Covenant United Methodist Church

Changing Lives with Jesus

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Covenant Caller Vol. 9, no. 3

March 1, 2017

In Jeopardy style, the answer is, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” And the question is, “Why doesn’t fasting make a lasting difference in most people’s spiritual life?”

During the 40 days of Lent, it is a tradition to give up something for the season. Sometimes it is a food item we enjoy, but blame for our weight problem, so we claim to give up chocolate, or pie, or cake as a spiritual discipline, when we really want to lose weight. At times we try to use Lent to work on breaking a bad habit by pledging to give up something like swearing, cigarettes, or road rage for the season, in the hope it will last beyond the few weeks of Lent. But the reality is it doesn’t really work! Usually we are back to our familiar behaviors well before the Lenten season is complete. Why? Because our spiritual life, like nature, abhors a vacuum!

Trying to stop bad behavior is not easy; it creates open spaces or a vacuum. Something else will inevitably fill the space. If we are not intentional about what we substitute, we are likely to find ourselves substituting one bad habit for another. If you know you are not spending enough time building your relationship with God, instead of creating an elaborate plan to eliminate things to make space, just take time, a few moments, to pray. Make life easy on yourself. If you want to read the Bible a bit more, just put a Bible next to your favorite chair or on the night stand where it can be conveniently picked up. Then read a passage or two as you are getting comfortable. Nature will take its course. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, it also abhors overcrowding; something will give way and time will be found!

For most of us, the reality is we should be spending more time doing the things of God. If you really want a chance for successful change, rather than trying to change your whole lifestyle, just make simple changes, and make those changes one at a time. Soon you will find yourself falling into new patterns of living, finding time and forming new habits that will be more pleasing to God.

This Lenten season, instead of just giving up something, add a good habit. Make it something simple you have wanted to do. In the process, you’ll likely find yourself naturally eliminating the unproductive time wasters. Make sure you take it one day at a time. Don’t be discouraged if you miss a day or two. Instead, be encouraged that you have taken another step on your journey of faith, knowing each step is bringing you closer to God.

Grace & Peace,
Pastor Jim

Previous Callers

October 1, 2017

For some time now, we have been engaging in a process of discernment about a building project at Covenant. You may be wondering what the process is, when we will know the final plans, and how soon the project will begin. The process has been and will continue to be deliberate. It began with prayerful discernment of God’s will for the future of Covenant Church. It was during this time of discernment that we made some changes to our Statement of Purpose (see below) and began using the tag line “Changing Lives with Jesus.”

Next, we began to look at how our buildings impact ministry. The Board of Trustees saw a need for changes and updates. After working with architect Jack Althouse, they recommended the creation of a Building Committee (BC) which picked up where the Trustees left off.

September 1, 2017

You may or may not have noticed, but I am not the most athletic guy around. I’ve never been particularly good at sports, though I do enjoy watching some, playing others, and listening to baseball on the radio. Sports can offer all kinds of benefits: they help kids become physically stronger, develop muscle and hand-eye coordination, acquire a sense of fair play, and maybe most of all, experience the importance of teamwork.

Teamwork: think of the people that were, despite their fame, just one side of a great team. Would pitcher Steve Carlton had as many strikeouts without his catcher Tim McCarver? Would comedian Johnny Carson have been as successful without straight man Ed McMahon? Could Moses have confronted Pharaoh without his spokesman Aaron? Probably not, yet the general public gives just about all the credit for success to a single individual.

August 1, 2017

This year, for the first time in my 25 years of ministry, I had the opportunity to participate in an Appalachia Service Project mission trip as a part of Covenant’s ASP team. Our week (actually 8 days) was guided by the scriptural verse, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:18)

The love started long before the week began. Throughout the year members and friends of Covenant have been supporting the fundraising efforts of the team. Then, on Saturday, July 1, many people showed up in the parking lot to see the team off and offer prayers and moral support.

Once in Cocke County, Tennessee, the team put their love into action by fanning out across the county to five different sites to make homes warmer, safer and drier. But the love didn’t stop there!

July 1, 2017

The school year has come to an end, the pools are open, the weather has become hot and humid, and air conditioners are humming. The traditional vacation season is upon us. Summer is here! Theoretically, it’s time to sit back and relax. Yet sometimes we have trouble relaxing because there is so much to do.

We are busy visiting grandma’s, the in-laws, and a few old friends, purchasing supplies for our summer barbeques with family and neighbors, mapping out sightseeing trips to who knows where, and maybe even spending some time at the shore or in the mountains. We are busy with home projects of painting a room, weeding the overgrown garden, and finally reseeding that brown patch that used to be grass. While all those plans and activities may feel important and sound good, we can make our summers so crammed full stuff, we may miss the opportunity to really relax and allow our spirits to be renewed and enjoy the opportunity for some re-creation.