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From the Pastor's Pen — 2012 Archive
 




Bob

 Bob Kerr

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January 2012: "A New Year, A New Beginning — 2012!"

Dear Friends in Christ,

Our Advent and Christmas celebrations were wonderful in 2011! From the remarkable presentation of the Christmas Cantata by the Chancel Choir (to a standing ovation of sustained applause), to the delightful White Gifts evening program presented by our youth group, our offerings of praise to God were a blessing! The families that led us each Sunday during Advent in the lighting of the candles on the Advent Wreath did a great job, and for the first time we had a service focused on "The Hanging of the Greens." Every heart was blessed during our Christmas Eve Candlelight Communion service, as we knelt together to remember the purposes for which the Christ Child was born. So a resounding "Thank You!" is in order for everyone who made all of this possible.

Now we are entering a new year. On the first Sunday we will share a service of Baptismal Covenant Renewal during which time we will renew our baptismal vows, recommitting ourselves to Christ and to the sharing of HIs love and grace with everyone we meet in the new year. Of course, the new year brings "resolution" making, doesn't it? We reflect over the year past, gaze ahead into the unknown, and decide what the most important things for us to focus on might be. For some, it's a resolution concerning practices that might lead to improved health; for others, the resolution might be to do better on the job; still others may decide to take that long planned trip, or to take up that new hobby. Some make resolutions that have to do with character traits: better control of anger, leading a more disciplined life, forgiving an offense, asking for forgiveness, daily reading of scripture and an intentional devotional life, and doing a daily kindness for others. Whatever the resolution you may be pondering, we all recognized that the new year gives us a structured chance to be intentional about those things we feel would make us better, happier, and more fulfilled persons.

For some, the new year has brought difficult changes: A loved one recently died, and now the prospect of entering into a new year without him or her seems daunting, indeed. How will one fill the days that feel empty now, or find a new purpose now that shared dreams, hopes, and goals have come to an end:? There is always a danger in coming up with "easy answers" to these dilemmas, and I'd like to avoid doing that. Some things in life are simply difficult to deal with, and the loss of a loved one is one of those things. The new year brings with it, then, the challenge of a new beginning, while still holding on to those cherished memories and relationships that have sustained us over the years. A new beginning sometimes means a complete break with some things in our past. But a new beginning for the child of God is better compared to the building of a magnificent edifice that glorifies God and becomes a thing of beauty. It involves building on a foundation already laid, a foundation of love, trust, hope, and goodness. The new year invites us to add to that edifice, enhancing and beautifying it all the more. So, as you begin the new year, embracing the changes that you face, hold fast to God's love and the assurance of God's promises. Pray for the sustaining guidance of God's Holy Spirit. Remind yourself daily that the steadfast love of God for you endures forever, and that "Immanuel" (God with us) will never leave you or forsake you.

Yours in the Love of Christ,

Bob

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February 2012: "Love Makes All the Difference!"

Dear Friends in Christ,

It's hard to believe that we're already about to step over the threshold into February! January has been busy as we renewed our Baptismal Covenants with God, started the search for a new leader for our youth and children's ministries, prepared for our first 5th Sunday experience during the Sunday School hour, restarted the puppet ministry, scheduled confirmation classes and a trip to Lake Junaluska for our youth, sent folks to the District Leadership Conference at Davidson, prepared and sent out our financial brochure and package concerning stewardship and giving in the new year, taken the youth to Winter Jam (a contemporary Christian music concert for youth) in Charlotte (thanks to Cliff and Joyce Mayer for facilitating that), and said a final farewell to our beloved Jim Hill as the Lord took him home to heaven.

The last Sunday in February I'll begin our confirmation classes during the Sunday School hour. We have eight on our list of young people eligible for these classes and I'm excited about the interaction we'll have over the four weeks we'll have classes. We'll be using materials I put together several years ago entitled "Staying Centered in Christ," and we'll be exploring how young people can stay faithful to Christ in today's culture. It occurred to me that what the youth will be studying and discussing has value for all of us, especially as we seek to become a congregation with growing vitality in this new year.

The membership vows they will take on Palm Sunday when they join the church include their affirmation of faith in Christ, and they will vow to be faithful to the church with their prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. It's a great time for all of us to reflect on the ways we fulfill those same vows we also took years ago when we joined the church.

And of course, Valentine's Day comes this month! Its origin traces back to the Roman Empire and Saint Valentine. St. Valentine had been imprisoned for protecting some Christians from persecution and was to be executed on February 14. One legend tells us that while jailed, he wrote letters to the jailer's daughter and signed the last one he wrote before dying, "Your Valentine." Today, children write valentine cards to give to their friends (or send them electronic valentine cards by way of facebook, emails, or texting), and most of us adults have fond memories of Valentine's Days gone by.

Now, husbands and wives … love gets put to the test every day of our lives. Don't miss this opportunity to celebrate the love you have for each other. Find some way to make February 14 a special day for your loved one. Be intentional that day in expressing your love and appreciation for what your husband or wife does every day, and reaffirm that you do not take that for granted. And make some time to be together that day, just the two of you. Now, I have an ulterior motive in suggesting this. Strengthening your marriage strengthens your family. Strengthening your family strengthens the church. Strengthening the church makes its witness in the world more effective. And when the witness of the church is vital and effective, the nation experiences healing, wholeness, and unit. Wow! That's a lot to expect from a little valentine card and some flowers, and perhaps a dinner. But watch a small stone thrown into the lake. Ripples are made that extend far beyond its own size. Love is the same. Nurture it and strengthen it, and it becomes a powerful force in our world, changing lives one at a time.

Yours in the Service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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March 2012: "God's Exquisite Love!"

Dear Friends in Christ,

The Balance Between Faith and Works

The Book of James in our New Testament is a remarkable piece of literature that tells us what the earliest Christians believed about the balance between faith and works. He argues that it is impossible to demonstrate faith apart from the good works that flow from it. Though our good works do not save us (grace through faith does), they are a natural outgrowth of a vibrant, maturing faith. And James argues further that if there are no good works being produced by our faith, we are right to question the maturity of the faith we say we hold in our hearts.

Good Works During Lent

Well, Rehobeth folks sure do exemplify the balance James speaks about! During the season of Lent (the five weeks before Easter), we have given ample opportunity for our people to observe a holy Lenten season by engaging in a variety of good works — works of compassion, justice, and mercy. Sunday, February 19, was the first sign-up day for volunteering for those good works, and I was amazed at the large number of folks who seized that opportunity and signed up for one or more of those events. Those events and opportunities include working at the Christian Ministry in Newton helping to feed the poor; providing school kits for children in third world and developing countries; expressing appreciation for our local firefighters by taking cakes, pies, cookies, lunch and supper items; visiting among the sick; visiting Dove House for information on abused children; collecting cell phones for use by women in the abuse shelter visiting our homes for folks with disabilities (UMAR), taking bingo games and food and leading some singing; writing cards of encouragement and appreciation to our wounded troops in Afghanistan; and more! So a heartfelt "Thank You" to all our volunteers!

Compassion Grows Out of Love

I am quite confident that expressions of compassion for others are outgrowths of the love we have in our hearts. The Bible tells us that "we love because He first loved us and gave himself for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." When we come to realize the depth of God's love for us, that Christ died for the sins of the world, and that in the midst of our sin the Holy Spirit seeks us out and offers God's forgiveness and love, then that love is like a seed planted in our hearts. And like a seed, as we nourish that love, it multiplies our capacity to love others and to respond to their needs with compassion. It's important for us to realize that when we do that — when we express God's love to others through works of compassion and love — we plant that same seed in their hearts, so that love can grow in them as well.

Preparing Our Hearts for Easter

What better way could we possibly prepare our hearts for Holy Week and Easter? Jesus' gift of himself on the cross, and the resurrection that follows, all flow from God's exquisite love for each of us. Something that is "exquisite" is beautiful, lavish, and flawless … that certainly describes God's love for us, doesn't it? I pray that during these weeks of preparation for Easter, you will experience the "exquisite love" of God in Christ all over again! And keep on planting those seeds!

Yours in the Service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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April 2012: "God's Final Answer"

Dear Friends in Christ,

A Missions Recap

What a wonderful time we had during the season of Lent! Scores of our members, younger and older alike, rolled up their shirt sleeves,joined hearts and hands, and committed themselves to a variety of hands-on mission projects during March. A heartfelt word of thanks is in order for everyone!

The Season of Hope Emerges

Now, during this wonderful time of the year when leaves begin to clothe the bare limbs of trees, as flowers begin their blooming, and the dark brown of winter's earth begins to change into lush meadows and green yards, we find ourselves celebrating the birth of a new hope in the hearts of all humankind. During Holy Week, April 1-7, we will observe the Last Supper on Thursday and the crucifixion of our Lord on Good Friday. Then, on Easter Sunday, we will celebrate with millions of Christians all around the world, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead! With that resurrection, a new hope broke into human history.

Death No Longer Has the Final Answer

Most of us have watched at least one episode of the "So You Want to Be a Millionaire" program. Contestants answer a series of increasingly difficult questions. For every correct answer, a given amount of money is awarded. And when a incorrect answer is given, the game is over. When a series of correct answers is given, the player finally gets to answer the question that is worth $1,000,000! And after each answer is given, the host asks, "Is that your final answer?"

For a long time, people thought that death was the final answer to life, a period at the end of life's sentence. One lived out the number of days allotted, and then when death came, death appeared to have the last say. But then comes this man from Galilee, born in Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth, and finding a home base for his ministry in Capernaum on the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee. From there, he and his disciples journey throughout the surrounding region, healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind, and wonder of wonders — raising the dead! Jesus is called to Bethany where his dear friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus lived. Lazarus has died. Jesus raises him back to life again in the presence of many witnesses. And when Lazarus appears at the opening of the tomb in which he had been buried, he was still wrapped in his grave cloths. Jesus declares to those standing by, "Unbind him and set him free."

The Gift of Life Everlasting

All of us know that this resurrection from the dead was a demonstration of God's power over sin and death, preparing the hearts and minds of the disciples for Jesus' own resurrection. When Jesus was crucified, his adversaries were convinced that they had had the last word, the final answer to Jesus' claims to be the Son of the Living God. But theirs was not the final answer! God had the last word! On the third day after Jesus' death, God raised him to life again. With that resurrection, the gift of life everlasting is made possible for all who believe in the name of Jesus. That life is a free, unmerited gift of God's grace. It is God who has the last word. And His word is bathed in love for you and for me. This Easter, I pray that the power of the resurrection will grant you the confidence that comes from knowing God has prepared a place for you and that when the end of your journey comes, there is a comma at the end of the sentence, and a glorious future in God's eternal kingdom awaiting you!

Yours in the Service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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May 2012: "HOMECOMING!"

Dear Friends in Christ,

A Wonderful History

I always look forward to May and our Homecoming celebration! As you probably know, I take great pride in announcing, to folks who ask what church I serve as pastor, that it's a church that was established the year George Washington was inaugurated the first President of the United States. 1789 was a remarkable year. The Revolutionary War is generally said to have stared with the battles of Concord and Lexington in 1775 and the military phase lasted until 1783 — eight years! The United States Constitution was ratified in 1789. North Carolina was the twelfth state to ratify it that year. And while that was happening, Daniel Asbury made his way west of the Catawba River as a Methodist preacher to start the Rehobeth Church and to have a starting role in the Camp Meeting revival that was taking place in the region.

Centuries of Mission and Ministry

Part of what we celebrate at Homecoming is the fact that generations of Christian men and women have been in ministry in this place in the 1700s, 1800s, 1900s, and now in the 21st century! We mark 223 years of faithful witness in 2012, and today the church is vital and alive, continuing a legacy to which we are called by the Apostle Paul himself when he writes to Timothy: "I have fought the food fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." We stand on the spiritual shoulders of those who have gone before us, laymen and laywomen and the clergy and their families who have served us. We continue to "fight the good fight," to "run the race and keep the faith!" Our lives have been shaped by their legacies of love and faithfulness, their commitments to God in Christ. We must always be mindful that we are part of that ongoing legacy of God's people in this place.

A Special Guest Speaker

Our Homecoming guest preacher this year will be the Reverend Chuck Baker, pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Belmont. Chuck served as a summer intern here at Rehobeth in 1986, and it is a joy to know that Rehobeth had a hand in shaping his ministry twenty-six years ago! I think you all did well, as his is a thriving and effective ministry, and he has been an effective spiritual leader among the people he has served over the years.

Extend the Invitation!

Invite friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors to join us for our Homecoming Celebration on May 6. We will have services at 8:45 and 10:45 and, of course, our fellowship luncheon afterwards. I expect the Lord will bless us as we gather for worship and praise, to hear the Word, and to celebrate the remarkable history of God's people in this sacred place! I'll look forward to seeing you at Homecoming!

Yours in the Service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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June 2012: "The Great Gathering …"

Dear Friends in Christ,

Annual Conference

I always look forward to June and the Great Gathering at Lake Junaluska for the Western North Carolina Annual Conference! I get to see friends and colleagues from all across western North Carolina, many of whom I haven't seen since last year at this time. I also often run into people from former churches who are there for Conference and it's great to sit down and visit with old friends.

Who Attends and What Is Holy Conferencing?

Every church among our over 1100 churches will have representation at this annual meeting. There will be an equal balance between ministers and laypersons, so neither group can ever dominate the actions of the Annual Conference. These delegates from every church engage in discussion about issues that come before the church and we call that discussion "holy conferencing." The aim of "holy conferencing" is to generate mutual respect for differing ideas with the intention of maintaining the "unity of the spirit and the bond of peace" among the people of God. Historically, it's always been important to us as United Methodists that all voices can be heard around the table, and that hopefully, consensus in Christ can be reached on all matters. Our delegate to Annual Conference is Mike Bostic.

What Will Be Happening This Year?

Most of the more controversial issues that face the church in our day have already been debated and decided at General Conference (which meets every four years), so the work load for delegates this year will include a new structure for our Conference, which will include reducing the number of Districts from fifteen to eight. That will result in a huge cost savings for the Conference and will, of course, put some of those District Superintendents back to work in the local church. Our own Dr. Lillie Jones will be retiring, and if you are able to attend her retirement party at Assurance UMC on June 10, I know she would love to see some Rehobeth folk there wishing her well, She thinks highly of your congregation!

A Foretaste of Things to Come!

The highlight of Annual Conference is the worship experiences we share and the challenging and inspirational messages we hear. It's a wondrous thing to be standing in the midst of over 2,000 committed United Methodist Christians and share in the singing of the great hymns of our faith like "Amazing Grace" and "How Great Thou Art!" Sometimes, I just stop singing, close my eyes, and listen. What a wonderful foretaste of what it will be like in that Great Gathering in Heaven when Jesus gathers together all the family of God!

When Is It?

The Annual Conference will be meeting at Lake Junaluska from Wednesday, June 20, until Sunday June 24. Pray for Mike as he represents you this year, and pray for all those gathered at the Lake, asking that God's Spirit will prevail in all we do and that Jesus Christ will be lifted up and glorified in wonderful ways by the faithful in Western North Carolina!

Yours in Service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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July 2012: "The Foundations of a Favored Nation …"

Dear Friends in Christ,

Our National Celebration

Isn't the Fourth of July a remarkable national celebration? Families gather together, many have cookouts and then plan to enjoy a fireworks display. At Lake Norman, the area across the Highway 150 bridge is nearly impassable as cars line up alongside the road. Families can be seen carrying their lawn chairs and looking for a good spot to view the fireworks over the lake. The fireworks grow in intensity and beauty, and eventually a responding cheer goes up as the last barrage of thunderous explosions of light and sound split the darkness. What is it that inspires such passion? I firmly believe there is a deep current of national thanksgiving and pride within us — a realization that we are a favored nation — and as a people have been more blessed than any other people in the history of nations — all this against a background of the genius of our founding fathers in seeking the guidance of Divine Providence as they sought to shape a new nation.

What the Founding Fathers Believed

I wondered, where did our Founding Fathers find the wisdom, insight, and foresight to forge such documents? It is clear that they were informed by the influence of Divine Providence in shaping our lives and our national character. Freedom of religious expression was never to be abridged Hear what some of the more famous of the Founding Fathers said:

George Washington, 1st President:

 "While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties
of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian."

John Adams, 2nd President;

"The general principles … were the only Principles on which that beautiful Assembly of young Gentlemen could Unite … And what were these
general Principles? I answer, the general Principles of Christianity …"

Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President:

"Of all the systems of morality, ancient or modern which have come under my observation, none appears to me so pure as that of Jesus …
I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus."

John Hancock, First Signer of the Declaration of Independence:

"Resistance to tyranny becomes the Christian and social duty of each individual… Continue steadfast and, with a proper sense of your
dependence on God, nobly defend those rights which heaven gave, and no man ought to take from us."

Clearly, our Founding Fathers believed that there was an essential component of American character that linked morality and good citizenship with religious faith. They also thought it an exercise in futility for a society to attempt to remove religion from its daily life while at the same time trying to maintain moral order. Hence, freedom of religious expression was not to be forbidden.

The Bible says from those who have receive much, much shall be required. As Christian Americans, let us all use the good gifts of God as opportunities to bless others, and may those of our countrymen who hold to different religious beliefs, do the same.

Yours in the Service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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August 2012: "What Is a ‘Vital Congregation’?"

Dear Friends in Christ,

The Catawba Valley District

It is an exciting new beginning for us as one of the churches in the new Catawba Valley District of the Western North Carolina Conference! Your Annual Conference delegate, Mike Bostic, and I spent three hours with representatives of the other four counties in our district, nominating leadership for the new district and we thoroughly enjoyed the company of our District Superintendent, Lyn Sorrells. We're confident you'll enjoy getting to know Lyn in the future and he offered great leadership in the meeting. So, we're organized and ready to go! I serve as a member of the Conference Vital Congregations committee, and Lyn asked if I would be willing to serve on our District Committee on Congregational Development, and I agreed to do so. So I thought it would be good for us to review for a moment what makes a congregation "vital."

Vital Congregations
Vision, Inspirational, Transformational, Adaptive, and Loving

Simply put, these are the characteristics that are an essential part of being a vital congregation. Vision means that we have a clear, discerned vision of where God wants to see the church in the years ahead; Inspirational means that our worship services and ministries connect people with the presence of God in Christ; Transformational means that our people and people from the community can testify to the transforming difference Christ has made in their lives; Adaptive means that we can easily adapt to the changes in our community and see them as opportunities for ministry; and Loving means that we readily share the love and forgiveness of God with one another and with those in our community.

What Every Church Wants to Be

We could easily argue that every church would like to fit that description above, couldn't we There is no lack of desire to be vital congregations, but sometimes churches don't know how to get from where they are to where they want to be. So as we enter into the school season 2012-2013, and folks are done with vacations and summer activities, we'll be addressing each of these characteristics in living out our faith together and in the ministries we put into place. I'm excited about what the Lord has in store for us,a nd already, some new beginnings are taking shape.

Undergirding it all with Prayer and Personal Commitment

Needless to say, if we are to become all that God has in mind for us to be (something Paul says is possible for us), we'll need to undergird all this with prayer and with personal commitment. If we are going to be God's people in this community, why not give it our best? After all, this one who gave His all for us deserves no less than our best for Him!

Yours in the Service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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September 2012: "Top of the Mornin' to You!"

Dear Friends in Christ,

A True Scottish Gentleman

While attending Florida Southern College as a student headed for ministry, I chose Philosophy as my major. Over the next four years, one individual in particular would come to be a formative influence on my life and ministry. He could be seen on any given morning walking across campus to his classroom building wearing a plaid jacket, a small bow tie, and a Scottish tweed cap on his head. On his lapel there was always a small wild flower, there to remind him, as he often said, that "man in his ingenuity has never created anything more beautiful." Whenever he was about to pass a "young lass" on the walkway, he would pause, tip his cap, and in a thick Scottish accent say, "Top of the mornin' to you." His name? Dr. Robert McGowen. His mission? Getting us to think logically..

Thinking Logically

In our very first Philosophy class session, Dr. McGowen made the comment that the vast majority of the world's problems and the problems in our lives were due to the lack of logical thinking. So, we spent that semester studying "Logic and Scientific Method." I still have the textbook in my library. That semester was instrumental in my learning how to present a logical argument, something that has had a profound impact on my preaching, teaching, and debates over some of our present-day cultural issues. I have been absolutely amazed at how many of our politicians violate time and again Dr. McGowen's compelling call to think logically. They make assertions and draw conclusions that just aren't supported by the facts, and folks on both sides of the aisle do this. It's in large part what initiated the crisis in our economy … failing to think logically about consequences.

Saying "Thank You"

The point is this: I owe a lot to this true Scottish gentleman's effort to get us to think logically, and I'll bet there are educators in your background who have helped equip you for life as well. On September 16, we're going to be honoring the educators in our are at our morning worship services. After the early service, we'll have a refreshment break for them in the Fellowship Hall, and following the later service, we'll have a covered dish lunch to honor those who attend that service. It's our chance to say a heartfelt "Thank you for the difference you're making in the lives of our children as you seek to equip them for a good and productive life!" So if you're an educator, plan to be with us that day. We want to honor you. And if you know another educator in our area who is not a member of the church, invite him or her to come as your guest that day. Let's have a great day honoring these people who have made such a difference in all of our lives.

 

Yours in the Service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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October 2012: "There's a Lot Going on in the Kingdom!"

Dear Friends in Christ,

As we move into the fall of the year, there are some wonderful and exciting things taking place in the work of the Kingdom here at Rehobeth! I thought I'd share just some of them with you in this month's newsletter.

Children and Youth Ministries Take Off …

We have all been amazed at the energy and excitement our youth and children are experiencing under the leadership of our new Director of Youth and Children's Ministries, Natalie Gray. Natalie and her husband Brian come to us from the Salisbury area, where Natalie assisted Hope Oliphant in children and youth ministries at First Church, China Grove. She had also been working with youth for the State in an anti-smoking campaign and established several youth clubs in local schools. With a degree in psychology and having a heart for event planning and coordinating, she is the perfect fit for Rehobeth. So, please undergird her and her ministry with our children and youth as she grows the program and its outreach in our community. And if you get a chance, stop by and check out the Youth room downstairs. Wear sunglasses, as the youth chose some really bright colors for their décor! And of course, the Fall Festival and "Trunk or Treat" will be held toward the end of the month! 

"Adventurers" Small Group Heads for the State Fair

The newest of our small groups at Rehobeth is the Adventurers Group. Cheryl and Mike Hamby are the facilitators, and there are 13 couples involved in the group1 Their first outing will be to the State Fair in Raleigh this month. Included in their planning for monthly events are devotional, study and discussion group gatherings, Bible Study, and more adventurous outings as well! If you're interested and want to get on board, contact Cheryl through the church office.

Bible Study

Our current Bible study for the fall on Tuesday mornings is "The Power of a Praying Woman," and Bonnie Keen is our study facilitator. It is a 10-week course of study, after which we'll offer another new study opportunity.

Marriage Enrichment

I've been excited about our offering a wonderful 6-week marriage enrichment course this month by Mr. and Mrs. Chip Ingram and Mr. and Mrs. Kurt Warner. The videos also include Mr. and Mrs. Dave Ramsey, of "Financial Peace University" fame. Their video presentations each session will be followed by lively and insightful discussion as well. The study will be held on Tuesday evenings at 7:00 PM.

Charge Conference for the "Catawba Valley District"

This month we will also gather on the 21st for our first Charge Conference celebration as the new Catawba Valley District! It is to be held at Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church at 2:00 PM that Sunday and will focus on new mission projects for the new year. We're a bit ahead of the game as plans are being made to feed the hungry by planting a "Rehobeth Gleaning Garden" next to the parsonage, the harvest of which will go to the ECCCM ministry. Plan to join us for the District celebration.

Undergird it All with Prayer

As we move through the fall, please partner with us by undergirding all these activities with prayer. This is "kingdom" work and I have no doubt the Lord will bless our work for the Kingdom of God.

Yours in the Service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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November 2012: " ‘Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant’ — A Farewell to Dr. Lenny Stadler"

Dear Friends in Christ,

Though it still felt like spring and summer weather most mornings last month, the fall of the year is upon us, and the leaves on that beautiful maple tree in front of Betty Jo Brown's house are absolutely ablaze with the beauty of the season! I drove up to Boone recently and the mountains were dappled with gorgeous splashes of color, all a reminder of the beauty of God's creation. Right in the midst of the beauty of this season, we bid farewell to a dear friend.

The fourth week of October we bid farewell to a beloved brother in Christ and one of the most effective United Methodist ministers in the history of our Western North Carolina Conference. After a tough struggle with cancer, Lenny Stadler was called home to heaven on October 22, 2012. He was a friend as well as a colleague, and I wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate with you what a remarkable life he had and to share a word about what God accomplished in and through his life.

I would often run into Lenny at Annual Conference gatherings at Lake Junaluska, and many of the folks in our area first met Lenny when he came to preach at Camp Meeting over the years. We all grew to love him. As you may know, Lenny was from Reidsville and his father had a music store on Scales Street. As a young man, Lenny began playing the electric bass and soon became a member of "Blackfoot" during the 1970s. He was also part of the Sammy Hall singers and while traveling with them in Texas, he met Shana, who would become his wife.

Lenny had the same experience with the rock music culture that many musicians had during the seventies, and finding himself frustrated and spiritually empty, he gave his life to Christ and began the journey that would lead him to ordination as a United Methodist minister. Eventually earning his doctorate from Asbury Theological Seminary, Lenny pastored the Weddington Church when it had 120 members and saw it grow to over two thousand people in worship every week under his leadership.

Lenny had an early miracle in his life. Diagnosed with a lung tumor and facing surgery, Lenny and his friends prayed for a miracle. The day before surgery, he underwent another scan, and the tumor had disappeared. It was as though God took that cancer from him in order for him to do the good work God had in mind for him to do. And Lenny did just that for these many years. There is no way to exactly estimate the number of people who have come to experience a saving relationship with Jesus Christ through Lenny's faithful discipleship, but that number is in the thousands.

The Bible tells us that we should all so strive to live our lives in faithful service to Christ so that when we are called home and stand before God we hear the words, "Well done, Thou good and faithful servant." Today, Lenny has heard those words from the lips of his Savior. He has fulfilled the purpose for which God called him from "Hard Rock" to "The Solid Rock." We give thanks to God for the faithful witness of his life. Though not perfect nor free of the flaws that sometimes plague human nature, Lenny nevertheless held firmly to the hand of his Savior. And now, he has been healed of all human affliction and is at rest, cradled in the arms of God. Let's continue to hold his family — Shana, LenPaul, and Shalen — in our hearts, praying for the comfort of God's spirit for each of them.

Yours in the Service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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December 2012: "Christmas 2012"

Dear Friends in Christ,

My wife, Linda, asked me last week to begin thinking about getting Christmas decorations down from the attic. Now, when a wife says "begin thinking" about something, most of us husbands translate that to mean just that — just think about it for a while. What we often fail to realize is that phrase really means, "Go upstairs and start bringing those things down — now." So I've been outside putting up Christmas decorations, and glanced across the road to see if Justin Hob had put up those pretty blue icicle lights he started using a couple of years ago. Not that we're in competition or anything, but I did go over to the store to see what it would cost to up up some of those pretty blue lights at our place, and decided that our white ones would be just fine for one more year1

I brought down the half-sized Eskimo sled I made for our Alaskan Malamute to pull grandkids in some twenty years ago and placed it behind the two standing reindeer on the porch. Several years ago, Linda painted a snow man and a snow woman I had cut out, and each year we put them out front as well, representing the two of us. Then I brought the tree down from the attic and put it together, made sure the lights all worked, and rearranged some furniture to accommodate its presence in the front room. The finishing touch was hanging the Moravian Star out on the front porch. Linda's mother gave us her years ago, and it's the centerpiece of our decorations — the star over the stable of Bethlehem, marking the birthplace of our Savior.

A strange thing happens when you are doing those things … excitement begins to build and memories come flooding back of Christmas seasons past. When our daughter-in-law Stephanie told us that she was going to see if Gage, our six-year-old grandson, could string popcorn to put on their tree this year, it brought back memories of doing the same thing when I was a child. We also made those little paper chains — remember them? Gluing paper links together until you had created a chain you could either wrap around the tree or hang from the ceiling. No doubt you have your own special Christmas memories too.

Has it ever occurred to you that the celebration of Christmas is one of the most powerful testimonies we have to the love of God? The whole world takes notice, doesn't it? "Those Christians are celebrating the birth of their Savior again." Of course, there are concerns about the commercialization of Christmas and the secular dimensions of our celebration, but that simply testifies to how this singular historic event has made its way into the whole of life, even the lives of unbelievers. Can't celebrate Christmas without naming the name "Christ …"

So this year, as you wrap your presents, recall that God wrapped his gift — Jesus — in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger for you. When you decorate your tree and hang your lights, remember "He is the light of the world." When you hear Christmas music, sacred or popular, recall that on the night of His birth, all the heavens were filled with songs of praise by angel choirs. And on Christmas Eve, as you turn in, remember, Christmas is the celebration of the greatest hope mankind could ever have — that one day The Prince of Peace will reign in all our hearts.

Yours in the service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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Rehobeth United Methodist Church • 9297 Sherrills Ford Road • P.O. Box 356 • Terrell, NC 28682
Copyright © 2012 Robert L. Kerr, D.Min
Used by permission