Sunday, July 29, 2012

Bishop Huie's Thoughts On Why the World Needs the UMC

I believe in God’s dream for the people called Methodist.  Come with me now to “remember our future.  It is time to have deep, thoughtful conversations around the question, “Why does the world need the UMC, anyway?”
What is it about our Wesleyan past that can make a difference in the world in the 21st century?   I want to suggest three essential things.
I.                     Who are we?  Our identity
The first essential has to do with identity—who we are and what we believe.   Methodists are a people grounded and growing in grace.  That grace emphasizes both personal holiness and social holiness.    
Methodists believe every human being is made in the image of God which is the image of love.  God’s prevenient grace encompasses all humankind.  However, sin has caused that image to become distorted, blurred, marred—like a mirror that is warped or a glass that is dirty.  Through the confession of our sin and the justifying grace of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven, healed and restored to the true image in which God created us.  We are a new creation by water and the spirit. Every person sitting in this room is testimony to Christ’s justifying grace. 
Therefore, Methodists are called to “have the mind in us which was in Christ Jesus.”  Charles Wesley describes Christ Jesus this way: “pure unbounded love thou art.”    John Wesley describes the Christian this way: “Love filling the heart, taking up the whole capacity of the soul.”  Methodists commit themselves to a life-long process of becoming perfect in pure, unbounded love.   Such love is possible only because of God’s sanctifying grace.   
Perfect love is not only perfect love of God.  It is also perfect love of neighbor.  John Wesley described neighbor love saying, “The Christian not only loves those who love him.  Christian love embraces neighbors and strangers, friends and enemies, not only the good and gentle but also the froward, the evil and unthankful, every soul God has made of whatever place or nation.“
God knows we need help to become perfect in love, so God blesses us with the means of grace—the means to holiness.  You know them:  prayer—public, private, family, reading and studying Scripture, fasting, community worship, receiving the sacraments, and doing good.
What does it take to cause someone to change from one kind of life to becoming perfect in love?  Each of you has a copy of Bishop Schnase’s book, Remember the Future.  Take yours out and turn to page 29 at the bottom.  Read.  How did God’s grace break through in your life?  Pair up with a neighbor and take one minute each to share a story about how God’s grace broke though in your life. 
Being a Methodist Christian makes a difference in individual lives.  Come Holy Spirit, come.
II.                 What are we to do?  Mission
If our identity is centered in the prevenient, justifying and sanctifying grace of God, then what are we to do?
Methodists have a mission.  We are called to love God and neighbor.  More specifically, Methodists do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.   As Wesley put it so famously, “Do all the good you can in every way that you can in every place that you can every time that you can as long as you can.”
I invite you to use your imagination to bring the vital past into the expectant present.  Compelled by grace and determined to do good, imagine the difference that a Methodist can make in the life of a second grade boy who is already a grade level behind in school.  His Mom is a single parent working fourteen hour days to make ends meet.  This little boy comes home every afternoon to an empty house.   Imagine a Methodist layman driving the church van to pick him up along with a dozen children like him from the nearby elementary school?    One afternoon a week, this little boy gets to come to the United Methodist Church fellowship hall for a snack, help with his homework, games,  and an adult friend who thinks he’s special.  His imagination is stirred by hearing the stories of Jesus for the first time.  That summer our Methodist layman drives the church van to bring our young friend and others like him to Vacation Bible School.   In time, he and his wife meet the mom and invite her to come and hear her son sing in the vacation bible school choir on Sunday.  She comes because she has experienced that these Methodists must truly care about her son.  A new future opens for her as well.  Multiply that story by 285,000 Methodists in this annual conference.  Would it make a difference in our communities?
Methodists have been making a difference for good for more than two centuries here in the United States. President Abraham Lincoln made a speech to a delegation of Methodist leaders from the General Conference of 1864.  In part he said,
“Nobly sustained as the government has been by all the churches, I would utter nothing which might, in the least, appear invidious against any.  Yet, without this, it may fairly be said that the Methodist Episcopal Church, not less devoted than the rest, is, by its greater numbers, the most important of all.  It is no fault in others that the Methodist Church sends more soldiers to the field, more nurses to the hospital and more prayers to Heaven than any.  God bless the Methodist Church.”
III.                How do we engage in mission?  How do we practice our faith?  Ecclesiology
So what is our method for being Methodist?  How do we Methodists practice our faith?    
Methodists embody an ecclesiology that might best be described in three verbs:  connect, cooperate and create. 
I recently asked a group of our young pastors, “Why do you need the United Methodist Church?  What is it about the UMC that is so compelling you are willing to bet your lives on its future?” 
I confessed I was surprised—maybe even shocked by their response.  The first thing they said was, “We want to be part of a connection.  Who we are in Jesus Christ is bound up in our relationship with the community of faith.  The Methodist Church is not about an individual alone or a congregation alone.  We are part of a connection that starts in Jesus and includes the whole world.”  
 Many of us in my baby boomer generation see “connection” as primarily structural or financial.  Connection has become boards and agencies or apportionments.  The young understand connection primarily as relational, missional, and theological.  Only then is it structural.  Can you see their wisdom?
Methodists are people of head and heart, of Word and Table, personal holiness and social holiness, knowledge and vital piety, individual conscience and community good.  Methodists helped shape this nation in those same values.  Even as an incredibly diverse nation, the center held.  
Twenty-first century Americans find ourselves living in an age of serious division.  The gap between rich and poor, insured and uninsured, educated and uneducated grows more and more wide.  Extreme voices seem to dominate the air.   Who has a heritage of building bridges in this midst of a culture of such polarities?   Who can lead us to deep, thoughtful conversations about important  issues in which diverse peoples have different points of view?  When we remember who we are, it should be the people called Methodist.   Strong, vibrant Methodist congregations enrich the public conversation in our communities, our state and our nation.
Change almost always comes from the edges, and Methodists are innovators.  It is part of our DNA.   John Wesley was a priest in the Church of England with its beautiful church buildings and empty pews.  As industrialization expanded, he sought to respond to the emerging needs around him.  It started personally with “vile field preaching.”  He appropriated the new communication technology of the day:  publishing.   He saw the challenges in health care for the poor and wrote a book on low-cost health care.  Methodists saw the vacuum in public education and created the Sunday School.
In the U.S., Francis Asbury saw that the American frontier was a very different context than England.  He innovated.  Asbury created and inspired circuit riders—moving resources from the center to the margins, he said.  He made great use of the particular American invention—the camp meeting.  Especially in the South, thousands upon thousands of people heard the gospel  for the first time a camp meeting.  Not everything Brother Asbury created worked.  He tried to create a celibate, all-male clergy—preachers like himself.  However, despite his railings that “I do believe that the devil and women will get all my best preachers,” most of the men were determined to marry and have a family.  These circuit riders did a little innovation on their own, and life-long celibacy for Methodist preachers disappeared in less than a generation.
We Methodists have it in our bones to learn how to adapt to a changing context.   Some things we try will fail, but we will learn and try again.
These three capacities: connecting which is relational, theological and missional; cooperating within dynamic tensions on behalf of a greater good, and creating through innovation are part of our Methodist DNA.  All are made possible by the power and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Come Holy Spirit, Come.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

What Funerals Say About What We Believe

Here is a very thought-provoking essay about how traditional Christian beliefs sometimes get swallowed up in very confusing ways.  Read it and see what you think!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

FEB. 19 - What in the World - Our Fragile Planet

If you want to go a little deeper on this topic, check out this article by Andrew R. Lewis, found on the web site of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention:

Environmental Stewardship: A Theological Model for the Environment

Check out also these sites for more challenging thoughts:

God's Renewed Creation: Call to Hope and Action

Christian Ecology

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Christian Looks at Islam

This message by Pastor Adam Hamilton will prove helpful to you as you seek to understand how Christians are called to relate to Muslims...

Sunday, January 22, 2012


On Sunday, January 29, I begin a new message series titled "What In the World Is Going On?"

How does our faith connect with the events on the world scene? How does biblical truth affect the way we see the world? Are the awful things that happen all around us simply fulfillment of prophecy?

COMMENT on this blog...What do you see happening in the world around us that causes you great concern??

Sunday, January 15, 2012

JANUARY 15 - Thoughts on "Servant Leadership"

As we think together about "The Hands On Challenge," you may enjoy reading a little bit more about how the concept of "SERVANT LEADERSHIP" is being applied in the world of business:

SERVANT LEADERSHIP article from Wikipedia

Sunday, January 01, 2012

JANUARY 1 - Thoughts on Goal Setting!

JOHN WESLEY: Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.

DAVID MAINES: You're likely to fail at godly goals if you attempt to do too much - to grow in every area of your life. This year, narrow the search by choosing one character quality to work on. Map out a single-minded program of development. Do you want to become more loving? Design a prayer - type it out - place it where you will see it daily. Write out scriptures from Genesis to Revelation that speak of love. Reread these through the year. Think about a loving person you know, someone who can be a model for you. Finally, remember to put it all in God's hands, for the grace of God will be upon you as you work at developing that godly character quality.

ANTHONY THE GREAT: The blacksmith, who pounds a piece of iron, has previously thought about what he wants to make - a sickle, a knife, an axe - and works accordingly. And so let the man of God ponder in advance which virtues he wishes to acquire, in order not to toil aimlessly.

DON NATIONS: Do you have resolutions or plans for 2012? Resolutions are the things we hope will happen in the new year. As most resolutions do not make it out of the month of January, it is clear that these are mostly wishes for what will happen – hopefully without a lot of new effort of our part.

Plans are different. They are specific new actions that we are going to take in order to produce new and desired results. Plans set priorities and push us towards a specific goal. Plans are necessary because we know that if we only make minor tweaks to what we have been doing, we are not going to see the much improved results we say we want.

Do you have resolutions or plans? Plans can push us out of our comfort zone but they can also be the key to significant improvement!

ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON (ideas for New Year's resolutions):
1. Make up your mind to be happy. Learn to find pleasure in simple things.
2. Make the best of your circumstances. No one has everything, and everyone has something of sorrow intermingled with the gladness of life.
3. Don't take yourself too seriously. Don't think that somehow you should be protected from misfortunes that befall others.
4. You can't please everybody. Don't let criticism worry you.
5. Don't let your neighbors set your standards. Be yourself.
6. Do the things that you enjoy doing, but stay out of debt.
7. Don't borrow trouble.
8. Since hate poisons the soul, do not cherish enmities or grudges. Avoid people who make you unhappy.
9. Have many interests. If you can't travel, read about new places.
10. Don't hold postmortems. Don't spend your life brooding over sorrows and mistakes.
11. Don't be one who never gets over things.

DAVID & KAREN MAINES: Goals shouldn't keep accumulating from year to year. They need to be weeded. Pull those that are purely secular - a drive for good looks or success. Those may make you perfect in some people's eyes, but not in the eyes of God. Godly goals have everything to do with obedience, sacrifice for the common good, serving others and serving the Lord, dying to self, developing qualities of character that are anything but ego-gratifying. Spend a little time with Christ in your goal garden. Are there weeds that he would like you to pull and discard?

HENRIETTA KERR: I think you will find that it is not by making resolutions in a difficulty that you will conquer a fault - tackling it, I mean - but much more by opening a window to Almighty God, and letting him speak to you. He sets us thinking and mending our faults by a quiet way which looks as though it had nothing to do with it; and then, when we come to about where our fault used to be, we find it gone.

Another year's been published.
It was one for the books.
It's bound to be remembered
so go ahead, take one last look.
Pages filled with busyness
paragraphs of fear
footnotes of regret
endnotes of prayer
chapters of contentment
indexes of joy
illustrations of amazing grace
in a most amazing year.
But all that's ancient history.
What's past is in the past.
It's time to write a sequel
filled with memories that will last.
Your table is unblemished
just like the days ahead.
So, full of faith and confidence
write on with ink or lead.

A PRAYER: Father, as a new year evolves, I resolve to involve myself in matters that matter, in concerns that concern others, and in issues that issue from your will. To that end, please send your Spirit and fill my heart as I start afresh to serve. Amen.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

DEC. 25 - Thoughts on Gift Receiving

During today's message we thought together about how we receive the gift of Jesus! It's also helpful to think about how we receive gifts that are offered to us from others - both at Christmas time - and all year long. Here are some thoughts from others...

DON'T FORGET the "small moments." In our hurried pace, we sometimes miss the gifts God has given us. Moments that usually escape us can be precious - a sunrise, a full moon, a bird singing. Stop to look, listen, smell, enjoy, and admire the gifts God continually supplies. And say THANK YOU!

1 TIMOTHY 4:4-5 (nlt). Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it but receive it with thanks. For we know it is made acceptable by the word of God and prayer.

OLD SCOTTISH PROVERB: Whatever you do, don't be a stingy receiver!

WRITE A FAMILY PRAYER. Have each family member include a few sentences of things they are thankful for from 2011. Store the prayer with your Christmas keepsakes, and read it again a year from now! And then write a new one!

WATCH FOR GIFTS WITHOUT BOWS. Some of the best gifts you will receive may not be wrapped in fancy paper with a bow on top. A kind gesture. Help in a tough time. Don't take these surprises for granted. Acknowledge them with a grateful heart! If you really dare, think about the gifts you have received that seemed negative at first - but turned out for the best.

A PRAYER. O Lord Christ, you came to us as a small gift, in an ordinary place, in common time. Help us to receive the small things as precious, and get caught up with the grandiose, the extravagant, the expensive, the exquisite. We are, after all - all of us - very small in terms of history and the universe. Yet YOU gratefully receive US with joy! Teach us to do the same! Amen.

THINK OF MARY. So often we are reluctant receivers of the gifts that come our way. We don't consider unexpected interruptions or extra activities as gifts. We want everything to run smoothly, according to our plans. When our days involve changes in our plans, giving thanks becomes a chore. Like Mary, who was given the quite unexpected gift of being the mother of the Messiah - we can receive with thanksgiving the unexpected gifts!

AND FINALLY - SOME ADVICE FROM MISS MANNERS ON THANK YOU NOTES!! Today's Houston Chronicle Miss Manners column had some good advice on how to write a good thank you note!

She notes three good elements to a good thank you note!

(1) An expression of delight.

(2) Mention of the particular present and why it caused this delight.

(3) Kind words about the giver along with the expression of thanks.

She also notes two examples of POOR thank you notes!!

The first is in the "Thanks, I Hate It" category. This one came in response to being given a basket of fruits and sweets:

“I know that this probably cost a mint, so it makes me feel very guilty when I throw it all in the trash. One year I took a bunch of sweets to the women and children’s shelter here in town, but I was appalled when I saw that almost everyone in there was morbidly obese. So, I never took another. There is really not one soul who lives in this house who can eat those sweets with reckless abandon — all of us have weight issues. If you can’t steer away from sending these, please do not worry — I will just continue to throw it all away. (I did keep the six pears.)”

The second is in the category of “Don’t Think You’re Finished Shopping.” This person received the gift of a sweater:

“I’m sending this back, because even though the size is OK, I like to wear things bigger, but the real problem is the color. What were you thinking? I hate blue! I didn’t see a gift receipt, and anyway, you live nearer the mall than I do, so I would appreciate a larger one in medium green, not too dark and certainly not that awful yellowy green. You can send me pictures from the store if you’re not sure.”

REMEMBER to "season your gift-receiving" appropriately!!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

DEC. 18 - Thoughts on Glorifying!!

How do we "season the season" with glorifying? Here are some not-so-random thoughts from David Mains and others:

THINK about how you approach the worship service. Come, expecting to receive. Don't come like a cork - bobbing on the ocean, just going through the motions. Come with your eyes open to see the hand of God, and your ears tuned to hear the frequency of heaven!

USE MUSIC. The music of the season - in your home or car - can help tune your heart any time of year! Share songs that touch your heart with your children and other family members. (BY THE WAY - did you know there is a new Christian music station in Austin County - check out 90.7 FM.)

CONTINUAL PRAISE. Implement continual praise into your life. Adopt a praise phrase (like "Glory to Jesus" - or - "Be with me Lord" - or - "Glory to God in the highest" - or another one) - and repeat it to yourself throughout the day.

TWEET PRAISE! Use Twitter or Facebook to share brief inspirational thoughts with others!

PRAYER WRAPPING. Pray for each person who is receiving a gift as you wrap it!

BORING TASKS. Use "task time" like driving, or walking the dog, to meditate on the goodness of God.

IDENTIFY OBSTACLES. Write down obstacles that keep you from offering yourself wholly to God. Pray about those obstacles.

SEE THE BABY! When you see a family with a newborn, if it is appropriate, take a moment to say a word of blessing to them. Then say a silent prayer for that family. And thank God for becoming a helpless, humble child in order to save you from your sins!

USE THE MANGER SCENE. Use the manger scene characters with your family to talk about what it was like for each of the characters in the Christmas story - even the animals!

MOVIE NIGHT. Purchase or rent the great movie "The Nativity Story" (suitable for approximately age 10 and up). Talk about the movie with your family!

TALK ABOUT CHRISTMAS EVE WORSHIP. Talk with your family members about how excited you are to celebrate that "holy night." If you are out of town, find a church (of any denomination) to attend.

INVITE A NEIGHBOR to share Christmas Eve Candlelight worship with you! Candlelight worship at BUMC on Christmas Eve is at 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. - plus we have an "early" candlelight service (for those whose schedules are busy on Christmas Eve) - on Wednesday, Dec. 21 at 6:30 p.m.

A POEM. Read this poem by Greg Asimakoupoulos, called "Godspeak":

As I sit in silence for the service to begin,
I wonder how the living Lord might speak to me again.
Will it be the songs we sing or in the pastor's prayer?
It just might be the sermon or a need somebody shares.
Maybe God will touch my heart through laughter or a sigh,
or even through distractions like a newborn's hungry cry.
Whatever means God chooses to bend my ear his way,
I will worship him expectantly for there is something he will say.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

DECEMBER 4 - Top Ten Christmas Shopping Mistakes

Top 10 Christmas Shopping Mistakes (from

We’ve all paid “stupid tax” — making costly decisions with zeros on the end. A lot of those decisions happen when we’re caught up in the emotion of the Christmas season and procrastinate a little too long.

Make this year different!

Here are the top 10 Christmas shopping mistakes and how you can act differently:

1. Not prioritizing. Instead of getting stressed out with all the parties, baking and shopping, in addition to your normal daily life, set some priorities before you’re bombarded with a million requests. Think about which things are “must do” and which are “would be nice to do.” It’s all right to say no to keep yourself sane. Shopping for gifts is more fun when you’re not completely stressed out.

2. Not using a budget. Before you make a gift list and head to the mall, set aside a reasonable amount of money for gifts. Make a commitment that you won’t add $20 to the fund every week just because you saw something cute that your niece would love. Get budgeting advice here.

3. Using credit cards. Once you have your budget finalized, stay away from credit cards! You will still spend 12-18% more if you use plastic, and you’ll be paying it off come 2012! Doesn’t paying with cash sound more freeing than having a credit card balance looming over your head? You bet.

4. Buying for everyone. Do you really need to buy gifts for every family member and friend you have? That can get overwhelming and expensive for everyone. Talk with them and work toward an agreement to draw names for gifts or donate money to a common cause.

5. Not listening. Listen to the hints your loved ones drop about what they need or want this year. Maybe your Aunt Sally mentioned that she would love someone to help her in the garden, or Cousin Bob keeps losing guitar picks. A thoughtful gift like this will mean a lot.

6. Not having a thought-out list on paper. If you think you can spend time in “Christmas retail world” without getting distracted by all the shiny toys, you’re in for a big surprise! You’ll be more likely to buy impulsively if you do it that way. Write down what each person you’re buying for would like and stick to the list. Stay focused!

7. Not shopping around. “Shopping around” doesn’t mean you have to spend 24 extra hours running from store to store to save 10 cents. Take a look at your gift list and do some comparative price-checking online before you head out into the retail and traffic madness. This will save you money, time and stress!

8. Waiting until the last minute. Procrastination is not the most appealing gift out there. Don’t find yourself stressed out on Christmas Eve just because you didn’t invest a little bit of time to plan.

9. Forgetting to plan for next year. Throughout the next year, look for outrageous sales on things your loved ones will need. If you time the sales just right and clip some coupons, you could land a major discount on something you were going to buy in a few months for a birthday or wedding gift. Remember to have a list and budget for this, too.

10. Forgetting why we celebrate. If this season becomes all about shopping and gifts, you’ve missed the whole point. People—not things—matter. The miraculous birth of a baby who changed the world is what matters.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Week 24 - Transformation Journal - Role Models (June 19-25)

the word on...ROLE MODELS

SUNDAY 6/19 - What is my role in being an example for others?
Read Acts 11:19-26 and 1 Corinthians 10:23 - 11:1

MONDAY 6/20 - How do I model faith to the next generation of believers?
Read Deuteronomy 11:2-7, 13-21 and 2 Timothy 1:3-14

TUESDAY 6/21 - What happens if I am not a good model of faith for others?
Read Judges 2:10-15 and 1 Samuel 2:11-18

WEDNESDAY 6/22 - How do I point others to God with my life?
Read Deuteronomy 31:1-8 and Hebrews 11:32 - 12:2

THURSDAY 6/23 - Can I really be an example for others to follow?
Read Esther 2:5-7, 17-19; Esther 4:1-17 and 1 Timothy 4:11-16

FRIDAY 6/24 - How can I help others respond to the calling of God?
Read 2 Kings 2:1-22 and 2 Timothy 4:1-8

SATURDAY 6/25 - How do I care for those God has given me to shepherd?
Read Acts 20:17-35 and 1 Peter 5:1-4

Week 23 - Transformation Journal (June 12-18)

the word on...THE HOLY SPIRIT

SUNDAY 6/12 - What was the relationship between Jesus and the Holy Spirit during Jesus' time on earth?
Read Luke 4:14-20 and Philippians 2:5-13

MONDAY 6/13 - Why was it important for Jesus to rejoin his Father in heaven?
Read John 14:15-31

TUESDAY 6/14 - What was the significance of Pentecost?
Read Acts 2:1-21

WEDNESDAY 6/15 - What does it mean to be "filled" with the Spirit?
Read Acts 4:1-37 and Ephesians 5:17-18

THURSDAY 6/16 - Is the Holy Spirit described only in the New Testament?
Read 1 Samuel 16:1-23

FRIDAY 6/17 - What if I don't understand what God is saying in Scripture?
Read 1 Corinthians 2:1-16 and Isaiah 55:6-11

SATURDAY 6/18 - What difference can the presence of the Holy Spirit make in my everyday life?

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Week 18 - Transformation Journal (May 8-14)

the word on...COMMUNION

For Pastor Robert's 2010 message on Communion go to this link:
and find the message from October 3, 2010

SUNDAY 5/8 - How did the ritual of Communion begin?
Read Exodus 12:1-13, 21-30

MONDAY 5/9 - Why did God's people celebrate the Passover?
Read Exodus 12:14-20 and Deuteronomy 16:1-8

TUESDAY 5/10 - What was the purpose of Old Testament sacrifices?
Read Exodus 13:1-16 and Hebrews 7:18-28

WEDNESDAY 5/11 - Why is taking Communion significant for believers?
Read Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Luke 22:7-23

THURSDAY 5/12 - What is the significance of the bread used in Communion?
Read John 6:35 and Hebrews 10:1-25

FRIDAY 5/13 - What is the significance of the cup used in Communion?
Read Ephesians 1:7 and Hebrews 9:1-28

SATURDAY 5/14 - What attitude should I have each time I take Communion?
Read 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 and 5:6-8

Week 17 - Transformation Journal (May 1-7)

the word on...WORSHIP

SUNDAY 5/1 - What kind of worshippers does God seek?
Read John 4:1-26

MONDAY 5/2 - What is the outcome of worship?
Read Romans 12:1-2 and 1 Peter 2:4-10

TUESDAY 5/3 - How did biblical characters demonstrate a lifestyle of worship?
Read 2 Samuel 6:12-23 and Psalm 100

WEDNESDAY 5/4 - How can I worship when I feel doubtful?
Read Matthew 28:1-20 and Psalm 20

THURSDAY 5/5 - In what specific ways can I worship and honor God?
Read Ephesians 5:8-20 and Colossians 3:12-27

FRIDAY 5/6 - Is there a difference between worship in the Old and New Testaments?
Read Hebrews 12:18-29 and Psalm 98

SATURDAY 5/7 - How does the authenticity of my worship influence other people?
Read Amos 5:21-24 and Isaiah 58:1-14

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Week 16 - Transformation Journal (April 24-30)

the word on...RECONCILIATION

SUNDAY 4/24 - What does "reconciliation" mean?
Read John 1:1-18 and John 3:16-21

MONDAY 4/25 - What are the characteristics of reconciliation?
Read Isaiah 11:1-10 and Isaiah 65:17-25

TUESDAY 4/26 - What does God expect of me as a "reconciler"?
Read 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 and 2 Corinthians 6:1-12

WEDNESDAY 4/27 - What examples of reconciliation does the Bible provide?
Read Genesis 45:1-28

THURSDAY 4/28 - What can I expect from a lifestyle of reconciliation?
Read Mark 4:1-20

FRIDAY 4/29 - How does practicing reconciliation with others fuel my Christian walk?
Read Matthew 5:21-26 and Ephesians 4:21-27

SATURDAY 4/30 - How can I stay reconciled with God?
Read 1 John 1:8-10 and 1 John 2:1-11

more thoughts on Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday's message referred to some thoughts from Halden Doerge - his message on Palm Sunday can be found at this link:

"YOUR HOPE MUST BE DASHED" - by Halden Doerge of Portland, Ore.

Week 15 - Transformation Journal (April 17-23)

the word on...HOPE

SUNDAY 4/17 - What hope is there for me when I have doubts about my faith?
Read John 20:19-30

MONDAY 4/18 - Can Jesus endure my questions and turn them into trust?
Read John 3:1-15 and John 19:38-42

TUESDAY 4/19 - Why should I put my hope in God?
Read Psalm 25:1-5 and Psalm 62:1-8

WEDNESDAY 4/20 - How will Jesus help me have hope when I'm in need?
Read Luke 8:40-56

THURSDAY 4/21 - How can I stay hopeful when life turns bleak?
Read Habakkuk 3:1-19 and 1 Timothy 6:17

FRIDAY 4/22 - How can Jesus turn my hope in him into faithful action?
Read Matthew 14:22-36

SATURDAY 4/23 - How does hope keep me on the right track in my Christian walk?
Read Ephesians 1:15-23, 1 John 3:1-3, and 1 Peter 1:13-15

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Help with your testimony or witness

(These thoughts come from a paper called "Telling Your Story" by Rainer Kunz.)

Thirty questions to help you unlock the power of a testimony:

How did God show up for you in a time of need?

How has God enabled you to overcome hardship, oppression and adversity for yourself and others?

What did God do with your failed dreams or other disappointments?

How has God healed you or given you special grace in a time of sickness?

How did God arrange recovery from a crisis?

How did God respond to your rebellion?

How has God changed your perceptions of the church, of life or of Himself?

How did God meet you in times of grief and sorrow?

How has God revealed His sense of humor, bring light moments in a dark world?

What epiphany, paradigm shift, or life lesson has God taught you, and what is the story behind it?

How has God given you the strength to overcome life-controlling issues?

How have you received direction or redirection from God?

Have you ever been in a situation where you needed God to show up -- otherwise you were sunk? What happened?

In John 15:5 we learn that apart from Christ we can do nothing. How has that played out in your life?

How has God enriched your marriage, family, career, or finances?

How did God bring you to himself?

How has God used mentors in your life?

How has God brought success out of humble beginnings?

How did God enable you to stand firm when you were tempted to sin or to compromise your faith?

How did God use a turning point in your life?

What has God taught you about living the Christian life, and how did he do it?

How have you received direction from God? Have you ever received direction from God in an unusual way?

How has God changed your values and your perspective?

How have you found God's grace in painful situations?

How have you found God's strength in a time of weakness?

How has God rescued you from danger?

How has God brought peace to you concerning troubling questions about your faith?

What has God taught you about problems you couldn't fix?

How has God enabled you to deal with lies about you or threats to your reputation?

How has God turned disaster around for good for you?

Creative ways to share your testimony

1. A Christmas letter or other letter or newsletter

2. In conversation

3. A video or DVD (could use an interview format)

4. To your Bible study or other small group at church

5. On a web site -- your own, your church's or there are some sites that specialize in testimonies

Eight Tips For Sharing Your Testimony

Testimonies are about what God has done in our lives, not about what we did for God. They are about God's success, not our success. We want our listener to be in awe about God and not about us.

1. Pray...and then pray some more. Speak to God and ask him to speak through you.

2. Follow a simple plan
A. your life before Christ
B. how you met Christ
C. your life after receiving Christ

3. Start with an interesting, thought provoking, and/or powerful sentence.

4. Offer a good conclusion. Try not to let things remain vague or open-ended.

5. Include relevant, thought-provoking personal experiences. Give enough detail to arouse interest.

6. Use some Scripture verses to help you explain the gospel clearly.

7. Avoid negative statements about other individuals or groups.

8. Avoid using Christian jargon like "sanctified" and "redeemed," while you lift up Christ as the way.

Week 14 - Transformation Journal (April 10-16)

the word on...SHARING YOUR FAITH

SUNDAY 4/3 - Do I really have to share my faith in Jesus Christ with others?
Read Matthew 28:16-20 and Acts 1:1-9

MONDAY - What is my role in bringing others to new life in Jesus Christ?
Read Romans 10:8-17 and 2 Corinthians 5:11-21

TUESDAY - What is the story of Jesus Christ that I am to share with others?
Read Acts 10:34-48 and Acts 13:13-39

WEDNESDAY - What is the difference between sharing the gospel message and sharing my faith?
Read Acts 26:1-29

THURSDAY - How can I be a better witness of what God has done for me?
Read Psalm 71:14-42 and Psalm 145:1-21

FRIDAY - What must I do to reach others with the good news of Jesus Christ?
Read 1 Corinthians 9:16-23 and Colossians 4:2-6

SATURDAY - How much of my time should I dedicate to witnessing for Christ?
Rea 2 Corinthians 4:1-15

Friday, April 01, 2011

Week 13 - Transformation Journal (April 3-9)

the word on...SECOND CHANCES

SUNDAY 4/3 - Where does the opportunity for a second chance with God begin?
Read Matthew 16:13-28

MONDAY 4/4 - What if my need for a second chance is the result of turning my back on God?
Read John 18:15-27 and 21:1-19

TUESDAY 4/5 - What can I expect from Jesus when I ask for a second chance?
Read John 8:2-11 and Hebrews 4:14-16

WEDNESDAY 4/6 - What role do followers of Jesus play in the second chances of others?
Read Luke 15:1-10 and 2 Corinthians 5:17--6:2

THURSDAY 4/7 - How does my attitude influence the realization of a second chance?
Read Luke 15:11-32

FRIDAY 4/8 - How many "second chances" do I get?
Read 1 John 1:5--2:2 and Isaiah 55:6-13

SATURDAY 4/9 - Is it ever too late to ask God for a second chance?
Read John 5:1-15 and Psalm 130

Week 12 - Transformation Journal (March 27 - April 2)

the word on...OBEDIENCE

SUNDAY 3/27 - What is my first step in becoming an obedient child of God?
Read Jonah 1:1 - 2:10

MONDAY 3/28 - What are God's promises for my obedience?
Read Jonah 3:1-10 and James 1:22-25

TUESDAY 3/29 - How does my love for Christ affect my obedience to God?
Read John 14:15-31

WEDNESDAY 3/30 - How does obedience help strengthen my faith in God?
Read Luke 5:1-11 and Genesis 6:13-22

THURSDAY 3/31 - What guarantee comes with my obedience to God?
Read Matthew 7:15-29

FRIDAY 4/1 - I'm not sure what God wants of me - how can I find out?
Read Psalm 119:9-16, 33-40, 57-64, 97-104

SATURDAY 4/2 - What is God's great goal for my obedient life?
Read Acts 3:1-10 and 4:1-22

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Week 11 - Transformation Journal (March 20-26)

the word on...PERSEVERANCE

SUNDAY 3/20 - Why does God let me experience trouble and challenges?
Read James 1:2-12 and John 15:1-11

MONDAY 3/21 - How much confidence to persevere comes through my faith in God?
Read Exodus 14:5-31

TUESDAY 3/22 - After I make the commitment to stand firm, what does God expect me to do?
Read Exodus 17:1-7, James 5:7-11, and Galatians 6:7-10

WEDNESDAY 3/23 - How do God's grace and perseverance go together?
Read Romans 5:1-5, 2 Peter 1:3-11, and Psalm 20

THURSDAY 3/24 - How can other believers help encourage me to persevere?
Read Exodus 17:8-16 and Psalm 138

FRIDAY 3/25 - Why did Jesus promise his return to earth and then make his followers wait and persevere for so long?
Read Matthew 24:1-14, 42-51 and Matthew 25:1-13

SATURDAY 3/26 - In what ways does God promise victory to those who persevere?
Read Romans 8:28-40 and Isaiah 40:25-31

Monday, March 07, 2011

Week 10 - Transformation Journal (Mar. 13-19)

the word on...CHARACTER

SUNDAY 3/13 - What do the choices I make toward achieving goals say about my character?
Read Genesis 27:1 - 28:9

MONDAY 3/14 - Despite poor decisions I've made, how can God still improve my character?
Read Genesis 28:10 - 29:30

TUESDAY 3/15 - What could happen if I don't let God deal with immaturity in my character?
Read Genesis 29:31 - 30:43

WEDNESDAY 3/16 - What are appropriate ways to break free from old patterns in my character?
Read Genesis 31:1-55

THURSDAY 3/17 - Can the destruction I've caused others through my immaturity be healed?
Read Genesis 32:1 - 33:20

FRIDAY 3/18 - What does it mean for my character when God asks me to "be perfect?"
Read Matthew 5:38-48 and Psalm 15:1-5

SATURDAY 3/19 - What process does God use to develop Christlike character in me?
Read Romans 8:9-30

Week 9 - Transformation Journal (Mar. 6-12)

the word on...TESTING

SUNDAY 3/6 - What is God trying to accomplish through "testing" times in my life?
Read 1 Peter 1:3-12 and Job 23:1-12

MONDAY 3/7 - To what extent will God go in "testing" followers like me?
Read Hebrews 11:8-19 and Genesis 22:1-19

TUESDAY 3/8 - How does God want tests and trials to affect my willingness to trust?
Read Exodus 15:22 - 16:35

WEDNESDAY 3/9 - Does God use other people to "test" me at times?
Read Judges 2:6 - 3:6

THURSDAY 3/10 - In what other ways does God sometimes "test" me?
Read Luke 18:18-30

FRIDAY 3/11 - How is waiting on God connected with "testing" my faith?
Read John 11:1-45

SATURDAY 3/12 - Do blessings always follow "testing"?
Read Psalm 66

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Week 8 - Transformation Journal (Feb. 27 - Mar. 5)

the word on...SELF-DISCIPLINE

NOTE - CLICK HERE to see a video clip showing children's reactions to the Marshmallow Test!

CLICK HERE to read an interesting New Yorker article about the Marshmallow Test.

SUNDAY 2/27 - What do my Christian faith and self-discipline have to do with each other?
Read 1 Thessalonians 5:4-11 and 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

MONDAY 2/28 - How is it possible to fight against my own sinful desires - and win?
Read Romans 6:1-18 and Romans 13:12-14

TUESDAY 3/1 - How can the Holy Spirit help me with my self-discipline?
Read 2 Timothy 1:7 and Galatians 5:1, 13-26

WEDNESDAY 3/2 - How does practicing faithful self-discipline affect my relationship with God?
Read Titus 2:11-14 and Psalm 34:1-22

THURSDAY 3/3 - What role does my mind play in learning daily discipline?
Read Colossians 3:1-17

FRIDAY 3/4 - What are the results of a faithful, self-disciplined life?
Read Daniel 1:1-21 and Matthew 6:33

SATURDAY 3/5 - How can I keep others from discouraging or distracting me?
Read Psalm 1:1-6

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Week 7 - Transformation Journal (Feb. 20-26)

the word on...HOSPITALITY

NOTE - CLICK HERE to see the video clip about the way fans of Grapevine's Faith Christian School showed hospitality to the football players from Gainesville State School.

SUNDAY 2/20 - What does hospitality look like to God?
Read Matthew 25:31-46 and 1 Peter 4:7-11

MONDAY 2/21 - How far do I have to go in being hospitable?
Read Luke 14:1-24

TUESDAY 2/22 - I understand how my hospitality can benefit others, but what's in it for me?
Read Luke 24:13-36 and Hebrews 13:1-3

WEDNESDAY 2/23 - How can I help create a climate of hospitality within the body of Christ (the church)?
Read Romans 12:9-21, Acts 2:42-47, and 3 John 1:1-14

THURSDAY 2/24 - What are the long-term effects of practicing hospitality for a Christian?
Read Acts 16:11-40

FRIDAY 2/25 - What are some examples of hospitality in action?
Read Acts 21:1-16 and Acts 28:1-10

SATURDAY 2/26 - What can give me the capacity to truly demonstrate radical hospitality?
Read James 2:14-26 and 1 John 3:16-24

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Week 6 - Transformation Journal (Feb. 13-19)

the word on...LOVE VERSUS LUST

SUNDAY 2/13 - What is the difference between godly love and worldly lust?
Read 1 Thessalonians 4:3-9, 1 Peter 4:1-8, and Ephesians 5:1-7

MONDAY 2/14 - What is the true definition of love?
Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

TUESDAY 2/15 - Where can I get motivation to love others?
Read 1 John 4:7-21 and John 13:34-35

WEDNESDAY 2/16 - What is loving others supposed to look like?
Read 1 John 3:11-24 and John 15:12-13

THURSDAY 2/17 - How can I know God genuinely loves me?
Read Romans 8:31-39, Romans 5:6-8, and John 3:16-17

FRIDAY 2/18 - What is an example of love that I can learn from?
Read Luke 7:36-50

SATURDAY 2/19 - What does love look like among Christians?
Read Romans 13:8-10, Romans 12:9-13, and Galatians 5:13-14

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Week 5 - Transformation Journal (Feb. 6-12)

the word on...STEWARDSHIP

SUNDAY 2/6 - What does it mean to practice "stewardship"?
Read Luke 12:35-48

MONDAY 2/7 - What is the connection between the ability to handle financial responsibilities and the ability to handle spiritual responsibilities?
Read Luke 16:1-15

TUESDAY 2/8 - What am I supposed to do with God's resources?
Read Luke 19:1-27

WEDNESDAY 2/9 - How can I best manage the servant responsibilities God has entrusted to me?
Read 1 Corinthians 9:7-27

THURSDAY 2/10 - What does good stewardship of my Christian lifestyle look like?
Read Ephesians 4:11 - 5:20

FRIDAY 2/11 - What does time management have to do with stewardship of God's resources?
Read Psalm 90

SATURDAY 2/12 - What key practice do I need to develop to become a good overall steward of God's resources?
Read Matthew 6:19-34 and Matthew 11:25-30

Friday, January 28, 2011

WEEK 4 - Transformation Journal (Jan. 30 - Feb. 5)

the word on...SERVING

Read John 13:1-17

Read John 14:1-14

Read Luke 9:51-10:20

Read Romans 12:1-8 and 2 Timothy 2:20-26

Read Matthew 20:20-28 and Philippians 2:3-11

Read Luke 17:7-19 and Colossians 3:18-4:1

Read Matthew 5:38-41 and Matthew 10:32-42

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Week 3 - Transformation Journal (January 23-29)

the word on...COMMUNITY

Read 1 John 1:1-10 and 1 Corinthians 1:1-9

Read Acts 2:29-47

Read Hebrews 10:19-25, Hebrews 3:12-13, and Galatians 6:1-2

Read Proverbs 13:20 and 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1

Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 and 1 John 4:7-21

Read Philippians 1:3-11 and 2:1-4

Read Ephesians 3:14-4:6 and Acts 4:31-35

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Week 2 - Transformation Journal (January 16-22)

the word on...PRAYER

Read Luke 11:1-11 and Matthew 6:5-15

Read Luke 18:1-8 and Genesis 18:16-33

Read John 17:1-26 and Matthew 26:36-46

Read Matthew 18:18-20 and Acts 12:1-19

Read Luke 5:12-16, 6:12-19 and 9:18-36

Read Mark 11:12-24 and James 4:2-10

Read Daniel 4:19-37 and 2 Chronicles 7:14

Healthy Leadership Video

If you are not familiar with the work of the late Edwin Friedman and "family systems theory" - this little video provides a great introduction. These are truths that we can apply at home, at work and at church, and provide an introduction to some of the landmines that await us!! Check it out!!

"Friedman's Theory of Differentiated Leadership Made Simple"

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Week 1 - Transformation Journal (January 9-15)

Read Deuteronomy 8:1-11 and Matthew 4:1-11

Read 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 and Psalm 119:1-16

Read 2 Timothy 3:10-17 and James 1:19-25

Read 2 Kings 22:1 - 23:25

Read Mark 4:1-20 and Deuteronomy 30:11-20

Read Ephesians 6:10-18 and Hebrews 4:12-13

Read John 5:36-47 and 2 Timothy 2:15

You can post your comments or questions below. (Note that your question or comment will not appear immediately - as it has to be approved to avoid spam.)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Have We Lost Advent?

Somewhere along the way, we seem to have lost Advent. You may not agree with me, but I think we did. I am realistic enough to believe that it will be next to impossible to retrieve it. But I am sentimental enough to feel a little nostalgic as I read about Advent traditions from the past.

Once upon a time, Christmas was a day of rejoicing and good will. Advent was a four-week season of solemn preparation, repentance, and spiritual renewal.

Nowadays, it really doesn’t matter whether you observe December in a sacred or a secular way. Either way, we have turned December into a nonstop orgy of shopping and feasting.

There is much about the season that I enjoy quite a bit. But I still remain a bit nostalgic, and feel like perhaps we lost something quite valuable.

Could it be that the Lord Jesus has a tear in his eye as he watches over our near-manic reveling? I pray that the observance of Candlelight Communion next week will not be just one more event on your “must-do” list. I will be praying that it might be a time of true reflection and renewal for you and yours.

Someone you know needs the touch of the Master’s Hand desperately. Could you help make that happen? Could you give someone a word of encouragement? Could you invite someone to share in the beauty of Christmas Candlelight? Is there some small deed of love and mercy you could accomplish between now and the end of the year – maybe anonymously – that would cheer the heart of our Lord? Think about these things.

Friday, November 19, 2010


As we wind up our series on prayer, I have found many great quotes on prayer from several sources. I hope you enjoy these:

W. GRAHAM SCROGGIE. Without prayer, nothing can be accomplished for God.

MARTIN LUTHER KING. To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.

JOHN BUNYAN. He who runs from God in the morning will scarcely find him the rest of
the day.

GEORGE MUELLER. (He was asked how much time he spent praying.) Hours every day. But I live in the spirit of prayer. I pray as I walk and when I lie down and when I arise. And the answers are always coming.

MARTIN LUTHER. If I should neglect prayer but a single day, I should lose a great deal of the fire of faith.

CORRIE TEN BOOM. Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?

OSWALD CHAMBERS. Our ordinary views of prayer are not found in the New Testament. We look upon prayer as a means for getting something for ourselves; the Bible idea of prayer is that we may get to know God Himself.

SAMUEL CHADWICK. The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying.
He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work and prayerless religion. He
laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.

BILLY GRAHAM. It is an insult to God not to take time for prayer. We make time for other things important to us; why not prayer?

CHARLES SWINDOLL. The prayer power of a church is the true measurement of its
spiritual health. The church cannot rise higher than its prayer power.

LEHMAN STRAUSS. It is my humble opinion that a return to the biblical way of praying will bring spiritual power back to our lives and our churches.

A. D. DIXON. When we rely upon organization, we get what organization can do; when we rely upon education, we get what education can do; when we rely upon eloquence, we get what eloquence can do, and so on. I am not disposed to undervalue any of these things in their proper place. But when we rely upon prayer, we get what God can do.

LEONARD RAVENHILL. Notice, we never pray for folks we gossip about, and we never gossip about the folk for whom we pray!

S. D. GORDON. The greatest thing anyone can do for God and for man is to pray. The great people of the earth today are the people who pray. I do not mean those who talk about prayer; or those who say that believe in prayer; nor yet those who can explain about prayer; but I mean those people who take time to pray. These are the people who are doing the most for God; in winning souls; in solving problems; in awakening churches.

JOHN WESLEY. I have so much to do that I spend several hours in prayer before I am able to do it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Prayer for Veterans Day

A PRAYER FOR VETERANS DAY. We ask for blessings on all those who have served their country in the armed forces. We honor the memories of those who gave their lives in service. We ask for healing for the veterans who have been wounded, in body and soul, in conflicts around the globe.

We pray for those who return home with injured bodies and traumatized spirits. Bring solace to them, O Lord; may we pray for them when they cannot pray.

We ask for an end to wars and the dawning of a new era of peace, as a way to honor all the veterans of past wars. Have mercy on all our veterans from past conflicts. Bring peace to their hearts, and peace to the regions in which they fought. Bless all the soldiers who served in non-combative posts; may their calling to service continue in their lives in many positive ways.

Give us all the creative vision to see a world which affirms the life of every human being. Hear our prayer, O Prince of Peace, hear our prayer.

(This is adapted from a similar prayer posted by the Franciscan Sisters of Springfield, Illinois.)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Prayer - What Do I Say?

Some of us want to pray, but we aren't sure what to say.

This article by Jerry Webber provides a helpful overview of types of prayer. If you are struggling with "what to say" in prayer, it might be a good time to try a different form of prayer. This article was found on the web site of Chapelwood UMC in Houston.

At its most basic, prayer is communication. Perhaps more accurately, prayer is an act of communion in which we present ourselves to God just as we are. The very words communion and communication denote that there is interaction.

Prayer is not a one-way street, comprised only of what we find to say to God. In fact, God initiates the conversation. In prayer we find ourselves first listening to God, then responding to what God has said to us.

You also might think of prayer as paying attention to God. Having an attitude of alertness to the presence of God, not only in formal periods of prayer or in times of corporate worship, but in the way we live all of life, is a way of prayer that often is neglected. There are those who believe that growth in the life of prayer means enlarging our capacity to pay attention to God in all areas of our lives.

There are any number of ways to pray. Some seem more natural for certain individuals, and other ways seem right to others. And most of us find that as our praying lives evolve through the years so do our own ways of communing with God. Rarely does a person’s prayer remain the same for a lifetime.

Some people, then, gravitate more to intercessory prayer; that is, praying for the needs of others. Such pray-ers bring requests to God for the well-being of others. They intercede on behalf of others.

Other persons feel a first impulse to praise God, bringing their uplifted hearts into the presence of God in adoration.

Still others are drawn to simple conversation with God, bringing their thoughts and actions to God continually.

Then there are those who are drawn to more contemplative prayer forms. These persons find God’s presence most deeply experienced in silence and listening. They prepare themselves to receive from God, using prayer forms such as centering prayer to enter into communion with God.

There are those who use the Scriptures for prayer, hearing in God’s Word an initiating word to which they are then invited to respond. Prayer forms such as lectio divina and meditation on Scripture enable such persons to hear God then respond with their praying lives.

Some use a breath prayer, keeping some short petition (perhaps a phrase from Scripture) on their heart and mind through all the activities of the day.

And there are other forms of prayer, to be sure. The most important thing about prayer is not the form or method you use, but that you do it, that you stick with it, and that you allow God to work in and through your life for his purposes in the world.

Those who are beginning in prayer often find it helpful to pray in the Psalms. The Psalms of the Old Testament are the Bible’s prayer book. They express a full range of human circumstances and emotion. It can be helpful to pray through some Psalms. Note how the pray-ers in the Psalms bring themselves just as they are to God . . . sometimes in praise, sometimes in intercession, sometimes with anger in their hearts, and sometimes in deep need of forgiveness.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Is It Acceptable to Pause Tithing in Tough Financial Times? - article by Dave Ramsey

Is it acceptable to pause tithing in tough financial times?? Dave Ramsey addresses these and other questions in this article:

Dave's Advice on Tithing and Giving (CLICK HERE)