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From the Pastor's Pen — 2014 Archive
 




Bob

 Bob Kerr

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January 2014: "Wish You Were 18 Again?"

Dear Friends in Christ,

A Great Comedian

I grew up in South Florida watching George Burns and Gracie Allen, an absolutely wonderful comedic team. In the early 1930s they were in many vaudeville comedy shows, and then movies and eventually had their own television show in the 1950s. George, you may recall, always seemed to have his cigar handy and often commented as he approached 100 years of age that his doctor kept reminding him that one day that habit would kill him! My kids remember him in the 1977 movie with John Denver entitled "O God" in which he, of course, played God.

And then, of all things, in January of 1980 at age 84. he came out with a hit song: "I Wish I Was 18 Again." Linda and I had conversations about whether or not we'd want to be eighteen again, and decided only if we could know then what we know now!

New Beginnings

I guess what catches our imagination in considering being eighteen years old again is the chance to do it over, or do it better than the first time around. For most of us, life has been a mixture of the good and the not so good, the exhilarating mountaintop moments and the struggles in the valley, too. Most of us have some regrets, things we wish we hadn't done, or things we wish we had. But then again, if you're happy and content with your life at present, I suspect that's been because you've survived it all and have a deeper wisdom about life than you did in younger years. That yearning for another chance, or a new beginning nevertheless lies very close at hand, doesn't it?

And that's what's so remarkable about the New Year. In many ways, it's a chance for a new beginning . There's a wonderful text in the Bible that says, "Behold, I make all things new!" Even Jesus said that new wine needs to be placed in a new wineskin.

The New Year and Rehobeth Congregation

The New Year holds some wonderful opportunities for our congregation. In January, we will discuss and decide whether or not we want to move forward with our long-discussed Family Life Center to replace our Fellowship Hall and equip for future ministry, and our missions and evangelism teams have already been gearing up to share the good news with the folks of our community and beyond in exciting and effective ways. Growth is beginning to resurge in our area and that bodes well for the future growth of the congregation. We will no doubt embrace several "new" things as the year unfolds and we respond to the leadership of the Holy Spirit in our midst. Above all else, we will be finding new ways to give expression to our mission statement as the body of Christ.

Worshipping God Through Developing and Sharing Our Christian Faith and Love

We had a wonderful celebration of the birth of our Savior last month. With an Advent season of worship, a moving Choir Cantata, a remarkable White Gifts service, handbell music, Christmas Sunday morning worship, and all of that topped off with that beautiful Christmas Eve Candlelight Communion Service. And now, God calls us forward into the New Year to cast his net of grace and redemption wide and far, drawing everyone we meet into the circle of His love. May God bless you and your loved ones in this New Year!

Yours in the Service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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February 2014: "Would Anybody Really Want a Bad Haircut?"

Dear Friends in Christ,

Our Journey into the New Year

As we have journeyed further into the new year, we have been spending some time on Sunday mornings talking about what it means to "follow Jesus." And closely associated with that topic is what is the nature of the church and how important each member of it is. As you know, the pastoral letters of Paul focus almost exclusively on the nature of the church and how we as Christians are to live out our discipleship in relationship to one another.

Paul Addresses the Unity of the Church

He loves using the example of the human body as an illustration of how we should regard one another in the Body of Christ. The body, he says, though made up of many members, functions as one unit. And each part of our body, no matter how insignificant it may seem when compared to others, is an important part of the whole. I love the way he says it in his first letter to the Christians in the church at Corinth:

If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing?
If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?
As it is, there are many parts, but one body … The eye cannot say to the hand,
'I have no need of you,' nor again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you.'

(Selected verses from 1 Corinthians 12)

St. Augustine's Bad Haircut!

I love the way St. Augustine said it when he was trying to explain the importance of every single believer in the church. He asks if any one strand of hair on our heads is of any less value than other parts of the body. Surely, he contends, most of us would say a strand of hair is really insignificant by comparison. But then he goes on to say, "Yet if the barber trims your hair unskillfully, you become angry at him because he does not cut your hair evenly."

So, using his illustration, we should view each member of our church as important to the whole body. And no matter what our function or position might be in the church, no matter our status in life, we are no more or less important than anyone else in the church. Together arranged in love as God has designed us, we are like a great haircut!

Remember, every single one of us was someone for whom Christ died. Of what infinite worth to God does that make you—that He would give His Son's life so that you could live forever? So, continue to lift one another up, share one another's burdens and sorrow, share each other's joys and successes. We are one in the Spirit and the tie that binds us together is the recognition that each of us has sacred worth to God—and to each other!

Yours in Christ,

Bob

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March 2014: "An Exciting Year Already!"

Dear Friends in Christ,

Snow Upon Snow

First of all, I'm pleased that as far as I know, everyone survived that absolutely beautiful snowfall we had the week of February 10th1 It was as picturesque as we could ever hope for, covering the trees, bushes, fields, and roofs of our homes. I'd just about bet there were more photos taken of the snow that week than of any single event in our area in a long time. Of course, the slush follows and that doesn't excite anyone. Natalie's puppy, Bentley, made it into the papers with a cute picture of him playing in the show, and our own Jody Pierre couldn't wait to romp in show that was deeper than he was tall! Thanks to the men of the church who cleared our walkways and parking lot so we could attend church that next Sunday morning.

An Important Decision Was Made

An important decision was also made last month as a Special Charge Conference was held to receive the report of the Family Life Center Committee, presented by chairperson Larry Herbert. The Charge Conference voted unanimously to move ahead with the drafting of preliminary architectural plans and preliminary cost estimates for a new family life center to replace the existing fellowship hall and upgrade our kitchen and a few other facilities. The architects will be meeting with us over the next couple of months as they prepare those drawings and when we are ready, we'll schedule a church conference to receive their report. That conference will be for all the members of the church,, and together we'll make an informed decisions whether to move ahead with the project or not. So keep the task in your prayers over these next couple of months.

New Members Unite with Us

It has also been a wonderful blessing just 9 weeks into the New Year to have received six new members into the Church. Mary Wilson and Wilma Stremel and Shari and Tony Ray have been worshipping with us for a long time (and in fact, we were already claiming them!), and then we were delighted to celebrate the return home of Joe and Jackie Wilding. An additional person has also been added to our Church family, but his circumstance is different. Matt Lawing and his parents have been worshipping with us for a few months and he is a Provisional Deacon in our conference. That means he will eventually be ordained a deacon. A graduate of the Divinity School of Emory (with an M.Div. degree), he also holds a master's degree in Business Administration. In consultation with our Staff-Parish Relations Committee, I have decided to receive him as a member of our charge conference. So you'll see Matt around a lot over the coming months. He is not a staff member of the church, but does hope to find opportunities for ministry among us. Keep him in your prayers and make and extra effort to introduce yourself to him.

The Sacred Season of Lent

This month we will be observing the season of Lent with opportunities for various missions for any of our members who would like to commit to them. This strong mission emphasis has been a real blessing the past two years, and we thank the Missions Committee for their hard work putting these opportunities together. It will be a wonderful way to prepare our hearts for the observance of our Lord's passion and our celebration of HIs Resurrection! Check in the narthex for sign-up sheets!

Yours in the Service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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April 2014: "The Triple Trumpet Surprise …"

Dear Friends in Christ,

Last month and the first week of this one, we committed ourselves to observing a Holy Lent by engaging in several mission enterprises which brought help and encouragement to others. So many of you signed up for those opportunities and everyone said how much more blessed they felt by rendering service to others.

Palm Sunday and Holy Week

This month we will begin our observance of Holy Week with our Palm Sunday Worship Service, when we celebrate the Triumphal Entry of our Lord into the holy city of Jerusalem. Crowds lined the way and waved palm branches and shouted "Hosanna!"—all of which were traditional ways of welcoming a conquering king into the city. Little did they understand the kind of Kingdom Jesus was bring with him"—a kingdom that is Eternal! On Palm Sunday we'll be receiving new members, both our confirmation class and others, and that's always a joyous time for us in the life of the Church. Then, on Thursday evening of Holy Week, we'll gather for Holy Communion when we will celebrate the last supper Jesus shared with his disciples for Passover. On Friday night we will participate in a very moving Service of Darkness, when we read the last words of Jesus from the cross, and leave the church in darkness as we recall his crucifixion. Our prayer vigil begins immediately after the service, and all the way through to Easter sunrise, men and women from our congregation will be in the sanctuary praying.

Easter Celebration

Our celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ will begin at sunrise and will continue through our early and late services. Every time I prepare for Easter Sunday worship, I always recall those services in my home Church in Miami. There was a balcony in the back of the church facing the chancel area. My two brothers and I would stand up there with our three trumpets and when my mother, who was playing the organ, finished the prelude and it was time to call God's people to worship, my brothers and I would play the opening to "God of Our Fathers" from the balcony. We loved to see the folks jump when those first notes from those three trumpets came from the balcony behind them. It sure grabbed their attention and announced in no uncertain terms something was about to happen! I still think that's a wonderful way to celebrate the Resurrection. Shouldn't it always be something that grabs our attention, draws us to the throne of God, and announces that God has done a wondrous thing for us? Because of Jesus' death, we have confidence that our sins can be forgiven. Because of the Resurrection, we are confident that life eternal is a gift from God that we can count on. I pray that each of you will have that same sense of surprise, wonder, and confidence that belongs to the children of God because of that first Easter morning.

Yours in the Service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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May 2014: "The Busy Month of May!"

Dear Friends in Christ,

How Blessed We Were at Easter

How blessed we were as we gathered with a billion other Christians worldwide to celebrate the most significant event in human history—the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Savior of the world, on Easter Sunday. Think about it: a third of all humanity living on the face of the earth today believe as you and I believe, that Jesus was raised to life again and with his Resurrection came the promise of life everlasting for all who believe. Bear that in mind when you hear the widely publicized debates about controversies of one kind or another regarding our faith. The skepticism (or atheism) of others gets widespread media attention, doesn't it, while the millions of God-centered missions and activities that are transforming lives get scant mention. Christians, having been blessed by God's love and grace, are compelled to share that love and grace with others and when they do, they help nudge the world in a better direction. And of course on Palm Sunday we received seven young people and two adults into the full membership of the church!

May Brings Some Special Sundays …
… Homecoming

I've been chasing after him for the past few years and finally cornered Carl Johnson to come and be our Homecoming Speaker this year on May 4! It's a significant return, because it was exactly 30 years ago (1984) that Carl and Donna came to Rehobeth to serve Christ and the Church here at Rehobeth, and for the next five years they did so faithfully before moving in 1989. Retired and now living at Lake Junaluska, Carl and Donna are excited about returning, and we're looking forward to their being with us.

… Mother's Day

Then the following week we'll be celebrating Mother's Day. That's always a special day and this year we'll be examining the life and experiences of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. On that day we'll be giving thanks for the mothers who have raised us. If your mother is still living, and able, bring her with you to the service that day. If she has already gone home to heaven, then bring your cherished memories of her with you.

… Memorial Day Services

The last Sunday, we'll observe Memorial Day weekend with a special guest speaker, Colonel Eric Van Vliet, who heads the Junior ROTC program at West Iredell High School in Statesville. He has had a distinguished career of service in the U.S. Army and is a man of deep Christian faith who has a tremendous impact on his students. We are delighted to welcome him to the Rehobeth pulpit on May 25th.

I'll look forward to seeing you throughout the month of May as we journey toward our celebration in early June of the Day of Pentecost, when the church was officially born in the power of the Spirit. Of course, that story will have to wait until the June newsletter. May God bless you with a wonderful May!

Yours in the Service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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June 2014: "June—An Exciting Time of Year"

Dear Friends in Christ,

Graduation and Vacation

June is an exciting time of the year, for most people, I think. Our High School and College graduates celebrate the accomplishment of their goals and prepare to move forward into the next phase of their lives. The younger children look forward to a break from the rigors of the school year and envision themselves in Huckleberry Finn mode for the next two months, and families plan their summer vacations to their favorite places, perhaps places they go to every summer. Some head to the beach, others to the mountains and families enjoy having a respite from their regular schedules. Now, granted, sometimes our teenagers may think some of these destinations aren't so cool, but when they turn off their cell phones, ipads, and other electronic devices and begin to look around at the beauty of God's creation, they often lose themselves in having a wonderful time rediscovering nature—at least we hope so! (That may be something you'll want to consider requiring of them from time to time.)

Annual Conference Takes Place

From June 18th through the 22nd, our Western North Carolina Conference delegates meet for their annual gathering at Lake Junaluska. Worship, prayer, ordination services for new clergy, and the practical business of the church all take place over those days in that lovely setting in the mountains. Each church in our conference sends a lay person as a delegate as well as their pastor, and Annual Conference is set up so there is equal representation of clergy and laity. Our own Mike Bostic has represented our congregation well for a number of years and will be returning to represent us again. It's always important for the people back home to be praying about the decisions made at Annual Conference because those decisions affect all of us at the local level.

Seasons of the Soul—Replenishing the Spirit

I love poems and songs that describe life as a series of seasons, and I think the analogy works. Summer is a season of calm refreshment and of course we all need those times spiritually, don't we? We slow down a little bit, turn aside from our regular routines a little, and try to see life through a different lens for a time. I hope you can try to do this during the months of June and July. Pause long enough to take in the beauty that surrounds you, for in that beauty one can experience the presence of God's creative and empowering Spirit. Recall that June is also the month we celebrate Pentecost—the birth of the church in the Power of the Spirit. I pray that June will be a time of reflection, replenishment, and renewal for you and your loved ones. And I'll look forward to seeing you at Church!

Yours in the Service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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July 2014: "Solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty"

Dear Friends in Christ,

On the 4th of July we will celebrate Independence Day, the day when the Declaration of Independence was adopted in 1776. Representatives from the Thirteen Colonies had voted for legal separation from Great Britain on July 2nd, and the Declaration followed and was adopted on the 4th of July.

On July 3rd, the day before the Declaration was signed, John Adams wrote a letter to his wife Abigail, referring to the vote on July 2nd:

The second day of July will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations., from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.

Of course, Adams' prediction came true and successive generations have celebrated that Independence on the 4th of July. Did you note his reference to "God Almighty"? In the midst of a celebration that includes fireworks, cookouts, boating outings on the Lake, political rallies, and speech making, John Adams first said that it should be a day of "solemn acts of devotion to Almighty God."

Clearly, devotion to God was a theme in many of the earliest papers and documents written by our founding fathers. Our Constitution as well as the Declaration contains such references. That devotion was both acknowledgment of the blessings of God already given, and a plea that God would continue to guide this young nation going forward.

As our Nation has become more religiously diverse over the generations, this acknowledgment and devotion to God has become even more important to men and women of many different faiths. And though there are efforts to silence religious affirmation in public discourse and settings, it's an important observation that sessions of Congress begin with prayer, and in courts, vows to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth also conclude with "so help you God." And when 9/11 happened, what did the entire congress do? Meet on the steps of the capitol to do what? Pray to God.

So this 4th of July, let me encourage you to take a moment in the midst of your celebrations to pause and, with family and friends, give public, prayerful thanks to God for not only the freedom we enjoy as Americans, but even more importantly, to give thanks to God for the great gift of His son, Jesus Christ, who died so that we would know an even greater freedom in Him.

Enjoy your celebrations—and please—be careful!

Yours in the Service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

P.S.—It's official: I've been reappointed for a 9th year to continue as your pastor, and Linda and I are delighted!

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August 2014: "Camp Meeting and Social Interaction"

Dear Friends in Christ,

As Camp Meeting takes place at Rock Spring and Balls Creek, families who have access to "tents" are busy cleaning, arranging, and preparing for this unique cultural phenomenon that was started back in the late 1700s by our first pastor, Daniel Asbury, among others. Organized in 1789 by Rev. Asbury, the members of the church were among those who attended the first camp meetings in the area in the 1790s. (Daniel, by the way, is buried in our Rehobeth cemetery.)

Understand that back in those days there were no movie theaters, bowling alleys, or any of the social opportunities for interaction that we take so for granted today. So when time for Camp Meeting rolled around, there was genuine excitement for folks in regions near and far! An opportunity for social interaction with friends, neighbors, and family members who had moved away was just around the corner. As people arrived, they warmly and joyfully greeted folks, many of who they had not seen since the previous year's camp meeting. "Tents" back then were actually tents. Some folks lived out of covered wagons for the duration of Camp Meeting. And I suspect for some, there were spots they picked out to spread out their sleeping rolls and a makeshift lean-to, and placed some rocks around a perimeter for a fire to cook over. All these accommodations were arranged in large concentric circles around the "arbor," which in many old drawings is depicted as a raised platform where preachers and singers would address and lead the gathered folks.

The old songs of the faith were powerfully sung. Preaching that was "evangelical" took place that aimed right at the heart and soul of everyone who could hear the word, inviting the lost to turn from their sins, come by faith in Jesus to receive the forgiveness of those sins, and enter into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Even wood shavings and sawdust were put down for those who collapsed out of emotional "swooning" so they wouldn't get hurt when they fell to the ground (really!).

Now, granted, the young people probably weren't as interested in all that as they were with connecting with that cute "Becky" or that handsome "Tom" they had met last year at Camp Meeting. Perhaps they were hoping to see if they could steal a few private moments away from the adults to find out if any of those romantic feelings they had for each other the previous year had lasted!

So, what's different today about Camp Meeting? Oh, socially not much. On the right night, try walking around the arbor on the pathways and roads among the tents and you'll be elbow-to-elbow with scores of young people "hanging out" with each other. Friends will greet one another with the same joy and expectation as they did back then as they tidy up their now permanent wooden "tents" and prepare for the events of the following days and nights. There will be worship experiences, though not as forcefully and enthusiastically "evangelical" as they used to be, and with the assumption that most folks there are probably already saved and part of a local church. But one never knows. For sure the sawdust is gone, and not many folks have been "slain in the spirit" at Camp Meeting in more recent years. But there is that same sweet presence of the Spirit, that same flow of Christian love, that same "old sweet song" of the gospel being sung, and God is present throughout it all. If you watch, listen, pray, and open your heart, you'll discover you're one with the Saints who worshipped there so many years ago. You may even feel their presence among you …

Yours in the Service of Christ and the Church,

Bob

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September 2014: "September's Exciting Agenda!"

Dear Friends in Christ,

I hope you had a wonderful summer. It certainly was a full summer with mission trips, family vacations, Camp Meetings, and more! Here's an overview of what's coming this fall:

New Leadership Team and Budget for 2015

Our Nominating, Finance, and Staff-Parish Relations Committees are now meeting to develop leadership, our budget, and goals for 2015 to be presented on the 28th to our Church Council for approval. So pray for these committees as they give attention to their work. And thanks to all committee members!

Focus on Children's Ministries

In consultation with our Director of Youth and Children Ministries, Natalie Gray, and our Education Chairperson, Steve Pickard, I've asked that we continue the wonderful youth ministries Natalie and her team have built, but that we shift our focus now to the development of a strong, growing children's ministry as well. With that in mind, we attended a presentation and training session about "Congregations 4 Children" on August 28 and are incorporating features of that ministry into the redesign of our own outreach. We're excited about the new strategy and covet your prayers!

Small Group Ministries

When we took the Natural Church Development Survey a few years ago, we discovered that we needed to work on the development of small groups. Several were started and they continue to thrive! We already have one additional small group forming this month for Bible study on Sunday mornings, and it joins the other small groups that are providing opportunities for spiritual growth and ministries of compassion and outreach. And, of course, our own Bonnie Keen is scheduling her Bible Study group sessions for the fall as well. Anything else?

Family Life Center Project

After several years of prayerful discussion, architects are now drawing up plans for a new Family Life Center to replace our existing fellowship hall and kitchen. We have had really productive meetings with them and are excited about seeing their first proposal! When it's ready, we'll present it to all of you to decide whether or not we're ready to move ahead! Pray for this effort as well as for the ministries of the Church, that God will be glorified through it all!

Ongoing Missions and Ministries, and Vital Inspiring Worship

Of course, while all these things are happening, our ongoing life as the Body of Christ continues, with inspiring worship and compassionate ministries for others. All in all, God has some wonderful blessings in store for us as we "Follow Jesus, Make Disciples, and Transform the World" … all under the guidance and empowerment of God's redeeming and renewing Spirit!

Yours in Christ,

Bob

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October 2014:"October!"

Dear Friends in Christ,

Back to School

Well, the kids are all back in school now, have a little over a month of new education behind them, and are playing the sports they love, participating in clubs and choral groups and bands. Some may even be mixing chemicals in the chemistry labs (scary thought!) as they aspire to a life in medical research. I remember how much I enjoyed chemistry—the labs, not the algebra parts. I was so intrigued the first time I saw my chemistry teacher place a piece of potassium in a beaker of water. It oxidizes so violently with water that it bursts into flame. How cool was that? He did keep a rather close eye on me when I was pouring things into chemistry tubes and placing them over the Bunsen burner! So, pray for our students and pray for their teachers that together they have a wonderful year!

Autumn of the Year

October, of course, brings the autumn of the year, leaves begin to change and often result in spectacular displays of multicolored tree foliage all along the side of the highways and on the sides of the mountains in the distance. Some years, Lake Norman's shores offer a dazzling display of colored leaves, reflected in the still waters near the shoreline. What a wondrous display of the beauty of God's creation!

Children's Ministries

In October, we also celebrate All Saints Day when we give thanks to God for the saints who have passed on before us. And of course by the month's end, Trunk for Treats and Halloween are upon us! Be sure that your kids and grandkids are well accompanied by adults if they go out in other neighborhoods to trick or treat. We have our annual fall festival even in October to give children a safe environment where they can go trick or treating. This month we will be swinging into high gear with our emphasis on children's ministries and will even resurrect the Rehobeth Puppets! There are some Sunday morning changes being explored as well for our children's ministries. This ministry, under the capable leadership of Natalie Gray, Director of youth and Children's Ministries, is vital to the future life of the church and requires our best efforts.

Charge Conference Celebration

On October 12, we will gather with our other 11 Missional Network 7 churches for our Charge Conference Celebration, reaffirming what our Church Council passed the last Sunday night in September: Lay Leadership and our Church Budget for the new year. We will celebrate the missions we have embraced with our sister churches, like Stop Hunger Now, and will share in the sacrament of Holy Communion. I hope many of our Church Council members will come to the Charge Conference. It will be held at the Mt. Pleasant Church at 2:00 PM Sunday, October 12.

May God continue to bless us as we worship by "Developing and Sharing Our Christian Faith and Love!"

Yours in Christ,

Bob

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November 2014: "November!"

Dear Friends in Christ,

"The World Famous Rehobeth Bar-B-Que"

The second weekend this month is our Bar-B-Que! And did you realize it is a "world famous" Bar-B-Que? Chad Holdsclaw lives and works in China, and no doubt has told friends there about this great tradition. Other members of our church have family members who live, work, or travel overseas extensively—and in talking about their church life here at Rehobeth have told others about the Bar-B-Que. So I guess that makes us "world famous!"

"What I Love Most About the Bar-B-Que"

It's easy to answer the question about what I love most about the Bar-B-Que each year. Oh, certainly the food is delicious, and the interaction with people who come to eat is enjoyable. But what I enjoy most is being part of a team of folks who love each other, love the Lord, and who work well together as the people of God ought always to do. I remember Linda's and my first year here—and our first Bar-B-Que—after which I concluded, "If these folks can pull this off, they can do anything!"

Whatever task was assigned to an individual, everyone paid attention to everyone else, and when someone needed some help, someone else stepped over without being asked and said, "Here, let me help you with that." Isn't that a wonderful model for everything else that goes on in our lives and in the life of the church and community? We are supposed to "be there for one another" in Christ Jesus. The Bar-B-Que just gives me a glimpse of the fact that the Rehobeth folds do that for each other all through the year. And not just for other church members, but for those in the community, too.

Thanksgiving Celebration

Of course, just about the time we've finished digesting our Bar-B-Que, here comes the turkey! Thanksgiving is a wonderful time of the year when we pause to remind ourselves how much we have to be thankful for. I hope you'll be intentional about taking time to gather with family members and friends to celebrate the blessings God has bestowed upon you. I have often thought how pleasing it must be to God to hear his children say Thank you every now and again. In a world ravaged by evil, in which children go to bed every night hungry and in fear for their lives, with the thunderous sound of explosions drawing ever nearer, how fortunate and blessed we are to live where we do. As you give thanks to God for your many blessings, lift up special prayers for all those who are suffering around the world, and ask God to guide you into ways you might be able to help alleviate some of that suffering. And include world leaders in those prayers, that hey too might become instruments through which that evil might be defeated and the suffering might be healed.

See you at the Bar-B-Que!

Yours in Christ,

Bob

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December 2014: "Immanuel—God With Us!"

Dear Friends in Christ,

Join the Shepherds on the Hillside for a Moment…

When the angels appeared to the shepherds on the hillside overlooking Bethlehem, the angels first said that the shepherds should not be afraid. "Fear not, for I bring you good tidings of a great joy!" Imagine yourself sitting on that same hillside that night. You've wrapped a cloak around your shoulders against the night's chill, the stars are gloriously bright against a black velvet sky, and all is peaceful and calm. The fire is softly crackling as you feel its warmth relaxing you, almost lulling you to sleep. Then suddenly, there is a bright light filling all the sky, and angelic beings appear to you, hovering above you. You've never seen anything like that before! And your natural reaction would no doubt be fear. But then, immediately, that reassuring word comes…"Fear not."

The Realities of Fear

Fear is a reality in our world. There is not a one of us that hasn't felt fear at one time or another. In fact, in some instances, fear is the very dynamic meant to preserve our lives, a natural instinct. We hear a crashing sound of something large falling near us, or an explosion that rocks the ground beneath our feet, and what do we do? We shrink back away from the threat. It's instinctive, and life-saving. But then there are other fears we face in life as well.

We, or a loved one, go to the doctor and receive a possible diagnosis of cancer, and we rear that further tests will confirm the suspicion. When they do, we fear what the surgery or treatment may do to us, how it will affect our lives. The uncertainty regarding the future can instill fear in us. I can't imagine the fear that our military men and women have to overcome every day in far off, war-torn places, as they do their jobs. Nor can I imagine the constant fear civilians in Syria and Iraq must be feeling as the barbarism and brutality of Islamic extremists in ISIS spreads.

God's Remedy for Fear

In one single act, God addresses all our fears. The angel says, "I bring you good tidings of a great joy—unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. You shall call his name, 'Immanuel' (which means 'God with us.')."

The Bible tells us that "perfect love casts out fear." The gift of the Christ child was God's perfect gift of love, reassuring us that no matter what life brings our way, no matter how deep our fears may be, we are never alone. God is with us. Jesus breaks into human history—to save us from our sin, to free us from our fears, to be present with us always in the person of the Holy Spirit, and to give us life everlasting!

My wife, Linda, and I wish each of you and your loved ones very Merry Christmas—and the confidence that comes from knowing God is with you always!

Yours in Christ,

Bob

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Rehobeth United Methodist Church • 9297 Sherrills Ford Road • P.O. Box 356 • Terrell, NC 28682
Copyright © 2014 Robert L. Kerr, D.Min
Used by permission