Spiritual Mentors – Henri Nouwen

The second sermon in our series of Spiritual Mentors, featured one of my all-time favorites: Henri Nouwen. I read many of his books over the years, but I was seventeen when I first read one of his books: The Genesee Diary.

Nouwen had a unique way of talking about and relating the spiritual life in easy to understand ways. I always appreciated reading his take on the spiritual disciplines, such as silence. He just had a way of teaching the basic principles of the spiritual disciplines in ways I could understand. He also was profound, yet in a simple and real way.

Sunday morning, as worship began, I took my place in front of the sanctuary and sat down. I checked to be sure my Bible was bookmarked to the appropriate scripture passage of the day and I was surprised to find that someone had placed a new bookmark in my Bible at this proper location. The bookmark was inscribed with two of the verses for Sunday’s reading. What a joyous and unexpected surprise! Thank you, whoever did this!

Some people bookmark their favorite biblical passages. Others even highlight verses or add written notes in the margins of their Bibles. You can always tell a well-used Bible against one whose spine is rarely if ever cracked. Are you reading your Bible? Each month in our church newsletter, we list suggested Bible readings and I am always amazed at how many people use this simple tool in their own devotional life. Others use The Upper Room or Our Daily Bread for their Bible reading habits. What are you doing?

Here are the quotes from Henri Nouwen that I used in my sermon this past Sunday. Look over them and mediate on them. Think deeply about them and be challenged by them. What are these quotes saying to you?

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Our Vision here at Stroudsburg United Methodist Church

Back on January 19, 2014, I talked about vision in my sermon. I said, “We don’t dream big enough!” I think this is true, but I also think it is natural. Children have big imaginations, but as we grow up, we typically grow away from dreaming and imagining. Proverbs 29:18a states clearly, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” This is a heavy and serious warning! It is also a call back to dreaming and imagining!

In that sermon, I presented a vision for SUMC. This vision is to double each and everything we do: double the worship attendance at 8:30am and 11:00am, double the size of our Sunday School classes, double the number of people participating in Small Groups, double the size of the choir, double our involvement in Soup Kitchen, double our involvement in Family Promise, double our prayer life, double our spiritual devotion, etc.

I’ve continued to pray and think about this vision since that day. I believe strongly that God is pushing and challenging us to grow wider and deeper. Deeper is the spiritual growth we all need to cultivate and wider is the increase in numbers that God wants us to reach in our community with the love and message of Jesus. We need to look out beyond the stained glass windows in our church and develop a real heart for our community and the people who are our neighbors.

I believe this vision is from God and I am calling it “Double Vision” because we need to be much more serious about doubling up everything we do! Here are some of the things I see through this vision into our future:

  • 300 people worshipping in our sanctuary each week
  • a community church that loves our neighbors
  • more missions, including hands-on mission like adult work trips and Habitat for Humanity
  • a more welcoming and inviting church that makes a fantastic first impression
  • a movement, which is Christ-centered, vibrant, and relevant
  • committed believers who are growing wider (numerically) and deeper (spiritually)

Can you see any of this? This might all seem overwhelming at first. How exactly can we double up on everything? Well, it begins one step at a time. Can you invite one person to attend church with you? That would increase our attendance by one — and that would be one (you) plus another one, so that is a double! Can you get involved in a ministry if you are not doing any yet? What about inviting a neighbor or a friend to get involved, too?

I am pleased to see some significant results from what we started back in January. For example, if you remember, I asked for a show of hands of how many people were actually involved with Family Promise. There were some, but not nearly enough of our congregation who are involved in this vital ministry. Well, just yesterday, I was looking at the signup lists for Family Promise and there was only one blank spot left for the week! We’re making some progress, but I know we can do better with our involvement in Family Promise and in every other ministry, too!

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of hitting foul balls and some singles for God. It’s time for us to hit more and more doubles!

So, from now own, SUMC has Double Vision! We are going to double up everything we do! Are you with me? Are you ready to live into God’s dream for this church? Let’s get started right now!

 

Are You Participating in a Small Group?

Small Groups come in a variety of flavors–some are designed to help us grow deeper in our faith and others are more recreational and relational. The goal for Small Groups at Stroudsburg UMC is to have a great variety of Small Groups to interest as many members and friends of the church as possible.

You can learn more about our Small Groups here.

Small Groups bring together people for a common purpose to grow together. If you haven’t tried participating in a Small Group yet, I encourage you to give it a try. Look over the list of Small Groups, pray about it, and contact the leader to give it a try!

Where Do You Spend Your Time & Money?

So where do you spend your time? What do you do and where do you go? Do you spend your time wisely?

In today’s world many of us are busier than perhaps any other generation in history. We have more information at our fingertips, more things to see and do, and the world is only getting smaller! Time is a precious commodity and we must be careful how we choose to spend our time.

How do you spend your money? Do you save for a rainy day or do you buy things you like whenever you feel like it? Is your money well-spent or do you waste away some of your hard-earned money?

This questions really are spiritual questions. How we spend our time and our money say a lot about our spiritual maturity and the closeness of our walk with God. This week’s sermon will explore these two questions and try to see what the Bible says about how we spend our time and our money. You will be encouraged to take a few steps toward a closer relationship with Christ in the process!

Keep Growing

Are you still growing?

Maybe you’ve already reached your maximum height, but are you still growing spiritually? The worst thing a Christian can do is think he or she has “arrived” and reached maximum growth as a believer. The opposite of growth is death, so if we are not growing we are dying.

Growth is not always easy either. It is much more comfortable to stay where we are–with what we are used to doing and being. Change is never easy for most of us.

Growing in God’s love is fun even though it requires some amount of change in our lives. It is definitely worth it, too!

This Sunday in worship we will be exploring how we can keep growing in God’s love and keep our spiritual lives fresh. It is so easy to get stuck in a rut and it’s hard to grow in a rut. We will learn some tools to keep growing and find some ways to keep our spiritual lives fresh with new growth!

How can I Grow in Gods’ Love?

Where are you?

I assume you may be sitting at your computer or perhaps somewhere with your Blackberry or PDA. Where are you? Are you sitting down or standing up? Are you in a quiet, comfortable room; or are you in a noisy wireless cafe? Are you home, at work, or out and about? Just where are you?

This question, “Where are you?” begs a physical answer. For example, I am currently in my home office sitting in front of my computer and a nice cold glass of iced tea.

But we can go deeper!

Where are you in your walk with the Lord?

Are you growing closer to God or is there a gap or chasm developing between you and God? Do you love God? Do you spend time with God? Do you go to worship? Do you spend some time every day with God? Where are you in your spiritual journey?

Do you realize you can grow in your love for God? God lovesĀ  you very much. So much that God sent Jesus into the world to save you and me from our sins. The cost was high, but Jesus paid the price and God’s love for us in unquestionable!

This week’s sermon will explore how we can grow in God’s love. Come out on Sunday to find the answers to this question or connect to the upcoming sermon online here.