Bethlehem United Methodist Church
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Growing as Christians... Reaching Out to Others

This Week at Bethlehem (TW@B) Archives

 
I was pleased that all of our Olympic torches were taken Sunday and we had to make more and those were taken as well. I hope for many of us, this is the beginning or an amping up of a spiritual training regime that will produce much fruit for the Kingdom of God as we seek to be the spiritual athletes God desires of us. I ask that you pray for me as I pray for you in this training program we are doing. I grow weak, get distracted, and misplace my priorities just like everyone else, but God desires for us to be intentional in our training as a follower of Jesus. Feel free to contact me with your thoughts and questions and struggles as you train. If you are trying to find a right fit for you, come talk to me as well. The one thing that is reiterated to me is that we are all in this together and we need each other to succeed for us to be the best we can be. So, here's to becoming an Olympic athlete!
 
Blessings, Ryan


This Sunday we continue our Olympic Moments sermon series. This week we will be looking at the Olympic experience. This is apart from the actual competition and more in line with the overall experience. Friday is the opening ceremonies for the London Olympics and I know there is eager anticipation to see how England welcomes the world and begins the Olympics. Beginnings are an important part of any season of life. You have to begin well, work hard, and end strong as well. In addition to hearing from Scott and Pete about their Olympic experience, we will look at Jesus' opening ceremonies, what we know as the Sermon on the Mount. In preparation for Sunday, first let me encourage you to watch the opening ceremonies (I know many of you will be watching it anyway) and reflect on what the opening ceremonies say about what is important about England and the Olympics. Second, I encourage you to read the entire Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5-7 but especially Matthew 5:1-12, our text for Sunday. What does Jesus say is important from his opening ceremonies? What does he set as his priorities? What is odd about his initial statements? What are these initial statements calling you to do?
 
Let me just say that Scott Hamilton's portion of the sermon this week was extremely surprising to me when conducting the interview. The direction he went with the questions and the depth he talked about is intense. I don't want to say any more at this time, but you need to come and see it for yourself. It is not a superficial response to the Olympic experience and not one I have ever heard spoken of before.

Friday (7/27/12) will be the last yoga class sponsored by the Williamson County Health Department. The instructor has taken another job and will no longer be leading the class. 

Stephen Ministry meeting on Sunday  7/29 at 9:30 in Room 100 (Fenton Warren SS Classroom), downstairs off Banquet Hall by the Coke Machine. All are invited to learn more about the Stephen Ministry program at Bethlehem.

Back to school time means preparing backpacks for Kathy's Backpack Program. Cost of a filled backpack is $15.00, money can be placed in the offering and designated for Kathy's Backpacks. Checks should be made payable to BUMC.
 
Christmas in July for Room in the Inn helps to provide necessary supplies to the homeless. Target or Wal-Mart gift cards are suggested or monetary gifts made payable to BUMC and designated for Christmas in July for RITI.
 
Sign-up on Sunday to be a part of the new pictorial directory. YOU are needed to make this complete. A complete family portrait can be a part of what you have done. Family and friends can have their pictures made, and do not have to be included in the directory.
 
 
9:30 - Families and Elementary-aged Children Join Us Each Sunday Until August 5 in the Old Sanctuary for Babylon Holy Land Adventure!
Daniel was way more than the guy who survived a den of hungry lions! Travel back to Babylon and join Daniel — torn from his home and forced into the king's service. Imagine the pressure of learning a new language and culture...and the shock of discovering your best friends have been tossed into a fiery furnace. Explore exotic sights and smells in a Babylonian bazaar! Kids and adults will find that they're not much different from Daniel and his friends, who kept their faith in a faithless culture.
Click here to pre-register (encouraged, but not required)

Live Out Loud!
Is your 3rd – 5th grader ready to go deeper in their faith? Are they ready to help lead children’s worship thru skits, songs & more? Any 3rd – 5th graders who are living their faith in Jesus out loud and are interested in being on the Out Loud Team should contact April Jackson (ajackson@bethlehemumc.com or 794-6721) for more info. If there is enough interest, Out Loud Camp will be July 31 – Aug 2 & will help prepare us for our Fall kick off.

Daily Devotional Materials
Copies of the July - August issue of The Upper Room are in the narthex. Please take a copy for your daily devotional. Bookmarks for the July - August daily journal readings are also available at the Welcome and Information Desk in the narthex.

Bounty Garden News
Bethlehem's Bounty Community Garden is blossoming with the promise of good things to come! Zucchini, herbs, and flowers are coming in now with beans, squash, tomatoes, and cucumbers not far behind! Look for the market table in the Gathering Space each Sunday until fall. Please bring any surplus produce from your home gardens to share, as well as any baked goods you would like to contribute. Remember, all proceeds benefit Feed America First. You may also support this ministry by signing up to work the market table or water and tend the garden. Contact Anna Lynn Whitfield for more information on how to get involved.

Gluten free communion wafers are now available as part of communion. Communion servers will be able to assist those desiring this alternative to the communion bread.


I am so blown away by what I saw happen Sunday!  That was an incredible day for Bethlehem as we sought to serve God!  We sure lived into our motto of “growing as Christians and reaching out to others.”  It was so cool to see how all of us, working together, cold make a difference in our community in such a short time.  I have heard from many of the places where we served and all of them just wanted me to know how overwhelming our acts of love and service were.  Way to go Bethlehem!  I can’t wait to see what God does to bring even more fruit to the efforts we offered. 
One of the things we do as a staff after a big event like this is to have an “autopsy without blame.”  In essence, we want to pick apart the event to see what worked, what didn’t and how we can do it better in the future.  I hope you will help me with this.  In the next week or so please email, call, or write me a note and let me know what you thought of this event.  Should we make this a recurring event?  What was the best part of it?  Where do we need to improve?  What other suggestions do you have?  This will be helpful as we seek to be all God wants us to be! 
Thanks again for being willing to be a part of such a different sort of a day!  Days like this one remind me of why Bethlehem is such a special place!
Blessings,
Ryan
This Sunday we have some special things at both services that will really help us as we worship God.  First, we will have a slide show of pictures from all of our projects this past Sunday.  Again, it was such a great day.  Second, we will have a special song that I am excited to hear.  It will be sung by our Ladies Ensemble and will be backed by the handbell choir and a three piece brass section.  They have worked hard on this, and I know it will be spectacular. 
The sermon is on the parable Jesus told at the end of monologue we often refer to as The Sermon on the Mount.  At the end of Matthew 7 (24-29) Jesus gives a parable concerning carpenters building houses: one on a solid rock foundation and the other on sand.  It is appropriate that Jesus, being the son of a carpenter and a carpenter himself, would tell such a parable.  The message is clear, though: what we build our lives on is important.  What is your foundation built on?  When the storms of life come (and they come in all of our lives), how will our foundation hold us?  What is still shaky in your life?  By reflecting on those questions, it helps us to know where we need to put in our work and grow and build a more sturdy structure.
This not only applies to each of us as individuals, but also to us as a church.  We have to be building on the rock that is Christ Jesus in order for us to be successful.  I feel really good about the structure we are building here at Bethlehem and the foundation it is built on!
 

T W @ B for January 8 - This Sunday begins our new sermon series entitled "Under Construction" because we are all in fact a work in progress. We will also go back to our normal schedule of 8:15 traditional worship and 10:45 contemporary worship with Sunday School in between. As we go through this sermon series, we will be looking at things that will help us to grow in who we are as disciples of Jesus Christ. We will begin this Sunday looking at our prayer lives. If you are like me, our prayer lives can always get better. I like to tell people at times that I "want to want to pray." Sometimes it can seem burdensome. Does it have to be that way, though? We will look at nuts and bolts ways to build better prayer lives. I hope you will commit to being a part each week of this series as we look at the Bible and its importance in our lives, the importance of worship, serving others, growing as a church with all its ministries, and looking at how we need to be building strong children and youth. Each week will be helpful as you build your spiritual houses.

 

As we look at prayer, I want you to think about your prayer life now. Where is it strong? Where is it weak? What are you unsure about as it relates to prayer? Our text will come from John 4:6-30. I want you to read the text and think about how this applies to prayer as it does not seem to be dealing with prayer at first glance. How does this dialogue constitute as being prayer? How does that differ from what most of us would think is an acceptable prayer life? What can we learn from this interaction regarding prayer?

 

I hope to see you Sunday.

T W @ B for January 1 - David Bradley will be preaching on Sunday with the church only having one service at 10:00 a.m. This is a "come as you are service," where the dress code is relaxed. In other words, we do not care what you look like, we just want everyone to come and begin the new year with worship of our Lord!

 

David will be preaching on "Two Inches of Faith" and his text comes out of Luke 2:22-40. In preparing for Sunday, read the text and reflect on what you think must have been going through Mary and Joseph's mind in that time after Jesus was born. What would be going through your mind? I am sure there was much uncertainty and anxiety. What would the future hold? What would be asked of them in the future, raising the son of God? We all know there is plenty to worry about when you are a parent. Mary and Joseph would not be exempt from those worries. As you enter a new year, what old anxieties and fears do you bring with you? What new fears are presenting to you as you look at the year ahead? The new year also presents new opportunities. What do you seek in 2012? How is God a part of your plans for 2012? As you stand at the beginning of 2012, reflect on the opportunity there is to grow your faith through the many hopes and fears that are present in your life.

 

I hope to see you Sunday.

T W @ B for December 25 - This weekend is a busy one in the life of Bethlehem, but it is appropriate that Bethlehem of all places would be busy on Christmas Eve and morn. To make sure everyone knows the variety of offerings on Christmas Eve: the 4:30 service will be led by our children and will be a retelling of the nativity story. Each child who wishes to participate should be here just before 4:30 and go to the Upper banquet Hall in which they will be assigned a part in the nativity story. All age children are welcome to participate. At 6:00 pm, we will begin the first of three communion and candlelight services. This one is a traditional style and will feature our Chancel choir doing special music as well as Kandace Williams singing "O Holy Night." The 8:00 pm service will be the contemporary style and will feature special music by the praise team, Maggie McNulty, and Celia Whitler. The 11:00 pm service is acoustic. The worship of this service is led by the Bluegrass Band. They will also be doing special music. In addition, Matt Jablonka and Harry Robinson will be doing a special "O Holy Night" on Alto Saxophone and guitar. There will be a nursery at the 6:00 p.m. service only. The theme for the night is "Empty Lives" and the Scripture will be Isaiah 9:2-7. This entire series has been based on what would life be like if we did not have Christmas. What would your life be like without Jesus? We will look at this question.

 

Christmas morning will be a "come as you are" service at 10:00 a.m. I am fine if you come in your pajamas or robe or lounging around clothes as long as they are not indecent. Just come and enjoy a time of worship on Christmas morning. We will sing a lot of Christmas songs, have a short message, and time of celebrating that Christmas is finally here. What better way to begin Christmas day than by worshiping the author of Christmas? There will be no nursery or Mustard seeds, but children will enjoy this service and will be fine to be active in the service as it will be interactive and laid back. This will not be an overly long service. The theme is "Empty Songs." As I listen to many Christmas songs on the radio I realize that very few make any mention of Jesus and his birth. I cannot imagine what life would be like were these the only songs that we sang. What hope is there in that? How empty these songs are in light of the true Christmas songs. What are some of your favorite Christmas songs? What are the meanings in those songs? Do you find hope in the lyrics? What song best encapsulates the Christmas message to you? The Scripture will be Psalm 98 and Titus 2:11-14.

 

I hope to see you Saturday night and Sunday.

T W @ B for December 18 - This week at Bethlehem we are continuing our sermon series entitled "Christmas FULL Filled". There are so many things in our life that cause us to feel empty. It is important for us to realize that Jesus is the one who truly fills us up. It is the fulfillment of the prophesies spoken so long before that gives us hope and purpose and meaning to life. So if you feel empty inside in any way, this Advent season is for you. This Sunday we will be looking at "Empty Stockings." Can you imagine if on Christmas morning we awoke to no gifts in our stocking or under our trees? Gifts are an expected and anticipated part of Christmas. What do you want for Christmas this year? That is a common question we often ask kids this time of year. But what if there were no presents? Would Christmas lose some of its luster to some without all of the shopping, wrapping, and opening of gifts? Does the reason we give gifts in the first place get lost in all of the wrapping paper and bows? Have you paused and reflected on the greatest gift of Christmas this season and the impact of that gift on your life? Have you spent time this advent season reflecting on how great God's love is for you as evidence in the gift of Jesus? The Scripture for Sunday is Luke 1:26-38. Before Jesus was a gift to anyone else, he was a gift to Mary. As unprepared and uncertain as she was initially, she trusted God and embraced her role and thus became the mother of God. What a gift she was given. What a gift Jesus is to the world!

 

I hope to see you Sunday.

T W @ B for December 11 - This week at Bethlehem we are continuing our sermon series entitled "Christmas FULL Filled". There are so many things in our life that cause us to feel empty. It is important for us to realize that Jesus is the one who truly fills us up. It is the fulfillment of the prophesies spoken so long before that gives us hope and purpose and meaning to life. So if you feel empty inside in any way, this Advent season is for you. This Sunday the choir will be sharing its Christmas cantata at the early service. I will be preaching as well. The late service will be a contemporary advent service. Sunday afternoon at 4:00 there will be a Christmas program entitled "A Very Surprising Christmas Pageant" put on by the Bethlehem Players and many of our choirs.

 

This week's sermon centers around "Empty Houses."   The song goes "Deck the Halls with boughs of holly. . . tis the season to be jolly. . ." and so it goes at Christmas. We decorate often times to the extreme. I remember going to someone's home one time during Christmas and in their bathroom there was a full size Christmas tree decorated and lit. I wondered if they opened presents in there or not? Not only do we decorate on the inside, but just like Clark Griswold, we can really decorate on the outside, too. Once we decorate our houses to the max both inside and out, we then invite people over to celebrate with us. Many people's social calendar runs over this time of year as well. We try to pack in as much as we possibly can during the month of December. But as we have been discussing this season, what if that all went away? What would we be left with? Without all of that at Christmas, would we find ourselves fulfilled or would we feel so empty? Our text is Isaiah 61. As you read this text, remember that Isaiah wrote this some 700 years before Jesus was born, but he had an emptiness and knew what he needed to fill it. How does what he wrote resonate in you today?

 

The decorations and the gatherings are two of the things I look forward to the most this time of year, but I also know that at times I use those things to try and meet my spiritual longings, and they are just not able to do that and I remain empty until I go to the real reason we have Christmas in the first place. How do your relationships with others (family, friends, spouse, kids, etc) affect how you approach this season? How do they add to or take away from the joy that is Christmas?   What emptiness do you have in your relationships with others this season?

 

I hope to see you Sunday.

T W @ B for December 4  -  This week at Bethlehem we are continuing our sermon series entitled “Christmas FULL Filled”. There are so many things in our life that cause us to feel empty.  It is important for us to realize that Jesus is the one who truly fills us up. It is the fulfillment of the prophesies spoken so long before that gives us hope and purpose and meaning to life. So if you feel empty inside in any way, this Advent season is for you. This Sunday, our adult handbell choir will be a part of both worship services.  It is always a joy to hear them. We will also be celebrating Holy Communion at both services to help us prepare this advent season.

This week’s sermon centers around “Empty Tables”. I think we all have certain foods that we expect to see come Christmas. Without those foods, something would be missing. But the question begs to be asked, what if our table was empty? What if there was no food? That will be the reality for over a billion people this Christmas yet Christmas still comes to them. But food does have a significant role in the Christmas preparation, just not as we often use it. In preparation for Sunday, read Exodus 16:1-5 and John 6:30-35 and think about what they say about food. What role does that food play in our Christmas season? How can we change our Christmas rituals to include this food in our normal preparations and celebrations? Where are you empty that this food can fill? That is an important question to struggle with in order to be ready for Christmas.

I hope to see you Sunday.

T W @ B for November 27 - Advent is finally here and with it is excitement. Monday at church many people came and decorated the sanctuary in preparation for this Sunday. It looks so beautiful! Remember this Sunday at the 8:15 service we will be having our Hanging of the Greens service. This will be the traditional service complete with all of the elements and readings that make it so special. It is always one of my favorite services of the year. At the 10:45 service, we will talk some on Advent and the symbols that are so important during this season, but it will not be a hanging of the greens service. It will be an advent themes service, though. We will be kicking off our sermon series entitled "Christmas FULL Filled". There are so many things in our life that cause us to feel empty. It is important for us to realize that Jesus is the one who truly fills us up. It is the fulfillment of the prophesies spoken so long before that gives us hope and purpose and meaning to life. So if you feel empty inside in any way, this Advent season is for you.

 

This week's sermon centers around "Empty Trees".   One of my favorite things to do each year is to decorate the Christmas Tree. The reason being is that each ornament holds special meanings and memories to me. I think about what it would be like were those ornaments and what they symbolize not there. It would leave a big hole in my life. What does the Christmas tree and all of the decorating mean to you in your life? Our text for this Sunday is Luke 19:1-10. I want you to read it and think about what the empty tree means in this text. Why is that empty tree important, especially to the person who had been in it? How does Christmas and the birth of Christ contribute to that? How would this story have been different were it not for the birth of Jesus? How has the birth of Jesus impacted your life?

 

I hope to see you Sunday.

T W @ B for November 20 - This Sunday is the end of the church calendar year. The last Sunday of the year is called "Christ the King Sunday." It is a day in which we reflect on the Lordship of Christ. Sometimes we forget the power and majesty of Jesus, and the way in which he reigns as a king in our lives. It is important to be reminded of that. We will be speaking of that at both worship services. In fact, we will not only be looking at the present reign of Jesus but the future reign as well. Sometimes the future can be a little unsettling for people. Sunday will help figure these things out. The sermon title is "When I Get Where I'm Going, Where Will I Be?" Country music fans may recognize the title as playing off a country music song sung by Brad Paisley and Dolly Parton. The song is "When I Get Where I'm Going," and it is a great song, but so much about the afterlife is unknown and that causes uneasiness in us. I hope to address those things we do know about heaven as we reflect on Christ as our King.

 

In preparation for Sunday, read Psalm 100 and 2 Timothy 4:6-8. Think about what eternal life with Christ will be like? What will heaven be like? What unknowns are you concerned about? Now, think about the one who is our king - Jesus. What are the things that draw you to him? What is it about Jesus that makes him so special? It is important to remember that heaven is eternity with that Jesus, and that should help make the unknowns not as anxious for us.

 

I hope to see you Sunday.

T W @ B for November 13 - As I said earlier, Jason will be preaching this Sunday and will be offering a message centered around a book that has challenged him recently called "Messy Spirituality" by Michael Yaconelli. In preparation for Jason's message, I want you to think about your own spiritual journey from the day you became a Christian until now. Has it all been easy? What "bumps" have there been along the way? When has that journey taken a detour? Now, I want you to reflect on the lessons you learned through those difficult points in your journey. How did you see God in those times? How are you stronger now for having been through those times?

 

Our pasts form who we are. Sometimes our pasts make us feel like lesser Christians, but in the midst of this we need to see how God is working and how we have responded. Think a little about the ways in which you have responded and answered the call of God in big or small ways recently.

 

I hope to see you Sunday.

T W @ B for November 6 - This Sunday is All Saints Sunday. All Saints Sunday is the first Sunday in November and is a day where we recognize and reflect on those persons whose shoulders we now stand on. It is a day of reflecting on persons, whose lives advanced the Kingdom, built and strengthened the church and touched lives, including ours. Specifically, we will look at those Saints from Bethlehem who have passed away in the last year.

 

As you prepare for worship, think about those people who have impacted your life and your spiritual journey. There are many I'm sure who have directly impacted you, but think about others who have impacted you in more indirect ways. What about those persons who chartered Bethlehem Church in 1848 or who were integral in helping it to grow over the years? Then there are persons like Martin Luther who helped shaped Protestantism, John Wesley who founded Methodism, even Johannes Gutenberg who made the Bible available to the masses? That is not even to mention those heroes of faith from the Bible who did so much to move the Kingdom forward. I think also in my life of pastors and Sunday School teachers and youth workers along with family members who helped mold and shape my faith. There are so many. Who are your saints?

 

Our text is Philippians 1:1-11. I encourage you as you read it to think about how the Saints in your life embodied the qualities Paul speaks of here.

 

I hope to see you Sunday.

T W @ B for October 30 - This Sunday we finish our Ripples sermon series. It is also our Consecration Sunday in which we offer our lives as living sacrifices to God. It is going to be a great day in the life of the church! This week, our focus on the Ripples series changes, too. Our Ripples impact point is that our story is part of God's story. Think about that for a minute. Our story is part of the greatest story ever told. If you think of our story as a book, you may wonder if anyone would buy your book. But, if your story is a chapter in a New York Times bestseller then imagine how important that story becomes. Thus it is with us. Each of our stories ties in to God's story, and that is a great story to be part of!

 

This week, our sermon will center on Daniel 3 and the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. It is a great story. After you read chapter 3, think about the immense pressure they were under and the huge amount of courage it took for them to do what they did and resist the mandate from the King. There were huge consequences to their choice and they were prepared to accept them. Then, look at the HUGE ripples that came about due to their faithfulness. What an incredible story! As you prepare for worship, think about these questions:

Where might God be calling you to make a stand in the face of injustice?

How does God want to use you to impact others?

How can you be a living sacrifice to the world?

After you reflect on these questions, take time to prayerfully fill out the two commitment cards (gifts and service) to bring to worship with you. Then, look for the ripples!

 

I hope to see you Sunday.

T W @ B for October 23 - This Sunday we continue on with our Ripples sermon series. Hearing Tom Henry's story last Sunday was so powerful. I was inspired as Tom reminded us all of God's faithfulness and how God will see us through on those things he calls us to. Then, to hear Steven's message on top of that - WOW! If you were not here Sunday, I encourage you to go to the church website and listen to the sermon. You can go to the church Facebook page and watch the video, too. What a great morning. This Sunday builds off of last Sunday. This Sunday's Ripples impact point is that "your story makes a difference." Our stories are not going to be like Tom Henry's this past Sunday, but neither is Tom's story like ours. It is all of our stories in concert together that tells the full story to the world. So know that if you are not telling your story, then part of God's story is being left out. Your story makes a difference! In the sermon, we will be looking at the story from Mark 12:41-44. It is a powerful story of how Kingdom economics work. Think about the contrast Jesus shows between the two different givers. What are the differences in how they are giving? Why is the widow's gift so special? What does the widow's gift demonstrate? Finally, if we take this text seriously, what is it God is asking of us in order to grow and be a better disciple of Jesus Christ?

 

This Sunday we will be talking some about money which I know can make people uncomfortable, but did you know that there is not a topic Jesus talked more about? I think the reason for this is that money will trip up a person's walk with Jesus more than anything else. Jesus knew that we needed to continue to be taught about a proper understanding and view about money so that we can be all that God would have us to be. So, we will be talking about money, but it is nothing to be worried about. We are all on this journey together. If you are not where you want to be on your giving, don't sweat it. You don't have to try and get there in one fail swoop. Just like everything else, this is a journey and a daily effort. My suggestion to you is to look at where you stand on your giving in relationship to your income (ie - what percentage of your income are you currently giving) and make it your goal to increase your giving by 1% in 2012. If you increase it each year by 1% then soon you will be at that place where God is leading you to be. If I can be of any assistance to you on this, then feel free to contact me.

 

I hope to see you Sunday.

T W @ B for October 16 - This Sunday we continue on with our Ripples sermon series. This week, though, there is a marked change. We will continue to look at Biblical characters who made ripples and also persons and ministries at Bethlehem who have made ripples, but we are looking more specifically at how each of us can make ripples. We are all called to make ripples for the kingdom and we have all been given specific rocks that we are supposed to use to create those ripples with. It is our job to pull them out and use them. What things has God given you to make ripples with?

 

Our Scripture for the week is from John 6:1-13. Read the story. Now, go back and look at the boy who brought the food to Jesus. In no way did he think it would make a difference to that many people. Yet, he was willing to give what he had to Jesus to use. What do you have to give to Jesus? Before you answer "nothing that can make a difference", think about this story. Just because we don't think we have enough, that doesn't mean God does not want us to give what we have. For it is in giving this gift we have to have faith that God will make it enough. We have been given so much by God, and it is in how we use it and give it back through the work of the Kingdom that determines whether we are being good stewards or not.

 

One final note, Tom Henry will be co-preaching the sermon with me Sunday and will be sharing about how God made and continues to make his offerings more than enough. We will also be seeing a video from Feed America First that is POWERFUL! You do not want to miss it.

 

I hope to see you Sunday.

T W @ B for October 9 - This Sunday is laity Sunday. It is a great reminder that we are all in ministry together. It is not the pastor or staff's job to do all of the ministry, but rather all of our responsibility together, and it is together that we are able to make the biggest splash for the Kingdom. Our certified lay speakers have been working hard preparing for this Sunday's services and I know you will be blessed by this opportunity for worship.

 

In preparation for Sunday, I think it would be beneficial to reflect on where God is calling you to be in ministry. I can tell you, the place where you can best serve God is that place where you are gifted, talented, and passionate. I say that because it is God who put that passion in you, and God who created that package of gifts, talents and abilities. And it is God who wants you to use them to glorify him!

 

Make plans to come worship this Sunday!

TW@B for October 2 - This week at Bethlehem we are continuing our "Ripples" sermon series. Ripples in the water are caused by an impact, but those ripples are seen and felt well beyond the site of the impact. So should our lives not only have an impact, but also have ripples that are far reaching in the Kingdom of God. This week, as you continue to reflect on your story, I want you to think through and prepare your story. Be ready to tell people about your story! We shouldn't just hope that the words will come to us when the time comes. This will lead us to many missed opportunities. We need to be prepared and ready so when the moment hits, we are able to take full advantage of it. When we are ready, God will provide opportunities.

 

This week, we will be looking at the story of Nathan. The Scripture is from 2 Samuel 12:1-7a, 13. This is immediately after the account of David and Bathsheba. If you need refreshing on that story, I will let you read it in 2 Samuel 11. It is scandalous for sure. David has that mindset that since he is king he does not have to be accountable to anyone and can do whatever he wants. God has other ideas and sends Nathan to him. After you read the text, think about the courage that it must have taken for Nathan to do what he did to the king no less. David could have had him killed, but he didn't. In fact, David became transformed, and that transformation in him was huge for the advancement of the kingdom. In thinking about this, I want you to ponder two things: first, what in your life do you need to change in order for God to be able to use you? Second, who might God be calling you to care for support, hold accountable and love as they change and grow closer to God? I think it is for reasons like this that small groups are so important. When you are in a committed small group, you have people who know you, love you, support you, and can hold you accountable when you get out of line. Being held accountable is not fun, but it is often necessary for us to be what God wants us to be.

 

I hope to see you Sunday!

T W @ B for September 25 - This week at Bethlehem we are continuing our "Ripples" sermon series. Ripples in the water are caused by an impact, but those ripples are seen and felt well beyond the site of the impact. So should our lives not only have an impact, but also have ripples that are far reaching in the Kingdom of God. This week, as you continue to reflect on your story, I want you to think about what part of your story you want to share? For some the story of how they became a Christian may be very powerful, for others it may be how God used them in a mighty way, and still for others it could be how God sustained and ministered to them in a particularly difficult time. What part of your story do you want to be able to tell? This is to build on last week's understanding that we all have a story. So, if you do not think you have a story, think again.

 

This week, we will be looking at Joseph from the Old Testament. The Scripture is from the book of Genesis 45:1-8 and 50:19-20. Actually the story begins well before that as Joseph is a primary character in the Biblical text of Genesis. There is a great deal of time spent telling about his saga and life. As you get into chapter 45, you see how God worked all of this for good in order to protect Jacob's family during an historic famine. It is important to note that God did not cause these things to happen to Joseph but was able to work it for good. This is a key component of who God is. God is in the business of working everything for good. We need to understand this in our lives and begin recognizing how God uses difficulties and adversity and weakness in our own lives for good. Can you see ways in which God has done or is doing that in your life? What are some other things that you can point to in your life and see how in the midst of terrible situations, God brought about good in the midst of it? God will always make a way for his will to be advanced forward as he did in the story of Joseph. Often times he uses ordinary persons like Joseph or you or me to do this. We know the church is a primary means God uses to bring about good. I am proud to say God has used Bethlehem to do this in mighty ways, and he still has more work for us to do. This is how we make ripples in the world! Where does God want to use you?

 

I hope to see you Sunday!

T W @ B for September 18 - This week at Bethlehem we begin a new sermon series entitled "Ripples". Ripples in the water are caused by an impact, but those ripples are seen and felt well beyond the site of the impact. So should our lives not only have an impact, but also have ripples that are far reaching in the Kingdom of God. As we begin this sermon series, as I said above, I want everyone to reflect on their story and how it is being written. Our story is important. It is especially important where our story intersects with God's story. That is a great place to be. That is the place where God can really use us in powerful ways.

 

This week, we will be looking at Jacob from the Old Testament. The Scripture is from the book of Genesis 25:19-26. The story will serve as our jumping point. Jacob's name literally means heel grabber as he came out of the womb grabbing hold of the heel of his twin brother who came out first. He lived his life that way, too, as a heel grabber. He was underhanded, conniving, and devious in how he lived. He tricked his brother out of his birthright and blessing and tricked his father in the process. He was not a nice person.   But God got ahold of him in a powerful way and it transformed his life.   You may want to read on into Genesis and see how God did just that and how it impacted Jacob's life.

 

In preparing for Sunday, reflect on the following questions in addition to thinking on your story: where would our life be today if God had not gotten your attention? What areas of your life are you still holding back from God? What is preventing you from giving them to God?

 

I hope to see you Sunday!

T W @ B for September 11 - This week at Bethlehem we will be remembering and reflecting on the events of September 11, 2001. It is hard to believe it has been ten years since that day. We will spend time in prayer and reflection on those events and all who were affected by the terrorist attacks of that day. My sermon will center around some of the common questions that were uttered that day. Questions like, "why did God let this happen?" and "where was God during this?" These were common questions and, truth be told, are not questions that were limited to 9/11/2001. We all have had those times where we have questioned God when we have had catastrophes in our own lives and in the lives of people we love. Things, like 9/11, that shake us to the very core of our being whether it be a car crash that claims a life, a cancer diagnosis, or a job loss. Life is tough, and in the midst of these most difficult times we want to know where God is. If you have ever asked that question, then Sunday is for you.

 

In preparation for Sunday, I want you to read Psalm 27 and John 16. In reading them, think about what they say about the nature and character of God. Reflect in your own faith journey about what you know to be true about God. Finally, turn to some of your favorite Scripture in the Bible and just re-read them. Think about why they are your favorites. There is definitely a reason, and that reason I am sure is important.

 

It would be a good day to invite friends and family as well, because the events of 9/11 have had a dramatic effect on us all, and it will be good to have an opportunity to process them.

 

I hope to see you Sunday.

T W @ B for September 4-This week wraps up our sermon series. I have to admit this has been one of my all-time favorite sermon series to preach. Many of these Scriptures I have never preached on. The clue for the sermon this week is "How to Live Life in the Fast Lane." We will be focusing on a hero of faith from the Old Testament. He is actually a major player in the Bible, someone who many thought his spirit lived in John the Baptist and Jesus. However, he is often times not known a lot about because he scares us a little. We shy away from sermons and studies on this person because he is so bold that it is hard for us to be able to relate to him. He intimidates us. There is no denying, though, the faith he possessed and the impact on the world he had. When he knew something was right, he would stop at nothing to make sure it was carried out. His faith in God is remarkable. This man was not afraid to put himself on the line and trust that God would come through for him.

 

Around this theme, we will be looking at living a faithful life and God's will for us in the midst of our journey. Have you ever wondered what God's will for your life is? Have you ever wished you had the courage to make a stand like some of these heroes of faith did? Well, we will look at these very things and help us all to see where God is nudging us to stand up on behalf of him.

 

In preparation for Sunday, think about your life and the areas where you wrestle as to where God may be calling you. Ask yourself, "what wouldn't I do if God called me to it?" That is a tough question and one worth spending time on.

 

I hope to see you Sunday.

T W @ B for August 28 -This week, the clue for the sermon is the "Best Excuses NOT To Be In Ministry." Now, the Bible is filled with people who are just not qualified to be in ministry, yet God chooses to use them anyway. It is almost humorous at times to look at the people God chooses to use. This person, though, when God approached him in a monumental display that few have seen from God, flat out said to God, "there is no way I can do what you want me to; find someone else." God had to convince him that he indeed was qualified because God had called him. Every excuse seemed to melt away in the face of God, and eventually he relented and began the process of leading his nation out of slavery into freedom. It is a great story, especially in light of the legitimate shortcomings this person had. Yet, God still chose to use him.

 

What excuses do you have when God comes calling on you? We all have them. What are yours? In what ways do you feel unworthy of being used by God? This Sunday we will look at some of the all time great excuses in the Bible and in our lives and how God does not buy it!

 

I hope to see you Sunday.

T W @ B for August 21 -This week, the clue for the sermon is "This Is What Will Happen If You Laugh at God." As you look for this passage (which is in the Old Testament), there is a husband and wife that are told something by God so ludicrous that both of them break out in laughter. I'm not sure God found the humor in this (though he probably laughed at them), but they just could not believe that what God said to them would actually come to fruition. As you think about this idea, think about your own life and perhaps times in your life when you felt God saying something to you that just seemed too hard to believe. This might not even be to you personally, but in the Bible is there a promise of God's in the Bible that just seems so far out that you laugh at the thought of it coming true. As we look around, the idea that one day the world will be brought into total peace could be laughable in light of all of the warring and conflict present today. Also, the idea that rival factions like the lion and lamb (or democrats and republicans) all getting along together in one accord would ever come to be could be laughable as well. As I look around in our congregation, it is not laughable but the thought of one day there being no more pain or suffering or tears shed doesn't seem realistic in light of all the hurting people I see. Yet, we trust that God is faithful and true and will follow through on his promises just as he did with this couple, even after they laughed at him. What promises of God are you most excited about God fulfilling?

 

I hope to see you Sunday.

T W @ B for August 14 - This week we continue our sermon series that we hope will get you thinking. We are looking at obscure Bible passages that are often overlooked, but still have important things to offer us. Each week we will tease the topic, hopefully causing you to go to the Bible and read and find the answers to the riddles we are throwing out there. This week, the clue is "Guess Who God Chose to Use?" Now, we know in the Bible time and time again God chooses to use some of the most unlikely people imaginable. At times I think it just goes to show that God has a great sense of humor. I still laugh at the idea of him calling me to be a pastor! But this Sunday's sermon goes beyond that. This almost borders on the ludicrous if you think about it. This week's sermon has God using an animal to get the attention of a stubborn human being in order to get him to be obedient to what God wants him to do. You may have to do a little digging to find this one, but it is an interesting story to read. As you prepare for worship, Sunday, I want you to think about this question: Who CAN'T God use? I guess a broader question would be is there anything God cannot do? And depending on how you answer that, does this mean that God can even use you? I think about all that I have done and the too numerous to count times I have let God down, yet he still chooses to use me. I just find that unbelievable, but he does! So, all of this to ask one final question: What is God calling you to do?

 

I hope to see you Sunday.

T W @ B for August 7 - This week we continue our sermon series that we hope will get you thinking. We are looking at obscure Bible passages that are often overlooked, but still have important things to offer us. Each week we will tease the topic, hopefully causing you to go to the Bible and read and find the answers to the riddles we are throwing out there. This week, the hint is "God Is Not Just?"   Now, let me begin by saying that of course God is just! However, there is a text in the Gospel of a parable Jesus tells that many often times misinterpret to come to the conclusion that God is not just. In fact, regardless of the Biblical passage, often times we form that theology about God unconsciously. It is at the root of the historic question that "If God is good, then why does he allow evil?" We look around and see much injustice in this world and wonder where God is in the midst of it, and so we wonder if God is just at all. At the heart of this parable is teaching on prayer. Search in your Bible and find this parable (you will know it when you find it), read it and then reflect on what exactly the parable is saying. It is one of the more difficult parables to understand. What is this parable saying about God? What is it saying about prayer? Also, in our lives think about your prayer life. What is your understanding of the value of prayer? Finally, what is God calling you to do in the face of the injustice that is present in this world? How can we represent God and make a difference in the lives of others?

 

I hope to see you Sunday.

T W @ B for July 31 - This week we continue our sermon series that we hope will get you thinking. We are looking at obscure Bible passages that are often overlooked, but still have important things to offer us. Each week we will tease the topic, hopefully causing you to go to the Bible and read and find the answers to the riddles we are throwing out there. This week's hint "Is God Calling you to Marry a Prostitute?" Several people have already said they have searched their Bible's concordance for prostitute and none of the references said anything about marriage. All I can say is you weren't looking hard enough. Those two words may not occur in the same sentence, but they are definitely intertwined in one particular book of the Bible. You may actually have to read some to find the reference, but it is a good story. The prostitute in reference is actually used by God to symbolize a perverse and unfaithful people. In preparation for Sunday, it would be beneficial for you to think of the times in your life when you have acted unfaithfully. Now I do not necessarily mean unfaithful to your spouse, but more in the general use of the term as in exhibited a lack of faith. When have you failed to exhibit and show faith? If you are like me, the times may be too numerous to count. We must see our failures, though so we know where we need to grow. Those are the very areas we need God to work on the most. The good news is that God is willing to help us. God will not give up on us either. I am personally thankful for that.

 

I hope to see you Sunday.

T W @ B for July 24 - This week we continue our sermon series that we hope will get you thinking. We are looking at obscure Bible passages that are often overlooked, but still have important things to offer us. Each week we will tease the topic, hopefully causing you to go to the Bible and read and find the answers to the riddles we are throwing out there. This week, the hint is "What Will Happen If You Do Not Pay Attention to the Sermon." In the Bible, there are a lot of sermons preached, but one in particular caused great harm to the listener because this person was not paying attention. Now, I am sure this is a foreign concept to all of you, right? I know that every week, every person is hanging on the edge of their seat during the sermon and are disappointed when the sermon is over, right? J Believe me, I know that it can be difficult at times to pay attention whether it be the sermon, a conversation or the road as you drive home; we can all get distracted. In preparation for Sunday, I want you to reflect on ways in which you get distracted from what God has set out for you. You can also read the secondary text from Philippians 3:7-14. Notice how Paul talks about the need to stay focused and not get off track. How do you need to apply this in your life?

 

I hope to see you Sunday.

T W @ B for July 17 - This week we begin a new sermon series that we hope will get you thinking.  We will be looking at obscure Bible passages that are often overlooked, but still have important things to offer us.  Each week we will tease the topic, hopefully causing you to go to the Bible and read and find the answers to the riddles we are throwing out there.  This week, we are starting with a biggy.  Recently there was a gentlemen and his following who made a prediction that the world was going to end in May.  Obviously he was wrong.  This was the second time he had made such a prediction and, of course, he was wrong the previous time as well.  As silly as that may seem to some of us that people claim to know when and how the world will end, many people fell for his prediction causing irreparable damage to their lives because of it.  So, this Sunday, we will be addressing those who have claimed to know when the world will end and what that will look like. 

 

So, I want to begin by saying, I know how the world is going to end.  It's in the Bible.  The Bible is clear about it, and I am going to explain how it is going to happen.  You will not want to miss it.  In preparation for Sunday, I want you to read Psalm 139.  This Psalm talks about how we were created by God.  It tells us our beginnings.  This will help us to better understand our endings.  I am not going to tell you the Scripture I will be using for my sermon as that is your job to figure it out.  I do want you to reflect on your feelings, though.  How does the thought of the world ending make you feel?  Why do you have those feelings?  What role do you think God will have in the end of the world?  What does the end of the world mean for Christians?  These are good questions to get you thinking before you come Sunday.  I know we all are going to be tired Sunday after Fish Fry, but you will want to be here to be a part of this worship service.

 

I hope to see you Sunday

T W @ B for July 10 - This Sunday we conclude our blockbuster sermon series with "The Blind Side."  Jason will be preaching this Sunday as Heather, Tyler and I are away.  If you have not seen this movie, it is a great movie about overcoming obstacles and succeeding.  It is based on a true story centering around an affluent family who lives in Memphis and ends up adopting a high school aged young man from "the projects."  He is a huge guy, so everyone assumes he should play football, but he does not seem to be motivated.  The family shows him love and support and helps him to become an elite football player.  In real life, Michael Oher played college football at Ole Miss (which is a major plot line in the movie with every major college coach coming after him) and now plays for the Baltimore Ravens in the NFL.  It is a feel good story about redemption that touches the viewer's heart.  The movie only grossed about $260 million, ranking it low on the top one hundred blockbusters of all time, but it is the highest grossing sports movie of all time.  It was nominated for best picture, and Sandra Bullock won best actress for her starring role alongside Tim McGraw. 

 

As Jason uses this movie as a backdrop for the sermon, he will be unpacking Ephesians 5:8-13.  As you read this text, I want you to reflect on the following questions: What are you doing in your life where you feel like you are carrying light into dark places?  What are some of the things that may be present in our lives where we are thankful that darkness covers it?  What would it take to bring those things into the light? 

 

Those are not easy questions to answer if we take them serious, but they are necessary if we are to be faithful to our Lord. 

 

I will not see you this Sunday as I will be going to a different church to see what I can learn about how other churches do worship as we always want worship at Bethlehem to be the best it can be.  I do hope you will be here, though, to worship our Lord.

T W @ B for July 3 - This Sunday our blockbuster is "Independence Day."  The movie has quite an all-star cast, but it is headed up by Will Smith.  If you have not seen the movie, it takes place around July 4th and the US finds herself under attack.  This time, though, the enemy is not another country.  In fact the entire world is under attack.  The attackers are aliens from another planet coming here to take over the earth to give their species more space to populate.  The movie is the 27th highest grossing movie of all time (not adjusted for inflation) having grossed over $815 million.  One of the things I really like about the movie is how it demonstrates what can be accomplished when the whole world comes together (which they do) under one banner.  It is a Pentecost sort of message.  The church needs to be reminded of what can be accomplished if we were to all put aside our differences and focus on what we have in common, the Good News and hope of Jesus Christ. 

 

The other thing I like about the movie is the fact that it reminds us that freedom is not a concept unique to the United States.  It is an ideal that all people strive for in their lives.  Truth be told, we know that there are people in the most oppressive of societies who are free while there are people who live in America, the land of the free who are enslaved.  It is a privilege to live in America, but our geography does not automatically make us free.  Greater than the freedom that our country offers us, Jesus offers us true freedom.  Our Scripture comes from Galatians chapter 5 this week.  Read it with an eye to the freedom that Jesus speaks of.  What does this freedom offer?  Just like the freedom afforded to us in America, this freedom is also hard fought and requires sacrifice.  What sacrifices does Paul outline of us for the freedom of Christ? 

 

Many of us will celebrate the freedom afforded to us by living in America by grilling burgers, watching fireworks, and spending time with family.  In the middle of the weekend, come take time to celebrate the freedom that God offers through worship and the giving and receiving of Holy Communion.  Because remember, if the son has set you free then you are free indeed.

 

I hope to see you Sunday.

T W @ B for June 26 - This Sunday's blockbuster is "The Lion King."  It is our second animated feature of the series with both of them bookending Vacation Bible School.  Lion King has many great themes in it, but we will be focusing on Simba's character.  Simba is the son of the King of the beasts, Mufasa.  Mufasa is killed though, early in Simba's life and it causes Simba to question who he is.  The story is about really his growing up and maturation process.  Eventually we know he assumes the throne that was his Dad's.   Our Scripture for the week is 1 Corinthians 13.  We know it best as the love chapter, but I am focusing on the second part of the chapter.  Read it especially and reflect on what Paul is trying to tell the church because it applies to us as well.  What "childish things" do you need to put away still in your life.  Be honest!  We all have areas in our life where we need to grow.  Where does our church need to grow as we seek to be all God has us to be?  How is God calling you to be a part of helping Bethlehem to grow?

 

I hope to see you Sunday.

T W @ B for June 19 - This Sunday is Father's Day.  In addition, it is the kickoff of Vacation Bible School.  We decided to choose two animated films that are blockbusters to book end VBS and the one we chose this week fits well with the Father's Day theme.  For you adults, if you have not seen "UP!" let me recommend you go watch it.  If you feel a little embarrassed watching an animated movie without kids, then borrow someone else's kids for an afternoon and rent it.  It is an incredible movie with a great message in it.   There are two main characters, an older gentleman who had a lifelong love affair with his wife until she died late in life.  They had been unable to have children.  They just had each other.  He was lost without her.  The other character is a young scout who needed to "help out an elderly person in order to get a badge."  We find out later this young man's father is absent from his life leaving a huge void.  The two end up together somewhat reluctantly at first but come to rely on and love each other.  It is a story of how all of us can be spiritual influences in each other's lives.  You do not have to be blood related in order to be able to be a spiritual parent to someone.  It just takes a willingness to take the time to make a difference.  The Scripture for Sunday is from Proverbs 4:1-4.  As you reflect on its meaning in your life, think about people who have been spiritual parents and mentors to you.  Also, think about whose life God may be calling you right now to impact and be a mentor to. 

 

I hope to see you Sunday.

T W @ B for June 12 - I want to take one final opportunity to remind you of the slightly different schedule of worship this Sunday morning.  Both services will go on at the normal times and the 8:15 service will be done as usual, but the 10:45 will be different.  This service will be a wrap up for our River of Life mission week.  The praise band who has been leading worship each night of River of Life will lead worship that morning, and instead of a sermon, several of the participants will offer a testimony as to the impact the week had on them and others.  Both services will be great opportunities to worship our Lord.  My suggestion is to come to both! 

 

For 8:15, the Blockbuster of the week is "The Wizard of Oz."  Sunday is also Pentecost Sunday.  Pentecost is the third great holiday of the church, following only Christmas and Easter in significance.  The Scripture for the week is Acts 2:1-21 which is the story of Pentecost.  As you read it, I want you to think about similarities between that experience and things that happened to Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.  I also want you to think about what that experience means to you today.  This is considered the birth of the church.  What role is the church supposed to play in the world today?  How is Bethlehem doing that today?  Where can we get better at being the church?  Where is God calling you to be a part of the work of the church?  We have had a great response from the additions to the 8:15 service last week.  I am thankful for the choirs increased leadership in the service with their introit and choral responses.  We hope to see the choir grow with this increased role.  If you are interested, we would love to have you join.  See Ryan or Harry for more information.

 

At 10:45 the theme Scripture for the River of Life week is Galatians 5:1-6, particularly verse 6 where it says "the only thing that matters is faith expressing itself in love."  That is the reason Bethlehem and all those who have given of their time and money to come here have done it - to express their faith in love.  This service will be a testimony to that.  How is God calling you to express your faith through love now?

 

I hope to see you Sunday.

T W @ B for June 5

This week we will be continuing our "Blockbusters" sermon series by looking at Forrest Gump.  Forrest Gump, starring Tom Hanks, came out in 1994 and immediately became a classic.  It grossed over $675 million and won numerous awards including 6 Academy Awards including Picture of the year.  We also know it brought many "Gumpisms" into our common vernacular.  One of the things I find the most humorous about the movie is that Forrest seems to turn up wherever there is something important going on.  There is more than enough material in this one movie to serve as a backdrop for an entire sermon series, but we only have one week to spend with the movie.  I will say that one of the things that draws us to Forrest in the movie is that he never gives up and is always very genuine and authentic in the things he says and does.  Alongside Forrest, we see another character who goes down another path, yet always seems to turn up in the same places as Forrest and that person is Jenny.  Jenny's life is tough, though some by the choices she makes but at the root of it, from pain of wrongs done to her.

 

As you prepare for worship, read the Scripture for the day: 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 and 1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11. Think about in your life the ways in which you are tempted on a regular basis. Think about how your life experiences play into those temptations and your ability to resist or give in to the temptations.  What would it take for you to truly let go of those things that hurt you?  Sunday is also Communion Sunday which serves as a great opportunity to lay down those things that restrict us in our walk with Christ and pick up more of Christ to live inside us so we can be Christ to the world.

 

I hope to see you Sunday.

T W @ B for May 29 - This week, we are beginning our new sermon series entitled "Blockbusters."  It is the season of the movie industry releasing its blockbusters for the summer.  We will be looking at some of the biggest blockbuster movies of all time.  This week, we will kick it off with Star Wars.  I learned that the Star Wars saga has grossed almost $5 billion worldwide in the 34 years of its existence.  That is quite a blockbuster indeed.  The entire series of movies has a strong struggle between good and evil, the force and the dark side.  We know that struggle in our own lives.  Cartoons portray it as having an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other with both whispering into our ears.  Which one will we listen to?  If you are like me, at times I listen to both of them. 

 

In preparation for Sunday, I want you to read the entire book of Jonah.  It is only four short chapters.  It reads quick.  Think about the struggles in this story.  Nineveh was considered an evil place, yet God extended them grace much to Jonah's chagrin.  Can you think how this might relate to Star Wars?  Hmmmmm.  Can you think of a time in your life when you were given a second chance like Nineveh was?  How did that make you feel?  Did you take full advantage of it?  Also, can you relate to the struggle between good and evil within your own life? 

 

One of the hopes of this sermon series is to have some fun while we are learning important lessons for our faith so I hope you will commit to being here for all of this series.  It promises to be a great ride!

 

I hope to see you Sunday.

T W @ B for May 22 - This Sunday is youth Sunday.  The youth, under the leadership of Jason Sansbury, will be completely leading both services.  Youth will be involved in every aspect of the service.  Two of our youth will even be preaching the sermon.  The youth choir will be singing at both services as well.  Youth Sunday is always a Sunday I look forward to.  It is a great opportunity to hear how God is working in the lives of our youth and to encourage them as they grow in their faith.  It is also a great opportunity for them to lead us and challenge us and lead us to be all that God has for us.  Youth are not the only ones who should be growing in their faith, so this can serve as a reminder to us to continue growing in who we are as followers of Jesus.

 

As we prepare for worship Sunday, I am reminded that we began TW@B almost a year ago as a means of making sure everyone was informed and on the same page leading up to worship so that no one was surprised by the experience on Sunday morning.  With that said, I want to remind our 8:15 crowd that this will not be the usual service you have come to expect at 8:15.  It will be more modern as this is the means that our youth are more comfortable with.  I will say, though, that in preparation for Youth Sunday, our youth have taken into consideration the fact that we offer two distinct types of worship at Bethlehem and they are trying to choose songs for 8:15 that will be more familiar and comfortable for those who prefer traditional worship.  The youth praise team will be leading worship at both services, but the song selections will be different.  Even if this is not your preferred worship style, it is a great "Really?  THAT is in the Bible?! opportunity to show your support for our youth and their hard work and willingness to lead worship. 

 

I assure you, this will be a glorious opportunity of worship for our Lord!

T W @ B for May 15 - This Sunday we will have the Adult Hand Bell Choir helping to lead worship at both services.  It is always a blessing to have them a part of worship.  They add so much to it.  In preparation for Sunday, I want to encourage you to read John 10:1-10.  Notice the different ways someone can enter the sheepfold - through the gate or by climbing over the fence.  In our culture today, if someone is trying to enter a house by climbing the back fence, we can normally assume they are up to no good, right?  The same was true then.  Jesus is at the gate monitoring who enters because he is protecting his sheep.  You have to be careful about those that try to sneak in from the side.  Often times, this passage is interpreted as the way of following Jesus is the "straight and narrow" and perhaps in some ways that is the case.  However, Jesus is clear that while the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy; Jesus comes to give life and life abundantly.  The way Jesus has laid out for us is the way that leads to the most productive life for us.   A question that might be uncomfortable reflecting on, but is needed in all of our lives is "where am I not doing things the way I should?  Where am I doing business in my life in a way more like the thief than like Jesus?"  I have heard character defined as how we act when no one's looking.  How do you act when no one's looking?

T W @ B for May 8 - This Sunday is Mother's Day and we will be recognizing in worship the impact that our Mothers have on our lives.  Obviously we all have a biological mother, but there are also many who have been spiritual mothers to us.  Sunday School teachers, youth leaders, teachers, aunts, friends, neighbors, etc who have "mothered" us and nurtured us to the people we are today.  There are many people in my life who have never given birth or adopted a child yet have been a motherly influence in many children's lives.  The Scripture for Sunday will be from 2 Timothy 1:1-7.  Notice how Paul addresses Timothy and speaks of his faith in terms of the faith of his grandmother and his mother.  Their faith played a large part in shaping him to be the faithful disciple he was.  I want you to think back in your life at those people who have influenced you.  Who helped shape your faith?  Also, think in your life as to those person's whose faith you have helped shape.  Our job is always to take from those spiritual mentors in our lives and pass it along to the next generation.  It is imperative for the success of the future that we take action to help shape and form that future generation of leaders.  What a responsibility that places on us.  The final thing I want you to think of is where might God be calling you to take the time to nurture someone and help them to grow into a Christian leader?  We are all called to pass it on!

T W @ B for May 1 - Sunday is communion Sunday, and at both services we will be coming to our Lord's Table.  That is always a special time in the life of the church.  The communion offering will be directed to "Imagine No More Malaria."  We are still in the Easter season and Sunday's sermon will pick up after the resurrection of Christ.  In preparation for Sunday's sermon, read Luke 24:13-35.  Put yourself in the position of the two men who were on their way to the village in Emmaus when Jesus came and walked beside them without them realizing it was Jesus.  What would be going through your mind when this guy started saying and opening Scripture to them in a way that only Jesus had?  Then, when they get to their destination and Jesus stays to eat with them and breaks bread and their eyes are opened to the fact this was Jesus, can you imagine the joy they felt?  In your life, can you think of times when Jesus was right there with you, yet for whatever reason you failed to realize it until later?  Why do you think at times we fail to realize Christ's presence with us?  Easter reminds us that not even death could keep Jesus away from us.  Easter is the promise of God fulfilled to always be with us and never leave us.  Who needs to hear that message in your life today?  How can you share that hope with them?

T W @ B for April 24 - This week at Bethlehem we celebrate the ultimate event of our faith with Easter Sunday.   Our power comes from the fact that our leader is not dead, but alive and with us still today.  No other religion can claim that.  The best thing you can do in preparation for Sunday is to attend the Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services this week because they will do a great job of helping us all to appreciate the moment on Sunday.  In addition to that, I encourage you to read one of the Gospel accounts of the resurrection story.  Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20 all share the story in their own way of Jesus' resurrection. 

 

We will finish our "Final Words" sermon series with the final word of "futility."  As you reflect on futile actions in your life or that you have witnessed, read Matthew 27:62-66 and think about how futile the attempts were to secure the grave.  What hope do you hold in the fact that NOTHING can hold Jesus?

Sunday is a big day.  Be excited!

T W @ B for April 17 - This week at Bethlehem we begin Holy Week by reflecting on another "Final Word" of Jesus' and that is "Courage."  There are many times when he says to be not afraid or to take courage, but this Sunday I want us to reflect on how he spoke of courage without saying a word.  This Sunday we begin Holy Week with the celebration of Palm Sunday.  Palm Sunday recalls the triumphal entry Jesus made into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey with people laying palm branches and coats on the ground in front of him as he entered the city. 

 

This was a very courageous act.  What we tend to forget at this point is that Jerusalem is the location where the opposition to Jesus was the strongest.  There was a strong group of people in Jerusalem, led by the religious leaders, that wanted Jesus arrested and/or killed.  They were plotting on how to do just that.  It is into the middle of this that Jesus came.  He wasn't naïve about it, either.  He knew full well what was being plotted and what he was walking into, but he also knew that this was the only faithful response he could make.  So, with great courage, Jesus came to Jerusalem. 

 

As you prepare for worship Sunday, read Matthew 21:1-11 and think about the courage this took.  Think also about times in your life when you were faced with difficult situations that required a great deal of courage.  Where did you find that courage?  How did that turn out?  I would also ask, if we are followers of Jesus, and Jesus showed this type of courage in obeying God, then what does God ask of us as his followers in the face of difficulty or hardship?  How do we live out our faith with courage?

 

I hope to see you Sunday!

T W @ B for April 10 - This Sunday we are continuing on with our "Final Words" sermon series.  This week's final word is "Forgiven."  I think this is a word that is often taken for granted, but we seldom realize the full impact of its meaning.  If you are like me, you like the idea of being forgiven, for I have much that I need forgiveness for. However, what is our responsibility in accepting forgiveness?  What is our response in the face of being wronged by others?  How does forgiveness factor into how we treat others? 

 

In preparation for Sunday, read Mark 2:1-12.  Look for the place where Jesus specifically addresses forgiveness in this passage.  What does this say to you about forgiveness?  What kind of importance does Jesus place on forgiveness of sins especially in light of the reason the man was there to see Jesus in the first place?

 

Also, in thinking about forgiveness, we must always remember that in the prayer Jesus taught, he prayed "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."  When I think about what it is I am praying, I am not sure all of the times that I want Jesus to judge me by the same standard with which I judge others.  What is Jesus saying in directing us to pray this way?

 

Finally, note that when we pray the prayer of confession (usually before communion), the historic response is "in the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven."  Why is it important to preface that it is done "in the name of Jesus"?
 

I hope to see you Sunday.

T W @ B for April 3 - This Sunday we are continuing on with our "Final Words" sermon series.  This week's final word is "Restore."  We take for granted what this word means, but by the shear etymology of it we see that something was, but no longer is, and is in need of being brought back to its original state.  We are a people in need of being restored.  We were created perfectly, but our sinfulness and human condition have caused us to need to be taken back to our "factory settings."  This is why Jesus is so important.  He is the only one capable of restoring us.  It is very appropriate to be receiving our Lord's Supper at both services this Sunday as we reflect on the importance of Jesus in restoring us. 

 

In looking at this idea, we will be discussing a very familiar biblical story - the story of the prodigal son.  It is found in Luke 15:11-32.  I would encourage you to not assume you remember the story, but rather go back and re-read it looking for new insight into the story.  It is often in the parts we are most familiar that we miss messages God has for us because we simply overlook them.

T W @ B for March 27 - This Sunday we continue with our "Final Words" sermon series and look at Jesus' final words to "Stop." Again, these are not his literal final words, but instead the major themes he left us with on how to live the most productive life possible. In preparation for Sunday, think about the word "stop" and the benefit it brings in your life. What if there were no stop signs or opportunities in our life to stop working or to stop and rest? Stopping can be a good thing. The Psalmist reminds us to be still and know God. In other words, take time to stop. Was it Shakespeare that said take time to stop and smell the roses?

 

Stopping can be something we do not want to do, either.  This is especially true if someone else is telling us to stop.  However, as any loving parent knows, we are not doing our job if we do not tell our children to stop doing things that could hurt them or others.  Jesus is often times telling us to stop.  Just like coming to a stop sign, stopping gives us the opportunity to pause and evaluate the situation so we can make the best decisions possible.  We all need to stop from time to time.  What are you doing that you need to stop?  Where is God calling you to stop? 

 

In preparation for the sermon, read John 8:1-11 and think about the different ways and people Jesus says "stop" to.  Why did each of these need to stop?  What can we learn from that this lent?

 

I have heard from so many people how well Rebecca and Jason have done the last two weeks.  I hope you are not disappointed to have me back this week.  I know I am glad to be back and am ready to march toward Easter with you.  I hope to see you Sunday. 

T W @ B for March 20 - This Sunday, Jason will be kicking off a new sermon series that will be running through Easter entitled "Final Words."  Often times in Lent, there will be a sermon series centered around Jesus' final words while hanging on the cross (which makes for a very valid series), but this is a different kind of final words series.  In the Sunday's of Lent, we will be reflecting on the major themes of Jesus' life and teachings, words that have lasted and are key to our faith today.  Jason will be kicking off the series this Sunday and talking about the final words of Jesus to show compassion.  His texts will be Isaiah 63:7-9 and Matthew 9:27-38.  As you read these and prepare for Jason's sermon, reflect on the idea of compassion.  Compassion should move us toward action, yet how often do we become discouraged because the need is so great and we are only one person?  Think about a time in your life when someone showed compassion to you.  How did that impact you?  Where might God be calling you to show compassion now?  How can you impact someone's life through showing them compassion?

T W @ B for March 13 - This Sunday, we will be celebrating Children's Sabbath.  Rebecca and the children's ministry team and children have been working hard in preparation for this Sunday.  It is important for all of us to be reminded that the children are not just the future of the church.  They are the present!  Jesus said let the children come to me for such is the kingdom of God.  There is a lot we can learn from our kids.  Be sure and come out to support them this Sunday. 

As you prepare for worship, read Romans 12:1-2, 9-21.  Rebecca will be sharing a message on this text.  In preparation, she asked that you think about the journey we are beginning this week with Ash Wednesday called Lent.  Hopefully, when we complete this journey on Easter Sunday, we will not be the same as when we began.  If we do this correctly, we should be transformed.  What does the Romans text say to you about transformation?  How can God transform us?  What are the ways you renew your mind?  These are important things to think about as we begin this season together.  I hope you will be here Sunday to support our kids and to worship God!

T W @ B for March 06 - This week at Bethlehem we wrap up our Tapestries sermon series with our "Weavings of Generosity."  Generosity is a primary fabric of our lives because we are not created and placed on this earth to simply serve ourselves.  We all have a higher calling given to us, and that is to make a difference, to impact other's lives.  We will have the ultimate model of generosity before us as this is Communion Sunday.   Jesus was generous to the point that he gave to the point of even giving his life as a ransom for us.

In preparation for Sunday, read Romans 8:31-39 and Mark 12:41-44.  Think about what each of these two pieces of Scripture says about generosity and how that relates to us today.  Where is God calling you to be generous?  Where is God wanting to use you to make a difference in someone else's life?  These are important questions, questions that we all should be asking ourselves.  The church is a medium for us being able to be a beacon of generosity to the world so that the world will understand the love of Christ for them through us and our work!  There is no more important work that we can be a part of.

T W @ B for February 27 - This week we continue in our sermon series, "Tapestries."  This week we will weave into our foundation of love and faith the fabric of service.  When I say service, I don't mean it like the young man who pointed at the pictures of all of the men and women in uniform in the back of the church under the banner that said "Killed in Service" and asked the preacher if they were killed in the 8:15 or 10:45 service.  Service is about recognizing that we live in community and we are called to support, encourage, and share life with those we come in contact with.  Life is so much more than just us, and Jesus is always pointing out those in our midst that we are called to serve.

 

In preparation for this Sunday, I want you to read Mark 10:35-45.  Think about what this text has to say about service.  Why do you think the disciples' dialogue prompted this from Jesus?  How is Jesus our model for how we are supposed to serve?  Serving others is a privilege because it molds us more into the image of Christ, which is our goal!

 

I hope to see you Sunday.

T W @ B for February 20 - This week we continue in our sermon series, "Tapestries."  This week we will weave into our foundation of love the fabric of faith.  Faith is another of those basic tenets of who we are.  In our Scripture from last week, Paul says that Faith, Hope and Love abide.  All three are extremely important.  Faith helps us to move forward when we want to give up.  Hebrews 11:1 describes faith as "confidence in what we hope for and assurance of what we do not see."  What is faith to you?  What do you put your faith in?

 

In preparation for this Sunday, I want you to read 1 Corinthians 1:1-9 and Matthew 17:14-21.  Think about what each of these has to say about faith.  What does a "mustard seed faith" mean?  Do you have that kind of faith?  Where do you struggle in your faith?  These are all good questions to reflect on in preparation for Sunday. 

 

And remember - it is not just about our faith.  More importantly, it is about how God is faithful to us!  I hope to see you Sunday.

T W @ B for February 13 -This week we begin a new sermon series entitled "Tapestries."  A couple of weeks ago, we assembled a group of people of all ages and experiences and had discussions centered around 4 topics: love, faith, service, and generosity.  We videoed these and are working through the editing process to pull out some of the many gems that were brought out in the discussions.  In essence, these persons are going to co-preach this sermon series with me.  With these dialogues along with my input, we hope to weave a beautiful tapestry around the theme each week.  A powerful theme that runs through this sermon series is again the fact that we need each other and are better and stronger together than any one individual alone.  From the youngest member to the oldest, what makes Bethlehem special is each of her members coming together as one body.  I am excited about this sermon series!

 

This week's tapestry is Weavings of Love.  I guess it is appropriate since it is the day before Valentine's Day.  But we know love means so much more.  In fact, the Greek has three words for love because one cannot encompass the full scope of love.  The first word is "eros" which is more of an erotic type love.  The second is "phileo" (Philadelphia) which is a friendship/ brotherly love.  The third is "agapao" which is a self sacrificing kind of love.  The third word is always the form of love used when talking about God's love for us.  This is a love that has no end.

 

In preparation for this week's sermon, read 1 Corinthians 13.  This is a familiar text, but read it like it is the first time you have ever seen it.  Look for things that maybe you have never noticed in the text before.  Why is love so important according to this chapter?  What happens when love is not present?  How does love change things?

 

I hope you will spend time this week thinking about how much God loves you and how that should and does change you, too.  I hope to see you Sunday.


T W @ B for February 6 - In preparation for Sunday, read Hebrews 12:1-3,14-15 and Philippians 2:1-4, 12-16.  In both of these pieces of Scripture, reflect on the theme of supporting each other and helping each other in our faith journey.  Look at how the writer in each text shares the need to be in support of each other.  Then, reflect on the following questions: How is the church called to do this in its members' lives?  How can I do a better job of supporting others in their faith journey?  Where do I need the support of others to grow in my faith?

 

We will be celebrating Holy Communion at both services on Sunday and then have the opportunity for a "love feast" (which is what the first century Christians called the meal they would always eat together in conjunction with Communion) together with the youth "Souper" Sunday soup cookoff after church.  It is appropriate for us to have lunch together after having received our Lord's Supper together in worship.  I hope to see you Sunday.

T W @ B for January 30 -  In preparation for Sunday, read Micah 6:1-8.  You will find Micah 6:8 very familiar to you, but look at the verses leading up to it.  There is a progression in this text that is important: listening, hearing, and doing.  The first two are difficult to do, but often times the third one is forgotten altogether.  We must listen to what God is asking of us, hear what he wants us to do, THEN we must do it!  That is critically important. 

 

In preparation for Sunday, I want you to think about whether you have been listening to God and hearing what he has been saying to you.  I also want you to think about what it is God wants you to be doing.  I can tell you from both experience and from God's word, God does have something for you to do.  In fact, there are things you are uniquely gifted and qualified to do, things that if you do not do then will not get done.  Are you listening?

T W @ B for January 23 - We will finish our "New and Now" series this week with the focus this Sunday being "Faith 2.0."  For just about everything in the software segment, there are updates that take the basic software and update it.  The basic premise is that when you are using something, you see areas that need to be improved.  Thus, the 2.0 version is better than the original and the 3.0 is better than the 2.0.  So it should be with our faith.  As we use our faith and put it into practice, we should be able to better see the flaws we have and work on those to improve them and make our faith stronger.  It takes work, though.  We must be willing to put our faith into practice in a way that tests it and strengthens it. 

 

In preparation for Sunday, read John 5:1-15.  Think about this man who had been able to walk and move for so long.  Then think about Jesus' response to him.  What do you think Jesus meant when he asked the man, "Do you want to be well?"  Why would he ask the man what seems to be an obvious question?  It seems like a silly question, yet we all know so many people who we think want to be well, yet do not do what it takes to be well.  What is the needed step to get well?  What was this man's needed steps?  What steps do you need to take in your life to get where you need to be in your spiritual journey?  I hope one of those steps is to worship God on Sunday.  I hope to see you then!

T W @ B for January 16 - We will be continuing on with our "New and Now" series with the focus this Sunday being "The Gift that Keeps on Giving."  This is a nice way of saying we are going to be talking about re-gifting.  Now be honest, how many of you re-gift presents you receive?  I know of some who have a bag of gifts they have been given (lotions, soaps, earrings, CD's, etc) that are ready for impromptu gifts they have to give to others.   At Christmas there is always the sanctimonious fruit cake that always seems to be passed around.  After being at some of the Sunday School parties, I know there are gifts there that are re-gifted each year, too.  But what other gifts do we have that we re-gift, and is that a good thing to re-gift?  The answer Sunday may surprise you.

 

In preparation for Sunday, read Luke 11:33-36 and Luke 6:27-36, 43-45.  Think about what Jesus is saying in each of these and what may be some of the things we re-gift and what is the impact these gifts can have?  This weekend the country remembers the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and the impact he had on our culture.  I have been reading a lot of his work this week and will be pulling from some of it for Sunday.  There is one quote that will be a building block for the sermon from him.  In one of his sermons, he says, "darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."  What does this statement mean to you?  I hope to see you Sunday.

T W @ B for January 9 -This week at Bethlehem, we are continuing on with our "New and Now" sermon series.  This week, we will be looking at Christmas gifts and whether we should "Keep it or Return it?"  I bet we all have a few of those gifts that we have questioned whether we should return them or not.  If we do that, though, then we have to worry about the feelings of the person who gave it to us.  For most of us, I guess we get over that because I have seen some seriously long return lines in stores after Christmas.  We are not afraid to return our Christmas gifts.  But what about the primary gift of Christmas - the gift of Jesus?  What should we do with this gift and all the gifts God has given to us?  That is what

we will talk about Sunday.  You might be surprised with the answer to these questions. 

 

 

In preparation for Sunday, read Isaiah 42:1-9 and Psalm 24.  As you read them, I want you to ask yourself, "What in the world does this have to do with whether we should return our Christmas presents or not?"  That is probably a good place to start.  I also want you to really spend some time thinking about what gifts God has given to you, and what you do with those gifts you have been given.

 

The chancel choir will be back at early service after a couple of weeks off and the Bluegrass Band will be playing at both services Sunday.  I hope to see you there.

T W @ B for January 2 - This week at Bethlehem we are back on a normal schedule of Sunday morning activities, though our Sunday evening programming will NOT be back up.  At both services, we will begin a new sermon series entitled "New and Now."  In it, we will look at the ways we are to apply the historic Scriptures into our life today to make a new and growing faith.  We will have Holy Communion at both services and will also celebrate in the church's covenant relationship with God. 

 

The Scripture for this week will be 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 and the sermon will be entitled "The Latest and Greatest."  As we are coming out of the Christmas season, we were constantly inundated with the latest and greatest toys, games, gadgets, and electronics for us to buy.  What, however, does it mean for us to have our latest and greatest faith?  Isn't our old faith good enough?  What does a new faith mean?  What does Paul mean in his letter to the church at Corinth when he says, "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation?"  Think about those things in preparation for the services Sunday. 

T W @ B for December 26 -  This Week at Bethlehem, on Christmas Eve, we will be exploring two often overlooked characters in the Christmas Story - Simeon and Anna.  Both are alone and have devoted themselves to work at the Temple while praying and longing to live long enough to be able to see the Messiah come.  You can read their story in Luke 2:22-38.  It seems a little odd to focus on them on Christmas Eve, but trust me, their story is so key to the importance of Christmas.  Think about it, if you were them, what you must have felt as the baby Jesus was brought to them in the Temple.  Read their responses in the text and you can sense how emotional it was for them.  It is a beautiful scene, and one that gives comfort if we think about it. 

 

The music on Christmas Eve will be spectacular.  The Chancel Choir will have two anthems at 6:00, the Praise Team at 8:00, and the Bluegrass Band at 11:00.  John Boyd will sing O Holy Night at 6:00 and 11:00 and Maggie McNulty will have a special song at 8:00.  All three services will close with Holy Communion followed with singing Silent Night by Candlelight. 

 

On Sunday, December 26, we will look at how Christmas interrupted the wise men.  You can read their story in Matthew 2.  They took great risk to pay homage to the newborn king.  They were supposed to report back to the king the child's location so he could have Jesus killed.  They chose not to.  This choice caused them to lose their status and become fugitives themselves.  Yet, their encounter with Jesus changed them.  I hope you will come Sunday morning at 10:00 for this time of worship.  Don't let the simplicity of the service fool you.  After all, that first Christmas was pretty simple, yet powerful.  This Sunday promises to be the same.  It is a time to rejoice and celebrate "Joy to the world, the Lord has come!  Let earth receive her king."  Come as you are, but come.  Just like the wise men, we are to make our pilgrimage to worship the newborn king.

T W @ B for December 19 -   This Week at Bethlehem, as we continue our Christmas Interrupted series, we are going to look at Mary and Joseph.  Can you imagine what must have gone through their minds through this whole process?  Can you imagine the sacrifices they were asked to make in order to be the earthly parents of God?  Read Luke 1:26-38 and Isaiah 7:10-16 in preparation for Sunday and think about the role Mary and Joseph played in God's plan of salvation through Jesus and the sacrifices they made.

 

The Christmas Cantata/Music Program was absolutely magnificent Sunday afternoon.  The only problem was that many did not get to see it because of the inclement weather.  Thus, we are trying to get as many people together to do a portion of it at each service Sunday morning.  We have taken out some elements of worship to make room.  The Chancel Choir will be singing a portion of the program at the early service and the children will be doing their part at the late service.  This will help us get ready for Christmas on this, the last Sunday of Advent. 

T W @ B for December 12 -   This Week at Bethlehem, as we continue our Christmas Interrupted series, we are going to look at the shepherds.  If you read the Christmas story from Luke 2, you will see that after Jesus is born, the first place where his birth is proclaimed is to the shepherds who are hard at work watching over their flocks by night.  What would you think were you in their shoes and that happened?  What do you think is the significance of the fact that they were the first to hear the good news of Jesus birth?  Have you ever had an incredible blessing brought to you while doing ordinary, mundane things - even working?  Read the story from Luke 2 again and focus on the shepherds and see if you notice anything new about what happens with them.

T W @ B for December 5 -  This Week at Bethlehem, as we continue our Christmas Interrupted series, we are going to look at the Innkeeper.  Now he has a bad reputation in the Christmas story which I think is unjustified.  It is not his fault that the Inn he manages only has twelve rooms (or however many), and all those are filled.  It falls into the category of "you just can't make everyone happy.  Problem is, the family he had to turn away ended up being part of the most read story ever, and so did he.  So this week we are going to examine a little closer his life and how Christmas interrupted him and the significance of that.  In preparation for Sunday, read Isaiah 11:1-10 and the first part of the Christmas Story from Luke 2.  I want you to think about what you would do if you were the innkeeper and perhaps ways in which you have had to tell Jesus that you have "no room" in your life for him.  These are valuable thoughts this Advent season as we seek to make room for the birth of Christ at Christmas. 

 

We will have communion at both services this Sunday.  On the first Sunday of December, I always think that the next time we take communion it will be Christmas (or at least Christmas Eve).  For whatever reason that is always encouraging to me.

TW@B Notes (This Week at Bethlehem) (click here for all the TW@B Notes)

T W @ B for November28 -   This Week at Bethlehem, as we begin our Christmas Interrupted series, we are going to be looking at Zechariah and Elizabeth.  They are the parents of John the Baptizer.  In preparation for Sunday, read Luke 1 and think about how Christmas interrupted their life.  In other words, they played an important role in setting the stage for Christmas and it drastically altered their life.  Because of Christmas, their lives were enhanced and they found fulfillment from the thing that was missing in their life.  Think back in your life at times in which you have found great fulfillment, joy, and love from this season of the year?  Think about times in which there were unexpected surprises that turned out to be great joys in your life.  I wonder what must have been going through Zechariah and Elizabeth's minds as they discovered they were pregnant after so many years of trying.  How do you think they (or at least Elizabeth) went around telling everyone of the big news?

 

This Sunday at both services we are going to have our Hanging of the Greens service to prepare our Sanctuary for the season at hand.  This is a service rich in symbols and heritage.  It is always one of my favorites each year.  The services will be slightly different depending on whether you are at 8:15 or 10:45, but both will encompass the elements that are so important on this first Sunday of Advent.

T W @ B for November 21 -   This Week at Bethlehem, in addition to celebrating Christ our King, we are also going to reflect on Thanksgiving.  The Scriptures we will be using are Colossians 1:10-20 and Psalm 118:1-9, 19-29.  As you read these verses, think about the impact they have in your life and the responses that seem to automatically bubble up as you reflect.  The title of my sermon is "Necessary Redundancies."  A redundancy is something that seemingly goes without saying, offering more information than necessary.  However, there are a lot of things in our lives that we think are understood and can go without saying, but in actuality are necessary and should be said in our lives more often than we do.  What are some necessary redundancies in you relationship with God?  Your spouse and family?  Your colleagues and friends?  We are going to look at some of these most important redundancies and how they can transform us and draw us into a deeper relationship with Jesus.

T W @ B for November 14 - This Sunday is Laity Sunday in the life of the church.  We celebrate the common ministry we share together in the work of the church.  We have seven certified lay speakers who will be assisting in worship in some manner.  This is a time of celebration and recognition that the ministry of the church is not dependant on one person or a certain position (such as pastor) but we all share in this important work together.  Each of the lay speakers will have a role in one or both of the services, leading us all in worship.  Lee Ann Bauer has been preparing the message for Sunday, and in true teacher fashion her sermon title is "What if Jesus Held Parent-Teacher Conferences."  I think we can all get a chuckle from that sermon title.  In fact, I have a few beads of sweat on my forehead as I think about it.  Her Scriptures will be Deuteronomy 6:4-7 and Revelation 20:12-15.  As you read them in preparation for her sermon, I want you to think about how the Deuteronomy text in particular serves as a plumb line for us in determining our faithfulness to God.  What does it mean to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength?  We know Jesus reiterated that as a key element of faithfulness while adding "and you shall love your neighbor as yourself." 

 

I am not sure what Lee Ann is going to say, but judging from her Scripture, I wonder in my life what Jesus would say about me were I called in to have a parent-teacher conference with him.  HMMM?  I cannot wait to hear more. . .

 

Pray for me this Sunday as I will be finishing up my last face to face with the group I have been meeting with this year.  This group is made up of pastors from all over the southeastern US and this will be our fourth time to meet in person.  We have monthly video conferences as well.  This has been a very beneficial group for me to be a part of.  I feel like I have learned so much from these men and our leaders.  In some ways our time will be bittersweet.

T W @ B for November 7 – There will be a lot going on this week at Bethlehem.  The first Sunday in November is always designated All Saints Sunday and with that we will remember those from our Bethlehem family who have transferred their membership from Bethlehem to the church triumphant.  There are seven persons from Bethlehem who have passed in the last year and we remember them all with tears in our eyes and smiles on our faces.  Conversely and appropriately, we will also be welcoming seven confirmands into the life of the church.  As I reflected on the importance of seven passing and seven becoming new Christians, my thoughts turned to the Circle of Life image and how appropriate it is for us to recognize these two things on the same day.  I dare say that the work and involvement of some of the seven who we remember set the stage at Bethlehem for the seven who will be making their first public profession of Faith.  Isn’t that wonderful to think about?  We celebrate God’s goodness and faithfulness this week in lives well lived and in lives that are just beginning.  Thanks be to God. 

Also on Sunday, we will have several other families “make it official” by joining the church.  This is reason to rejoice.  It is all of our jobs to reach out and make them feel welcomed and at home at Bethlehem.

The Scripture for Sunday is from Hebrews 12:1-6.  Look over the first several verses of the chapter and think about what it means to be “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” and how we are called to “run the race with perseverance while keeping our eyes on Jesus who is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”  The circle of life is an important part of who we are as followers of Jesus.  I think we can learn a great deal from the Saints we remember on Sunday and the confirmands beginning their journey.  We will be having Holy Communion at both services as well.

T W @ B for October 31- This Sunday is our consecration Sunday, and there will be an opportunity to turn in the lower portions of your cards you received.  The sermon title is "Embrace Surrender."  The Scriptures will be Psalm 31 and Luke 23:44-49.  In both of these texts, we will be focusing on the statement, "Father into your hands I commit my spirit."  This is the statement Jesus makes on the cross, but he is literally quoting (or probably singing) that line from the Psalm.  Once again, even in his dying moments, Jesus is modeling the right way we are to live - SURRENDER!  This is a model we are to live out not only when life is difficult but also when life is good.  The best and most fruitful life for us is lived in surrender to God. 

 

The handbell choir will be playing at both services.  The sound of the bells always helps aid worship, allowing us to be contemplative and reflective of our faith in those moments.

TW@B for October 24- This Sunday at Bethlehem, we are continuing on in our "Made to Worship" series and will focus on "We are Forgiven and Free."  It is an amazing thing to realize, as Paul says, that nothing can separate us from the love of God through Jesus.  That nothing definitely includes our sin.  No matter where we have been or what we have done, it will not cause God to stop loving us.  It is just not in God's character.  God is love, remember!

 

Freedom comes from realizing we are forgiven.  That is why Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, told the disciples that his body would be broken and blood shed for freedom from slavery to sin and death.  For those of us in the church who realize this in our lives, we have a call to help free others from the things that hold them slaves.

 

In preparation for this week's sermon, I want you to read all of Romans 8.  As you read, reflect on the message Paul is sharing with the church in Rome.  Look at the contrasting image Paul gives about living in the flesh and living by the spirit.  One is inhibiting while the other freeing.  One leads to death and the other life. What do you think it means to live by the spirit?  How are we more than conquerors?

 

T W @ B for October 17 - This week at Bethlehem, Jason will be preaching at both services.  Jason is an incredible preacher, and I know you will be blessed by his message.  I know it is comforting for me to know that Jason is around when I need to be out of the pulpit on a Sunday morning.  This Sunday, Heather, Tyler and I will be on the Florida panhandle enjoying a little rest and relaxation.  Pray for us, please that we will find that rest so I can be rejuvenated and refreshed so when I come back, I will be the pastor this church deserves.

 

In preparation for worship this week, I want you to read the Scriptures for worship: Matthew 22:34-40 and 1 Corinthians 15:20-28.  In reflection, think about what it means to be called to love?  What does love look like?  Specifically, Jason wants you to think, in conjunction with the Corinthians text, where are some places in your life where you see crosses?

TW@B for October 10 - This week's service will be focused on the primary theme's task: Made to Worship.  Our thoughts will be centered around this as a means of stewardship.  Our thoughts will center around two Scriptures: 1 Corinthians 10:23-33 and Psalm 150.  In particular, we will focus on two particular verses within: 1 Corinthians 10:31 - "so whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." And Psalm 150:6 - "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord."

 

As you read these two passages and prepare for worship Sunday, I want you to stop . . . even right now just stop . . . and be very still and just listen to the sound of your body breathing. . . "be still and know that I AM God."  Understand that our worship of God should be as natural to us as our breathing.  I will talk about that more on Sunday, but in the mean time, just give thanks to God for giving you the breath of life today. 

 

In your reflections, the key to this year's stewardship campaign is talents, abilities, and passions.  These were all given to you by God for a reason and there is a way for you to use them to glorify God.  We want to find that way.  Where your talents and abilities and passions intersect with the work of building God's kingdom is the place you need to be.  That is the place where you can thrive and grow and be all that God wants you to be.  I am not sure we have been doing this as a church, but we should be.  Ask yourself what talents, abilities, and passions you have that God can use.  If you have passions and talents and abilities you want to use but are unsure how, come talk to me and I promise there is a way.  God wants to use you, and you need to be used.

TW@B Notes for October 3 - We will end our sermon series on "Who do You Say that I AM?" this Sunday with the words from John 11 where Jesus addresses Mary and Martha after their brother Lazarus has died and says, "I AM the resurrection and the life.  Those who believe in me even though they die, yet shall they live.  And those who believe in me will never die."  You can read pretty much all of John 11 to get the full story.  We will be reading verses 17-44 on Sunday.  In addition, we will be looking at 2 Timothy 1:1-14 and what Paul has to say about Jesus being the resurrection.  It is very appropriate to think about this theme on a day in which we will be receiving Holy Communion. 

 

The text from John is one I use in all of the funerals I do because I think it is a passage that gives such hope.  Reflect on those words and think about what hope it gives you?  As you read the text, think about what the image of Lazarus means in our lives?  What does it mean in the life of the church, too? 

 

We are resurrection people.  We have the luxury of living on this side of Easter.  Jesus is the only person to conquer death.  I always like to tease that poor Lazarus had to die twice.  I'm sure that was not fun, but it is the truth.  Jesus is the only one that has truly conquered death and has opened life up for us.  That is good news and reason to celebrate.

 

I hope to see you Sunday for that Celebration!

TW@B Notes for September 26 - Bethlehem we will be continuing in our 3 week "mini-series" entitled "Who Do You Say that I AM?"  Last week we talked about the importance of those seven recorded times when Jesus begins a statement clearly with "I AM" (see Exodus 3 to get insight; you can also listen to the sermon on the church website).  We also looked at one of those statements, "I AM the light of the world."  This Sunday, we will look at a second of these statements when Jesus says, "I AM the way, the truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the father except through me."  This is found in John 14.  The Scripture for the week is John 14:1-14.  As you read it in preparation for Sunday, I want you to pay particular attention to the back and forth between Jesus and his Disciples.  Notice how calm and reassuring Jesus is and how confused the Disciples seem to be.  Before you judge them, though, think about your own life and times in which you have struggled to accept and live out the teachings of Jesus (and we have 2000 years of experience that the disciples did not have). 

 

What does it mean when Jesus calls himself the WAY?  TRUTH?  LIFE?  His statement that "no one comes to the father but by me" is very controversial among some.  They feel it is exclusive.  What do you think? 

 

I hope you will struggle with some of these questions as you reflect on our overarching question that Jesus has asked, "Who do you say that I AM?"  The answer to that question is important.

 

TW@B Notes for September 19

We begin a new sermon series entitled "Who Do You Say that I AM?" transitioning from last week's sermon that dealt with the Scripture.  We will be looking at several of the "I AM" statements that Jesus makes as recorded by John.  This week, we will first look at what Jesus means by continually using the phrase "I AM."  The answer to that can be found in Exodus 3:11-15.  Read that and ponder on the messages Jesus is saying indirectly.  Second, we will be looking at Jesus' statement in John 8:1-12, 58-59 where he says "I AM the light of the world. . ." 

 

What does it mean to have Jesus compare himself to light?  What impact does light have on the world?  How do you use light in your life?  Light is a key symbol in the Bible.  In the beginning, God created light so there would be a separation from the darkness.  Jesus is light that separates us from the dark places of our life and that is important. 

 

If you really want to see the importance John places on light, read through John's Gospel account as well as 1, 2, and 3 John and look for all of his references to light.  If you are internet savvy, you can go to a Bible website like www.biblegateway.com and search for all the Scripture that has "light" in it.  Light is a powerful image, and it is that image we will explore this week.

 

Marlaine and Harry will be leading us at 8:15 and Celia Whitler along with the praise team will lead us at 10:45.  Our Ladies Ensemble will be singing at both services, too. 

 

Are you struggling with darkness in your life or simply have dark places you try to avoid?  Then you need to come reflect who Jesus says he is - the light of the world!

 

TW@B notes for September 12- This Sunday is a transitional Sunday in our sermon series.  We end our "Back to School" series but will also be introducing our next sermon series, "Who Do You Say that I AM?"  This week we will be looking at the Scripture found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke where Jesus turns to his disciples and asks, "Who do people say that I AM?"  They respond in a number of different ways.  People thought a lot of different things about Jesus and the disciples were honest in their appraisal of that.  Jesus then follows that up with another question, "Who do YOU say that I AM?"  This question is different.  It cuts to the chase of where his disciples stand.  Read Matthew 16:13-20 to re-familiarize yourself with the story then read 1 Timothy 1:12-17 to read how one responds to who Jesus is.  The questions to ponder as you prepare for Sunday's sermon are the following:

-         Who do people say Jesus is today? 

-         Who does the Bible say Jesus is?

-         Who do I say Jesus is?

-         Why is it important for me to know who Jesus is to me?

 Beginning next week, we will be looking at some of the "I AM" statements Jesus makes in the Gospel according to John.  He makes seven of them, saying I AM the bread of life; light of the world; the door; the good shepherd; the resurrection and the life; the way, truth, and the life; and the true vine.  What does each of these statements say about who Jesus is?

 

Our youth choir will be singing at 10:45 this week.  It will be good to see them back up there after taking some time off this summer.  The adult choir will be singing at 8:15.  Marlaine will be leading all worship from the organ at 8:15 this week and the youth praise team along with Jason will be leading worship at 10:45. 

 

I hope to see you all Sunday at 8:15 or 10:45 to get "the season" started off right!

TW@B notes for September 5-This Sunday we continue with our Back to School series as we go to history class.  My memories of history class always go back to people, places, and dates.  History tests always tested our ability to recall names of people and places.  Names are a critical part of history, but they are important as they give us insight into story that surrounds the name.  Why is George Washington's name important to our history or Abraham Lincoln's or Ben Franklin?  Their stories profoundly impacted our histories. 

This week's sermon is entitled "Making a Name for Yourself" and we will explore the concept of names within the Biblical Story.  The primary text we will be referring to will be Genesis 11:1-9 but I really considered putting "The Bible" down as the Scripture for the week.  We will begin in the beginning and work our way through the Biblical narrative in a way you have probably never done before with an emphasis on our history and the importance of names throughout the story.  As you prepare for Sunday, I would encourage you to read the entire chapter of Genesis 11 and think about the significance of names in this text.  Then consider your names, all of the names by which you go, and what the significance of each is.  There is one other name I hope you consider, too, and that is child of God!  What significance does that hold in your life?

We will be celebrating Holy Communion in both services this Sunday.

 

TW@B notes for August 29- FINAL REMINDER: We will ONLY be having worship at 8:15 in the sanctuary.  10:45 worship will be at Camp Widjiwagan as part of our church retreat.  If you would like to come for worship only, feel free to come.  If you would like to come and stay the day and enjoy the pool, lake, waterslides, music, games, food, and program, you can still sign up; contact Rebecca (rlittle@bethlehemumc.com) ASAP.  There are scholarships available for the registration costs and there will be group transportation if either poses a problem.  Contact Rebecca for scholarship or transportation assistance.

 

This Sunday as we continue to go "Back to School," we are looking at Recess.  The Scripture for the week are Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16 and Psalm 46.  The sermon title is "The Counterintuitive Nature of Play."  As you prepare for this Sunday, I want you to think about what lessons you learned from "play."  That applies not only to our times of play as children, but I had a fun conversation with a kindred spirit of sorts at church Sunday in which we spoke of the lessons we have learned from playing church league softball.  There are still lessons for us to learn from our times of play as adults just as there are for our kids now.  I also want you to think about things that are productive in your life that may run counterintuitive to what the world says.  I think "play" falls into the category.  The world says work, work, work; but there is a lot of benefit to finding time to play, rest, and relax. 

 

This is appropriate to ponder as we get away as a church to "retreat" or get away from the normal routine.  My prayer is that God will open our eyes to new and vital things for us to see.

T W @ B Notes for August 22 - Our Scripture this Sunday is Jeremiah 1:4-10 and Judges 7:1-7.  As we continue our Back to School series, we are going to Math Class this week.  Numbers are important in our world, and knowledge of math is critical for such basic things as balancing a check book, knowing how much change to give or get, measure whether a bed will fit in your bedroom and on and on.  However, sometimes we can get too caught up in the numbers and think it is all about the numbers.  Throughout the Bible God is constantly reminding us otherwise.  As you read the Judges text (and you may want to start earlier in the text and read beyond these verses to get the full story of Gideon), think about exactly what God is saying to Gideon about numbers.  Consider why it is that God wants the numbers to be that way with Gideon?  Think about times in your life when you have felt outnumbered, overmatched, and unsure where to turn.  What other factors besides "the numbers" did you fail to consider?

TW@B Notes for August 15

Back to School!  For some it is a time of excitement.  For others, it sends shivers down their spines.  That time is here in Williamson County.  Our kids start back to school this week!  We all know to fully embrace life, learning must be a lifelong process.  It is not something that we can say we are done with once we graduate high school, college, or postgraduate education.  In order to be successful, we must continue to grow and learn and seek out knowledge.  Ask anyone who is successful and they will tell you that whether they are professional athletes, businesspeople, teachers, preachers, doctors, or nurses they must always be seeking to grow and learn and get better in their trade.  Many professions require CEU's which spelled out is Continuing Education Units - a processing of continuing to learn and grow!

 

So why would we think that in being a Christian, we should not be looking to grow and learn more about God and his desire for us?  Continuing our education of faith is a key component of who we are as Christians so that is why at Bethlehem, we too are going Back to School.  In addition to the Sunday sermons, let me encourage you to find ways to get involved in some type of Christian learning.  The gathering space has a table filled with opportunities and we are launching a new small group ministry as well. It will help make you a successful Christian and that will add joy and fulfillment to your life.

 

God gave us a brain, and he does not want us to check our brain at the doors of the church.  We are to use it to study and learn and ask questions and seek truth!

TW@B Notes for August 8

This Sunday, our Scripture will be Psalm 50:1-8, 23 and John 14:1-7, 27.  The title of my sermon is "The Search for Peace."  Now, I try not to overindulge in my sermon illustrations with baseball stories, but I cannot resist with this one.  I will be using one of my favorite baseball movies, Field of Dreams, as the backdrop for my sermon.  If you want to do a little extra credit work before Sunday, let me suggest you rent it and watch it (especially if you have never seen it!).  It is a great movie centering around the idea of peace.  It has a great cast, too, with one of my favorites James Earl Jones stealing the show. 

 

In thinking about peace, I want you to ponder the following: what are the sources of turmoil in your life?  What would it take to bring peace there?  What areas do you have peace?  What is the cause of that peace?

 

With me being out of town, I am not sure about all of the music, but it will be like what you have come to expect at 8:15 with Bryan, Harry, and Marlaine leading while the Praise Team will be leading the worship at 10:45.   

 

I look forward to seeing you Sunday!

TW@B Notes for August 1

This Sunday is Communion Sunday and we will be celebrating Holy Communion at both services.  John Boyd will be singing "Grace Alone" at both services.  The Scripture will be Psalm 71:1-6 and Colossians 1:15-28.  The sermon title is "It's All About Who Signs the Letter."  We will be talking about names and the importance they carry.  Some names seemingly carry more weight than others.  Why is that?  What importance does your name hold?  I will tell you one thing to be reminded of this week: you are a child of God, so your family name is powerful!  Never forget that! 

 

At 8:15, Bryan and Marlaine will be sharing the musical leadership and we will be singing Jesus Messiah, His Name is Wonderful, All Hail the Power of Jesus Name, There's Something About That Name and O How I Love Jesus. 

 

At 10:45, we will be going more acoustic with our praise team, singing Blessed Be Your Name, His Name is Wonderful, O How I Love Jesus, Jesus Messiah, and God of Wonders. 

 

I have to say I have really enjoyed the spirit and energy in worship lately.  We should all come expectantly and leave with an understanding that we have had a truly special encounter.  Worship should be a special event in our life each week.

 

 

TW@B Notes for July 25

This Sunday at 8:15, Marlaine and Warren Ells will be leading all of our music.  We are going to pull out a lot of the favorites out of the hymnal, too, singing How Great Thou Art, Trust and Obey, Lord You Have Come to the Lakeshore and Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus.  Warren and Marlaine will also be handling the special music.

 

 
At 10:45, Jason Sansbury and James Kessel, one of the youth summer interns, are putting together an all star praise team to lead worship.  In addition, James will have a special song and one of last year's summer interns, Kevin Crawford, will have a special song. 

Both services promise to be spectacular.

 

The Scriptures for Sunday are Psalm 107:1-9, 43 and Luke 5:1-11.  When you think about the Luke text, think about Peter and what it took to listen to Jesus and ultimately give up everything he had to follow him.  What is it that Jesus asks of you?  How difficult is it for you to be obedient?

TW@B Notes for July 18

This Sunday, the sermon title will be "The Three Great Books" and I want us all to be promoting to people we meet that on that Sunday, we will be discussing the three books that have more influence on our lives than any other.  Here's the kicker - none of them are the Bible.  What would you say the three books that have influenced you the most are?  I guess you will have to come Sunday to find out as well.  I am having cards printed up again this year for us to hand out as teasers for people for Sunday's service.  Be sure and pick some up from me on Friday to hand out and invite people to church.

 

The Scriptures for Sunday are Psalm 85 and Luke 10:38-42.  When you read the Luke text and reflect on Mary and Martha and what each was doing, I want you to think about times when you have been more of a Mary and times when you are more of a Martha.  What did each of their priorities reflect as important to them? 

 

Our Ladies' Ensemble will be sharing special music at each service, and there will be a "man on the street" report about books that have impacted people's lives.  At 10:45, there will also be a song with Kandace Christian and our Praise Team called "Your Love is Lifted Me Higher" which is a great song full of energy with a great message. 

 

Blessings, 
Pastor Ryan

TW@B Notes for July 11

The Scriptures for Sunday are Colossians 1:2b-14 and Revelation 22:1-5.  The sermon title is "A Cool Drink of Water."  When you read that Revelation text think about how appealing a picture that is, especially as we endure near 100 degree heat.  Reflect on the question, "how does Jesus calling himself 'living water' fit in to this image in Revelation?"  Think about a time in your life when you have really been thirsty and how refreshing a cool drink of water was at that moment.

TW@B Notes for July 4-There will be opportunities at both services for us to pay tribute and be reminded of the freedom afforded us by living in the USA while also giving thanks to God for the freedom afforded to us by Jesus.  At 8:15 we will be singing "America the Beautiful."  I love in there were Katherine Bates challenges us as Americans to be all that God has called us to be when she wrote, "America, America, may God thy gold refine till all success be nobleness and every gain divine" and in the third verse writes, "America, America, God mend thine every flaw, confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law."  Those are powerful words, challenging us to be the best nation under God we can be.

 

The Scripture for the services are the following: Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20 and Galatians 5:1, 13-25. The sermon title is "Waving the Flag." I have been thinking about all of the ways and reasons in which we wave or fly flags, American and others.  Of course, one of my favorites is on a football game day to see thousands of orange UT flags flying from car windows as they head east on Interstate 40 toward Knoxville.  We see flags take importance in international competitions like the Olympics and the World Cup, going on now.  It has made me think, what flags do we fly in our lives?  What do the flags I fly say about me?

 

Paul contrasts freedom and slavery in the Galatians text.  We choose which flag to fly and there are several things Paul lays out that affect which choice we make.  He calls them the works of the flesh and the fruit of the spirit.  When you read over these two groups, think about which of these you struggle with and which of these you need to get rid of and which you need to strive for. 

TW@B Notes for June 27-The music at both services will be similar to the last couple of weeks as we seem to be finding a formula that is working for most of our membership.  As always, feedback is welcomed. Ed Costner will be singing at both services as well as a special instrumental offertory by Harry Robinson and Tim Scheerhorn, who is a master musician.  The early service will have the liturgy and Apostles Creed while the late service will be more free-flowing.  I will say at the late service you may even hear a little James Taylor, though.

The Scripture for the services are the following: Psalm 30 and Galatians 6:1-16.  The sermon title is "Carrying Your Own Load."  There are three ideas Paul brings out in our text for this week that I think are very important for us to reflect on: 1. "Bear one another's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." (verse 2); 2.  "For all must carry their own loads." (verse 5); and 3.  "So let us not grow weary in doing what is right for we will reap at harvest time if we do not give up." (verse 9)  In thinking about these three statements I ask, are the first and second verses in conflict with each other?  What is my load I must carry?  When do I fail in carrying my load?  When do I try and carry someone else's load?  What are some things that can cause us to grow weary in doing what is right?  How do we overcome that weariness?

TW@B Notes for June 13- This Sunday at Bethlehem will hopefully build on the excitement and enthusiasm from last week.  The congregational singing was incredibly loud at both services.  I know God was pleased as we gave worship our all!  If you read the text for the week, Galatians 2:15-21, then you will see that Paul draws some significant distinctions from living under the law versus living under grace.  We will be talking about these distinctions in worship.  The law is not bad, but the law can be a hindrance to us becoming like Christ.  Can you think of how this may be true in your life?  Where do you need to show more grace in your life?  These are important questions for us to struggle with.  My sermon is entitled "What's So Amazing About Grace?" and pulls some from a book by Phillip Yancey by that same name that I really enjoyed.  Let me recommend it to you if you are looking for a good read on this topic.  The secondary Scripture will be Psalm 5:1-8.  I hope you will get in the habit of reading all of the Scripture ahead of time and reflecting on how they apply to you before you come to worship.  I think it will make your worship experience even better.  I love the line in the Galatians text (2:19-20) that says "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."  Think about what that means in your life for awhile!

 

Special Music will be by the Bluegrass Band at both services this week.  At 8:15, the opening songs of Praise and Worship will be on acoustic guitar and are "Blessed Assurance" and "I Surrender All."  The remaining songs will be accompanied on keys and are "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" and "Where He Leads Me I will Follow."  8:15 will have the responsive readings and creeds as last week.  At 10:45, the Praise Team will once again lead all Praise and Worship.  We will be singing the following: Beautiful One, Your Grace is Enough, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, My Jesus I Love Thee, and Grace Flows Down.  There will also be a skit at 10:45 with a powerful message for us to see!

TW@B Notes for June 6: At 8:15, the congregational singing will be accompanied by acoustic guitars for the opening songs and the keyboard for the others.  We will have several responsive readings including a call to worship, creed, Great Thanksgiving before communion, and The Lord's Prayer.  The music will be mostly out of the hymnal with one that you know, Change My Heart Oh God, thrown in.  That song is key to our theme for the day and will be sung at both services!  At 10:45, the Praise Team will be leading all of our praise and worship and we will be singing songs both in the hymnal and some more modern selections as well.  There will be a short multimedia meditation at the beginning called "That's My King" that will remind us the reason it is we come to worship in the first place!  In both services we will be celebrating Holy Communion and the Choir will be leading us in song during the offering time.  In both services as well, we will continue to have a children's sermon and also our times of prayer concerns and prayer.  I encourage you each week, as I send out these TW@B Notes to look up and read the Scripture and ponder its impact in your life before coming to worship as that will help you be better prepared to worship!  This week's Scripture are the following: Psalm 146 and Galatians 1:11-24.  The sermon will be around the Galatians text and is entitled "You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks."  As you read the Galatians text, think about what Paul is saying about his previous life and the change that happened inside of him and the effects that change had on his life and on the Kingdom of God.

TW@B Notes for May 23 – This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday, the birthday of the church!  The key Scripture for this Sunday will be Acts 2:1-21.  The secondary Scripture for Sunday will be Psalm 104:24-34, 35b.  The choir will sing our anthem at both services.  The sermon is “God Promises the Church” and will obviously center around Pentecost.  Did you know that Pentecost is the third great holiday of the church behind Christmas and Easter?  It holds great importance to the life of the church.  Who knows, we might even sing “Happy Birthday” to the church on Sunday.

TW@B Notes for May 30 – This Sunday falls on Memorial Day weekend and as such, the sermon reminds us that “God Promises to Remember Us.”  Jason Sansbury will be preaching that message.  The youth choir will be leaving that afternoon on their Choir Tour and will be giving both services their inaugural performance before leaving to go to Florida.  They will be singing many of their songs that they have been rehearsing and working so hard on this year.  As always, they will be a blessing to have in worship.