Saint Andrew United Methodist Church

1528 Church Road

Toms River NJ 08755

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!

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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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Marching Orders

Posted by on Monday, October 9, 2017 @ 9:08 AM

Going ‘into battle’ is a full-on commitment. No one just gets up one morning and says, “I’m going off to join the war today”. Preparing for battle takes time, energy, resources, and commitment before one ever reaches the front lines. And, when one gets to the front lines, all focus, attention, priority and commitment are spent right there on the field of battle to both ensure survival and victory.

Sounds like high-stakes right? Sounds like you have to be ‘all-in’ right? Yes. That’s the idea. Look at our United States’ military…   these brave American heroes have put their lives on the line to serve and protect the values of freedom, justice, and democracy. They don’t go out and do that half-hearted. They don’t go do that part-time. And they certainly don’t put away that commitment, sacrifice, and love for their country when they return home from battle.

‘full-on commitment’, ‘High-stakes’, ‘all-in’…   these terms seem strange when applied to people’s commitment to the life of faith in our day. I mean, if people go to church at all, their commitment to faith in God and following Jesus seems to consist in nothing more than sitting in a pew on some Sundays and maybe, possibly, accidentally, kinda growing a little in faith. Nevertheless, the Scriptures often refer to the life of faith as one of battle: battling against a world that wants to exist on its own terms; battling the forces of evil trying to subvert all of creation; battling against our own fear, doubt, and disbelief; battling against our own temptation, discouragement, and selfishness. Paul puts it this way:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.(Ephesians 6:10-17)

The church is looking for a few faithful folks to answer the call! Heroes that put their lives on the line to serve, grow, and expand the values of the Kingdom of God: faith, hope, and love. Heroes that don’t go out half-hearted or part-time. Heroes that never put away their commitment, sacrifice, and love for God and others as they follow Jesus.

Question for this week:

With intentional commitment to faith, hope, love, sacrifice, and committed and courageous service…   where do you see St. Andrew UMC in future years? Who will we be? What will we be doing?

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Beware Our Lesser Selves

Posted by on Tuesday, October 3, 2017 @ 8:24 AM

Our environment can influence our behavior a lot. We’ve all had the terrible experience of walking into a hostile workplace, a back-biting social circle, an unmotivated team. The overwhelming negativity or dysfunction in those circumstances can, at best, demoralize us and keep us from being our best. At worst, they can actually draw us down to a level to which we actually participate with our own worst impulses.

Our world today marches on to the beat of a lot of different drummers: wealth, power, pleasure, celebrity, pride. Our world today does not march in accordance with, and obedience to, the grace, love, will, and purpose of God.  And so, as we march, it is no surprise that our lesser selves and lesser impulses are often rising to the top: greed, arrogance, lust, abuse, injustice.

The community of faith, the church, is supposed to be a place in which the power and presence, the Spirit and will, of Almighty God is discerned, worshipped, and obeyed. In THIS kind of environment of shared faith, shared thanksgiving, shared community, shared justice and mercy, shared purpose and mission should all work together to inspire us to be our best selves.

Unfortunately, it seems as though it’s much easier for the lesser values of the world to infect the life of the church than it is for the greater values of the church to inspire the world. So, we always have to be vigilant and intentional about how we conduct our lives of faith. Paul says:

Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure person, or one who is greedy (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore, do not be associated with them. For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light—  for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. (Ephesians 5:5-11)

May your greater self reflect and shine the light of God into the darkness of the world

 

Question for this week:

What are the greatest challenges facing St. Andrew UMC today?

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Equipped To Serve

Posted by on Monday, September 25, 2017 @ 11:44 AM

Now that football season is in full-swing…   I love to cheer on my team: The NY Giants! Too bad that they have started out with zero wins and three losses.

 Maybe football isn’t your game…   or the Giants aren’t your team…   but one thing we all know about the sports we love and the teams we cheer for: a good team is one that fills ALL of their positions with gifted and talented players.

 Back to my Giants for a moment. They have a GREAT defense! They have an experienced and gifted quarterback! They have receivers that can catch! They have runners that can run! The problem is that they have a terrible offensive line. Basically, this means that the quarterback can’t throw, the runners can’t run, and the catchers can’t catch because the offensive line can’t block the other team’s defense…   and they keep shutting down the team’s ability to score. Ugh.

 Enough about the Giants.

 Church is like a team too. We need gifted and talented and experienced people in all the positions of the church. Paul puts it this way:

 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16)

 We may be accustomed to thinking about the church team being mostly made up of pastors and teachers…   but the reality is that the church desperately needs good players to be apostles, prophets, and evangelists as well. For the church to accomplish its mission to bring the Good News of Jesus, extend and expand the Kingdom of God, and serve the needs of others with justice and mercy…   we NEED to fill all of our team positions well.

 Maybe you want to get involved in the church. Maybe you want to be on the team. But, maybe you’ve never felt like your particular gifts and talents were needed. The church is more than just pastoring and teaching. Maybe you are called to be an apostle, a prophet, or an evangelist. The words are ancient and maybe carry some baggage in our modern-day understanding. So, let me put a 21st century spin on all the people Paul mentions in this passage:

The Apostle (The Entrepreneur): Is the church-planter, the new ministry developer, the ‘big-picture’ pioneer that seizes new opportunities to extend the Gospel in the world beyond the current existing church to the not-yet-Christian.

The Prophet (The Problem Solver): Is the one who listens and speaks God’s will and word to the people. This is the ‘church conscience’ making sure that the Gospel is not compromised in the works of the church, even when the solution is necessary and uncomfortable. This is the ‘proclaimer’ of God’s promises of hope in the midst of trials to the church and the not-yet-Christian alike.

The Evangelist (The Friend-Maker): Is the one who communicates the Gospel to the not-yet-Christian and reminds the church of our shared ‘God-story’. Through an authentic calling to build relationships with others and a keen sense of knowing when and how to reach them, the evangelist inspires people with the Gospel message.

The Pastor (The Nurturer): Is the ‘people-person’ who helps the people to develop healthy, Gospel-centered lives and relationships. The pastor is a worship leader, spiritual counselor, faith coach, and encourager to the church. The pastoral role promotes stability and organizes sustainable, secure growth in ministry.

The Teacher (The Informer): Is the person who brings knowledge and understanding of the Gospel to the church. The teacher articulates the history, truths, ideals, principles, purposes and goals of the church. The teacher ‘passes-on’ theology, tradition, perspective, and mind-set.

 May you join the church team an use your gifts and experience to help us win.

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To The World

Posted by on Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 9:45 AM

Have you ever had some really good news to tell? Maybe you were able to tell about a loved one who was healed after a terrible illness. Maybe you were able to share with family the birth of a child. Maybe you were able to tell all of your friends that you got your dream job. Whatever good news we have one thing is for sure: we just can’t wait to tell others! Sharing good news with others gives us the chance to see expressions of happiness and joy. Sharing good news with others reinforces that good things do happen and are happening.

If this is so…   why are so few Christians sharing the best news of all: The Good News of God’s love, salvation, full life, and eternal life in Jesus? Often, we hear Christians say: “my faith is personal”, or “I don’t do evangelism” or “I don’t know what to say”. Really?! If that’s true…   it’s hard to see how the Good News of Jesus has really taken hold of these folks’ hearts and minds. We should be just as excited to share the Good News of Jesus with the world as we are to share good news about good things happening in our daily lives.

for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you…    that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; 10 so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 3:2; 6-10)

Sure, it can be difficult to talk about our faith in a culture in which Christians have gotten lots of ‘bad press’ in being judgmental and hypocritical. But, if faithful, hopeful, caring, compassionate, and courageous Christians don’t tell the story of Jesus to their neighbors in a way that inspires…   then all we will have is the ‘bad press’. It doesn’t mean we have to walk around asking, “do you know Jesus as your Lord and personal Savior?”…   but we do need to share with others (in word and action) that we are a saved and saving people, a healed and healing people, a loved and loving people, and we are all of this because of God in Jesus Christ

May you BE Good News for someone this week

 

Question for the Week

How are we at St. Andrew UMC working as a community center that serves needs while communicating the Good News of Jesus?

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From Death to Life

Posted by on Monday, September 11, 2017 @ 11:08 AM

Some of the most dramatic video footage of the recent hurricane destruction in Texas and Florida is the courage and resourcefulness of ordinary citizens with boats out and about on dangerous waters rescuing friends, neighbors, and strangers. Probably the most famous of these folks has been ‘The Cajun Navy’ made up of volunteer boat owners from Louisiana who formed this informal search and rescue team after hurricane Katrina. These courageous folks quite literally faced death, destruction, loss of loved ones, and loss of property, and once they survived, they headed right back out into danger to recue others.

THAT is a great image for the church! Not the church ‘building’ but the community of faith, the people. Life is full of danger, tragedy, and loss. We’ve all faced trials and challenges. As a people of faith we credit God’s love and power in lifting us up and saving us and giving us a chance at new life. All of us whom have known this saving power of God, have experienced this grace of being saved, and the opportunity at beginning a new life, should have an urgent sense of wanting to help ‘rescue’ others by showing them what God can do.

You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. (Ephesians 2:1-10)

This ‘rescue’ mission is not really about telling others that heaven exists or that God forgives or that Jesus saves (although those things are important), it’s about using our lives as a means for reaching out and helping others into the ‘rescue boat’. When people are lost, hurt, grieving, scared, angry, and filled with despair, we can show them that we’ve been there and done that and that God’s grace has led us through to new life and God’s grace can lead them to new life as well.

Here in the world today we are the Body of Christ. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He calls his church (us) to take up that mission and do the same…   to take the rescue boat to those who are struggling out there on dangerous waters.

May you be a rescue person this week in the name of Jesus!

 

Question for This Week:

What specifically brought you into the life of St. Andrew UMC? How did God rescue you through the people, mission, and ministries of this church?

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Jesus is Lord

Posted by on Tuesday, September 5, 2017 @ 11:09 AM

Golf is simple. But, that doesn't mean it's easy. For example, one of the most crucial actions in golf is to FOCUS ON the ball as you hit it with the club. Simple right? Yes. Easy? Ahhhh, I wish! The temptation to look up (just milliseconds before you make contact with ball) to peek at where you are aiming your ball to go...  is probably the single greatest cause of bad shots in the game. The eyes come off the ball...  the club hits it wrongly...  the ball goes to the wrong place. It's not so different with other sports and activities right? A baseball player has to keep their eye on the ball until the bat makes contact with it. If the batter starts looking to the fences or down the first base line...  they will miss the ball or hit it wrongly. A football receiver has to watch the incoming pass until it is in their hands right? We've all seen the receiver turn their eyes to run up field before the ball is securely in their grasp. Predictably, they miss or bobble the catch.

The Christian life is similar in many ways: simple but not easy. The foundation of this life is that JESUS IS LORD and we need to keep our hearts and minds and eyes focused on him only and always.

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 20 God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22 And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:17-23)

Good Christians are like good golfers or good ball players. The temptation is always look forward before we've done the first, best, most important, and simplest thing: FOCUS ON JESUS. This is more than WWJD (what would Jesus do?), this is concentrating on keeping Jesus at the center of our lives. 'Jesus is Lord' literally means that HE is the center of our lives.

The best church sign I ever read said this: 'When Jesus is the center of your life...  your life is centered¬Ě."

May your life be centered on Jesus today and every day.

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New Worship Theme: Chosen & Called

Posted by on Tuesday, September 5, 2017 @ 9:39 AM

The kids are going back to school. Summer vacations have come to an end. Everyone is beginning to turn their attention to new starts, new projects, and new opportunities. Here at St. Andrew, with the start of a new program year, we kick-off with a new worship theme: Chosen & Called.

For the next six weeks we will discover together how God has chosen each of us (and ALL of us together as the church) to a purpose and mission. We are indeed called to something special here in Toms River: to share faith, hope, and love. What is it? Where do we start? How will we do it? Who will we meet along the way? These are questions we will explore on this journey of faith. Here's an outline of what we have planned.

In this six week worship theme we explore each chapter of Paul's letter to the Ephesians looking for insight into the nature, identity, mission, and purpose of church. The letter is not believed to be intended solely and specifically for the church at Ephesus, but rather a circuit letter meant for all churches...  even ours today! Each week we will discover part of God's specific will and plan for our church St. Andrew UMC in this season of ministry. At the conclusion we should be able to chart a clear course forward in mission and ministry!

 

9/10/2017: Jesus is Lord:  Ephesians 1:18-23

When we were saved our lives became free from slavery to sin. With that freedom we live our lives for Christ. It's not our church that we point in the direction of Jesus. It's JESUS' church that we point in the direction he chooses for it

 

9/17/2017: From Death to Life:  Ephesians 2:1-10

The grace of God saves! All of us, no matter how different we are, got our start in Christ. We are nothing together if we are not a people that support and encourage all to start, restart, and continue in their faith journey. A big part of church is being the community where everyone has a chance to make a new start in life.

 

9/242017:  To the World:  Ephesians 3:2; 6-12

God doesn't just call us to be the church for our own sake. We are not an 'insiders-only' club, but are called to proclaim the love and grace of God in Jesus to all 'outsiders' who are not-yet-Christian.

 

10/12017:  Equipped to Serve:  Ephesians 4:11-16

The marks of a mature church is the diversity of gifts, callings, members who are unified into one body (Christ's Body) and equipped to serve and growing in maturity, unity, and love in that service. Christian living may begin with personal disciplines but culminates in interpersonal disciplines

 

10/8/2017: Beware Our Lesser Selves:  Ephesians 5:5-11

Checking our motivations is healthy for spiritual growth and maturity. A church cannot thrive unless it's people are full of the light of Christ not dwelling in their darkness

 

10/15/2017: Standing Orders:   Ephesians 6:10-17

The Christian life is not easy or without daily challenge. That's what we sign up for when we put our faith, hope, and life in Christ. In the struggle between good and evil we have to know where we stand, what we stand for, and what we stand against. Only then can we advance, extend, and expand the Good News and God's Kingdom in word and deed.

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Posted by on Monday, August 28, 2017 @ 9:15 AM
https://vimeo.com/18243873
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