Thursday, November 09, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

I know if I were to make a list of all of the various aspects of my life for which I should be grateful and give thanks, it would certainly be a very long list. Whenever we try to form such a list, we can discover a great deal concerning whom we are and what truly matters. In other words, how would I answer the question, “For what am I most thankful?” I am grateful for a savior who died for me, and a creator who sought me. I am very thankful for my wife, and for both her parents and mine. I am grateful for a church family who allows me to serve, to grow, and to challenge you to do the same. Does this mean I am not thankful for a place to live, for food to eat, and for the house where we live? Obviously, I am grateful for these things as well; however, they certainly should fall further down my list.

Jesus tells us to seek the kingdom of God first, and all the important things of life fall into their proper place. This may not mean a six-figure salary or an office on the top floor. But if we place the kingdom of God and his righteousness as our top priority, we very often find it easier to recognize the abundance of things which matter, but less.

This Thanksgiving, take some time to look at how you spend your time, money, and energy. What are your priorities? What is your ultimate concern? Where is your treasure, and your heart? What is your use of time, money, and energy saying about what’s important to you? Are you seeking the kingdom of God? This Thanksgiving, take some time to examine your priorities; to think about making adjustments if you’re not satisfied with the way things are now. Every day should be able to be a day of Thanksgiving, not just one day a year on our national holiday. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you.”

Grace and peace,
James

Fasting & Study

As we enter into this time of year, it has become almost cliché to say “It’s my favorite time of the year!” In fact, we even have a song to remind us that it is the “most wonderful time of the year.” However, I can not deny that Advent and Christmas seasons are some of my favorite times of the year. I blame my parents – they have always been kind of crazy about Christmas.

If you are like me, don’t miss this next month as we charge head-long into the December which is to come. On November 19th we have a very special day in the life of our church. It is “Friends and Family” Sunday, and it will be the perfect opportunity to invite friends, family members, and co-workers to come and worship with us at Southwest Baptist Church. We will truly make this service a celebration of worship as we prepare for the season to come. In addition, we will be gathering on the same day for our annual Thanksgiving dinner. It would be best to just clear that day on your calendar now!

Before we get to November 19th, we also have a continuing opportunity on November 12th. At 5:30 pm on Sunday, November 12th we will have the third in our series of Christian Spiritual Practices. If you have not been a part of this discussion group and study, now is the perfect time to join us. We will be discussing Fasting and Study as spiritual practices. Wait! Don’t stop reading, yet! Our discussion never center on only the stereotypical aspects of these concepts. I have been really encouraged by how well our emphases on meditation, prayer, and hospitality have gone. This will truly be an opportunity that I believe those who miss will regret.

Do I still have you, or did I scare you off? If you are still here, let me encourage you to be looking for a new format for our newsletter, coming soon. And as we prepare for the coming season, I look forward to sharing with our church from the pulpit on November 5th and 12th.

Grace and peace,
James

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Next week's newsletter article

In the coming weeks, our church will be placing special emphasis on the mission support and efforts of our church. We will be in the midst of our Operation Christmas Child efforts for this year. We will be hosting a pastor from Louisiana who will share how God uses the support of churches like ours to help ministry and missions continue in the New Orleans area. We will also have a Missions Luncheon on that Sunday, October 29th, as we share the many ways God is using our church to support and be on mission.

In addition, when you receive this newsletter we will have team on a mission trip in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. This area of Texas is made up of some of the poorest counties in the entire country. The churches in this region face enormous challenges and have a multitude of needs. Our group, along with members from Little Bonne Femme Baptist Church in Columbia, MO, will be helping a church and its members in a variety of ways, from construction and repair to teaching. Please pray God will use our group, Dee Wiecher, Mabel Deluca, and me, in ways which can make a permanent and even eternal difference.

During our trip I will be sending daily diary updates to this blogt, sharing what we are doing and even showing pictures (when available). We will leave on Saturday, October 21st, and return on Saturday, October 28th. Come back each day to keep up on what we are doing and where we are.

This time of year, as the Christian year winds down and we look toward another season of Advent, is the perfect time to celebrate all of the ways God has been faithful in using our church and her members this year. Have you missed your opportunity? Have you committed to our GROW emphasis? Be prayerful and watchful and God will find you a place to serve.

Grace and peace,
James

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Current Newsletter Article

Autumn is upon us, and what a wonderful time of year! The weather is getting cooler and we are in the midst of our Fall emphases in Christian Formation. If you have not had the opportunity to be involved in our Christian Spiritual Practices study or one of our other groups, drop me a email or give me a call; it’s not too late to be involved.

In addition, we have two very special events coming up in the life of our church for everyone in our church family. First, on Friday evening, October 27th, we will host Southwest Baptist’s Annual Halloween Festival. If you have been a part of this event in the past, you know it is not to be missed. If this is your first Halloween Festival with Southwest Baptist (it is for me!) you will want to come see what all of the excitement is all about. We will have various booths, events, crafts, and games for children and the young at heart, and children from throughout our community will come celebrate the holiday in a safe, Christian environment. Could this be your year to lead something special at the Halloween Festival? Contact the church office with your idea!

Another special event in the life our church this Fall will be our Missions Day, Sunday, October 29th. Rev. Lionel Roberts, pastor of St. Bernard Baptist Mission in New Orleans, LA will be our guest speaker in our morning worship on the October 29th. Immediately following the service, Rev. Roberts will join us for a special missions lunch and our Global Mission Team will share their vision for our mission efforts in the coming year. Our evening activities on October 29th will be canceled as we dedicate the day to missions.

Whether in our backyard, in Louisiana, or around the world, God can use Southwest Baptist Church to make a real difference. Don’t miss the blessings which come with being a part.

Grace and peace,
James

Friday, August 25, 2006

This week's Word & Way article

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9). It is the stock and trade of many politicians to seek to fan the flames of prejudice and hatred. The voice of peace and reason is often very lonely indeed. The peacemakers, who often falsely appear cowardly, are certainly not popular. Conversely, the passion included with those who ignite conflict is often admired. Jesus says blessed are the peacemakers, and I believe we ought see them as truly heroic.

Peace does not just happen. We enjoy fighting too much. We must make peace. We can use Jesus as an example. With his life and ministry he sought to make peace. Jesus’ whole ministry was about caring for the disenfranchised and oppressed; he brought those beaten down by a violent society together in him. Jesus constantly sought to provide acceptance for those wounded by the ones in power. All of this is peacemaking.

What is the task of peacemaking? It is the reconciliation of groups and persons at odds. It keeps the holy love of God central and in focus. It knows there can be no real peace until human beings are reconciled with God. Sometimes, peacemaking included bringing social injustice to light. Peacemaking never includes taking sides. Maybe most of all, peacemaking recognizes we have more important things to do than fight.

I count myself a child of God; when I am a peacemaker, I even look like one. Isn’t that a wonderful thought?

Grace and peace,

James

Friday, August 04, 2006

August ramblings...

Our VBS has been a wonderful week. Over 130 children attended this week, and around 60 workers helped to lead. Our parent's night last night was a success as well. Want to see some pictures from the week? Go to www.southwestbaptistchurch.org for a photo gallery.

Also, there is a very good article by Dr. Dalen Jackson on EthicsDaily.com regarding the role of women in ministry. He presents an honest and healthy hermenutic regarding the interpretation of scripture on this issue. Follow this link: http://www.ethicsdaily.com/article_detail.cfm?AID=7714.

Grace and peace,
James

Friday, July 21, 2006

Next week's Word & Way article

I was only a child during the late 1970’s. However, I have heard my parents and grandparents talk about the "energy crisis" of the seventies – Do you remember the long lines waiting for gasoline and the scare that there would not be enough energy? You can almost translate that image directly into what it means to say there is a kind of stress induced emotional energy crisis being experienced by many people today. How often do we either hear, think, or speak these words: "There is so much to do, and so little time." "There are so many bills, and so little money." "There is so much pressure, and so little peace."

If there were a way to measure our life's vitality level in the same way we use a gas gauge in our automobiles, where would your gauge indicator be? Would you be on Full, 1/2 or 1/4 of a tank? Or would you be sitting on "E”? Many of us need renewal, even recharging, in our lives. I can’t promise worshipping in church on Sunday will give you more time, but I can promise it will be time well spent. I can’t promise worshipping in church on Sunday will give you more money, but I can promise it will make money seem less important. I can’t promise worshipping in church on Sunday will remove all the pressure from your life, but I can promise what our Lord promises. He can give you peace.

Let’s seek renewal, and recharging, together. And to steal a line from our pastor, see you in church on Sunday!

Grace and peace,

James

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Southwest Baptist Church Web Site

Our church has re-launched its website. Go to www.southwestbaptistchurch.org and take a look. The image above is our 85th anniversary logo. We celebrated our 85th anniversary on July 1st and 2nd.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

July 12 - Word & Way Article

In the past few weeks our church has been preparing for our recently celebrated 85th anniversary. I hope you were able to take part in the festivities; I know many long-past friendships were rekindled. As I have prepared for the celebration I have also been reading Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson. This book, written as a series of letters from a third-generation minister John Ames to his son who is still a child, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2005. This main character spends much of the book in reflection and observation, and it has been a gift to me during the time when we were all preparing to reflect.

Have you been challenged by the stories of the sacrifice and dedication of those who have come before? I know I have been. I have been reminded of, or in many cases enlightened to, the heroes and heroines of the past for Southwest Baptist Church. Of course, heroes and heroines are still made today. God takes the best of who we are and does miraculous things – when we are willing servants. One of the profound truths of the character of John Ames is his discovery of the heroic greatness of existence as a servant of God. I believe our two most recent recipients of the Southwest Baptist Life Service Award illuminate this truth as well. May someday the same be said of each of us…

Grace and peace,
James

My First Blog

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