Depth of Leadership

I’m so grateful to be serving at Chamblee First UMC where there is a depth of leadership. There is a passage in Acts 6:1-7 where the early church had more tasks to be done than leaders to do them. The twelve disciples got together and found seven more people to lead and serve. Because of the depth of leadership that the early church cultivated, “The word of God continued to spread; the number of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem.” (Acts 6:7)

As we worshipped this past Sunday, I saw people step up to various tasks and glorify God. With our Senior Pastor serving in El Salvador, the Lay Leader stepped up and did a phenomenal job as liturgist. Our organist was out, but the music was fantastic. Our sound engineer was away, but the video & sound ran seamlessly.

I am so grateful for the talented people on staff at Chamblee First. They do an outstanding job week-in and week-out. It was such a blessing, though, to see the church rise to the occasion when they were called upon last week. There are always new tasks and opportunities for the people of God to rise up and respond to.

This Sunday we got a glimpse of “the number of disciples increasing.” We had a baptism. We welcomed a family into the membership of the church. The number of disciples is increasing. That probably means that new tasks will come before us. Will you rise to the occasion?

God Bless,
Rev. Jeff Rogers

Life Lessons from My Crochet Basket

I have always enjoyed doing things with my hands. My grandmother taught me to sew and embroider when I was a teenager and through the years I have learned ceramics, stained glass, counted cross-stitch and quilting. Most recently, I taught myself to crochet. Crocheting for a left-handed person can be difficult because most directions and patterns are written for right-handed people. But after much practice and patience, I can do most any pattern and I find it relaxing to sit in a quiet place and focus on a pattern that will make something useful and beautiful.
While working on my latest project, it occurred to me that there are several life lessons that are reinforced as I use my hook and yarn. Here are two:

1. The old saying, “Anything worth doing is worth doing well” certainly applies to everything, including a crochet pattern. It takes practice to do even stitches with just the right tension. It is important to follow the pattern and keep up with the stitch count. Having just one stitch too few or too many makes the pattern not work. So often we go through life haphazardly, not preparing for what we know will come our way or following the guides that are there to help us. The Bible comes to mind. If we don’t familiarize ourselves with God’s word and follow the teachings found there, our lives don’t turn out useful or beautiful.

2. There are always “do overs.” When I make a mistake in reading my pattern and something doesn’t match or fit, I can pull out the stitches and correct my mistake. Sometimes I catch the mistake quickly and only have to pull out a few stitches, other times I don’t catch it until later and I have to pull out many rows of stitches. There have even been times when I have just had to start over with new thread. It’s important to remember that we get “do overs” in life, as well. We are not perfect – God knows that and is ready to forgive us when we make a mistake. It may take work to repair the mistake, but with patience and our guidebook, we can move forward.

I’m sure that you can think of other lessons, and I hope that you will. But what I want to remind myself this day is that life takes work, it takes being mindful and aware, it takes patience, it takes diligence and it cannot be lived alone. God guides me through His Word and through the work of the Holy Spirit. I need to focus on Him and the direction He gives me. I am a part of a community and can learn from and be helped by others. It is then that my life will be useful and beautiful.

I also think that we need to be reminded of these lessons in our churches. The Church is the Body of Christ. It is care and growth that requires us to be our best and give our best. Sometimes we don’t focus on God as we should. Sometimes we are selfish. Sometimes we are apathetic. Sometimes we don’t take God seriously. And from this lack of focus, the church loses its power to transform the world. God expects us to give freely and diligently of our prayer, presence, gifts, service and witness so that world can be made a useful and beautiful place. Lord, let it be so!!!

God Bless,
Rev. Carol Cook

Hope from the Small Stuff

Last week I went to a seminar given by a pastor about a book that he has just completed on fear. Among the questions addressed was, “Why a book about fear right now?” A graphic went up on the screen showing that in every age group polled, over 80% of people experience either moderate or regular fear in their life.

As I read through books of the Bible like Judges, I can’t say that I’m too surprised. If you’ve ever read through this book, then you may have been struck by the violence and sheer brokenness in the people. The book ends by saying, “In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes.” (Judges 21:25)

People continue to this day to stray from God’s will of loving Him and loving each other. I think this kind of brokenness leads to the fear that is so prominent in society.

Praise God that in spite of our brokenness, He is working in the hearts of individuals. There are stories of hope everyday. Even in the time when Israel had judges, we have stories of individuals like Ruth, whose story comes in the book immediately following Judges. This is a story of redemption and goodness during difficult times. Despite the fearful ending of Judges, Ruth has a hopeful tone at the end, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel.” (Ruth 4:14)

If you are like most people, then there is some sort of fear in your life. It’s not without reason. There is a lot of brokenness around us. I pray that you feel the Holy Spirit working in your life despite this fear; showing you the redemption and hope that God offers us through Jesus.

God Bless,

Rev. Jeff Rogers

Trust in God

As I look out my window on the rainy, spring-like morning with flowers beginning to bloom and trees beginning to bud, I am thankful for this time of year. Spring is my favorite time of year. The days are getting longer, I can get out and enjoy nature more and everything looks new and beautiful.

As I thought about the beautiful flowers, I was reminded of the passage in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount about the lilies and how God clothes them splendor. Jesus was teaching the crowd how to prioritize their lives and to not worry. That is a lesson I need to hear every day!

I must confess that I tend to be a worrier. I come by it honestly because my mother is also a worrier. If I was two minutes late getting home, she was ready to call the police. I find that my worry is usually about things that I cannot change or about things that are probably not going to happen in the future. Can you relate?
Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Solomon says that we must acknowledge God in all our ways and turn over our entire life to him.

Planning is time well spent; worrying is time wasted. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference. Careful planning is thinking ahead about goals, steps, and schedules, and trusting in God’s guidance. When done well, planning can help alleviate worry. Worriers, by contrast, are consumed by fear and find it difficult to trust God. They let their plans interfere with their relationship with God.

Don’t let your worries affect your relationship with God – trust in Him to guide you and trust in the abilities He has given you to plan your life. As you look at the flowers and trees this Spring, remember that if God has taken care of their needs and clothed them beautifully, how much more He will take care of you. Amen.

God bless,
Rev. Carol Cook

Begin with the End in Mind

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday. You may have noticed the lesser-known holiday, Valentine’s Day, coincided with the beginning of Lent this year. I’ve been joking with people that “Nothing says romance like a reminder of our finite nature!” (Admittedly, some find this funnier than others.)

One of the texts that we read in the service yesterday evening was Psalm 51. There are three particular verses in this Psalm that I just love. Listen to verses 10-12:

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.

Reflecting on this, I invite you to ask yourself these three questions.
1) Is there anything you need to confess for God to create a clean heart in you?
2) Where do you consistently feel the presence of God?
3) When was a moment when you realized the joy of your salvation?

Pray over these verses. Think on what needs to be confessed. Think on where you encounter God. Think on the moments of your salvation. May all of these draw you into a deeper relationship with Jesus this Lenten season.

God Bless,
Jeff Rogers

Words for the Journey

My favorite psalm is Psalm 121 (I hope you will take a moment and read it). It has been called “A Psalm for Sojourners,” and was sung as the Jews journeyed to Jerusalem for religious celebrations. In verse 5, the psalmist gives beautiful images of our Lord as our Keeper, our Shade, and our Protector. These images tell us that God loves us so much that He is going to care for us as we walk through this journey called life. Things are going to happen on this journey that are difficult, there will be days when we need a shield to protect us from circumstances, people, and our own struggles. There will be times when we will need to rest by the cool shade of an oak tree on a very hot, sunny day. When difficulties arise, when we need to feel peace and rest, it is a comfort to know that God is there with oak tree or that protecting shield. What images of God help you as you journey through life? Take a moment and write them down. Maybe you see God as Shepherd, gathering us together. Or maybe you see God as Teacher, showing you the way. Whatever those images are, they help ground you in your faith and deal with the issues that come your way.
I hope that you will take a moment and reflect on how God helps you in all circumstances – maybe you have had a tough time with an illness or lost a family member or friend. Maybe God has opened a new way for you and there is much excitement in your life. Whatever comes your way, know that God is always there for you, loving, caring, protecting, shading, gathering, and teaching you on this journey of life. Amen.
God Bless,
Rev. Carol Cook

Holy Ground

Holy Ground

The snow outside my window is beautiful. The snow represents a day off of school. The snow causes a temporary pause to activities in the church building. The snow forces me to take pause and interrupts my regular routine.

I find that God loves to take advantage of opportunities when we are not in control of everything to remind us who He is. I love my routine, and when situations occur that put me out of control, I can get frustrated or flustered easily. It is in those moments that God reminds me that no matter what situation is going on around me, He will be with me.

The snow outside my window reminds me how the ground we walk every day can be holy ground. Yesterday morning we read the story of Moses and the burning bush. Moses was going about his routine when God appeared and told him “the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5) Suddenly, Moses was outside of his comfort zone, but God reassured him that in the midst of fear, “I will be with you.” (Exodus 3:12)

I hope this snow has reminded you that the ground we walk is holy ground. I hope it changes up your routine just enough to remind you that God is with you in every situation. 

God Bless,

Jeff Rogers

Welcome to 2018

Welcome to 2018 – a new year filled with new possibilities and opportunities. As I put up new calendars this week, I thought about all the things that will happen over the next twelve months. I thought about all the Sundays that we will worship together, I thought about all the events that we will plan and carry out, I thought about growth and change and I said a prayer that God would take control of this new year and make it something special.

My focus for our church in this new year is growth. I want us to grow in our faith and understanding of God’s work in our lives. We will be reading the Bible through this year together. I hope you have begun, but if not, you can jump in anytime. We are offering more opportunities for Bible study and small groups that will give you an opportunity to not only learn more about God’s word but also build relationships and Christian fellowship. We will continue offering opportunities for service in our community and throughout the world. We will be trying new forms of worship at our 8:45 service, continue excellent worship at our 11:00 service, and explore other ways to worship and build community. I hope you will make spiritual growth a priority this year. Worship often, find a small group, read the Bible through, find ways to serve others, pray, and practice generosity and hospitality.

Growth also includes widening our circle. We have an opportunity to invite new people and share with them how special our Chamblee First family is. We will be looking for new ways to tell people about our faith in a grace-filled, loving God. We will be looking for ways to connect new people to our church. I encourage you invite your neighbors to join you in worship, study, and service.

I am excited about this new year and look forward to working with you to discern God’s path for our future.

God’s blessings,

Rev. Carol Cook