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“God’s Great Love–YOU”

People change as often as the weather shifts. Places change as frequent as traffic lights turn from red to green to yellow and back at red again. Everything around us changes. Isn’t it good to know that God never changes?

There is nothing you can do that can change how God feels about you. He is crazy in love with you. He loves you even if you don’t love Him. He loves you even when you hurt Him. It pains Him when you sin, but God still loves you. He loves you when you try to shut Him out, exclude Him, and take control of your life. God loves you even when you feel unlovable or when  you don’t even love yourself. Crazy right?

Well, not to God. Even when you do wrong, God command’s His love toward you. God’s love for you is so big that He decided to demonstrate His love in a great way. God demonstrated His love by giving His very best gift- the gift of His one and only Son, Jesus Christ. The gift of Jesus is the gift of redemption. Jesus came into this world to redeem you of the sin that separates you from the love of God.

When you receive the gift of Jesus, the mud of your mischief is wiped cleaned- the stains of your sins are washed away. You are purged from that which you should perish when you accept the gift of God’s Son, Jesus. 

Friends may change, our neighbors may change; our jobs may even change; but God remains constant. His love will never end.

Britni Johnson
Read more from Minister Johnson at britalks.wordpress.com
Article written for The PRESS, Young Adult Newsletter


Want more from Britni? Check out “The Spirit of Suicide” on our Conference YouTube channel. In this message, Min. Johnson confronts the prominent spiritual attack against Young People known as the spirit of suicide and exposes demonic principalities at war for the souls of our young people.

“YOU ARE VALUED!”

In my life, I have been truly blessed and God has been so gracious. I was born to incredible parents and I was raised to be Christ-centered even though a good portion of my life was spent chasing things that were so far from good. The words of my father still continue to dwell with me as a reminder when I want to live separate of what God has for me: “Aaron, that is not who you are and that is not who you were meant to be”.

The picture of Jesus waiting at the well for the Samaritan woman to come to Jacob’s well is something truly beautiful. When she came to the well she acted in such a way that sent the message that they shouldn’t be interacting with each other. He was a Jew and she was a Samaritan. Then Jesus said, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10 NIV). Jesus still stays with her.

The beauty of this image is that Jesus is talking about a gift from God while asking for something in return: the willingness to respond to Him. The trials of marrying all the wrong men, being excluded, being looked down upon was weighing her down. Sometimes our valley of lows creates a blurred image of how we see God and it entices us to believe the lies that God becomes something too distant from us because of our insecurities and the attempts of trying to be good enough.

We then try to supplement the lack of knowing how we are valued by the God of the Universe to a system in which we create to feel a sense of worth. Nothing can ever match the value of how God values you. Jesus responds to the woman, “I, the one speaking to you…I am he” (John 4:26 NIV).

I look back through my life in all my failed attempts to find joy through my own achievements, the mistakes of counting my value off of other people, falling into sin and enjoying the mere happiness that which covered years of pain to come. And still… the still small voice of Jesus was calling me to Himself and asking me to drink from the well that does not run dry. But I am a sinner! He is Jesus. But I am not worthy! He is Jesus. But I am diseased, deprived, disconnected from anything good! He is Jesus. But I am nothing! Through our cries, the hope is in the voice of God calling us in response to know how Jesus took our sin so that we could die to ourselves and live again, in Him.

My pursuit of deeply knowing the Jesus who met me at my well has cast out my fear, given me joy, and has gifted me salvation. That through all of life’s struggles, I am valued by Jesus. That is enough for me.

by Aaron Smith

“A Three Hair Ties Kind of Summer: Thinking about South Korea”

Prerna Balasundaram and group of young adults

By the time this fall came around, I realized that I had been wearing three hair ties on my wrist all summer long. Now due to my mother’s genes, I have a lot of heavy black hair that cannot be contained with one or even two hairs ties. Honestly, I am very thankful for my mother’s hair genes but this does mean that in the summer heat, I must always have three hair ties on hand to tie up my hair if need be.

Clearly, the number three was the theme of the summer, as I also spent three weeks in South Korea in July/August attending a Women’s Leadership Seminar conducted by Korean UMW. They were three life-changing weeks. Looking back on this summer, yes I see three hair ties on my wrist, but I also see three of God’s most beautiful treasures evident through three weeks of living in South Korea: I see faith, hope, and love: and the greatest of these—love.

Faith was the first step in my adventure. I’ve traveled out of the country but I was so nervous before traveling to Seoul. I think my journey began purely on a God-given faith; faith that He has complete control. And this faith is what caused me to eventually find myself comfortable in the Korean UMW building in Seoul meeting about thirty other women from all around the world in mid-July.

You’ve probably heard this saying: take a step of faith. When it comes to missions, I would amend that to: take your first step in faith. Make sure that your first step is one that is covered with a confidence that comes from knowing that God will be the foundation beneath every step to come.

Prerna Balasundaram at the UMW seminar

The first half of the Women’s Leadership Seminar focused on peace and conflict resolution. However, before we could discuss peace, we had to discuss cases of conflict around the world through history. At the end of one particularly difficult day, I thought to myself, it’s great that we are becoming more aware about all these horrific situations, but what can we do to change the very ugliness of human nature?

I’ve come to realize that we cannot change the ugliness of human nature in every single person on this Earth; what we can do, however, is spread the Love of Jesus Christ, and through that, create communities that are free of conflict and full of peace.

Ultimately, by the end of my time at the Women’s Leadership Seminar, I found that there was no treasure more precious than the one of Love. For the last week of the seminar, we were asked to be teachers at an English VBS in the countryside. I absolutely love kids but the language barrier (they spoke very little English), the long days, and the general tiredness I felt made it quite easy for me to forget to share love at times.

Prerna Balasundaram and Korean youthBut those last few days reminded me to be like those children; have the pure heart of those children; love openly and unashamedly like those children.

As you go about your day after reading a few of my thoughts, I leave with you a mission. It’s a mission of Love. It is so easy to hate, but not even for a moment, let us not forget that the greatest thing of all is to Love.

By Prerna Balasundaram

“Sharing the Burdens We Bear” — A meditation for pastors and other leaders

MOSES & JETHRO

“The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.”
— Ralph Nader 

Before proceeding, take a minute to read Exodus 18:13-23.

In my devotions recently, this passage from Exodus 18 caused me to pause and reflect. I am sure you remember the story: Moses serves as the judge of the Israelite community and settles the disputes of the people from morning until night. It is a huge responsibility and a sacred calling. The people need Moses, and, in return, Moses feels called to serve the people. Maybe you can resonate with Moses.

One day Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, comes to visit and sees throngs of people lined up around the tent. And Jethro says to Moses: “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, while all the people stand around you from morning until evening?   …What you are doing is not good. You will surely wear yourself out, both you and these people with you.”

Really listen to what Jethro says to Moses. He not only warms Moses that his mode of operation will cause harm to Moses himself, but he also warns that it will have repercussions for those whom Moses serves.

Of course, Moses, at first, is unwilling to hear the words of Jethro. He gives Jethro a list of reasons why he must be the one to be the one to judge the people: “When they have a dispute, they come to me…”   But Jethro refutes Moses’ indispensability complex: “the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone…” Find others who can help you, Jethro tells Moses.

God has created us dependent on one another. Jesus didn’t do all the work of the Gospel. Jesus called together 12 disciples and equipped them for the work of ministry. Those disciples, in turn, equipped others. And 2 by 2 they went, sharing the work of ministry.

Remember Jethro’s words: “they will bear the burden with you.” Jethro refuses to let us sacrifice ourselves or our churches in our false belief that we need to do everything on our own.

Moses was on a course to burnout. And likely, if Moses had not listened to Jethro, he would have caused harm to himself and to his whole community. I give thanks for the Jethro’s of my life who keep me accountable. Jethro is willing to ask me if I take time each day for spiritual disciplines. Jethro asks me when I last went on vacation. Jethro questions my mode of operation and Jethro calls me to account when I get stuck in my own ego.

I hope you have a Jethro in your life. Someone who can remind you that your worth is not found in what you do, but in who you are as God’s own. And when you hear Jethro speak, I pray you will listen. Go out and find others to bear the burden with you. It will not only save you; it may save the whole faith community as well.

Together in Ministry, Dawn

By the Rev. Dawn Taylor-Storm, Southeast District Superintendent
Copied with permission from The Southeast District E-News, July 22, 2015

“Faithful Stewards”

By The Rev. Gary W. Lefever
From “The View,” Newsletter of Calvary UM Church

Rev. Gary W. Lefever, composed this message for Calvary UMC’s newsletter “The View” (January 2015 issue) as the church’s new pastor. It is adapted and reprinted here with his permission. Faithful Stewards of Time, Treasure and the Earth was the theme of the 2015 Eastern PA Annual Conference session.

We are sent to proclaim the Gospel and to be good and faithful stewards of Jesus Christ. It is a responsibility God has given all of us as we give our lives to Christ who was born to us. As we live as “Faithful Stewards,” we learn to “Climb Higher” knowing the Lord is with us. It is about having a clear and compelling vision, which we seek to follow as the crucial first step. A faithful vision is more than a desire “to keep the bills paid and the doors open.” People need to see a vision with a goal to action that strives to make a difference, to transform lives through knowing Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, to make the world a better place.

Stewardship with a clear vision motivates us to be part of God’s work in the world as Jesus Christ’s disciples. Disciples with a stewardship heart means we follow Jesus out in the world to give ourselves generously to ministry. Stewardship is recognizing that all we have been given is a gift from God to manage and experience God’s work through our lives. It includes time in prayer to listen for God’s voice, time in God’s Word for discernment, using our talents and passions for others in need, and seeking opportunities to live devoted, faithful lives in the world.

Stewardship is important when the giving of ourselves through prayer in the Word, our presence, gifts, service, and witness has an impact of transformed lives for Jesus Christ. People need to see the POWER of God supply their needs through faithful outreach as we climb new heights for God. The Methodist approach to Stewardship could be summarized by John Wesley. He is quoted as saying, “Earn All We Can…Save All We Can…so we can Give All We Can. “What does this look like?” people may ask. They may say, “Can my giving make a difference?” “Yes it does.“ Read More