Thinking of others around the world with John Lyon

I’m posting part of an email letter from my friend John Lyon, President of World Hope International.   It reminds us all to keep in mind those in our world who have so little this Christmas season.   I have taught for years that every American Christian should have a regular donor relationship with a charity that helps people in the third world.  Our church here at Copper Hill United Methodist sends some gifts through UMCOR.  My wife and I had already sent our annual Christmas gift to World Hope as a part of our Christmas gift giving.   I have traveled just a little in third world countries — but enough to understand first-hand how we in our comfy North American culture take totally for granted what we enjoy every day, starting with simple amenities like drinkable running water in our houses. 

Here’s the quote from John’s letter.

“This Christmas was my 8-month old son’s first. It was a joy watching his eyes light up with the tree, his thrill at opening presents, and his curious mind taking in all the action. But as I celebrated our Savior’s birth with my son, my wife and our families, I couldn’t help but reflect on how different our Christmas looked than many others. We had a roof over our head, a warm house to sleep in and food flowing from the kitchen (with leftovers for weeks!) We had clean water to drink, wash our dishes and take showers with. Had my son been sick, we could have taken him to our neighborhood doctor’s office without a second thought. We exchanged gifts – a privilege foreign to many.

As we celebrated, my mind kept returning to a pastor’s home I visited on my last trip to Sierra Leone. The floors were dirt, there was no electricity, and children took daily trips to the nearby stream for water. Their Christmas, I’m sure, looked much different than ours.
It’s not often we stop to recognize how blessed we truly are. Not just because we have a Christmas tree – but because we have electricity. Not just because we have a Christmas dinner – but because we have food at all.”
Here is a link through which you can make a Christmas contribution to help others around the world through World Hope.

We love Houghton College – Reflections on completing my term as trustee

JoAnne Jones with her Grandma and parents at her Houghton graduation
JoAnne Jones with her Grandma and parents at her Houghton graduation

Houghton is special

JoAnne and I returned yesterday from the fall trustee board meeting at Houghton College.   I have had the wonderful privilege of serving the Central New York District of the Wesleyan Church as district representative on that board for the last six years.   Even though the decisions to be made have occasionally been difficult, I have relished this opportunity and served with great joy.   The reason I am no longer serving is that when I semi-retired, I moved out of the district from which I was a representative.   I thank District Superintendent, Wayne Wager, and the DBA for the opportunity to serve.

As I was driving home yesterday, I was reflecting on the reasons why I have so much enjoyed serving in this capacity.  It was fulfilling, stimulating and exciting.  I will miss it greatly.   But why is Houghton so special?

Houghton has a transformative vision

Houghton has a vision, not just for education, but for the maturation and transformation of the lives of students.  This is something I strongly believe in.  So much of American higher education has abdicated its responsibility for character formation and settled only for increasing knowledge and technical prowess.   That is a badly flawed concept.   The result of it has been an atmosphere on many secular campuses that actually contributes to moral turpitude.   In contrast, the evidence of Houghton alumni shows that Houghton grads have a highly developed character for service, leadership and faith. You can check out the mission statement at http://www.houghton.edu/about-us/.

Houghton practices excellence

Houghton is a place of excellence.   From musical performances to scholarly presentations, from board business procedures to landscaping the already beautiful campus, the Houghton way is excellence.   This is why Houghton is in the top tier of liberal arts colleges in the nation and is the highest ranked Christian college in the Northeast.  http://www.houghton.edu/about-us/national-recognition/.   Because of this, Houghton is well recognized by graduate schools.  I can be proud to be associated with Houghton.

Houghton is a place to meet leaders

It has been a stimulating opportunity personally to serve among so many great leaders.   In the course of my six years, I have come to know denominational leaders, college leaders, businessmen, prominent lawyers and doctors, persons of wealth and expertise in various fields.  Our college president, Dr. Shirley Mullen, was recently recognized on the cover of Christianity Today.      http://www.houghton.edu/news-media/recent-news/houghton-president-shirley-mullen-named-one-of-christianity-todays-top-50-women-you-should-know/162/.   This has been growth-producing for me and a very helpful networking experience as well.   I have also gotten to know Harriet Olsen, the president of United Methodist Women, with whom I have had the distinct privilege of working on the Academic committee for these six years.  But this idea that the company we keep either strengthens us or drags us down, is a principle of life too.  When we seek out company or have opportunity to interact with people of greater experience, wisdom, expertise or character maturity than ourselves, it will raise us up.    I have experienced that in this season of service at Houghton.

We highly recommend Houghton

And, by the way, if you know a good student looking for a great college, do them a life-time favor and recommend they check out Houghton.  http://www.houghton.edu/

 

 

Summer Sermon Series Planned for Copper Hill Church

Stop in and worship with us
Stop in and worship with us at 27 Copper Hill Rd.

This summer at Copper Hill Church, during the pastors morning messages, we are reviewing together the primary purposes of the church.    There is no better time than the beginning of a new pastorate to undertake this important review.    It gives us important Scriptural perspective for our work and decision-making and it helps us all to be on the same page.   I enjoy preaching in series of messages and when I do I like to post the series so people can follow it.    Here is the tentative plan for the current series.   

The Primary Purposes of the Church

Date Purpose Title Scripture    Key Verse
July 14 Worship Meditation on Psalm 48 Psalm 48 Psalm 48:1
July 21 Evangelism Jesus’ Primary Assignment Matthew 28:16-20 Matthew 28:19
July 28 Communion Remember We Purpose to Remember 2 Peter 1:12-2:3
1 Cor. 11:23-29
2
Tim. 2:2
2 Tim. 2:2
Aug 4   Guest speaker    
August 11 Discipleship Teaching to Obey is Different Matt. 28:16-20
Psalm 78:1-8
Prov. 4:1-7,13 
Matthew 28:19
August 18 Service Serving the Least of These Matt. 25:31-46 Matthew 25:40
August 25 Communion Prayer A House of Prayer Matt 21: 12-22 Matthew 21:13
Sept. 1 Labor Day Sunday Fellowship Cultivating Friendship Rom. 12:6-16; Eph. 4:29-32; Col. 3:12-17 Rom. 12:10

Nursing home visitation will be rewarded as a ministry to the least of these

A friend, Phil, in Kirkville wrote me that he was joining a ministry of nursing home visitation.  I thought my comments to him, might be of encouragement to others too.  So here they are as a post.

May God bless you in your new ministry venture, Phil, and all like you who minister in nursing homes.  It is a ministry of love just to talk to isolated people there.   I served as a chaplain in one during my seminary days so I know from experience how lonely some people are and how difficult others are to communicate with.  The first job of the visitor is just to show love by being present and caring about the person genuinely.   Most people they see are there to do a job.  Then, after you have listened to them, by listening to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, you will find openings to talk about your own journey of faith and that will open doors to talk about their spiritual journey or spiritual emptiness too.  Offering to read Scripture or pray for them or for loved ones if they would like often provides openings too.

Nursing home visitation definitely fits in with the ministries Jesus was talking about in Mt 25:37-40 NIV.    It might not be mentioned but it has the same characteristics.    37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

Liturgy of pastoral transition

A blessed day at church

What a wonderful pair of worship services this morning.  Attendance was high (211) and excitement was higher as we sang from hearts that needed the reminder; I Walk by Faith and worshipped our heavenly Father on Father’s Day with choruses and hymns.  I played trombone with the worship team so it was not a quiet morning.   I apologized to all the fathers for choosing Father’s day as my last Sunday.  And we did take time to honor the fathers present too.  One of the awesome moments was when the children and teens prayed for me.  What an absolute joy to see them advancing in discipleship too and to be blessed by their prayers.   At the end of second service, knowing that I am a fan of his organ playing, Richard Filmer played a special for us on the organ.  It was excellent.   At the end of both services, Larry Nemitz,  Vice Chairman of the LBA, and Pastor Eric who is succeeding me, and I read a liturgy of transition.  It is very rare in churches to see this happen.   Most of the time there is a span of time between the leaving of the old pastor and the coming of the new.    It was a highpoint as well.  I have always prayed that God would grant a good transition at the end of my tenure here.  I believe that prayer is definitely being answered.  I am including the liturgy we used here.

 

Liturgy for 2013 pastoral transition

Larry Nemitz:   This is a special moment in the history of our church.  We are profoundly thankful for what God has done through the ministry of Pastor Kelvin and JoAnne.    Pastor has led many to give testimony to their faith through Christian baptism as the Scripture instructs us.    He has encouraged our collective worship through regular administration of the sacrament of communion.    He has faithfully taught us from God’s Holy Word to love God, love others and make disciples.   And he has mentored us by personal example, small group instruction and public exhortation.    He has presided over moments of joy in our lives such as marriages and the naming of children and he has stood with us in times of trial and sorrow too.

Congregation:  We are deeply grateful to God for sending us Pastor Kelvin and JoAnne to be faithful stewards of their gifts in this place and to exercise well the role of congregational leadership among us.

Pastor Kelvin:  It has been my privilege and my joy to serve as your pastor, with God’s help, for these last 22 years.   You have been a blessing to us too.

Larry Nemitz:   While we are happy for you upon your retirement, we admit that it causes us grief to let you go away because we have learned to love you both.   Yet in the providence of God we know that for everything, there is a season.   By his grace, God has planned another chapter both for you and for us, which we are ready to enter into.    Yesterday at district conference Rev. Dr. Eric Paashaus was officially stationed as our pastor for the coming year.

Pastor Kelvin:  It has been my privilege to be a mentor to Pastor Eric and today it is a great joy to see him stepping into the role of leading pastor here at Community Wesleyan Church.  Eric, as symbols of the transfer of stewardship of Community Wesleyan Church, I offer three ordinary gifts.   One is a key to the front door of the church.  It is a multi-faceted symbol.  It reminds me that often the pastor’s contact with people is the front door to the family of God.  It reminds me also that the pastor is the one who is ultimately responsible to God for the welfare of the church.  Then second, I hand to you a Bible.  It is a reminder to you and to the congregation gathered here that at your ordination service a Bible was handed to you by the denomination’s leaders and you were commissioned to take authority to preach the word of God.  God is now giving you a great opportunity to fulfill that entrusting.    Finally, I give you a towel.  It is a symbol of the Biblical truth that Jesus taught us all that we are not here to be served but to serve.   This is one of the great secrets of a successful pastorate.

Pastor Eric:  It is with joy and with an awesome sense of responsibility that I accept your gifts.  It is a privilege for Magda and myself and our children to become the pastoral family at Community Wesleyan.  We covet your prayers.   We look forward with great anticipation to what God intents to do among us as we work together with God.  He is the same yesterday, today and forever!

Larry Nemitz:  On behalf of the local board and all of God’s people here, we welcome you as our pastor and pastoral family.   We look forward to laboring together in the kingdom of God.

Congregation:   We heartily welcome and accept you as our pastor and pastoral family.   God helping us, we will pray for you and listen carefully to the Word of God preached through you.  May God richly anoint you with his Spirit and guide you as you lead us in following Jesus.

Websites are now the church’s foyer

I’ve been saying for many years that a church’s website has now become it’s primary way to get information to prospective attenders.   Here’s an article by a blogger on Christian Post agreeing with my premise.

http://www.christianpost.com/news/seven-plus-one-deadly-sins-of-a-church-website-96661/

It can help us here in Kirkville to take the next step in our already developed website.  It can also serve to guide those developing plans and capabilities for new websites such as my new friends in Copper Hill CT are now doing.

 

Plans for our remaining Sundays at Kirkville

The remaining weeks of our time here at Kirkville will be busy ones.  We have saved a few weeks vacation to help us have time to pack and visit our family in CT and western NY.   I am also doing some reading in preparation for my new part-time position at Copper Hill UMC.  You know what I always say, “If the leader is not growing, the people will not be growing either.”    This chart tells you when I will be preaching here and who will be preaching when I am not.   Thank you for your prayers during this time of transition.  I am praying for you too.

 

Community Wesleyan Service Plans May 5- June 16

  Special Day Speaker Message Scripture Other Events that Day
May  5 Missions Sunday Don & Cheri Floyd     4 PM  CLASS 201
May 12 Mother’s Day Pastor Eric  Jesus and the Problem  John 6:1-14  
May  19 Pentecost Sunday Pastor Kelvin Secrets of Spiritual Power Luke 3:21,33;  4:1-15 MBK Christian Unity Svc. 6 PM
May 26 Memorial Day Weekend Pastor Eric      
June 2   Larry Nemitz     4 PM  CLASS 301
June 9 Communion Sunday Pastor Kelvin How Shall we Live? 1 Thess. 3:11– 4:11; Titus 3:3-8 Retirement Dinner 3PM
June 16 Father’s Day Pastor Kelvin Be of Good Courage! Deut. 31:6 Reception following services

A new assignment

My new assignment
My new assignment

 

Today it was announced at both churches that I have a new part-time pastorate in Connecticut starting in July after my retirement from full-time ministry here in Kirkville.   I will begin serving as the pastor at a very old and historic United Methodist Church at Copper Hill, Connecticut.   There is a very roomy parsonage that comes with the assignment where JoAnne and I will reside.   The parsonage is 10 or 12 minutes from the church and both are about 30 minutes from Keely and Mark and Sam.   

The sanctuary of the church is well preserved and was built in 1839—that’s four years before the Wesleyan Church was founded.   It was near the site of a famous camp-meeting grounds.   Like my home church in Haskinville, NY, it was built at a country crossroads.   However, today the hills and vales are thick with modern houses so there is a great opportunity for expanded ministry.   There is also a golf course across the street and a rails-to-trails trail a few hundred yards away as well. 

The best part was the warmth and genuine sense of ministry anticipation that we saw in the staff parish committee with whom we interviewed.    They made us feel very welcome and appreciated from the start.   I could sense the faithful perseverance in the Christian faith that has enabled the church to survive all these years.   I think they will be very receptive to our ministry there.   

This position for us is an answer to prayer.   We were looking for the good works prepared in advance for us to do after retirement.   This will be very meaningful without being too draining.   The economic boost will  help us to handle Connecticut costs as well.   So we are very thankful for this provision and looking forward to serving God together with the folks at Copper Hill.

An interesting graphic about giving

The generous will themselves be blessed.  (Proverbs 22:9  NIV2011)

Are those who tithe better off financially?

How much people choose to give to charity is a very personal question.  Certainly no one should have to compare their giving to that of another.  And we also resist the idea that our giving could be guided by some universal standard.   But in biblical times there is little doubt that such a standard did exist.  It was the tithe, ten percent of the yield of field and flock (Lev. 27:30-32).  The concept shows up early in the Bible narrative when Abraham sets the example by giving a tithe of the plunder to the priest of Salem, Melchizedek (Gen. 14:20).   Later, it was standardized in the Levitical code.  Research says that few people today practice this Biblical idea.    Most probably feel that if they were to use such a rule in modern times it would impoverish them.  But according to the interesting study of tithers summarized in the graphic below, that is apparently not the case.  The chart is impressive.

Somehow, we should not be surprised

In the last book of the Old Testament God had promised, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”  (Mal 3:10 NIV2011).  It is the only area of life where God ever invites us to test him.  In the New Testament we find a parallel truth.  “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you”  (Lk 6:38  NIV2011).   So the principle of God’s economy is this.  God honors generosity.    And his standard for giving raises the bar for us as to what generosity might look like.

Is it an investment scheme?

We’ve all heard of crass preachers who misused this principle by promising earthly financial rewards, sometimes even with percentage gains attached, for gifts to their ministry.   What charlatanry that is!   While God has promised to bless those who are faithful to Him, God’s blessings are often of different character than money.  And even when God’s rewards are financial, they sometimes do not coincide in timing or mode with the financial sacrifice made by the offerer.     For example, there was a time in our ministry as pastor and wife when we felt led to make a significant gift (for us) to a special project of the church.  It was a sacrificial gift that did draw down our finances.  Now God didn’t refill our coffers per se, but it just so happened that we “co-incidentally” during that time frame received several unexpected non-monetary gifts of things we needed to help us along the way.   One such blessing was a huge scholarship that our daughter received to go to graduate school.    But giving, like deeds of service, is definitely a future investment.  The Bible does say, “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt 6:20-21 NIV84).

 

1-tithing

Investigating the Principle of the Path

I have just finished outlining our Sunday morning message series for April.  It actually takes off from the Easter Celebration service message.  It draws some topics and resources from Andy Stanley’s book The Principle of the Path. 

The Principle of the Path

Date Sermon title Text Speaker Suggested Hymn
Mar 31 (10 AM) Celebration Power for the Path John 20:19-31 Pastor Kelvin Christ the Lord is Risen Today  (231)
Apr 7 The Principle of the Path Proverbs 7:6-27; 27:12 Pastor Kelvin Trust and Obey (320)
Apr 14 Grace and Truth for Our Path Jer. 17:9; John 1:17; 8:32 Pastor Kelvin How Deep the Father’s Love for Us  (Stuart Townend)
Apr 21 The Harmful Path Prov. 3:5,6; Col. 3:5-17 Pastor Kelvin Cleanse Me (317)
Apr 28 Staying on the Wholesome Path Prov. 1:1-9; 12:15 Pastor Kelvin Go, Make of All Disciples  (571 UMH)