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17 10 20 The New Testament in One Year

I traveled with Dan Hanselman from Highland Congregational Church to the Pastor’s appreciation luncheon sponsored by the Gideon’s. I heard two remarkable stories.

On a remote island in the Philippines during the Second World War, a life raft drifted ashore. It was empty, the occupants having perished. A group of natives rifled through it looking for anything of use and came across a small New Testament. It was a Gideon Bible that had been part of a distribution to American sailors. The book was a curiosity to the tribesmen who could not read. There was one who could read and the book was brought to him. He was immediately intrigued and moved by the message of the Gospel. On his own he gave his life to Christ and began to make changes in the way he spoke and behaved. The changes were noted by his neighbors and they began to ask him why. He was then forced to try and explain the message from this book that had drifted in from the sea. The islanders were hooked and demanded the man share with them each day from the book.

After the war, Christian missionaries arrived on the island and were stunned to discover a church. All because one man read the New Testament. The Word of God is powerful.

A prison chaplain was distributing New Testaments. One inmate was so enthusiastic he pushed to get to the front of the line. When he got his copy he shouted with glee and ran to a bench on the side. The man tore out the first page, sprinkled tobacco on it and rolled a cigarette! Through the weeks he smoked his way through Matthew, Mark and Luke. But at John, something prompted him to read the first page before he burned it. He got hooked. He got the message that God loved him. No one had ever told him that he was loved. He could hardly believe it. He read on. By the time he finished he had decided to give his life to Christ. The Gospel is power for salvation!

Is it not time that you reacquainted yourself with this power? There are 261 weekdays in the year. There are 260 chapters in the entire New Testament. What would happen if we all dedicated ourselves to reading one chapter each week day for a year? What would happen if parents read these chapters to their children at home before bed? What if husbands and wives read them together each day? What if small groups gathered weekly to discuss and explore the lessons of the Gospel? I know what would happen: families would be united, marriages would strengthen, and our church would grow in spirit and truth. God’s word is powerful and such an effort would release His power among us.

We’re going to do it in 2018! In December we will distribute a handy card with the entire reading plan on it. Tuck it in your Bible and beginning on January 1, join in an all-church journey through the New Testament. Consider forming a small group to meet weekly to discuss the readings. I’ll be holding a leader training meeting in December, details TBA. Discussion guides will be provided. Each week, the sermon will focus on the readings from the previous week. My guarantee is this: if you commit to this and follow through, your life will be changed for the better. If not, you can have your old life back!

 

Connect, Grow, Serve

Pastor Tom Anderson

October 20, 2017

 

Connect, Grow, Serve

Pastor Tom Anderson

17 9 27 What I want for Christmas

What I want for Christmas

“Wow! I’ve driven past this church every morning on the way to work and I never knew all this was here!” So exclaimed a Cub Scout leader when I gave him a tour of our Family Life Center last winter. Just this morning a young father volunteering in the Discovery pre-school commented, “Your church has provided a beautiful facility and we’re really happy to bring our son here.” Highland United Methodist Church with its Family Life Center is a jewel—albeit somewhat hidden—in our area.

A new school year has started and soon our gym will resound with shouting, singing, running and even dancing: Sunday morning children’s programs, Sunday night REVIVE, Blood Drives, Centershot Archery, REV316, The Dance Project, Cub Scouts, Operation Christmas Child, Preschool kids, Nerf nights, lock-ins, and Upward Basketball. A conservative estimate might have us averaging 150-200 children running through our gym every week. That’s a lot of little footprints!

This year families coming to our building are going to be greeted with new banners in our parking lot extending a welcome. They will also find a new quarterly publication “At-a-Glance” giving details about our ministries for the next 3 months. They can take one home to consider connecting further with us. Very soon the Trustees will be removing the trees in front of our sign on M-59 and our name will emerge to be seen once again by east bound traffic.

It was only 9 years ago the Family Life Center was opened. At the end of this year our REACH capital campaign will be completed. A very special celebration is planned for Sunday, January 7. Our plans include a special joint service at 11 AM in the gymnasium. Bishop David Bard will be our guest speaker! A walking brunch will follow taking us through each of the rooms in the lower level. We need you to help us prepare! We have received $653,000 towards our pledged goal of $830,000 with 3 months to go. What I want for Christmas is to be able to stand up and ring a bell and say we did it—or even better, we went beyond! Next year we will be refinancing the remaining debt—approximately $800,000. Both our Finance and Stewardship teams are making plans for the future. They’d be glad to answer any questions you might have.

Karen and I are so proud to be serving this congregation. I am more energized about being a pastor now than when I began. I believe God has great plans for our church’s Christian witness in this region. We have formed a team to develop a comprehensive marketing plan for our church. We are investing in new musical instruments and sound equipment for our worship center. We are re-forming our praise team with new musicians. A planning team has engaged an architect to renew and refresh our lobby, worship center, kitchen and fellowship room. By this Sunday we will have received approximately 30 new members in 2017. The Holy Spirit is moving and He has places He wants to take us! Won’t you join together in keeping in step with the Spirit?

 

Connect, Grow, Serve

Pastor Tom Anderson

 

P.S. Tyler would like to thank all of you who came to eat at our Children and Youth ministries kick-off in our backyard!

17 08 24 Race Matters

Race Matters

When thinking about race in America, it is best to begin with the end in mind. We need a clear understanding of where we want to go. If we don’t have a vision for race relations, we will forever wander from complacency to crisis and back. God gave the vision in Revelation 7:9-10, “After this I looked and behold a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

In this great vision we note three things: 1) No one loses their distinctive identity. Each one retains the dignity of their language, nation and race. Our differences are not to be despised but joyfully received, 2) the crowd is huge—beyond number. This is no minor event but it is the center of gravity for human destiny. 3) It all happens at the throne of God and the Lamb. Jesus Christ is the centripetal force that draws together the broken and warring pieces of humanity.

In God’s eyes there is only one race—the human race. He created human beings to be a unity. “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27) “God made from one man every nation of mankind to live on the face of the earth…that they should seek God…” (Acts 17:26). Just as the human body is a diversity of parts working in harmony, so is God’s intent for race.

Racism is sin because it contradicts the purpose of God for his creatures. It is always and everywhere wrong. It blinds us from seeing the image of God in the humanity he created. It leads to deeper personal and social sins of superiority, pride, dominance, discrimination and oppression. America—the country we live in—has always been a beacon of freedom and democracy—“a shining city on a hill” as the Puritans envisioned it. Yet race persists as the Achilles heel of the American experience. While the actual number of self-identifying white supremacists and KKK members is very small, they have the power to do great damage to the civic life of this land. What they represent is morally wrong and Christians must insist on this label.

It is the duty of all Christian believers to pursue racial unity. This is not a minor pursuit or a side issue. We do not pursue racial unity out of the desire to assuage white guilt nor out of the anger of injured ethnic pride. We seek racial unity because it is God’s future for us. What this requires of us all is courage. Courage to acknowledge that racism endures in everyday life in America. Courage to listen carefully to the perceptions and concerns of African Americans. Courage to share our own perceptions and frustrations about race. Courage to change our perceptions, attitudes and practices in the face of God’s call to unity.

This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Detroit riot. In the interim since we’ve made stunning progress, even electing our first black President. Yet the events of Ferguson and Charlottesville, remind us we are a long ways from racial unity. The Good News is that the most important work has already been done for us in Christ, “Christ himself is our peace, who has made himself our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility…” (Ephesians 2:14) In Christ, the doors to the future are unlocked but it falls to us to turn the knobs, push them open and take steps to leave this present darkness and enter the New Day.

 

Connect, Grow, Serve

Pastor Tom Anderson

17 8 10 Getting to the Core

Getting to the Core

Are you looking to begin a Christian life? Do you need to brush up on the basics? Do you want to find your ministry? Who is Jesus and why did he die? Why and how should I pray? Who is the Holy Spirit and what does he do? Why and how can I share my faith? What about the church? Does God guide people today? The core classes of HUMC are designed to answer these basic questions about the meaning of life. As we make disciples, we want each one to have this firm foundation in their spiritual journey. Our core classes form the basis for the compassionate community we are building. They feed our mission.

Class 101: Discover the Christian Life is where the journey begins. The basic text is The Faith-Sharing New Testament along with materials that I have written. This class introduces the Gospel plan of salvation, Baptism, Holy Communion, and United Methodist beliefs and practices. Participants are prepared for baptism and reception into the covenant of membership. This is the beginning of a lifelong spiritual journey with Jesus Christ. We’ll be offering this class three times each year. The next will be Sunday, September 17. It starts with lunch after church then the seminar.

Class 201: Spiritual Maturity focuses on Christian living and devotion. Through a deeper study of the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer, participants grasp the ethics of the faith: how we should act toward God and our neighbors. They learn to develop a daily Christian spirituality. The basic text is Ten Words, Two Signs, and One Prayer: Core Practices of the Christian Faith by Timothy C. Tennant. I have also written a study booklet for each session. This class lasts 4 weeks and will be offered twice yearly. Our next Class 201 will be October 5, 12, 19, 26—Thursday nights from 7- 8 PM. Mike Morley and I will lead this class.

Class 301: Discover Your Spiritual Gifts. Who is the Holy Spirit? What does he do? What are the fruits of the Spirit? How can I find my gifts and my ministry? Together we’ll read and study The Holy Spirit by Billy Graham along with a Spiritual Gifts Inventory and a study guide that I have written. Everyone will gain a basic understanding of the ministry of the Holy Spirit and discover likely places God wants them to serve in the church and community. This class lasts 4 weeks and will be offered twice yearly. Our next class 301 will be November 2, 9, 16, 30. Thursdays from 10 AM to 11 AM. Glenn Betts and I will lead this class.

Class 401 Discovering a Life That Matters. How can I live an effective Christian life? A victorious life over sin and negative habits? How can I share my faith? How can we care for and nurture new Christians? This class prepares for a life of personal mission and witness in the church. The fruit of this mission will lead to filling up the next class 101 and our cycle will repeat. Our text is Christian Life and Witness an acclaimed training course developed by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. This class lasts 4 weeks and will be offered twice yearly. Our next class 401 will be January, details to be announced!

Every church needs to have an intentional process for developing attendees into fully-devoted followers of Christ. In the core classes, members will connect more deeply with Christ and his church; grow in knowledge and grace and be equipped to serve others. I hope to meet you in one this year!

Connect, Grow, Serve!

Pastor Tom Anderson

17 08 03 Attendance Matters

Attendance Matters

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Statistics show church attendance in America to be in decline. Summer attendance here at HUMC illustrates it. Last July average attendance was 184. This July average attendance was 167. It is curious since HUMC added 23 new members so far this year.

The number one cause of decline in church attendance is that members attend less frequently than they did in the past. If frequency drops, then average attendance follows. For example if a church of 200 members attend every week, the average is obviously 200. But if one-half of those members miss only one out of four weeks the average drops to 175. No members have left. Everyone is still relatively active but attendance declined 12 percent because half the members made a slight change in their attendance behavior. We don’t notice it when someone who comes four times a month drops to three or even when a bi-monthly attender goes to once a month.

The issue here is not the loss of members but waning commitment. But here is some good news: yearly worship attendance in America is about 300 million—far above the combined total for every kind of sports event (including the Detroit Lions!). There are hundreds of reasons why members don’t come to worship. It’s fair at this point to put the pastor and worship leaders in the evaluation spotlight.

I believe it’s also productive to work the positive side and ask why members come to worship. Here’s a list of some reasons why. Put a checkmark on the ones that are most personally significant to you:

 

1. Dispels loneliness

2. Brings hope

3. Counters self-centeredness

4. Reminds you of important values you tend to forget

5. Strengthens courage

6. Gives you the opportunity to express thanksgiving

7. Brings you a sense of forgiveness

8. Renews your faith

9. Empowers creativity

10. Helps you to see reality more clearly

11. Increases feelings of self-worth

12. Helps you to make positive changes in your life

 

John Wesley counselled a despondent farmer who could not handle the worries of his life. Wesley pointed to a cow in the field and asked the farmer why he thought the cow was looking over the stone fence. The man shrugged his shoulders and Wesley said, “She is looking over the wall because she can’t see through it.” Smart cow! People come to worship to gain Holy Spirit perspective on life, to look over the barriers they can’t see through.

God believes worship is crucial to human life—he spent all of Exodus 25-40 designing the worship life of Israel in precise detail. Jesus set the example never missing a Sabbath—even when the Pharisees led the service. He said the Father is seeking people to worship him in spirit and in truth. If God planned it and God exemplified it for us, then it’s got to be good!

Commit to increase the worship frequency of our members--starting with ourselves.

I love Sunday. I get up with anticipation each week to meet with my church family and glorify God together. I pray each of us would say with enthusiasm, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’” (Psalm 122:1)

 

Connect, Grow, Serve!

Pastor Tom Anderson

17 7 18 Renewing Our Baptism

Renewing Our Baptism

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The plains of Israel’s Negev desert are bleak and raw in a January wind. Some years ago I found myself there in a cold rain, whipped horizontally across the terrain. My task was to help my team mates dig out a large fourth century home nicely preserved under 1600 years of sand. It was a home in a Christian city in the desert. These ancients figured out how to collect water, grow food and support a city of over 5000 on less than 15 inches of rainfall a year. That explains why the Israeli government was so interested to sponsor this archeological dig. They wanted to know how they managed to thrive in such harsh conditions.

The ancient town was named Nitzana and prominently feature three large Byzantine-era churches. The beautiful mosaic floors of these churches where perfectly preserved by the sands of time. An early team had even unearthed a copy of the Gospel of John. Something else struck me about these ancient churches: each one featured a large baptistery. Most of them were shaped like a cross with steps in them so that baptismal candidates could step down into the waters, be immersed and then walk out the other side of the cross into newness of life! Wow. What a spectacular image. Other baptisteries were round.

Baptism is God’s gift to us. God himself designed and planned this very special act of worship for his people to begin the life of faith in Christ. Jesus commanded baptism and every believer should be baptized except in the most extreme circumstances. Baptism incorporates us into the Church, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…” (1 Cor. 12:13) and “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Gal. 3:27-28) Baptism is an act of grace on God’s part wherein he adopts us into his family. Baptism is a response of faith and thanksgiving on our part wherein we repent of our sins and pledge ourselves to Christian life led by the Holy Spirit.

United Methodists baptize in one of two common styles. Most frequently we baptize by sprinkling water on the candidates’ head. This mode brings to mind God’s beautiful promise from Ezekiel 36:25, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.”

A second common way of baptism is by immersion in a pool. This mode richly symbolizes death and rebirth. “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. “ (Romans 6:4) Our United Methodist book of worship advises: “congregations should be prepared to honor requests for baptism in any of these modes.”

What if we were prepared to offer immersion? Imagine an immersion baptism on the patio off our worship center. The worship team has put on its wish list a portable baptistery that can easily be stored in a closet when not in use. It’s an opportunity to renew the baptismal practice of the early church and bring glory to God in our worship.

In Hope and Confidence,

Pastor Tom Anderson

17 7 11 Caregivers

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Thirty seven years ago this August I stood before the altar at First United Methodist Church in Dearborn and pledged to God that I would love Karen for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer; and in sickness and in health. I was 22 years old and I had no idea what I was getting into. I did not dream that Karen would be the one to care for my mother in her temporary disability. For the last 3 weeks Karen has been living and caring for my parents in Chelsea as mom heals from a second round of broken bones. Indeed, she has given more than 5 weeks of care to them in this year. All I can say is I married the right woman. Proverbs 31:10 has it right, “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.”

I could not be serving you if Karen were not holding up my family with her bare hands. Again Proverbs 31:17, “She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.” If she seems scarce in these parts it’s because she is amply present to our parents, Roberta and Ed Anderson in Chelsea. Many of you have been praying for mom and for that I am grateful. She is making progress and we hope to hand off to a local home care agency for mom’s final lap in the healing process. From that point we prepare for more change as they are planning to move in an apartment when one becomes available in their retirement community. Mom has taken to calling her “St. Karen” and so she is.

There are 44.4 million Americans who are serving as caregivers in their families. Sixty percent are women and the balance are men. Thirty-two percent of these caregivers are averaging upwards of 62 hours per week of care to family members. Such an undertaking requires a vast reservoir of patience, forbearance, perseverance, self-sacrifice and heart. If you have such a care-giver in your family, rejoice and give thanks. If you are that care-giver, God bless you!

God is of course the greatest of caregivers. Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd.” Perhaps there is no better word to capture God’s caregiving than that—“shepherd.” Isaiah spoke of him, “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” (Isaiah 40:11) The shepherd image speaks of nurturing, mercy, compassion and sanctuary.

We begin our lives being cared for—completely dependent on the ministrations of our parents. Young adulthood is often care free—we live in imagined self-sufficiency, neither being cared for nor caring much for others. This will not be long for all of us acquire people in our families and our lives who need our caring. And nearly all of us will finish our days being cared for by others.

To truly be a caregiver you need to give yourself away. A Shakespeare sonnet says, “To give away yourself keeps yourself still, and you must live drawn by your own sweet skill.” The stillness and peace we most desire and the deepest wells of life’s meaning reside in the practice of caregiving. For it is in giving that we receive. The truest meaning of life is to care.

 

In Hope and Confidence,

Pastor Tom Anderson

July 11,2017

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