Pastor’s Page July 17th, 2017

“And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them” (Psalm 78:72).

“Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6).

Pastor John Ortberg shared these thoughts about David in a recent publication: David’s heart was characterized, right down to the core, by stubborn love. In Psalm 78:72 we read that David shepherded the people with integrity of heart. The idea here is that his heart was undivided. It’s the opposite of fickle. He loved people with the loyal heart of a shepherd who kept loving the sheep, even when they were obstinate.

Think about how David loved Saul, even when it was hard. King Saul became increasingly corrupt and tormented by pathological jealousy of David. Saul was constantly deceiving David and on several occasions he tried to kill him. What’s most amazing is how, through it all, David loved him.

Twice David could have killed Saul — and he would have been justified in the eyes of most people — but he refused to do it. When Saul finally died, David wrote one of the most beautiful poems ever written as a lament for him, “How the mighty have fallen! . . . O daughters of Israel, weep for Saul!” How could David find tears for a man like that? He knew all about Saul’s faults, better than anybody, and he knew about Saul’s possibilities, and he loved him to the end.

At the end of Psalm 23, David declares, with a passionate heart, “I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” He loved God with a stubborn love that would not relent. He didn’t say, “I hope that I will dwell in the house of the Lord.” He didn’t say, “It may be that I’ll dwell in the house.”

David had the heart of a racehorse. He declared for all to hear, “I’m staying in the house. I know I make a mess sometimes, and I may spill on the rug, and knock down the lamps, and break all the expensive stuff. I know what a pain it is to have me in the house, but I’ll tell you what: You’re going to have to drag me out of here kicking and screaming. I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” That was the heart of David and it can be our heart as well.

Think of how David loved people and loved God with a stubborn love.

Thank God for a person in your life who has exemplified stubborn love for you. How has their life taught you about the heart of God? Think of a person whom you can love more stubbornly.

Thank God for opening his house to you through the life, love, and sacrifice of Jesus. Thank God for loving you that much. Declare to God that you love him and that you will joyfully dwell in his house forever!

As I come to the close of my time here at Hope Church, I pray that these passages exemplify the love I have had for each of you and perhaps even the love you have had for Brenda and I. Of course, it hasn’t always been “sugar and spice and everything nice” but we have managed to make it through the hard spots and still love each other.

We really appreciated and enjoyed having lunch together yesterday after worship with a number of you and it caused me to think of the love a pastor has to have for the people under his care and the love that those same people have for their pastor. Brenda and I will always be thankful to God for allowing us the privilege of serving here with you for these last 11 years and please know that we will continue to pray for each of you even when we are in our new home.

However, I will still be here for 2 more Sundays and I look forward to seeing you in worship. This coming Sunday we will conclude our series on “The Holiness of God” using Revelation 4:1-11. I hope you can be with us.

Until then, HAVE A GREAT WEEK WITH JESUS!

                                                                               Sincerely His then yours,
                                                                                                               Eddie

P.S. I wanted to let you know that Shirley will be on vacation beginning this Friday, July 21, and continuing through Monday, July 31. She will be back in the office on Tuesday, August 1. I will be in and out during the week of the 24th -28th taking care of movers and house closing. So, if you call the church office, please leave a message and I will be checking messages several times during the day. If you need to talk to someone sooner, please call my cellphone @ 813-579-8994.

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Pastor’s Page July 10th, 2017

“Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it'” (Matthew 16:16-18).

There is something more profound than a developed soul. There is something more influential than a Christian mind. There is something more compelling than a call. This great enterprise gathers these elements together and places them in a context of such cosmic significance that Jesus declared it would be “so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out” (Matthew 16:18 The Message). He was referring to the church.

Jesus made this staggering claim because the church would be His ongoing incarnation on planet earth. The church is His body, His presence, His life – the means for His ongoing ministry to the world, not simply as the universal body of believers around the world, but as concrete communities of faith gathered together in the name of Christ as mission outposts to the world. And you cannot fulfill God’s plan for your life, much less change the world, apart from taking your place in its mission and ministry, community and cause.

Reflecting on a lifetime of study in the social sciences, Peter Berger suggests that the key to resisting the secular culture of our day is for communities of faith to self-consciously and determinedly stand against the secular onslaught. As critical as it is to understand the process of secularization, it pales in comparison to grasping the church’s mandate to engage in “countersecularization.”

The church, writes Dennis Hollinger, is the “visible, corporate expression of the Christian worldview.” Famed missiologistLesslieNewbigin would agree: “I have come to feel that the primary reality of which we have to take account in seeking for a Christian impact on public life is the Christian congregation… Jesus…did not write a book but formed a community.”

During World War II the people of London were subjected to the fierce blitzkrieg attacks of the German air force. Throughout the blitz St. Paul’s Cathedral miraculously escaped major bomb damage, though surrounding areas were reduced to rubble. Rising strong and tall against the London skyline, St. Paul’s became the symbol of London’s soul, and its spirit was the foundation on which the city would be rebuilt. Like St. Paul’s, the church alone can withstand the onslaught of the world and, standing firm, recapture the soul of a lost and weary world.

This is our mission – indeed, our great commission: through the church we are to reach out to those relationally divorced from Christ and turn them into fully-devoted followers (see Matthew 28:18-20). No other endeavor could eclipse the global impact of this cause. But it won’t just happen.

We do not live and breathe in a neutral environment but in the midst of a hostile conflict, and we are behind enemy lines. The god of this world has been named, and he is ensconced firmly on his throne. There is only one domain beyond his control that stands in the way of total dominion: the body of Christ. As a result, the church is under constant assault, for it stands alone against the night. It demands constant reinforcement and steadfast commitment.

The church is not simply in the vanguard of kingdom advance; it is the entire assault force. And according to Jesus’ words, the church is not only to take a stand against evil…but also to stage a frontal attack.

And never forget Paul’s words in Romans 8:31, 37: “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?….No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us!”

I thank God for allowing us to serve Him together these past 11 years and I give Him all the glory and praise for all that this church family has been able to accomplish in that time. Let us continue in the work He has called us to and trust God for the future.

I look forward to seeing you this Sunday as we meet for worship. We will be continuing in our series on “The Holiness of God” and our scripture will again be from Revelation 4:1-11. Hope you can be with us.

Until then, HAVE A GREAT WEEK WITH JESUS!

                                                                               Sincerely His then yours,
Eddie

P.S. Brenda and I are happy to report that God has allowed our house to be sold much quicker than we had planned for. As a matter of fact, we hope to close on July 28. However, we have had to change our travel schedule somewhat which means that next Sunday, July 16, will be Brenda’s last Sunday here. Our son will be flying down next week to help us move and she will be returning to Texas with him and our cat on Friday, July 21. I will continue through Sunday, July 30. She is looking forward to seeing everyone next Sunday if possible.

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Pastor’s Page July 3rd, 2017

The following is a copy of the letter I submitted to our Session at our last meeting on June 27. I also shared this with the congregation yesterday at the close of the worship service. It was a decision that Brenda and I have made after an extended time of prayer and listening to God. I wanted everyone to know about this and I would like to make a few comments after you have read the letter.

Dear Friends:

I am today submitting my resignation as Stated Supply Pastor of Hope Cumberland Presbyterian Church. It has been made clear to me by the Holy Spirit that this is the right decision at the right time for Brenda and I and for Hope Church.
Through the past several months, I have begun to feel very strongly that I am not the right person to lead Hope Church through a process of renewal and revitalization. There has been very little movement of the Spirit in our worship services and it seems as if God is speaking to me through that inactivity. It has been a painful process of prayer and seeking God’s will to come to this decision.

However, Brenda and I have agreed that this is what God would have us to do. We will always remember our ministry together here with all of you and we will miss very much many of the wonderful people it has been our privilege to serve our Lord with in this congregation.
I will not be looking for another church as I feel it is time to be retired at least for a while and get to know our grandson a little better. We plan on selling our home and moving as soon as possible back to Fort Worth, TX, to be near our family.

Subject to Session approval, my resignation will become effective July 31, 2017. Until that time I will continue to be your pastor and I encourage you to call on me when needed as you have in the past. In addition, I will do my best to assist the Session in their search for a new pastor in any way they desire.
Finally, let me say on behalf of Brenda and I, that we love and appreciate each of you and pray God’s best for the Hope Church family.

Now, for those comments: First, let me say how much I appreciate the way you received this news at the service yesterday. You were very gracious and supportive and we will always be grateful for that. As you know, I will be 71 in August and I am not sure how much time I have left but I would like to take some time to get acquainted with our grandson and reacquainted with our son.

It has been 41 years since we lived near any extended family and 17 years since we lived near our son. We are looking forward to being with Matt, Sara, and Cameron and having a relationship with Cameron as he is our only grandchild.

Secondly, I want you to know that this is not the only reason for our decision. The Session and I discussed a number of ways for the revitalization and renewal of Hope Church and we believe there is an exciting future ahead for this congregation. However, I do not feel that I have the energy and enthusiasm to guide you through this process.

We will be working with the presbytery and our denomination to secure new pastoral leadership that will be younger and more equipped to lead us into a new era of growth and ministry. As Jesus said, “the fields are white unto harvest!” I believe that Hope Church has such a field all around us but we will need everyone working together to help us accomplish the tasks before us.

Finally, let me ask you to stay the course. Don’t give up just because Brenda and I are leaving. Hope Church was here 24 years before we got here and I am quite sure it will be here until Jesus comes back for His Church! Remember, this is His church! And all of you are part of it so, stay connected and see what God can do through all of you working together.

I hope you will be with us this coming Sunday as I will begin a new series entitled “The Holiness of God.” Our scripture will be taken from Revelation 4:1-11. Brenda and I are looking forward to sharing these next few weeks with you. Until then, HAVE A GREAT WEEK WITH JESUS!

                                                                               Sincerely His then yours,
Eddie

P.S. Please be in prayer for the Richard Maples Family. Richard was Carole Felicia’s former husband and the father of her children. He visited with us several months ago and passed away this past week in Knoxville, TN. Carole has been there with the family during this time. Your prayers will be greatly appreciated.

P.S.S. Sorry this is late but my email has been down since Saturday. EJ

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Pastor’s Page June 26th, 2017

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:12-14).

There is a dynamic relationship between what you wear and what you are. Put on a state trooper uniform with one of those flat rimmed hats, and no matter who you are, you suddenly project an air of authority. Put on a nurse’s uniform, and you project something that enables people to trust you, even though they may never have met you. As the old saying says, “The clothes make the person.”

St. Paul would agree. He tells the Colossians to put on a very specific style of uniform. In Colossians 3:11, he begins by telling us that there is a unity in the church. Paul says, “there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” He could have been preaching to us at Hope Church: “There is no Anglo or Hispanic or Asian. There is no Black or White. There is no white collar worker or blue collar worker. But Christ is all, and is in all.”

Christians are united in such a way that no matter what else may divide us, Christ unites us. Paul tells the Colossians that Christians should be united, and then in verse 12 he tells us to put on the uniform — “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” The uniform of the Christian is a set of attitudes. Now when we clothe ourselves, we project an image. And Paul wants us to project an image as we clothe ourselves with these attitudes.

There are five items in the Christian wardrobe – compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. We could go through each of these five items and study it and unravel it – and we could learn a lot about how to live the Christian life. In fact, we could spend weeks on compassion. We could spend months on kindness. We could spend a lifetime studying humility. Of course, we would probably spend only ten minutes studying patience because we’re in too big of a hurry.

But if you look at each one of these items that Paul says we need to clothe ourselves in, they all boil down to only one uniform. And that’s love.

Every one of these items is simply a characteristic of love. In fact, if you have your Bibles handy, turn to I Corinthians 13. The subject of that chapter is, of course, love. Paul begins this great chapter by saying, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” And Paul continues by talking about the importance of love.

Love is central to everything in the Gospel. You cannot live the Christian life without living a life that seeks to master the ability to love other people. When Jesus was asked, what are the two great commandments, his answer was love. In Matthew 22, He said very plainly, “Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Love is what our lifestyle as Christians ought to be about.

And all of these garments Paul tells the Colossian Church to clothe themselves in – each one is nothing more than a simple expression of a different facet, or expression, of love. I find this very interesting and, at the same time, rather challenging, don’t you? I mean after all I know we are supposed to love everyone, but really? Paul would say, “Yes! Really!”

Now let me be quick to say before you think I am fussing at you, that I think our Hope Church family’s strong suit is just that, LOVE!  As I stand in the pulpit each Sunday, I have that overwhelming feeling that we genuinely love each other and anyone who comes to worship with us. I can see it in your faces and I hear it on your lips.

As a matter of fact, I believe that is one of our strong suits. I can’t tell you how many times visitors to our services have told me how they feel so at home at Hope Church. And that is why many of them choose to return regularly. So, I just want to encourage you to keep on doing what you are doing! Lets make sure that we welcome with Christian love everyone God sends to us and I feel sure that we will continue to grow as God gives the increase.

Don’t forget that next Sunday, July 2, we will recognize the July 4th holiday commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence 241 years ago on July 4, 1776. The Continental Congress declared that the thirteen American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation, the United States of America, and were no longer part of the British Empire. We will also observe the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Our scripture lesson will be taken from II Chronicles 7:11-16 and the message is entitled “Can America Return to God?”  Hope you can be with us.

Until then, HAVE A GREAT WEEK WITH JESUS!

                                                                               Sincerely His then yours,
Eddie

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Pastor’s Page June 12th, 2017

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:7-8).

 Pastor John Ortberg writes about what happens “When a Soul Has No Center.” Read on: The New Testament book of James uses a fascinating word to describe this condition. It’s often translated “double-minded,” but the Greek word is dipsuchos — we might think of as double-souled, or split-souled, or the un-centered soul. Here are a few of the indicators when a soul lacks a center:

A soul without a center has difficulty making a decision. One of the pictures James uses of this condition is that the double-souled person is like a wave on the sea, driven forward one moment and backwards the next. People whose souls are rooted in a center find it brings clarity to their decisions. A classic counter to this in Scripture is the character of Pontius Pilate. He struggles with the decision of what to do with Jesus. He tries to talk Jesus into saying what will allow Pilate to free him. He pesters the religious leaders without making the decision that his authority would have allowed. He asks the crowd to let him off the hook but they opt for Barabbas. When the soul is not centered, one is never sure what temptations are worth resisting or what sacrifices are worth making.

A soul without a center feels constantly vulnerable to people or circumstances. 1 Kings 19 tells of Elijah’s soul that grows terrified under the threat of Jezebel. He runs and hides. Meanwhile God treats all his “parts.” God gives his body a rest and some food; he allows Elijah’s mind to hear his still small voice; he appeals to Elijah’s will to return to the battle. Eventually Elijah’s soul is restored, but only because he found his Center. The disconnected soul lives in vulnerability.

A soul without a center lacks patience.In the book of Numbers, when the people grew impatient with God’s long journey through the wilderness, the text says that “their souls grew short.” The same usage occurs in the book of Judges; Samson’s soul has no center because he simply rambles from the pursuit of power to pleasure to women to revenge; the nagging of one single woman is enough to make this powerful man “grow short in soul.” On the other hand, the character of the proverbially patient Job is said to be “long-souled.” King Saul was a big man with a short soul. When he was to lead Israel against their enemies the Philistines, he grew impatient waiting for the prophet Samuel to show up at Gilgal to offer sacrifices. His solution was to take matters into his own hands and offer the sacrifice himself. The result was a shattered covenant with God and a giant step in the disintegration of his soul and his life which eventually led to his untimely death.

The soul without a center finds its identity in externals. My temptation when my soul is not centered in God is to try to control my life. In the Bible this is spoken of in terms of the lifting up of one’s soul. The prophet Habakkuk said that the opposite of living in faithful dependence on God is to lift your soul up in pride. When my soul is not centered in God, I define myself by my accomplishments, or my physical appearance, or my title, or my important friends. When I lose these, I lose my identity.

A soul without a center is like a house built over a sinkhole. On the other hand, the soul comes alive when it is centered on God. When we reach out to God, we are lifting our souls up to be nurtured and healed. A soul centered in God always knows it has a Heavenly Father who will hold its pain, its fear, its anxiety. This is spiritual life: to place the soul each moment in the presence and care of God. We hold on tightly, but often to the wrong things. But staying centered on God — his word, his ways — is the essence of life for the soul. Let our prayer today be “Lord, help us to always stay centered in You, your Word, and your Holy Spirit! Amen and Amen!”

Brenda and I missed being with you on Sunday, June 4, but we had a good trip and were able to be a part of our great-niece’s wedding. It was really good to be with many family members whom we seldom get to see. Many thanks to Bob and Cheryl for carrying on in our absence and leading the congregation in a good worship experience.

Speaking of good worship experiences, we had another one yesterday and we are looking forward to being with you once again this coming Sunday. It will be Father’s Day so we will be honoring our dads and granddads in the service. The message will be entitled “Five Traits for a Fine Father” and our scripture lesson will be Proverbs 20:3-7. Hope to see you in worship! Until then, HAVE A GREAT WEEK WITH JESUS!

   Sincerely His then yours,
                                                                                                                Eddie

P.S. No Pastor’s Page next week as I will be serving as pastor/host for the General Assembly meeting at Innisbrook.

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