Whatever happens, give thanks, because it is God’s will in Christ Jesus that you do this. (1 Thessalonians 5:18 GWT)
One year ago, our son, Zac, suffered a serious brain injury. As a result, he underwent a craniotomy to repair a skull fracture and had two cerebral contusions. Following the brain surgery, he endured excruciating pain for several days that required an additional week-long hospital stay and he experienced almost constant headaches and dizziness for several weeks. While Zac had some short-term memory issues that caused him to put his college plans on hold, I am happy to report he is doing extremely well. Praise God! When we received the phone call informing us of Zac’s injury that early Sunday morning last January, we could never have imagined how it was going to affect him and our entire family. But one year removed, the greatest consequence for me personally has been the development of profound gratitude. I cannot even believe I am saying such a thing about such a difficult set of circumstances, but I have found God’s Word to be true. It is possible, “whatever happens, [to] give thanks.” Let me share a few of the things for which I’m thankful. First and foremost, I’m thankful that my son is alive and well. After suffering the injury, a friend took Zac home and put him to bed. A neurosurgeon has commented, “It’s truly remarkable that he ever woke up.” I would re-phrase it: it’s nothing short of a miracle and thank God for miracles. I’m also thankful for the incredible power of prayer. Upon receiving the news of Zac’s injury, we rushed to the hospital in Montgomery. En route we called a team of prayer partners I have assembled that support me, my family, and my ministry. These men immediately began interceding and they were joined by countless prayer warriors in this and other congregations. There is no doubt, “When believing persons pray, great things happen.” (see James 5:16 NCV) Because of Zac’s injury and subsequent recuperation, I have a renewed sense of gratitude for the Body of Christ. In particular, the Lynn Haven Methodist Church reached out to our entire family with love and compassion. Zac still cherishes a “mountain” of cards he received from people he didn’t even know expressing their thoughts and well wishes. I cannot fathom living without such a connection to fellow believers…and I don’t want to. Finally, I am thankful for how this set of circumstances has reminded me of the supreme value of relationships. I feel nearer to Christ now than I was a year ago as I have learned to trust and depend on Him in a deeper way. And while I’m not sure our 22-year-old son is particularly pleased about having to move back in with his parents, his mom and I have cherished our time together. It has been great getting to be with Zac and his sister, Abby, and a difficult year has brought us all closer than ever. I hope and pray that whatever circumstances you face – whether good, bad, or downright ugly – you find a way to give thanks. In doing so, know that you’re in the center of God’s will according to the Apostle Paul. I’ve found that’s a pretty good place to be!
Gratefully yours…and His,
Craig Carter Lead Pastor, Lynn Haven UMC
At the Lynn Haven United Methodist Church, we strongly agree with Paul’s words to his young friend, Timothy. The Holy Scriptures are indeed useful and helpful in showing us how to live according to the Lord’s will. For that reason, we put great emphasis on the study of God’s Word as stated in one of our core values: “we seek to teach the Bible, the authoritative and truthful Word of God.” Let me share a few of the ways in which we intend to accomplish this objective at the start of the New Year. First, we are inviting our members to read through the Bible in 2016 with a program called the #365Challenge. Participants will read a portion of Scripture each day and these “bite size” pieces will cover the entirety of the Old and New Testaments over a twelve month period. For more information, see the accompanying article on page 2 or check out the #365Challenge webpage at www.myLHUMC. net. Second, everyone is encouraged to participate in a life group. We currently have more than 45 Bible study groups meeting in homes and the church building. If you would be interested in joining one, please contact our Adult Discipleship Coordinator, Mindy Clemons (Mindy@myLHUMC. net). Third, we will welcome 2016 with a sermon series entitled, The God Help Section. Many persons peruse libraries, bookstores, or on-line retailers looking for the perfect “self-help” book that will enable them to get the year off to a good start. We’re going to investigate some of the ways our lives can be enriched with “God-help” provided in His Word. In this five-part series, we’ll explore the subjects of successful living, effective planning, relationship building, reducing stress, and developing a healthy lifestyle. Fourth, we will continue our exploration of the Holy Spirit through a Wednesday night study on the Spiritual Gifts. According to the New Testament, God has equipped each member of His Body with special abilities and talents to help the Church grow and minister effectively. I will teach this study that will meet weekly from January through March at 6:15 pm each Wednesday evening in the Transmitter Music Room. I hope you will take advantage of any or all of these opportunities to discover the truths found in God’s Word. I am convinced we’ll all find these endeavors useful and helpful as we seek to live as Christ’s disciples. Your fellow learner, Craig Carter Lead Pastor, Lynn Haven UMC
The Advent Conspiracy was started in 2006 by five pastors who decided the real message of Christmas had largely been lost amid all of the hustle and bustle of the season. They challenged their congregations to celebrate Christmas differently by encouraging their members to Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More and Love All. The response was overwhelming and the Conspiracy was born.
Since then, thousands of congregations have participated and attempted to resist the cultural Christmas emphasis on consumption. You can learn more about this exciting movement at www.adventconspiracy.org. Our church is joining the Advent Conspiracy this Christmas season. In case you’re not familiar with the term, Advent refers to the four-week period leading up to Christmas and is derived from a Latin word that means “coming.” It is an anticipation of our coming King and Savior, Jesus Christ. Since Christmas is a celebration of Jesus’ birthday, it seems appropriate that we celebrate it in the way He would want. I believe the four tenets of the Advent Conspiracy will help us keep Christ in Christmas. First of all, we are to “worship fully.” We have a series of marvelous worship experiences planned over the next few weeks.
On Sunday mornings, we will explore the significance of the season in a series entitled, “It’s Christmastime!” On Sunday evenings, we have a choir led Cantata scheduled for December 6 and a modern Christmas concert planned for December 20. We also have special opportunities for worship, fellowship, and ministry on Wednesday evenings during the month. The Advent season will culminate with our annual Christmas Eve Services of Communion and Candlelighting which will be held at 2 pm at Fusion and at 4 and 6 pm at Transmitter. Second, we are advocating that everyone “spend less” this holiday season. Don’t give in to the pressures of our culture or feelings of guilt to buy useless, unwanted presents for others. Instead, give as Jesus gave, by investing your time and energy in relationships with those you love. Apply the principles we learned in “Economics Class” during our recent series, set a budget for your holiday spending, and stick to it! With the money saved, we are asking everyone to “give more” and “love all.”
Please consider donating at least a tithe (10%) or more of your family’s Christmas spending to a special Advent Conspiracy Offering. The monies received will be evenly split between three very worthwhile causes. The local project is the Anchorage Children’s Home which serves and protects children right here in Bay County. The regional ministry we will support is our United Methodist Children’s Home which ministers to hundreds of at-risk children and their families throughout Northwest Florida and Central Alabama. The global project is a partnership with our friend, Rev. Isaac Kyambadde in Africa. We hope to dig at least one well to provide fresh water for an entire village in Uganda and assist with a Methodist church sponsored school. You will hear more about these mission projects in the coming days or you can visit the information display at either campus. Don’t you think if we did the four things advocated by the Advent Conspiracy – worship fully, spend less, give more, and love all – we’d give Jesus what He really wants for His birthday? Please prayerfully consider how God is asking you to celebrate this very special season and then respond appropriately. O come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!
We are incorporating our annual fall stewardship campaign into our on-going “Back to School” sermon series. In the most recent message, we addressed the value of “Extracurricular Activities,” which we defined as the various programs of the church that help make disciples for Jesus both inside and outside the fellowship of believers. Each member of the Body of Christ has been given certain gifts and talents that enable him or her to minister in Jesus’ name. I hope you are prayerfully considering how God is calling you to serve and will choose accordingly your place of ministry, or “extracurricular activity,” for the coming year.
The first two Sundays in November we will go to “Economics Class” where we will explore what the Bible has to say about the subject of financial stewardship. We will begin by looking at some false views about money which are prevalent in our culture; then we will investigate a personal financial plan that is based on godly principles.
Our stewardship campaign will culminate on Commencement Sunday, November 15. On that day, we will complete our “studies” and begin to put into practice what we have learned in the “classroom” by making our service and financial commitments for 2016. As in year’s past, our current campaign focuses more on the person’s need to give in order to be faithful and obedient to God’s Word rather than on the church’s need to receive. Nobody is going to be forced or “guilted” into an area of service. Nor will a budget be presented that everyone must make a pledge toward. In fact, our 2016 ministry budget has not yet been established and will not be determined until we receive this year’s commitments and calculate our anticipated income. The rationale behind this approach is a belief that, as followers of Jesus Christ, we want to give our time, talents, and treasures unselfishly as an act of worship and devotion to our Lord. True disciples realize they have been blessed to be a blessing to others. By serving in and giving to the Church, we are able to express our gratitude to God and participate in His on-going work in the world.
Over the next several weeks, plan to join us in “class” each Sunday morning and pay close attention to what God is trying to teach you about giving and serving. Then be prepared to respond in faith and obedience on Commencement Sunday, November 15, when we make our commitments to give and serve in 2016. Keep in mind, “God loves a cheerful giver [and server]!”