First Connection - JULY, 2023
Note from Pastor Don
Of all the minor prophets of the Old Testament, Jonah stands out to me as a person who knew God, had awe of God and still refused to do what God had commanded of him. We will talk more about that in this month’s sermon series on the book of Jonah. I want to concentrate on something different here.
Jonah was upset that God was going to show mercy to people who Jonah felt had earned God’s wrath as a proper form of justice.
Like Jonah, we sometimes allow our desire for that pound of flesh to supersede God’s command to love. Many people have said that when something bad happens to someone it is “karma.” It is our way of saying that someone got what they deserved; that justice had been served in some way or another.
God’s justice is different. God wants us to fly right. He wants this so much that He sent Jesus us to die in our place. Justice for our sinfulness and rebellion had to be answered for and Jesus paid that price.
People have said that “sinners go to hell.” This is true but not as simple as they think. The term “sinner” was often used as a derogative against people who did not follow the constraints of a particular culture. In Christ’s time, tax collectors and Samaritans were considered the worst form of sinners. It is interesting to see how easily this culture degraded a person that did not fit in to their concept of righteousness.
We have this problem today. Division is running rampant. We are divided by our beliefs, our political associations, our entitlements, our color, our sex, our life choices, where we live, how we live, our money, our social standing, our popularity, and our notoriety to name a few disharmony points. Each group believes that they are righteous and that all other are “sinners.” We see that in how we treat one another.
To God, we are ALL sinners and the wages of that sin is death (Death with a capital “D” meaning hell and the complete separation from God for eternity.) This is what every human being is judged by. The Good News is that Jesus died to cover that sin which means NOBODY is beneath God’s mercy and grace. No one experiences God’s wrath here on earth. What we see as justice being satisfied is actually the worst sin we can commit! It is a lack of compassion, mercy, and grace. It is an action or belief divest of love… No love – No God…
So, what am I trying to say here. I believe that the answer to the issues in our families, churches, communities, country, and the world around us is the application of MORE love not less. Justice for us should be represented by our going out into this world of sinners and sharing the Good News that God loves people and that Jesus died for all of us even though we don’t deserve that. God’s justice is steeped in mercy and grace.
As we look at the crazy world around us, I would like to make this plea:
Love God with no reservation. Love others with the mercy and grace that God first showed to you. Work toward building bridges in people’s lives that lead them to Jesus. Learn to communicate with people unlike yourself knowing that love does not need agreement as a precursor. Love like you mean it!
My friends, as we continue on our journey together I want you all to know that I love you, God loves you and there’s nothing you can do about it. God bless and prayers for all of you.
In His service always,
Thoughts from your Finance and Administrative Council Chair
Some of the thoughts I will be expressing are “repeats” from prior letters and committee reports on Stewardship Sundays. Some will be more recent and current. I am hoping you will read all with an open mind, and even add your own thoughts in newsletters to come. Spoiler alert: the topic is GIVING!
I have a little book called “Stewardship, Nurturing Generous Giving, a guideline published by the Methodist Church. In that book, is says that we are charged with “building a culture of generosity in the church.” Well, for many in THIS church, it is evident that that culture of generosity has already been built, and is part and parcel of the values of most of our members. So instead of “building” a culture of generosity, I will talk about sustaining that culture, and expanding it to become “extravagant generosity fostering sacrificial giving.”
It tells us in the Bible that Jesus was bold when speaking about money. So, I’m going to be BOLD, too. Even though we have kept the budget as lean as possible, the fact remains that our tithing is not keeping up with expenses.
Yes, that budget reflects utility bills and staff compensation, but it is actually about MINISTRY AND MISSION.
Stewardship is about faithfulness to God. We don’t want you to think about giving to a budget, but supporting in faith the ministries that enable us to fulfill our vision and mission. Jesus wants us to be giving, loving generous people.
I will close with this from 2nd Corinthians 9: 7-8: “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
On August 12, 2023, First UMC will be hosting a Back To School Bonanza!
At this event, First UMC will be giving Fayette County teachers needed room supplies.
Below you will find a list of these supplies. There will be a box at the back of the sanctuary for donated items. You may also donate cash OR visit our Amazon wish list by clicking on the image above. Thanks for supporting our teachers!
New Bible Study Begins
You are ALL invited to join the bible study group meeting Tuesday mornings from 10:30 to noon in the lounge. ALL means ALL: both men AND women.
After studying the book “The Circle Maker”, those attending regularly decided to continue to meet, and seek to grow even deeper in our faith and prayer life.
Activities for the classes are chosen to create comradery and to have FUN! The curriculum we are following is called “Fearless Conversation; Is God In Control Of My Life?”
These are discussions from Joshua, Ruth and Esther. If you are not able to attend each time; no worries – just come when you can. (And Jim always has coffee ready for those who need another jolt of caffeine).
Reminder: We will not be meeting on July 4th, as most will be busy celebrating Independence Day.
Call Pastor Don at church 765-825-8506.
SISTERS WITH A PURPOSE
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Meeting: July 20, 6:30 p.m. at First UMC
Thank you for all the way you make this world a brighter one. We couldn’t keep our pantry stocked without the support of others. Thank you for your donations, we truly appreciate it.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Grace Food Pantry
I just don’t even know where to start in thanking my church family for their love and support during my health issues. I’ve always prided myself that I was a “tough ole bird”, but this time around, I really began to have my doubts!
Thank you for all the prayers, cards, words of encouragement, food, phone calls . . . . . . . It has meant so much to me!
A special thank you to Phil Greene who convinced me that I needed to go to the Emergency Room. You were right, my hemoglobin was critically low! I hate to think what kind of shape I would be in had I waited.
Another huge, huge thank you to Pastor Don and Jackie. They kept us well stocked in food, for which I am grateful as I do like to eat! Plus the checking in on me and taking the time to drive me to my doctor’s appointments. Let me tell you, our Pastor knows more about me than any pastor should ever know!
I absolutely love my church family and hope to be back really soon! Much love to all. . . . . .. . . Ava
I want to thank my church family for all the cards, calls and visites during the last couple of months. I’m feeling better and my family is taking good care of me. . . . . . . Saranne P.
Second Sunday Giving for July is Community Sharing. Items needed are canned food, boxed mac & cheese, peanut butter, pasta.