Our Advent Joy

Below are the scriptures that were read for this past Sunday.  If you missed this past weeks service and wish to hear the sermon, check it out here:


Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,

because the Lord has anointed me;

he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,

to bind up the brokenhearted,

to proclaim liberty to the captives,

and release to the prisoners;

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,

and the day of vengeance of our God;

to comfort all who mourn;

to provide for those who mourn in Zion—

to give them a garland instead of ashes,

the oil of gladness instead of mourning,

the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,

the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.

They shall build up the ancient ruins,

they shall raise up the former devastations;

they shall repair the ruined cities,

the devastations of many generations.


For I the Lord love justice,

I hate robbery and wrongdoing;

I will faithfully give them their recompense,

and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.

Their descendants shall be known among the nations,

and their offspring among the peoples;

all who see them shall acknowledge

that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,

my whole being shall exult in my God;

for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,

he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,

as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,

and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

For as the earth brings forth its shoots,

and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,

so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise

to spring up before all the nations.


1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.


May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

Our Advent Hope

If you would like to hear the podcast of today, please click here:


NOTE: We had some technical difficulty and the first part of the sermon has been cut off.

Isaiah 64:1-9 (CEB)

If only you would tear open the heavens and come down!
Mountains would quake before you
like fire igniting brushwood or making water boil.
If you would make your name known to your enemies,
the nations would tremble in your presence.

When you accomplished wonders beyond all our expectations;
when you came down, mountains quaked before you.
From ancient times,
no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any god but you
who acts on behalf of those who wait for him!
You look after those who gladly do right;
they will praise you for your ways.
But you were angry when we sinned;
you hid yourself when we did wrong.
We have all become like the unclean;
all our righteous deeds are like a menstrual rag.
All of us wither like a leaf;
our sins, like the wind, carry us away.
No one calls on your name;
no one bothers to hold on to you,
for you have hidden yourself from us,
and have handed us over to our sin.

But now, Lord, you are our father.
We are the clay, and you are our potter.
All of us are the work of your hand.
Don’t rage so fiercely, Lord;
don’t hold our sins against us forever

Supporting the Mission

Due to some technical difficulties we were not able to record this past week’s sermon. So I am providing to you the scripture text ALONG with my sermon script. I hope God blesses you as you read through what I felt led to speak about this past week.

Epistle Lesson: 2 Corinthians 9

Now it is not necessary for me to write you about the ministry to the saints, for I know your eagerness, which is the subject of my boasting about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year; and your zeal has stirred up most of them. But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you may not prove to have been empty in this case, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be; otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—in this undertaking. So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you, and arrange in advance for this bountiful gift that you have promised, so that it may be ready as a voluntary gift and not as an extortion.

The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. As it is written,

“He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor;

his righteousness endures forever.”

He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God. Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Over these past 5 weeks, we have talked about what it means to be a Simple Church as in a simple process for forming mature disciples of Jesus Christ. The leadership of this church has and is continuing to do the work of designing a mission strategy that is clear, with thought out sequential steps in the process, that is aligned with all of the ministries at Red Valley, and that is focused on nothing but God through this mission process. Red Valley’s leadership believes that our Mission is to form disciples of Jesus Christ who are a Community of Faith is Called by God: to learn, to befriend, and to send forth! We have over these last 4 weeks gone into detail about what each of these ministry steps in the process looks like. But now we are in need of supporting our leadership, supporting our mission strategy, which we believe ultimately supports the Missieo Dei, or God’s Mission for the renewal and transformation of the world.

In our reading from Scripture today, we have a letter, actually believed by scholars to be Paul’s 5th or even 6th letter, as 2nd Corinthians seems to be of a compilation or fragments of letters put together, but in our Scriptures we have what we call 1st and 2nd Corinthians. Anyways, from Paul’s letter in 2nd Corinthians, more specifically Paul’s letter in the 9th chapter begins by saying, “Now it is not necessary for me to write to you about the ministry to the Saints, for I know your eagerness, which is the subject of my boasting about you to the people of Macedonia.” Pretty much what Paul is saying here, is that I do not need to remind you of what I told you in my previous letter, BECAUSE I know you are eager to make a difference in the world through your financial generosity, which I boast about and tell others about when I speak of you and that community of faith.

So what is Paul referring to when he speaks about the ministry to the Saints. Well, let’s back it up to one of his previous letters….1 Corinthians chapter 16. Paul writes, “Now concerning the collection for the saints: you should follow the directions I gave to the churches of Galatia. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put aside and save whatever extra you earn, so that collections need not be taken when I come.” Paul continues to tell them that he will take their gift to Jersualem and this gift is used for the poor in the Jerusalem Church. In essence, these two chapters, 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, may be two letters, one to the church in Corinth, and the other to the Church in Achaia asking for their support in the mission of taking care of the poor. Paul, needs the support of the church for the vitality of the mission he was commissioned to carry out. And Paul gets down to business when he says, “The one who sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”

Now many of you all know that last week I spoke to you all about a conference event Diana and I had gone to about Evangelism and Communication. I want to share with you about another conference from the 5 Talent Academy that Diana, Barbara Carne, Charlotte, and I attended this past Spring. It was about Stewardship and Financial Generosity. Now is the time when if you haven’t already, you are probably thinking, “Great, Pastor wants more money.” And that’s not exactly what I am saying. I want to share with you today that I believe in this mission strategy and I will support this mission with my full tithe of 10% of my household income, because I believe in this mission. But I want each of you to also know, that that’s not going to be enough to support this mission.

Now Clif Christopher, the keynote speaker at this past Spring’s Academy would tell me that we should never ask for money without showing you the results of the mission. He says this because the number 1 reason why anyone gives to any organization is because of their belief in the mission. Now this is true for most anyone of any age. When Clif first said that, it struck a chord within me. I began thinking about my own personal story of how I came to be one who tithed. And yet again, one of the most formative places for my spiritual life was when I was working at Camp Overlook. I remember the day that I received my pay check for working at the camp, which by the way I think the counselors and I had worked it to be less than a dollar an hour, and I took my freshly printed check from the Director Ron Robey, and brought it back to him and asked, “Could you take 10% off the top of this check before giving it to me to go towards the Camp Funds?” His reaction was truly priceless…apparently it is not every day an employee asks to give 10% back to his employer. Of course, legally he told me he could not, but that I could deposit the check and always write a check for 10% back to him. And sure enough that’s what I did for the next 3 years of working at Camp Overlook. The reason why…I believed in the mission and I saw the fruits of the labors that it was producing. I saw in the children’s lives how they were giving their lives over to Christ, how they were growing in their faith, and how they desired a deeper relationship with God because of what camp was doing. I saw not only how it affected the kids, but also the staff, and myself. I saw the formation taking place and how much more I desired to be in deeper relationships with God and my community of faith. I told you this story, because I believed in the mission and I believe others are like me and that our giving is based upon primarily our belief in the mission. I want to tell you a sad story now. After leaving camp, I graduated college, and I went off to be a part-time pastor and a full-time student. I continued to tithe, but not to my faith community that I was serving. Now you may think what a horrible pastor I was. How could I not give my money to the churches that I was serving. I can tell you exactly how I could do it…I didn’t want to pay my own salary. I did not believe in the mission that my previous churches held, because their mission was survival. And that is not the mission Christ gave to the Church and that is not the mission that Christ gave to me. To sum it up, the mission that God gave to the Church is to change lives and I believe that if we work our mission strategy that is exactly what we will be doing. We will be forming mature Christians as long as we focus, pray, and work the plans that God is leading us in.

The second reason why people give to an organization according to Clif is their regard for its staff leadership. I believe the leadership at Red Valley to be a growing and maturing group in their leadership and in their faith. I cannot, and will not though stand up here and tell you that you should give to this mission because I am such a great leader. What I can do though is this: I can tell you that I am a young leader, who continues to seek better practices, and more faithful ways of leading this congregation. If any of you ever question me about something I have done or am doing, please pick up the telephone, call me, and we can discuss whatever issue you may have. Please do not see me as someone who is unapproachable. I love to have conversations and I believe wholeheartedly the worst thing any leader can do is to shut off communication with his or her church.

Finally, the third reason and last one for today of why do people give to an organization according to Clif is because of the fiscal responsibility of the organization. In other words, is the church throwing away your money and is it staying above float. Currently as Red Valley, over the last few years, we have floated, but truthfully and honestly, very thinly. We have pulled it out each time in December and made it work. As to those who have been charged to look over our finances and our budgets, I believe this past year we have grown tremendously. We have stopped doing what has always been done before, and we are thinking, studying, praying, and brainstorming ways to raise the finances we need for our mission. I cannot say it enough, tell Charlotte, Elneta, Barbara, Steve Miller, Bob Weihold, Dwain, and Diana Hackett thank you thank you, thank you for the time and work they put into this finance committee. The long hours they have spent looking at better and more faithful practices as a Church.

But let me spend just a moment look at finances in a way that many do not. Jesus speaks about how we cannot serve God and Mammon or money. The thing of it is, is that our generosity, our giving by our finances, is no less a spiritual discipline than our giving of ourselves to prayer, giving of our time to the poor or to the church. It is no less of a spiritual discipline than giving of ourselves to a study. And so the act of generosity is not a money issue, but it is a spiritual issue. If we are to not give of our finances to the mission of God, but rather we would rather keep it for our physical wealth, then that is placing an idol above God. And if we believe that other organizations can do the mission of God better than the Church then we have a Church issue.

Some of you may be thinking, but I have given all that I can and still live. And to you that are at that point, I say thank you. However, I also know that there are other ways to give than just primarily out of the pocket which receives your base income.

There are two other pockets as Clif speaks about that I want to mention in case you have never thought about it in this way. I know I surely had not. The second pocket other than the earned-income pocket is the capital pocket. In this pocket it stores our accumulated resources . “In it are stocks, bonds, pieces of property, insurance policies, savings accounts, and inheritances we may have received and put away.”  These are the resources that have been placed into our care, but are not typically apart of our regular cash flow. But you may be thinking, “Pastor Josh, we aren’t building something right now that would cost that much money.” And I am thinking, “Not yet we aren’t…but what about years down the road when we really want to add on because we have so many small groups meeting in this church that on Sunday morning, we can’t fit them all.” We have to be thinking about the future. Or like when years ago the Oak Tree was taken down and no one thought about what would happen to the pavement out there when those roots began to die. Do you trust your Financial Committees enough to hold onto or invest those accounts for things as those needs arise?

And finally, the third pocket that Clif speaks about is the Estate Pocket. Now I have to say when Clif spoke about this subject, it really struck me and continues to stick with me. Clif and unless he is living in an alternate reality than the one we are, stated a very simple fact, “We all are going to die one day.” Everyone of us will have to die…and ALL that we accumulated, all our treasures will not be going with us. And we, even in death, are responsible for how they are going to be used. What do you think, if you earnestly prayed to God and asked, “God what should I do with my possessions after I have died?” would God say? Now imagine with me for a moment, now I know this is not what we came to Sunday morning to think about, but think about those who have passed away in just the last few years. What if each of those individuals had said in their will, “After all my bills are paid, I want 10 percent of my estate (a tithe) to go to Red Valley UMC.” Imagine with me the endless possibilities of the ministries that could funded with this giving alone. Now I know that when I go to a family who has recently lost their loved one and they say in lieu of flowers we wish for the donations to go to Red Valley UMC, I follow up with a question as to which fund they would like those to go to. I tell you this, because I think it is important for all of us to understand how and why we spend money in some ways we do. I tell them that those donations can go to any fund in the church, but I specifically ask about 4 funds. The General Fund which the money can be spent for anything in our budget, the pastor’s discretionary fund which goes to helping out the immediate needs of our community, a memorial fund that can be spent only on lasting fixtures much like our communion ware or this projection system was paid for. And finally our Endowment, which anyone can add to at any time where the principal that you give cannot be used, but the interest from it can be used for anything for the life of the church. I have heard of some churches because of such a large endowment that their entire budget was run from their endowment interest and 100% of their offerings was used for mission. And so there are many ways to give and many different types of gifts.

Though to hear me clearly, I am not talking about money, I am talking about ministry opportunities missed because we lack the funds to do them. Paul says, “So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you, and arrange in advance for this bountiful gift that you have promised, so that it may be ready as a voluntary gift and not as an extortion…Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” And so I am not asking you today to take all the money in your wallets and place them in the offering plate to appease your minds and spirits. What I do ask of you though is this….To spend some time thinking about the mission that Red Valley has placed before you, to prayerfully consider how you are giving of yourselves, your time, your finances, your presence, your gifts, and your service and ask yourselves, “What can I give, that I can give not because I am told to, but because I want to see God’s mission fulfilled through my faith community?”

Today, during the Offering you will hear the Choir singing a new doxology found on page 94 in your hymnal. There are a few different words that I want to point out that as we sing it today and for a while now as our new doxology that as the offering plates are coming forward to be presented to God, we are in PRAISE! We praise God for giving us the abundance to be able to support God’s will and God’s mission. We sing our Alleluia! Our praises because we are a joyful giver. We praise the triune God for God who is the giver of all our gifts, Jesus Christ who gave us the gift of Salvation that uplifts, and the Holy Spirit who has shown us and continues to guide us in our faith journey. Praise praise praise, Alleluia! Amen.

To Send Forth!

The scriptures from this past week are below and to listen to our sermon from this past week, please click play below:  


John 20:21-22

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 28:16-20

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

To Befriend

To listen to this past week’s sermon click 

John 15:12-17

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

14-09-21 To Learn

If you missed this Sunday’s message please click 

To listen. Our scriptures today came from:


Old Testament Lesson: Deuteronomy 6:1-9
Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, so that you and your children and your children’s children may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Epistle Lesson: 2 Timothy 3:14-17
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

Luke 15: 1-7
Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Called By God: To Learn, To Befriend, and to Send Forth

I recognize that many of you who follow me here on WordPress have not heard from me in quite a while. I offer my apologies and hope to offer my thoughts about life and scripture more often again. I feel as though I do need to share with you a very important change of events in my life and the life of congregation I serve. Over this past summer, actually since about the time I have written my last post about Ash Wednesday, Red Valley has been praying, reflecting, and processing a new mission statement and strategy for making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. That process is that we as a faith community Called by God: to Learn, to Befriend, and to Send Forth.  This mission strategy has and continues to reform and shape the life of the faith community of Red Valley UMC. Beginning this morning in worship, I began a sermon series that will focus on each one of these steps and its role in developing mature disciples of Jesus Christ. Today we looked at Called by God. If you are interested, and would like to hear the sermon, please click here.

The scripture texts we used for today are from Galatians 3 and Matthew 22. Both of these were read from the NRSV.

Epistle Lesson: Galatians 3:23-29

Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.

Gospel Lesson: Matthew 22:1-14

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Ash Wednesday Reflections

“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

Ash Cross

      These are the words that echoed the sanctuary as I placed an ashed cross on the foreheads of each who came to recognize their own mortality and sinfulness. The two times in life that the cross is traced on the forehead is in the anointing with oil after baptism, and the ashes that are traced on Ash Wednesday. Both which remind us of our death to our mortal selves. The only thing is, in baptism, we are in the liturgy reminded that although there is a death in the mortal body, there is a shared resurrection in the spirit.

      Yesterday, I worshiped in two Ash Wednesday services. One I felt uplifted and although penitent, was ready to be sent back out into the evil world to serve the only Being that matters eternally. In the other service, I simply felt penitent. The services were alike in many ways, but in the latter we foregone the time of Holy Communion. I believe it was this Grace that was missing from the “dismal” service. The closest resemblance I felt to this uplifting Spirit was the people’s response to these words: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”  as they responded: “In life and in death, I belong to God.” I believe that both services focused on the dual themes of sin and death, but it was the one with Holy Communion that it did so “in the light of God’s redeeming love in Jesus Christ.” (United Methodist Book of Worship, p. 321) My hope and prayer is that those who attended with me leading last night does not find themselves in the dark despair of hopelessness in our own sinfulness and evil, but rather heard that even in our sinfulness and despair God loves us so much that he sent his Son and that is where we will be focusing our time during this Lenten Journey at Red Valley for worship as we focus on the 24 hours of Jesus’ life around the crucifixion.

         In this regards may we be reminded of the words of Invitation from last evening: “I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to observe a holy Lent: by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s Holy Word.” (United Methodist Book of Worship, p. 322)

Letting Go of the Strip Pole and Clinging to the Cross

Recently I have come across a blog of yet another Preacher’s Kid, PK as I have been so long referred. As I have been reading her story I am amazed at her honesty and openness, a story that maybe would make many in the Church “Uncomfortable” or “Uneasy”. And it is her story that grabs my attention because it is a story of taboo. We as a church when made felt to be uncomfortable or uneasy tend to say, “Let’s not talk about this” or “She’s not meant to be here.” And sadly, as Joy is so desperately trying to inform the Church is that Jesus says otherwise. Jesus says bring to me your sick, your desolate, your abandoned, your hookers and prostitutes, and let me, who is God, show you how God loves. How God forgives. How God’s grace is sufficient for ALL things. ALL people are welcomed to the Church and if her story makes you a bit uneasy or uncomfortable, then maybe we as the Church of Jesus Christ need to remember once more the purpose of his death and resurrection. Thank you Joy for sharing your story and my hope, my prayer, is that the church may learn how to better represent Christ to a very broken world.

You can follow her blog at: