problems and begin feeling sorry for myself something happens that makes me realize the smallness of my issues. I woke up Wednesday morning feeling tired having just finished Annual Conference in Brentwood. While the conference was great and I got to see friends old and new it was still three full days of conferencing. I then woke up and realized I still had all of the responsibilities of planning worship and facing issues of the church. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed then I turned on the news; another shooting.

Our society has taking a sharp turn over the last twenty or so years. There was a time that people could settle their differences through compromise or even agreeing to disagree yet remaining cordial. Over the last twenty years that has changed dramatically. The vitriol and rhetoric coming out of elected officials, televisions, radios, and seemingly every aspect of our society is slowly turning to violence. Why are we surprised that people begin to use violence when society has been demonizing groups of people. Our words have created a climate of us versus them not only in our leadership but in our culture. We have gone astray! Whether we were led astray or charged forth in the guise of righteousness we have gone forth from the straight and narrow that God wishes us to follow.

I truly hope that this situation does not get politicized. People will surely throw stones back and forth, name calling, demanding gun control, or better mental health. However at the core of the problem is our behavior, our dislike, and our having gone astray. It is time that everyone did something to curb the plague of vitriol and violence facing us. Let us get back on the path and behaviors in which God wants us to engage.

We are having a Summer of Transformation at Westview UMC. We are looking at ways to address our own sins, having Financial Peace classes, and doing a book study on Martin Thielin’s book What’s the Least I Need to Believe to be a Christian? The Financial Peace classes will begin in August and the book study will begin the second week of July.

Let us take this opportunity to investigate our lives to ensure we are following the path that God desires for us. Let us delve into deeper relationship with our Savior so that we can help others see Christ (at least glimpses) through our actions.

 

Blessings in Jesus Christ,

Pastor Tom

Why Smokescreens Don’t Work

Doesn't work

I have been talking a lot about smokescreens of late. Some my say I’m talking too much about smokescreens and not paying enough attention to the major issues facing society. I believe that most if not all of these major issues are smokescreens. Remember a smokescreen is anything that keeps us from doing what God has asked us to do. That is love God and our neighbor and to do that we must repent of our sins and strive to be in deeper and deeper relationship with God. I am not saying that the issues facing society are not important nor am I discounting the people in the various groups or their struggles. I’m claiming that if we got rid of our smokescreens and focused on doing what God has asked the people in the various groups wouldn’t have to struggle for the love God is pouring out would shine upon them and the need for the struggle would be solved.

We use smokescreens quickly and we think effectively. The smoke we use spans more and goes deeper than the major issues facing society. We use them in our local churches and even in our daily lives. If we are up in arms against someone else’s issues than maybe people won’t se our sins and issues. The smoke divides and separates us into us who are good, righteous, and worthy and them who are bad, evil, and unworthy. Smokescreens make us judge both them as unworthy and us as worthy yet we are told not to judge. I’ll save judging for a different blog post. The smokescreen is used to divide us into groups. Us that are worthy versus them who are not. That is a false statement. God’s grace is poured out upon us precisely because we are not worthy! It’s grace and mercy. The smokescreens blind us to this truth that negates the reasoning behind our division.

SorryBear No

The smoke we create makes us think that if we could only rid ourselves of them, the sinful and unworthy, all would be right with the world. Thus the division created leads to schism. Bishop Bill McAlilly stated at our Annual Conference that schism is the lowest fruit on the theological tree. Schism destroys and rips apart. Schism in the face of smokescreens is ineffective. Smokescreens don’t work. You see we divide into the two groups of us the worthy and them the unworthy and we work to make them go away. We celebrate briefly as they leave only to find we are faced with the problem of our own sin. Since we are unwilling to look at ourselves as flawed we create another smokescreen because we need the them who are unworthy to distract us from the fact we are not following God as best we can, loving God and everyone who God loves the best we can. Once the smokescreen is back in place we again work to make them go away and the process repeats. It will continue to repeat as long as we refuse to acknowledge our own sins and flaws. For it is only when we work on our own stuff that we no longer need a smokescreen and are freed to fully follow and trust in God and God’s love!

In a conversation with a colleague I was struck by how passionately he demonized certain people. I realized in that moment that a smokescreen had been created and he needed to ask himself a question. What makes whatever “they” are doing worse than what “we” are doing? The answer to that question is found in James 2:10, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” No sin or flaw is greater than another. We really need to love the sinner and hate our own sin for only in dealing with our own sins and flaws can we be truly free to do the work God has for us to do!

This is this pastor’s opinion and I welcome yours.

Blessings,

Pastor Tom.

Listen Closely

penny

This past week I saw a video on Facebook. The young man in the video, Jefferson Bethke, states that he hates religion but loves Jesus. He claims that Jesus came to abolish religion. The video has gone viral! Many people have responded to the video but I’m not sure many of the responders have listened closely to the poetic prose of this young man. The responders I’ve heard seem to have jumped to a conclusion of what the video was about based on “Why I hate religion.” They claim the man is preaching “cheap grace.” I don’t think so, but rather than focusing on his feelings about grace why not hear his message regarding “religion?” We should listen closely and heed the wakeup call.  His voice is but one of thousands in our communities that are turning away from churches they see as “Religious.”

In preaching through the Sermon on the Mount I showed where Jesus talked about salt that had lost its saltiness and lights hidden under bushel baskets. I related this to what I called “pretend” Christians and “club” churches (that is churches that are really clubs). When I listened to the video I came to the opinion that Mr. Bethke doesn’t have a problem with the Church, he has a problem with people that are pretend Christians or that belong to a club posing as a church.

I’m currently serving my third charge within the United Methodist Church. The first charge had three churches, the second two, and now I serve a station charge meaning one church. In the dozen or so years I’ve been preaching and the forty or so years I’ve been associated with churches and religion I have experienced what Mr. Bethke is exclaiming. Too many people claim the title Christian without allowing Christ into their lives. These pretend Christians go through the motions, proof text the Bible, go to church on Sundays and maybe Wednesdays, and they can mouth the words to most of the hymns. Unfortunately these people fail to act in a Christian manner.

I have a friend that honked at a car that had a “Honk if You Love Jesus” bumper sticker. The person made obscene gestures and yelled at him. Is that being a good witness to Christ? Is that what Jesus would have us do? Maybe the person was simply having a bad day but it served as evidence that Christians are not what they portend to be. This occurs with great regularity. Pretend Christians judging and behaving as if they are something special.

Likewise churches are also failing at their jobs. Too many churches are inwardly focused. It is not that they are not good at loving but rather the object of the love is itself. The people within a congregation are so busy maintaining the status quo and bettering things for themselves that they have forgotten that the role of the church is to reach out to the lost, the marginalized, and the poor. As I was sitting in my office at a previous church a woman came in for help. She told me her story and asked for groceries. I didn’t have any money to give her but invited her to a Wednesday night meal. During the meal the treasurer began a meeting by announcing that the church had $78,000 in the bank. I was so embarrassed. The $78,000 was for a building that still isn’t needed many years later.

Of all the churches I’ve been associated with throughout my life only a couple have had their priorities straight. A tornado went through Hickman County and devastated the Brushy community. Several of the ladies from Littlelot United Methodist Church went and served a hot lunch to the aid workers every day for a week. This church of ten to fifteen people feed almost 75 people a hot meal every day for a week! That is being church rather than being religious! That is being church rather than being a club.

Jesus Christ has set us free. But what have we been set free to do? We have been set free to let other beggars know where they can get bread. We are to witness to the love of God through our actions of being the Church united with Christ, doing God’s work. By doing the work of the Kingdom of God we can lead more people to know Jesus and thus gain help in the ongoing work of easing people’s suffering and pain.

There is a lot of work to do. Won’t you join me? Right now fully commit or recommit yourself to living the live that God desires for you. Begin living in such a way that people can see our Lord and our Savior in and through us. The work is abundant! What say you?

This is this pastor’s opinion.

Blessings,

Pastor Tom

Newsletter Letter

This is simply the letter I wrote for the Westview Newsletter.

Dear Friends of Westview UMC,

I am thankful to be returning to Westview UMC for another year as was announced on Palm Sunday. I cherish the relationships that have been forming here and look forward to our future together. We have a lot happening this month with Holy Week and Easter. Maundy Thursday marks the turn in Jesus’ ministry where he is betrayed and arrested. Good Friday marks the suffering of our Lord and Savior. We have services both nights at 6:30pm. Easter Morning begins early with a service at 6 am at Bowie Park followed by breakfast (back at Westview); our regular services and a potluck lunch and egg hunt. I hope you will join us as we walk with Jesus and grow in our relationships with God and each other.

There have been some rumors floating around that I’m going to attempt to stop. We are having a Vacation Bible School this July from the 23rd to the 29th. This year may look different from previous years but I can only imagine what Sarah and Jill have planned for the children. If you would like to help out please talk with one of them. As for rumors; we need to work on communications within our church. If you hear a rumor find out if it is true before you share it with others. This is an act of Christian love that can save people’s feelings and efforts. If there are misunderstandings please go to the people that can help correct the situation but if things are going well share with all who will listen. Seriously! People tend to find what they look for. If you plant the seed that something tremendously good is happening people will tend to see good stuff.

Again I look forward to serving with you in the coming years.

Blessings in Christ’s Name,

Pastor Tom

I Am the Church, You Are the Church, We Are the Church

Matthew 16:18 NRSV “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”

I read a book today by David Platt called A Radical Idea. It came as a two part set with the book The Radical Question. I found that I have very little in common with this author theologically. We come from different places have some different interpretations of scripture. Putting that aside I realized that some very good and important points were being made. Points that need discussion and implementation. Points that could save local churches across the country.

We need to realize that churches are not brick and mortar. The church is not a building, no matter how fancy. Jesus tells Peter that he is the rock on which the Church will be built. Peter goes forth, with the other disciples, and witnessed and taught, healed and cared for the people. The church grew and even though the early church faced persecution they continued to proclaim Jesus as Savior. The church had an intensive church growth program. They built buildings, had youth group lock-ins, professional light shows during worship, and nicely manicured lawns. Of course not! They faced persecution unlike we know in the United States. The early church grew because people were passionate about spreading the Gospel message of Jesus Christ particularly to the poor.

Who were the poor? Dr. Doug Meeks, who teaches Wesleyan Theology at Vanderbilt Divinity School, rightly claims that poverty has five aspects: Economic, Cultural, Political, Physical, and Spiritual. The cry of the economically poor is we have no bread. God is the bread and giver of life. The culturally poor cry out, “We have no sense of self, no history, no name.” God knows us each by name and calls us to himself. The politically poor have no power, no voice, and no justice. God is power and is just. The physically poor are sick many with no access to care. God is healing. The spiritually poor cry out, “I have no hope.” God is hope! God is the Good news for the poor, all aspects of poverty. Using this paradigm we see that all people are poor or will suffer with some type of poverty in their lives, even if it is just physical.

Who are the rich? If everyone suffers from poverty who are the rich people that are supposed to care for the poor. We all are rich. We need to stop thinking in strictly earthly terms. Everyone has something to offer to others. That makes them rich. They have an abundance of something that can aid others. My mind instantly goes to the completely destitute people living in garbage dumps and landfills and you may be thinking what they could possibly have that I could need or even want. We don’t know until we talk with them, sharing our stories, listening to theirs. We share in relationship and everyone gains something. That something may not be big or elaborate in earthly terms but it is awesome in spiritual terms.

I saw a picture of a little boy being raised in a landfill. He was being held in his mother’s arms. His eyes were absolutely amazing and both he and his mother were smiling. That is something that everyone can give. A smile, hug, conversation, presence are all invaluable gifts. A woman at my first charge in the United Methodist Church was homebound and was unable to walk. Her ministry was to write uplifting cards to people in her community. She started with civic and church leaders and then went through the phone book. She was sharing all she had to give. She was sharing herself with others in an effort to brighten someone’s day.

The church is not huge fancy buildings, or any building for that matter. The church is not elaborate worship that is professionally choreographed. The church is not programs. David Platt warns against requiring people to participate in the programs of the church. He rightly claims that those programs can draw people away from the ministry they are already doing. The church is people that are willing to sacrifice their all for Jesus and His ministry on earth. The church is the lady writing cards, the conversation about God wherever it takes place, the sharing of a meal and conversation. The church is not a place. It is people all over the world coming together in order to transform the world; lifting everyone up toward their full potential, working and living together, loving and caring for each other in peace and love.

That is this pastor’s opinion. What’s yours?

Help Me Do Better

John 14:14 “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”

Wesley Chapel UMC in College Grove, TN has a Tuesday morning prayer meeting at 7:15 am. Several of us gather for fellowship and prayer each week and share this time together praying to God for various things. We give thanks, ask for direction, supplication and etcetera. This is an unstructured time. People can pray at the same time, sit quietly, wonder around the church, or whatever else they need to do in order that they may commune with God. Prayer is a spiritual discipline that is vital to our spiritual wellbeing.

Through prayer we build and nourish our relationship with God. Why else would we pray to God who know what we are going to pray about beforehand? Prayer is a conversation with God. All of our relationships are built on communication. The most important of our relationships should be as well. An issue that I’ve often heard as a pastor is that God doesn’t answer our prayers. By the way, God answers all of our prayers. However there are several reasons that it may seem God hasn’t answered our prayers.

Many people spend long hours in prayer but neglect to ever listen for a reply. Remember prayer is a conversation. How long would you talk with someone who never let you speak? God is infinitely patient even in that regard but how do we expect God to answer when we never take the time to look for God’s answer. At least half if not more of our prayer time should be contemplating and listening for God’s answer.

The second reason people miss the answer to their prayers is because the answer is unexpected. God often answers our prayers in ways that we do not understand and are unexpected. Many times God uses the people that are already in our lives to answer our prayers as well. Again we need to take the time to look and see if the prayer is truly unanswered.

A third reason our prayers seem to go unanswered is we tend to forget that no is often a completely understandable and appropriate response to our prayer. Good parents often say no to their children. No can protect us from harm and sinful behavior. God is not a wish fulfillment provider or a genie. No is an answer to a wide range of requests from $1,000,000 to I want to be taller.

The final reason was summed up very well today in the prayer group I mentioned. Often we don’t pray in Jesus name even though we say we are… Let me try to explain. Just because we add, “In Jesus’ name we pray,” at the end of the prayer doesn’t mean we are truly invoking Hid name. When we truly pray in Jesus’ name we are praying as Jesus would pray. We pray that God’s will be done, that we are able to submit, that our actions are pleasing to God, and we are praying not simply for our personal needs but for the Kingdom. Our prayers should line up with our Christian walk. We should pray for our enemies, our foes, and even those we don’t like. Today this was summed up by a man who simply and humbly prayed, “God, help me do better.”

Help me do better. God knows all that happening in our lives. God knows our needs as well as our wants and desires. God knows what aspects of our selves we’ve been working on and those areas that need work. God even knows how we fall short. The prayer to help me be better is great. It encompasses all that we need to say. I have fallen short, I have not given up and am working hard, help me to do better.

My prayer for all of us throughout the world is thus, “God, help us do better.” Amen

This is this pastor’s opinion, what’s yours?

Blessings,

Pastor Tom