Saint Andrew United Methodist Church

1528 Church Road

Toms River NJ 08755

Mission of Hope

Posted by Lynn Koch on Monday, November 6, 2017 @ 6:37 AM

Evidence suggests that two ways to reduce feelings of worry, anxiety, and depression are: 1) to stop focusing on ourselves and instead focus on others, and 2) be thankful for what we have been given. When we focus all of our care and concern on someone else or on a cause bigger than ourselves…   or when we give thanks for what IS good in our lives…   we simply don’t have time or energy to be selfish!

It’s no surprise that the Christian life is meant to be lived for God and others in gratitude. It’s a mission! A large part of God’s will and purpose for the church is to reach out into the wider community and serve needs, bring hope, stand for justice, extend mercy, and communicate the Good News of Jesus by word and deed. We do this because God first reached out to us, served us, brought hope to us, extended mercy to us in Jesus Christ! Giving ourselves and our resources fully to this mission frees us from the petty concerns of a self-centered life.

The Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed is a Kingdom that runs on the currency of kindness, generosity, and service. Jesus himself was on this mission to give and serve those in need. He in turn sends his followers (we who are Christians) out with this same message and mission:

After this the Lord appointed seventyothers and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ (Luke 10:1-9)

May you be filled with thanksgiving and free from worry on God’s mission to extend and expand the Kingdom of God!

Equipped to Serve- First Fruits

Posted by on Monday, October 30, 2017 @ 11:01 AM

Busy, busy, busy. Everyone’s so incredibly busy all the time. Most of us start the week overscheduled with just the necessities: work, household upkeep, family obligations, kid’s activities, errands. Then…   add in the emergencies (like that unscheduled trip to the vet with a sick dog), and surprises (like the in-laws are coming in this weekend and you have to get the spare bedroom ready). Then, maybe we try and tackle one of the many half-finished projects like painting the garage (half-finished, by the way, because we ran out of time to finish them). It’s exhausting and never-ending.

How is a faithful Christian supposed to make time in the midst of this for serving in the ministries of the church? There simply aren’t enough hours in the day! Right? Not so fast.

The whole idea of ‘First Fruits’, our stewardship theme at St Andrew UMC this month, is that we MAKE time for our greatest priorities. OK, ok, ok. I know…   sometimes there isn’t even enough time to get the necessities done each week. Yes. That’s totally understandable. However, cutting out top priorities should only happen on an emergency basis. All too often, serving in the church is one of those necessities that HABITUALLY gets cut. Imagine what would happen if we habitually cut out going to work, helping the kids with their homework, spending quality time with our spouse. Our lives would literally fall apart.

It may not be so apparent…   but habitually cutting our volunteer service in the church literally makes our faith life ‘fall apart’. First, we don’t get that overwhelming sense of joy of being used by God to accomplish something bigger than ourselves. We miss out on the teamwork and friendship and love that come from working together. Not only that…  but the church itself begins ‘fall apart’. Without committed, faithful, volunteers church ministries lack leadership and volunteer support. Excellence wanes. Scope and impact reduce. And, before you know it, there’s NOTHING going on at the church at all! Peter reminds us of the priority of loving service in the life of a faithful Christian:

Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:8-11

May you give your First Fruits of time and attention in the ministries of the church this week and flourish in the faith!

Formed By Faith

Posted by on Monday, October 23, 2017 @ 2:45 PM

The famous athlete Billy Sunday (who went on to become a prominent Christian evangelist in the early 20th century) said this famous quote: “going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile”.

True words. In fact, there’s no ‘activity’, strictly speaking, that ‘makes’ someone a Christian. Going to church, praying, reading the Bible, doing good deeds, all of these are things Christians DO…   but they don’t make Christians WHO they are.

A Christian is simply someone who has accepted Jesus their savior, puts their whole trust in his grace, and promises to live for him and serve him as Lord. That’s a lot of Christianese…   in common everyday terms we would say: a Christian is someone who sees the world as created by God, accepts Jesus as God, and centers their lives on following Jesus every day of their lives. Success, for people like this, is that their daily thoughts and actions ‘hit the mark’ in imitating the thoughts and actions of Jesus just like a well-aimed arrow ‘hits the mark’ of a bullseye. This kind of life is formed by faith…  and the actions and activities follow from this faith.

This kind of life takes practice. Praying, worship, Bible study, good works, giving, serving, caring and many other activities are all good practice for growing Christians. We don’t become Christians by doing them…   but we become better Christians built up and with deep roots, thankful for Jesus in our lives.

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. Colossians 2:6-7

May your life be formed by faith in Jesus today and every day!

Life That is Truly Life

Posted by on Monday, October 16, 2017 @ 9:20 AM

How do you define a life worth living? What really is most important?

Many people think they have the answer and they run off chasing their dream of ‘the good life’. They chase after riches and comfort. They chase after beauty and fame. They chase after power and achievement. Some find empty promises and failure. Some find success at too great a cost to peace of mind or relationships with others. Some find they had to compromise their integrity, cheat, and hurt others to climb to the top.

Any definition of ‘the good life’ that starts we ‘me, me, me’ is destined to be, at best, a life incomplete. A life left wanting. A life with wasted potential. We need to believe and invest in something bigger than ourselves. We need to cultivate deep meaningful relationships. We need a moral compass, a sense of justice, and a passion to make the world a better place. We need a sense of gratitude and make regular opportunities to be generous.

Maybe you know this. Maybe you’ve developed real answers to these essential life-questions. If so, congratulations! It takes wisdom and lots of trial and error to arrive at an intentional lifestyle that is faith-filled and fulfilling for yourself, connected deeply and lovingly with others, and transformative for the world through generous good works of gratitude. When Paul was mentoring the next generation of church leaders, he gave Timothy this advice:

As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

For the next six weeks St Andrew UMC will be reflecting on just such a life. Our faith-life, fully expressed, aligns our lives with Jesus and sets us on a journey of growth and maturity, service and leadership, mission and outreach, and gratitude and generosity.

We are calling this series ‘First-Fruits’ because we are reminded of God’s call on the lives of all people of faith, hope, and love: to GIVE…   in gratitude and thanksgiving for the gifts of life and blessing we’ve received from God. GIVE our first and best gifts…   not what’s left over of our time, talent, and treasure after we’ve used everything up. GIVE ourselves freely to God as the Creator of the Universe who loves us. GIVE ourselves in love to others, and serving as God’s community on Earth. GIVE ourselves in works of justice and mercy for those in need. GIVE ourselves in generosity of resources to build, maintain, and expand our mission and ministry efforts into the future.

May you take hold of this life that is truly life…   today and forever!

First Fruits

Posted by on Monday, October 16, 2017 @ 9:18 AM
https://vimeo.com/16301164

What happens when we live our faith fully? We experience life...   life to the full...   just as Jesus promised! Giving of ourselves...   giving our First-Fruits (the best we have to offer) not only fills us with 'life that is truly life' (1 Timothy 6)  but transforms the lives of everyone we touch with the beauty of hope. 

Check out this video of the story: The Flower Man. A wonderfully uplifting story and illustration of the power of living missionally and giving generously!

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