|Bishop announces dates for Israel trip
Dates have been confirmed for the clergy educational tour announced by Bishop Hayes at the 2010 Annual Conference.
Led by the bishop, the pilgrimage to the Holy Land will be July 4-15, 2011. "My recent trip to Israel changed my life in such a profound way that I would like to invite newly ordained pastors to have the opportunity to experience what I did," Bishop Hayes wrote. "If I had made this trip earlier in my ministry, it would have changed the way I look at the Scriptures, the life of Jesus, and even my own life."
The trip is primarily designed for clergypersons ordained within the last six years, with a limited goal of 45 people. However, others including spouses may participate. Cost and itinerary will be released soon.
Derrek Belase, pastor at Stillwater-Highland Park UMC, and his administrative assistant, Dena Dunkerson, will serve as registrars for the trip. You may convey your interest now (without obligation) via e-mail to them: firstname.lastname@example.org. More information will be given in future issues of Contact.
"You are the light of the world!" (Matthew 5:14)
Not long ago, I read an intriguing article about a primitive district in India where people still use the type of simple oil lamps used when Jesus walked this earth.
Inside a temple in that district, a huge brass railing hangs from the ceiling, with many arms that extend to the floor. These arms have slots that securely hold a hundred or more of those little lamps. Until the lamps are placed into the brass structure, the temple remains dark.
The article described the arrival of people to worship at the temple in the early dawn and late evening. They brought their small lamps to guide them along the dark roads and, when they arrived at the temple, they placed their lamps in the slots. The dim interior grew brighter and brighter as each worshiper put into place his or her lamp.
When all the slots were filled, the temple was ablaze with light.
The worshippers at the temple brought physical light in order to receive spiritual light for their souls. In so many ways, you are just like those villagers for you, too, need to bring light so that you find the true light of your life—Jesus Christ!
Even though you attend church in a setting where the quick flick of a switch likely will illuminate any room, this story from India spotlights a deeper lesson. When you bring the "light" of anticipation, eagerness, and expectation to a church service, most often you will encounter the risen Christ.
So many times people think the minister carries the responsibility for the service, but the congregation has just as much to do with worship as any minister! Each time a pastor steps into a pulpit, every person should be joyfully awaiting the light of God’s Word to shine on their dark souls. They should be expectant, listening for what the Word has to say individually to each of them.
Instead, the shadow of a spiritual chill causes a cold shiver in the hearts of the worshippers at too many churches.
That’s why it’s so important to bring light to find the Light! If you at your church—if people of every church—will do a few simple things as you come to worship, you will shine brighter as you light the world for God. What a tremendous difference it will make!
Let me suggest:
First, come prepared—When you go to church, go prepared! So many people make no preparation at all for worship. Begin on Saturday night to be in readiness for Sunday morning; read Scripture or the Sunday school lesson. Then just before you leave home, meditate or say a prayer for the church, the pastor, or the people you will encounter.
Arrive on time! Take your Bible; turn to the suggested Scriptures for the service as soon as you get to your seat. Forget about your dinner plans for after the service—focus on being fed the spiritual food you so desperately need.
We should go to church seeking God’s guidance for the week ahead of us; we should come seeking the peace only God can give; we should come seeking answers to the problems that face us daily. The Gospel of Luke assures us that, if indeed "we seek God, we will surely find God!" (Luke 11:9)
The person who goes to church only to get will, in the end, get nothing. I urge you to go determined to give your interest, your prayers, your devotion, your gifts and tithes, your sympathy, and your time and witness. The success of any gathering is always dependent on the people who are prepared to give themselves to the fellowship of the occasion.
You may hear people declare they have stopped going to church because they didn’t get anything out of the service.
You might well ask them: "What have you tried to give to the service in loving devotion and in humble service to those you come in contact with?"
Just as that temple in India glowed with the lamps of the worshippers, so is every church service illuminated by those who bring light to find light.
Furthermore, when the villagers take their lamps from the slots at the end of the temple service, the light helps guide them home in the dark. Are we any different? In my journey of life, I’ve discovered there is only One who can give me the light I need to make it down the dim and dark roads I must travel. His name is Jesus! Bring your light to find the Light that illumines the World!