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17 12 08 The Holy Spirit of Christmas

The Holy Spirit of Christmas

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.”—so the angel declared the mystery of Christmas to the Virgin Mary. Mary then traveled to visit her aunt Elizabeth who was pregnant with John the Baptist at the time. At their meeting “Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” and given clairvoyance to announce Mary to be most blessed among women as mother of our Lord. When Elizabeth gave birth to John, it was Zechariah’s turn to be filled with the Holy Spirit and declare the plan God had for his newborn son. Joseph and Mary brought the newborn Jesus to the temple. The Holy Spirit led the octogenarians Simeon and Anna to the temple that day where they met the baby and declared him to be the savior. (Luke 2:26, 30) The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus at his baptism in a tangible yet inexpressible way “like a dove”. Full of the Spirit, Jesus began his ministry. (Luke 4:1). His first sermon was an announcement about the Holy Spirit: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…” (Luke 4:18) Jesus is the Son of God who bears and gives the Holy Spirit.

Do you have the Holy Spirit in your life? He is the Spirit of Christ and he wants to live in you. He is the source of supernatural and transforming power. His first effects are to awaken you to your sins. He creates a thirst in you for God and for holiness. He leads your mind to the truth in Christ. He prompts you to trust Christ and he fills you with blessed assurance that you are forgiven, loved and free to serve God. The Holy Spirit won’t give you superpowers like the “Justice League” but he will produce in you love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

How can I be filled with the Holy Spirit? When we repent and believe in Christ we are baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is the word of God and we accept it by faith—if not by our feelings. Yet the presence of sin can block the work of the Spirit in a believer’s life. So our first task is to deal honestly and completely with every known sin in our lives. “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). Our next step is to surrender ourselves fully to God and His will. “Do not present your members to sin…but present yourselves to God…and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” (Romans 6:13). Third we walk in faith. The filling of the Holy Spirit is first and foremost a matter of faith. “So you must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Jesus Christ.” (Romans 6:10) By analogy newlyweds tell themselves they can no longer live as single people do. They are married and must act accordingly. This is a fact newlyweds must absorb before it becomes a feeling and a way of life. So believers must tell themselves they belong to Christ and walk accordingly.

Finally believers should remember that the filling of the Holy Spirit is not a once-for-all event but it is a continuous reality. “Be filled with the Spirit” advised Paul, inferring a need to sustain a constant flow of the Spirit’s presence and power. Like watering the lawn—you don’t do it just once a summer! You keep the water moving and regularly refresh the grass. We do this by habitually seeking and serving God and our neighbor.

The first Christmas was a work of the Holy Spirit. The second Christmas is when Christ is born in you, grows in you and lives in you. This too is the work of the Holy Spirit.

 

Connect, Grow, Serve,

Pastor Tom
12/08/2017

17 11 03 Happy Reformation Day!

Happy Reformation Day!

It was 500 years ago this past October 31 that Martin Luther published his famed 95 theses. He didn’t want to rebel. He was a very devout Catholic who earnestly wanted to have discussion about the abuses going on around him. What he saw was the commercialization of forgiveness. Zealous Catholic fundraisers were announcing that dead relatives would receive forgiveness if church members would give money. “When the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs” was the sales pitch. Luther was hoping his arch-bishop and even the pope would intervene and stop this abuse. What he did not know was that half the proceeds were going to his bishop and the other half were going to the pope. They were not friendly to efforts to halt their revenue.

Luther took to the pulpit and printing press to restore the pure message of the gospel: “It is by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing: it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8) This is the central doctrine of the Protestant Reformation: Justification by grace through faith. Good deeds are ineffective. Financial contributions are ineffective. Volunteering doesn’t do it. Being a nice person doesn’t do it. Only faith—a living and certain trust—in what Jesus Christ achieved for us on the Cross can save. There are now more than 300 Protestant denominations but this doctrine is shared by all of them—including United Methodists. In recent years Catholics have dropped their opposition to this teaching.

The push back against Luther from the church hierarchy was severe. He went into hiding for a time. To defend himself in the face of church authorities he made his appeal to the authority of the Bible. This became the second great doctrine of the Reformation: The authority of scripture to determine the faith and practice of the church. “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,(2Timothy 3:16) Luther then took a step that changed history. He translated the Bible into German. For the first time in a thousand years, church members could read the Bible in their own language. A Bible study renaissance began.

John Wesley lived 200 years after the time of Martin Luther. Luther was instrumental in Wesley’s evangelical conversion. Wesley wrote in his journal on May 24, 1738:

 

In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for my salvation: and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.

 

After 500 years it’s fair to ask if the Protestant Reformation matters anymore. The splintering of Protestants into hundreds of denominations signals quarrelsomeness and rivalry. Pluralism, universalism and attacks on scriptural authority abound. It’s no surprise that the churches who have retreated from Reformation doctrines have suffered the greatest decline. This being said, I believe a recovery of the teaching on justification by faith will reawaken Christian mission. And a return to embracing the authority of scripture will unite the church and end decline. The Reformation may be 500 years old but I say it’s the hope for revival.

 

Connect, Grow and Serve!

Pastor Tom Anderson

Director of Music Ministry Job Posting

Director of Music Ministry job posting pdf

Highland United Methodist Church, Highland, Michigan, is seeking candidates for a part-time Director of Music Ministry.

 

Job Description: Director of Music Ministry

This part-time position will develop and direct the music ministry of our church, in consultation with our pastor and music/worship team members, in a way that is consistent with our mission, values and theology. Candidates will need the ability to organize, coordinate, listen to, and motivate musicians and technical team members.

 

Responsibilities:

  • Select and plan music for Sunday services

  • Participate in the creative planning of special services (weddings/funerals) with the Pastor and other team members

  • Oversee implementation of music that crosses generational lines and encourages congregational participation

  • Recruit, equip, motivate, supervise, and shepherd music team leaders and musicians

  • Participate with and develop youth music ministry with youth pastor

  • Participate in the life and ministry of the church
     

Qualifications:

  • Authentic relationship with Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord

  • Love and respect for people

  • Dependable, responsible, self-motivated, and creative

  • Formal degree preferred

  • Minimum five years’ experience in contemporary Christian music

 

Musical Competencies:

  • Ability in a wide range of styles including Christian classics (hymns), but emphasizing contemporary Christian music with vocal harmonies

  • Professional quality piano/keyboard (preferred) and/or guitar player

  • Composing, arranging, writing, and sequencing music

  • Producing and directing special events, musicals, and programs within the church

  • Experience with technical aspects of contemporary services

 

Pay commensurate with experience, education, and credentials. Interested individuals may submit resume to the above address or via info@humc.us.

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

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