Oct 21, 2018
The Risks and Rewards of Following Jesus

October 21, 2018 The Risks and Rewards of Following Jesus

Following Jesus is risky business.... maybe that's why churches sometimes tamper down certain parts of the Gospel when trying to increase their membership rolls. We advertise that our preacher is eloquent and charismatic. Our congregation welcomes visitors warmly. Our choir sings with glorious passion. Join us and your Sunday mornings will be well-spent and your spirits lifted.

It can make following Jesus sound like a Saturday on the golf links at the local country club.

What we often don't advertise are the numerous warnings in the Bible about the inherent risks of being a Jesus-follower. Jesus often discussed these risks with his disciples, a "buyer beware" approach based on his reading of their hearts. Jesus knew that many would enthusiastically begin their journey of discipleship with him, only to grow fearful and disillusioned along the way.

Following Jesus has its rewards.... For no matter how many and great the risks, Jesus offers us peace in the midst of conflict, joy in the light of his presence, and an eternity in heaven where our tears will be dried in the very presence of God. This and so much more.

Come this Sunday morning as we open God's Word and discover the risks and rewards of following Jesus.

Grace and peace, Pastor Bob

Matthew 10:32-42

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  • Oct 21, 2018The Risks and Rewards of Following Jesus
    Oct 21, 2018
    The Risks and Rewards of Following Jesus

    October 21, 2018 The Risks and Rewards of Following Jesus

    Following Jesus is risky business.... maybe that's why churches sometimes tamper down certain parts of the Gospel when trying to increase their membership rolls. We advertise that our preacher is eloquent and charismatic. Our congregation welcomes visitors warmly. Our choir sings with glorious passion. Join us and your Sunday mornings will be well-spent and your spirits lifted.

    It can make following Jesus sound like a Saturday on the golf links at the local country club.

    What we often don't advertise are the numerous warnings in the Bible about the inherent risks of being a Jesus-follower. Jesus often discussed these risks with his disciples, a "buyer beware" approach based on his reading of their hearts. Jesus knew that many would enthusiastically begin their journey of discipleship with him, only to grow fearful and disillusioned along the way.

    Following Jesus has its rewards.... For no matter how many and great the risks, Jesus offers us peace in the midst of conflict, joy in the light of his presence, and an eternity in heaven where our tears will be dried in the very presence of God. This and so much more.

    Come this Sunday morning as we open God's Word and discover the risks and rewards of following Jesus.

    Grace and peace, Pastor Bob

    Matthew 10:32-42

  • Oct 14, 2018I Love My Church – Here’s Why!
    Oct 14, 2018
    I Love My Church – Here’s Why!

    October 14, 2018 I Love My Church – Here’s Why!

    There was a point in my life where I had given up on church. Brought up as a twice-on-Sunday, once-on-Wednesday church goer, I finally had had enough somewhere in my early 30's.

    After moving into a new community, my wife and I were having a hard time finding a church where we felt truly welcome. I had been a Bible major for a while in college and was a life-long student of the Bible so I set a high bar for a church's doctrines and beliefs. I came to a point where I truly despaired of ever finding a church home again.

    So I avoided church on Sundays for a year or so. We were living on a farm and there were lots of chores to catch up on every weekend. I even adopted the excuse used by many good men that "I can be just as close to God out in nature as I can in a church sanctuary."

    Obviously (since I'm a pastor now), at some point I did join a church. Amazingly, it was a small, rural United Methodist congregation, part of a denomination that I had always assumed wasn't for me. After all, the Methodists in my hometown used to host dances for their youth - obviously they were not taking God's Word seriously!

    So why did I join that particular church? What was the difference between that small United Methodist church with about 30 members and every other church in town, most with beautiful sanctuaries and programs galore? It was because we belonged there. We just knew this was where God had led us.

    Yes, the church we chose (or God chose for us) had a preacher in his 70's, a dying Sunday School program, painfully uncomfortable pews used as tables for amputations during the Civil War, and a bathroom that could only be accessed by walking outside and into another small building.There was even an organist who left her bench precisely at noon each Sunday lest she miss her tee time at the golf course. (I'm serious, she would get up and leave before the final hymn if the preacher was too long-winded).

    Still, this is where God had led us. Despite its many shortcomings, this church was filled with divine love. And it was in that small church that I fell in love with God and his church again. It was there that God called me to become a Pastor. It was there that God reminded me that we weren't meant to follow Jesus alone.

    We all need a place to belong so that we can become the person God wants us to be. A place of love and grace where the Good News of Jesus is preached and the Scriptures heard and obeyed by the grace of God. I believe Verona UMC is such a place. That's why I love my church!

    Grace and peace, Pastor Bob

    Psalm 84:1-4

  • Oct 7, 2018Serve Like Jesus
    Oct 7, 2018
    Serve Like Jesus

    October 7, 2018 Serve Like Jesus

    What does serving like Jesus look like?

    My granddaughter Annie has a servant's heart. She's four years old and always wants to make sure that everyone around her is okay. I've never noticed her washing her little brother's feet, but I think she wouldn't hesitant if asked.

    In John's gospel account of Jesus washing his disciple's feet, Jesus doesn't hesitate to serve Peter by washing his feet. While the disciples are still stunned and confused, Jesus instructs them that this is not just an isolated incident, a gimmick, or an attention-getting action. Serving each other is a practice that they are to adopt as a rule in their new faith community.

    The world is filled with people for whom a servant's heart comes naturally. I'm not sure why some people seem to have a servant's heart from the moment they are born, nor why some are so disinterested in caring for the needs of the people around them.

    But I do know this. Everything I read in the Gospel accounts (including this Sunday's passage from John 13:1-17), reminds me that I must have a servant's heart if I'm going to be a disciple of Jesus .

    Perhaps you are one of those for whom serving doesn't come naturally. You've never had that impulse and pull to put others first. You've found it hard to sacrifice time and energy to serve victims of natural disasters. You don't really like the inconvenience of holding a door open for someone as they enter a store; or mowing the grass for the elderly couple next door; or helping your spouse out by taking over their chores for awhile.

    But Jesus can help you. His Spirit, the Spirit he promises to all who trust in him, is a Spirit of service. Through His Spirit he will teach you and lead you into the joy of serving others, a joy that comes not out of recognition or rewards, but because you feel Christ's presence every time you serve.

    Grace and peace, Pastor Bob

    John 13:1-17

  • Sep 30, 2018How Much Is Your Life Worth?
    Sep 30, 2018
    How Much Is Your Life Worth?

    September 30, 2018 How Much Is Your Life Worth?

    How Much Is My Life Worth?

    As I prepare for this Sunday's sermon, I am reminded of how easy it is to wander away from life's fundamental truths as taught by Jesus. Take the teachings of Jesus concerning the worship of stuff. You know... stuff. The things that seem so important when we first purchase them but now lie buried in the basement with little hope of resurrection. The job that was a dream until it turned into a nightmare. The money we set aside for those rainy days that never came. The investments and savings that are created more out of our fears and insecurities than reality.

    Stuff. We convince ourselves that the more we have, the happier we'll be. We convince ourselves that with the black magic of plastic cards we can afford every impulse of our hearts. We travel to places that will fill the emptiness of our lives. We escape from the boredom of reality in the dim light of a movie theater. We buy boats and cars and houses seeking that fleeting sense of satisfaction that we're just a little bit more successful than our neighbors.

    Even entire churches can get caught up in obsessing over buildings and financial security and "one-upping" the churches around them!

    Jesus had a lot to say about stuff and the ways in which we trade the gift of life for meaningless pursuits. He asked "What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world but lose his own soul (Mark 8:36)?" Every second of labor, every moment of leisure, every day spent in pointless endeavors - Jesus sees as a deadly danger to our souls.

    How much is your life worth? Is your soul worth the price of the pursuits you've chosen? We'll dive into these questions this Sunday morning.

    Grace and peace, Pastor Bob

    Matthew 19:16-30

  • Sep 9, 2018Be Holy the Jesus Way
    Sep 9, 2018
    Be Holy the Jesus Way

    September 9, 2018 Be Holy the Jesus Way

    This Sunday's sermon "Be Holy the Jesus Way" is the second in our new sermon series on living "The Jesus Way":

    All your life you've probably heard that Jesus was perfect. More than likely you assumed his perfection was akin to bowling a perfect 300, the result of some arbitrary exam administered by Satan in which he "knocked all the pins down"?

    Or was his perfection far deeper than that - a quality of Spirit that cannot be measured or comprehended by the human mind or soul?

    What did Jesus mean when he said that we must be perfect like our Father in Heaven? How does this perfection relate to our salvation?

    If you've ever struggled with the guilt of sin and the call to be holy, I hope you'll join us at VUMC this Sunday as we dig into God's Holy Word and the call of Jesus to seek the holiness of God's Kingdom.

    Grace and peace, Pastor Bob

    Matthew 5:38-48

  • Sep 2, 2018Love the Jesus Way
    Sep 2, 2018
    Love the Jesus Way

    September 2, 2018 Love the Jesus Way


    This Sunday's sermon "Love the Jesus Way" is the first in our new six-week sermon series:

    I absolutely believe that only Jesus can show us how to love - really love. Love is perhaps the most misused, abused, and overused word in the English language. Too often, as a fallen human being, I love things and I love people only because they serve my unmet needs; make me feel good about myself; help me fill the empty spots in my life.

    In other words, my love is almost always a narcissistic self-love.

    Jesus, however, taught and demonstrated a love that was selfless. Can I really love as Jesus loved? Come this Sunday morning as we unwrap the keys to loving the Jesus way.

    Grace and peace, Pastor Bob

    John 15:9-17

  • Aug 26, 2018A Fight to the Finish
    Aug 26, 2018
    A Fight to the Finish
    Series: Ephesians

    August 26, 2018 A Fight To The Finish

    Sunday's sermon will be the last in our series on Ephesians - Ephesians 6:10-20 is a favorite of many preachers and Sunday School teachers. The images of the parts of a soldier's battle uniform forming a protective cloak against evil for a Christian are burned into many of our imaginations.

    What daily spiritual disciplines do you employ to ensure that you are faithfully following Jesus Christ each and every day? Come this Sunday for a message from Ephesians on how you can best fortify your soul for the spiritual warfare encountered by every child of God.

    Grace and peace, Pastor Bob

    Ephesians 6:10-20

  • Aug 19, 2018Honoring Our Relationships
    Aug 19, 2018
    Honoring Our Relationships
    Series: Ephesians

    August 19, 2018 Honoring Our Relationships

    Our sermon scripture text for this Sunday - Ephesians 5:21-6:9 - contains some of the most argued-over passages of Scripture in all the Bible.

    Paul addresses the nature of human relationships that too often turn into battlegrounds - relationships between husbands and wives, parents and their children, even slaves and their masters. Where many people approach these relationships from a perspective of personal power, Paul presents a different perspective - a perspective that begins and ends with the life, sacrifice, and reign of Jesus Christ.

    How do we honor the relationships in our lives? Come Sunday for a message on doing just that from Paul's letter to the Ephesians.

    Grace and peace, Pastor Bob

    Ephesians 5:21-6:9

  • Aug 12, 2018Get On With It
    Aug 12, 2018
    Get On With It
    Series: Ephesians

    August 12, 2018 Get On With It

    Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16)

    "Making the most of every opportunity,...." Take a moment and think of the preciousness of every moment. Of every opportunity to do good. Of every door opened by God.

    I heard a discussion on the radio yesterday on the subject of "free time" and how we all need more of it. For the Christian, however, there is no such thing as "free time." All time is owned by God, redeemed by the blood of Christ, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit. To live in Christ is to surrender our will to His and to offer up our minutes and moments as a holy sacrifice.

    This doesn't mean we cannot spend time resting or relaxing or enjoying the beauty of God's creation all around us. It does mean that we should be wise in how we invest our time, seeking the leading of God's Spirit rather than the spirit of a world that often seems to be spinning out of control.

    How are you taking advantage of every opportunity for the sake of the Gospel and a world that so desperately needs the light of Jesus Christ?

    Grace and peace, Pastor Bob

    Ephesians 5:3-20

  • Aug 5, 2018Made New/Where’s the Beef
    Aug 5, 2018
    Made New/Where’s the Beef
    Series: Ephesians

    August 5, 2018 Made New / Where’s the Beef?

    Be kind and compassionate to one another,

                         forgiving each other, just as in Christ

                        God forgave you. [Ephesians 4:32]

    This Sunday's message from Ephesians (see text below) will challenge us to live up to the holy standard of God's Word in a spirit of love, all to the glory of God.

    Grace and peace, Pastor Bob

    Ephesians 4:17-5:2